Trials and Persecutions

His Name Should Be Had for Good and Evil


When he first visited Joseph Smith, the angel Moroni1 told him that his “name should be had for good and evil among all nations.”2 Years later the Lord encouraged Joseph: “Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.”3

Few have confronted more antagonism and trials than did Joseph Smith. He was besieged with dozens of unjustified lawsuits and was often in jeopardy of his life. He was poisoned, beaten, tarred, unjustly imprisoned, and once sentenced to die by firing squad. He and Emma seldom had a home of their own, and six of their children died in infancy. Financial difficulties continually plagued the family.

“As for the perils which I am called to pass through,” Joseph reflected, “they seem but a small thing to me, as the envy and wrath of man have been my common lot all the days of my life. . . . It all has become a second nature to me; and I feel, like Paul, to glory in tribulation; for to this day has the God of my fathers delivered me out of them all.”4


Joseph Smith Quotes

“I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women—all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty” (History of the Church, 5:401).

Joseph Smith wrote the following from Liberty Jail after receiving letters from his loved ones: “We need not say to you that the floodgates of our hearts were lifted and our eyes were a fountain of tears, but those who have not been enclosed in the walls of prison without cause or provocation, can have but little idea how sweet the voice of a friend is; one token of friendship from any source whatever awakens and calls into action every sympathetic feeling . . . until finally all enmity, malice and hatred, and past differences, misunderstandings and mismanagements are slain victorious at the feet of hope; and when the heart is sufficiently contrite, then the voice of inspiration steals along and whispers, [‘]My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes[’]” (History of the Church, 3:293; the last portion of this paragraph was later canonized in Doctrine and Covenants 121:7–8).


Hyrum Smith, Church Patriarch, 1841–1844

“Bonds and imprisonments and persecutions are no disgrace to the Saints. It is that that is common in all ages of the world since the days of Adam. . . . The same things produce the same effect in every age of the world. We only want the same patience, the same carefulness, the same guide, the same grace, the same faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . What we do not learn by precept we may learn by experience. All these things are to make us wise and intelligent that we may be the happy recipients of the highest glory” (letter to Mary Fielding Smith, c. 1839, probably from Liberty Jail, Liberty, Missouri, Church History Library, Salt Lake City; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization modernized).

Orson F. Whitney, Apostle, 1906–1931

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God, . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father [in heaven]” (quoted by Spencer W. Kimball, in “Tragedy or Destiny,” Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year, Dec. 6, 1955, 6).


How did Joseph Smith feel about the persecutions he suffered?

From Liberty Jail, Joseph wrote that his difficult experiences tutored him. “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” (letter from Joseph Smith to Presendia Huntington Buell, Mar. 15, 1839, Liberty Jail, Liberty, Missouri, in Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, comp. Dean C. Jessee [2002], 427; punctuation modernized).

What is the purpose of suffering in our lives?

Then Elder Harold B. Lee observed: “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 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” (Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1996], 188).


Online Resources at

‘Go to the Ohio’: The Gathering of Latter-day Israel”—in “Establishing the Foundations of the Church,” Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1996), 16–19

Missouri Persecutions and Expulsion—Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2003), 193–210

The Apostasy in Kirtland, 1836–38—Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (Church Educational System Manual, 2003), 169–80

Dealing with Poverty and Apostasy in Kirtland”—in “Joseph Smith: First President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (Church Educational System Manual, 2004), 13

“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

  • “‘Brother Joseph Is Truly a Wonderful Man, He Is All We Could Wish a Prophet to Be’: Pre-1844 Letters of William Law”—Lyndon W. Cook, BYU Studies, vol. 20, no. 2 (1980), 207–18
    Mentions the Prophet’s visit to Upper Canada, troubles in Missouri, the return to fellowship of Orson Hyde, and the Kirtland bank.
  • “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.