On 16 August 1842, while hiding at ’s house a few miles northeast of the site of the in , Illinois, JS wrote to in Nauvoo with instructions on how to prepare to flee with him from to , should the need arise. JS also expressed his feeling of contentment, even though he sent the letter in the midst of an attempt by Illinois officers to find him, arrest him, and extradite him to to face charges in connection with the attempted assassination of former governor . The night before JS wrote the letter, a group of his closest associates had traveled to Sayers’s farm to inform JS of recent developments in Nauvoo. The group was concerned about his safety, and during the conversation, which lasted until two o’clock in the morning, they urged him to prepare to travel to Wisconsin Territory. JS attempted to calm their fears. Writing to Emma later that morning, he emphasized that if they did depart from Nauvoo, it would be to ensure the safety of Emma and their family. The same morning, JS also wrote a letter to , asking for advice about whether he should leave Illinois.
, who appears to have been at ’s farm with JS on 16 August, probably wrote the original letter as JS dictated it to him; that original is no longer extant. delivered the letter to shortly after it was written. She apparently responded to JS’s letter that same day, although her letter of reply is undated. Clayton may have made a copy of JS’s original letter immediately after creating it, or he may have later obtained the original. Regardless, he copied the letter into JS’s journal after returning to , probably between 21 and 23 August, as suggested by the location of the letter in the Book of the Law of the Lord and by changes in ink color.
and the children. My mind will eternally revolt at every suggestion of that kind. More especially since the dream and vision that was manifested to me on the last night. My safety is with you, if you want to have it so. Any thing more or less than this cometh of evil. My feelings and council I think ought to be abided. If I go to the , you shall go along with me, and the children; and if you and the children go not with me, I dont go. I do not wish to exile myself for the sake of my own life, I would rather fight it out. It is for your sakes, therefore, that I would do such a thing. I will go with you then, in the same carriage and on Horse back, from time to time, as occasion may require; for I am not willing to trust you, in the hands of those who cannot feel the same interest for you, that I feel; to be subject to the caprice, temptations, or notions of any-body whatever. And I must say that I am pre-possessed somewhat, with the notion of going to the any how; for I am tired of the mean, low, and unhallowed vulgarity, of some portions of the society in which we live; and I think if I could have a respite of about six months with my family, it would be a savor of life unto life, with my house. Nevertheless if it were possible I would like to live here in peace and wind up my business; but if it should be ascertained to a dead certainty that there is no other remedy, then we will round up our shoulders and cheerfully endure it; and this will be the plan. Let my horse, saddle, saddle-bags, and valice to put some shirts and clothing in, be sent to me. Let brother and take a horse and put it into my Buggy with a trunk containing my heavier cloths, shoes and Boots &c and let accompany us to his s, and there we will tarry, taking every precaution to keep out of the hands of the enemy, untill you can arrive with the children. Let bring you. Let and come along and bring all the writings and papers, books and histories, for we shall want a scribe in order that we may pour upon the world the truth like the Lava of Mount Vesuvius. Then, let all the goods, household furniture, cloths and Store Goods that can be procured be put on to the Boat, and let 20 or 30 of the best men that we can find be put on board to man it, and let them meet us at ; and from thence, we will wend our way like larks up the untill the touring [towering?] mountains and rocks, shall reminds us of the places of our nativity, and shall look like safety and home; and then we will bid defiance to the world, to , , , and all their whorish whores, and motly clan, that [p. 174]
ApostleJohn Taylor’s father, James Taylor, lived on the Henderson River near Oquawka, Illinois, north of Nauvoo. (“Joseph Smith, the Prophet,” 547; Obituary for Agnes Taylor, Deseret News [Salt Lake City], 25 Nov. 1868, 335.)
“Joseph Smith, the Prophet.” Young Woman’s Journal 17, no. 12 (Dec. 1906): 547–548.
William Clayton was JS’s scribe and had the primary responsibility for keeping JS’s journal during this period. Lorin Walker resided with the Smith family in Nauvoo and served as JS’s “personal attendant.” He may have been at the Smith house at the time JS wrote this letter. On 13 August, both Clayton and Walker had helped Emma Smith travel undetected to visit JS in hiding. (JS, Journal, 29 June and 13 Aug. 1842; Mary Audentia Smith Anderson, “The Memoirs of President Joseph Smith,” Saints’ Herald, 18 Dec. 1934, 1614.)
Prairie du Chien is located in Crawford County, Wisconsin Territory, at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers. It is situated about 170 miles north of Nauvoo and about 90 miles south of Black River Falls, Wisconsin Territory.