Biography and family record of Lorenzo Snow/Chapter XIV
The Prophet instructs the Twelve.—They appoint a Delegation to seek a location for the Saints.—Lorenzo notified to be in readiness—Change intervenes.—An unprecedented apostacy.—Joseph Smith's correspondence.—Calls for an expression from candidates for the Presidency.—Copy of Appeal.—Disgusted with their responses.—Offers himself as candidate.—Elders electioneer.—How Lorenzo succeeds.—Terrible news Assassination.—Mournful Elegy.—Meeting mobocrats.
ON the 20th of February, 1844, the Prophet Joseph Smith instructed the Twelve Apostles to send a delegation and make explorations in Oregon and California, and seek a good location to which we can remove after the Temple is completed, and "where we can build a city in a day, and have a government of our own."
In accordance with the foregoing instructions, the Twelve apppointed the following committee: Jonathan Dunham, Phineas H. Young, David D. Yearsley, David Fullmer, Alphonso Young, James Emmett, George D. Watt, Daniel Spencer. Subsequently others, including Lorenzo Snow, were called, and some volunteers were added to the above list.
Previous to this, the Prophet had remarked to me that he anticipated moving to the Rocky Mountains with all his family, where he could live in peace and worship God unmolested. But other scenes and prospects awaited us. Ever busy change was hurrying onward to a fearful point. The most inveterate apostacy that this Church has yet had to meet was inaugurated in open rebellion against the authorities and the Priesthood in general.
After the expulsion of the Latter-day Saints from the State of Missouri, the authorities of the Church, from time to time, appealed to the rulers of the nation for redress. When Martin Van Buren filled the presidential chair, the Prophet Joseph, after acquainting His Excellency with the causes of our grievances, received from our Chief Magistrate the laconic response: "Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you."
When the campaign of 1843 opened, Joseph Smith opened correspondence with those brought forward as candidates for the presidency, requesting an expression of their views and the policy they proposed to pursue toward the "Mormons," if elected. The following is a copy of the document:
Dear Sir.—As we understand you are a candidate for the presidency at the next election, and as the Latter-day Saints (sometimes called "Mormons," who constitute a numerous class in the school politic of this vast republic) have been robbed of an immense amount of property, and endured nameless sufferings, by the State of Missouri, and from her borders have been driven by force of arms, contrary to our national covenants; and as in vain we have sought redress by all constitutional, legal and honorable means, in her courts, her executive councils, and her legislative halls; and as we have petitioned Congress to take cognizance of our sufferings, without effect, we have judged it wisdom to address you this communication, and solicit an immediate, specific and candid reply to, What will be your rule of action relative to us as a people, should fortune favor your ascension to the Chief Magistracy?
Most respectfully, sir, your friend, and the friend of peace, good order and constitutional rights,
In behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A copy of the above was sent to John C. Calhoun, Lewis Cass, Richard M. Johnson, Henry Clay and Martin Van Buren.
After receiving their answers, he was so thoroughly disgusted with their narrow, illiberal sentiments, that he published a manifesto, in which he boldly expressed his "Views of the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States," a document well worthy the study of the most erudite student of national policies.
At length, to the surprise and intense gratification of many of his friends, Joseph Smith acceded to their repeated solicitations, and consented to become a candidate for the presidency of the United States.
Those who best knew him—those who comprehended the depth of his understanding, the greatness of his soul, the superhuman wisdom with which he was endowed, the magnitude of his calling as the leader of the dispensation of the fulness of times, and the mouthpiece of God to this generation, considered it a marked condescension for him to be willing to accept the position of President of the United States; while those who, not having any personal acquaintance with him, had formed their opinions by the scurrilous reports circulated about him, and only knew of him as a base impostor—an ignorant leader of a poor, despised people, designated it as one of the most absurd and even ludicrous of all pretensions. The idea of "old Jo Smith" aiming at the highest gift of the nation—"the money digger" assuming such prerogative, struck them with as much astonishment, and was treated with as much derision as though he had been one of Macbeth's ghosts.
But his friends were in earnest. They knew that through the revelations of God he was in possession of higher intelligence, and more correct understanding of national policies, and particularly the needs of our own government as a republic, than any other man living. After he had submitted himself to be announced as a candidate for the presidency, a national convention assembled in Nauvoo, in which eighteen States were represented.
Subsequently to this the Twelve (with the exception of Willard Richards and John Taylor) and many other prominent Elders were sent to various parts of the United States, which the following extract from Lorenzo's journal will explain:
I was appointed to take the supervision of the political interests of General Joseph Smith, as candidate for the presidential chair, in Ohio, my native State. For this purpose I left Nauvoo, and proceeded directly, by steamboat and stage, to the neighborhood of Kirtland, in the northern part of the State, where I secured the printing of several thousand pamphlets, setting forth his political views, suggestions, propositions, etc., for distribution.
I then procured a horse and buggy, and traveled through the most populous portions of tho country, lecturing, canvassing, and distributing pamphlets. Many people, both Saints and Gentiles, thought this a bold stroke of policy; however, our own people generally, whom I met, were quite willing to use their influence and devote their time and energies to the promotion of the object in view.
I had a very interesting time—had many curious interviews, and experienced many singular circumstances, on this my first and last electioneering tour. To many persons who knew nothing of Joseph, but through the ludicrous reports in circulation, the movement seemed a species of insanity, while others, with no less astonishment, hailed it as a beacon of prosperity to our national destiny. In the midst of these extremes, my progress was suddenly brought to a close, by a well confirmed report of the massacre of the Prophet and his brother Hyrum.
When this terrible news reached me, I was near Cincinnati, to which place I immediately repaired, and found the Apostle, Amasa Lyman, who had just arrived from Nauvoo with intelligence of the martyrdom, and with counsel and instructions to the Saints and Elders.
The news of this sad event, of course, came wholly unexpected, and struck me with profound astonishment and grief, which no language can portray. As a partial expression of my thoughts and feelings, I quote the following lines, written by my sister:
who were massacred by a mob, in carthage, hancock
co., ill., on the 27th of june, 1844.
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.—Rev., vi; 9, 10, 11.
Ye heavens, attend! Let all the earth give ear!
Let Gods and seraphs, men and angels hear:
The worlds on high—the universe shall know,
What awful scenes are acted here below!
Had Nature's self a heart, her heart would bleed
At the recital of so foul a deed;
For never, since the Son of God was slain,
Has blood so noble flowed from human vein,
As that which now on God for vengeance calls
From "Freedom's" ground—from Carthage prison walls.
Oh, Illinois! thy soil has drunk the blood
Of Prophets, martyred for the truth of God.
Once loved America! what can atone
For the pure blood of innocence thou'st sown?
Were all thy streams in teary torrents shed,
To mourn the fate of those illustrious dead,
How vain the tribute for the noblest worth,
That graced thy surface, O degraded earth!
Vile, wretched murderers, fierce for human blood,
You've slain the Prophets of the living God;
Who've borne oppression from their early youth,
To plant on earth, the principles of truth.
Shades of our patriot fathers! Can it be,
Beneath your blood-stained flag of liberty,
The firm supporters of our country's cause,
Are butchered while submissive to her laws?
Yes, blameless men, defamed by hellish lies,
Have thus been offered as a sacrifice,
T' appease the ragings of a brutish clan,
That has defied the laws of God and man!
'Twas not for crime or guilt of theirs, they fell:
Against the laws they never did rebel.
True to their country, yet her plighted faith
Has proved an instrument of cruel death.
Great men have fallen, mighty men have died—
Nations have mourned their fav'rites and their pride;
But, two so wise, so virtuous and so good,
Before on earth, at once, have never stood
Since the Creation—men whom God ordained,
To publish truth where error long had reigned;
Of whom the world itself unworthy proved;
It knew them not, but men with hatred moved,
And with infernal spirits have combined
Against the best—the noblest of mankind.
0, persecution! shall thy purple hand
Spread utter desolation through the land?
Shall Freedom's banner be no more unfurled?
Has peace, indeed, been taken from the world?
Thou God of Jacob, in this trying hour,
Help us to trust in Thy Almighty power—
Support the Saints beneath this awful stroke—
Make bare Thine arm to break oppression's yoke.
We mourn Thy Prophet, from whose lips have flowed
The words of life Thy Spirit has bestowed—
A depth of thought no human art could reach,
From time to time, flowed in sublimest speech,
From Thy celestial fountain, through his mind,
To purify and elevate mankind;
The rich intelligence by him brought forth,
Is like the sunbeam spreading o'er the earth.
Now Zion mourns—she mourns an earthly head;
Her Prophet and her Patriarch are dead;
The blackest deed that men and devils know,
Since Calv'ry's scene, has laid the brothers low.
One while in life, and one in death they proved
How strong their friendship—how they truly loved;
True to their mission, until death they stood,
Then sealed their testimony with their blood.
All hearts with sorrow bleed, and every eye
Is bathed in tears; each bosom heaves a sigh;
Heart broken widows' agonizing groans
Are mingled with the helpless orphans' moans.
Ye Saints! be still, and know that God is just—
With steadfast purpose in His promise trust;
Girded with sackcloth, own His mighty hand,
And wait His judgments on this guilty land.
The noble Martyrs now have gone to move
The cause of Zion in the courts above.
Nauvoo, July 1, 1844.
With saddened heart I then returned to the vicinity of Kirtland, from whence I started—arranged some matters of business and set my face homeward, traveling with horse and buggy; nothing of interest, worthy of notice, occurring, except, perhaps, I might mention a little incident which pened after passing through Carthage, the place of Joseph and Hyrum's martyrdom.
The spirit of destruction, mobocracy and murder was rampant, and our enemies in Carthage, and other towns and settlements in the vicinity of Nauvoo, were seeking every opportunity to wreak vengeance upon our people, especially when it could be accomplished without endangering themselves.
One morning, near the break of day, as I approached the summit of a long hill, I saw about a dozen fierce looking men, armed with guns and bowie knives, advancing towards me. As we approached each other about half way down the hill, they eyed me very suspiciously—stopped, talked low and excitedly, but just at that moment one of my buggy wheels struck a stone, giving the vehicle a sudden jolt, upon which I turned towards them, and in an angry voice exclaimed, "Boys! Why in hell don't you repair this road!" "He is one of us," quickly remarked one of the group. "He is all right, let him pass."
I had several hundred dollars about my person, most of which had been entrusted to me to be delivered to various parties; how far my uncouth and undignified expression went as security for their money, must be left to conjecture.