Personal revelations following the murder of Joseph and Hyrum

Personal revelations following the murder of Joseph and Hyrum September 5, 2021


cover of a book by Derek Sainsbury
A rarely-treated subject in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints




Here are a few additional passages that I marked during my reading of Derek R. Sainsbury’s Storming the Nation: The Unknown Contributions of Joseph Smith’s Political Missionaries (Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2020).  Please note that such stories as these do not constitute the primary or even secondary focus of the book; they are tangential to its argument:


A small number of electioneers received comfort in what they described as revelatory visions or dreams.  George Miller recorded a dream from the morning of June 28, just twelve hours after the assassination.  He later remembered that as he lay in bed, “suddenly Joseph Smith appeared to me, saying, ‘God bless you, Brother Miller.'” Joseph told Miller that he and his brother Hyrum had been killed by a mob at Carthage after being “delivered up by the brethren as a lamb for the slaughter.” . . .  The prophet . . . approach[ed] Miller as if to embrace him, [and] Joseph said, “God bless you forever and ever.”  As the dream ended, Miller found himself standing in the middle of the room, arms extended as if returning an embrace.  Miller’s companion, Thomas Edwards, now awakened, called out, “What is the matter?”  Miller said nothing.

During their morning walk, Miller told Edwards of his vision, declaring he was sure it was true and he would be returning to Nauvoo.  Edwards responded that Miller “preached too much and [his] mind was somewhat deranged” and that they should fulfill their appointments.  Miller agreed, but after their last engagement they headed home.  Passing a tavern, they read of the Smiths’ deaths.  (157 )


John D. Lee in Kentucky learned of Joseph’s death from newspaper accounts on 5 July.  A few days later he recorded a dream-vision.  A heavenly messenger appeared to him and showed him “the martyrdom of the prophet and patriarch” and “bid [Lee’s] fears depart, “for his labors [were] accepted.”  The angel explained that Christ’s original Twelve and Seventy had felt all was lost when he was “taken and crucified instead of being crown[ed] king (temporal) of that nation, as they fondly expected.”  “Just so it is with you,” the messenger explained.  “Instead of electing your leader the chief magistrate of this nation, they have martyred him in prison, which has hasten[ed] his exaltation to the executive chair over this generation.”  The angel instructed Lee to “return home in peace and there [a]wait his endowment from on high, as did the disciples at Jerusalem.”  (157-158)


Perhaps most amazing was the experience of James Holt [who was serving as a missionary near the town of Lebanon in his native county in Tennessee on 27 June 1844]. . . .  They procured him the courthouse, rang the town bell, and soon the building was overflowing with people eager to hear the “Mormon” who had grown up nearby.

Holt began his sermon two hours before sunset, around 5:15 p.m. — the exact time of the attack on Carthage Jail, five hundred miles to the northwest. . . .  He preached for two hours, much longer than he had anticipated.  He recorded, “In the winding up of my sermon, I had the spirit of revelation come upon me, and I told them that the enemies of the church had taken the prophet of God this day and put him to death, as they had all the prophets of God in all dispensations of the world.”  “Now,” he concluded, “you may have this as a testimony of the gospel, for that is true Mormonism.”  Stunned at his own words, Holt looked out over the crowd:  “No one had anything to say, but all seemed struck with amazement and their eyes filled with tears.”

Holt returned to his father’s house.  He shared his experience with his companion Jackson Smith and also with his father.  Neither believed him.  Holt responded, “The Spirit of God [can] reveal anything to man that [is] going on in any part of the world,” adding, “I kn[o]w that God . . . revealed the truth to me and that I should start for home right away.”  Skeptical, Smith refused to return to Nauvoo with him.

On his way home, Holt felt drawn to a man on a porch reading a newspaper.  He approached and asked for water as an excuse to talk.  After a few swallows, Holt said, “You seem to be quite interested in what you are reading.  Is it anything very special?”  The man said it “concern[ed] the death of the Mormon prophets.”  Holt coyly asked where those prophets lived.  The man replied, “Nauvoo, and [they] were taken to Carthage and killed.”  He remarked that the article carried the signature of Governor Ford, so it must be true.  Holt thanked the man for the water and continued his journey, the stranger never knowing he had entertained one of Joseph’s electioneers.  Holt remembered, “This confirmed my impression of the expression I had by the Spirit at Lebanon, for I now had no cause to doubt if I had felt so inspired, but I had not doubted since it was first revealed to me.  The series of events, “instead of . . . weakening my faith . . . strengthened it,” Holt penned, “for I knew that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.”  (159-160)


On 27 June, the day Joseph was assassinated, missionary and future apostle Erastus Snow failed to appear at a conference in Vermont over which he had been expected to preside.  Why?


Snow had felt a “dreadful pressure of sorrow and grief and sense of mourning [worse] than I had ever before felt, but knew not why.”  He left to rendezvous with members of the Twelve in Salem, Massachusetts.  (172-173)


However, the next week they learned that Joseph had been killed.  “At first I could not believe it,” [the young missionary Lorenzo H.] Hatch wrote, “but at last was convinced that it was a fact.”  He “mourned and wept as the children of Israel did when Moses was taken from them.  I was alone, a young man being but eighteen years old, 1,500 miles from home.  The question in my mind was, Who would lead the church now that the Prophet Joseph was gone?”  A possible answer arrived in the mail in August.  The letter from Hatch’s uncle Jeremiah stated plainly that “the Lord had called Sidney Rigdon to lead the church.”  Hatch recalled, “It was about noon.  I stood in the middle of the sitting room reading the letter to my cousin when a voice plain and distinct said, “Brigham Young is the man God has chosen to fill the vacancy.”  Hatch turned to his cousin and shared the truth with joy.  (173)



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