November 1838: The scattered members of the Johnson family struggle to survive the upheaval that somes in the wake of Governor Boggs's extermination order, fighting disease and poverty, and persecution and chastisement even as they and the other faithful Saints mourn the plight of the imprisoned Prophet and fear his imminent martyrdom. Back in Kirtland, Johnson family patriarch Ezekiel battles alcoholism and his conflicting emotions of bitterness toward Mormonism and love for his family. This culmination to the epic tale of this family illustrated the resilience and redemptive healing power of love—the complex yet enduring love between husbands and wives, parents and children, and a Prophet and his people—and the love of a Savior, whose own sacrifice marks the path for us all. In witnessing Ezekiel's life decisions and their impact on his posterity, we grasp the promise that those who sow righteously shall reap joy.
- Size: 6 x 9
- Pages: 416
- Published: 09/2012
- Book on CD: Unabridged
- Number of Discs: 10
- Run Time: Approx. 12.5 hours
About the Authors
Marcie Gallacher, a graduate of Brigham Young University, has written four previous novels: Amaryllis Lilies, Fixed Stars, Whispers of Hope, and Homeward. Her publication credits include an article in the Ensign and stories in the New Era and Friend. She resides in Wilton, California, with her husband, Gary. They have four children: teenagers Brett and Michelle, who live at home with them; Matt, who is living in Provo, Utah; and Jamie, who is married to Jordan Cline. Her greatest joy is the time spent with her family, including her parents, Tal and LaRae Huber. She is also passionate about her stubborn horse, Dobbin; her rambunctious golden retriever, Rusty; and her perfect cats, Lancelot and Midnight. Marcie hopes to be a grandma someday!
Kerri Robinson, also a graduate of Brigham Young University, is a licensed clinical social worker. She is currently working part-time as a psychotherapist. She has also published in this field of study, including and article in Helping and Healing Our Families: Principles and Practices inspired by “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Researching and writing, being a grandma, and attending BYU football games are her present passions. She and her husband, Brent, who live in Alpine, Utah, became empty nesters this year and treasure the time they spend with their blended family.
With thee, his Seer, I’ve found at last . . .
My lot and all with thee I cast, . . .
Thy holy cause I will defend, . . .
Shall be my own, till life shall end, . . .
Joel Hills Johnson
Early November 1838. Kirtland, Ohio
The afternoon sun shone bright, and the wind blew briskly. Ezekiel halted the wagon at a small house on the grounds of the Kirtland Temple. Drawing in a deep breath, he stared at the temple’s gleaming walls, its reddish roof, and the carved wooden door. He climbed out of the wagon seat. The images of those he loved flooded his mind: Joel cutting shingles; David laboring in a brickyard; Seth hefting rock from a quarry; Nancy holding Ezekiel’s hand, leading him to the entryway; and Susan reaching her arms out to him, her black eyes full of softness. And finally Julia, his beautiful Julia, hanging the curtains that stretched from ceiling to floor, like the veil of a bride.
Ezekiel turned at the sound of the voice. Rebecca Winters stepped out of the groundkeeper’s house. Strands of hair blew from the knot at the base of her neck as she walked over and peered into the wagon bed. “The table is lovely! Is this Sister Holman’s cradle?”
Ezekiel nodded. “’Tis. I’m obliged to you for the Holmans’ business.”
Rebecca smiled brightly. “You’re most welcome. Hiram’s at the temple fixing some things. He’ll be back shortly to heft the table.”
“I’ll bring it in,” Ezekiel offered.
With a grunt, he lifted the round table out of the wagon. He might be old, but carpentry kept him strong. Muscles straining, he walked to the doorway and tilted the table through, as keenly aware of its dimensions as a mother is of the fingers and toes of her newborn.
After placing it in the kitchen, he turned to Rebecca. “So you and Hiram are caretakers of the temple. That was a surprise.”
Rebecca nodded cheerfully. “The apostates’ hearts have softened. They’re even allowing us to hold our worship services in the temple!”
An involuntary light flickered in Ezekiel’s mind. He spoke without thinking. “Will the rest come back?”
Rebecca’s smile lessened. “I don’t think so. The apostates are outwardly friendly, but they gloat about the tragedy in Missouri. No one knows where the next gathering place will be, but it won’t be here—no matter how much we wish it.”
Ezekiel’s features hardened despite the look of empathy in Rebecca’s eyes. False hopes tormented him. Facts were that his family was gone—all except for Almera, who lived nearby. Julia, his younger children, and his eldest son, Joel, were living temporarily in Springfield, Illinois. At least they were safe. But the others—Delcena, Julianne, and Benjamin—were in Missouri, smack dab in the middle of the Mormon war. Were his daughters and grandchildren all right? Were his son and sons-in-law imprisoned? Did they live? Only one thing was certain—no matter what happened, Julia would not leave her religion and return to him. She would go wherever the imprisoned Joseph Smith directed.
Ezekiel took the money Rebecca handed him, thanked her, and left the house. With the wind at his back, he drove on to the Holmans, another Latter-day Saint family. He thought it strange, the amount of business he received from the Mormons who lingered in Kirtland. He arrived at the large frame house, the white paint bright in the sunlight. Ezekiel carried the cradle to the doorstep and shined the black lacquer finish with the edge of his coat. He had taken pride in this order. It was fine work, smooth as glass.
Ezekiel knocked on the door. Naomi Holman answered it. She was short, small-featured, and round with child. Her furrowed brow created a deep crease between her eyes. “Come in, Mr. Johnson, before we all catch cold.”
She examined the cradle, running her hand over the smooth edges.
“Does it please you?” Ezekiel questioned.
She looked up at him, her brow still creased. “Yes.”
Ezekiel wondered if she was telling the truth. Yet he didn’t blame her for looking worried. Her husband, James, had left months ago to buy land in Missouri and had not yet returned. She had two young children and a baby on the way, as well as three orphaned siblings under her care—a heavy load. He cleared his throat. “Where would you like me to put it?”
“The parlor would be fine.”
Ezekiel followed Naomi into the parlor, where a stately young woman with light brown hair piled high on her head was reading with a group of five younger girls. The young woman instructed the others to continue then stood and joined Naomi and Ezekiel.
After Ezekiel set the cradle down, Naomi addressed him. “Mr. Johnson, this is my sister, Melissa LeBaron.”
“Miss LeBaron.” Ezekiel bowed slightly to the young woman. She seemed familiar. Her skin was smooth and the color of cream—much like his Delcena’s. When she spoke, her voice, level as a planed board, was very formal. At times, Almera talked that way.
He focused on her words. “Mr. Johnson, I’ve been wanting to speak with you. The Kirtland Academy will soon offer classes for girls. We would like Sister Almera to be one of the teachers. The academy meets in the schoolhouse in Kirtland. We begin Monday morning at nine o’clock.”
A job for Almera. Women to work with and girls to teach. This would be manna to his daughter. With little happiness in her marriage, she was even more alone than Ezekiel. He nodded at Miss LeBaron. “I reckon she’ll be delighted. I’ll give her the message.”
Naomi interrupted, speaking directly to her sister. “Melissa, you know Almera’s husband does not allow her to associate with Mormons.”
Melissa’s lips pursed. Though the younger sister, she clearly had a mind of her own. “Mr. Johnson said she would be delighted. Shouldn’t Sister Almera be allowed to do what she wants?”
Naomi continued. “We don’t want trouble. Mr. Prescott is her husband.”
Ezekiel’s jaw hardened, and his voice was louder than he’d intended. “And I am her father. Miss LeBaron, I will bring Almera on Monday morning.”
A grin lit Melissa’s features. Her willful spunkiness reminded Ezekiel of his little Esther. Would he see all of his girls in this young lady?
Ezekiel bid the women good day and turned to leave. Melissa called after him, “Thank you, Mr. Johnson. I’m anxious to see Sister Almera.”
Ezekiel turned back around. “What time is your meeting in the temple on Sunday?”
“Ten o’clock,” Melissa returned.
“I’ll bring Almera there too.”
“God willing,” Melissa said with a bright smile.
“God willing,” Ezekiel repeated as he left. He climbed onto the wagon seat and lifted the reins. Energetic from the wind, the horses trotted on the way home. Ezekiel drew in a sharp breath. God willing! He scarcely believed in God. What was wrong with him—offering to take Almera to the meeting? There was a day when he had wanted to separate Julia from Mormons as much as Sam was trying to isolate Almera now.
But Almera tugged at his heart. She was his child. Last week when Sam was out of town, she had spent a night with him. He had come home from the tavern late, but she’d still been up, praying out loud in the bedroom. She had prayed for her family’s safety. She had prayed for her father’s health and happiness. Then she had prayed that she might someday be free to worship as she chose.
Ezekiel passed the temple and headed on to Mentor, the wind full in his face. He had not forgotten the day Joseph Smith had taken him through that temple, had told him of a vision of heaven, had promised him that Seth and David still lived. Joseph had almost convinced him to hope that day. Then Joseph’s God took Susan and Nancy.
His heart pumped with bitter determination. What good was Joseph’s God—a God who snatched away sons and daughters, a God who allowed women and children to suffer, a God who gave him Julia then took her away? He had no illusions! He was born an illegitimate child who had grown into a flawed, intemperate man. But one gem was still within his reach. Almera. He still had the will and muscle to help her. He turned the wagon onto his property.
If there was a God, then He wasn’t much of a father. A father . . . a father ought to answer His child’s prayer. On Sunday, Ezekiel would bring his precious Almera to the temple that haunted him. He would answer his daughter’s prayer.
* * *
Lyman Sherman halted and watched his traveling companion, John Babbitt, swing down from the sorrel gelding. At early candlelight, the tavern windows glowed. The wind was stiff and chill. After tying his horse, John whistled cheerfully as the two approached the door. Doffing his hat at a slave girl who was scraping ice off the porch, John took a penny out of his coat pocket and handed it to her. “I’m looking for my brother Almon.”
The girl pocketed the penny. “What’s your name?”
The girl nodded. “Go through the dining hall then up the stairs. Second room on the left.” The girl turned to go as snow began to flurry.
As Lyman and John entered the tavern, a wave of warm, smoky air greeted them. An enormous fire blazed in the hearth, and they smelled beef stew, tobacco, and brandy. John glanced hungrily at the stew, but Lyman’s stomach knotted. Over fifty soldiers sat at long tables with muskets propped next to them. Lyman had seen enough of the Missouri militia to last a lifetime. Recognizing General Clark at the head of a table, Lyman swallowed hard. Clark had told the men of Far West that they would never see their leaders again. Clark had the Prophet under his thumb and wanted him dead.
Lyman moved quickly through the dining hall. At the staircase, he took the steps three at a time. He knocked on the second door on the left while John, whistling again, sauntered up the steps.
Almon opened the door, pale in the candlelight. “Lyman, why are you here? I thought you might have been arrested. Where’s Julianne?”
“She’s fine. With my family.”
Almon lowered his voice. “A Missourian’s walking this way. Let’s get inside.”
“The Missourian is your brother.”
John waved. “Hello, Manny!”
“Johnny!” Almon lurched forward and wrapped his arms around his brother. After the embrace, he looked carefully at John. “You haven’t changed a whit. You got my letter! You came!”
John nodded and grinned. “Your wife’s as pretty as you described.”
Almon pulled both men into the room and closed the door behind them. His eyes glinted with new life as he turned to Lyman. “What happened in Far West after I left?”
Lyman took a deep breath, remembering the horror of the army-mob moving through the city. “Lucas herded the men into the square and kept us under guard while he sent the mob in. We couldn’t protect our families. Terrible things happened, unthinkable things. But God shielded Delcena, Julianne, and my children. Now it is my duty to protect His Prophet. That’s why I’m here.”
Almon’s green eyes suddenly became moist. “Thank God they are all right. But my friend, I fear that no one can protect Joseph right now. But you and I, we will try.”
“With God, anything is possible. Do you know where he is?”
Almon nodded. “In a log cabin near the courthouse, with Hyrum and the others who were also arrested that night. Clark put a mean fellow named Colonel Price in charge. The windows are nailed down, and our men are chained to each other by the ankle. I counted sixteen guards, most with their finger on the trigger. About fifty other brethren are jailed close by in a half-finished brick courthouse. There’re no doors or windows. They’re freezing. Over a hundred guards are stationed inside and around the building. I guess I’d be a prisoner too if I had stayed in Far West.”
Lyman shook his head. “Your name wasn’t on Clark’s list. The names on the list—they didn’t make any sense. Most of the men weren’t anywhere near Crooked River.”
Almon’s voice was low, incredulous. “Who gave them those names? Why?”
“I don’t know.”
John interrupted. “We have plenty to discuss, but first let’s go downstairs and get supper. I’m starved.”
* * *
The three sat at an empty table on the periphery of the room. The slave girl brought them bowls of beef stew. John requested brandy. Almon and Lyman ate quickly, feeling the warmth of the meal move through them.
Suddenly General Clark stood, his voice rising over the tavern buzz. “Gentlemen,” Clark pointed to the group of twelve men sitting with him, “these soldiers will have the privilege of shooting Joe Smith at eight o’clock Monday morning, after we court-martial him for mutiny. Make sure your rifles are handy.”
The chosen men hurrahed then examined their guns. They loaded two balls apiece, bragging about how they would save those balls for old Joe until Monday morning . . . after they had rested and worshipped on the Lord’s Sabbath. Almon’s heart pounded. He felt Lyman tighten like a spring-loaded gun.
“General, sir, I have information.” A young man stood up on the other side of the room. Almon’s eyes widened in recognition. Why hadn’t he noticed him before? It was Jedediah Grant, a member of the Church and the brother-in-law of William Smith. What was he up to? Jedediah continued. “I’ve heard that General Lucas tried to pursue a similar course at Far West. General Doniphan refused to carry out the orders, saying they were illegal, and if carried out by others, he would hold General Lucas accountable before the law. Sir, perhaps you should reconsider for your own protection.”
General Clark stared momentarily at Jedediah. He then turned to a soldier sitting near him. “Stevens, ride to Fort Leavenworth and find out the military law. Come back as quickly as you can so we can put Smith to rest.”
* * *
Back in Almon’s room, John was the first to speak. “The general at Leavenworth is a fair man. He won’t give Clark permission to shoot them.”
Lyman’s fists clenched, every muscle taut and ready. Almon sat down on a chair, tapping his foot.
“We can’t depend on that,” Lyman exclaimed. “I won’t stand by and see them shot.”
Almon stood up. “The law is on our side. Governor Boggs did not declare martial law. Thus, this is a matter for civil, not military, courts. Joseph cannot legally be tried for mutiny in a military court. Legally, he can’t be shot.”
“Boggs’ code of law allows women and children to be exterminated!” Lyman snapped.
Almon kept talking. “Alexander Doniphan is in Liberty. We need to make sure he knows what Clark is planning.”
Lyman let out a breath of air. “You and Johnny go. I’ll stay here to try to protect Joseph.”
* * *
Monday, November 12, 1838
In the wee hours of the morning, when the wind abated and a few stars shone through the clouds, John found Lyman wrapped in a blanket with his back against the log prison. John squatted beside him, put a hand on Lyman’s shoulder, and whispered stringently, “Go back to the tavern. No one’s coming to shoot your Prophet this morning. Almon will explain. I’ll stay here and pretend I’m a guard.”
Lyman nodded and stood, too numb to speak. Yet he forced his limbs to move, and crouching, he made his way to the line of trees. When he was well past the courthouse, he ran, stretching his frozen limbs, the blanket flapping against his back and the stars lighting a path through the darkness around him.
When Lyman entered the tavern room, a candle burned at the desk where Almon sat and a fire glowed in the hearth. Almon gave Lyman a long look. “Where were you last night?”
“Outside the jail. What’s the news?”
“There won’t be a military court. Word came from Fort Leavenworth that shooting the Mormon prisoners would be murder.”
Lyman took a deep breath. “Did you see Doniphan?”
Almon nodded. “Yes. He’s on his way. The Civil Court of Inquiry will open later this morning.”
“Is there a chance that Joseph will be released?”
Almon shook his head. “No. Not with Austin King as judge.”
“What are the charges?”
“No surprises. Treason, murder, arson, burglary, larceny. But this is only a court of inquiry to determine if there is sufficient evidence to bring the men to trial in the spring.”
“There is not sufficient evidence.”
“Evidence will be invented. I spoke with Sampson Avard. He’s been told that if he swears hard against the heads of the Church, he will not be arrested. He intends to do it to save himself.”
“The snake.” Lyman’s voice was bitter.
“I could not convince him not to strike,” Almon said. There were dark circles under his eyes, the product of nearly two sleepless nights. “One more thing before I fall over. Doniphan wrote a note asking Colonel Price to allow me to visit the prisoners and carry letters to their families. Let’s sleep for a couple of hours. Then we’ll go see Joseph.”
The men knelt in prayer, and Lyman pled with God to protect their Prophet and brethren. Afterward, Almon fell asleep immediately. Lyman lay awake. Would tomorrow be the last time he saw Joseph in this life? Tears pricked his eyes. Then a deeper knowledge filled him. God was at the helm. Whatever happened, it would be all right. Lyman closed his eyes.
* * *
Two hours later, Lyman and Almon walked out of the tavern, combed and shaved. The sun shone, and the streets buzzed with life. People streamed into Richmond on horseback and on foot.
“You would think today was a circus, not the opening of a trial,” Lyman commented under his breath.
“Joseph is a curiosity, a notorious man,” Almon responded. The two men strode quickly toward the log prison, their shoulders squared. Almon carried a satchel filled with paper, ink, and quills. When they arrived, they found John drinking rum with Colonel Price and another guard.
Almon stepped up and spoke confidently. “Colonel, I have an order from General Doniphan permitting me to visit the prisoners and carry letters to their families.”
Price cocked his head. “Doniphan’s words hold weight, but how do I know you are telling the truth? Are you boys Mormon?”
“Yes, sir,” Lyman said.
The other guard chuckled derisively and clapped John on the back, saying, “I haven’t killed my Mormon yet. Have you killed yours?”
John grinned at the guard as he shouldered his musket. “Nope. And both these fellows are my Mormons. I’d be happy to kill any man who tries to kill them.”
The guard stared at John, trying to absorb what he had said. Then John turned to Price. “Colonel, may I introduce to you to Mr. Almon Babbitt and Mr. Lyman Sherman. Though I don’t agree with his religion, Mr. Babbitt is my brother. Yesterday, he and I were in Liberty discussing this situation with General Doniphan.”
Price took Doniphan’s note from Almon’s hand and quickly read it. He ordered Almon to open his satchel for examination. Almon obeyed. Then Price nodded curtly. “Go in. Tell the prisoners I will examine the letters before you take them.”
Lyman followed Almon into the log prison, blinking as his eyes adjusted to the dimness. His brethren sat on the floor in chains. Lyman passed out the paper, ink, and quills, while Almon spoke quickly, giving the men all the information he had, explaining that the civil court would open that day, and promising that he would carry the letters to their families.
When Almon finished speaking, Lyman squatted down next to Joseph. “My friend,” Lyman whispered, “though you may not see me, know that I am close by. With God’s help, I will stand between you and harms way.”
Joseph clasped Lyman’s hand. “Thank you, my dear friend. When you see Emma, tell her to be of good cheer.” Lyman nodded. The tears in Joseph’s blue eyes shone like a torch that even the depths of hell could not extinguish.
Almon and Lyman were told to wait outside while the prisoners wrote their letters. Joseph quickly instructed Almon, “When you can, go to Kirtland as my agent. Try to legally regain the Church’s properties. Oversee the Saints who remain there. They are in my thoughts.”
A few minutes later, in the cold winter sunlight, Colonel Price inspected the prisoner’s letters. He searched for treason in the letter Joseph Smith had written to his wife.
My Dear Emma,
We are prisoners and in chains and under strong guards for Christ’s sake. I have this consolation that I am an innocent man, let what will befall me. Oh, God, grant that I may have the privilege of seeing once more my lovely family. To press them to my bosom and kiss their lovely cheeks would fill my heart with unspeakable gratitude. Tell the children that I am alive and trust I shall come and see them before long. Comfort their hearts all you can, and try to be comforted yourself, all you can. There is no possible danger but what we shall be set at liberty if justice can be done. Tell little Joseph, he must be a good boy, Father loves him with a perfect love. He is the eldest and must not hurt those that are smaller than him but comfort them. Tell little Frederick that Father loves him with all his heart. Julia is a lovely little girl; I love her also. She is a promising child. Tell her Father wants her to remember him and be a good girl. Tell all the rest that I think of them and pray for them all. Brother Babbitt is waiting to carry our letters for us. Colonel Price is inspecting them therefore my time is short. Little Alexander is on my mind continually. Oh, my affectionate Emma, forever my heart is entwined around yours, forever and ever. Oh may God bless you all. I am your husband and am in bonds and tribulation.
Joseph Smith Jr
Colonel Price folded the letter and handed it to Almon.
* * *
Back in the tavern, Almon and John waited long enough for Lyman to write a quick note to his family explaining that he was staying in Richmond until the trial was over. Then they mounted their horses and rode toward Far West. Almon planned to deliver the letters and then go home to Julianne.
When they arrived at Far West, it was the silence that shook Almon, the emptiness of the streets, the lack of horses neighing and cows mooing—a silence filled with pain and shadows, an inhabited city already forsaken. The few people on the streets were wrapped tightly in whatever they had for warmth and went about their business. One man wore only a woman’s shawl to protect him; a child with fear in his eyes clutched his mother’s hand.
Almon went first to the Prophet’s house. Emma wept when he handed her the letter from Joseph. The Prophet’s children clamored around. While Emma read, Almon lifted the children in his arms one by one, hugging and kissing them, explaining that the hugs and kisses were not really from Brother Babbitt but from their father.
Next, he delivered the letter to Mary, Hyrum’s wife, who had just given birth to a baby boy. “His name is Joseph,” Mary explained. “Joseph Fielding Smith.” Almon held the infant while Mary read the letter from her husband. She too wept, and Almon felt tears come to his eyes. He was glad Johnny was waiting outside and did not see him crying. Almon had buried his own baby son. He wondered if this little Joseph Fielding would live through the winter.
After they left Mary’s house and continued down the skeletal streets of Far West under a bleak sky, John turned to him. “You sure you want to be a Mormon? For the life of me, I don’t understand it. You are smart. You could be anything.”
Almon did not answer immediately. He was thinking of the Danites, of the mistakes made in Adam-ondi-Ahman. At times, even Joseph had listened to the vigilantes. If the leading brethren had made other choices, would things have been different?
“You sure you want this?” John repeated, louder this time.
Almon’s thoughts flew for a moment then settled upon one image. How could he explain it to Johnny? How could he describe the feel of Julianne laughing in his arms and the sound of her singing? Years ago, when her brother David lay dying, she had asked with tears in her eyes, “Will you be there in the winter as well? I can’t marry a man who is with me only in the summer season.” He had promised her. And where else was there for them to go? This was the gospel of Jesus Christ. “I’m sure, Johnny,” he said quietly.
Almon and John turned abruptly at the sound of their name. A horseman galloped up then wheeled his mount to a stop. It was young Erastus Snow.
He spoke to Almon. “The mobber Bogart and his men just arrived from Richmond. They’re getting witnesses for the court. They have a list of names and aim to force men to testify against the Prophet. They mean to lock up or whip any man who declares he’ll stand up for Joseph. They are on the way to your house. May be there already. You need to get out of Far West now.”
“I have more letters to deliver. Then I’m going to see my wife.”
Erastus shook his head. “Didn’t you hear what I said? They are hunting you!”
Almon’s jaw was set, his green eyes defiant. “You said they are going to my house? My wife is there.”
“They haven’t harmed any women or children. They aren’t after her; they’re after you.”
“Manny, you’re out of money and out of luck,” John said sternly. “It’s time to run.” Almon looked away. John continued, speaking to Erastus. “Tell Mrs. Babbitt that her husband is with his brother, Johnny. We’ll be laying low for a spell then going to Fort Leavenworth, where there’s work. As soon as it’s safe, we’ll come for her.”
Almon handed Erastus the letters. He looked into his eyes. “Tell my wife to hold on. Tell her that Zion is not lost, that Zion is wherever she is.”
Adds a indepth understanding of the lives of the early saints.
by Marsha - reviewed on February 24, 2014
I am biased as I am a descendent of Joel Hills Johnson and George Washington Johnson. I found all five volumes very good reading and added to my understanding of the trials, joys and challenges facing these wonderful ancestors. For those that enjoyed "The Work and the Glory" series - this is in the same line. I found I was anxiously awaiting the next book. I would recommend it for any ancestor - but it would be a good read for anyone.