Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, eds., A Woman’s View: Helen Mar Whitney’s Reminiscences of Early Church History (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997), 241–267.
Scenes in Nauvoo after the Martyrdom of the Prophet and Patriarch
The next series begins as the apostles are away from Nauvoo at the time of the Martyrdom (June 1844). Helen Mar Whitney tells the story of the “mantle of the prophet” falling upon Brigham Young in August 1844 during the discussion regarding succession. With disappointment she describes the outcome of the trial of those accused in the murder of the Prophet and Patriarch. She then moves Beyond those scenes to the continued building activity of the Saints in Nauvoo between 1844 and 1845. The Seventies Hall, the Nauvoo Concert Hall, and the beautiful temple are among those buildings she discusses. On a personal level, she introduces the Whitney family, particularly Horace Whitney, her future husband. These articles were published from 1 February to 15 April 1883.
There seemed an overruling providence in the apostles being away at the time of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum, for the time had come for them to seal their testimony with their blood. If the Twelve had been there they would never have permitted them to recross the river into Illinois, much less to be given up, as they were, quietly and without a struggle into the hands of a bloodthirsty mob. The news of their death fell like a thunderbolt upon the Saints and sped like wildfire throughout the land, and a terrible fear took possession of the people. Believing that the “Mormons” would seek revenge, many of them fled from the county.
President Brigham Young and Orson Pratt were at Salem, N. H., when the rumor first met them. They went to Petersboro, where they heard it confirmed by a letter from Nauvoo, written by a Mr. Powers, giving particulars of their assassination. They started immediately for Boston to meet my father and Wilford Woodruff, who had also heard the dreadful news. A council was then held relative to their return to Nauvoo. They felt that the Saints were as sheep without a shepherd. Brigham and father waited there one week for Apostle Lyman Wight. As soon as he arrived they started for home. Brothers Orson Hyde, Orson Pratt and Wilford Woodruff joining them at Albany. They arrived at Nauvoo on the 6th day of August, 1844.
As is well known, Sidney Rigdon, who had shirked his duties and moved with his family to Pittsburg some time previous to Joseph’s death, took advantage of the absence of the majority of the Twelve, to hasten to Nauvoo to lay claim to the guardianship of the Church, claiming to have had a vision from the Lord concerning them, which he related at his first appearance before a congregation of the Saints, saying that he was the identical man whom the prophets had sung about, wrote about, and rejoiced over in every preceding generation, etc.
Elder Parley P. Pratt remarked, “I am the identical man the prophets never sung nor wrote a word about.” I was one of the listeners, and I think that very few of the Saints felt that Sidney Rigdon, who had deserted his post when Joseph stood most in need of him, was “the man whom the Lord had called” for a shepherd to lead His sheep, in this the saddest and darkest hour of their experience.
A day was appointed by Marks, the president of the stake, for a special conference to choose a guardian. Bros. Willard Richards, Parley P. Pratt, John Taylor and George A. Smith were opposed to this hasty step, and the former counseled the Saints not to be in a hurry, but to wait till the Twelve Apostles returned, and “ask wisdom of God.” Elder Rigdon evaded these men, as if unwilling to come in contact with them, until he was forced to meet them in council. He was a very excitable man, and upon this occasion he paced the room as he gave utterance to the following: “Gentlemen, you are used up; gentlemen, you are divided, the anti-Mormons have got you; the brethren are voting every way, some for James, some for Deming, some for Coulson, and some for Bedill. The anti-Mormons have got you; you can’t stay in the country; everything is in confusion; you can do nothing. You lack a great leader; you want a head; and unless you unite upon that head, you’re blown to the four winds. The anti- Mormons will carry the election; a guardian must be appointed.”
There was no division among the brethren, as Bro. George A. Smith there assured them, and that Elder Rigdon was entirely mistaken, saying, “the election would be unanimous, and the friends of law and order will be elected by a thousand majority. There is no occasion to be alarmed. Brother Rigdon is inspiring fears there are no grounds for.”
The second day after the apostles’ return to Nauvoo, President Brigham Young called a special conference, to give Elder Rigdon the opportunity to lay his claims before the Church. Meetings were then held in a grove some little distance east of the temple, where a great multitude gathered together; for this day—was to decide who was to “lead Israel,” Sidney Rigdon, or the Twelve Apostles. That was a day never to be forgotten. I was among the number that was obliged to stand, it being impossible for half of the congregation to be seated. Mr. Hatch, a young lawyer, whom I had formed acquaintance with at our theater the spring previous, stood by me. We had been on pleasant terms, but lately he had turned Rigdonite, and frequently, during that long harangue, he spoke in defence and praise of the speaker, and tried to convince me that he was the right man to lead the Church. He very quickly learned my feelings, and how offensive he had made himself. My father was seated there with Brigham and the rest of the apostles, and I became very indignant, and quite a war of words ensued, neither of us (of course) yielding the point. Not long after this he married one of Rigdon’s daughters, which proved to be the only loadstone that attracted him in that direction.
At 2 p.m. the congregation again convened to hear President Brigham Young. He asked them the following questions in behalf of the Twelve and the people: * * * “Inasmuch as our Prophet and Patriarch are taken from our midst, do you want someone to guard, to guide, and lead you through this world into the kingdom of God, or not? All who want some person to be a guardian, or a prophet, a spokesman, or something else, signify it by raising the right hand.” (No votes.) He said, “If any man thinks he has influence among this people, to lead away a party, let him try it, and he will find out that there is power with the apostles, which will carry them off victorious through all the world, and build up and defend the Church and kingdom of God. * * * * Brother Rigdon has come 1,600 miles to tell you what he wants to do for you. If the people want Brother Rigdon to lead them, they may have him, but I say unto you, the Twelve have the keys of the kingdom of God in all the world.
“The Twelve are pointed out by the finger of God. Here is Brigham, have his knees ever faltered? Have his lips ever quivered? Here is Heber and the rest of the Twelve; an independent body, who have the keys of the Priesthood, the keys of the kingdom of God to deliver to all the world. This is true, so help me God! They stand next to Joseph, and are as the first presidency of the Church. I do not know whether my enemies will take my life or not, and I do not care, for I want to be with the man I love. * * * *
“Brother Joseph, the prophet, has laid the foundation of a great work, and we will build upon it. * * There is an Almighty foundation laid, and we can build a kingdom such as there never was in the world; we can build a kingdom faster than Satan can kill the Saints off.”
I merely copy these few paragraphs to show whether the keys of the kingdom were held by the Twelve Apostles or by Sidney Rigdon. The latter, sorely feeling his discomfiture, returned immediately to Pittsburg; and the work that he accomplished is a matter of history, but unworthy of further notice here.
It was thought by anti-Mormons that with Joseph Smith’s death, “Mormonism” would cease to have a being. Those apostates said, “Their damnation is sealed; their die is cast; their doom is fixed.” But Brigham said: “There is an Almighty foundation laid, and * * we can build a kingdom faster than Satan can kill the Saints off.” We are able to testify that his words have not failed—no one can deny their fulfillment. Our enemies were blinded and did not see that “the blood of the Prophet was the seed of the Church”; nor that their predictions were so soon to be answered upon their own heads instead of upon those of the Saints, who that day recognized in Brigham Young the voice of the true shepherd.
For proofs that retribution has been meted out to many who had a hand in our persecutions, and the shedding of innocent blood which cried to heaven for vengeance, we refer to a chapter of testimonies which, long since, were given by the guilty, and have been lately published in a little book entitled, “The Martyrs,” by Lyman O. Littlefield; showing also how “the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children.” These things are terrible to reflect upon, and how awful to think that it should be so, adding to their own sufferings, which they were doomed to endure here, besides the terrible punishment hereafter.
I can bear witness, with hundreds of others who stood that day under the sound of Brigham’s voice, of the wonderful and startling effect that it had upon us. If Joseph had risen from the dead and stood before them, it could hardly have made a deeper or more lasting impression. It was the very voice of Joseph himself. This was repeatedly spoken of by the Latter-day Saints. And surely it was a most powerful and convincing testimony to them that he was the man, instead of Sidney Rigdon, that was destined to become the “great leader,” and upon whose shoulders the mantle of Joseph had fallen.
I will here mention a little circumstance to show that there was still a warm place in the heart of Prest. Brigham Young towards Elder Rigdon. It is now more than twenty years since his two eldest sons, Sidney and Wickliffe, came out west in search of gold, the latter hoping also to find health, which he lost while studying law, and had been for some time a sufferer from dyspepsia. Being old schoolmates, my husband invited them to share our hospitality while they stayed. They accompanied him to the office to see President B. Young, who gave them a kindly welcome, and the first opportunity that presented itself of speaking alone to my husband, he said: “Horace, you give those boys a home with you, and you shall lose nothing by it.” Horace informed him that he had already done so. Everything that laid in our power was done to make them feel comfortable and at home. Wickliffe remained here through the summer, and Sidney stopped with us whenever he came in from the mines. Wickliffe was more religiously inclined than the other, and he expressed himself to Mother Whitney and to Sister E. R. Snow, that he would give all that he had if he could know of the truth of “Mormonism.” He wrote after returning home and expressed his appreciation of the hospitality that they had met with, while wanderers in this far off land.
Woman’s Exponent, vol. 11, no. 17,
1 February 1883, p. 180
On the 27th of the following September, five hundred troops were marched into our city by Governor Ford, pretending that they came for the purpose of bringing the murderers of the Prophet and Patriarch to justice. Having previously plighted the faith of the state that they, as prisoners, should be protected, he could hardly do less, but the people looked upon this as a vain and needless display; they could read his heart and knew full well that he was only feigning and that this was but another exhibition of his hypocrisy. The same day President Brigham Young received his commission as lieut.-general of the Nauvoo Legion previously held by Joseph Smith. It will be remembered that previous to his death Governor Ford had disarmed the Nauvoo Legion, which fact he was reminded of on this day, while witnessing the review of the Legion, as several of General Young’s staff appeared in uniform but without arms. Bro. John Taylor was still lying very low from the wounds received in Carthage Jail.
The private instructions to Lieut.-General Brigham Young accompanying the order issued at Springfield, Oct. 9th, 1844, were not calculated to allay, but on the contrary, to excite the former suspicions of our people.
The anti-Mormons were aware of the righteousness of our cause, having witnessed the patient forbearance of a poor and persecuted people under all their accumulated wrongs—a little handful who had managed, through the kindness of an all-merciful Father, to outlive the dark and terrible scenes caused by their cruel and barbarous treatment and drivings in Missouri and then into Illinois. But they, like our former persecutors, saw the advantage that the “Mormons” had gained over them, and they dreaded the power that we would hold in that state if allowed to remain there and enjoy our constitutional rights. And by Jan. 1845, the vile plans concocted by those sectarian demagogues and scheming politicians, were carried into effect. Our city charter and the charter of the Legion were repealed by the legislature—thus making outlaws of a whole community of peaceable, law-loving citizens of the United States of America—the land of our birth. Yes, and a boasted land of liberty and freedom, for the oppressed of all nations. But the work of God still progressed. His Saints became more united, and the work on the temple went ahead with greater speed than ever before, which caused Satan to rage with greater fury. The following incident occurred in our family on the 29th of the same month, January, 1845. My mother gave birth to her sixth son, Brigham Willard; her health had greatly suffered in consequence of the troubles. The great excitement and anxiety of her mind, during the scenes through which she had passed, being too much for her feeble frame, she and her babe were oftentimes brought near to the grave; but through mighty faith and the administrations of the holy ordinances, their lives were preserved.
The trial of the men indicted by the grand jury for the murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith began at Carthage on the 7th of May. The names of those men are familiar to the Saints who were then living in that part of the country. They were: Thomas C. Sharp, editor of the Warsaw Signal; Col. Levi Williams, a Baptist preacher; Jacob E. Davis, Senator; Mark Aldrich and William N. Grover.
It is not my purpose to go into particulars of their sham trial, as it has been published. Suffice it to say that those assassins were “honorably acquitted.” But if they had been “Mormon” criminals, there would have been no mercy shown them, but would have met a similar fate to Joseph and Hyrum. One of the lawyers employed in defence of the murderers said: “If the prisoners were guilty of murder, then he himself was guilty. It was the public opinion that the Smiths ought to be killed, and public opinion made the laws; consequently it was not murder to kill them!” The following letter, written to Brigham Young by the attorney general of that state, Josiah Lamborn, shows how intelligent and honorable men viewed the course taken by the members of that legislature, and it will hit not a few in this vicinity, as well as those at a distance, who, through falsehood of the blackest die, have instituted the present mode of crusade only for the vile purpose of demoralizing and plundering their more virtuous, honorable and industrious neighbors.
He wrote: “I have always considered that your enemies have been prompted by religious and political prejudices and by a desire for plunder and blood, more than for the common good. By the repeal of your charter, and by refusing all amendments and modifications, our legislature has given a kind of sanction to the barbarous manner in which you have been treated. Your two representatives exerted themselves to the extent of their ability in your behalf, but the tide of popular passion and frenzy was too strong to be resisted. It is truly a melancholy spectacle to witness the lawmakers of a sovereign state condescending to pander to the vices, ignorance and malevolence of a class of people who are at all times ready for a riot, murder and rebellion. Your senator, Jacob E. Davis (one of the murderers of Joseph and Hyrum), has done much to poison the minds of members against anything in your favor. He walks at large, in defiance of law, an indicted murderer. If a Mormon was in his position, the Senate would afford no protection, but he would be dragged forth to the jail or the gallows, or to be shot down by a cowardly and brutal mob.”
Many (we admit) were the blind instruments of apostates and a lawless, unprincipled clique, and the same is true today; but they will shut their eyes and their ears to the truth, little realizing that they are striving against God when trying to compel us to forsake His laws and conform to theirs. Laws made by men who are doubly dyed in the darkest pools of corruption, and would profane and defile our temples, that are being reared to His great and holy name, if they could, with all manner of riot and revelling. This has been their calculation, and to break us up, but they will find, as have the rest, that this work was not dependent upon Joseph Smith nor Brigham Young, but that it is established no more to be thrown down. Though many, through various causes, have slackened in their faith and fallen away, and some among us have become puffed up in the pride of their hearts, gold having become their God, duties and covenants are set aside. But there are those, and women too, who are as true as the Jewish mother was who exhorted her seven sons to be courageous, willing to suffer and to die if needful, rather than deny or depart from the laws of God, neither will they “submit to the tyranny to which Senator Edmunds proposes to subject them,” and we will say, “Though the Lord be angry with us for a little while, for our chastening and correction, yet think not that our nation is forsaken of God. But abide awhile, and behold His great power, how He will torment thee and thy seed.”
As James Arlington Bennett predicted of the “Mormons” in 1842, in a letter to the New York Herald: “They may kill one prophet and confine in chains half his followers, but another will take his place, and the Mormons will still go ahead. * * * Persecute them, and you are sure to multiply them: This is fully proved since the Missouri persecutions, as since that affair they have increased one hundred fold. It is the best policy, both for Missouri and Illinois, to let them alone.” And we will say as he did, “Let not the history of Daniel be forgotten.”
Though heavy clouds seemed to be lowering over the devoted heads of the Saints, looking at times very dark and threatening, yet they could not prevent them from enjoying the sunshine of peace, nor the bright hope which rested down upon a loyal and God-fearing people (whose consciences were void of offence before Him and all the world) with a brighter glow than they had ever before experienced. A material change was wrought in society by the cleansing process which had been going on, as much of the filth and scum had passed off, giving still greater enjoyment at our social gatherings. We had our concerts, assisted by the finest orchestra in the west, and other innocent amusements, in which the youth mingled with those of mature years, and I can look back to them as some of the happiest hours of my life.
The dedication of the Seventies’ Hall was one of the most pleasant incidents in my recollection. Commencing on the 25th of September, 1844, it was kept up for eight days—every quorum meeting in regular order, accompanied by members of their families, who prepared “a feast of fat things,” which was partaken of by all, including some of the apostles, the members of the choir, and William Pitt’s band of music, who were in attendance each day to sing the sweet songs of Zion, some of which were composed for the occasion. For a copy of several songs, composed and sung on various occasions in our Nauvoo Concert Hall, I am indebted to the kindness of Sister Maria Burton, who, with her husband, R. T. Burton, were participators in those pleasant scenes, she being thoughtful enough to preserve them, and which I think are well worthy of a place in history.
I here present the hymn composed by Parley P. Pratt for the dedication of the Nauvoo Concert Hall, which came off December 20, 1844.
Truth is our theme, our joy, our song,
How sweet its numbers flow,
All music’s charms to truth belong,
To truth ourselves we owe.
‘Twas truth that brought us from afar;
‘Twas truth that placed us here;
Union and truth without ajar,
Our Halls and Temples rear.
‘Twas truth first formed our band and choir
On Zion’s western plains;
‘Twas truth that tuned our earliest lyre
In sweet harmonious strains.
Sacred to truth this Hall shall be,
While earth and time remains;
Where the band and choir in harmony
Shall sound their sweetest strains.
By truth our union is complete,
Our songs in concert rise,
And by the power of truth we’ll meet
To sing amid the skies.
Hosanah to the Prince of Peace,
His truth has made us free;
All hail the day of full release,
The earth’s grand jubilee.
Woman’s Exponent, vol. 11, no. 18,
15 February 1883, p. 138
For years our most charming and popular singer was brother John Kay, whose name, it will be remembered, became almost a household word. His voice, deep and mellow, needed no accompaniment to fill our halls, and the powerful and thrilling effect upon the audience when he sang “The Children of Judah” or “The Sea, the Sea, the Open Sea,” and others equally charming and melodious, (as well as some original songs) was such that once heard could not easily be forgotten. I shall again have occasion to speak of him as he was one of the prominent actors in those scenes, and also after we became wanderers, in search of homes in this far off wilderness, where we had cause to believe that we should dwell unmolested to enjoy the privilege of worshiping the Almighty after the dictates of our own consciences.
I must now revert to other scenes, and gather up some broken threads to my narrative which have been left to give place to other historical incidents. My acquaintance with Sarah Ann Whitney, eldest daughter of Bishop N. K. and Elizabeth Ann Whitney, whose name is mentioned in one of my father’s letters, I began to make in the spring of 1842. Though our parents had long been associated, and we had known each other since the schooldays of Kirtland, but as she was some four years older than myself, who had entered my teens but a few months previous, I had never thought of becoming a companion to her.
I had grown up very fast and my father often took me out with him and for this reason was taken to be older than I was. I really thought it curious that Sarah Ann should take such a fancy to me. My first introduction into her circle was at a party given in honor of her seventeenth birthday, in March, 1842, in the Masonic room above Joseph Smith’s store. The latter her father had charge of, and his family occupied a small house adjoining it. This was quite a select party. Among them were the daughters of Elder Rigdon, Bishop Higbee’s sons, the Miss Pierces, (Margaret Pierce Young being one of them) and Rachel, Mary and Mary Ann Ivins, the former, now Rachel Grant, were cousins, with some of their brothers and many others too numerous to mention, were among the guests. The Prophet spent a little time with them, but took no part. I believe that I was the youngest and I know that I was the most bashful, so much so that I declined nearly every invitation to take part in their various games. If there had been dancing I might have passed through with a better grace, but dancing was not so much approved at that time, at least was not so commonly practiced among the Saints. Sarah Ann’s brother Horace, who was twenty months her senior, made one of the party but had never dreamed of such a thing as matrimony with me, whom he only remembered in the earliest school days in Kirtland as occupying one of the lowest seats. He becoming enough advanced, soon left the one taught in the red schoolhouse on the flat and attended a higher one on the hill, and through our moving to Missouri and Illinois we lost sight of each other. After the party was over I stopped the rest of the night with Sarah, and as her room and his were adjoining, being only separated by a partition, our talk seemed to disturb him, and he was impolite enough to tell us of it, and request us to stop and let him go to sleep, which was proof enough that he had never thought of me only as the green school girl that I was, or he would certainly have submitted gracefully (as lovers always should) to be made a martyr of. No brother and sister could be more affectionately devoted to each other than were Horace and Sarah Ann. He had always been to her like a guardian. This I heard from her mother previous to our intimacy, and it made an impression upon my mind as being admirable and praiseworthy in an elder brother. Soon after this event he was engaged to accompany Amasa Lyman and others, as clerk, to the southern states, where they went to preach and transact some business for Joseph, and after a short absence they returned. He was a printer by trade, and was employed by Don Carlos Smith until the death of the latter, whom he loved as dearly as an own brother. The next autumn after his return from the South the bishop moved his family into a house on Parley Street, nearer to us. About a year after her birthday party she invited my brother and I to attend another small party which, to me, was very pleasant and far more enjoyable than the other, there being present only a few select friends. The Prophet was there during the early part of the evening, and some peculiar remarks which he made, I remember, gave food for talk and no little amount of wit which passed from one to the other after he had left; and William and I talked it over after we returned home, of the enjoyable time and the peculiarities of Joseph. Soon after this, on the 12th of May, 1843, Horace left for the East to visit his mother’s parents, who were then living in North Canaan Co., Connecticut, and other of his connections in Ohio, remaining away over a year. He and Joseph Kingsbury were in Kirtland when they heard of Joseph’s and Hyrum’s death, and they returned to Nauvoo as quickly as possible. It was not till the summer after he had gone east that I learned of the existence of the plural order of marriage, and that the spring of 1842 had seen his sister Sarah Ann the wife of Joseph Smith. My father was the first to introduce it to me; which had a similar effect to a sudden shock of a small earthquake. When he found (after the first outburst of displeasure for supposed injury) that I received it meekly, he took the first opportunity to introduce Sarah Ann to me as Joseph’s wife. This astonished me Beyond measure; but I could then understand a few things which had previously been to me a puzzle, and among the rest, the meaning of his words at her party. I saw, or could imagine, in some degree, the great trial that she must have passed through, and that it had required a mighty struggle to take a step of that kind, and had called for a sacrifice, such as few can realize but those who first rendered obedience to this law. It was a strange doctrine, and very dangerous too, to be introduced at such a time, when in the midst of the greatest trouble Joseph had ever encountered. The Missourians and Illinoisians were ready and determined to destroy him. They could but take his life, and that he considered a small thing when compared with the eternal punishment which he was doomed to suffer if he did not teach and obey this principle. No earthly inducement could be held forth to the women who entered this order. It was to be a life-sacrifice for the sake of an everlasting glory and exaltation. Sarah Ann took this step of her own free will, but had to do it unbeknown to her brother, which grieved her most, and also her mother, that they could not open their hearts to him. But Joseph feared to disclose it, believing that the Higbee boys would embitter Horace against him, as they had already caused serious trouble, and for this reason he favored his going east, which Horace was not slow to accept. He had had some slight suspicions that the stories about Joseph were not all without foundation, but had never told them, nor did he know the facts till after his return to Nauvoo, when Sarah hastened to tell him all. It was no small stumbling-block to him when learning of the course which had been taken towards him, which was hard for him to overlook. But Joseph had always treated him with the greatest kindness from the time that he came to live in his father’s house in Kirtland, in fact they had attended the same school and studied Hebrew together, and had pitched quoits and played ball together many a time there and in Nauvoo, and he could hold nothing against him now he was dead. Joseph was noted for his childlike love and familiarity with children, and he never seemed to feel that he was losing any of his honor or dignity in doing so. And if he heard the cry of a child he would rush out of the house to see if it was harmed. Sarah felt when she took this step that it would be the means of severing her from the happy circle in which she had moved as one of their guiding stars. She was called proud and somewhat eccentric; but the influence that she seemed to hold over one was almost magnetic. I found her incapable of professing anything which she did not feel, and that she was a most pure-minded, conscientious and God-fearing girl. Our friendship dated from that period, and we became, as much as is possible, like “the two halves of one soul.”
Bishop Whitney was not a man that readily accepted of every doctrine, and would question the Prophet very closely upon principles if not made clear to his understanding. When Joseph saw that he was doubtful concerning the righteousness of this celestial order he told him to go and enquire of the Lord concerning it, and he should receive a testimony for himself.
The bishop, with his wife, who had for years been called Mother Whitney, retired together and unitedly besought the Lord for a testimony whether or not this principle was from Him; and they ever after bore testimony that they received a manifestation and that it was so powerful they could not mistake it. The bishop never afterwards doubted, and they willingly gave to him their daughter, which was the strongest proof that they could possibly give of their faith and confidence in him as a true Prophet of God.
The following verses, written about the time of the death of the Prophet and the gloom that shrouded the city, are not published because of their literary merit, but they indicate a pathos and warm hearted tenderness, and although simple in language, express the love and good feeling entertained by the members of the choir and band for each other, and the reverence in which they held the Prophet, and their intense love for the city of Nauvoo. They will be likely to remind many of the older Latter-day Saints of the scenes in which they took an active part.
A Song for the Choir
How cheering to meet with so many true friends,
Companions in sorrow and joy, without end;
We spend a few moments in happy delight,
But ‘tis time to go home, so, my dear friends good night
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
We’ll return to our friends and companions at home.
But alas! we have lost Brother Joseph! He’s gone
To rest for a season from sorrow and pain—
He’s gone to prepare us (then let us not mourn)
In a mansion of bliss, an eternal sweet home.
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
How cheering the thought of our endless sweet home.
Let praises to God in the highest be given,
Let angels above shout His praises in heaven;
Shout, ye Saints on the earth, for the time will yet come
When we’ll meet Brother Joseph in an endless sweet home.
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
Hallelujah to God an eternal sweet home.
Woman’s Exponent, vol. 11, no. 19,
1 March 1883, p. 146
When Horace returned to Nauvoo he found that a year or more had wrought great changes, not only by the death of Joseph and Hyrum, but other dear friends had passed away—numbers were married and others had grown up till he could hardly recognize them, and among the most noticeable was myself, which fact his looks and words expressed the first morning after his return, as he called to give us, among other old neighbors, a friendly shake of the hand. I was not yet sixteen, and though the feeling between us then could not rationally be called love, it was something akin to it, admiration—which only needed time and acquaintance to mature. I was considerably tinctured with romance and entertained the bright hope that I had already experienced my most bitter portion of the realities of life. His mother and sister were pleased with the idea of our union, and the latter had early expressed herself to that effect. Not very long after this Sarah and I accompanied him and my brother William across the prairie to Carthage, to see the jail where Joseph and Hyrum had been murdered. William and I had often passed through that little town on the way to Ramus, to visit at the brothers Perkins; but never before under like circumstances or with such peculiar sensations. The wife of the jailor very kindly showed us upstairs. The walls of the room had been whitewashed and the floor had been scoured many times, but the stains of blood were still quite visible, and we saw a number of bullet holes in the door. We looked into the cell, into which Willard Richards had dragged Elder John Taylor after he was wounded and covered him up, hoping that he would be overlooked and his life spared to tell the tale; not expecting that he himself would ever escape alive.
As we stood by the well-curb where Joseph fell, Horace picked up a small chip covered with blood, and which he still has in his possession, though the blood is hardly discernible—nearly thirty-nine years having elapsed since that awful tragedy was enacted, and seemingly sanctioned by our nation, under this grand Constitution which we had learned from our earliest childhood to love and revere. And no heed was paid to the wailing cries of the bereaved, nor the solemn prayers of an oppressed, weak and defenceless people, but they were driven out with the supposition and the hope that they would perish from destitution, cold and hunger.
I copy the following incidents from my father’s journal. “May 28th, 1845. This day the timbers were raising in the attic story of the temple, on the dome or steeple.
“May 29th. Spent a short time at Bishop Whitney’s—had a good time talking of the order of salvation. * * In the evening met with my brethren at Willard Richard’s office. * * We called on the Lord for rain, and for the brethren upon the islands of the sea, for those who had gone west, for the sick, and for union. Great union prevailed.
“May 30th. Sister Sarah M. Kimball came and took myself and wife in her buggy. * * I got out at Warsaw street. Went to General Charles C. Rich’s. * * Then to Elder John Taylor’s, where I found the Twelve. * * William Smith was dissatisfied, otherwise the Twelve were one. Took dinner with Elder Taylor. Mother Smith came into our council at 2 o’clock to express her feelings before the Twelve—called us her children. The feelings of the Twelve were expressed by our president towards the families of the Smiths—that we would do all that we could for them.
“Sunday, June 1st. I went to the stand * * Meeting was opened. I was called upon to speak. * * Spoke one half hour. John Taylor followed, then President Brigham Young spoke for some time. There was much joy among the Saints, as we had not been on the stand before for three weeks—had been obliged to hide up. In the evening met at Elder Richard’s for prayer—prayed for rain, had a good time and broke up at half past one in the morning.”
That day was my mother’s 39th birthday, which my father mentions in his journal. The 2nd day of June he speaks of five of the seventies coming to dig his cellar, and says: “We had a fine shower in answer to prayer. We praised the Lord for His great goodness. 2nd day. Began to lay stone in my cellar. * * The day pleasant—all peace and harmony in our city.”
About two years previous to this, a brick addition was made to our log house. The log part was now torn down and a two story one of brick built in its place. Father had purchased a good house and lot adjoining ours of Brother John Tibbits, and presented it to my brother William. The chamber of it we occupied until the upper part of ours was finished and painted, containing a parlor, two bedrooms and a clothes-press to each, with hall. The largest room, with exception of the parlor, was mine, with two large windows, one opened to the south and the other east, towards the temple. The rooms on the basement were very similar. The hall passed east and west, front door opening towards the river, and over it was a large stone on which my father had his name engraven. This was the first nice house that he had been able to build us, his time having been previously engaged in the Father’s vineyard with his brethren, the apostles, and then, much of the time they were obliged to keep themselves hidden or disguised to escape writs being served on them. They had to adopt different disguises, which were sometimes very droll and ludicrous, and which afforded us no little amount of fun and amusement. The last year spent in Nauvoo, though it was not all gladness and delight, was the liveliest, and I took more real pleasure, and can look back to it and my associations there as the brightest and happiest that I ever experienced in that city. “Pleasures are brightest as they take their flight.”
I was a passionate lover of music, and had so longed for the privilege of learning to play the piano, and this I enjoyed during the summer of 1845. I had an accomplished lady teacher who had received the gospel in London. My first lessons were given me on a small piano standing in a milliner shop, which was owned by the Miss Grays, then living on Main Street. One of them is now Mrs. Rumal, who has a large millinery establishment on Main Street in this city. My teacher would often praise my aptness in learning, and say to me, “You will go ahead of me, Miss Helen, for you have a voice to sing, which I never had.” President Brigham Young had a small piano and invited me to come to his house and practice with his daughter Vilate, who, though younger than myself, had had previous advantages, but was rather indifferent, and he thought if I practiced with her she would take a greater interest. Their piano stood in Sister Young’s room, and her health being very poor he proposed to have it brought to our house when the upper part was done. This pleased us both immensely. I never became weary of practicing until after I heard it was decided that we were to be broken up and move to the Rocky Mountains. Though the piano remained there through the winter I felt no encouragement to continue taking lessons, though father tried to stimulate me to go on, and said, to encourage me, that they should have the necessary material taken to manufacture pianos and I should have one, but I knew that I would forget it all; and we little thought of its being so long before we got to our destination.
Woman’s Exponent, vol. 11, no. 20,
15 March 1883, pp. 153–54
I here produce a copy of the letter received by President Brigham Young from Governor Ford—dated April 8th, 1845, containing a proof, indisputable, that the Prophet Joseph Smith was the first to propose moving to this western country, instead of Brigham Young, as has been stated by Joseph Smith, editor of the Lamoni Herald and reputed by others, who are equally in the dark in this, as well as in all other matters pertaining to this Latter-day work.
“If you can get off by yourselves you may enjoy peace, but surrounded by such neighbors, I confess that I do not see the time when you will be permitted to enjoy quiet. I was informed by General Joseph Smith, last summer, that he contemplated a removal west; and from what I learned from him and others at that time, I think if he had lived, he would have began to move in the matter before this time. I would be willing to exert all my feeble abilities and influence to further your views in this respect if it was the wish of your people. I would suggest a matter in confidence. California now offers a field for the prettiest enterprise that has been undertaken in modern times. It is but sparsely inhabited, and by none but the Indians, or imbecile Mexican Spaniards. I have not inquired enough to know how strong it is in men and means. But this we know, that if conquered from Mexico, that country is so physically weak and morally distracted that she could never send a force there to reconquer it. Why should it not be a pretty operation for your people to go out there, take possession of and conquer a portion of the vacant country and establish an independent government of your own, subject only to the laws of nations?
“You would remain there a long time before you would be disturbed by the proximity of other settlements.
“If you conclude to do this, your design ought not to be known, or otherwise it would become the duty of the United States to prevent your emigration. If once you cross the line of the United States territory, you would be in no danger of being interfered with.”
The Twelve Apostles had then nearly matured their plans for the move (not only of the Saints in North America but also those in Great Britain) to these Rocky Mountains, and the governor’s advice was therefore quite unnecessary. They had received similar advice from Senator Douglas, James Arlington Bennett and others. About this time they addressed a petition to President James K. Polk, laying before him the true condition of a poor oppressed and long suffering people. But his heart was as an adamant—he did not deign an answer.
I find many things mentioned in my father’s journal which I remember as I read them, and they bring to my mind other incidents which had it not been for his record, would probably have been buried in oblivion. I will copy a few as they were written by his own hand in 1845. He says, “On the morning of the 18th of June, I went to John Taylor’s to read history. President Brigham Young, George A. Smith, John Taylor and myself—Brother Ezra Benson read for us. The same morning Phineas Young and Charles Shumway returned home from their western mission. At four o’clock they came in where the brethren were reading, and we stopped to listen to a letter from Brother Dunham, and they gave to us a history of their travels. They have had some difficulties, but all will work right in the end.” Next day he writes, “I and others of the Twelve were sent for by Sister Jennetta Richards, (Brother Willard’s wife,) to meet there and pray for her, as she felt that she could not live long. We also prayed for my wife, who is very sick—and offered up prayer for Bishop Whitney, who has gone to St. Louis—that he may be prospered.” The same day he writes, “Brigham Young, George A. Smith and myself went to the temple to see how things were progressing. The rafters were mostly on, all things going well. Returned home and found Sister Whitney. She anointed my wife and sang in tongues; I also sang and the Lord blessed us. June the 20th, I again met with my brethren to read history—were in that part which describes the persecutions in Jackson Co. Missouri. We stopped reading at two o’clock in the afternoon. I found my wife worse—sent for Sister Whitney. We clothed ourselves according to the order of the holy priesthood and anointed and prayed for her. The Lord heard us, for she was better and had a good night’s rest. The Lord shall have the glory. All is quiet in our city.”
He speaks of feelings having arisen from what William Smith had said on the stand the previous Sabbath, that he and his connections had been neglected, etc., which was false, and he says, “This gives me sorrow, but the Lord will cause all things to go right.”
“June 22nd, Bishop Whitney got home from St. Louis.” At four o’clock the same day, William Smith was married by Brigham Young. “On the 25th, met with the police, the bishops and many others at the Masonic Hall. William Smith was present and said he was afraid of his life. He received a rebuke from Brigham.” We read that, “the wicked flee when no man pursueth,” which words applied to William Smith, and he justly deserved that rebuke. In Joseph’s life he was quarrelsome and frequently had to be dealt with before his brethren for unchristianlike conduct. He became very wicked and unprincipled, and his conduct towards Joseph was at times unbearable, but he exercised towards him all the kindness and forbearance that was possible. He was very deceitful and tried by his allurements to lead away some of Joseph’s young wives by picturing to them the grand sights to be seen, and the more pleasant and agreeable life that they could lead if they would accompany him to the eastern cities. He had a plurality of wives, but his first wife was an invalid and was then living in Philadelphia with her little children. Bishop Whitney was informed of his wicked course taken against Joseph, but his counsel was to keep it from him, as he had trouble enough already upon his shoulders. He (William) was certainly an odd one in that family—was very genteel, good looking and capable of appearing in the most refined modern society, like some others of the kid-gloved gentility of these days, but if all of his conduct had been exposed to Joseph, the consequences might have been more serious. He came from the East when hearing of his brother’s martyrdom, and the next day after his arrival at Nauvoo, instead of coming to the meeting, which was held by the roadside east of the temple, he rode flauntingly by in a fine carriage dressed in deep mourning with none but himself and driver. He could have taken any other road as well, but it looked as though he did it just for the purpose of creating a sensation. He aspired to stand as the leader and fully expected to take some of his brother’s wives if not all. He afterward professed or feigned repentance and humility before the Twelve Apostles and the people. I had the honor of the perusal of a long and eloquently worded epistle written by him to one of Joseph’s young wives, telling not only his devotion to her, but of a wonderful vision, or revelation that he had received, concerning her and himself, picturing out her future state in glorious colors. But I suppose her mind had not sufficiently expanded or else she possessed too little of the spiritual to appreciate such visions, especially from that quarter, even to deign a reply, but cast his letter to the flames. His poor suffering wife had passed away previous to this and he thought it a flattering inducement to offer a young lady the privilege of standing first. But she knew his former history, being one of the number that he tried to fascinate and lead away from his brother, the Prophet, while he was still living. After allowing her sufficient time to answer his epistle, he called one morning, and I happened to be present and heard him ask her for “that letter,” when she coolly informed him that it had been destroyed. His countenance, which had already become a shade or two darker with the pent up wrath, (which he did not try to conceal) grew darker still and the look he gave her as he turned to leave resembled anything but that of a Saint. What made his sins still greater was that he tried to hide them under the cloak of religion, and in such there is no such thing as repentance or remission of sins. He soon after married a very pretty young girl, and though the character she bore was not of the best, she was good enough for him. I met them both at a dinner given on the 6th of the following August, at Brother John Benbow’s, who owned a large farm on the prairie. My parents, with about fifty persons, were present. William Smith’s countenance that day plainly bespoke the bitterness that was raging within. It was said that he only married the girl for spite, at all events they were not happy, and it was only a short time before they separated. His brethren labored with him and tried to do him all the good they could, and my father spoke truly, for William Smith was always dissatisfied, otherwise the Twelve were one.
June 27th, being one year from the day that Joseph and Hyrum were killed in Carthage Jail, was set apart for fasting and prayer. Father writes in his journal. “O Lord, I thank Thy holy name, that Thou dost hear thy servants and have brought trouble upon those who have spilt the blood of thy servants and persecuted thy Saints. Even now they are dumb—that they cannot do business, and are thrown into confusion in answer to prayer, as we have felt to plead with Thee, with uplifted hands in token of our regard to Thee. I thank Thee, O our Father, for Thou dost hear us in all things when we are agreed, and this Thou hast granted to Thy servants this day, and I pray that Thy blessing and peace and prosperity may rest upon all Thy Saints; even so amen.”
Saturday June 28th, father wrote, “The old stand in the grove west of the temple was prepared for holding meetings. The Twelve were present. We spent most of the day at the temple.
“Sunday, 29th, meeting was held at the old stand. The congregation was very large. It seemed like old times when we used to hear from Joseph and Hyrum. * * The day passed off well and heaven’s blessings were with us. In the evening went and baptized fifty-one persons.” He mentions the fourth of July, and says, “Many of the Saints spent the day riding and had bands of music, and amused themselves in different ways. The steamer Di Vernnon came up from St. Louis, some from Quincy and other places for pleasure. There were near one hundred and fifty who stopped in our city and went all over it—were very civil. All things passed off well. General Demming and Sheriff Backenstos came to my house and spent the evening.”
Woman’s Exponent, vol. 11, no. 21,
1 April 1883, pp. 161–62
In justice to the wives who were sealed to William Smith I will here say, that they were pure and noble women, and they had supposed him to be a righteous man. The Lord took the first one, and the others, finding out his true character, soon left him. After the young wife left he married again. I understood her to be a sister of his first wife’s. But she, like him, was void of the spirit of this gospel; and she must also have been blind to his faults, or to put the most charitable construction, it might have been for the sake of her sister’s children. None of us are capable of passing judgment upon one another. That, we should leave to Him who will soon come to judge both the living and the dead.
One of the most interesting incidents within my recollection was the laying of the capstone on the southeast corner of the temple. This was on Saturday morning, May 24th, 1845. The description of it is accurately given by one of the apostles, who, with the rest, came out from their secret retreat long enough to perform this ceremony, when they again returned to their hiding places.
The apostle wrote: “The singers sang their sweetest notes, and their voices thrilled the hearts of the assemblage; the music of the band, which played on the occasion, never sounded so charming; and when President Young placed the stone in position, and said: ‘The last stone is now laid upon the temple, and I pray the Almighty, in the name of Jesus, to defend us in this place, and sustain us until the temple is finished and we have all got our endowments.’ And all the congregation shouted, ‘Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna, to God and the Lamb, amen! Amen! And amen,’ and repeated these words the second and third time, the Spirit of God descended upon the people, gladness filled every heart, and tears of joy coursed down many cheeks. The words of praise were uttered in earnestness and fervor; it was a relief to many to be able to give expression to the feelings with which their hearts were overcharged. Altogether the scene was a very impressive one, and we doubt not that the angels looked upon it and rejoiced.”
“So let it be,” said President Young, concluding the ceremonies, “this is the seventh day of the week, or the Jewish Sabbath. It is the day on which the Almighty finished his work and rested from his labors. We have finished the walls of the temple, and may rest today from our labors.”
A great amount of sickness prevailed during the summer months. The apostles and their brethren were in the habit of meeting together every evening, and sometimes oftener, at Brother Willard Richard’s house, to unite their faith in the holy order of the priesthood in behalf of Israel.
They also had to labor with their hands. My father worked at his house all the time that he could possibly get. July 7th he wrote, “Twelve men came to work on my house, six of them were Masons. Much work was done. * * I went to W. Richard’s to read history in company with Brigham Young and George A. Smith. An Italian brother Joseph Toronto (now of this city), came there and gave up all he had, which was $2,600.
“Tuesday, 8th. Fourteen men came to work on my house. * * Went with Brigham Young and Willard Richards to the temple. Had council with the trustees. Gave the $2,600 to the bishop. Visited some sick in the evening.”
My mother’s babe was very sick at this time, which fact father mentions in his journal as being a source of anxiety and sorrow to witness his suffering. Two successive days some of his brethren came in to join him in prayer for him in the holy order. “Sister Jane (Uncle Joseph Young’s wife) and Sister Whitney were present and spent much time with us to minister to our babe.”
“On the morning of the 9th of July,” he says, “I was sent for by Brother Willard Richards to administer to his wife who appeared to be dying. About ten o’clock I went again. Brother George A. Smith and his father, (John Smith) Levi Richards and John Taylor were present. We anointed and prayed for her after the holy order and she died in about half an hour.” She (as is well known) was one of my father’s earliest converts in England. I will here mention one or two incidents, though this and much more has been published in his history, concerning her. She was the daughter of a Mr. Richards, a Presbyterian minister; and when father first met her she was visiting a family in Preston with whom he was acquainted. As soon as they were introduced she entered into a conversation with him on the subject of the gospel. He found her a very intelligent lady and very anxious to hear and understand the doctrines of the true gospel. She went to hear him preach that evening and the following, and then she was fully convinced of the truth and sent for him and expressed her desire to be baptized, which request he cheerfully complied with, and confirmed her at the water’s edge. And as an illustration of his prophetic character, the first time he met Brother Willard Richards he exclaimed, “Willard, I have baptized your wife today.” He writes in his journal, that Sister Jeannette Richards was buried at six in the afternoon of the 11th.
“On the evening of the 9th,” he says, “the bishops made a feast at the mansion.” Brother John Pack had charge of the house. Joseph’s family having moved back into the White House, nearer the river. Father says, “I went to John Pack’s to wait upon the Smith family as the bishops made a feast. About one hundred persons present. All things passed off well.
“Thursday, July 10th. The Saints met at the stand at ten o’clock in the morning and gave alms to the poor. I spoke, also Brigham Young, George A. Smith, John E. Page and Orson Pratt. Adjourned at two in the afternoon, as the heat was so intense. A great many are sick.”
After the meeting of fasting and prayer, father says, “I met with my brethren in the evening and prayed for rain.” And on the 13th he wrote, “On Sunday morning it began to rain very hard—have had a beautiful shower. This was in answer to our prayers. The Lord be praised for His goodness.” He wrote the day previous that his wife, Sarah Peeke, was very sick at Brother Stephen Winchester’s, and he sat up with her most of the night. The evening of the 16th, after witnessing the death of Brother William Gheen, who died at 7 o’clock in the evening, father took Sarah and Sister Winchester to the river and baptized them for their health. He was paying them for the board of his wife and two daughters, whom he had adopted. Brother and Sister Winchester and their family, if they had been our nearest kin, could not have thought more of one another than we had done from the time that we were neighbors in Kirtland, Ohio and in Missouri.
“Brother William Gheen,” father says, “was buried on the evening of the 17th, at 6 o’clock. Most of the Twelve were present.” Brother Gheen and family were among the Saints who came from Pennsylvania. He had given two of his daughters (Anna and Amanda) to my father as wives, and did not consider it a dishonor to be thus connected with him, but quite the reverse. They have each borne him a numerous family. And though Anna has left us to join him and thousands of loved ones Beyond “this vale of tears,” her name will ever live in the hearts of countless numbers besides the many who are connected with her by family ties.
For five successive days father wrote in his journal that his time was spent working on his house, visiting the sick, in council, and a variety of other duties. “Saturday, 26th,” he says, “I visited many sick and attended council. We nominated several officers for our August election. All goes well, and the Lord is on our side.” Sunday he mentions going to meeting with his wife and daughter Helen. “Brothers George Miller and Amasa Lyman spoke a few words upon the Nauvoo House, then Brigham Young spoke.” Most of his time on the following Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was spent visiting the sick; and he speaks of a funeral that he attended with Brigham Young, and speaks of them reading history and going on the temple. The house of the Lord was well on towards its completion, and they could truly say that this was one of the results of faith with works. These things may look strangely to those who are unacquainted with the principles of our faith and the great work which we have been engaged in for over fifty years, and especially that our people should continue working at the Nauvoo House and temple, and at the same time preparing to leave them to the mercy of a set of sacrilegious mobocrats to demolish. I think that this should be a convincing proof (at least) of the sincerity and honesty of their motives. Nothing could daunt their spirits; but if they had not enjoyed something superior to any man-made religion they could never have been supported under all those sorrowful and trying scenes. It was through the united faith and prayers of the faithful few that we were permitted to remain there long enough to finish that temple, that they might be endowed with the blessings which the Lord had promised them, and for which they cheerfully gave their mite and labored faithfully to finish the house which the Lord had commanded to be built. Words cannot express the gratitude that I feel for being counted worthy to have place among the ones of whom the Lord has made a “peculiar people,” which is the only Church ever established upon the earth since the one we read of in the days of Christ, who believe and accept the whole of the gospel as taught in the ancient scriptures, instead of choosing that portion only which agrees with our peculiar ideas and notions. The ones who do this are blind indeed.
If Christ is truly our pattern, and He had to submit to bear all manner of crosses and sink below all things, that He might rise above all things, how are we to become joint heirs with Him unless we have a similar experience in this life? This people have proven their willingness to submit to be persecuted and hated of all men for righteousness’ sake; and where is there another people who have manifested such true Christian patience, and faith enough to trust in an unseen hand under all circumstances and still believe in and rely upon those promises made by our Savior, who also commanded that we should become one in all things, and said, “Unless ye are one ye are not mine.” And because we are striving to obey this command and every other Christian and godlike principle, that we may be saved and have part with Him in that celestial glory prepared for the faithful and pure in heart of all nations, and that they may hear the same glad tidings of great joy and be gathered with us into the fold of Christ, making sacrifice of our idols and rejoicing even in the midst of our sorrows, when we part with our beloved brethren, husbands, fathers and sons, who are going forth in the service of our Master to save the souls of men, that they may also be partakers of this joy which is unspeakable and that life-giving power which has ever brought comfort and cheer to the humble heart and is free to all who will seek for it; and because we have sought to become of one heart and one mind, we have ever been looked upon with a jealous eye, and hated by the world, who refuse to hear and understand the truth, but will misjudge us and all our motives. Union is power; and this is the great bugbear, and because they cannot break up and destroy it, they consider us a dangerous rival, and in their madness cry polygamy as the only plausible excuse for breaking up and destroying this power.
They do not understand the character and the unwavering integrity of an honest Latter-day Saint; but we can well afford to be charitable, for we know what is in store for them, and many of us have drank deep enough of the bitter cup of adversity to know how to feel for our fellow creatures, and I fervently pray for those who are deceived in consequence of the great prejudice which is in the world, because of the awful lies which have been manufactured and set afloat, for effect, by the wicked in our midst; and our foes are more to be pitied than we are. They certainly have met with poor success so far, and feel rather chagrined at the present time. And Longfellow says, “If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”
Supposing they should oblige us to leave here, it would be doing for themselves a more sorry job than when they drove us from the United States, and if they were wise they would leave us alone; for it has long since been proven that we are like a mustard stalk, which, if disturbed, will only multiply the more.
Woman’s Exponent, vol. 11, no. 22,
15 April 1883, pp. 169–70