Flight From Missouri

“Flight from Missouri,” in Psalms of Nauvoo, ed. Hal Robert Boyd and Susan Easton Black (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City, 2015), 1–52.

Fligh​t ​​from Missouri

“The people of the Lord . . . have already commenced

gathering together to Zion, which is in the state of Missouri.”

—Joseph Smith[1]

“You will proceed immediately to Richmond and then operate against the Mormons.”

—Missouri Governor Lilburn W. Boggs[2]

 

To Joseph Smith and his followers, Missouri was the promised Zion and the future site of their temple. “As far as the eye can glance, swell peeps over swell, and prairie lies beyond prairie, till the spectator can almost imagine himself in the midst of an ocean of meadows,” wrote W.W. Phelps of Jackson County, Missouri.[3] In this bucolic setting, Latter-day Saints trusted that their tribulations were behind them and not a foretaste of events to come. However, frictions with neighbors over religious and cultural differences were soon compounded by Latter-day Saint voting power and their general disaproval of slavery.[4] Conflict erupted on July 20, 1833, when a mob demanded that a local store, printing office, and other shops in the Mormon community be closed. Despite “many concessions,” the mob nonetheless drove the Saints and destroyed the store, scattering property “to the four winds.”[5] Bishop Edward Partridge was tarred, but bore the “abuse with so much resignation and meekness, that it appeared to astound the multitude.”[6]

Believing the Saints to be “lambs among wolves,”[7] Joseph led a quasi-army called Zion’s Camp from Ohio to Missouri with the hope of restoring the Saints to their lands. Although the camp arrived, the exiled Mormons did not regain the property and eventually had to establish new communities in Far West, DeWitt, and Adam-ondi-Ahman. The Saints, however, could not seem to shake the Missourian mobocracy. To make matters worse, disaffected Latter-day Saints turned “the minds of many”[8] both inside and outside the Church.

Among the disaffected were Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, two of Joseph’s closest friends. They believed the Prophet and the Church had drifted into spiritual “error and blindness.”[9] Fellow defectors Thomas B. Marsh and Orson Hyde sent an affidavit to Missouri governor Lilburn W. Boggs claiming that Joseph was arming Native Americans with weapons that would destroy law and order in the state. The spurious allegations, combined with a general fear of a Mormon attack,[10] led to the Governor’s Extermination Order on October 27, 1838: “The Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary for the public good.”[11]

A bloody massacre against the Mormon community of Haun’s Mill and the fall of DeWitt soon followed. Hyrum Smith tried to “find out for what cause” the Latter-day Saints were subjected to such violence and death. All he could learn was that “it was because we were ‘Mormons.’”[12] While Joseph and Hyrum were accustomed to being “frequently waylaid,” and having their lives “continually in jeopardy,”[13] most of the Saints were totally unprepared and altogether ill-equipped for the events that transpired.

Some went to Far West seeking refuge only to find the sheen of swords and Missourian muskets. Most eventually found their way to a barge town on the eastern side of the Mississippi River called Quincy, Illinois. Joseph Smith and other Church leaders remained imprisoned in Missouri. In poems and prose, the Latter-day Saints soon took up their pens to chronicle the injustices they encountered.

Saints Driven from Jackson County Missouri, by C. C. A. Christensen. Courtesy of BYU Museum of Art.

“Let Zion an​d Her Children Mourn”

Warren Foote

Warren Foote reflects on Missouri’s Extermination Order and the arrest of Joseph Smith. In an introductory note, Foote explains how he penned the lines “after the prophet Joseph Smith and others were betrayed into the hands of the Mob Militia at Far West and the promulgation of Governor Boggs extermination orders.”[14] Foote wrote the poem at Shoal Creek near the site of the Haun’s Mill Massacre where, according to diary accounts, “some seventeen innocent Mormons were brutally shot to death and fourteen others wounded by more than two hundred Missouri vigilantes.”[15] Considering the gruesome circumstances, Foote was surprisingly confident that a positive future awaited the Saints: “Then let them boast of taking / And threaten us to kill / This sure will never stop the work / Nor Mormonism still.”

Let Zion and her children mourn

And all the Saints below

Let all the heavenly hosts look down

And join in mourning too.

 

For soon her land all desolate,

(Her children scattered o’er)

Will fall a prey to wicked men

Who’ll flock to it by scores.

 

They have already plundered much

And taken many lives

But soon the Almighty God will hear

The widow’s fearful cries.

 

They’ve set all law and justice aside

Not fearing God nor man

But from this land the Saints they drive

To try the Lord’s command.

 

Which says my saints shall gathered be

On Zion’s precious land

Where all the righteous rising free

Shall in my presence stand.

 

Although the Governor of the state[16]

Said massacre and kill[17]

Yet their lives are still preserved

Contrary to his will.

 

Then let them boast of taking

And threaten us to kill

This sure will never stop the work

Nor Mormonism still.

 

So let the wicked triumph now

Their joy will soon be o’er

For soon the measure they do meet

Will on their heads be poured.

 

For when the saints who’re driven out

Into the field to dwell

Have been in Babylon awhile

Will then deliverance have.

 

The wicked then must gathered be

Into the thrashing floor

As Micah did their state foresee[18]

Some thousand years ago.

 

Arise and thrash O Zion fair

Whose hoops are made of brass

And make them even small as dust

To be blown off like chaff.[19]

 

Then let that happy time roll on

Which prophets have made plain

When earth shall ne’er disclose the blood

Of any creature slain.

 

In Warren Foote, journal, December 12, 1838, Church History Library.


The Arrest of Mormon Leaders by C. C. A. Christensen. Courtesy of BYU Museum of Art.

“The Mobb​​ers of Missouri”

un​known poet

While visiting his father, Joseph Smith Jr., in Liberty Jail, Joseph Smith III recalled hearing a version of this poem sung by future Latter-day Saint Apostle Erastus Snow to the tune “The Hunters of Kentucky.”[20] Though the poem was first published in 1844, its author, date of composition, and exact origin are unknown. The last stanza (beginning with “In eighteen hundred thirty-three”) most likely alludes to the 1833 Latter-day Saint persecutions in Missouri, placing its composition date sometime after.[21]

Come gentlemen and Ladies too

Who love your countries glory,

Hark, if you’ve nothing else to do

While I relate a story.

But mark what’s done, like days of old

By mortals in their fury,

For ’tis not often you behold

Such mobbers as Missouri.

Oh Missouri, the mobbers of Missouri,

The mobbers of Missouri

 

A hundred years behind this age

If you’ll allow for lieing,

There stood upon our nation’s page

A savage set of beings,

Who always sought for blood and strife

Despising judge or jury,

And coward like the well armed staff

As mobbers of Missouri.

Oh Missouri, the mobbers of Missouri,

The mobbers of Missouri.

 

It was ten thousand pounds at hand

They robbed from the printer,

And drove the church out from their lands

To perish in the winter,

And lo the reverend J. M. Coy,[22]

Was one among this legion.

He came with gun for to destroy,

Because of pure religion.

Oh Missouri, the mobbers of Missouri,

The mobbers of Missouri.

 

But once to show our fathers blood,

And prove their valor ample;

The Mormons in their defence stood,

And gave the mob a sample

And when so near, we heard them swear,

We thought it time to still them;

And ’twould have made a soldier stare,

To see the Mormons quell them.

Oh Missouri, the mobbers of Missouri,

The mobbers of Missouri.

 

Go spread the news from sea to sea,

Let truth to all be given,

In eighteen hundred thirty-three

The Church of Christ was driven,

Away from houses, homes and land

In this a land of freedom,

Because a worthless mob commands,

As priests and lawyers lead them.

Oh Missouri, the mobbers of Missouri,

The mobbers of Missouri

 

In the Prophet 1, no. 11 (July 27, 1844): 2.


Liberty Jail by C. C. A. Christensen. courtesy of BYU Museum of Art.

“To a Ringleader in the Late Mis​souri Persecution”

unkno​wn poet

Although this poem was published years after the brutal persecutions against the Latter-day Saints in Missouri, the author’s visceral passion expressed in the poem suggests an intimate acquaintance with the extremities of the Saints’ situation: “Could not the smiling babe assuage / Thy cruel and relentless rage? No!” The poet’s marked disdain aims at an unnamed “ringleader” (perhaps Governor Boggs) who allowed the suffering and “cries of innocence.”

Thou bloody man, without a tear,

Without a trembling or a fear.

Could cries of innocence not keep

Thy reckless fury from its sweep?

Could not a mother’s tears withhold

Her offspring from thy vengeance bold?

Could not the smiling babe assuage

Thy cruel and relentless rage?

No! thou didst glory in the show

Of human misery and woe,

And thou didst glory in the thought

Of wretchedness that thou hadst brought

 

In Nauvoo Neighbor 1, no. 6 (June 7, 1843): 1.


Joseph Smith Rebuking the Guard by Danquart Anthon Weggeland. Courtesy of Church History Museum, the Chuch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Zion in Cap​​tivity, a Lamentation”

Parley​ P. Pratt

Following Missiouri’s Extermination Order on October 27, 1838, Joseph Smith, Parley P. Pratt, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, George W. Robison, Lyman Wight, and Amasa Lyman were taken captive outside of Far West by Missouri General Samuel D. Lucas. While imprisoned in Richmond Jail, Joseph wrote to his wife Emma, “Brother Robison is chained next to me. He has a true heart and a firm mind, Brother [Wight], is next, Br. Rigdon, next, Hyr[u]m next, [Parley] next Amasa [Lyman] next, and thus we are bound together in chains as well as the cords of everlasting love, we are in good spirits and rejoice that we are counted worthy to be persecuted for christ sake.”[23] Presumably in these circumstances (“While chained in prison”),[24] Pratt composed the following poetic “lamentation.”

Torn from our friends, and captive led,

’Mid armed legions, bound in chains;

That peace for which our Fathers bled,

’Tis gone, and dire confusion reigns.

 

Zion our peaceful happy home,

Where oft we’ve joined in praise and prayer,

A desolation has become,

And grief and sorrow lingers there.

 

Her virgins sigh, her widows mourn,

Her children for their parents weep;

In chains her priests and prophets groan,

While some in death’s cold arms do sleep.

 

Exultingly, her savage foes,

Now ravage, steal, and plunder, where

A virgin’s tears, a widow’s woes,

Become their song of triumph there.

 

How long, O Lord! will thou forsake

The saints, who tremble at thy word?

Awake! O arm of God, awake!

And teach the nations thou art God.

 

Descend with all thy holy throng,

The year of thy redeemed bring near,

Haste, haste, the day of vengeance on,

Bid Zion’s children dry their tears.

 

Deliver Lord, thy captive saints,

And comfort those who long have mourn’d;

Bid Zion cease her dire complaints,

And all creation cease to mourn.

 

In Times and Seasons 1, no. 4 (February 1840): 64.

“Pratt’s Defens​e: Before the Authorities of Missouri”

Parley P. ​Pratt

On November 12, 1838, Joseph Smith, Parley P. Pratt, and other Latter-day Saint prisoners appeared before Judge Austin King in a “Court of Inquiry” held at Richmond, Missouri.[25] Of the court proceeding, Pratt wrote, “This Court . . . inquired diligently into our belief of the seventh chapter of Daniel concerning the kingdom of God, which should subdue all other kingdoms . . . when told that we believed in that prophecy, the Court turned to the clerk and said: ‘Write that down; it is a strong point for treason.’” Alexander Doniphan, defense attorney for the prisoners, rejoined, “Judge, you had better make the Bible treason,” after which “the Court made no reply.”[26] In the poem that follows, Pratt provides his own stirring defense: “So now to the Jury and Judge I submit; / I’m not learned in such laws.—they may hang or acquit— / But though they should hang me, or keep me in jail, / The spirit of Freedom and Truth will prevail.”

As down in a lone dungeon with darkness o’er spread,[27]

In silence and sorrow I made my lone bed,

While far from my prison my friends had retired,

And joy from this bosom had almost expired.

 

From all that was lovely constrained for to part,

From wife and from children so dear to my heart;

While foes were exulting, and friends far away,

In half broken slumbers all pensive I lay.

 

I thought upon Zion—her sorrowful doom:—

I thought on her anguish—her trouble and gloom.

How for years she had wandered, a captive forlorn,

Cast out and afflicted, and treated with scorn.

 

I thought on the time when some five years ago,[28]

Twelve hundred from Jackson, were driven by foes,

While two hundred houses to ashes were burned:—

Our flourishing fields to a desert were turned.

 

I remembered these crimes still unpunished remained.

And the like oft repeated—again, and again,

From counties adjoining, compelled to remove.[29]

We purchased in Caldwell, prairie and grove.

 

And there ’mid the wild flowers, that bloomed o’er the plain:

Our rights and our freedom, we thought to maintain;

Nor dreamed that oppression would drive us from thence,

The laws of our country we claimed for defense.[30]

 

But soon as kind autumn rewarded our toil,

And plenty around us began for to smile,

Our foes were assembled—being tempted with gain;

To ravage and plunder, and drive us again.

 

When many were driven, and plundered, and rob’d.

And some had been murdered by this dreadful mob,—

When cries for redress and protection were vain,

We arose in our strength, our own rights to maintain.[31]

 

The mob soon dispersed, to the Rulers appealed,

Saying, lend us your aid, and the Mormons will yield,

For surely they never were known to resist

A mob when commissioned by rulers and priests.

 

This soon was considered by far the best plan;

And orders were issued for ten thousand men:

Including the Wilsons[32] and Gillums,[33] of course.

And all the mob forces, for better, for worse.

 

These soon were forthcoming, in dreadful array;

Some painted like Indians, all armed for the fray;

The Mormons soon yielded without the first fire,

And the mobbers accomplished their utmost desire.

 

Some females were ravished—and cattle and grain

Became a free booty—and one pris’ner slain.

Some twenty or thirty were murdered outright,

And ten thousand others were BANISHED THE STATE:

 

By what LAW of the Statute to me is unknown;

But it must be by law all these great things were done,

For the next Legislature the expense to defray,

Voted two hundred thousand, the soldiers to pay.

 

To resist THIS oppression—THESE excellent laws,

Was murder; And treason; (in technical clause)

While women and children were driven away,

Their husbands and fathers in prison must stay.

 

So now to the Jury and Judge I submit;

I’m not learned in such laws.—they may hang or acquit—

But though they should hang me, or keep me in jail,

The spirit of Freedom and Truth will prevail.

 

In Times and Seasons 1, no. 3 (January 1840): 48.

“O, Mis​​souri, How Art Thou Fallen!”

Parley P. Pratt

While held captive in Missouri, Pratt felt justified in writing this poem titled, “O, Missouri, How Art Thou Fallen”—a not-so-subtle allusion to Isaiah’s exclamation “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” (Isaiah 14:12). The verse intimates Pratt’s eventual freedom from prison and reunion with the Saints in Illinois. Fittingly, on July 4, 1839, Pratt did indeed escape to “fair Illinois,” where “the eagle’s bold wing / Is stretched o’er a people determined and free.”

Missouri, a country how sad and how low.

How fallen from glory, from freedom, from pride,

O, would that oblivion its mantle would throw

O’er thee, and the depth of thy wickedness hide.

 

Thou should’st never rejoice—think not of the day

When Columbia for freedom first struggled so bold,

When thousands assembled in battle array,

The star-spangled banner of freedom unfold:

 

Think not of the patriots that bled in her cause,

Who met all undaunted the foemen’s dark brow,

They gave to their beneficent laws

Of right and protection but where are they now?

 

Disturb not the rest of the free and the brave,

Enshrined deep in honor they sweetly repose,

They swore that the banner of freedom should wave

O’er their dear native land regardless of foes.

 

But thou, O Missouri, hast trampled on all

That free men would fight for or patriots feel.

O thou queen of the west how great is thy fall—

Thy wounds deep and deadly no balsam can heal.

 

Let us fly, let us fly to the land where the light

Of Liberty’s stars still illumine each spot,

Where the cottager’s smile for ever is bright,

And the chains of a tyrant encircle us not.

 

In the fair Illinois the eagle’s bold wing

Is stretched o’er a people determined and free,

And shouts of her sons in melody ring

O’er her bower covered groves and fine prairie.

 

In Parley P. Pratt, The Millennium and Other Poems (New York: Parley P. Pratt, 1840), 80–82.

“To the Citizens of Quincy”

Eliza R. Snow

By 1839 about fifty-five hundred Latter-day Saints had crossed the Mississippi River seeking refuge in Quincy, Illinois. Eventually among them were Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum.[34] On May 17, 1839, together with Sidney Rigdon, the brothers formally thanked the people of Quincy: “The determined stand in [Illinois], and by the people of Quincy in particular . . . have entitled them equally to our thanks and our profoundest regard . . . Favors of this kind ought to be engraven . . . to last forever.”[35] Today a plaque in Quincy does in fact commemorate their kindness.[36] Eliza R. Snow’s poem was published alongside the aforementioned letter in the Quincy Whig; her words similarly reflect the Saints’ general affection for the residents of Quincy.

Ye Sons and Daughters of Benevolence,

Whose hearts are tun’d to notes of sympathy

Who have put forth your liberal hand to meet

The urgent wants of the oppress’d and poor!

Ye high-ton’d spirits; who have nobly dar’d

To stem the foaming tide of vile reproach,

And brave the pois’nous, deadly current of

Detraction and fell hate; in rescuing

Oppressed innocence, from the hard hand

Of the Oppressor!

In return for this,

Though it perpetuates your City’s name

And makes the sound of Quincy, echo sweet

And full of moral meaning to the soul

Of ev’ry true philanthropist: you get

No regal honors.—No loud trump of fame

Will blazon forth your deeds, except to throw

A dark’ning shade upon them; thus to aim

A cruel missile at the rescued ones.

No laurel branch nor cypress bough will wave

In graceful dignity about your heads, to tell,

In speechless eloquence what you have done.

No sculptur’d marble monument, will rear

Its head, as if in bold defiance to

The stern, untiring, withering hand of Time,

To teach your name and deeds to passers-by.

No; we have no insignia of this kind—

No medal of an earthly mould to give:

But yet, we fain would proffer you a boon

Of more congenial texture—one that’s wrought

In the fine fibres of the human heart,

Not in that heart where selfishness, and mean,

And low, and sordid feelings sit enthron’d:

And whose dull pulses are like clods confin’d

By the unwieldy chains of Ignorance.

For there are some, who, “privily have crept

Among us unawares”[37] whose hearts are set

On gain, for filthy lucre’s sake:—and while

We say to you, beware of such, lest they

Abuse your liberality—we say,

Esteem them our misfortune, not our fault;

For tares must grow among the wheat, until

The time of harvest;[38] therefore, the upright,

Must often suffer an unjust reproach.

Pure Gratitude, our free-will off’ring, is

The product of an elevated mind;

When the heart beats with sensibility—

Reciprocates each high-born thought, and stoops

Unask’d, to pay its def’rence at the shrine—

The sacred shrine of generosity.

And some, yes, many, spirits such as these,

We have among us;—Noble minded ones,

Who will not swerve from those unchanging laws—

The steadfast principles of righteousness:—

Whose firm integrity would yet remain

Unmov’d tho’ “mountains skip like rams, and all

The little hills like lambs.”[39]

The Gratitude

Which emanates from spirits such as these;

Is no mean offering-neither cheaply won—

Ye noble, gen’rous hearted Citizens

Of Quincy!

 

In “Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Hyrum Smith to editors,” Quincy Whig, May 17, 1839,

Church History Library.

Leaving Missouri by C. C. A. Christensen. Courtesy of BYU Museum of Art.

“The Slaug​​hter on Shoal Creek”

Eli​za R. Snow

This poem is one of many meant to raise awareness and commemorate the plight of the Latter-day Saints in Missouri.[40] Poetess Eliza R. Snow writes about the Hawn’s Mill Massacre at Shoal Creek, which left seventeen dead and fourteen wounded. Though disputed whether militants acted before or after receiving word of Governor Lilburn W. Boggs’s Extermination Order,[41] the horrific tragedy was nonetheless a lamentable consequence of violence against the Mormons. “Description fails; Tho’ language is too mean,” Snow writes, “To paint the horrors of that dreadful scene.”

Here, in a land that freemen call their home,

Far from the influence of papal Rome;

Yes, in a “mild and tolerating age”

The saints have fall’n beneath the barb’rous rage

Of men inspired, by that misjudging hate,

Which ignorance and prejudice create;

Ill-fated men—whose minds would hardly grace

The most ferocious of the brutal race:—

Men without hearts—else, would their bosoms bleed

At the commission of so foul a deed

As that, when they, at Shoal Creek, in Caldwell,[42]

Upon an unresisting people fell;

Whose only crime, was, daring to profess

The eternal principles of righteousness.

 

’Twas not enough for that unfeeling crew,

To murder men: they shot them through and through!

Frantic with rage; they pour’d their moulted lead

Profusely on the dying and the dead;

For mercy’s claim, which heav’n delights to hear

Fell disregarded on relentless ears;

 

Long o’er the scene, of that unhappy eve,

Will the lone widow—and the orphan grieve;

Their savage foes, with greedy av’rice fir’d,

Plunder’d their murder’d victims, and retir’d;

And at the shadowy close of parting day,

In slaughter’d heaps, husband and fathers lay;

There lay the dead and there the dying ones

The air reverberating with their groans;

Night’s sable sadness mingling with the sound

Spread a terrific hideousness around;

 

Ye wives and mothers; think of women then

Left in a group of dead, and dying men,

Her hopes were blasted—all her prospects riv’n[43]

Save one; she trusted in the God of heav’n,

Long, for the dead, her widow’d heart will crave

A last kind office—yes, a decent grave!

 

Description fails; Tho’ language is too mean

To paint the horrors of that dreadful scene,

All things are present to His searching eye,

Whose ears are open to the raven’s cry.

 

In Times and Seasons 1, no. 2 (December 1839): 32.

“Song of the Exiled Saints”

Eliza R. Snow

On November 29, 1839, in an attempt to seek redress for the events in Missouri, Joseph Smith and Elias Higbee presented the Saints’ plight to U.S. President Martin Van Buren. Van Buren reportedly responded, “What can I do? I can do nothing for you! If I do anything, I shall come in contact with the whole state of Missouri.”[44] Lest Latter-day Saints wallow, Eliza reminds them, “If Christ was made perfect thro’ suffering, shall we / E’er expect in his presence to reign gloriously, / Unless we come ‘Up thro’ great tribulation,’ to Zion our Home.”

We are far, far away from the land of our Home,

And like strangers in exile we’re destined to roam;[45]

While our foes are exulting to drive us abroad,

Our faith was unshaken—our hope was in God,

Tho’ far from Home,

For we journey’d way from our country and Home,

 

We were houseless and homeless, in tempest and storm,

Yet God was our father—we lean’d on his arm;

And beneath his protection, our lives were secure,

And we smil’d at the hardships we had to endure,

While journeying on,

To a country of strangers—a land not our Home.

 

O then, then we remember’d the House of the Lord,

Where the saints met so often, to feast on the word,

Pour’d forth in the Spirit, sent down from on high,

And our thoughts fondly linger’d on seasons gone by;

When at our Home,

We enjoy’d with the saints, the rich blessings of Home.

 

But all those, who the kingdom celestial would gain;

Need not parley with danger, with trouble or pain;

For if Christ was made perfect thro’ suffering, shall we

E’er expect in his presence to reign gloriously,

Unless we come

“Up thro’ great tribulation,”[46] to Zion our Home.

 

Thus the former-Day Saints, who were driven away,

And like deer in the forest were destined to stray

Clad in sheep-skins and goat-skins, have wander’d around,

Or in “caves and in dens,”[47] a lone residence found;

And should they roam,

And the Latter Day Saints, rest in quiet at Home.

 

Now the Saints who are faithful, and trust in the Lord,

Where’er they are scattered, go “preaching the word,”[48]

And the honest in heart, the glad tidings believe,

And with joy and rejoicing the gospel receive

And seek a Home,

With the just of all ages, when Jesus shall Come.

 

And we long for the promis’d redemption to come,

When the faithful in Jesus, will all gather home,

From the north, from the south from the east and the west,

To partake with the ancients, the great promis’d rest:

And Shiloh come,[49]

And crown with his presence, Mount Zion our home.

 

In Times and Seasons 2, no. 1 (November 1, 1840): 107.

“Americans: A Poem in Blank Verse”

James Mu​lholland

Printed posthumously as “a tribute” to the then-deceased Latter-day Saint poet James Mulholland, this eleven-page “blank verse” tells of “the cruelties and wrongs, which the Church has lately experienced in the state of Missouri.”[50] Its content differs from other poetry about the Missouri expulsion; the poem “alludes to the [Missouri] violence rather than dwelling on it,” and “holds out the possibility of forgiveness to the Missourians: ‘And even our enemies, may they repent, / And find their way to mercies throne of grace; / Obtain forgiveness, and amend their lives.’”[51]

“When the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2)

 

Hail, Great Republic of this Western World!

Ye sons of peace, Columbia’s freemen, hail!

Hear me, a son of Erin,[52] sing the woes,

The heartless persecutions, which a few

Of late have suffered for their conscience’s sake:

Not in that land so famed for cruel wrongs,

Which gave me birth and reared me up to man:

Not in the lands of European rule,

Where despotism less or more prevails:

Neither on Asia, nor Africa’s shores,

Where barbarous idolatry holds sway.

But in America, the boast of all the world;

The pattern of equality, of rights, of freedom,

Liberty, and all that would ensure to men,

Their homes secure, their various altars free.

O! that my muse, would now inspire my pen

To paint the scenes which on my heart are sketched;

Or could I show in colors just and true,

How liberty is threatened; even now

Whilst yet I write, her votaries would fear.

 

Know then the fact, and be it known to all,

That great Missouri, (part of your republic,)

Has in her might arose, and claimed the privilege

At the cannon’s mouth, to dictate modes of worship

Or forbid. To drive from out their State,

Or visit with extermination, such as dare

To worship God, as did the Saints of old:

Who dare to preach repentance, and direct

To be baptized, that sins may be remitted:

Who promise unto all who thus obey,

As Peter promised such in days of old,

The Holy Ghost—The Comforter—

Who teaches all things to the pure in heart.

 

Know it all earth, all nations, and all men,

That doctrines such as these have been promulged,

And taught, to men even now alive;

Taught, and believed, and practiced here on earth,

With consolation great, and holy joy.

Men who have left the world, with all its pride,

And sought a holy home, where together,

They might learn to know the Lord,

And walk in all his paths.

Far to the west, Missouri spreads to view

Her prairies vast, and there they seek a home;

By purchase; not by right, as enemies have said.

They raise their humble cots, and hope to escape

The growing evils of the present world,

By being lowly, humble, meek;

Adhering to the laws of God and man;

In all things subject to the powers that be.

 

But Satan, jealous of divided sway,

And fearful lest his rule might be abridged,

Or brought to naught, by fellowship like theirs:

Here in his favorite reservoir of crime,

He looks around him for a chosen few;

Who having found, he instigates and leads,

To deeds of outrage, murder, rapine, war;

Proclaimed at large against those peaceful men.

 

Evil prevails! The Saints of God must fly

To save their lives, and all they hold most dear,

In winter’s blast, exposed on prairies bare,

They wander forth unfriended by the world.

Spoiled of their goods, deprived of house and home,

Their children barefoot tread the frozen ground,

And leave their footsteps red with infant blood.

Mean time a few more honored than the rest,

Stripped of their clothes, and tarred and feathered o’er,

Are thus sent forth; as living monuments

Of mob-law charity, and mercy great;

Whilst yet, lest ought be wanting, to conclude,

A few are butchered, that the scene be sealed

With blood—to cry to heaven,—

Like unto Abel’s in the days of Cain.

 

From Jackson County driven, they wend their way,

And in Clay County find a safe retreat;

With open arms, and sympathizing balm,

The dwellers here receive these outcasts poor;

And every comfort which they can, bestow.

O Charity! Greatest of the social three;

Thou great restorer of the human race;

On thee hangs all the law; the prophets all

Are by thy precepts mutually fulfilled.

To seek the widow poor, the orphan babe;

To shelter houseless outcasts, and relieve

The poor and needy, be he friend or foe;

These are the acts which constitute the plan

Of wiping out a multitude of sins;

Obtaining favor in the sight of Him

Who gave the law; and meteth out to each,

As he has measured to his fellow man.

 

Deep in our hearts with gratitude sincere,

We’ll still remember at the throne of grace,

Those who have thus administered relief;

Extended charity; and poured within our wounds,

The healing balm, in such a time of need.

 

Meanwhile, throughout the State

The friends of charity and peace, unite,

To deal out mercy to the injured Saints:

A region set apart of some extent

By State permission, for their special use;

Where they might purchase, and possess their lands,

And live in peace and harmony once more.

With happy prospects, such as these in view

They take possession, and commence again,

To till the earth, to raise the humble shed,

In hopes to spend their future years in peace,

And find a recompence for woes gone by.

 

And now behold! the County Caldwell rise,

As ’twere at once to notice in the world:

Behold the trains of emigrating Saints

Pour in from every State;

A steady stream continuous in its course:

Even from the north, where Britain still holds sway,

They journey westward, to fulfill the law

Of Him who called them to embrace the Truth.

 

They purchase lands according to their means,

Or else embrace the rights, pre-emption laws extend;

In faith relying on Jehovah great;

That He who feeds the ravens, and who owns the cattle

On a thousand hills, will for themselves and little ones provide;

If they but do their best, in honesty and fear,

To do their duty, both to God and man.

 

Now all around prosperity prevails.

All gracious Providence smiling o’er the scene;

Behold the fields of waving grain extend

Their ample bosoms to the summer’s sun;

And crown the labors of industrious faith:

Whilst herds of cattle of all lands increase

Their numbers on the flowery prairies vast;

Where, by the hand of bounteous Heaven prepared,

Profusion waits them, willingly bestowed.

 

The various seasons of the rolling year,

Had nearly twice revolved their annual round,

Since first these outcasts settled here in peace;

And plenty now in prospect, still gave hopes,

That by their perseverance in the faith of Christ,

They would attain to rear up Zion in the latter days,

Substantially here upon the earth:

That through even their weak agency,

Would be established on the mountain tops,

The mountain of God’s house; of which the Prophets spake

As something certain in the latter days;

Which shall take place, or God’s own word must fail;

And this that men might know the Lord;

And thereby ’scape destruction, when he comes

Revealed from heaven; in flaming fire,

To vengeance take, on all who know not God,

And disobey the gospel which He gave,

For man’s redemption from his fallen state.

 

Meantime, that all may know what God has done;

And what he’s going to do in these last days;

They send their Elders forth, to preach repentance;

And proclaim to all, who’ll hear them;

That the Lord has set his hand, the second time

To gather Israel, out from all the world;

That they may learn His law, and know Him when He comes.

Whilst thus the pure in heart are gathered up,

And brought to Zion in these latter days;

Their Pastors whom the Lord ordained them,

That they might be fed with knowledge;

As he promised in his sacred word;

When Israel’s backsliding children should return;

Zealously employ their time, to pour instruction,

Knowledge to bestow; and rivet fast upon the hearts of all,

Principles of Love, of righteousness and peace;

And general charity towards all mankind:

And after God’s own word, as sacred next,

They labor to instill, most perfect reverence

For “the powers that be;” who now preside,

O’er these United States of North America.

 

Oft hath my heart rejoiced, with holy joy,

To hear their voices raised, in happy eloquence,

Teaching their brethren in the gospel bonds,

That their most sure belief on this great subject was,

That God’s own wisdom had inspired the hearts,

Of all that sacred band, who raised the standard,

And maintained the cause, and reared the fabric here,

Of Freedom, Liberty, and their attendant train

Of blessings; not to be obtained where earthly kings hold sway;

Where foreign sovereigns dominate at will;

Thwart the free impulse of the virtuous soul;

Cramp all the energy of enterprise;

Require submission to their sapient wills:

And wish mankind to tremble at their nod.

But in a free republic like to yours, and yours alone,

Whose virtuous people do possess the power, the faith,

The honor to be self controlled: Who ’schew the plan

Of many toiling, that the few may reign:

Whose policy holds out to all mankind,

Inducements many, to become your friends;

Freedom of conscience, in that sacred right

Of worshiping Almighty God, secured:

Encouragement of enterprise held forth:

“Whilst genius rises to his sure reward

And merit only is the road to fame.”

 

Allow me to relate why ’twas my heart felt glad;

Yea, why my soul rejoiced, when such a theme as this

Was introduced in our assemblies, and dwelt upon

As something sacred; not to be abused,

Nor lightly thought of by the Saints of God.

 

Whilst yet residing in my native land, (poor Ireland),

Where tyranny and superstition still hold sway;

Where oftentimes, (as her own poet sings).

“A sigh is treason, and a murmur death.”

Oft have I listened to my aged Sire,

Speak of the wrongs Americans withstood;

Their noble struggle to shake off the yoke,

Their mother country would impose on them:

And whilst he breathed the heartfelt, fervent prayer;

That finally, their tyrant taskmasters might fail

In all attempts to fetter freedom, and oppress the poor;

My mind drank in these sentiments, and imbibed

A love of freedom, which I still retain;

Which urged me on to leave my much loved home,

And seek a refuge in Columbia’s land;

So famed for equal rights, freedom of thought,

And liberty of speech, and conscience free,

Unshackled in her views.

 

Induced thus, I bade adieu to home, and all its joys;

To try your nation if her fame were true,

Which I had heard; and realize myself,

Whether America, did still maintain,

Her love of virtue, harmony, and peace;

Her love of freedom, jealous of her charge.

And if you ask me, if I met with here

What I expected; I can answer yes—

I’ve found Americans, the poor man’s friends;

The stranger’s hosts; the advocates of equal rights;

The stern opposers of despotic power;

The warm supporters of all free will acts,

And offerings pure, unsullied aught by guile.

 

I speak at large;—

No general rule without exception holds;

No nation stands completely undefiled;

No people great or small can say,

We’re perfect to a man:—

But whilst this world exists, and I shall live

A pilgrim here on earth; give me my choice,

I choose America for my abode:

I hail her constitution of united powers;

I claim to be her son adopted;

In due time partake, of all the privileges held out,

To those who honorably defend her laws;

Her constitution, and her freedom’s fame.

For I do feel, that I have found, in her economy

Of self control; a plan congenial to my simple mind;

A precedent set forth, which must eventually

Pervade the world; and harmonize the nations;

If they will embrace, both truth and virtue when they burst their bonds;

And dare try freedom’s self controlling power.

 

Hence then of course, it made my heart rejoice.

That I’d found the truth, of Jesus’ gospel verified on earth;

And that I’d also found, my brethren in the gospel’s bonds.

To advocate the cause, uphold the principle of equal rights;

Teach us to revere a virtuous people’s power;

And always pray Almighty God to bless them;

To bless the rulers of this Union great,

That they might honorably maintain her fame

Among the nations: shine forth a terror to despotic power;

And teach mankind a lesson, to be free.

 

Such doctrines we’ve been always taught

By those the world call “Mormons:”

Such are the doctrines we intend to teach,

The Church of Christ; “the Saints of latter days.”

Throughout the world, to every nation, kindred, tongue:

To every people on this earthly globe; we’ll preach

“The gospel,” we’ve received of Jesus Christ;

By revelation in these latter days.

And when believers have been gathered up;

We’ll teach them first to observe; “all things

Whatsoever,” he has commanded us;

And next, “be subject to the powers that be.”

To great Jehovah render all your souls;

With-hold not Caesar’s lawful tribute due.

Such with God’s help we’ll practice while we live;

Such with His help we’ll cleave to till we die.

 

But, lo! Missouri’s mobbers have convened.

Once more in council; to debate at length.

The Mormon question; with importance big.

Behold, the reverend, pious, long faced priest,

(Seeing his craft in danger)

Grasp at the help of villiany and crime:

Behold! the Squire, who swore the other day,

To uphold, administer, and observe the laws;

Commingle now with those, (and cheer them on)

Who here propose; to drive the Mormons out:

Despite the laws of either God or man.

Behold the Judges, and the Generals next,

Descend from honor’s station; tamper with mobs;

Wink at their outrage; and cheer on its course.

And finally, though last not least, behold.

That cruel man; even Lilburn W. Boggs;

(Who led the Jackson mob; and by such means,

Obtained the station of Missouri’s Governor;)

Send forth his mandate to his Generals brave;

“Exterminate! or drive from out this State,

Those Mormons! Treat them as foes!

Be sure cut off retreat!—

Act as you may, I authorize it all!

And give you power to exercise at will!”

 

Need I detail the scenes which now ensued;

The slaughter, rapine, plunder, rape and crime;

The murders at Haun’s mill; great Bogart’s flight:[53]

And subsequent career of infamy and vice?

Or need I tell, how General Clark[54] came on,

And sanctioned Lucas’ treaty[55].

Made us a speech, invoked the unknown God;

Claimed all the power to treat us as he would;

Told us our innocence was nought to him;

Advised us to forsake our modes of faith,

Never again to organize our church;

Prophesied our leaders fate was sealed,

The die was cast; we ne’er should see them more.

Appointed when we all must leave the State;

Claimed us his debtors for the brief respite;

Warned us to not attempt to disobey;

If he had to return, extermination was our certain doom;

Expressed his grief and sorrow for our fate;

Marched off his army, and his exit made?

No, I need not detail them; (if I could);

In heaven they’re registered, on earth they’re known;

And when all hidden things are brought to light,

And all men judged according to their works;

The wronged, the innocent, shall then appear;

The unrepenting sinner know his doom,

 

Behold us now!

Our leaders doomed to death, close iron’d in a jail:

Our brethren martyred; widows and their babes

Driven houseless on the snowy prairies bare;

To pitch their tents, to wend their weary way;

To save themselves from worse than monster rage:

Our properties conveyed away by deed of trust.

Enforced upon us at the risk of life,

To pay the wages of our ruthless foes;

And compensate for deeds, which they themselves had done:

Our houses plundered, fields of corn laid waste;

Our cattle driven, or wantonly destroyed;

Our lives in constant danger, from a band

Of prowling robbers; licensed by their chief,

To spoil, molest, and plunder us at will.

Yet ’midst these scenes, a ray of comfort came,

We felt the spirit in our bosoms burn;

Bestowing consolation, and the hope

That better days, and happier scenes were nigh;

When free from persecution, we might still remain

A people; worship our great Creator, and proclaim

Our faith and doctrines, to a willing world.

 

This was the mighty charm, which held us bound

In Gospel’s bonds, and brotherly esteem;

Whils’t tauntingly, our haughty foes did boast,

The death blow struck, and all our cause undone:

Our Heavenly Father, sent his spirit down,—

That “still small voice,”[56] spoke peace unto our souls;

Ye are my Sheep; hold on; I’ll bear you through;

I’ll find you pasturage, and keep you safe;

Be true, be patient, and you still are mine.

Such were the comforts which we still enjoyed,

Whil’st our sad foes were black with reckless crime;

Such are the comforts of the faithful Saint,

Whate’er his fate, where’er his lot be cast:

Hence truer joys, we as a people found,

Than those by whom in thraldom we were bound;

Hence truer joys, our Prophet, felt enchained

Than Lilburn, in the station he’s attained.

 

But hark! A voice from Mississippi’s shore,

Comes gently wafted o’er the prairies wide;

From Illinois—from Quincy it proceeds;

A voice of charity—a voice of peace;—

Come over here, ye houseless outcasts poor;

We’ll give you comfort, and your wants supply;

There’s room in Illinois, you’re welcome here;

We’ll hail you brethren, citizens, and friends;

We worship as we will; do you the same;

Enjoy again your conscientious faith;

Enjoy again, your native free born rights:

Enjoy again, prosperity and peace!

 

With joyous gratitude unfeigned we hail

The happy change, the proffered boon of grace;

We leave Missouri, at the rude command

O’ heartless tyrants placed on high by crime:

In Illinois we’ve found a safe retreat;

A home, a shelter from oppression dire;

Where we can worship God, as we think right;

And mobbers come not, to disturb our peace;

Where we can live, and hope for better days;

Enjoy again our liberty, our rights;

That social intercourse which freedom grants;

And charity requires of man with man.

 

And long may social intercourse prevail;

And long may charity pervade each breast;

And long may Illinois remain the scene,

Of rich prosperity—by peace secured;

May Quincy[57] flourish, and the regions round;

Where dwell those friends, who kindly lent us aid;

And may those friends, when that great day appears;

When King Messiah comes; the world to judge;

Hear from his lips the blessed sentence; come!

Inherit joys which I’ve prepared for you!

For unto these my brethren did you give,

Raiment, and food, and drink, in time of need;

You found them strangers, and you took them in;

Sick and in prison, and you came to them;

And inasmuch, as thus to them you did;

So did you do it, even unto me.

 

Or rather, may those friends be found among;

These “brethren;” whom he looks on as himself;

Those who’ve been baptized; been born again,

Of water and the spirit; kept the faith;

Fought the good fight; and thus ensured their crown:

Celestial glory, and celestial joy.

 

And even our enemies, may they repent.

And find their way to mercies throne of grace;

Obtain forgiveness, and amend their lives;

Obtain salvation from the sinners doom;

Obtain the prize, the virtuous shall receive.

 

And Oh! Americans of every State!

Of every policy—of every faith;

Who wish to uphold your envied country’s fame,

And stay the torrent of abuse and crime:

May great Jehovah grant you power to sway,

Your nations sceptre with a master hand;

Watch o’er her honor with a jealous care;

Maintain her constitution and her laws;

Put down misrule, protect pure virtue’s cause;

Maintain fair Freedom; Liberty uphold:

And show mankind, you’re worthy of the charge.

 

And Oh! Ye Saints throughout this happy land,

Praise ye the Lord, all glory give to him,

Who stretched forth his arm, and kept us safe,

’Midst threatened death, ’midst dangers great and dread;

Who’s given us friends and home, and peace, and hope;

And favor in the eyes of virtuous men;

Who in his own due time, put forth his hand,

And through our prayers, gave unto us again

Our brethren whom our foes had doomed to death;

Gave us again our Prophet safe and free;

Gave us again our Presidential three

Gave us again our FRIENDS, our LIBERTY.

 

“Praise ye the Lord,” and let his praise resound.

Fill all the earth, and Heaven shall hear the sound:

And whilst we praise him, let our prayers ascend,

Before his throne, for every faithful friend;

For all the honest, over all the earth,

Whate’er their station, or whate’er their birth;

And when Messiah comes, our King to reign,

Descends on earth, with all his shining train;

May Truth and Liberty our motto be;

We’re all UNITED, and we all are FREE.

 

In James Mulholland, Americans: A Poem in Blank Verse (Nauvoo, IL: E. Robinson, 1841).

“A Portrait of the Missouri Mobs: A Poem”

Joel H. Johnson

In this poem, the prolific Joel Hills Johnson writes a scathing indictment of the Missourian antagonists: “Thus all the State became a mob, / With Boggs, their Gov’nor, at their head; / Which gave them power to kill and rob, / ’Till many of the saints were dead.” The poem was first printed as a broadside in 1841 and later appeared as part of John E. Page’s pamphlet Slander Refuted.

“They shoot in secret at the perfect; suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not.”

“But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded.”

—Psalm 64: 4, 7.

 

“Then shall he speak to them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.”

—Psalm 2:5.

 

O! if I felt that sacred air,

That makes the Poets sing anew,

I’d make Columbia’s sons to stare,

While I would portray to their view—

 

What has transpired within our land

Of boasted light, and equal laws;

I’d show that by oppression’s hand.

The saints have bled without a cause.

 

For in our land, so high prais’d up

For equal rights and gospel light;

The saints must drink the bitter cup,

Of Persecution, Death, and Flight.

 

For they were settling in Far West,

Upon Missouri’s fertile land;

Not thinking any dare molest,

Where e’er Columbia’s colors stand.

 

They bought their lands of Government,

And paid for them as laws direct—

To ’bey her laws they were content,

Expecting she would them protect.

 

They built them houses, fenced their land,

Were building mills, and chapels too;

And growing rich by ’ndustrious hand,

The source from which such blessings flow.

 

While thus their neighbors did them view,

(With evil thoughts from hellish powers),

They thus cried out, “this will not do,

These lands and blessings shall be ours!

 

Come, let us drive them from their home,

Or soon such numbers they’ll obtain,

The Abolitionists[58] will come

And take away our place and name.

 

And now to make ourselves appear

Like men of fame, and great renown;

Our consciences we’ll quickly sear,

A lying spirit swallow down.

 

Then go abroad, and loud proclaim,

The Mormons won’t our laws obey;

They cheat and steal, lie and defame,

And get their riches in this way.

 

Their leader Jo, is Beelzebub,

He by enchant, leads his clan;

They’ll at his wink, together club,

And slay us, and possess our land.

 

And now to rid ourselves of them,

Our country’s laws we will disdain;

We’ll plunder, burn, rob, kill, condemn—

And charge the Mormons with the same.”

 

This hellish course they did pursue,

To raise the ire of all the State,

And cause the Gov’nor to issue

His orders to exterminate.

 

Thus all the State became a mob,

With Boggs, their Gov’nor, at their head;

Which gave them power to kill and rob,

’Till many of the saints were dead.

 

They shot them down on every side,

And strip’d them ere they ceas’d to groan;

And children, who for mercy cried,

Had all their brains to atoms blown.

 

And women too, were fired upon,

And sore abused in other ways;

Such hellish deeds were scarcely known,

’Mong fiery Huns in ancient days.

 

Their prophets and their priests were bound

In chains, and into prison thrown;

Their families were weeping round,

While they were from their bosoms torn.

 

Then all were forc’d to leave the State,

Rob’d of their clothing, goods and food;

Their suff’rings were extremely great,

By cold and hunger on the road.

 

No orphan’s cry, nor widow’s moan,

Can pity or compassion find;

In winter cold, they must be gone,

With firesides to the mob resign’d.

 

Old vet’rans too, of seventy-six.

Who once have fought for Liberty,

And bled, our righteous laws to affix,

Are driven now by tyranny.[59]

 

Twelve thousand souls, both young and old

Were from their homes and houses cast,

To starve and perish in the cold,

Without a shelter from the blast.

 

Description fails to paint the scene,

Of horror, misery and distress;

Yes, native language is too mean,

To paint it with its proper dress.

 

But they found friends in Illinois,

Men who regard their country’s laws;

Who quickly did such means employ,

That they could o’er the river cross.

 

Now should the reader once inquire.

Why saints must suffer such distress?

The reason is, because they dare

To live by truth and righteousness.

 

O! has that freedom disappear’d,

For which our Fathers fought and bled;

Has despotism so soon rear’d,

With anarchy, its deformed head?

 

O Liberty! where hast thou gone?

O Patriotism! whither fled?

And thou, O Justice! art not known,

O whither, whither hast thou hid?

 

In John E. Page, Slander Refuted, 1843, 7–9, Church History Library.

“A Poem on the Suffering of the Saints in Missouri”

Joel H. Johnson

This poem also describes the persecutions heaped on the Saints in Missouri. Not all Missourians, however, condoned the treatment of the Mormons. The editors of the Missouri Argus wrote that “[The Mormons] cannot be driven. . . . To do so, would be to act with extreme cruelty.” They concluded, “The refinement, the charity of our age, will not brook.”[60] Such predictions, however, proved naïve when many Latter-day Saints were indeed “hunted” and “shot down.”[61] “How long O Lord shall men prevail, / To kill and drive thy saints?” Johnson asks. “Let not, O God, thy promise fail, / But hear thou their complaints!”

Why do the Heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing, the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. And break them with a rod of iron; and dash them in pieces like a potters vessel.—David.[62]

 

No wonder why old David cried.

“Why do the Heathen rage!”

When we look round on every side

And see them all engage:

 

To persecute the saints of God,

And take them for a prey;

Bind them in chains and shed their blood

And drive them far away.

 

Their lands and houses left behind,

Thus from their homes are cast;

While Matrons, maids, and infants find

No shelter from the blast.

 

No orphans cry, nor widows tear,

Can pity now receive;

In weather cold and winter drear,

Their firesides have to leave.

 

Yes destitute of food and clothes,

’Mong strangers seek employ;

While earthly fiends and hellish foes,

Still seek them to destroy.

 

While some have bled upon their lands,

Their testament to seal––

That they believed in God’s commands,

And what he does reveal.

 

And were resolved to obey the same,

Though hell against them raise;

And so have died for Jesus’ name,

Like saints in ancient days.

 

How long O Lord shall men prevail,

To kill and drive thy saints?

Let not, O God, thy promise fail,

But hear thou their complaints!

 

And let thy judgements be made known,

Until oppression cease,

And wickedness shall all be gone,

The earth be filled with peace.

 

For thou hast promised in thy word

That when the wicked rage,

And press upon them like a flood,

Thou woulds’t for them engage.

 

And now we do thy promise claim

And will not give the rest;

Until thou dos’t fulfill the same,

And make thy people bles’t.

 

In Times and Seasons 2, no. 11 (April 1, 1841): 273–74.

“’Tis Hard Times When Fire Wraps Cities in Flames”

unknown poet

The two poems that follow were printed together in the pamphlet Slander Refuted. Though each contains unique repeating phrases, their shared style suggests common authorship by Levi Hancock whose name appears in connection with the second poem. The phrases “’Twas hard times” and “Crying, Oh dear!” repeat throughout the first poem, and the phrase “In these last times!” repeats in the second. Placed together the two phrases provide a succinct thematic summary of these verses.

’Tis hard times when fire wraps cities in flames,

And saints for religion are held up to shame;

When famine and war, and pestilence sweep,

And women bereaved of their children do weep,

Crying, Oh dear!

 

’Twas hard times afore, in the days of the flood,

When little was done but the shedding of blood;

When righteous old Noah went into his boat,

And left all creation to sink or to float,

Crying, Oh dear!

 

’Twas hard times when Israel was whipped without law,

For lacking their tale of their brick without straw,[63]

When Moses stretched over his rod so renown’d,

And Pharaoh’s host in the red sea was drown’d,

Crying, Oh dear!

 

’Twas hard times when Jesus was nailed to the cross,

And earth mourned with earthquakes at such a great loss,

While wicked men trembled, with scarcely a hope,

And new mountains rose, and did cover them up,

Crying, Oh dear!

 

’Twas hard times when Boggs told Missouri to go

And take every Mormon’s life, whether or no!

Then some groaned in prison, and some died in blood,

And all from Missouri were driven abroad.

Crying, Oh dear!

 

So up and be ready, for vengeance is near,

As God, all the prayers of the righteous will hear,

And hard times will come at the Saviour’s return,

For all the ungodly with fire must burn.

Crying, Oh dear!

 

Second Part

Levi Hancock

Old hypocrites now are tormented most sore;

They say that the Mormons will turn the world o’er.

The Gospel we preach, they say is not right,

And feel in their hearts as if they could fight!

In these last times!

 

We fear their religion will go the world round,

Unless by our force we can put them all down.

We know that law will not bear us out,

But fight them we will, and drive them all out!

In these last times!

 

Some conscience beginning to torment most sore,

And they are determined to fight us no more.

We’ll call on the Lord to help us, they say,

And then in much sorrow they do try to pray.

In these last times.

 

They say that the record that Joseph Smith found,

Which he has asserted came out of the ground,

They will not believe if they go to hell,

And there with the devil eternally dwell.

In these last times!

 

Some laughing and scoffing at what we declare,

Those judgments, they say, we none of us fear,

And so like the men in the days of the flood,

They stand, and make light of the servants of God.

In these last times!

 

The days of old NOAH most men have forgot,

And likewise the days in which lived Lot,

They say it will not be as it was then,

Because of our being so much better men,

In these last times.

 

In Page, Slander Refuted, 10–11.


[1]Letter, Kirtland, OH to N. C. Saxton, Rochester, NY, 4 Jan. 1833, The Joseph Smith Papers, http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/letter-to-noah-c-saxton-4-janu....

[2]“Missouri Executive Order 44,” as printed in "Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders, etc. in Relation to the Disturbances with the Mormons; and the Evidence Given before the Hon. Austin A. King” (Office of the Boon’s Lick Democrat, Fayette, Mo., 1841), 61, , http://www.sos.mo.gov/archives/resources/findingaids/miscMormRecs/doc/Pa....

[3]W. W. Phelps to Oliver Cowdery, Esq., Liberty, Mo., Oct. 20, 1834, LDS Messenger and Advocate, 1 (November 1834):22–24..

[4]John P. Greene, Facts Relative to the Expulsion of the Mormons or Latter Day Saints, from the State of Missouri, under the “Exterminating Order” (Cincinnati, OH: R. P. Brooks, 1839). See also “Mormonism. The Settlement of The Peculiar People in Jackson County. And Subsequent Expulsion. Gen. Doniphan’s Recollections of the Troubles of that Early Time,” Kansas City Daily Journal, June 12, 1881, Church History Library.

[5]Levi Ward Hancock Autobiography, 50, Church History Library.

[6]Times and Seasons 5, no. 4 (March 1, 1845): 819.

[7]History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834], The Joseph Smith Papers, http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/history-1838-1856-volume-a-1-2....

[8]Improvement Era 5, no. 2: 754.

[9]David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, MO: 1887), 27.

[10]See Stephen C. LeSueur, The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1987), 150.

[11]Governor Lilburn W. Boggs to Headquarters Militia, City of Jefferson, October 27, 1838, as cited in Anson Phelps Stokes, Church and State in the United States (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1950), 2:43.

[12]“Affidavit Of Hyrum Smith et al. On Affairs In Missouri, 1831-39; Officially Subscribed To Before The Municipal Court Of Nauvoo The First Day Of July,1843,” as printed in History of The Church, 3:420.

[13] “Extract, from the Private Journal of Joseph Smith Jr.,” in Times and Seasons (Commerce, IL), July 1839, vol. 1, no. 1, 2–9, The Joseph Smith Papers, http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/extract-from-the-private-journal-of-joseph-smith-jr-july-1839.

[14]Warren Foote, journal, December 12, 1838, Church History Library.

[15]See William G. Hartley, “Missouri’s 1838 Extermination Order and the Mormons’ Forced Removal to Illinois,” Mormon Historical Studies 2, no.1 (2001): 6.

[16]Lilburn W. Boggs served as governor of Missouri from 1836 to 1840.

[17]Governor Boggs issued Executive Order 44 (Extermination Order) on October 27, 1838.

[18]See Micah 4:11–13.

[19]See Micah 4:11–13.

[20]See Joseph Smith III, “Memoirs of President Joseph Smith III, (1832–1914),” Saints’ Herald, November 6, 1934–July 31, 1937.

[21]Though it is surmised that the lyrics were probably composed before 1838, Joseph Smith III’s recollection of the caroling in Liberty Jail is the first mention we have of the verse. The poem was first published in1844.

[22]Reverend J. M. Coy is likely a reference to Reverend Isaac McCoy. Reverend McCoy wrote a November 28, 1833, letter that was published in the Western Monitor and the Missouri Intelligencer. In the letter Reverend Coy said, “An impression seems to prevail abroad that the Mormons are here persecuted on account of their peculiar notions of religion. This, I think, is entirely a mistake.” See “Statement of Rev. Isaac McCoy,” Western Monitor, December 6, 1833, Church History Library.

[23]Letter to Emma Smith, 12 November 1838, The Joseph Smith Papers, http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/letter-to-emma-smith-12-novemb....

[24]This line was printed before the text in the original poem.

[25]See Gordon A. Madsen, “Joseph Smith and the Missouri Court of Inquiry: Austin A. King’s Quest for Hostage,” BYU Studies 43, no. 4 (2004): 93–136.

[26]Parley P. Pratt Jr., ed., Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1961), 230.

[27]Parley P. Pratt was held captive in Richmond, Missouri. See Stephen C. LeSueur, “‘High Treason and Murder’: The Examination of Mormon Prisoners at Richmond, Missouri, in November 1838,” BYU Studies 26, no. 3 (1986): 1–30.

[28]In 1831 followers of Joseph Smith began to gather to Independence, Jackson County, Missouri. By summer 1833, nearly twelve hundred followers had settled in Independence. Anti-Mormon forces drove most of these followers from Independence by November of 1833. See B. H. Roberts, The Missouri Persecutions (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965).

[29]After being driven from Jackson County, Missouri, in November 1833, the Saints resided in Clay County. In 1836 Alexander Doniphan, a legislator from Clay County, authored a bill which established Caldwell County as a haven for Mormons. See Jeffrey N. Walker, “Mormon Land Rights in Caldwell and Daviess Counties and the Mormon Conflict of 1838: New Findings and New Understandings,” BYU Studies 47, no. 1 (2008): 5–55.

[30]In fall 1836, Latter-day Saints settled near Shoal Creek in Far West, Caldwell County. By June 1838, Latter-day Saints had settled in Adam-ondi-Ahman in Daviess County and DeWitt in Carroll County. Church members claimed their right as American citizens to buy and settle on land wherever they chose, including land outside of Caldwell County. See Stephen C. LeSueur, The 1848 Mormon War in Missouri (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1987).

[31]On October 2, 1838, anti-Mormons laid siege against the Saints in DeWitt, Carroll County. The Saints petitioned Governor Lilburn W. Boggs for protection against such persecution. Governor Boggs ignored their petition, insisting that the Saints take care of themselves. Latter-day Saints fled from DeWitt to Far West. See LeSueur, The 1848 Mormon War in Missouri.

[32]Moses Wilson held the rank of brigadier general.

[33]Cornelius Gillium was the sheriff of Clay County, Missouri, at the time.

[34]See Dean C. Jessee, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Richard L. Jensen, eds., Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839, vol. 1 of the Journals series of The Joseph Smith Papers, ed. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2008), 336n14.

[35]“Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Hyrum Smith to editors,” Quincy Whig, May 17, 1839,

Church History Library.

[36]See William G. Hartley, “Missouri’s 1838 Extermination Order and the Mormons’ Forced Removal to Illinois,” Mormon Historical Studies 2, no.1 (2001): 23-24.

[37]See Jude 1:4.

[38]See Doctrine and Covenants 86:7; Matthew 13:24–30.

[39]Psalm 114:4, 6.

[40]Joseph Smith and other Church leaders circulated four accounts of the Missouri persecutions against Latter-day Saints. One account was “A History, of the Persecutions of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints in Missouri,” published in the same issue of the Times and Seasons as Eliza R. Snow’s poem. See Times and Seasons 1, no. 2 (December 1839): 32.

[41]For further information on whether word of the Extermination Order reached the militia at Shoal Creek, see Alexander L. Baugh, “A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri” (PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1996).

 

[42]Haun’s Mill was located on Shoal Creek in Caldwell County, Missouri.

[43]One definition of riven is “burst asunder.” Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language, s.v. “riven” (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1846).

[44]Joseph Smith and Elias Higbee to Hyrum Smith and others, December 5, 1839, Joseph Smith Jr. Collection, 1805–44, Church History Library.

[45]See 2 Samuel 15:19.

[46]See Revelation 7:14; Acts 14:22; Matthew 24:21; and Doctrine and Covenants 127:2.

[47]See Hebrews 11:36–40.

[48]See Acts 8:4; Alma 23:1; and Doctrine and Covenants 52:9.

[49]See Genesis 49:10. Shiloh refers to the coming of the Messiah. See Bible Dictionary, “Shiloh,” 773.

[50]This language is found on the front page of the original printing of this poem. See James Mulholland, Americans: A Poem in Blank Verse (Nauvoo, IL: E. Robinson, 1841).

[51]See Peter Crawley, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church, Volume One, 1830–1847 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, 1997).

[52]“Son of Erin” may refer to “a man of Irish heritage.”

[53]Captain Samuel Bogart of Richmond led militia forces against the Latter-day Saints.

[54]General John B. Clark of Richmond received and carried out Executive Order 44.

[55]Major General Samuel D. Lucas marched on the Mormon community of Far West. He negotiated a treaty with George M. Hinkle that resulted in the surrender of Joseph Smith and other leaders.

[56]See 1 Kings 19:12; Doctrine and Covenants 85:6; 1 Nephi 17:45.

[57]See introduction to Eliza R. Snow’s poem “To the Citizens of Quincy”; Susan Easton Black and Richard E. Bennett, eds., A City of Refuge: Quincy, Illinois (Salt Lake City: Millennial Press, 2000).

[58]Many Latter-day Saints were opposed to slavery, a fact that may have exacerbated strained relations with Missouri’s pro-slave contingent. For a discussion on early Mormon views of slavery, see Lester E. Bush Jr., “Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview,” Dialogue 8, no. 1 (Spring 1973): 225–93.

[59]Revolutionary War veteran Charles Dixon met Latter-day Saints huddled at the Mississippi River. Dixon stopped his travels to minister to their needs. He accompanied the Saints across the Mississippi to Quincy, Illinois, where he continued to serve them. In the spring of 1839, Dixon returned to his family in Ohio. See James D. Dixon, comp., History of Charles Dixon: One of the Early English Settlers of Sackville, N.B. (Rockford, IL: Forest City Publishing, 1891).

[60]See Hartley, “Missouri’s 1838 Extermination Order and the Mormons’ Forced Removal to Illinois,” 10.

[61]Dean C. Jessee and David J. Whitaker, “Albert Perry Rockwood, ‘The Last Months of Mormonism in Missouri: The Albert Perry Rockwood Journal,’” BYU Studies 28, no 1 (November 3, 1988): 27.

[62]See Psalm 2:1–3, 9.

[63]See Exodus 5:8.