Testimonies for the Truth – Part Three
If you would like to catch up with the amazing story of Brother Benjamin Brown, you can do so by clicking here. Enjoy this third part of the series! Just one more part left to post after this one.
THE AUTHOR, WITH HIS FAMILY AND OTHERS, REMOVES TO NAUVOO– HE AND HIS FAMILY FALL SICK– HE IS MIRACULOUSLY HEALED THROUGH JOSEPH SMITH– ACQUIRES CONSIDERABLE PROPERTY, AND BECOMES INTIMATELY ACQUAINTED WITH THE PROPHET–IS APPOINTED ON MISSIONS TO ALBANY AND THE EASTERN STATES; ALSO, WITH ELDER J. W. CROSBY, TO NOVA SCOTIA–THEY STAY TO PREACH IN JEFFERSON COUNTY, NEW YORK, AND RAISE SIX BRANCHES OF THE CHURCH– TRAVEL THROUGH MONTREAL AND QUEBEC, TO NEW BRUNSWICK– ARE INVITED TO PREACH THERE–BAPTISMS–PERSECUTION ARISES– THE AUTHOR WAYLAID BY A MOB, BEATEN, AND LEFT FOR DEAD– ATTACK ON THE HOUSE WHERE HE AND ELDER CROSBY WERE IN BED- THE MOB DISPERSED BY MRS. SHELTON–THEY RETURN AND REATTACK THE HOUSE– ARE DISPERSED BY MR. SHELTON–TWO BRANCHES ORGANIZED.
The doctrine of gathering had been taught the Saints at Promphret, and, in common with the others, I felt a great desire to gather up and live with the body of the Church. With this idea I endeavoured to dispose of my farm, but failure in my efforts to do this, was the only thing that saved me from a share in the Missouri persecutions.
The winter previous to the poisoning case, I sold my farm, and the time for me to vacate expired just before this took place. For several months I was preparing to remove, getting teams, wagons, etc. When the time arrived, with my wife and children, and part of the branch, including the woman who had been poisoned, and her husband, I started to find the Church, thinking it was still in Missouri, though we had heard that it had been mobbed and broken up. We journeyed until we came to Springfield, about a hundred miles from Nauvoo, where we met with some brethren, who had been driven out of Missouri, and who told us that the Church was collecting in Nauvoo, then called Commerce. We turned our course in that direction, and arrived there in June, the weather being very warm at the time.
We found Brothers Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon there, with a few others. The rest were coming in daily in a most distressed condition. Many of them were sick, and they had no house to enter when they arrived. The nature of the climate, combined with the hardships they had endured, soon made those ill who were, not so previously. Numbers of the sick and dying had to lie on the ground, with only a blanket over them. No springs or wells were handy, and the Mississippi waters were unfit to drink, so that many had to go miles for water to give to the afflicted. Sometimes one would go on horseback with a jug, and fetch a little for the sick, and take it round to them. It was frequently declared that the persecutions in Missouri were small matters compared to the miseries endured at this period in Nauvoo.
My family, with myself, were also taken sick, and I laid so for two or three weeks. I was so far gone that I was quite senseless, and all thought I was dying. Doubtless I should have died, but one day Joseph Smith was passing by my door, for I had managed to procure a house, and was called in, and, as I was afterwards informed, laid his hands upon me, and commanded me to rise and walk in the name of the Lord. The first thing I knew was that I found myself walking on the floor, perfectly well, and within ten minutes afterwards I was out of the house visiting my daughter, whom I had not seen for nearly a month. I felt so full of joy and happiness, that I was greatly surprised that everyone else was not as full of praise as myself. This was the second time that I had been healed instantly by the power of God, through his servants.
This man, Joseph Smith, was the one that the world says was an impostor, and a false prophet, and either deny that he ever performed any miracle, or, if any are too well attested to be denied, attribute them to the power of the imagination over the body. Was it the power of imagination over the body, that cured me, when I did not even hear Joseph’s voice, or know that any operation on my behalf was going on, until I found myself well? The honest in heart will judge righteously. Attempts had been made to build a city at this spot, previous to the entrance of the Saints, but all the inhabitants, with the exception of three or four families, had died, and the Saints used the deserted houses as far as they would go. It was a common saying among the inhabitants of the surrounding country, that, if the “Mormons” could live here, they could live anywhere. It truly was a most unhealthy spot, filled with ponds and stagnant waters, left by the overflowing of the Mississippi River, afflicting all the neighborhood with fevers and agues. From this condition I saw the city become, through the industry of the Saints, a healthy and prosperous place, being drained of these swamps, etc.
I lived there until I had accumulated a pretty handsome property. During this period, about seven years, I had frequent opportunities of continuing my acquaintance with Joseph Smith, seeing him mostly every day. From my actual knowledge, I can testify to the purity and uprightness of his life, and I know that he was a man of God. I had every opportunity to acquire this information, for, when escaping from his enemies, he has lived sometimes for a week at a time in my residence.
During this period, several missions were appointed me, one to the north of Albany, where I succeeded in baptizing a good number; another to the Eastern States. About a year previous to the death of Joseph, with Jesse W. Crosby, who had friends in that part, I was assigned a mission to Nova Scotia. Our route lay through Chicago, a distance of two hundred miles, which we walked. We then by steamer passed down the northern lakes to Buffalo, a journey of at least a thousand miles, and again took steamer on Lake Ontario, about four hundred miles further, and arrived at Sackett’s Harbor. As we were destitute of means to prosecute our journey further, and as I had some relatives living at hand, we concluded to stop and preach awhile, until we could procure means to go on, but the weather coming on very cold, the waters froze up, and we were compelled to spend the winter in this place.
This brought me into the region of country where I had lived for ten years when a young man. The first place we commenced at was in the town of Lime, Jefferson County, New York. Here we procured a schoolhouse as usual. The custom in America in laying out townships, which are usually about six miles square, is in every two-mile lot to apportion a piece of land for a schoolhouse. When the schoolhouse is built, it is public property, and is vested in the hands of three trustees. This enabled us to sound the gospel in America easier, in some respects, than in England, for the consent of any two of the trustees had only to be obtained and we could use the room as much as we pleased after the school hours.
Two ministers, who usually occupied the room, greatly opposed us at the close of our preaching. They endeavoured to set the people against us, but these ministers displayed such a weak, mean spirit, that their congregation left them. One minister, who had a regular salary, with a small farm, for his preaching, had them taken from him, and many of his followers became members of the Church. We confined our labors chiefly to Jefferson County, where we found a few scattered members, and managed to raise up some six branches, consisting of about two hundred members. These were abundantly blessed with the gifts of tongues, prophecy, healings, etc., and the branches became very strong in the faith.
While we were here, I felt very anxious to know of the position of affairs at headquarters, and besought the Lord to enlighten me on the subject. He did so, revealing unto me, through the gift of tongues the interpretation of which was given to myself, many things concerning the Church, the temple ordinances at Nauvoo, and several other things, that I found, on my return to that place, to be strictly true.
Just at this time the spring was coming on, and the St. Lawrence River began to clear from ice, so that we were able to continue our journey to Nova Scotia. Previous to our departure we had a farewell meeting with the Saints. It was a delightful meeting, and they rejoiced much, for the Spirit of the Lord was greatly poured out. During the meeting, a little boy stood up and spoke in tongues, the tears rolling down his face all the time. The interpretation stated that, after leaving that place, I should go to another, where I should be mobbed and left for dead, and that the blood should run down from my head on my clothes and the ground. I took this for a timely warning, and thought that, by prudence, I might escape. Accordingly, by great caution, I kept clear of much that I might have suffered.
We passed down the St. Lawrence River, and, after preaching a few times at Montreal, passed on to Quebec, where we distributed a few books, but the priests would not allow us to preach. At this place we wished to take the steamboat to Nova Scotia, but our means were inadequate, and the captain refused to lower the fare. Again we were frustrated in our purpose to proceed on our mission.
This was our position, when one day as I and Elder Crosby were walking about Quebec, wondering what we should do to accomplish our purpose, we came in contact with a gentleman, who told us a plan by which we might fulfil our mission–going on a sailing vessel to the mouth of the river Delieu, then by land to the headwaters of St. Johns River, (to) New Brunswick; he recommended us then to buy a canoe, and paddle down that river to the mouth, where we could for a small sum take ship any day for Nova Scotia.
This advice, we concluded to act upon, but, before we left Quebec, as our journey seemed to be diverted from its original purpose, I prayed the Lord to show us, in vision, those people among whom he wished us to stop, and confine our efforts, for our mission to Nova Scotia had been assigned to us at the request of Brother Crosby, whose friends lived in that part, and was more to comply with his desire than from any prior intention the Presidency had, with regard to the place.
Descending St. Johns River, in the canoe, we overtook a man on a raft, who asked us several questions, and finally we told him that we were preachers of the gospel. After hearing this, he invited us to stop at his house, about twenty miles further down the river, and preach there on Sunday. This we did. We had a large congregation, and found a fine opening for the spread of the truth.
At the close of the meeting, at which I preached, and Elder Crosby bore testimony, we were invited to dine with a family resident there. The wife of our host told us that, about two or three months before, the minister that had preached in that part of the country, left, and they were without any religious instructor, when she prayed the Lord to send some faithful person to supply his place. Thus engaged, she was shown in a vision two men, the elder of whom was preaching, but the other delivered an exhortation of a different kind. The doctrine, she said, was new to her, but it seemed true. She also recollected distinctly the clothes and appearance of these men, and, to her great surprise and pleasure, recognized them in Elder Crosby and myself, directly we entered the room. Of course our hearts were cheered at hearing this, and we felt assured that the Lord was working in the vineyard with his servants. Many, who find no difficulty in believing that the Lord, whom they declare all the while to be unchangeable, did such things anciently, [See case of Saul’s vision of Ananias coming to him, and laying hands on him. Acts ix.] may think such things marvelous, and refuse to credit them, but the faith of such will condemn their practice.
We commenced to baptize soon after the foregoing occurrence, and the Spirit of the Lord was mightily poured out, in proportion to which the powers of darkness began to manifest themselves through the unbelievers. But that which enraged our opponents most was the baptism of some of the greatest men in the place. All manner of lies began to circulate about our conduct and intention. Amongst other things, it was stated that we were in the habit of interrupting public meetings, and many such statements were privately forwarded to the governor of New Brunswick by the religious ministers and other of our enemies. This led him to send down an order to three justices of the peace to convene a meeting, and produce whatever kind of evidence could be procured, either for or against, and report accordingly.
Before this meeting was held, we ascertained that these justices, who were our most bitter enemies, had been searching the law books for something to lay hold of us with, and had found an old statute, applying to the whole of the province, forbidding all dissenters to hold public religious services, without a written license from the governor. But the spirit of their purpose was shown by the fact that they had never put this law in force against the numerous dissenters that had flourished there–in fact, two of these justices were dissenters themselves.
The day of the meeting arrived, and all manner of witnesses that could be raked together were produced–amongst others a negro’s evidence was taken, who had previously been convicted of taking a false oath. But for the purposes of this holy tribunal this testimony was good enough! What mattered? He was not for the defense–upon which side of the question it did not occur to the justices, as a necessary thing, to call for any witnesses whatever.
I quickly discovered that it was high time to stir in the matter, or possibly the next discovery would be that we were inmates of a jail; so taking the advice of Squire Shelton, a gentleman whom we had baptized, I waited with him on Judge Bardsley, the judge of the county, who had frequently attended our meetings, and I procured a certificate from him that he had done so, and had heard nothing injurious to the people or the government. And with this and a similar certificate from Mr. Shelton, who was also a justice of the peace, Brother Crosby and I went to the governor’s residence, and procured an interview, but we found him most terribly prejudiced against us, and very ignorant of law and gospel. He broke down, however, before the arguments of his aid-de-camp and counsel, who pleaded on our behalf, after battling with him for about two hours. The result was, that all law proceedings against us were stopped.
This enraged our enemies so much that our lives became endangered, and, to escape their violence, we had to sleep in the woods, and do our baptizing in the night, as their determination was to mob us the first opportunity. Unfortunately one of them overheard me promise to visit one of the brethren after I had been preaching one day. This mobber, with a party of about ten others, waylaid me. Some of them held me while the rest beat me about the head with their fists; but not being able to bruise me sufficiently in this manner, one of them took off one of my boots, and belabored me about the head with the heel of it, until I was covered with blood, which ran down onto my clothes and the ground. Some of them then threw me down, and jumped upon me with their knees, until they broke several of my ribs.
All this while I had been calling out loudly, whenever they did not stop my mouth. But it suddenly occurred to me that, if I feigned myself dead, they would leave me, thinking their murderous work accomplished, so I groaned loudly as if dying, and resigned myself into their hands, holding my breath as much as possible. This succeeded, the darkness of the night favoring my purpose, and they left me, and ran off as fast as they could. Directly they were gone, I arose, though with great difficulty, and went into a house not far from there, where I washed the blood off my person, and Elder Crosby, who also came there, laid hands upon me. The mob, however, by some means discovering that I was not yet dead, and that Elder Crosby was with me, met and resolved to attack the house that night, and, if possible, get possession of both of us, after which they purposed to cut off Elder Crosby’s ears, tar and feather us, carry us out into the middle of St. Johns River, and, after tying stones to our feet, sink us both.
The first intimation that we received of this determination was by a wooden rail being hurled against the window. The rail broke through the window, came in upon the bed where we were sleeping, and awoke us both. We immediately sprang up, and Elder Crosby rushed to the door where they were hammering to get in. He held it as well as he could, but in another moment they would have succeeded, had not Mrs. Shelton, who had been alarmed by the noise, come upon them unexpectedly with a lighted candle, and surprised them in the act. This frightened them, and alarmed lest they should be known, they fled with the rest that had been posted at the other parts of the house.
We were quiet after this for about an hour, and Justice Shelton, at whose house we were stopping, went to alarm the neighbors, and his son who lived some distance off, so that we might have assistance in case of the mob returning. The mob returned while he was gone, having recruited their spirits with whiskey. They made a second attack upon the house, trying another door this time. But Elder Crosby held the door, with an iron grasp, and the resolution of a lion, so they were again unsuccessful.
After drinking round, they tried a third time, and one of them managed to get his arm through the door opening, but while doing so he was caught round the waist in the arms of Mr. Shelton’s son, who, with several others, entered the place at that moment. And thus the Lord delivered us out of their hands, for they were not long dispersing themselves after this. Several of them were recognized by our friends. These Mr. Shelton put under bonds, but they threatened to burn his house and barn, if he attempted to prosecute, and fearing that the government, from its dislike to the Saints, would refuse to back him up, he was compelled to let these mobbers go, and we remained without redress. In the foregoing recital, the reader will perceive how fully the word of the Lord, spoken in tongues by the youth, before we left Jefferson County, was fulfilled.
The next day, by the blessing of God, I recovered sufficiently to walk seventeen miles and preach, but my face was discolored, and I could only see with one eye. I took for my text Paul’s words, “thrice have I been beaten with stripes, etc.,” and, as may be supposed, my personal appearance furnished a very favorable evidence on behalf of my argument, that the same effects–violence and death, followed the preaching of the gospel in these days, as did anciently.
Notwithstanding the above, we did not leave the country, but continued to preach, fearless of opposition, until we had baptized about fifty, out of which we organized two branches. These were also visited abundantly with the signs following, and the Saints rejoiced greatly in the work. The persecution was a failure in Satan’s calculation, it only excited curiosity, and awakened attention to our principles.
Many writers against the Latter-day Saints, not wishing to allow that it is God’s providence that sustained and gave prosperity to them under the persecutions they have met with, have argued that it is the natural tendency of persecution to help rather than hinder those against whom it is directed. This is not disputed, for without doubt the Lord would not have permitted the Saints to have been persecuted had he not known that the “natural tendency” of it was for their good. Therefore, this argument only proves the Lord’s providence to have been in their favor. But although persecution, in one view, may have benefitted the truth, it was not that that gave the Saints their love to Joseph Smith and his principles, and enabled the Saints to stand by him and his principles, even to the shedding of blood. Verily no! it was the individual knowledge the Saints had received by revelation from God, unto themselves, that gave them their strength and fortitude. For instance, was it persecution that made the narrator of the foregoing facts, firm to the cause of “Mormonism,” through journeyings, hardships, and mobbings? No! all that persecution did for him was to establish still more firmly that which he already knew–that Satan was opposed to “Mormonism.” For he naturally argued thus–“here is persecution, now as the Lord or his servants never persecute, my enemies must be influenced by some other power, which must come from beneath; I am opposed to that power, therefore I am on the Lord’s side;” and he rejoiced accordingly, and felt to cling more closely to a people opposed from such a quarter. Here it will be seen that the mainstay of his attachment to this people did not lie in the “natural tendency” of persecution to bind the persecuted ones together, but in the “natural tendency” of revelation from God to give stability and firmness to the character, although he certainly gained additional testimony to the truths he believed in, by observing the fiendish source from which such opposition came.
End of Chapter III
To continue reading please go ahead with Testimonies for the Truth – Part Four