Monday, July 24, 2017

Held Prisoner in an Ice House

Have you ever felt cramped and uncomfortable from riding too long in a car?  Have you ever finished a long flight and upon landing couldn't wait to stretch your legs?  So have I.  And in traveling thus I found myself held tremendously spellbound by the agony that Joseph Smith and his comrades must have endured during their incarceration at the infamous Liberty Jail.

Small wonder that the prison only operated for a few short years before it was closed, the government deeming it unfit for human life.  A miserable cellar, only six feet from floor to ceiling with no windows, natural light or ventilation held a prophet of God and a handful of followers for several months while Governor Boggs of Missouri declared it legal and upright to slaughter every Mormon man, woman and child in cold blood.  

I had read the stories of "Liberty Jail" before and I find it sad irony that the two words so desperately contradict each other. After its closure it became an ice house, protecting ice from the elements even in the middle of a stifling July.  Such were the conditions for the unfortunate few residing in the belly of this fortress.

Joseph tipped his hat politely to the waiting crowd of naysayers upon his arrival at the prison and, bidding them a good afternoon, walked calmly toward the cruelty of what would be a poignant learning experience and possibly the lowest time in his life.  As I pondered the enormity of this moment I cleared my mind and invited the Spirit of the Lord to teach me.  It seemed for an instant as I sat in this hallowed bit of history, that these original walls and floor still echoed with the anguished cries of the prophet.  It seemed to me that his agony hung in the air, desperately aching not only for himself but more importantly for his unprotected people who were struggling through such terrible persecution, frightened and leaderless.

But as in all things, this proved not only a hellish trial but an era of particular closeness to God.  One inmate recorded that it was more a temple than a prison with the Prophet Joseph with him within those four walls.  Though they ate little and rotted food, though they shivered and pleaded for justice, some of the most beautiful revelations we have on record also transpired in this place and the Lord taught Joseph and all those who read his revelations that "all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good."


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