Prophet, others suffer in 5-month jail stay

The Prophet Joseph Smith, his brother Hyrum, Sidney Rigdon, Lyman Wight, Alexander McRae and Caleb Baldwin spent five months (November 1838-April 1839) in jail at Liberty, Mo.

Joseph Fielding Smith wrote regarding the adversities the Prophet and his companions suffered while in jail:"Much of the time they were bound in chains. Their food was often not fit to eat, and never wholesome or prepared with the thought of proper nourishment. Several times poison was administered to them in their food, which made them sick nigh unto death, and only the promised blessings of the Lord saved them. Their bed was on the floor, or on the flat side of a hewn white oak log, and in this manner they were forced to suffer. Is it any wonder that they cried in the anguish of their souls unto the Lord, for relief from such inhuman treatment?" (Essentials in Church History, p. 210.)

The jail was built of rough dressed limestone "of yellowish color." A description of the jail is found in a footnote in B.H. Roberts' A Comprehensive History of the Church: "Its dimensions were twenty by twenty-two feet, and the walls were two feet thick. It had two floors, hence two rooms – an upper one and a basement, which formed a dungeon. In the east end was a heavy door made strong, and of great thickness, by nailing inch oak boards together with iron spikes. In the south side of the upper room there was a small opening, a foot and a half square, with strong iron bars, two inches apart, firmly imbedded in the stones of the wall. It cost the county six hundred dollars; Solomon Fry being the contractor." (1:526.)


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Information compiled by Gerry Avant

Sources: History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, vols. 2 and 3; A Comprehensive History of the Church, by B.H. Roberts; Essentials in Church History, by Joseph Fielding Smith; The Kingdom of God Restored, by Carter E. Grant.