Apostates in Kirtland, Ohio, threatened the life of Joseph Smith after the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society - a Church-owned financial institution - forcing the Prophet to seek refuge in Missouri.
The Kirtland Safety Society was organized in an effort to stabilize financial transactions among the saints as a frenzy to "get rich quick" swept over the entire nation in 1836 and 1837.The Church's financial institution was among numerous such businesses that failed in the stock market crash known as the "Wild Cat Panic of 1837."
Scores of Church members, not understanding the cause for the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society, blamed Joseph Smith and other Church leaders for the loss of their investments.
The Prophet wrote: " . . . it seemed as though all the powers of earth and hell were combining their influence in an especial manner to overthrow the Church at once, and make a final end. Other banking institutions refused the Kirtland Safety Society's notes. The enemy abroad, and apostates in our midst, united in their schemes;T flour and provisions were turned towards other markets;T and many became disaffected toward me as though I were the sole cause of those very evils I was most strenuously striving against, and which were actually brought upon us by the brethren not giving heed to my counsel.
"No quorum in the Church was entirely exempt from the influence of those false spirits who are striving against me for the mastery; even some of the Twelve were so far lost to their high and responsible calling, as to begin to take sides, secretly, with the enemy." (History of the Church, 2:487-488.)
The Prophet later wrote: "A new year 1838T dawned upon the Church in Kirtland in all the bitterness of the spirit of apostate mobocracy; which continued to rage and grow hotter and hotter, until Elder Rigdon and myself were obliged to flee from its deadly influence. . . . On the evening of the 12th of January, about ten o'clock, we left Kirtland, on horseback, to escape mob violence, which was about to burst upon us under the color of legal process to cover the hellish designs of our enemies. . . ." (History of the Church, 3:1.)
Joseph and Sidney traveled about 60 miles from Kirtland, and then waited for their families to arrive. Then, wrote to the Prophet, "we pursued our journey with our families, in covered wagons toward the city of Far West, in Missouri." The journey was about 900 miles.
In a biography of her brother Lorenzo Snow, Eliza R. Snow described circumstances prevailing in Kirtland at the time:
"As the Saints drank in the love and spirit of the world, the Spirit of the Lord withdrew from their hearts, and they were filled with pride and hatred toward those who maintained their integrity."
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Information compiled by Gerry Avant
Sources: History of the Church, volumes 2 and 3, by Joseph Smith; The Kingdom of God Restored, by Carter E. Grant; Doctrine and Covenants Commentary.