Did Joseph Smith Attempt to Assassinate Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs? (Knowhy 632) – powered by Happy Scribe
When an unknown assailant unsuccessfully attempted to kill former Governor Lilburn Boggs in 1842, suspicion of many in Missouri turned towards Joseph Smith in the Latterday Saints. Despite suggestions that Joseph Smith was involved in the Bogs assassination attempt, no evidence has ever surfaced to implicate Joseph Smith or his associates in the crime. On May 6, 1842, former Governor Lilbern Boggs was sitting in his Taylor reading the evening newspaper when an unidentified shooter fired several rounds through the window and hit Bogs in the head and neck. Amazingly, this incident did not kill Bogs and he eventually made a full recovery. The discharged pistol was left at the scene of the crime, as well as some footprints outside the window, but police investigators were unable to identify the assailant based on this limited evidence.
It wasn’t long before accusations and rumors started swirling around the Latterday Saints, whom Boggs had violently expelled from Missouri years earlier. John C. Bennett, who had recently been excommunicated from the church for his dishonest and adulterous behavior, fueled rumors that Joseph Smith had sent Porter Rockwell to assassinate Bogs. But Joseph Smith and the Saints were not the only suspects, as Bogs had accumulated plenty of political and ideological enemies over the years. Many of BoG’s constituents disapproved of his handling of an armed clash over a border dispute with Iowa, and others questioned the suspicious way that he raised money for a brand new Capitol building.
After the better part of eight months of evading the Missouri authorities, joseph Smith submitted himself to arrest when a new Illinois governor came to power and seemed to be more sympathetic to Joseph Smith and the plight of the Saints. Joseph’s court hearing was held on January 6, 1843, amid considerable sensation and commotion. Judge Nathaniel Pope ruled that lowburn Boggs produced insufficient evidence to warrant an extradition from Illinois. Pope said Boggs was shot on 6 May. The affidavit was made on 20 July.
Following here was time for inquiry which would confirm into certainty or dispute his suspicions. He had time to collect facts to be laid before a Brandt jury or be incorporated in his affidavit. The court is bound to assume that this would have been the course of Mr. Boggs, but that his suspicions were light and unsatisfactory. This hearing did not rule on the merits of the underlying crime.
No court ever determined if Joseph Smith was guilty of participating in Boxes assassination. Instead, it simply ruled that Box’s affidavit contained insufficient evidence to support the claim that Joseph Smith had fled from justice in Missouri. After months of hiding and being away from friends and family, joseph walked free. Despite being relentlessly pursued for a crime he did not commit, joseph Smith remained optimistic and encouraging toward the Saints during this period of hiding. He wrote two letters that eventually were canonized as Doctrine and Covenant, Sections 127 and 128.
Just as John the Revelator experienced spiritual manifestations during his imprisonment, joseph Smith still received priceless revelation from heaven. During his voluntary exile in the face of his persecution, he boldly and emphatically declared brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren, and onto victory. Let your hearts rejoice and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing.
Let the dead speak forth. Anthems of eternal praise to the king emmanuel, who hath ordained before the world was that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison. For the prisoners shall go free.