In Far West, Mo., on Oct. 31, 1838, Col. George M. Hinkle, the highest officer of the militia that stood in defense of the city, led Joseph Smith and his brethren into the hands of their enemies. These friends, who trusted him, were astonished to hear him address Maj. Gen. Samuel D. Lucas with the terse words, "Here, General, are the prisoners I agreed to deliver to you."
The brethren were immediately surrounded by Lucas’ guard of several hundred men and marched, amid threats and oaths, into the camp of the mobbers, who now encircled the city and had the Saints in their power.
We are accustomed to following the lamentable, agonizing dangers and hardships of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Parley Pratt and others as they were taken first to Independence, Mo., then Richmond, where a mock trial was imposed upon them — and where the prophet rose in the night to rebuke the foul speech of their wretched guards with such power that they quailed at his feet, begged his forgiveness and were quiet until a change of guards. At last, these innocent men were taken to the cold, miserable jail that bore the ironic name of Liberty.
But what of those left behind in Far West? They were not in the forefront, in the field of action, perilous as that might be, but they were in a position of patient suffering amid seemingly insurmountable trials — required to wait upon the Lord with all the faith they could exercise.
Lucy Mack Smith and her husband, Joseph Smith Sr., were surely accustomed to this. But the cruelties of Far West nearly broke the spirit of the noble patriarch as he was forced to watch his sons suffer when he was powerless to help them in any way. Lucy Smith recorded in her "History of Joseph Smith by His Mother":
"Mr. Smith and myself stood in the door of the house. No tongue can ever express the sound conveyed to our ears. It was like the screeching of a hundred owls mingled with the howling of an army of bloodhounds and the screaming of a thousand panthers all famishing for the prey which was being torn piecemeal among them. Mr. Smith, grasping his sides, cried, groaning, ‘Oh, my God! my God! they have murdered my son and I must die, for I cannot live without him!’"
Parley P. Pratt, under guard of soldiers, walked through the cold rain and entered the 10-foot-square hut which was now the only shelter his family had, since his house had been destroyed by the mob. He said in his autobiography titled "Autobiography of Parly P. Pratt":
"There lay my wife sick of a fever, with which she had been for some time confined. At her breast was our son, Nathan, an infant of three months, and by her side a little girl of five years. I stepped to the bed; my wife burst into tears; I spoke a few words of comfort, telling her to try to live for my sake and the children’s. ... She promised to try to live. I then embraced and kissed the little babies and departed."
When Joseph and Hyrum Smith were imprisoned, Mary Fielding Smith, Hyrum’s wife, was left with the care of his family and gave birth to her first child a few days after their departure. She then contracted a severe cold, with chills and fever, being brought near to the point of death. She expressed her feelings in a letter to her brother Joseph Fielding, as quoted in Carol Cornwall Madsen's "In Their Own Words":
"I was at least four months entirely unable to take any care either of myself or child; but the Lord was merciful in so ordering things that my dear sister could be with me. Her child was five months old, so she had strength given her to nurse them both."
These women and countless others like them endured — not because they were compelled to, but because they chose to: a positive, courageous choice empowered by faith.
As quoted in Madsen's book, Mary also wrote this to her brother, who was serving a mission in England:
"We are now living in Commerce, on the bank of the great Mississippi River. The situation is very pleasant; you would be much pleased to see it. How long we may be permitted to enjoy it I know not; but the Lord knows what is best for us. I feel but little concerned about where I am, if I can keep my mind staid upon God; for, you know in this there is perfect peace. I believe the Lord is overruling all things for our good."
Parley Pratt was not released with Joseph and Hyrum Smith in the late spring of 1839, but suffered imprisonment for nearly nine months, and he was at length able to escape and make a hazardous and painful way to Quincy, Ill., where his wife was living. She had received word that her husband might be at last coming home.
Describing the event he wrote in his autobiography, "We dismounted and gave a gentle knock at the door. She had watched for four successive nights and most of the fifth, and had now just lain down and given up all for lost. On hearing the knock she sprang from bed and opened the door, and in another instant I had clasped her in my arms."
Wrought upon by fear and anxiety, the early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pushed it all aside and concentrated on what they knew and what they wanted: truth revealed from heaven and a place in the kingdom of God after the trials of this life were through, knowing, as only the proven can know, that the Lord would overrule all things for their good.
Lucy Smith wrote in her "History of Joseph Smith by His Mother" about spending a night alone, guarding the Book of Mormon manuscript in a trunk beneath her bed:
"Shall I fear what man can do? Will not the angels watch over the precious relic of the worthy dead and the hope of the living? ... My heart bounded at the thought of the great condescension of the Almighty."
In a way, our entire mortal lives are "waiting upon the Lord" — to see his arm bared, to see his purposes fulfilled, written upon our hearts and revealed before our eyes.
The simple majesty in the lives of the faithful gives a more thrilling and sacred meaning to the poetic utterance of Isaiah:
"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31).
Susan Evans McCloud is author of more than 40 books and has published screenplays, a book of poetry and lyrics, including two in the LDS hymnbook. She has six children. She blogs at susanevansmccloud.blogspot.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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