Doctrine & Covenants/Church History
Lesson 28
“O God, Where Art Thou?”

Lesson Highlights

A study of this lesson will help us better endure adversity by turning to the Savior.

Scripture references for study:  D&C 121:1–33; 122; Our Heritage, pages 45–53
    Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked to the LDS Scriptures at and will open in a new window.

Lesson 28 Handout (PDF)

The Mormons Must Be Exterminated

After being driven from Jackson County the Saints fled to Clay County, north of the Missouri River.  The citizens of Clay County took the Mormon refugees in, but did not intend for them to make permanent homes in the county.

September 1836: The Saints began to settle on Shoal Creek in upper Ray County, Missouri.

Difficulties in Kirtland (see Lesson 26).

By the spring of 1838, Caldwell County had grown to a population of more than five thousand, 4,900 of which were Mormons.

There were significant excommunications during this period: Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, William E. McLellin, and Lyman E. Johnson.

June 1838:  Sidney Rigdon delivers the "Salt Sermon."

July 4, 1838:  Independence Day in Far West.

August 6, 1838:  Election day at Gallatin, Daviess County.

As the spirit of mobocracy spread, the brethren in Far West organized into companies of tens and fifties for mutual protection.

October 1838:  The Missouri mobbings begin anew.

October 30:  Haun's Mill massacre.

Haun's Mill Massacre by C.C.A. Christensen

October 31, 1838:

November 1, 1838:

November 9, 1838:  After having been moved from Independence, the prisoners arrived in Richmond, Missouri, were they were imprisoned in a vacant house. While awaiting trial in Richmond, the prisoners were chained together and the windows of the house nailed down.

November 12, 1838:  The trial of the Prophet and the other prisoners began. Many witnesses came and gave false testimony, including a number of apostates:  George Hinkle, William W. Phelps, John Whitmer and others.

November 28, 1838:  All of the defendants were acquitted or released on bail except for Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, Lyman Wight, Caleb Baldwin and Alexander McRae who were taken to Liberty Jail. Parley P. Pratt, Morris Phelps, Luman Gibbs, Darwin Chase and Norman Shearer were taken to Richmond Jail.

This was a tragic period in Church history. It is difficult to imagine what the Prophet went through during this time. Besides the physical suffering in Liberty Jail during a cold Missouri winter, it must have rested heavy on his heart to know that his beloved Saints had been stripped of their homes, their livelihoods, and most of their possessions and forced out of the state during the coldest months of the year. The information above only begins to tell the story of this dark and difficult period. Homes and farms were burned. The Saints were robbed and pillaged. Women were defiled. The very thought of what the Missouri mobs did to the Saints brings one to the edge of tears. I cannot imagine such things happening to my family. It is far more than I can comprehend. By the following April, twelve to fifteen thousand Saints had been removed from Missouri to western Illinois.

Liberty Jail - The Prison/Temple

As Joseph, Hyrum and others languished in the cold, damp jail in Liberty, he received correspondence regarding the plight of the Saints who were attempting to leave hostile Missouri in the winter cold. Though his faith was great, he must have wondered at times what he had led these good people into. The pain in his compassionate soul exceeded the physical conditions he was called upon to bear. He could not walk amongst the Saints and help them with their burdens. This must have been a time of frustration and anguish. As the months wore on, the Prophet called out to the Lord:

Liberty Jail

For additional information see Within the Walls of Liberty Jail at


Elder Neal A. Maxwell:  "The members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who experience mocking of temple rituals, ridicule of the Book of Mormon, and attempted belittling of the Prophet Joseph Smith can learn from the prison-temple how adversity has its uses. Though it is regrettable that such should come, efforts to weaken the Church will, ironically, only end up by strengthening faithful members and heightening their appreciation for temples, scriptures, and prophets." (But For A Small Moment, p4)

The Lord, in speaking to the Prophet, puts Joseph's suffering in perspective when he says, "Thou art not yet as Job" (D&C 121:10). The Lord continues in Section 122. WHY MUST WE FACE ADVERSITY? HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO ADVERSITY? Adversity in life is never easy and at times never seems to end. A study of the life of Joseph Smith is a wonderful example of how to deal with adversity. From the time of the First Vision to his martyrdom at Carthage, the Prophet never lost faith. He always continued to move forward in building the kingdom of God. What a wonderful example?

Gospel Doctrine Notebook

Record your thoughts on the experiences of the Saints in Missouri and the Prophet's incarceration in Liberty Jail. How can you prepare to face adversity?

Resources Used In This Lesson

A Comprehensive History of the Church by B.H. Roberts (CHC).

Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt.

But For A Small Moment by Neal A. Maxwell.

Collected Discourses.

Conference Reports (CR).

Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Andrew Jenson.

Essentials in Church History by Joseph Fielding Smith.

History of the Church (HC).

Joseph Smith and the Restoration by Ivan J. Barrett.

Latter-Day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants by Roy W. Doxey.

Life of Heber C. Kimball by Orson F. Whitney.

The Missouri Persecutions by B.H. Roberts.

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Changes last made on:  16 May 2017