Friday, August 17, 2012

Jeffrey R. Holland: Lessons From Liberty Jail

Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail by Liz Lemon Swindle



"One of the most trying times in the history of the Church, both in terms of its impact on the Church generally and in the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith personally, occurred during the winter of 1838–39. The Prophet, who bore the brunt of the persecution in that period, had been imprisoned in the ironically named Liberty Jail. Until his martyrdom five and a half years later, there was no more burdensome time in Joseph’s life than this cruel, illegal, and unjustified incarceration."
"In the Prophet Joseph’s letters, he spoke of the jail being a “hell, surrounded with demons … where we are compelled to hear nothing but blasphemous oaths, and witness a scene of blasphemy, and drunkenness and hypocrisy, and debaucheries of every description.”2 “We have … not blankets sufficient to keep us warm; and when we have a fire, we are obliged to have almost a constant smoke,” he said.3 “Our souls have been bowed down”4 and “my nerve trembles from long confinement,” Joseph wrote.5 “Pen, or tongue, or angels,” could not adequately describe “the malice of hell” that he suffered there.6 All of this occurred during what, by some accounts, was considered the coldest winter on record in the state of Missouri."

Ironically, Elder Holland  refers to the Liberty Jail as a temple


"Most of us, most of the time, speak of the facility at Liberty as a “jail” or a “prison”—and certainly it was that. But Elder Brigham H. Roberts (1857–1933) of the First Council of the Seventy, in recording the history of the Church, spoke of the facility as a temple, or, more accurately, a “prison-temple.”
"The speech and behavior of the guards and criminals who came there were anything but temple-like. In fact, the restricting brutality and injustice of this experience at Liberty would make it seem the very antithesis of the liberating, merciful spirit of our temples and the ordinances performed in them."

How then could something so horrible as the Liberty Jail experience be compared to a temple? 

I love this
' ... that you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experiences with the Lord in any situation you are in. Indeed, you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experiences with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life—in the worst settings, while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced."
"In one way or another, great or small, dramatic or incidental, every one of us is going to spend a little time in Liberty Jail—spiritually speaking. We will face things we do not want to face for reasons that may not be our fault. Indeed, we may face difficult circumstances for reasons that were absolutely right and proper, reasons that came because we were trying to keep the commandments of the Lord. We may face persecution, we may endure heartache and separation from loved ones, we may be hungry and cold and forlorn. Yes, before our lives are over we may all be given a little taste of what the prophets faced often in their lives."