From “Storming the Nation”

From “Storming the Nation” September 4, 2021

 

Christensen's martyrdom of JS
Painting by C. C. A. Christensen (d. 1912). (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

 

I read Derek R. Sainsbury’s Storming the Nation: The Unknown Contributions of Joseph Smith’s Political Missionaries (Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2020) today.  Here are some random passages that I marked during my reading:

 

Most Americans do not know that Joseph Smith ran for president of the United States.  Almost none appreciate that he was the first presidential candidate to be assassinated.  (xi)

 

Thus Joseph simultaneously prepared to rally his followers and other voters to elect him president of the United States and to seek refuge in the West.

Either option, the presidency or autonomy in the West, would provide the desired result — protection for Zion and her priesthood ordinances. . . .  He then prophesied “that within five years we should be out of the power of our old enemies, whether they were apostates or of the world; and told the brethren to record it, that when it comes to pass they need not say they had forgotten the saying.”  He proved correct.  In 1849 the Saints were safely creating Zion in the Great Basin.  Joseph himself lay buried — a victim of assassination, largely because of his candidacy.  (40-41)

 

At some point in the council’s 26 March [1844] meeting, Joseph’s mood turned sober.  Several of the apostles recorded two months after his death what they remembered of the prophet’s words:

Brethren, the Lord bids me hasten the work. . . .  Some important scene is near to take place.  It may be that my enemies will kill me, and in case they should, and the keys and power which rest on me not be imparted to you, they will be lost from the earth; but if I can only succeed in placing them upon your heads . . . I can go with all pleasure and satisfaction, knowing that my work is done, and the foundation laid. . . .  Upon the shoulders of the Twelve must the responsibility of leading this church henceforth rest.

The record then states that Joseph and Hyrum Smith placed all the keys of authority on the Twelve.  Joseph then continued:  “I roll the burden and responsibility of leading this church off from my shoulders and onto yours.  Now, round up your shoulders and stand under it like men; for the Lord is going to let me rest awhile.”

In retrospect, Joseph’s apparently self-evident declarations that “some important scene is near to take place” and “it may be that my enemies will kill me” were prescient.  The apostles may have remembered only the parts of his speech alluding to his possible death because it had in fact happened.  No contemporary journals or other writings of that day, including the Council of Fifty minutes, attribute such sentiments to Joseph or mention any forebodings of approaching catastrophe.  There did not seem to be serious concern about the prophet being killed.  In fact, the events of the next three weeks would show the council members full of confidence in their plans to see him elected president.  That the “important scene” would be Joseph’s death was only one possibility among many.  And the statement that the Lord was going to let Joseph “rest awhile” could mean he would have some greater responsibility outside the church, such as his current position as chairman of the Council of Fifty, or even president of the United States.  (46-47; cf. 93)

 

“We shall be butchered,” Joseph flatly told the group [when he had decided to return to Illinois and surrender to state authorities].  He bade farewell to friends and family in Nauvoo.  Nine-year-old Charlotte Leabo, daughter of electioneer Peter Haws of the Council of Fifty, remembered that Joseph stopped at her house on the way to Carthage.  He “kissed each of the children and bade them good-bye, telling them to be good, and that they would see him no more.”  (148-149)

 

After reading the Book of Mormon for the first time, Samuel Bent saw a vision that showed him that the fulness of the gospel would be revealed in conjunction with the Book of Mormon and that he would be an instrument in proclaiming that message.  (68)

 

On his way to South America in search of better health, Chapman Duncan heard a voice telling him to go no farther south than St. Louis or “you shall die.”  Turning and seeing no one, Duncan continued his journey.  At St. Louis, he heard the voice instruct him to “go to the place of gathering of my people [and] thou shalt live.”  Confused and stranded on the wharf, Duncan introduced himself to a fellow passenger.  The man, Philo Dibble, announced he was a Latter-day Saint and was traveling to Independence, Missouri, to gather with God’s people.  Amazed, Duncan followed and was soon baptized.  (69) 

 

Lorenzo Snow, a college-educated schoolteacher, struggled with his decision of whether to join the church and went into a grove of trees to pray.  He recorded, “I had no sooner opened my lips in an effort to pray than I heard a sound just above my head like the rushing of silken robes; and immediately the Spirit of God descended upon me, completely enveloping my whole person, filling me from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, and oh, the joyful happiness I felt!”  (69)

 

Others experienced miraculous healing before or during baptism.  Jedediah M. Grant joined the church after two elders healed his mother of rheumatism.  An invalid for eight years, the mother of cadre brothers William, Joseph, and Thomas Woodbury was cured during their family’s baptism.  Stephen H. Perry’s baptism healed him of thirty years of epilepsy.  Joseph Shamp, a doctor, was unable to save his dying daughter.  After a prayer by two missionaries, Shamp’s daughter regained health and survived.  He demanded immediate baptism.  (69)

 

“We shall be butchered,” Joseph flatly told the group [when he had decided to return to Illinois and surrender to state authorities].  He bade farewell to friends and family in Nauvoo.  Nine-year-old Charlotte Leabo, daughter of electioneer Peter Haws of the Council of Fifty, remembered that Joseph stopped at her house on the way to Carthage.  He “kissed each of the children and bade them good-bye, telling them to be good, and that they would see him no more.”  (148-149)

 

I’ll probably share some additional quotations soon.  I’m expending no effort whatsoever, by the way, to offer quotations that represent the overall thesis or argument of the book — a book, by the way, that I, something of a Church history nerd, quite enjoyed.

 

 

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