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Liberty, Peace & Power Doctrine & Covenants Section 121 -123
The “Mormon War” • Missourians felt that since Mormons settled outside of Caldwell County, they broke the compromise • June 17 – Sidney Rigdn’s “Salt Sermon” • July 4 – The Church’s “Independence” Celebration • August 6 – Gallatin Election Battle • August 19 -October 11 – Saints kicked out of De Witt
The “Mormon War” • • • October 9 – Mormons fight back October 24 – Battle of Crooked River October 27 – Extermination Order October 29 – Haun’s Mill Massacre November 1 – Surrender(? ) in Far West November 16 – 60 were tried, but only six remained imprisoned for treason, larceny, murder, burglary, and robbery
Sections 121 -123 Origin • • As Latter-day Saint women were abused and the men forced to sign over their property as citizen soldiers shot their livestock and pillaged their homes, General Lucas allowed Joseph and his brethren to return home for a few belongings. Clinging to Joseph, Emma and the children cried as a guard swore at six-year-old Joseph and ordered him, “get away you little rascal or I will run you through. ” Joseph was carted off to Independence and then to Richmond, Missouri, where, as he wrote to Emma as positively as he could, he was shackled to five of his brethren “in chains as well as in the cords of everlasting love. ” On December 1, 1838, after a Joseph Smith and five of his brethren were committed to jail in Liberty, Missouri, having been charged with treason against the state in a preliminary hearing before judge Austin A. King. A committee of the Missouri legislature who studied the hearing found that the evidence presented was one-sided “and not of the character which should be desired for the basis of a fair and candid investigation. ” Joseph’s brother Hyrum, who overheard Judge King say “that there was no law for us, nor for the ‘Mormons’ in the state of Missouri, ” called it a “pretended court. ” The case against Joseph was unfounded and he was denied due process of law. Judge King was simply on a “quest for hostages. ”
Dec 1, 1838 -April 6, 1839
Sections 121 -123 Origin • • For four winter months and five days Joseph and his brethren languished in jail at Liberty, Missouri. In a cramped and filthy dungeon room without beds, bathroom, warmth, or adequate food, Joseph passed his darkest days. He was awaiting trial for a capital offense without hope for due process of law as his wife, children, and beloved followers were robbed of their property, stripped of their civil liberties, and driven mid-winter by a mob acting under the guise of official orders from the governor, aided and abetted by a host of apostates. Indeed many of Joseph’s most trusted and stalwart brethren had forsaken him. Most of the Book of Mormon witnesses, still certain of their testimony, nevertheless turned against him. Several of the apostles were antagonistic, including Thomas Marsh and Orson Hyde, who had charged Joseph with treason for advocating the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy of the kingdom of God (See Section 65). William Phelps turned his powerful pen against Joseph. Apostle William Mc. Lellin, who had no doubts that Joseph was a prophet (see Section 66), joined Lucas’s soldiers in plundering the Saints in Far West and expressed his desire to beat Joseph Smith. As historian Richard Bushman wrote, the trying events of 1838 “brought these faithful souls to the breaking point. ” Some of the Saints reviewed their history and found no evidence “that God has been our leader. ” They had not prospered or built Zion. Rather, they had been repeatedly driven “in hope of deliverance, but no deliverance came. ” Even Sidney Rigdon, Joseph’s counselor in the First Presidency and fellow sufferer in jail, began to resent God for the seemingly inexplicable treatment the Saints had received. “If ever there was a moment to give up the cause, this was it” wrote historian Richard Bushman. “ Joseph puzzled over the Saints’ suffering in the cause of God. Why had they been defeated? He never questioned his own revelations, never doubted the validity of the commandments. He did not wonder if he had been mistaken in sending the Saints to Missouri or requiring them to gather. He questioned God’s disappearance. Where was he when the Saints needed him? ”
The Prison Letter • “A packet of messages from Quincy arrived on March 19, one from Emma and another from Joseph’s brother Don Carlos, who wrote that all the Smiths had made it to Illinois. Bishop Partridge reported kind treatment by the Illinois people. The next day Joseph wrote a lengthy reply, unburdening his feelings in an effusion of instruction, reflection, and emotion. In a single day, he dictated a letter to fellow prisoner Alexander Mc. Rae that comes to sixteen printed pages…
The Prison Letter • “All five prisoners signed the letter, but Joseph’s and heart were on the pages. The words came rapidly from his lips without calculated organization. No paragraphs break up the flow; sentences merge; frequent misplaced and misspelled words show the rush in which the dictation was scribbled down. Yet parts of the letter rose to a level that merited later canonization in the Doctrine and Covenants. ” -Richard Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 376
• How long. . . • Yea, O Lord, how long. . – D&C 121
If. . Then
Sections 121 -122 Outcomes • In a dark, confined space he was powerless to escape, Joseph pled “how long” with an implied “why? ” From His timeless and infinite vantage, the Lord answered “a small moment” and because “all these things shall give thee experience” (D&C 121: 7, 122: 7). These words “turned the raw Missouri experience into a theology of suffering” that made sense when seen from God’s perspective. Liberty Jail, it effect, served Joseph as a microcosm of life in a telestial world, a dog-eat-dog sphere of powerseeking, aspiration, materialism, and unrighteous dominion. There, in that hell, Joseph was powerless. Or was he? B. H. Roberts called the jail “more temple than prison, so long as the Prophet was there. It was a place of meditation and prayer. A temple, first of all, is a place of prayer; and prayer is communion with God. It is the 'infinite in man seeking the infinite in God. ' Where they find each other, there is holy sanctuary—a temple. Joseph Smith sought God in this rude prison, and found him. " – B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1930), 1: 526.
Sections 121 -122 Outcomes • • As a result, Sections 121 -122 endowed Joseph with power. While the bounds of his enemies were set, Joseph would always have the priesthood (D&C 122: 9). It would distill on him like dew from heaven until he obtained a kingly scepter and reigned over a never-ending dominion in the presence of God. Meanwhile his oppressors, those who used their supposed power and influence to hurt, take, abuse, insult, misrepresent, and compel, would be cursed, lose their posterity, and be severed from the temple, and, thus, confidence in the presence of God. It was they who were powerless to “hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints” (D&C 121: 33). The powerful on earth would, in a small moment, be impotent while Joseph and the faithful would reign with gentleness, meekness, and by love unfeigned forever and ever (D&C 121: 41, 46). These divine explanations helped Joseph see as if from God’s eyes that things were not as they seemed. They made sense of suffering. Mankind was on earth to gain “experience. ” Those who chose to be meek, gentle, and without guile would gain power in the priesthood as indiscernibly as dew from heaven. They could be trusted with God’s power. While those whose made their experience “sad” by choosing unrighteous dominion were testifying to God of their unwillingness to exercise His power as He does, and therefore their unworthiness to have that power.
Sections 121 -122 Outcomes • • • “The word ‘experience’ suggested that life was a passage. The enduring human personality was being tested. Experience instructed. Life was not just a place to shed one’s sins but a place to deepen comprehension by descending below them all. ” In sum, Sections 121 -22 taught Joseph that “the Missouri tribulations were a training ground” for godhood. Hell, it turned out, could serve as a temple, a place to be endowed with God’s heart and mind in anticipation of assuming His “everlasting dominion” (121: 46). Joseph came to understand this because of his “experience” in Liberty. He wrote from that stinking but sacred space, “It seems to me that my heart will always be more tender after this than ever it was before. ” He recognized that trials “give us that knowledge to understand the minds of the Ancients” like Abraham, who typified the Savior’s unequaled unjust suffering. “For my part, ” Joseph wrote, “I think I never could have felt as I now do if I had not suffered the wrongs that I have suffered. ” Renewed certainty resulted from these revelations. The day after he dictated them Joseph still did not know how long he would be in jail, but he wrote to Emma that since he knew “for a certainty of Eternal things if the heaveans linger it is nothing to me. ” Hinting at his new eternal perspective, Joseph began signing his letters to Emma, “yours forever. ” After he finally escaped from Missouri a few weeks later while being transported to Columbia for a trial, Joseph seemed the most confident and determined soul on earth. His days were not only known but numbered, and with them he pursued a course to train the apostles and give them the priesthood keys he had received from ministering angels and to build a temple and begin offering the ordinances of exaltation to the faithful. As a result of these revelations, Joseph emerged from his darkest hour not broken but renewed. – Making Sense of the Doctrine and Covenants
Section 123 Outcomes • In response to Joseph’s suggestion, at least 678 Latter-day Saints wrote or dictated sworn statements documenting the abuses they suffered and property they lost in Missouri. In the fall of 1839, having escaped from Missouri, Joseph took the documents to the president of the United States. He literally knocked on the door of the White House and asked to see Martin Van Buren, whom Joseph had supported. Joseph presented the petitions and Van Buren, facing an election year, responded, “What can I do? I can do nothing for you! If I do anything, I shall come in contact with the whole state of Missouri. ” Joseph turned to the Illinois congressional delegation for help in appealing to Congress. President Van Buren pled impotence on the federalist doctrine of limited powers. He could not constitutionally intervene in a state matter. The Senate referred the case to the Judiciary Committee, which, with pressure from Missouri, arrived at the same conclusion knowing that the Saints had been driven for their religion. There would be no justice, no due process, no redress of grievances or guarantees of the free exercise of religious conscience. The redress petitions were turned over to the Library of Congress, where they remain as a testimony of “diabolical rascality and nefarious and murderous impositions that have been practiced upon this people” (D&C 123: 5). – Clark V. Johnson, Mormon Redress Petitions: Documents of the 1833 -1838 Missouri Conflict (Provo: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1992).
“Good Experience” • Joseph Smith’s later addition • “‘Experience’ was an unusual word to answer the problem of evil. Nothing was said about purification, or the greater glory of God, or redemption. The word ‘experience’ suggested life was a passage. The enduring human personality was being tested. Experience instructed. Life was not just a place to shed one’s sins but a place to deepen comprehension by descending below them all. The Missouri tribulations were a training ground. ” -Richard Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 380.