Biography and family record of Lorenzo Snow/Chapter IV
A change—Great Apostacy.—Disaffection creeps into every Quorum.—Pride and speculation.—Apostates claim the Temple.—Warren Parrish a ringleader.—A fearful, terrible scene in the Temple.—The scene described.—What occurred, the next Day.—Very interesting Court scene.—John Boynton portrayed.—Joseph and Sidney flee for their lives.—Father Smith served with State's Warrant.—How he escaped.—Luke Johnson befriends him.—Luke's death.
DURING the time my brother was on this, his first mission, a great change had been going on in Kirtland, in the midst of the Saints. A spirit of speculation had crept into the hearts of some of the Twelve, and nearly, if not every quorum was more or less infected. Most of the Saints were poor, and now prosperity was dawning upon them—the Temple was completed, and in it they had been recipients of marvelous blessings, and many who had been humble and faithful to the performance of every duty—ready to go and come at every call of the Priesthood, were getting haughty in their spirits, and lifted up in the pride of their hearts. As the Saints drank in the love and spirit of the world, the Spirit of the Lord withdrew from their hearts, and they were filled with pride and hatred toward those who maintained their integrity. They linked themselves together in an opposing party—pretended that they constituted the Church, and claimed that the Temple belonged to them, and even attempted to hold it.
Warren Parrish, who had been a humble, successful preacher of the Gospel, was the ringleader of this apostate party. One Sabbath morning, he, with several of his party, came into the Temple armed with pistols and bowie-knives, and seated themselves together in the Aaronic pulpits, on the east end of the Temple, while Father Smith and others, as usual, occupied those of the Melchisedec Priesthood on the west. Soon after the usual opening services, one of the brethren on the west stand arose, and just after he commenced to speak, one on the east interrupted him. Father Smith, presiding, called to order—he told the apostate brother that he should have all the time he wanted, but he must wait his turn—as the brother on the west took the floor and commenced first to speak, he must not be interrupted. A fearful scene ensued—the apostate speaker becoming so clamorous, that Father Smith called for the police to take that man out of the house, when Parrish, John Boynton, and others, drew their pistols and bowie-knives, and rushed down from the stand into the congregation; J. Boynton saying he would blow out the brains of the first man who dared to lay hands on him. Many in the congregation, especially women and children, were terribly frightened—some tried to escape from the confusion by jumping out of the windows. Amid screams and shrieks, the policemen, in ejecting the belligerents, knocked down a stovepipe, which fell helter-skelter among the people; but, although bowie-knives and pistols were wrested from their owners, and thrown hither and thither to prevent disastrous results, no one was hurt, and after a short, but terrible scene to be enacted in a Temple of God, order was restored, and the services of the day proceeded as usual.
But the next day Father Smith, and sixteen others, were arrested on complaint of the apostate party, charged with riot, and bound over for their appearance in court to answer to the charge. With others, I was subpoenaed as a witness, and I found the court scene as amusing as the Temple scene was appalling. The idea of such a man as Father Smith so patriarchal in appearance so circumspect in deportment and dignified in his manners, being guilty of riot, was at once ludicrous and farcical to all sane-minded persons. And after the four Gentile lawyers (two for each party) had expended their stock of wit, the court dismissed the case with "no cause for action," and Father Smith and his associates came off triumphant.
During the proceedings, it was very interesting to hear the lawyers for the defence describe the opposite traits of character exhibited in the lives and appearances of the men who had apostatized from what they were when faithful in the work of God. One of them, Mr. Bissell, of Painesville, Ohio, pointing to John Boynton, said: "Just look at Mr. Boynton, see how changed! Before he apostatized, we used to see him in Painesville—he then was humble, and seemed truly a follower of the meek and lowly Jesus; but how does he seem now? all puffed up with pride. He looks more like a celestial dandy than a Saint."
Five of the quorum of the Twelve were in this apostacy; and some in every organized quorum became disaffected. Wherever the spirit of speculation—a grasping for the things of the world—obtained, the light of the Spirit of God departed, and impenetrable darkness ensued. Some even became so blind as to seek to depose the Prophet of God. At length the hostility of the belligerent party assumed such threatening attitude that, late in the autumn of 1837, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon had to flee for their lives; and at a moment's warning, started for Missouri. But their absence did not check the persecution waged by those apostate brethren—others became the targets of their malice. Through their influence, the aged Father Smith was served with a State's warrant, but fortunately for him he was placed in the custody of Luke Johnson, who, although one of the apostates, was averse to the bitter spirit of persecution which characterized others. Naturally of a jovial turn, he was more inclined to ridicule than hostility. Having been somewhat conversant with law usages, he volunteered his services as legal adviser for Father Smith, although his custodian. He privately told Father Smith's friends that the suit was instigated through malice—that he knew Father Smith was innocent, and he was determined to do all he could for him; and he was true to his word.
A room adjoining the one in which the court was in session, was lighted by one window. Before Father Smith was brought for trial, Mr. Johnson had examined the premises, and under the aforesaid window, on the outside, he had cautiously made preparation so that the old gentleman could reach the ground without injury. Before the court proceeded to business, Mr. Johnson said he would like a few minutes private conversation with his client. Permission was granted for him to take the prisoner into the room aforementioned. When in, he drew the nail which was the only fastening to the window—raised the window, and said to Father Smith, "Go right up to Esquire Snow's—he is a quiet man, and no one will think of going there for you." The old gentleman did his bidding, and came directly to our father's, who had purchased a home in Kirtland, and was living a mile and a quarter distant from the court scene; when he arrived, it was nearly midnight.
Mr. Johnson replaced the nail in the window, and, after giving Father Smith time to clear the premises, proceeded to the court room, where he soon discovered that his client had not followed him; whereupon he hurried back to the room to see what was detaining him. After hunting about there a short time, he came back to the court room, apparently very much disconcerted, and reported the unaccountable fact that the prisoner was not to be found. After close search by those present, who found the nail fastening in the window all right, the question was, "How did he make his escape?" The constable, who manifested the greatest astonishment of all present, finally settled the question by saying, "It is another Mormon miracle."
Father Smith remained between two and three weeks at our father's house, "hid up" from his enemies; but during the time, with the legal assistance of the justice of the peace (an honorable Gentile), he arranged his business matters preparatory to leaving for the west. Before he left, he was joined by six others, whose lives were threatened by apostates.
Before closing this subject, I think a further notice is due the unantagonistic apostate, Luke Johnson. I happened to meet him the day after the scene in the court room—he enquired after his released prisoner, and after hearing that he reached his destination all right, he, in a jocose manner, related the foregoing circumstances, and closed with, "Father Smith will bless me for it, all the days of his life." To which, when I repeated it to Father Smith on my return home, he replied in the affirmative; and Luke Johnson is the only one of those five Apostles that returned to the Church. He was re-baptized, and lived a faithful member—was much respected, and died an honorable death in the midst of his friends, in Salt Lake City.