Open main menu
CHAPTER VI.

Wants to go on Mission.—Elder Butterfield wishes to accompany him.—They go.—Arrive in Far West on the second day.—Father Smith blesses Lorenzo.—Blindness of Thomas B. Marsh.—Leave Far West.—Meet a camp of Brethren at the Missouri River.—Construct a craft.—Started in snow storm down the river.—Perilous times.—Narrow escapes.—A savage band.—Make their escape.—Find camping place in peace.—Leave the boat and travel on foot.—Get lodging at the house of a Mobocrat.—Mobocratic narrative.—A Campbellite Preacher's Politeness.—Courtesy of a Methodist Preacher.—A crowded house.—A Donation just in time.—Saved from a Mob by his pocket Bible.—Other Mobocrats foiled.

THE journal speaks: About the first of October of this year (1838), the spirit of my missionary calling pressed so heavily upon my mind, that I longed to engage in its labors. Elder Abel Butterfield, who had accompanied me on a mission in Ohio, proposed to be my traveling companion at this time, and although not having yet fully recovered from the effects of my summer sickness, and had not strength sufficient to endure much fatigue, I felt that I must go. My father and others thought it not prudent, but my trust was in God, and I felt an assurance that He would give me strength and restore me to soundness of health sooner if I went forth depending on Him, than' if I remained at home. Accordingly, with the necessary books and a few underclothes packed in my valise, I bid adieu to father, mother, brothers and sisters, and, with Brother Butterfield, started forth to proclaim the word of the Lord to those who had ears to hear. At first I could only walk a short distance before I was compelled to sit down and rest, but my ability to walk gradually increased until I was perfectly restored.

The second day after we started, we arrived in Far West, where we stopped a short time to visit our friends. Father Smith, the Patriarch, gave us his blessing and much good fatherly counsel, and expressed much sympathy for us in connection with our mission through the southern part of Missouri, the immediate field of our prospective labors. At that time the excitement against the Latter-day Saints had been fanned to fever heat in every part of the State, consequently it was more than probable that we should meet with abuse and have to submit to many hardships.

In going the rounds in Far West, we called on Elder Thomas B. Marsh, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve. I think at that time he was indulging a spirit of apostacy, which, not long after, culminated in his severance from the Church. In our conversation with him, our spirits and his did not intermingle, and he seemed utterly blind in relation to the condition of things and the spirit of the times. He expressed unbounded charity for our enemies—said he did not think they intended us much harm—they were not naturally inclined to wickedness, etc. It is a noticeable feature in those who cherish a spirit of apostacy from the light of the Gospel, that they adopt the doctrine of Universalism and think none too wicked for a complete and unconditional salvation.

On leaving Far West, we directed our course to the Missouri River, where we found a camp of our brethren, some of whom were intending to go down the river and return to their homes, somewhere in the southern part of the State. We joined together in constructing a kind of water-craft—it was not a canoe, neither a skiff or raft, and to name it a boat would be preposterous; but, whatever its proper cognomen, its capacity was sufficient to accommodate five men, and, on the seventeenth of October, in the midst of a heavy fall of snow, we launched it, and started on a most perilous passage down the turbid waters of a turbulent river. At that season of the year the stream was very low, and frequently through the day we experienced much difficulty in following the channel. We took turns in rowing, and, as night approached, we began in sober earnest to look out for a suitable landing, but were forced to continue on until it was quite dark, when we were every moment in danger of being upset by "sawyers," for we could hardly discern them in time to shun them. Those "sawyers" were trees or parts of trees—one end firmly embedded in the bottom of the stream, while the other end, by the motion and pressure of the current, was constantly vaccillating up and down, often swiftly and powerfully.

We met with several narrow escapes, and anxiously watched for a place of landing. At length we espied upon the bank a bright light, to which we directed our course, and, much to our relief, were enabled to bring our little bark safely to land, and after securing it, we climbed up the bank, and directly found ourselves in the presence of rough, savage looking fellows, who told us they were hunters and trappers; but their appearance and conversation, and the whisperings of the Spirit, impressed us at once with the feeling that there was more safety on the river, searching our way amid the threatening "sawyers," than in remaining through the night in such forbidding company. Accordingly we again embarked, and pushed into the fluctuating stream. It was very dark, and as we cautiously wended our way, our ears were ever and anon saluted with the fearful sounds of the dashing "sawyers" ahead. It was prudent to keep as close to the bank as possible, in order to avail ourselves of the first opportunity to secure a landing.

We had one man at the bow to watch for "sawyers," while the others kept a vigilant look out for a place to haul up. The dense darkness of the stormy night prevented us discovering danger until we were on the point of being enveloped in it, and in several instances, our escape seemed truly miraculous. At last our perilous night voyage terminated, having drifted into a swift current which fortunately forced us upon a low place in the bank, covered with willows, briers and thorns, through which, after having fastened our bark, we made our way, and soon reached a very welcome camping ground, in the midst of a thick grove of small timber. We were not long in starting a rousing fire, and having taken from our little bark the provision we brought along, we did justice to a hearty meal, while the gratitude of our hearts arose in evening incense to Him, the Giver of all good, to whom we ascribed our safe deliverance. After vocally and unitedly returning thanks to Him for His miraculous providence in preserving us from the perils of the night, we spread our blankets, couched down and enjoyed refreshing sleep, with occasional interruptions by the wonderful clamor of seemingly thousands upon thousands of wild geese, which had gathered upon an island in the river, a short distance from our camp.

The following morning we were struck with astonishment, as we viewed, by the light of day, the river below us thickly dotted with sand-bars and bristling "sawyers," there being, apparently, no possible chance of having proceeded one dozen yards farther without steering nearly a direct course to the opposite bank of the stream, which, with our ignorance of the circumstances, and the darkness of the night, would naturally have resulted very disastrously.

After this brief but impressive experience in the labors and dangers in traveling on this celebrated river, we concluded to abandon our boat and proceed on foot. In carrying out this programme, the first night after leaving the river, we called at a gentleman's house and asked for a night's lodging, without making ourselves known as "Mormons." We were very kindly entertained by our host, whom we soon discovered was a bitter mobocrat, and had acted the part of leader of a mob in raiding one of our settlements. He was very wealthy, and had with him, as guest, a rich southern planter, who told us that he, as neutral, accompanied his friend, the captain of the mob above mentioned, and he narrated the particulars of the fight, and its termination. He said that the two parties met and fought with desperation. He sheltered himself behind a large tree which was struck by "Mormon" bullets, several times. At length a parley was held, and a council between the leaders of the parties, in which the "Mormons" agreed to abandon their location. Our host and his friend said they justified the manner in which they were expelling the "Mormons," only on the ground that they were mostly Yankees, and opposed to slavery, and they feared that by settling in the State, the interest of the inhabitants, as slaveholders, would be infringed upon. We all listened with respectful attention, but those gentlemen little thought who composed their audience, and they knew not our thoughts And the feelings of our hearts.

The next day we parted with our brethren who came down the river with us, Brother Butterfield and I traveling together and holding neighborhood meetings. We made the acquaintance of a Campbellite preacher, who became so much interested with the principles we taught, that he invited us to attend his conference, and I had a very enjoyable time in preaching to his congregation. But opportunities for preaching, in that time of excitement and belligerent feeling toward our people, did not often come when unsought, and very frequently not then. The many false reports in circulation against us were so exasperating the feelings of the people in that section, that the spirit of mobocracy was everywhere manifesting itself; in many instances it really assumed the appearance of a species of insanity. Our main object was, by giving correct information, to disabuse the minds of those we gained access to, and allay the feverish sentiment of bitterness. Whenever we succeeded in securing the attention of people, to listen to our testimonies, we were pretty sure of their confidence. We held meetings in several places where we were threatened, and in one instance preached to a congregation in which were those who had come expressly to mob us, but on seeing and hearing us, had changed their minds, and at the close of the meeting, came and made their acknowledgments.

Finding, after continued efforts, that very little good could be accomplished while excitement was running at so high pitch, and the mob spirit so rampant, we concluded to leave the State of Missouri until it cooled off from its fermented condition. Brother Butterfield took for his field of labor the northern sections of Indiana and Illinois, while I continued my course through Missouri, the southern portion of Illinois, and into Kentucky.

Just before leaving the State, as I approached a beautiful little village, called Jacksonville, I felt an anxiety to preach to the people, and yet felt that it would not be proper to make myself known as a "Mormon" Elder. Just as I arrived at the suburbs of the town, I accosted a stranger whom I met, and desired him to inform me who was the principal minister in the place. He told me the minister's name, and said he was a Methodist, directing me to his residence. On my arrival at the house, a very fine and intelligent appearing lady responded to the door-bell, and informed me that her husband was not at home. I told her I was a minister of the Gospel—a stranger in that part of the country—that I wished to stop in town over night, and desired to improve the opportunity of preaching to the people, if a suitable house could be obtained. "To what religious persuasion do you hold, sir?" was the first inquiry. "I wish, madam," said I, "this evening, to speak to a promiscuous congregation, embracing all classes of people, therefore, I had thought, on this particular occasion, and for this special purpose, I would beg to suppress the name of the religious denomination of which I am a minister; but," I continued, "I was christened Lorenzo, having been named as you see, madam, after the celebrated Lorenzo Dow." Her eyes lighted up, and her countenance assumed a pleasant smile; she invited me to walk in and be seated—said her husband would be in directly—that he had charge of the principal chapel, and would be delighted to accord to me its accommodations. The minister soon made his appearance, to whom I was introduced by his lady. The gentleman at once assented to my wishes—sent notice around of the meeting, and had the bell of his chapel rung long and loud.

That evening I had a large, appreciative audience, and spoke with great freedom; in fact, I seldom, if ever, enjoyed greater liberty than on that occasion. What my hearers thought of me or whom they imagined I was, or whence I came, or whither I was going, I am left in ignorance to this day, as I was not required to inform any of my audience, and of course was entirely reticent on those points. I stayed over night with the minister, and after breakfast the next morning, took my departure, no further questions having been asked in relation to my business or profession, excepting as shown in the following incident:

At this time, I was, as usual, traveling "without purse or scrip." I had proceeded two or three miles, when I noticed that just ahead of me the road "forked, and being at a loss which to take, I called at a house a little in the distance, to inquire. A gentleman was standing on the porch, who, after satisfying my inquiry, with much apparent diffidence, asked if I was not a minister of the Gospel, and if I would not allow him the pleasure of contributing a little to aid in the good cause in which I was engaged, at the same time drawing from his pocket the willing offering, which I very thankfully accepted. Probably he was one of the audience at the meeting the evening before. NoL more than an hour later, I found myself in actual need of a portion of the kind gentleman's donation, for I soon came to a large stream where money was necessary to pay for ferryage.

In passing through the southern portion of Illinois, I found, in general, very little interest manifest in reference to the principles of the fulness of the Gospel, but any amount of ignorance and prejudice.

I spent the remainder of the winter in travel and preach- ing, chiefly in the northern part of Kentucky, with varied success, and treatment sometimes received in the most courteous manner and listened to with intense interest, and, at other times, abusively and impudently insulted; but in no instance treated worse than was Jesus, whom I profess to follow. He said: "If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more they of his household?" What a fine test the Gospel is, to prove the hearts of the people! On one occasion, I was very courteously tendered a court house, and at the close of the services, I was invited home by a member of the legislature—was seated at the head of his table, and otherwise as highly honored, and as hospitably treated, as though I had been a sceptered monarch. Then, on another occasion, one evening, I was preaching in a large room of a private house, and afterwards learned that a portion of my audience had gathered for the purpose of mobbing me. They had arranged with a party that lay concealed at a little distance, and within call, to join them immediately on my leaving the house to return to my lodgings, and all proceed together to execute their schemes of vengeance. It was a very cold night, and after the close of the services I stood with my back to the chimney fire, with a number of others some of whom belonged to the mob party. One of the latter persons, amid the jostling of the crowd, accidentally brought his hand in contact with one of the pockets in the skirt of my coat, which struck him with sudden alarm on his feeling, what he supposed to be, a large pistol. He immediately communicated the discovery to his affrighted coadjutors, all of whom directly withdrew, and, to their fellows outside, imparted the astounding news that the "Mormon" Elder was armed with deadly weapons. That was sufficient—the would-be outlaws abandoned their evil designs for fear of signal punishment; but the supposed pistol which caused their alarm and my protection, was my pocket Bible, a precious gift to me from the dearly beloved Patriarch, Father Joseph Smith.

On another occasion, while addressing a congregation in a dwelling house, in fulfilment of a previous arrangement by a lawless set, to throw a rope over my head and then drag me to the river and duck me through a hole in the ice, one of the fellows who was in front of me was in the act of throwing his lariat, when he was discovered by the mistress of the house, who instantly gave the alarm, and he sneaked out of the congregation like a whipped dog.