Yesterday the Joseph Smith Web Site’s daily history column, “On This Day…” noted:
November 13, 1838
Richmond, Missouri. Over 40 witnesses appeared at court and bore false witness against the Prophet.
Just before I saw that LDS history note, I had been reading some of these same testimonies that I came across in The Missouri Mormon War section of the Missouri State Archives. The Mormon War Papers, 1837-1841 contains (among other things) evidence given in the 1838 trial of Joseph Smith. Documents containing the testimonies of seventeen witnesses are online for viewing/reading; documents detailing the testimonies of thirty others are not available, but the general content of each testimony is synopsized in the list.
Of the people who testified, some were Mormons, some were Mormon dissenters, and some were non-Mormon citizens living in the area. These documents make for interesting reading (for those interested in history). I’ve pulled out a few paragraphs from some of the available testimonies and offer them below for Mormon Coffee readers’ perusal.
“In this morning of the day that the militia arrived at Far West. I heard Joseph Smith Jr. in a speach to the Mormons troops say, that he did not care any thing about the coming of the troops nor about the laws, that he had tried to please them_ If they lived together it wouldn’t please them if they scattered it wouldn’t please them & that he did not intend to try to keep the [ ] to please then any longer. that they were so damned set, and God should damn them, so help him Jesus Christ.—That he meant to go on them as he had begun, and take his own course, and kill & destroy-and told the men to fight like angles that heretofore he had told them to fight like devils, but now told them to fight like angles. that angles could whip devils” –James G. Owen
“Some time in June (“last” crossed out) I attended two or three Danite meetings, and it was taught there as a part of the duty of the band, that they should support the presidency in all their designs right or wrong; that whatever they said was to be obeyed, and whoever opposed the presidency in what they said or desired done, Should be expeled the county or have their lives taken. The three composing the Presidency was at one of those meetings, and to Satisfy the people, Dr Avard called on Jos Smith Jr, who gave them a pledge, that if they led them into a difficulty, he would give them his head for a foot ball, and that it was the will of God these things should be so.” -John Cleminson
“A short time after Cowdery & the Whitmers left Far West (sometime in June) Geo. W. Robinson and Philo Dibble invited me to a Danite meeting. I went, the only speaker was Dr Avard who explained the object of the meeting and said that its object was, that [“they” crossed out] we might be perfectly organized, to defend [“ourselves their” crossed out] ourselves against mobs, that we were [“to” crossed out] all to be governed by the presidency and do whatever they required, and uphold them: that we were not to judge for ourselves whether it were right or wrong. that God had raised us [“up” crossed out] a prophet who would judge for us. and that it was proper we Should stand by each other in all cases.” –Reed Peck
“That as Early as April last at a meeting in Far West of 9 or 12 persons, Mr Rigdon arose & made an address to them in which he spoke of having borne persecutions & law suits and other privations & did not intend to be a victim any longer, that they meant to resist the law and if a sheriff Came after them with writs they would kill him, & if any body opposed them they would take off their heads, Geo W Harris who was present observed you mean the head of their influence I suppose Rigdon answered he meant that lump of flesh and bones called the skull or scalp. Jo Smith Jr followed Mr Rigdon approving his seniments and said that was what they intended to do both in their remarks observed that they meant to have the words of the Presidency to be as good and as indisputed as the words of God. And that no one should speak against what they said.” –William W. Phelps
“…on the Saturday after Gallatin was burnt and armed company of 12 [Mormon] men rode up to Mr Raglins house in Daviess County where I resided, they inquirred for John Raglin I told them where he had gone, they said their object was to drive the mob from the county and said that I must go. I replied I could not. that I had no way to get off and that my family in is bare footed they replied that made no difference I must go, and said if I was not gone by next morning by sunrise they would take my life, they told Mrs Raglin she must [ ] that there she could not stay and that Raglin had better never show himself there that they would take his life if ever they set their eyes on him[.] next morning by the assistance of friends we did start leaving most of our property there, Since then I have returned and found the houses burnt & the property gone consisting of hous hold plunder and 2 q bee gums they enquired for Gums and got down one and took it away from the house belonging to one Josiah Littlefield they further said that they had been driven as long as they were a going to. that they had got Strong enough now to defend themselves that they intended to do it by the Sword that they were at the defiance of any Set of men who could come against them & that they now intended to make it a war of extermination,…” -Thomas M. Odle
Notwithstanding the Joseph Smith Web Site claim that these testimonies were false, the court believed otherwise. The verdict was stated:
“…there is probable cause to believe that Joseph Smith, Jr Lyman Wight, Hiram Smith, Alexander McRay & Caleb Baldwin are guilty of Overt acts of Treason in Daviess County (and for want of a Jail in Daviess County) said prisoners are committed to the Jail in Clay to answer the charges aforsaid in the county of Daviess- on the first Monday in March next” –Judge Austin A. King
Joseph Smith never stood trial on this charge. While being transferred from Liberty Jail to Boone County on a requested change of venue, the Prophet escaped across the Mississippi River into Illinois.