Question & Story 3rd Day Christmas Past

Posted by on Dec 14, 2013 in Christmas Past 2013 | 7 comments

PrintQuestion 3rd Day Christmas Past:

Who spent Christmas in a Temple Prison and what was it like?

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On December 1, 1838, the Prophet Joseph, his brother Hyrum, and several other brethren were imprisoned in Liberty Jail in Missouri on trumped-up charges of murder and overt acts of treason, none of which was ever proven against them.  The Prophet and his companions found themselves in very difficult circumstances.  Liberty Jail was a basement dungeon of approximately 14 feet by 14 feet with only a trapdoor entrance from the main floor.  The ceiling was so low that the men couldn’t stand fully upright and were forced to sit or lie on the dirty, straw-covered floor, their legs shackled.

There was no stove for heating, and when they used an open fire, inadequate venting caused the room to fill with smoke, which made breathing difficult.  They had few blankets – certainly not enough to keep them warm in the freezing winter conditions – and the food was so bad they could hardly eat it.  It was a difficult time.  Joseph endured 5 months under these trying circumstances, including Christmas 1838.

The prisoners had suffered a week in the jail when Emma brought her 6-year-old son, Joseph, to visit.  Having no means by which to travel, Emma had borrowed a two-seat carriage and a “beautiful span of cream horses” to cover the 40 miles from Far West to Liberty.  With her were Phoebe Rigdon and Phoebe’s young son, John.  John remembered, “We started rather late in the morn and did not get to the jail til after dark and they would not let us go in till the next morn.  After taking breakfast at the hotel we were taken to the jail and there remained for three days.”

Emma was able to make a return visit on December 20, just before Christmas.  In the midst of such dire circumstances, the prisoners were cheered by the presence of their loved ones.  Joseph asked Emma if she could possibly bring some blankets for him.  But the request reduced her to tears because the mob had recently attacked her home and destroyed all but two of her blankets.  If she brought those to Joseph, then their children would go without.  Emma’s visits were the closest the family got to a Christmas celebration that year.

Just a week before Christmas, Joseph wrote words of encouragement to the Saints from the dungeon.  “Therefore God hath made broad our shoulders for the burden.  We glory in our tribulation, because we know that God is with us, that He is our friend, and that He will save our souls.”  Because of Joseph’s eventual triumph over these unjust and difficult events and the revelation and comfort the Lord gave to him while he was imprisoned, Liberty Jail has come to be known as a temple prison.

Porter, “Remembering Christmas Past”, p. 53

Willes, “Christmas with the Prophets”, p. 5-7

 

    7 Comments

  1. Joseph and Hyrum Smith and others spent Christmas in Liberty Jail in Missouri in 1838, under very trying circumstances. The space was so small they couldn’t stand upright. There was no heat except an open fire which caused the space to fill with smoke. They had few blankets, not enough to keep warm, and bad food. They were cheered just before Christmas by visits from Emma and some of the other wives and children, and because of revelation and comfort the Lord had given them while they were there, Liberty Jail has come to be known as the “temple prison.” What great faith the Prophet and those with him had to endure such deplorable circumstances, not only at this time but throughout his life.

  2. Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith spent Christmas, 1838 in the Liberty jail. The conditions were cold, dark, dirty and when they lit a fire to keep warm the basement room filled with smoke.

  3. The Prophet Joseph Smith, his brother Hyrum, and several other brethren were imprisoned at Liberty Jail. They were kept in a basement dungeon of approximately 14 feet by 14 feet with only a trapdoor entrance from the main floor. The ceiling was so low that the men couldn’t stand fully upright and were forced to sit or lie on the dirty, straw-covered floor, their legs shackled. There was no stove for heating. When they tried to make a fire, the inadequate venting caused the room to fill with smoke, which made breathing difficult. They had few blankets, certainly not enough to keep them warm in the freezing winter conditions. The food was so bad they could hardly eat it. Their circumstances were dire, but Joseph was still able to write words of encouragement to the Saints from the temple dungeon.

  4. The revelations received by Joseph Smith during this time in Liberty Jail are some of the most inspiring and comforting for us today.

  5. Liberty Jail is known as Temple Prison because of the events that took place there for the men who were forced to stay in the jail. In the 14 by 14 foot room, Joseph & Hyrum Smith, along with several other brethren were imprisoned. Even in the dark circumstances that the prophet and these brethren were forced into, there was still teaching that came from God. Joseph was able to comfort the saints, even from far away. He was quoted saying “Therefore God hath made broad our shoulders for the burden. We glory in our tribulation, because we know that God is with us, that He is our friend, and that He will save our souls.”

    The men suffered for a week in the jail before Joseph’s wife Emma came to visit. The ceiling was so low that the men couldn’t stand fully upright. They were forced to sit or lie on the dirty, straw-covered floor with their legs shackled. There was no stove for heating and when a small fire was made, the inadequate venting caused the room to fill with smoke, which made breathing difficult. They had a few blankets, not enough to keep them warm in the freezing winter conditions. The food was so bad they could hardly eat it. This visit would be the closest their family was together during the Christmas season. Joseph had requested Emma bring blankets to them in the jail, but because of a mob destroying their blankets recently, Emma had a difficult time with the decision. If she brought the blankets to her freezing husband, her children would go without.

  6. Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith and several other brethren were imprisoned in Liberty Jail in Missouri. They were imprisoned there during Christmas and several months after. Liberty Jail was a basement dungeon about 14′ by 14′ with only a trapdoor entrance from the main floor. The ceiling was so low that the men couldn’t stand fully upright and were forced to sit or lie on the dirty, straw-covered floor, with their legs shackled. There was no stove for heating, and when they used an open fire, inadequate venting caused the room to fill with smoke, which made breathing difficult. The food was so bad they could hardly eat it. They had few blankets, not enough to keep them warm in the freezing winter conditions. Emma came for a second visit December 20. In the midst of such dire circumstances, the prisoners were cheered by the presence of their loved ones. Joseph asked Emma if she could possibly bring some blankets for him. But the request reduced her to tears because the mob had recently attacked her home and destroyed all but two of her blankets. If she brought those to Joseph, then their children would go without.

  7. This story has touched my heart even more this year due to the fact that I visited liberty Jail this year and can picture more vibrantly the living conditions that Joseph and his companions had to endure.

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