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Church History Tour: Liberty Jail Experience

As we visited Liberty Jail and saw with our eyes and felt so much of what Joseph Smith and the other prisoners went through, I really felt grateful for how he endured that trial and what he learned from it, and how I have grown from this experience as well as my own Liberty Jail trials.

Liberty Jail:  A small jail in which the Prophet Joseph Smith and others were unjustly imprisoned from November 1838 to April 1839. While in these difficult conditions, Joseph received certain revelations, gave prophecies, and was inspired to write an important letter to the Saints, excerpts of which are contained in Doctrine and Covenants 121–123.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave an astoundingly great talk on this very subject called

It is a must read, and I hope you will take the time to study that talk.

"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.”    “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.  “Our souls have been bowed down”   and “my nerve trembles from long confinement,” Joseph wrote.   “Pen, or tongue, or angels,” could not adequately describe “the malice of hell” that he suffered there.    All of this occurred during what, by some accounts, was considered the coldest winter on record in the state of Missouri." (Lessons from Liberty Jail)

The jail walls were 4 feet thick, 2 feet of wood and 2 feet of rock making escape impossible.  This was a horrible, terrible, lonely, and forsaken time in Joseph's life.  It was the hardest experience he had until the martyrdom, 5 years later.

Several of our present and past Church leaders have referred to Liberty Jail and a prison-temple.  Very interesting metaphor don't you think!

"Certainly this prison-temple lacked the purity, beauty, comfort, and cleanliness of our modern temples. 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." (Lessons from Liberty Jail)

"So in what sense could Liberty Jail be called a “temple,” and what does such a title tell us about God’s love and teachings, including where and when that love and those teachings are made manifest? In precisely this sense: 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 lifein the worst settings, while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced" (Lessons from Liberty Jail)

What Truths Strengthen YOU from the Liberty Jail Experience ?

So many truths can be pulled out of this experience that Joseph had specifically. Liberty Jail was a totally refining trial in his life. It was said, that after Liberty, Joseph was a different prophet in that he knew who he was more, he spoke with more power and more confidence and more direction. Trials do that for us. They refine us and make us stronger and better. 

  • Revelation was given for everyone! The Liberty Jail time was a refining time for ALL the Saints. and continues to be so even today!  Think about how other's trials also strengthen us!  Reading Doctrine and Covenants 121-123 that was FOR Joseph, was really FOR all of us. This scripture passage strengthens me like no other scripture passage does during hard refining trials.
  • Trials of Liberty sustained them in future trials and cemented their faith.
  • The Lord has His timing. Although we have to wait for a time period during trials, He has not left us, forgotten about us or forsaken us. Joseph  asked the Lord HOW LONG, and WHERE ART THOU? This time was extremely refining and sanctifying for Joseph.
  • Even the worthy will suffer great trials. Trust that the Lord delivers! Things don't always work out the way we think they will. Our righteous desires aren't always fulfilled when we expect them to be. However, the Lord is still guiding us!

Homework assignment:

Elder Holland's talk Lessons from Liberty Jail

Doctrine and Covenants 121–123.

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