Luke Samuel Johnson (1807-1861)

Luke Johnson Autobiography (1807-1838)
“History of Luke Johnson [by himself],”
The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 26 (1864):834-36; 27 (1865):5-7.

My grandfather, Israel Johnson, lived in Chesterfield, New Hampshire, and was much respected by his neighbors for his honesty, integrity and industry.

My father, John Johnson, was born in Chesterfield, New Hampshire, April 11, 1779. He followed the occupation of farming on a large scale, and was noted for paying his debts and living independently. He moved from Pomfret, Vermont, to Hiram, Portage County, Ohio. He was connected with the Methodist Church for about four or five years previous to receiving the gospel.

Soon after Joseph Smith moved from the state of New York, my father, mother and Ezra Booth, a Methodist Minister, went to Kirtland to investigate `Mormonism.’ My mother had been laboring under an attack of chronic rheumatism in the shoulder, so that she could not raise her hand to her head for about two years; the prophet laid hands upon her, and she was healed immediately.

My father was satisfied in regard to the truth of `Mormonism,’ and was baptized by Joseph Smith, Jr., in the winter of 1830-1, and furnished him and his family a home, while he translated a portion of the Bible.

In the fall of 1831, while Joseph was yet at my father’s, a mob of forty or fifty came to his house, a few entered his room in the middle of the night, and Carnot Mason dragged Joseph out of bed by the hair of his head; he was then seized by as many as could get hold of him, and taken about forty rods from the house, stretched on a board, and tantalized in the most insulting and brutal manner; they tore off the few night clothes that he had on, for the purpose of emasculating him, and had Dr. Dennison there to perform the operation; but when the Dr. saw the Prophet stripped and stretched on the plank, his heart failed him, and he refused to operate. The mob then scratched his body all over, saying, `Damn you, this is the way the Holy Ghost falls upon you.’ And in attempting to force open his jaws, they broke one of his front teeth to pour a vial of some obnoxious drug into his mouth.

The mob became divided, and did not succeed, but poured tar over him, and then stuck feathers in it and left him, and went to an old brickyard to wash themselves and bury their filthy clothes. At this place a vial was dropped, the contents of which ran out and killed the grass. About the same time part of the mob went to the house that Sidney Rigdon occupied, and dragged him out, and besmeared him with tar and feathers. My father, hearing the outcry of the family, went to the door, but finding it held by someone on the outside, he called for his gun, when those who held the door left; he pursued, and was knocked down; his collarbone was broken; he was taken back to the house, and hands laid upon him by David Whitmer and immediately healed. A few minutes after this accident, we heard the voice of Joseph calling for a blanket; some person handed him one, and he came in, the tar trickling down his face; his wife was very much alarmed, supposing it to be blood, until he came near enough to see that it was tar. My mother got some lard, and rubbed it upon him to get the tar off, which they succeeded in removing.

Waste, who was the strongest man on the Western Reserve, had boasted that he could take Joseph out alone. At the time they were taking him out of the house, Waste had hold of one foot, Joseph drew up his leg and gave him a kick, which sent him sprawling in the street. He afterwards said the prophet was the most powerful man he ever had hold of in his life.

Soon after this persecution, Mason had an attack of the spinal affection. Fullars, one of the mobocrats, died of the cholera in Cleveland. Dr. Dennison was sent to the penitentiary for ten years, and died before the term expired.

My father moved to Kirtland, and was ordained to the office of high priest, and was a member of the first high council organized in the Church. He died in Kirtland in 1843.

I was born in Pomfret, Windsor County, Vermont, November 3, 1807. In early life I assisted my father in farming, and remained with him until I received the gospel, and was baptized by Joseph Smith, May 10, 1831. Soon thereafter I was ordained a priest by Christian Whitmer, and performed a mission to the southern part of Ohio, in company with Robert Rathburn, where we baptized several and organized a branch in Chippewa.

In company with Sidney Rigdon I went on a mission to New Portage, where we baptized about fifty or sixty, and organized a branch; from thence we journeyed to Pittsburgh, (in the vicinity where Sidney was born and raised) where we preached the gospel to his relatives, and I baptized his mother and his oldest brother, also several others in that neighborhood, and we organized a branch.

At a conference in Orange, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, I was ordained a high priest by Joseph Smith. At this conference the eleven witnesses to the Book of Mormon, with uplifted hands, bore their solemn testimony to the truth of that book, as did also the Prophet Joseph.

In January 1832, I was appointed by revelation, in company with W. [William] E. McLellin, to go on a mission south. We preached several times, and, arriving at Middlebury, Portage County, Brother McLellin got a situation behind a counter to sell tapes, and etc., and I, preferring not to proceed alone, returned to the town of Hiram, and the prophet appointed Seymour Brunson in his stead, with whom I travelled through Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky. We baptized over one hundred persons, and organized a branch in Lawrence County, Ohio, and another in Cabal County, Virginia, and returned to Hiram.

December 28, 1832, in company with Hazen Aldrich I started and resumed my mission to the south country. On the 31st, at Worcester, we baptized two.

January 19, 1833, preached in Charleston, Jackson County, where I baptized several of the Stoker family. On the 27th, met brother Zerubabbel Snow, and baptized one. We visited the branches, preached and set the churches in order as we journeyed along. February 24, returned to Hiram, and assisted my father on his farm during the summer.

In the fall of 1833, I visited the branches raised up in Lawrence County, Ohio, and preached and baptized in that vicinity.

November 1st, I married Susan Harminda Poteet, in Cabal County Virginia.

February 17, 1834, at the organization of the first high council, which was in Kirtland, I was chosen a member.

In May I started with Zion’s Camp for Missouri, on which journey I acted as pioneer, and went before the camp–marked the signs of the times and the situation of our enemies. Having made a declaration before I started that I would go into Jackson County, or die in the attempt, in company with my brother Lyman and others I procured a boat, and rowed over the Missouri River and landed in Jackson County, where we discharged three rounds of our small arms, and immediately got into the boat, and with all our energies rowed back. Meanwhile the mob in Jackson County lined the shore, and commenced firing upon us, their balls skimming the waters near us. After landing I returned fire and shot across the Missouri River.

“I returned to Kirtland, in Captain Heber C. Kimball’s company, and received my blessing in common with the members of Zion’s Camp.

February the 14, 1835, I was chosen, and on the 15th, ordained one of the Twelve Apostles, at the organization of that quorum; and with them traveled during the summer, through the eastern states, holding conferences, preaching the gospel and regulating the churches, returning to Kirtland in September.

I attended Hebrew school during the winter, and received my blessings in the House of the Lord in the spring of 1836; after which I started on a mission to Canada, preaching through the state of New York on the way. I baptized many, and organized a branch in Canada, and returned to Kirtland in the fall.

A Baptist Clergyman from the state of New York, who had been acquainted with the Prophet Joseph in his early life, called upon him and staid [stayed] all night. Joseph made the minister welcome, and treated him hospitably and respectfully; but, when breakfast was over next morning, he called Joseph a hypocrite, a liar, an imposter and a false prophet, and called upon him to repent. Joseph boxed his ears with both hands, and, turning his face towards the door, kicked him into the street. He immediately went before a magistrate, and swore out a writ against Joseph for assault and battery. I saw the operation, and followed the minister into the squire’s office, and demanded a writ for his apprehension, for provoking an assault; the clerk filling up the writ I called for first–the minister, fearing trouble, paid for his writ and withdrew without it, and made his way post haste for Cuyahoga County; I followed him on horseback, making him travel pretty lively until he got a few rods over the line when I overtook him and said, `Sir, you are lucky to have got over the line, and out of my jurisdiction, or I should have arrested you.’

January 12th, 1838, I learned that Sheriff Kimball was about to arrest Joseph Smith, on a charge of illegal banking, and knowing that it would cost him an expensive lawsuit, and perhaps end in imprisonment, I went to the French farm, where he then resided, and arrested him on an execution for his person, in the absence of property to pay a judgment of $50, which I had in my possession at the time, which prevented Kimball from arresting him. Joseph settled the execution, and thanked me for my interference, and started that evening for Missouri: this was the last time I ever saw the Prophet.

Soon after I was in Kirtland, and hearing that a vexatious writ had been sworn out by John C. White against Joseph Smith, Sen., it being supposed he was liable to a prosecution in consequence of his manner of solemnizing marriages, I begged the privilege of serving the writ, and arrested the old gentleman, and took him to the magistrate’s office. The court not being ready to attend to the case, I put him in a small room adjoining the entrance from the office. I also allowed his son Hyrum to accompany him. I took a nail out from over the window sash, left the room and locked the door, and commenced telling stories in the courtroom, to raise a laugh, for I was afraid they would hear Father Smith getting out of the window; when the court called for the prisoner, I stepped into the room in the dark and slipped the nail into its place in the window, and went back and told the court that the prisoner had made his escape. White and others rushed into the room, and examined the fastenings and found them all secure, which created much surprise how the prisoner had got out. I had previously told John F. Boynton, to go and assist Father Smith out of the window. Hyrum got out first, then he and Boynton assisted the old man out, he thereby escaped bonds or imprisonment, and an expensive and vexatious lawsuit.

Having partaken of the spirit of speculation, which at that time was possessed by many of the Saints and elders, my mind became darkened, and I was left to pursue my own course. I lost the Spirit of God, and neglected my duty; the consequence was, that at a conference held in Kirtland, September 3rd, 1837, in company with my brother Lyman and John F. Boynton, I was cut off from the Church, privileged with confessing and making satisfaction.

In the spring of 1838, Dr. Frederick G. Williams was arrested at Willoughby, as he was on his way to Missouri, on a frivolous and vexatious process; he sent to Kirtland for me to help him. On receipt of his message, I repaired forthwith to Willoughby, and learned that he was in the hands of an officer named Granston, and that he was to have his trial before Esquire Bates at early candlelight. I immediately removed his horse and buggy out of the county, and went to him; he asked me if I could render him any assistance, as this was a vexatious suit. I told I could, and that I had sent his horse and buggy out of the county, and I would furnish him a horse which should be held in the street opposite the office, by Bradford W. Elliot, at the lighting of the candles. I sat at the door of the courtroom, the key being on the outside; Cranston and Dr. Williams were walking the room, and Cranston was observing that a prisoner never made his escape from him. Just as the candles were lighting, I opened the door, the Dr. walked out, unobserved by Cranston; I immediately followed him, and, locking the door, tossed the key a few rods from the office; the court hearing the door locked, jumped up, upsetting the table and candles, and mixed up in great confusion; the cry was, `Open the door, open the door;’ a shoemaker at work, being the only person within hearing, replied several times, `Open the door yourself.’ At length Cranston succeeded in getting out by a hatchway through a hatter’s shop below, and overtaking me (as I was quietly walking down the street towards Kirtland) slapped me on the shoulder, asking where Dr. Williams had gone to. I replied, `I am not his keeper;’ whereupon he gave me the second and third slap on the shoulder, and in a loud tone, demanded of me to inform him: I had been shooting squirrels that day, and had my powder flask in my pocket, which I took out and told him, I would let him know where the Dr. was, and snapping the spring of my flask at him several times, he ran off, and looking over his shoulder, he fell down, but kept running several rods upon his hands and feet: when he got back to court, he reported that he had narrowly escaped with his life.

From this time up to the death of Joseph Smith, I spent my time in teaching school in Cabal County, Virginia, for about a year, devoting my leisure time in reading works on medicine. I returned to Kirtland and continued the study of medicine, and attended a course of lectures in the botanical college at Cincinnati, receiving a certificate from Professor Curtis; afterwards practiced in Kirtland, and engaged in various occupations to enable me to obtain a living; but did not officiate in any religious duties.

[Luke Samuel Johnson eventually rejoined the Church and came to Utah where he died in 1861.]