The experience of persecution in Missouri was not just recent history. For Hyde, it was the literal fulfillment of prophecy about the last days.
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In those records found in America that I described earlier, there was also written a prophecy by the hand of a holy man who belonged to the Nephite nation. It stated that in the last days, when these records would be found and brought to the knowledge of the peoples, a great city would be built in this land (America) by the people who will believe in these records.(1)
In that city, people will gather from all nations under Heaven. In accordance with this prophecy, after our church began to grow and gain in importance, a beautiful area was chosen that was designated as the gathering place of the peoples, as well as the place of the city’s foundation. This area lay in the western sections of the United States, where there were few inhabitants and most of the land and soil belonged to the government, for which reason it could be purchased very inexpensively. The area was new and largely uncultivated. A stretch of land there was negotiated by our governor, and emigration began. Hundreds, and soon afterwards thousands, were at once settled on this land, until our people took possession of the greater part of three counties. The governor of the state in which these counties were situated, as well as his coadjutors, who cared more for political influence than for human rights, were troubled by our rapid growth. The American government is an elective one, and the majority of the people’s votes determines the man who is to take office. These men feared, therefore, that if they were to approve of our undisturbed progress, we would soon be in possession of the majority of the state and would take the reins of political power into our hands. And assuming we had done so, would we have taken more than is our constitutional right?
Many of the most important men of Missouri (this was the name of the state) therefore wished that we would move outside their borders, but they could not agree on how to make us do so. For at no cost would they have admitted for the world to learn how much they feared our growing numbers and, through them, the loss of their political position. Finally they arrived at a plan, which they then carried out.
Since most of our people had migrated from the eastern and northern states, which are free, that is, where slavery is not permitted, to the state of Missouri, which is a slave state, these men spread the rumor that our people had entered into dealings with their blacks in order to sow the seeds of dissatisfaction among them. Although this statement was entirely based on falsehood, the demonic furies of envy were zealous and active to gain access for it among the people and to incite popular indignation against us. This was all the easier since other religious sects rose up in hatred against us when they saw thousands of their members going over to our church and their priests being overcome by ours whenever they challenged us to public debate. But instead of the weight of our arguments convincing them, it infuriated them to the brink of insanity, and both the religious and the political parties were so embittered against us at this time that they used every pretext as a cover for seeking vengeance on the victims of their anger.
From then on, they started to persecute us. They shot our horses and our horned cattle in the fields, burned down the houses of several families settled on their borders, and beat our men with inhuman cruelty whenever they could find them where their numbers were superior to ours. Anyone who refused to deny his religion had to tolerate whatever their savage rage inflicted upon him if he were so unfortunate as to fall into their hands.
Of the many incidents, I wish to give only one example of their behavior against us, which is drawn from the writings of an eyewitness.
This terrible scene took place on the afternoon of 30 October, 1838, in a small border settlement of our people. [This is followed by Joseph Young’s affidavit concerning the massacre at Haun’s mill, omitted here.]
Soon after this, we were expelled from the state with military force on the orders of the governor in the cold of winter, and we had to leave behind our grain and our various stores, which would have been sufficient for a population twice the size as ours. Our land and soil, as well as our houses, became the prey of our persecutors, who since then have not offered us any compensation for it all. I will not attempt to describe the situation of our friends and especially of the bereft women and children, who had previously enjoyed a prosperous life—it is enough to say concerning this that we have been introduced to tribulations of all kinds.
The most painful loss we suffered was the death of our brothers, for their association was dear and precious to us. But even if it were in our power to awaken them again, we would never call them back into this world of misery. No! Their loyalty remained steadfast against the enemy, they withstood the cruelest treatment and emerged gloriously from the bloody trial having gained an immortal victory, and flew as immortal spirits toward their heavenly home, where they now bask in the smile of their Savior and adorn themselves with the eternal laurels that they won through their martyrdom.(2)
When a person loses the sense of hearing, the sense of sight usually becomes sharper and livelier—in the same way, the death of our brothers gave increased strength to the hearts of those who remained! But after all this, a sore spot remained. Who would look with approval on pressing a new thorn into it—or, like the merciful Samaritan, pouring oil and wine on it and bandaging it?
Our neighbors, who were not of our religion, used all the foregoing as a means of convincing us of our heresy, as well as of the advantages and excellent virtues of their religion; but they failed to persuade us that their religion was good or ours was wrong.
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(1) I’m curious what verse from the Book of Mormon Hyde was thinking of. Nothing obvious comes to mind.
(2) The End Time is of course not the end of time. Rather than time stopping, certain specific things happen. This chapter is entitled as merely “collected thoughts,” but the thread connecting all of them, from Noah’s deluge to the persecution in Missouri and the founding of Nauvoo (in the next section), is Hyde’s apocalyptic framework, which incorporates persecution and a future vindication of the martyrs.