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Biography and family record of Lorenzo Snow/Chapter XXII


CHAPTER XXII.

Why the Saints are persecuted.—Persecutions in different ages of the World.—How Jethro came to Moses.—The Saints locate in Illinois.—A short season of peace.—Hostilities resumed.—Perfidy of the Governor of the State.—Assassination.—The Prophet's testimony that his work was finished.—The Saints are driven.—Their journey.—War with the remainder.—Extracts from Epistle.—Peace. Perpetual Fund.—Labors of the Elders.—Publications.—The work of twenty years.—The power of truth.

DOES the reader request to know the cause of those horrid persecutions? I would ask, what caused the persecutions against the Saints anciently? The answer of the one answers the other. It is acknowledged, however, a singular phenomenon in human nature that a class of people, moral, virtuous and innocent, should become an object of envy, hatred, malice, spoliation and murder by their surrounding neighbors. Without entering into an explanation of the secret cause of this phenomenon of mind, we purpose only to present a few facts showing such is the nature of mankind, not only religiously, but morally considered. The most important moral, physical and philosophical discoveries have commonly been attended with persecution, imprisonment confiscation of property, banishment or martyrdom. The names of Seneca, Socrates, Columbus, Galileo and Harvey, which now adorn the pages of history, were each in their turn the butt of scorn, ridicule and contempt; and so it generally has been with every man who has ever benefited the human family. In religious discoveries the same effects have followed. Every religious reformation has been attended with more or less persecution and martyrdom, from righteous Abel down to the latest murder committed upon the Latter-day Saints. Abel, through some appointed means, obtained very important blessings from heaven; as soon as this was known, he became an object of hatred, and was slain! And so on to the coming of Christ like scenes followed in every age. Paul, speaking of persecution, says: "Others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment; they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheep skins and goat skins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy; they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and dens and caves of the earth."[1] The occasion of those persecutions arose not from their immorality, but from their having received peculiar heavenly gifts and blessings. Jesus, the Son of God, when in the world, had no other object but the good of mankind, but when he began to affirm that God was His Father, and He was one with His Father, and was doing His will, jealousy was stirred up, envy arose, He was called seditious, an enemy to mankind, and His life was sought and finally taken. His Twelve Apostles, without influence or learning, bore testimony of knowledge actually received, and of having authority to baptize both priests and people, rich and poor, bond and free, with a promise of the gift of the Holy Ghost. But what was the result? How were they received? Were they accounted good, peaceable men, and well spoken of? No! far from it; most all people spoke against them, and no doubt considered them wicked, designing men, for they immediately set about whipping, stoning, imprisoning and killing them. Their own brethren, the Jews, who were best acquainted with them, were the most industriously engaged in this business. Ministers of the Jewish laws, those educated for the purpose and who made it their daily employment to expound and teach the people the word of God delivered by the holy Prophets, were generally the foremost and most bitter in these crusades against Jesus Christ, the Apostles and the Saints. Had those persons who professed to understand the Scriptures and to whom the people looked for proper explanations, been honest and virtuous men, and used a righteous influence with the people, thousands, in room of rejecting Jesus Christ and His Apostles, would have received their testimony. So, in reference to ourselves, had the ministers and clergy come to us like the good Jethro to Israel, with kind sympathy in their bosoms, and shown us that friendship which one religious class of people ought always to manifest for another, or had they used even a moral influence in our favor, the evils and cruelties heaped upon us by our enemies would have been much lessened, and those persons, like Jethro, would have been spoken of with praise and honor to the latest ages of posterity. But, alas! few instances of this kind can be recorded. It is with pleasure, however, that we here mention that in times of deep distress, brought upon the Saints by these persecutions, when large public meetings were called in various parts of the United States by virtuous and honorable citizens of the country, to express their abhorrence and detestation of those crimes and cruelties, those professing themselves ministers of the Gospel, in some instances, came forward at those meetings and discountenanced the persecutions of the Saints. Such acts of nobleness, independence of mind and human sympathy will not be forgotten.

The relation of these scenes of persecution is not offered as direct evidence of the truth of our religion; but it is a plain evidence of the corruption of any people who persecute or look silently on without raising their voice or influence in behalf of the persecuted. The evidence of the authenticity of our religion is to be found in the fact of our possessing the fruits of the ancient Gospel, the gifts and blessings promised the true believers; and if found in possession of these blessings, that is a sufficient explanation of the cause of those horrid persecutions.

Having been driven from Missouri, they then located in Illinois, in the spring of 1839, as mentioned in the memorial. Here they built up a beautiful city, called Nauvoo; obtained from the Legislature of the State a city charter; organized several literary institutions; established a printing press; commenced another Temple; built a number of magnificent public edifices; opened hundreds and thousands of large and extensive plantations in the surrounding country; and sent forth hundreds of Elders as missionaries into different parts of the world. Many began to indulge the fond hope of having here found an asylum of peace; and being no more troubled with their enemies, would be enabled to sit peaceably under the shade of their vine and fig tree, and enjoy the fruit of their labors. It was not long, however, before things transpired of a nature to convince them this anxiously looked for period had not yet arrived. Their enemies in Missouri, not satisfied with the cruelties and murders they had committed in driving them from the State, continued their molestations. Not receiving any check from the authorities of the country, they became emboldened in their aggressions. They soon found plenty of corrupt and abandoned characters in the State of Illinois willing to co-operate with them in stirring up jealousy and raising excitement among the people, in order more effectually to execute their murderous designs. Believing that the continuance and prosperity of the Saints were dependent on the existence of their Prophet, Joseph Smith, they set about concocting schemes for his destruction. By resorting to false accusations and perjury, they procured a State warrant for his apprehension, and also that of his brother Hyrum. Aware that their diabolical schemes would be frustrated if the prisoners had a legal trial, they succeeded in lodging them in Carthage jail; a place where the Governor of the State pledged himself they should be protected, and secure from mobs and violence; but in every respect it was only suitable for the accomplishment of their bloody deeds. On the 27th of June, 1844, while Joseph and Hyrum were in this situation, awaiting their trial on the following day, their enemies determined to execute their designs. About 5 o'clock p.m., of that day, an armed mob, painted black, of from one hundred and fifty to two hundred persons, rushed from the surrounding woods, drove away the sentinels guarding the prison, and poured through the door and windows a torrent of lead that laid the brothers low in the arms of death! Then fell two worthy men! Everlasting honor and immortality is their portion, and their names henceforth are classified with martyrs for truth! When this sad event occurred, two of the Twelve Apostles, John Taylor and Willard Richards, were with them in prison, as visitors. The former received four balls in his body, the other escaped unharmed. These men live to tell the bloody tragedy which has sealed disgrace upon their country.

A few months previous to this murder, Joseph, in giving instructions to the Twelve in relation to the building up of Zion, preparatory to the coming of the Son of God, informed them that his work was finished on the earth, and from that time the responsibility of carrying the Gospel to every nation devolved upon them; and, as he bid farewell to some friends, on leaving for Carthage, he said: "I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer's morning; I have a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards all men; I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me—he was murdered in cold blood." An intimate acquaintance with those men from the early rise of the Church to their martyrdom, justifies the writer in bearing this testimony that he knows they were virtuous, honorable and righteous men men whom God loved, and whom all good men would have respected, loved and honored had they known their true character.

Contrary to the hopes and expectations of their enemies, the Saints continued to build their Temple, and attend to their ordinary labors. Petition after petition was presented to government for redress of their grievances; but a deaf ear was turned to their supplications. Their enemies, finding that no persecution nor even the martyrdom of their Prophet could destroy their union, then determined to drive them from their city; at last, persecution became so grievous and insufferable that the Saints were forced to leave their houses in the depth of winter, and wander in the western wilderness.

In the beginning of February, 1846, President Brigham Young, the Twelve Apostles, with their wives and families, and thousands of others, left the city of Nauvoo, traveling in a westerly direction, as they were guided by the Spirit of God. By reason of being exposed to the inclemency of the weather, and having only the thin covering of tents and wagons to protect them from its fury, many who had previously suffered from persecution could endure no longer, and fell asleep in death.

Having journeyed two hundred miles, they encamped and made a temporary settlement, called Garden Grove; forty miles in advance of this they made another, called Mount Pisgah; one hundred and fifty miles beyond this, they made a third settlement at Council Bluffs. While here resting from the fatigue of journeying, many were overtaken with sickness, which was the result of former severe privations. In the midst of their troubles, at a time when every man was required more than ever to watch over and protect his helpless wife and family from the hordes of savage Indians and wild beasts of the forest, with which they were surrounded, a message was received from the President of the United States, requesting five hundred men to enter the army and march against the Mexicans. This demand, though strange and heartrending, was complied with; five hundred men were thus taken from the camps of the Saints, leaving behind them fathers, mothers, wives and children in the midst of afflictions, many of whom were dwelling in miserable log huts, tents, and wagons, with scarcely the common necessaries of life.

A few months after their departure, their enemies still burning with rage, and finding the body of the Saints beyond their reach, made an attack on those remaining in Nauvoo, an account of which we extract from a general epistle of the Twelve, December 23, 1847:

In September, 1846, an infuriated mob, clad in all the horrors of war, fell on the Saints who had still remained in Nauvoo for want of means to remove; murdered some, and drove the remainder across the Mississippi into Iowa, where, destitute of houses, tents, food, clothing or money, they received temporary assistance from some benevolent souls in Quincy, St. Louis, and other places, whose names will ever be remembered with gratitude. But at that period the Saints were obliged to scatter to the north, south, east and west, wherever they could find shelter and procure employment. And, hard as it is to write it, it must ever remain a truth on the page of history, that while the flower of Israel's camp was sustaining the wings of the American eagle, by their influence and arms, in a foreign country, their brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers and children were driven by mob violence from a free and independent State, of the same national republic, and were compelled to flee from the fire, the sword, the musket and the cannon's mouth as from the demon of death.      *      *      *       Their property in Hancock County, Illinois, was little or no better than confiscated; many of their houses were burned by the mob, and they were obliged to leave most of those that remained without sale; and those who bargained sold almost for a song; for the influence of their enemies was to cause such a diminution in the value of property, that from a handsome estate was seldom realized enough to remove the family comfortably away; and thousands have since been wandering to and fro, destitute, afflicted and distressed for the common necessaries of life, or unable to endure have sickened and died by hundreds; while the Temple of the Lord is left solitary in the midst of our enemies; an enduring monument of the diligence and integrity of the Saints.

While the Saints were passing through those scenes of persecutions, sufferings and deep affliction, many glorious manifestations of divine approbation were given them, which we should have been happy here to record, did our limits and the nature of the work admit.

The Saints in the wilderness continued their journeying as circumstances would allow; having to cut their way through woods and valleys, over rivers and mountains, a distance of fourteen hundred miles. At length, on the 21st of July, 1847, the pioneers discovered a beautiful valley beyond the "Pass" of the great Rocky Mountains, being a portion of the Great Basin of Upper California, near the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake. On the 24th the President and first company entered this their present home; other companies, year after year, continue their emigration to this point. Here Israel will remain till the indignation of an offended God is poured out upon the nations. Here will peace and happiness dwell, while nation is at war with nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and here the people of "many nations shall come and say, come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths; for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." Micah iv: 2.

Though persecution, poverty, sickness and trials of every description have come upon this people, they have stood the fiery trial, and given evidence to all men, to angels and to God, of their faith, virtue and fidelity. Now the Church of the living God, far beyond the reach of mobs and strife, in her hiding place, shall grow like a tree planted by rivers of waters, till "she looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners." Cant. vi: 10.

As we have had to describe scenes of sorrow and suffering, harrowing to the feelings of the virtuous, we feel happy, indeed, that we can now direct the reader to the present favorable situation of the Saints. The following extract we take from the same general epistle:

We are at peace with all nations, with all kingdoms, with all powers, with all governments, with all authorities under the whole heavens, except the kingdom and power of darkness, which are from beneath, and are ready to stretch forth our arms to the four quarters of the globe, extending salvation to every honest soul; for our mission in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is from sea to sea, and from the rivers to the ends of the earth; and the lessing of the Lord is upon us; and when every other arm shall fail, the power of the Almighty will be manifest in our behalf; for we ask nothing but what is right, we want nothing but what is right, and God has said that our strength shall be equal to our day; and we invite all presidents, and emperors, and kings, and princes, and nobles, and governors, and rulers, and judges, and all nations, kindreds, tongues and people under the whole heaven, to come and help us to build a house to the name of the God of Jacob, a place of peace, a city of rest, a habitation for the oppressed of every clime, even for those that love their neighbor as they do themselves, and who are willing to do as they would be done unto; and this we are determined to do, and we will do, God being our helper; and we will help every one that will help to sustain good and wholesome laws for the protection of virtue, and the punishment of vice.

The kingdom which we are establishing, is not of this world; but it is the kingdom of the great God. It is the fruit of righteousness, of peace, of salvation to every soul that will receive it, from Adam down to his latest posterity. Our good will is towards all men, and we desire their salvation in time and in eternity; and we will do them good so far as God will give us the power and men will permit us the privilege, and we will harm no man; but if men will rise up against the power of the Almighty to overthrow His cause, let them know assuredly that they are running on the bosses of Jehovah's buckler, and as God lives they will be overthrown.

Come, then, ye Saints; come, then, ye honorable men of the earth; come, then, ye wise, ye learned, ye rich, ye noble, according to the riches, and wisdom, and knowledge of the great Jehovah, from all nations, and kindreds, and kingdoms, and tongues, and people, and dialects, oh the face of the whole earth, and join the standard of Emanuel, and help us to build up the Kingdom of God, and establish the principles of truth, life and salvation, and you shall receive your reward among the sanctified, when the Lord Jesus Christ cometh to make up His jewels; and no power on earth or in hell can prevail against you.      *      *      *

Come, then, ye Saints of Latter-day, and all ye great and small, wise and foolish, rich and poor, noble and ignoble, exalted and persecuted, rulers and ruled of the earth, who love virtue and hate vice, and help us to do this work, which the Lord hath required at our hands, and inasmuch as the glory of the latter house shall exceed that of the former, your reward shall be an hundredfold, and your rest shall be glorious. Our universal motto is, "Peace with God, and good will to all men."

The following we extract from a private letter written in the Valley respecting their peace and prosperity:

All is stillness. No elections, no police reports, no murders, no wars in our little world. How quiet, how still, how peaceful, how happy, how free from excitement we live. Our old firelocks have not been rubbed up, or our swords unsheathed because of any alarm. No policeman, or watchmen of any kind have been on duty to guard us from external or internal danger. The drum has beat, to be sure, but it was mingled with merrymaking, or its martial sound was rather to remind us that war had once been known among the nations, than to arouse us to tread the martial and measured step of those who muster for the war, or march to the battle field. Oh, what a life we live! It is the dream of the poets actually fulfilled in

real life. Here we can cultivate the mind, renew the spirits, invigorate the body, cheer the heart, and ennoble the soul of man. Here we can cultivate every science and every art calculated to enlarge the mind, accommodate the body, or polish or adorn our race. And here we can receive and extend that pure intelligence which is unmingled with the jargon of mystic Babylon, and which will fit a man, after a long life of health and usefulness, to enjoy the mansions of bliss, and the society of those who are purified in the blood of the Lamb.

Here no prisoners groan in solitary cells; no chains or fetters bind the limbs of man; no slave exists to tremble, toil and sweat for nought, or fear and crouch full low to please his fellow man. Here all are free to do right, and are warned, and chastened and corrected if caught in doing wrong.

Here, too, we are all rich—there is no real poverty; all men have access to the soil, the pasture, the timber, the water power, and all the elements of wealth, without money or price.

In this peaceful country many thousand Saints have already assembled. They have laid out a city called "Great Salt Lake City." In addition to their private dwellings, they have raised several elegant and magnificent public buildings. Many mills are in operation, and factories are also in course of erection. Public institutions for education have been established; one of these the State Legislature has endowed with an annual sum of five thousand dollars for the term of twenty years. Having come "up through great tribulation," they are not forgetful in their prosperity of their brethren who are still in adversity, scattered among the nations. Accordingly they have established a "Perpetual Emigrating Fund," for the emigration of the poor. Many thousand dollars have already been donated for this purpose. As the gathering of Israel from every nation has been decreed by the Lord, this fund has been so arranged as to be increased to millions, by which the poor and virtuous among men can be assisted, and with perfect assurance lift up their heads and rejoice, for the hour of their deliverance is nigh!

In the same valley, and others adjacent, they are establishing other cities; while the country around is appropriated to farming purposes. And thus "the wilderness, and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose." Every thing necessary to their comfort and refinement will continue to flow with the tide of emigration. The wisdom and ingenuity of the industrious will soon enable the sons and daughters of God to be arrayed with the workmanship of their own hands.

Four hundred miles south of the Great Salt Lake City an extensive settlement is being made. Likewise one on the borders of the Pacific Ocean, near to the port of San Diego. They have also organized a State government, called the "State of Deseret," and have now their claims for admission into the Federal union before the Congress of the United States.

That the reader may understand how this people are viewed by the public at large, we subjoin the following extract from an American newspaper:

We wish to call the reader's attention to the new and most extraordinary condition of the Saints. Several thousand of them have found a resting place in the most remarkable spot on the North American continent. Since the children of Israel wandered through the wilderness, or the Crusaders rushed on Palestine, there has been nothing so historically singular as the emigration and recent settlement of the Saints. Thousands of them came from the Manchesters and Sheffields of England to join other thousands congregated from western New York and New England—boasted descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers—together, to establish a colony in the west. Having a Temple amid the churches and schools of Lake County, Ohio, and driven from it by popular opinion, they build the Nauvoo of Illinois. "It becomes a great town; twenty thousand people flock to it. They are again assaulted by popular persecution; their Prophet murdered; their town depopulated; and, finally, their Temple burned. Does all this persecution to which they have been subjected destroy them? Not at all. Seven thousand are now settled in flourishing circumstances on the plateau summit of the North American continent. Thousands more are about to join them from Iowa, and thousands more are coming from Wales. The spectacle is most singular, and this is one of the singular episodes of the great drama of this age. The spot on which the Saints are now settled is geographically one of the most interesting in the western world.—Cincinnati Atlas.

In concluding this brief history of the temporal situation of the Saints, we feel peculiar pleasure in being able to leave them in such prosperous circumstances. The wisdom, cunning and powers of men have been exerted to stay the progress of truth and destroy the union of the Saints, but their efforts have only been a melancholy exhibition of their own folly and wickedness, and produced the opposite of their intention. By this practical lesson may all people learn that the purposes of God cannot be overthrown.

Now "the Lord shall comfort Zion, He will comfort her waste places, and He will make her wilderness like Eden and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody." Isaiah li: 3. For He hath said: "Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the' Lord is risen upon thee; for, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall rise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee, and the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." lx: 1—3.

As we have traced the history of the body of the Church, we will now very briefly glance at the labors of the Elders during the same period.

We have already observed that those whom God called to publish His Gospel, were not the mighty of the earth—according to the wisdom and learning of the world; but they were honest and pure in heart. Men who "counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ," and to spread abroad this knowledge they made every possible sacrifice. They willingly set aside every worldly interest, the comforts of home and friends, and went forth preaching every where they had opportunity. Whithersoever they went, the Lord confirmed their testimony by His Spirit; thereby thousands were led to forsake their false and discordant religions and become obedient unto the Gospel. By repenting of their sins at the command of God, and being baptized by His servants, who had received a delegation of authority from heaven, they received the remission of their sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost, which enabled them to know for themselves it was the work of God. As the Lord does not hire but commands men to do His work, He required them to go forth without purse and scrip, and try the world. In accomplishing this work, great indeed were the privations they had to endure. Though many received their message with joy, and gladly obeyed its requirements, many opposed and persecuted. Those "whose craft was in danger," were most bitter in their opposition; but all their efforts to stop the progress of truth only accelerated its speed. "So mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed," that in a few years churches were established in the principal towns and cities of the United States and in the Canadas.

In the year 1837, a few of the Twelve Apostles, and other Elders, in obedience to the command of God, left their native land to introduce the Gospel in Great Britain. At first a few meeting houses were opened for their use; but shortly afterwards, all were shut against them; nevertheless they persevered, and the Lord crowned their labors with success. As it was in America, so in England, some rejoiced in the restoration of the ancient Gospel, while others mocked, derided and persecuted. Since its introduction, it has spread into every county in England and Wales; and through Scotland, Ireland and the islands of the British Channel. Churches are established in the principal towns and cities, and in many of the surrounding villages of those countries, so that at present there are between forty and fifty thousand Saints in Her Britannic Majesty's dominions. Favorable accounts have also been received of the spread of truth in France, Denmark, Australia and the East Indies. In the islands of the Pacific Ocean, three thousand souls have been turned from their idolatrous and superstitious worship, and become obedient to the light of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

While this unparalleled work has been performed, the Twelve have ever been foremost in introducing the Gospel in foreign lands; bearing the burden and heat of the day; and while the Saints are comfortably situated in the Valley, in the enjoyment of the blessings of heaven and earth, they are far from their families, traveling on both continents. Wherever they have gone the word has been established in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; and through faith and supplication the sick and afflicted have been restored, the lame have been made to walk, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak and the blind to see. The knowledge of these things is possessed by the Saints, as they are of frequent occurrence. For bearing testimony of them they have suffered the persecution we have related; and while it ever remains a witness against the wicked, it is an imperishable monument of the worthiness of God's people to inherit that crown of life which fadeth not away, eternal in the heavens.

While the word has been so extensively preached, it has also been widely published by the press. Many thousand copies of the Book of Mormon and Book of Doctrine and Covenants have been published in America and Great Britain. Besides those standard works, many other lesser works of great importance have also been published, and many thousand copies of pamphlets and replies to objectors in both countries. During the residence of the Saints in Ohio and Missouri, they issued two periodicals, called the Messenger and Advocate, and Evening and Morning Star. In Illinois they had other two periodicals, called the Times and Seasons, and Nauvoo Neighbor. In the cities of New York and Philadelphia, where large and influential churches were established, they published two others, called The Prophet, and Gospel Reflector. Those papers and periodicals obtained extensive circulation, through which the word of God was strenuously advocated. In 1840, a periodical entitled The Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star, was commenced in England, and is now published at Liverpool, having obtained a weekly circulation of upwards of twenty-three thousand copies. In Wales they have established a publication called Zion's Trumpet. On the western frontier of the United States, there is a large newspaper published, called the Frontier Guardian. Those papers are conducted by the Elders with great ability, and much good has been effected through their instrumentality.

Thus, in the short space of twenty years, a work has been accomplished without a parallel in the world's history. A work which has been tested on every side; it has been the object of misrepresentation in every part of the world; it has been opposed by the most talented theologians; it has overcome difficulties the most appalling; it has passed through trials the most fiery, and, like gold issuing from the furnace, has shone brighter and brighter; and while it has surmounted every obstacle, it has not only shown that "truth is mighty and will prevail," but has also shown that it has been sustained by One whose arm is omnipotent, and whose word shall be fulfilled and work accomplished though earth and hell oppose.