Joseph’s Experiences in Jail
October 2008

“Joseph’s Experiences in Jail,” Friend, Oct. 2008, 6–7

From the Life of the Prophet Joseph Smith

Joseph’s Experiences in Jail

Adapted from History of the Church, 3:175, 188–95, 208, 212, 320–21, 327; see also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society course of study, 2007), 349–51, 359–60, 371.

Joseph’s Experiences in Jail, left page

Illustrations by Sal Velluto and Eugenio Mattozzi

The Latter-day Saints had many problems in Missouri. In the autumn of 1838, Governor Boggs told leaders of the state militia (army) to force the Saints to leave the state.

The Mormons must be treated as enemies.

Joseph and other Church leaders were arrested for crimes they did not commit. The militiamen mocked the prisoners and kept them out in the rain without any shelter.

The commander of the militia told General Alexander W. Doniphan to shoot Joseph and the other prisoners. The prisoners prayed that they would not be killed. Their prayers were answered.

It is cold-blooded murder. I will not obey this order.

The next day the guards watched closely as the prisoners said good-bye to their families in Far West. Joseph’s wife and children were grateful to see him alive but very sad to see him go away. Joseph worried about them.

God alone can protect them and deliver me from the hands of my enemies and restore me to my family.

Joseph’s Experiences in Jail, right page

The militia took many Latter-day Saint prisoners to Independence, then to a jail in Richmond. Later, Joseph and a few other men were moved to a jail in Liberty.

The guards treated the prisoners badly. One night the guards at the Richmond jail told each other about the terrible deeds they had done to the Latter-day Saints. Joseph stood up and rebuked them.

Silence! In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you and command you to be still.

I will not live another minute and hear such language.

The guards apologized. They were quiet for the rest of the night.

Other guards watched over the prisoners as they traveled to a different county for a court trial. One night the guards got drunk. They allowed Joseph and the other men to take their horses and escape.

I shall take a drink and go to bed, and you may do as you have a mind to.

After spending almost six months in prison, Joseph was reunited with his family in Quincy, Illinois.