“Extract, from the Private Journal of Joseph Smith Jr.,” July 1839

“Extract, from the Private Journal of Joseph Smith Jr.,” July 1839

from the private journal of
On the fourteenth day of March, in  the year of our Lord one thousand  eight hundred and thirty eight, I with  my family, arrived in Far West, Cald well county Missouri, after a journey  of more than one thousand miles, in  the winter season, and being about  eight weeks on our Journey; during  which we suffered great affliction, and  met with considerable persecution on  the road.1

JS’s bill of damages notes that expenditures for the journey amounted to “about two hundred dollars.” JS later recounted that tavern keepers in Paris, Illinois, had combined to deny the Latter-day Saints lodging, which JS and others secured for their families only after threatening the use of force. (JS, Journal, 29 Dec. 1842; see also JS, Journal, 29 Mar. 1838.)  

However, the prospect of  meeting my friends in the west, and  anticipating the pleasure of dwelling  in peace, and enjoying the blessings  thereof, buoyed me up under the diffi culties and trials which I had then to  endure.2

The previous sentence does not appear in JS’s bill of damages. On the conditions attending JS’s departure from Ohio, see Historical Introduction to Journal, Mar.–Sept. 1838.  

However, I had not been  there long before I was given to un derstand that plots were laid, by wick ed and designing men, for my destruc tion, who sought every opportunity to  take my life; and that a company on  the Grindstone forks of Grand river,  in the county of Daviess, had offered  the sum of one thousand dollars for  my scalp: persons of whom I had no  knowledge whatever, and who, I sup pose, were entire strangers to me; and  in order to accomplish their wicked  design, I was frequently waylaid &c.;  consequently, my life was continually  in jeopardy.
I could hardly have given credit to  such statements, had they not been  corroborated by testimony, the most  strong and convincing; as shortly af ter my arrival at Far West, while wat ering my horse in Shoal Creek, I dis tinctly heard three or four guns snap,  which were undoubtedly intended for  my destruction; however, I was mer cifully preserved from those who  sought to destroy me, by their lurking  in the woods and hiding places, for  this purpose3

In the bill of damages, this sentence ends at “intended for my destruction.”  

My enemies were not confined alone,  to the ignorant and obscure, but men  in office, and holding situations under  the Governor of the State,4 proclaimed  themselves my enemies, and gave en couragement to others to destroy me;  amongst whom, was Judge [Austin A.] King, of  the fifth Judicial circuit,5

Missouri’s fifth judicial circuit covered the western counties north of the Missouri River. (History of Ray County, Mo., 260–261.)
Comprehensive Works Cited



History of Ray County, Missouri, Written and Compiled from the Most Authentic Official and Private Sources. . . . St. Louis, MO: Missouri Historical Co., 1881.

who has fre quently been heard to say, that I  ought to be beheaded on account of my  religion[.] Expressions such as these,  from individuals holding such impor tant offices as Judge King’s, could not  fail to produce, and encourage perse cution against me, and the people with  whom I was connected. And in con sequence of the prejudice which existed  in the mind of this Judge, which he  did not endeavor to keep secret, but  made it as public as he could, the peo ple took every advantage they possibly  could, in abusing me, and threatening  my life;6

JS’s bill of damages notes here that he was subjected to “vexatious law suits.”  

regardless of the laws, which [p. 2]
The historical account contained in “Extract, from the Private Journal of Joseph Smith Jr.” was composed in the aftermath of the 1838 armed conflict between the Latter-day Saints and other Missourians, a struggle that culminated in the incarceration of JS and the expulsion of the Saints from the state. On 20 March 1839, from the jail in Liberty, Missouri, JS wrote to the Saints instructing them to document “all the facts and suffering and abuses put upon them by the people of this state and also of all the property and amount of damages which they have sustained.”1

JS et al., Liberty, MO, to the church members and Edward Partridge, Quincy, IL, 20 Mar. 1839, in Revelations Collection, CHL [D&C 123:1–2]. In a letter to the church written three months earlier, JS had reflected on some of the causes leading to the expulsion. (JS, Liberty, MO, to “the church,” Caldwell Co., MO, 16 Dec. 1838, JS Collection, CHL.)
Comprehensive Works Cited



Revelations Collection, 1831–ca. 1844, 1847, 1861, ca. 1876. CHL.

Smith, Joseph. Collection, 1827–1846. CHL.

A month later, on 16 April, JS escaped from the custody of Missouri lawmen, and on 22 April he was reunited with the Mormon exiles in Quincy, Illinois. Within days he arranged extensive land purchases for Mormon settlement at nearby Commerce, Illinois, and across the Mississippi River in Iowa Territory. JS himself was among the initial Latter-day Saints to relocate to Commerce in May 1839. On 4 June 1839, during a visit to Quincy, JS created a record of his own Missouri losses, titled “Bill of Damages against the state of Missouri.”2

JS, “Bill of Damages against the State of Missouri[:] An Account of the Sufferings and Losses Sustained Therein,” Quincy, IL, 4 June 1839, JS Collection, CHL; see also JS, Journal, 27 May–8 June 1839.
Comprehensive Works Cited



Smith, Joseph. Collection, 1827–1846. CHL.

Written in the handwriting of JS’s recently appointed clerk, Robert B. Thompson, the bill of damages was created as a petition to the federal government for redress, and it became the basis of “Extract, from the Private Journal of Joseph Smith Jr.,” published in July 1839. The reference to a “private journal” in the title notwithstanding, the article was not in fact based on a journal source; JS’s bill of damages is the only known manuscript source. The manuscript is much more than a simple bill of damages, however, and the historical narrative it contains bridges the chronological gap between JS’s last Missouri journal and his first Illinois journal.3

The last entry in JS’s September–October 1838 journal is 5 October 1838. On that day, JS left Far West, Missouri, with a detachment of Mormon men to reinforce the besieged Saints in De Witt, Missouri; after an introductory overview, JS’s “Bill of Damages” begins with the De Witt conflict. The bill ends with JS’s escape from his captors on 16 April 1839 and his arrival in Quincy, Illinois, on 22 April 1839; the first two entries in JS’s 1839 journal resume JS’s journal keeping precisely at this point.  

After an introduction stating that JS encountered enmity from the moment of his arrival in Missouri in March 1838, “Extract, from the Private Journal” covers most of the significant episodes in the Missouri conflict. The first specific historical event is the siege of the Mormon settlement at De Witt in Carroll County. The article then narrates the subsequent conflict around Adam-ondi-Ahman in Daviess County, the battle at Crooked River with militia from Ray County, and the siege at Far West in Caldwell County. Also recounted are JS’s capture, imprisonment, and indictment, as well as the exodus of the Latter-day Saints to Illinois. The narrative draws to a close with JS’s escape and his flight from Missouri. Where the bill of damages ends with a list of losses and sufferings for which remuneration is sought, the “Extract” concludes with an address to the American people at large, appealing to the principles of liberty and justice.
“Extract, from the Private Journal of Joseph Smith Jr.” was published in the first issue of the church newspaper Times and Seasons. The prospectus published at the end of the issue declared that the newspaper would provide “a history of the unparallelled persecution, which we, as a people, received in Missouri”; the lead article in the issue, an “Address” from the editors, similarly announced that the newspaper’s mission included publication of “a detailed history of the persecution and suffering” experienced in Missouri.4

“Prospectus of the Times and Seasons,” Times and Seasons, July 1839, 1:16; Ebenezer Robinson and Don Carlos Smith, “Address,” Times and Seasons, July 1839, 1:1.
Comprehensive Works Cited



Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

“Extract, from the Private Journal” directly follows, taking up half of the issue’s sixteen pages. Times and Seasons editors Ebenezer Robinson and Don Carlos Smith printed only about two hundred copies of the July 1839 issue before a malaria epidemic left them debilitated.5

“To the Patrons of the Times and Seasons,” Times and Seasons, Nov. 1839, 1:15–16; Ebenezer Robinson, “Items of Personal History of the Editor,” The Return, May 1890, 257–258.
Comprehensive Works Cited



Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

The Return. Davis City, IA, 1889–1891; Richmond, MO, 1892–1893; Davis City, 1895–1896; Denver, 1898; Independence, MO, 1899–1900.

Months later they published a reprint of the first issue, including JS’s “Extract,” under a November 1839 date.6

It appears that there were three printings of the first issue of the Times and Seasons: the first in July; the second in November, from the same typesetting; and a third sometime thereafter, from a new setting of the text. The third printing, perhaps issued to satisfy increasing demand for the newspaper, retained the November 1839 date. Although minor spelling and punctuation changes appear in the later printings of the “Extract,” no changes were made to the wording. (See Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 1:94–95.)
Comprehensive Works Cited



Crawley, Peter. A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church. 2 vols. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997, 2005.

JS’s account of Missouri sufferings constituted part of a new genre of Mormon historical writing, and in the next issue, the Times and Seasons began publishing an eleven-part series on the Saints’ Missouri persecutions.7

See “A History, of the Persecution,” Times and Seasons, Dec. 1839–Oct. 1840.
Comprehensive Works Cited



Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

JS’s bill of damages was revised for publication as the “Extract” sometime between 4 June 1839, when the bill of damages was composed, and 12 July, when Wilford Woodruff recorded “looking over the proof sheet of the first number of the Times & seasons.”8

Woodruff, Journal, 12 July 1839.
Comprehensive Works Cited



Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. Also available as Wilford Woodruff’s Journals, 1833–1898, edited by Scott G. Kenney, 9 vols. (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983–1985).

JS returned to Commerce from Quincy on 5 June and remained in the area until 12 July, except for a 15–26 June journey through western Illinois. Therefore, JS’s narrative of Missouri persecutions was likely revised in Commerce between 5 and 14 June or between 27 June and 12 July.9

JS’s journal records that he was “dictating History” 10–14 June and 3–5 July 1839, which may have included the historical narrative in the “bill of damages” along with his ongoing work on a complete history of the church. (JS, Journal, 10–14 June and 3–5 July 1839.)  

The first issue of the Times and Seasons was probably published within a few days of 12 July, the day Wilford Woodruff helped check the proof sheet.
The first two-thirds of the “Extract” was based closely on “Bill of Damages,” with only minor editorial changes. The changes softened some of the manuscript’s more strident rhetoric, omitted particulars regarding JS’s personal losses, and added details to emphasize the suffering of the Saints. Significant differences between the two documents are explained in footnotes herein. The final section of the article, which did not come from the bill of damages, may have been dictated or written by JS, perhaps with help from clerical assistants Robert B. Thompson, James Mulholland, and George W. Robinson. The published “Extract” was disseminated to Saints throughout the nation via the newspaper, and the document shaped their memory of the persecution in Missouri and their pattern for rehearsing it. JS clearly intended to reach not only the Latter-day Saints subscribing to the church newspaper but also the greater American public. As part of JS’s effort to gain sympathy in the court of public opinion, this document became part of the broadening agenda of gaining redress for grievances suffered in Missouri.