I have recently read a book loaned to me by a dear friend titled, “The Fate of the Persecutors of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, by N.B. Lundwall. Contained in the pages of the book is an in depth account given by John Taylor regarding the events that took place just prior to, and during the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, in Carthage jail. John Taylor, having been there himself, and suffering injuries from the same mob attack, gave his first-person account of the dreadful scene that occurred on that fateful day. For many years I have been plagued by the accounts given in Heber C. Kimball and Wilford Woodruff’s journals that have opined that the last act done by Joseph Smith prior to his falling from the window was a Masonic sign of distress. They were simply not there to witness it personally. This has never made any sense to me, and has been hard for me to believe. I hope to explain why.
Joseph Smith had learned very early in his ministry what would happen to him if he trusted in the “arm of flesh” instead of the Lord. As early as Section 3 in the Doctrine and Covenants, when he caved to the pressure of Martin Harris, resulting in the loss of the 116 pages of translated manuscript, he was taught by the Lord to fear God and not man.
Doctrine and Covenants 3:1 The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught.
2 For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round.
3 Remember, remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men;
4 For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him.
5 Behold, you have been entrusted with these things, but how strict were your commandments; and remember also the promises which were made to you, if you did not transgress them.
6 And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men.
7 For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God. Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words—
8 Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble.
9 Behold, thou art Joseph, and thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou art not aware thou wilt fall.
10 But remember, God is merciful; therefore, repent of that which thou hast done which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen, and art again called to the work;
The loss of the manuscript and the temporary power to translate was a painful memory and a lesson well learned early on in his life, it was one he never forgot. I know that Joseph Smith understood from this experience the importance of relying solely on the Lord in his times of distress. For more proof of this fact, while in Liberty Jail the prophet sought the Lord diligently.
Doctrine and Covenants 121: 1 O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?
2 How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?
3 Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them?
4 O Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol—stretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy pavilion be taken up; let thy hiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine heart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward us.
As the Prophet Joseph Smith was being taken to
John Taylor, after having been shot himself, did not notice the circumstances of Joseph at the window until he noticed someone cry that he had leaped out of the window. He did not hear Joseph say anything at the time. When Willard Richards, who had escaped the shower of bullets unharmed, noticed John Taylor was still alive he reacted in this way, “Oh! Brother Taylor, is it possible that they have killed both Brother Hyrum and Joseph? It cannot surely be, and yet I saw them shoot them.” He then elevated his hands two or three times and exclaimed, “Oh Lord, my God, spare thy servants!” This seems to be the same manner in which Joseph was reported to have called upon the Lord before he fell from the window.
Although a normal attitude of prayer does not require the elevation of hands, there are certain prayers that do. Some may claim this to be a Masonic distress sign, but for me, I know that there is absolutely no way on this green earth that Joseph, in his time of complete submission to the will of the Lord, would have relied on the arm of man to spare him. He would have never relied on the Masons over the Lord. He had learned that lesson far too long ago.
I knew it, I simply knew it!