Monday, April 4, 2016

Cyrus Wheelock and Self-defense

Many people, including members of the church, don’t know that Joseph and Hyrum were armed when they were attacked in Carthage. Detractors to the Church say that Joseph was not a martyr because he was armed. That really has nothing to do with the definition of a martyr.

It was raining that morning, so Cyrus Wheelock put on his overcoat. He slipped an Ethan Allen dragoon-style pepperbox pistol into his pocket. The pistol belonged to John Taylor, who was in jail at Carthage, Illinois, with Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, and Dr. Willard Richards. The pistol was a six-shooter, the kind of weapon later used so frequently by the ’49ers in California.

Cyrus had been at the jail the evening before, and he needed to return in the morning for more legal business, so at 8:00 a.m., he went to Illinois Governor Thomas Ford to request a pass. Ford provided two passes: one for entry into the prison and one for safe travel between Carthage and Nauvoo. This what the passes said:

Suffer Mr. C. H. Wheelock to pass in to visit General Joseph Smith and friends in Carthage jail unmolested.

Thomas Ford,
Governor and Commander-in-Chief.
June, 27th, 1844.

Protect Mr. C. H. Wheelock in passing to and from Carthage and Nauvoo.

Thomas Ford,
Governor and Commander-in-Chief.
June, 27th, 1844.

Cyrus had heard credible death threats against Joseph Smith from a man named John Hicks, and he repeated the threats to the governor, but Governor Ford refused to do anything.

Cyrus entered the prison, his pistol unnoticed. He spent an hour or two there, collecting a letter from Joseph to Emma Smith, gathering a list of witnesses for the upcoming trial, taking verbal messages from the four men to their families, and receiving instructions to tell the Nauvoo Legion to avoid any show of force. The messages were so numerous that Willard Richards suggested writing them down in case Cyrus forgot them, but Hyrum Smith looked Cyrus in the eye and said, “Brother Wheelock will remember all that we tell him, and he will never forget the occurrences of this day.”

As Cyrus got ready to leave, he took the pepperbox pistol out of his overcoat pocket and gave it to Joseph Smith, then walked down the stairs and out of the jail.
Handing the single shot pistol to Hyrum Joseph said, “You may have use for this.” Brother Hyrum observed, “I hate to use such things, or to see them used.” “So do I,” said Joseph, “but we may have to, to defend ourselves;” upon this Hyrum took the pistol.
Some have said the Church has tried to hide these facts. It’s clear in two places in the History Of The Church where this is described. Also, the two pistols are on display in the Church History Museum on Temple Square.
Cyrus Wheelock was a faithful member of the Church. He served missions and was one of the rescuers of the Willie and Martin handcarts companies. He also wrote the words to the hymn “Ye Elders Of Israel.”
He was a loyal member throughout his life and knew the importance of self-defense.

Semper Paratus
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