On December 1, 1838, Joseph, his brother Hyrum, and other leaders were jailed at Liberty, Missouri, to await trial on the unfounded charge of treason. Their “treason” was the result of trying to defend themselves against mobs who resented the Saints’ growing political and economic power in Missouri. In this jail the Prophet languished four and a half months.
“Peace be unto thy soul,” the Lord comforted Joseph in Liberty Jail.1 “Thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high.”2 The Lord continued, “Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”3
Through the bitter winter and beyond, Joseph suffered extreme hardship and held fast to his faith in Jesus Christ. “If I had not actually got into this work and been called of God, I would back out,” he admitted. “But I cannot back out: I have no doubt of the truth.”4
“He that holds out faithful to the end shall in no wise lose his reward,” wrote Joseph and Hyrum to one struggling soul. “A good man will endure all things to honor Christ.”5
Joseph Smith Quotes
“O ye Twelve! and all Saints! profit by this important Key—that in all your trials, troubles, temptations, afflictions, bonds, imprisonments and death, see to it, that you do not betray heaven; that you do not betray Jesus Christ; that you do not betray the brethren; that you do not betray the revelations of God, whether in the Bible, Book of Mormon, or Doctrine and Covenants, or any other that ever was or ever will be given and revealed unto man in this world or that which is to come” (History of the Church, 3:385).
“Patience is heavenly, obedience is noble, forgiveness is merciful, and exaltation is godly; and he that holds out faithful to the end shall in no wise lose his reward. A good man will endure all things to honor Christ” (History of the Church, 6:427).
“Trials will only give us the knowledge necessary to understand the minds of the ancients. For my part, I think I never could have felt as I now do, if I had not suffered the wrongs that I have suffered. All things shall work together for good to them that love God” (History of the Church, 3:286).
Lucy Mack Smith, Mother of the Prophet Joseph Smith
Just as Joseph and Hyrum Smith were carted off to jail in Missouri, their mother, Lucy, appealed to see them one more time: “[A friend] conducted us to the back part of the wagon, where Joseph sat, and said, ‘Mr. Smith, your mother and sister are here, and wish to shake hands with you.’ Joseph crowded his hand through between the cover and wagon, and we caught hold of it. . . . ‘Joseph, do speak to your poor mother once more? I cannot bear to go till I hear your voice.’ ‘God bless you, mother!’ he sobbed out. Then a cry was raised, and the wagon dashed off” (Lucy Smith, History of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. George A. Smith and Elias Smith (1902), 250).
Harold B. Lee, 11th President of the Church, 1972–1973
“There is a refining process that comes through suffering . . . that we can’t experience any other way than by suffering. We draw closer to Him [Jesus Christ] who gave His life that man might be. We feel a kinship that we have never felt before. . . . He suffered more than we can ever imagine. But to the extent that we have suffered, somehow it seems to have the effect of drawing us closer to the divine, helps to purify our souls, and helps to purge out the things that are not pleasing in the sight of the Lord” (Funeral services for Alfred W. Weseman, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, 7; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization standardized).
Marion G. Romney, Apostle, 1951–1988
“Speaking for himself and his fellow prisoners, [Joseph Smith] said: ‘. . . in His Almighty name we are determined to endure tribulation as good soldiers unto the end.’ [History of the Church, 3:297.] And counseling the Saints to do likewise, he said: ‘. . . let thy bowels . . . be full of charity towards all men. . . .’ [History of the Church, 3:300.] This admonition [from Liberty Jail], considered in light of the circumstances under which it was given, seems to me almost equal the Master’s statement from the cross: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ (Luke 23:24.)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1969, 58–59; paragraph divisions altered).
What enabled Joseph Smith to endure his many hardships?
Two commitments that may have helped Joseph Smith endure his challenges were his devotion to God and his devotion to the people he served. “I have given my life into [God’s] hands,” he once wrote. “I am prepared to go at his call. I desire to be with Christ. I count not my life dear to me, only to do his will.” Later, just before the martyrdom, he added, “I am ready to be offered a sacrifice for this people” (letter to Emma Smith, June 6, 1832, in Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, comp. Dean C. Jessee , 264–65; History of the Church, 6:500).
What should be our attitude toward adversity?
Bearing with adversity requires patience and faith in Jesus Christ. “Be still and know that I am God,” the Lord told Joseph Smith (Doctrine and Covenants 101:16). We can better endure when we are quietly confident in the Lord’s plan. Lehi reassured his son, “God . . . shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain” (2 Nephi 2:2). Centuries later, the Savior encouraged the Nephites, “Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life” (3 Nephi 15:9).
Online Resources at ChurchofJesusChrist.org
“Constitution of the Priesthood”—Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2002), 295–300
“All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience”—Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2002), 301–2
“In Prison Bonds”—in “Missouri Persecutions and Expulsion,” Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2003), 207–9
“He Was Tried in Richmond and Imprisoned in Liberty Jail”—in “Joseph Smith: First President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2004), 13–14
Online Resources at BYU
“Revelations in Context: Joseph Smith's Letter from Liberty Jail, March 20, 1839”—Dean C. Jessee and John W. Welch, BYU Studies, vol. 39, no. 3 (2000), 125–45; see also History of the Church, 3:289–305
Complete original text of the letter from which Doctrine and Covenants 121–23 are taken.