G.S.L. City, Nov. 7th, 1853
Dear Bro. Richards:
In the last number of the News, the history of Joseph Smith is brought down to Nov. 2nd, 1838. It leaves him, myself, and others as prisoners in the hands of the enemy, encamped on crooked river, on the way to Independence, Jackson county, Mo., under a strong guard, commanded by Generals Lucas and Wilson.
Those scenes bring to my mind, a few incidents in the life of our illustrious Prophet and martyr, or which I was a personal witness, and which perhaps, have not yet found their way into the public history, or records of the Church.
As we arose and commenced our march on the morning of the 3rd Nov., Joseph Smith spoke to me and the other prisoners, in a low, but cheerful and confidential tone; said he, “be of good cheer, brethren; the word of the Lord came to me last night, that our lives should be given us; and that whatever we may suffer during this captivity, not one of our lives should be taken. Of this prophesy I testify in the name of the Lord, and though spoken in secret, its public fulfillment, and the miraculous escape of each one of us, is too notorious to need my testimony.
After our removal from Independence to Richmond, Ray county, and our being delivered to Gen. Clark, we were placed by that General in charge of Col. Sterling Price, now Governor of the State of Missouri, if I mistake not.
This said Col. Price placed us in a room without beds, chairs, or any other convenience, and chained seven of us all together, with a kind of trace chain, extending from one man’s ankle to another, and fastened round one ankle of each with a padlock. In this situation we were guarded night and day by about ten men at a time, who stood over us with loaded pistols in hand. At night we were all stretched on the floor in a row upon our backs, and tried to sleep, but the hard floor, the cold, and the inability to change our position because of our chains, and the noise of the guards effectually prevented sleep.
In one of those tedious nights we had lain as if in sleep, till the hour of midnight has passed, and our ears and hearts had been pained, while we had listened for hours to the obscene jests, the horrid oaths, the dreadful blasphemies, and filthy language of our guards, Col. Price at their head, as they recounted to each other their deeds of rapine, murder, robbery, etc., which they had committed among the “Mormons,” while at Far West, and vicinity. They even boasted of defiling by force, wives, daughters, and virgins, and of shooting or dashing out the brains of men, women, and children.
I had listened till I became so disgusted, shocked, horrified, and so filled with the spirit of indignant justice, that I could scarcely refrain from rising upon my feet and rebuking the guards, but had said nothing to Joseph, or any one else, although I lay next to him and knew he was awake. On a sudden he arose to his feet, and spoke in a voice of thunder, or as the roaring lion, uttering, as near as I can recollect, the following words:
“SILENCE—Ye fiends of the infernal pit. In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute, and hear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die THIS MINUTE.”
He ceased to speak. He stood erect in terrible majesty. Chained, and without a weapon,–calm, unruffled and dignified as an angel, he looked down upon the quailing guards, whose weapons were lowed or dropped to the ground; whose knees smote together, and who, shrinking into a corner, or crouching at his feet, begged his pardon, and remained quiet till a change of guards.
I have seen the ministers of justice, clothed in magisterial robes, and criminals arraigned before them, while life was suspended upon a breath, in the courts of England; I have witnessed a Congress in solemn session to give laws to nations; I have tried to conceive of kings, of royal courts, of thrones, and crowns; and of emperors assembled to decide the fate of kingdoms, but dignity and majesty have I seen but once, as it stood in chains at midnight, in a dungeon, in an obscure village of Missouri.
[Deseret News, Nov. 12, 1853]
[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Nov. 7, 1853, 1]
[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, July 2006]