Remembering Joseph Smith

Helen Mar Kimball Whitney was the daughter of Heber C. and Vilate Kimball, and the daughter-in-law of Newel K. and Elizabeth Ann Whitney. She grew up amidst the beginnings of the Church, often being right in the center of many historic occasions. She was a prolific writer and kept a journal about the many things she saw. As she records these early incidents in the Church, she states quite accurately the events, but at the same time gives us her view and opinion, which makes it an interesting record. She was very intelligent and is able to give us a clear understanding of many circumstances that were outright unjust to our early Mormon leaders.

She records a speech, given by Joseph Smith in the grove west of the temple, during the summer of 1843. The following words are Joseph’s from her record:

I meet you with a heart full of gratitude to Almighty God and I presume you all feel the same. I hardly know how to express my feelings. I feel as strong as a giant. I pulled sticks with the men coming along, and I pulled up with one hand the strongest man that could be found. Then two men tried, but they could not pull me up. And I continued to pull, mentally, until I pulled Missouri to Nauvoo…

It is not so much my object to tell my afflictions and trials and troubles, as to speak of the writ of habeas and others, that our municipal powers and legal tribunals are not to be sanctioned by the authorities of the state, and accordingly, they want to make it lawful to drag away innocent men from their families and friends and have them put to death by ungodly men for their religion. Relative to our city charter, courts, rights of habeaus corpus, etc., I wish you to know and publish that we have all power, and if any man from this time forth says anything to the contrary, cast it into his teeth.

There is a secret in this. If there is not power in our charter and courts, then there is not power in the state of Illinois, nor in the Congress or Constitution of the United States, for the United States gives unto Illinois her constitution or charter and Illinois gave unto Nauvoo her charter, ceding unto us our vested rights, which she has no right nor power to take from us. All the power there was in Illinois she gave to Nauvoo. I want you to hear and learn, O Israel, this day, what is for the happiness and peace of this city and people. If our enemies are determined to oppress us and deprive us of our constitutional rights and privileges as they have done, and if the authorities that are on the earth will not sustain us in our rights, nor give us that protection which the laws and constitution of the United States and of this state guaranteed unto us, then we will claim them from a higher power, from heaven, yea, from God Almighty. Before I will bear this unhallowed persecution any longer, before I will be dragged away again among my enemies for trial, I will spill the last drop of blood in my veins. To bear it any longer would be a sin.

It did my soul good to see your feelings and love manifested towards me. I thank God that I have the honor to lead so virtuous and honest a people, to be your leader and lawyer as was Moses to the children of Israel. Hosannah to Almighty God, who has delivered us thus from out of the seven troubles. I commend you to his grace and may the blessings of heaven rest upon you, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Helen Mar Whitney continues in her own words:

He was proven to be innocent and was once more freed from the Missourians, but they were determined not to give up and pretended that the authorities of Nauvoo had rescued a prisoner from justice, but confident that his friends would resist every attempt on their part to arrest him, Governor Reynolds of Missouri applied to Governor Ford of Illinois, requesting him to compel our people to deliver up the Prophet by calling out a force of militia for this purpose, which request Governor Ford politely refused to grant.

Our city was occasionally visited by Lamanites and a deputation of Pottawatamie chiefs were in the city waiting to see Joseph when he returned from Dixon and as soon as consistent after the trial was over he received them.

After being assured that all present were friends to Joseph, their orator arose and said, (it being interpreted): “We as a people have long been distressed and oppressed. We have been driven from our lands many times. We have been wasted away by wars, until there are but few of us left. The white man has hated us and shed our blood, until it has appeared as though there would soon be no Indian left. We have talked with the Great Spirit and the Great Spirit has talked with us. We have asked the Great Spirit to save us and let us live and the Great Spirit has told us that you are the man (pointing to the Prophet). We have now come a great way to see you and hear your words, and to have you tell us what to do. Our horses have become poor traveling and we are hungry. We will now wait and hear your words.”

Joseph was considerably affected, so much so that he wept. He said in return: “I have heard your words. They are true! The Great Spirit has told you the truth. I am your friend and brother, and I wish to do you good. Your fathers were once a great people. They worshiped the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit did them good. He was their friend, but they left the Great Spirit and would not hear his words nor keep them. The Great Spirit left them, and they began to kill one another, and they have been poor and afflicted until now.

The Great Spirit has given me a book, and told me that you will soon be blessed again The Great Spirit will soon begin to talk with you and your children.”

Raising the Book of Mormon, he said, “This is the book which your fathers made. I wrote upon it. This tells me what you will have to do. I now want you to begin to pray to the Great Spirit. I want you to make peace with one another, and do not kill white men; it is not good, but ask the Great Spirit for what you want and it will not be long before the Great Spirit will bless you, and you will cultivate the earth, and build good houses like white men. We will give you something to eat and to take home with you,”

The Prophet had an ox killed for them, and some horses were also prepared for them.

They remembered the kindness of Joseph and his people and when driven from our homes they made us welcome upon their land, where we were obliged to make our Winter Quarters.

We have certainly seen the fulfillment of the Prophet’s words concerning the red man, cultivating the earth and building houses, as well as other predictions, and are satisfied that all will be fulfilled.

Happy Birthday, Joseph, and Thank You!


Information taken from:

Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, “Life Incidents,” Woman’s Exponent 9-10 (1880-1882) and “Scenes and Incidents in Nauvoo,” Woman’s Exponent 11 (1882-83)