Calling all Church history buffs!
Want to know more about all things Joseph Smith? Look no further. The Church history YouTube page just released six new videos on the Restoration and Joseph Smith’s life by volume editors for the Joseph Smith Papers Project.
Not only do the videos provide insight about Church history—we heard quite a few references to events written about in Saints Vol. 1.! We’ve compiled some of these excerpts to give you more reference as you watch the videos below.
1. Recording Baptisms for the Dead in Nauvoo
Brett D. Dowdle explains how Joseph Smith introduced the concept of baptisms for the dead to the Saints in Nauvoo. Dowdle mentions that the Saints would record the baptisms in different record books and how Joseph Smith advocated for better record keeping. This was an important change in the Church as records became more reliable.
Fun Fact: Baptisms for the dead were originally performed in the Mississippi River!
Saints Vol. 1 excerpt, from chapter 46
As the workers prepared the attic of the temple for the endowment and sealings, baptisms for the dead continued in the basement. Under the Lord’s direction, Brigham instructed that men should no longer be baptized for women nor women for men.
“Joseph in his lifetime did not receive everything connected with the doctrine of redemption,” Brigham had taught the Saints earlier that year, “but he has left the key with those who understand how to obtain and teach to this great people all that is necessary for their salvation and exaltation in the celestial kingdom of our God.”
The change to the ordinance showed how the Lord continued to reveal His will to His people. “The Lord has led this people all the while in this way,” Brigham declared, “by giving them here a little and there a little. Thus He increases their wisdom, and he that receives a little and is thankful for that shall receive more and more and more.”
2. Worship Services in the Unfinished Nauvoo Temple
Spencer W. McBride explains to viewers the significance of the Nauvoo temple. The completion of the temple was long awaited by the Saints in Nauvoo. However, even though the temple was not fully completed, the Latter-day Saints still used finished parts of the temple for ordinance work.
Fun Fact: The Saints still met in the temple on a temporary floor even when there was no roof!
Saints Vol. 1 excerpt, from chapter 46
By December the temple’s attic was finished, and the apostles prepared it for the endowment. With the help of other Saints, they hung heavy curtains to divide the large hall into several rooms decorated with plants and murals. At the east end of the attic, they partitioned off a large space for the celestial room, the most sacred place in the temple, and adorned it with mirrors, paintings, maps, and a magnificent marble clock.
The apostles then invited the Saints to enter the temple to receive their blessings. Men and women who had previously been endowed now took turns performing the various roles in the ceremony. Guiding the Saints through the rooms of the temple, they taught them more about God’s plan for His children and placed them under additional covenants to live the gospel and consecrate themselves to building His kingdom.
Vilate Kimball and Ann Whitney administered the washing and anointing ordinances to the women. Eliza Snow then ushered the women through the rest of the ordinances, aided by other previously endowed women. Brigham called Mercy Thompson to move into the temple full-time to assist in the work there.
After the start of the new year, the apostles began sealing couples together for time and eternity. Soon, more than a thousand couples received the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. Among them were Sally and William Phelps, Lucy and Isaac Morley, Ann and Philo Dibble, Caroline and Jonathan Crosby, Lydia and Newel Knight, Drusilla and James Hendricks, and other women and men who had followed the church from place to place, consecrating their lives to Zion.
The apostles also sealed children to parents and men and women to spouses who had passed away. Joseph Knight Sr., who had rejoiced with Joseph on the morning he brought the gold plates home, was sealed vicariously to his wife, Polly, the first Saint buried in Jackson County, Missouri. Some Saints also participated in special adoption sealings that joined them to the eternal families of close friends.
3. Missouri’s First Attempt to Extradite Joseph Smith
Jordan T. Watkins speaks about the state of Missouri and its attempt to bring Joseph Smith back for trial. The Missouri Governor issued an arrest warrant for Joseph Smith. However, Joseph Smith knew the order was forthcoming and went into hiding.
Fun Fact: While Joseph Smith was in hiding, he issued the practice of baptisms for the dead.
A few weeks after Joseph Sr.’s death, the Saints gathered in Nauvoo for the October 1840 general conference. Joseph taught them more about baptism for the dead, explaining that the spirits of the dead were waiting for their living kindred to receive the saving ordinance in their behalf.
Between sessions of the conference, the Saints rushed to the Mississippi River, where several elders stood waist-deep in the water, beckoning them to be baptized for their deceased grandparents, fathers, mothers, siblings, and children. Soon after, Hyrum was baptized for his brother Alvin.
As Vilate Kimball watched the elders in the river, she longed to be baptized for her mother, who had died more than a decade earlier. She wished Heber [C. Kimball] was back from England to perform the ordinance, but since Joseph had urged the Saints to redeem the dead as soon as possible, she decided to be baptized for her mother right away.
Emma Smith’s thoughts were also on family. Her father, Isaac Hale, had passed away in January 1839. He had never reconciled with her and Joseph. Some years before his death, he had even allowed critics of the Church to publish a letter he had written condemning Joseph and calling the Book of Mormon “a silly fabrication of falsehood and wickedness.”
Still, Emma loved her father and was baptized for him in the river. He had not accepted the restored gospel in this life, but she hoped it would not be that way forever.
4. Missouri’s Second Attempt to Extradite Joseph Smith
In a second video, Jordan T. Watkins and Brett D. Dowdle explain Missouri’s second attempt to extradite Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith was accused of attempting to assassinate the former governor of Missouri. Latter-day Saints took legal precautions to protect Joseph Smith from being arrest, however their precautions did not work. Later, Joseph was released and went back into hiding.
With sheriffs threatening to search every house in Illinois if necessary, Joseph knew the Saints worried that he would soon be captured and taken back to Missouri. Some of his friends urged him to escape to the pine forests north of Illinois, where Saints were harvesting timber for the temple.
Joseph hated the idea of running away, preferring to stay in Illinois and see the crisis to the end. But he was willing to go if that was what Emma wanted to do. “My safety is with you,” he wrote. “If you and the children go not with me, I don’t go.”
Part of him yearned to take his family somewhere else, if only for a short time. “I am tired of the mean, low, and unhallowed vulgarity of some portions of the society in which we live,” he told Emma, “and I think if I could have a respite of about six months with my family, it would be a savor of life unto life.”
Emma responded to his letter later that day. “I am ready to go with you if you are obliged to leave,” she wrote, “but still I feel good confidence that you can be protected without leaving this country. There are more ways than one to take care of you.”
The next evening, she wrote a letter to Illinois governor Thomas Carlin assuring him of Joseph’s innocence. Joseph was not in Missouri when the assassination attempt took place, she reasoned, and he was innocent of the charges against him. She believed that Joseph would never get a fair trial in Missouri and would likely be murdered instead.
“I beg you to spare my innocent children the heartrending sorrow of again seeing their father unjustly dragged to prison, or to death,” she pleaded.
The governor responded to Emma a short time later. His letter was polite and carefully worded, insisting that his actions against Joseph were motivated strictly by a sense of duty. He expressed hope that Joseph would submit to the law, and he gave no indication that he was willing to change his mind on the matter.
Undeterred, Emma wrote a second letter, this time explaining why arresting her husband was illegal.
“What good can accrue to this state or the United States, or any part of this state or the United States, or to yourself, or any other individual,” she asked the governor, “to continue this persecution upon this people, or upon Mr. Smith?”
She sent the letter and waited for a reply.
Meanwhile, most Saints in Nauvoo were unaware that Joseph was hiding only a few miles away. Some of them believed he had returned to Washington, DC. Others thought he had gone to Europe. As they watched the sheriff and his officers prowl the streets of Nauvoo, searching for clues to Joseph’s whereabouts, the Saints grew anxious about his safety. Yet they trusted that the Lord would protect His prophet, and they went on with day to day life.
5. Missouri’s Third Attempt to Extradite Joseph Smith
David W. Grua speaks about the third attempt by Missouri to have Joseph Smith extradited. Another warrant was issued for Joseph Smith and plans were made to have him arrested again. Officers had tracked him down and he was taken into custody. However, local attorneys intervened on Joseph’s behalf and Joseph was able to make a civil charge against his captors.
Joseph’s captors were law enforcement officers from Illinois and Missouri. That afternoon they locked him in a nearby tavern and refused to let him see a lawyer. Acting quickly, Stephen reported Joseph’s mistreatment to local authorities, who soon had the officers arrested for kidnapping and abuse. Stephen then helped to secure a writ of habeas corpus from a nearby court official. The writ required Joseph to attend a hearing sixty miles away.
When they found out the judge was not in town, Joseph, his captors, and his captors’ captors set out to find another court that could sort out the legal mess.
In Nauvoo, Wilson Law and Hyrum learned of Joseph’s capture and enlisted more than a hundred men to rescue him. They sent some men up the river on a steamer while they ordered others to ride on horseback in every direction and search for the prophet.
When his first two rescuers came into sight, Joseph was relieved. “I am not going to Missouri this time,” he told his captors. “These are my boys.” Soon the two rescuers became twenty—and then more. They turned the party toward Nauvoo, where they believed the municipal court could rule on the legality of the warrant.
By midday the prophet approached the city, flanked by a few lawmen and his rescuers on horseback. Emma, who had already returned to Nauvoo with the children, rode out with Hyrum to meet Joseph as the Nauvoo Brass Band played patriotic songs and people fired guns and cannons in celebration. A parade of carriages soon joined them, drawn by horses decorated with prairie flowers.
Crowds lined both sides of the street to cheer the prophet’s safe return as the procession passed in front of them, winding its way slowly to Joseph’s home. When it arrived, Lucy Smith embraced her son, and his children rushed out of the house to see him.
“Pa,” said seven-year-old Frederick, “the Missourians won’t take you again, will they?”
“I am out of the hands of the Missourians again, thank God,” Joseph said, climbing atop a fence to address the hundreds of Saints who had gathered around him. “I thank you all for your kindness and love to me,” he cried. “I bless you all in the name of Jesus Christ.”
6. The Rise and Fall of John C. Bennett
Elizabeth A. Kuehn and Matthew C. Godfrey discuss the historical figure John C. Bennett. Bennett was the quartermaster general of Illinois at the time that he became interested in joining the Saints in Nauvoo. Joseph Smith invited Bennett to move to Nauvoo, where Bennett was later baptized. As time wore on, however, Bennett was excommunicated for severe misconduct.
John Bennett was still in Nauvoo two weeks after he learned of his excommunication. By then the Relief Society had warned the women in the city about his crimes and fervently condemned the kind of lies he had spread about church leaders. More unsavory information about John’s past had also surfaced, and Joseph realized it was time to announce the former mayor’s excommunication and publicly expose his grave sins.
On June 15, Joseph published a short notice of John’s excommunication in the Times and Seasons. A few days later, in a sermon at the temple site, he spoke plainly to more than a thousand Saints about John’s lies and exploitation of women.
John stormed out of Nauvoo three days later, saying the Saints were unworthy of his presence and threatening to send a mob after the Relief Society. Unfazed, Emma proposed that the Relief Society put together a pamphlet that denounced John’s character. “We have nothing to do but fear God and keep the commandments,” she told the women, “and in so doing we shall prosper.”
Joseph published an additional indictment against John, detailing the ex-mayor’s long history of deviance. “Instead of manifesting a spirit of repentance,” Joseph declared, “he has to the last proved himself to be unworthy of the confidence or regard of any upright person by lying to deceive the innocent and committing adultery in the most abominable and degraded manner.”
John, meanwhile, rented a room in a nearby town and sent bitter letters about Joseph and the Saints to a popular newspaper in Illinois. He accused Joseph of a host of crimes, including many that he himself had committed, and wove wildly false and exaggerated stories to support his claims and cover his sins.
In one letter, John accused Joseph of ordering the May shooting of Lilburn Boggs, repeating the story from the newspaper that the prophet had foretold Boggs’s violent death and adding that Joseph had sent his friend and bodyguard Porter Rockwell to Missouri “to fulfill prophecy.”
Lead image a screenshot from YouTube