Joseph Smith Writes Letter From Liberty Jail: March 20, 1839

"Liberty Jail" by C.C.A. Christensen. Joseph Smith at Liberty Jail
“Liberty Jail” by C.C.A. Christensen • University of Utah Marriott Library

Joseph Smith wrote the first part of his two-part Letter From Liberty Jail on this date in 1839. Smith was being held on charges of treason stemming from the so-called Mormon War which had seen conflict between Mormon settlers, non-Mormon vigilantes, and the Missouri state militia. His letter to his fellow church members begins like this:

“To the church of Latterday saints at Quincy Illinois and scattered abroad and to Bishop [Edward] Partridge in particular, your humble servant Joseph Smith Jr prisoner for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake and for the saints taken and held by the power of mobocracy under the exterminating reign of his excelancy the Governer Lilburn W. Boggs in company with his fellow prisoners and beloved Brethren Caleb Baldwin Lymon [Lyman] Wight. Hyram [Hyrum] Smith and Alexander McRae. Send unto you all greeting. May the grace of God the father and of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ rest upon you all and abide with you for ever. May knowledge be multiplied unto you by the mercy of God. And may faith and virtue and knowledge and temperance and patience and Godliness and Brotherly kindness and charity be in you and abound that you may not be baron in anything nor unfrutefull. Forasmuch as we know that the most of you are well acquainted with the wrongs and the high toned injustice and cruelty that is practiced upon us whereas we have been taken prisoners charged falsly with evry kind of evil and thrown into prison inclosed with strong walls surrounded with a strong guard who continually watch day and knight as indefatigable as the devil is in tempting and laying snayers for the people of God.”

You can read the full text of Smith’s letter here. Smith and his companions eventually escaped from jail, possibly with assistance from the guards, and set up a new settlement in Nauvoo, Illinois.