Priceless revelations come in a vile jail

On Oct. 27, 1838, Missouri Gov. Lilburn Boggs, acting on false reports of a Mormon insurrection, ordered his militia to war against Latter-day Saints who had moved into the state. He wrote: "The Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary for the public good. Their outrages are beyond all description." (History of the Church 3:75.)

Three days later, on Oct. 30, about 240 men went to Haun's Mill, a settlement at which nine wagons of LDS immigrants from Kirtland, Ohio, had just arrived and had decided to stay a few days to rest before traveling the remaining 12 miles to Far West. The mobbers shot everyone in sight. At least 17 Latter-day Saints were killed by the mob, and another 13 were wounded.At about the same time, anti-Mormon forces surrounded Far West. Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Lyman Wight, Parley P. Pratt and George W. Robinson were told that General Samuel D. Lucas, a long-time anti-Mormon from Jackson County, wanted to talk to them in a peace conference. The brethren, however, were turned over to Lucas as prisoners. In a secret - and illegal - court martial held during the night, the brethren were sentenced to be executed the next morning.

Church History in the Fulness of Times, prepared for the Church Educational System, provides this information: "When General Alexander Doniphan received the order from General Lucas, he was indignant at the brutality and injustice of the affair and replied, `It is cold-blooded murder. I will not obey your order. My brigade shall march for Liberty tomorrow morning, at 8 o'clock; and if you execute these men, I will hold you responsible before an earthly tribunal, so help me God.' (History of the Church 3:190-91.)"

The next morning, Nov. 1, the Missouri militia entered Far West, vandalizing and plundering it, and raping some of the women. Many prominent men were arrested and taken as prisoners to Richmond.

Gen. John B. Clark, the governor's designated commanding officer for the "Mormon War," arrived at Far West and ordered everyone to stay in the city. The starving Saints were forced to live on parched corn. Another contingent of militia rounded up Saints who had fled to Adam-omni-Ahman for safety and sent them to Far West to join the other Saints.

Joseph Smith and a few others were placed on public display in Independence before they were transferred to Richmond. In mid-November, a 13-day trial began, presided over by circuit judge Austin A. King. Evidence was stacked against the brethren; witnesses for their defense were jailed or driven from the county. Alexander Doniphan, counsel for the Saints, said that "if a cohort of angels were to come down, and declare we were innocent, it would all be the same; for [Judge King] had determined from the beginning to cast us into prison." (HC 3:213.)

Judge King bound Joseph Smith and five others over for further prosecution and ordered them placed in Liberty Jail in Clay County. Parley P. Pratt and several others were to remain confined in Richmond; most of the others were released.

From Church History in the Fulness of Times comes this insight: "In reality, the two-story, twenty-two-foot square stone jail in Liberty was a dungeon. Small, barred windows opened into the upper level, and there was little heat. A hole in the floor was the only access to the lower level, where a man could not stand upright. For four winter months the Prophet and his companions suffered from cold, filthy conditions, smoke inhalation, loneliness and filthy food. . . . In his despair, Joseph Smith received priceless spiritual instructions from the Lord. Because of the things revealed there, Liberty Jail could be called a temple-prison."

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