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Historic

Sites

Zion's Camp at the Fishing River

Clay County, Missouri

Introduction

The Lord directed Joseph Smith to lead a group of faithful Saints to aid Church members "scattered on the land of Zion" 1 as a result of mob violence in Jackson County, Missouri. A company of about 200 volunteers known as Zion's Camp departed Kirtland, Ohio, in May 1834 on this rescue mission.

On June, 19 the company arrived between the east and west forks of the Fishing River just north of Jackson County. A large mob intent on destroying Zion's Camp gathered on the other side of the river. The attack was prevented when a fierce storm swept the area and the river quickly rose more than 30 feet, turning the mob away. Joseph declared, "God is in this storm." 2

Several days later, the Prophet received a revelation at the Fishing River, wherein the Lord declared that the time for redeeming Zion had not arrived. He explained that Zion's Camp had been "brought thus far for a trial of their faith." 3 The company was formally discharged on July 3, 1834.

Future apostles and prophets, including Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff, participated in Zion's Camp. Joseph observed that these leaders "had made as great a sacrifice as did Abraham." 4 The experience also helped prepare those who eventually directed the 1847 exodus to Salt Lake City.

Quotes

Joseph Smith Quotes

Notwithstanding our enemies were continually breathing threats of violence, we did not fear, neither did we hesitate to prosecute our journey, for God was with us, and His angels went before us, and the faith of our little band was unwavering. We know that angels were our companions, for we saw them. (History of the Church, 2:73.)

I have seen those men who died of the cholera in our camp; and the Lord knows, if I get a mansion as bright as theirs, I ask no more," said Joseph Smith of those who served in Zion's Camp. Then he wept and continued: "I wish you to notify all the brethren living in the branches, within a reasonable distance from this place, to meet at a general conference on Saturday next [February 14, 1835]. I shall then and there appoint twelve Special Witnesses, to open the door of the Gospel to foreign nations, and you [Brigham Young] will be one of them. (History of the Church, 2:181.)

Brethren, some of you are angry with me, because you did not fight in Missouri; but let me tell you, God did not want you to fight. He could not organize his kingdom with twelve men to open the gospel door to the nations of the earth, and with seventy men under their direction to follow in their tracks, unless he took them from a body of men who had offered their lives, and who had made as great a sacrifice as did Abraham.

Now, the Lord has got his Twelve and his Seventy, and there will be other quorums of Seventies called, who will make the sacrifice, and those who have not made their sacrifices and their offerings now, will make them hereafter. (Quoted in Joseph Young Sr., History of the Organization of the Seventies (1878), 14.)

Witnesses

Wilford Woodruff, 4th President of the Church, 1889–1898 

We were young men, and were called upon in that early day to go up and redeem Zion, and what we had to do we had to do by faith. . . . We gained an experience that we never could have gained in any other way. We had the privilege of beholding the face of the prophet, and we had the privilege of traveling a thousand miles with him, and seeing the workings of the spirit of God with him, and the revelations of Jesus Christ unto him and the fulfilment of those revelations. . . . Had I not gone up with Zion's Camp I should not have been here to-day [Salt Lake City, December 1869], and I presume that would have been the case with many others in this Territory. By going there we were thrust into the vineyard to preach the gospel, and the Lord accepted our labors. And in all our labors and persecutions, with our lives often at stake, we have had to work and live by faith. (Deseret News, Dec. 22, 1869, 543.)

George A. Smith, Apostle 1839–1875 

The Prophet Joseph took a full share of the fatigues of the entire journey [of Zion's Camp]. In addition to the care of providing for the Camp and presiding over it, he walked most of the time and had a full proportion of blistered, bloody, and sore feet, which was the natural result of walking from 25 to 40 miles a day in a hot season of the year. But during the entire trip he never uttered a murmur or complaint, while most of the men in the Camp complained to him . . . and many of us were prayerless, thoughtless, careless, heedless, foolish or devilish, and yet we did not know it. Joseph had to bear with us and tutor us, like children. There were many, however, in the Camp who never murmured and who were always ready and willing to do as our leaders desired. ("My Journal," The Instructor, May 1946, 217.)

Key Events

Revelations Received

  • D&C Section 105  — 

    June 22, 1834. Shortly before the arrival of Zion’s Camp in Clay County, Missouri, the governor rescinded the aid he had promised. Hence, the goal to restore the Saints to their inheritance was frustrated.

Readings

Online Resources at LDS.org

 

Footnotes

[1] D&C 103:1.

[2] History of the Church, 2:104.

[3] D&C 105:19.

[4] Quoted in Joseph Young Sr., History of the Organization of the Seventies (1878), 14.