The life of Mary Fielding Smith is full of trials. One of the hardest of all was when her husband, Hyrum Smith, was put in Liberty Jail. Mary Fielding married Hyrum Smith in 1837, (only one year before Hyrum stay in Liberty Jail).
It was December 1, 1838 when Joseph and friends were falsely accused of crimes and wrongfully imprisoned in Liberty Jail. Joseph Smith, Hyrum and their friends had surrendered to the Missouri mob two weeks prior to being put in jail. The surrender of Joseph, Hyrum and friends happened at the same time that Hyrum’s wife, Mary Fielding Smith, delivered her first son, Joseph F. Smith.
Hyrum and Joseph Smith along with Sidney Rigdon, Lyman Wight, Caleb Baldwin, and Alexander McRae would stay in Liberty Jail until April 6, 1839. The cercumstances of Liberty Jail are some of the worst that a human can go through. For months they were praying to God for deliverance, but were left with no answers.
Mary during Liberty Jail
Liberty Jail is familiar to many members of the Church, but what is not well known is, what was happening to the families of the men while the men were suffering in jail, the families were being tormented and starved. From mob harassment, freezing temperatures, little to no food and so much sickness these poor Saints had to go through so much!
After, Mary Fielding Smith delivered her first baby on November 13, 1839 the situation got even harder. The stress and heartache of her husband being taken to prison wore on Mary. She could not gain her strength back, from delivering her sweet little baby. Mary was so sick, and on the brink of death, without the help of her sister Mercy and other members of the community she would have died! She worked hard to stay alive, but problems kept coming.
The Missouri mob would not leave these people alone! While Mary was sick with her newborn, mob men ransacked her house! Not only is that terrifying, as she was too sick to move, but these mob men almost killed her newborn son! They had thrown blankets on top of this new baby, almost smothering him. Mary was too sick to move. By the time the newborn, was discovered everyone assumed he was dead. The Lord preserved this little baby to, one day, become prophet of His church.
The freezing cold temperatures were another trial for all the members of the Church in Missouri, but in Mary’s condition it was delaying her recovering and almost killing her. It was impossible to keep their little house warm, it was unbearable.
Food was another major problem for the Latter-Day Saints during the winter of 1838. The Missouri Mob men trashed the fields of the Saints and left them with little to no food for the winter. For Mary Fielding Smith this added to her sickness. With little to no nutritious food, it kept Mary sick for much longer. Mary had to rely on the help of the Saints around her, but the rest of the Latter-Day Saints were in the same situation with the mob destroying all they were trying to build. Everyone was struggling to keep their families fed and warm! That winter was brutal for the Latter-Day Saints!
All of these problems were piled on Mary as she was trying to recover from giving birth with the stress of her husband being dragged away to jail, and she did not know if she would ever see him again, freezing temperature and little food, it seemed like there was no hope!
When all these trials were piled on Mary she also got word that Hyrum wanted to see their new little baby!
Mary Visiting Liberty Jail
Mary knew how important it was for her to go visit her husband in Liberty Jail but she still was not better, she was still very sick! Mary wanted to husband to see their new little baby, Joseph F. Smith, but the journey could, in reality, kill her.
With the help of her brother-in-law, Don Carlos and her sister Mercy Fielding they prepared for the journey to see Hyrum. These sweet family members made a bed for Mary and her baby in the back of the wagon. Mary was carried out to the wagon and laid in the bed holding her baby boy for the whole journey. It was in February of 1839, and it was a bitter cold winter. They had 40 miles of uneven, frozen road before they would make it to Liberty Jail.
When the group finally made it to Liberty Jail, Mary and Mercy could not believe the conditions the prisoners were living in! The darkness and dirtiness of the prison was appalling to Mary, meant for the worst kind of prisoners. It was so hard for Mary and Mercy to see these men they loved and honored in this horrible, dark, dirty prison cell.
Even through the dark and horrible conditions Mary and Hyrum had a beautiful and happy reunion! It had been months since they had seen each other! The last time they had seen each other it was when they were taking Hyrum away. Seeing Hyrum again was a tonic to his wife’s soul, it gave her the hope that had been gone for all those months.
Hyrum and the other men in the jail gathered together and gave their baby a name and a blessing. They named their baby after Mary’s brother, Joseph Fielding. It was a sweet time for the prisoners and the visitors.
Personal Liberty Jail Experiences
Mercy Fielding Thomas’s account of that day in Liberty Jail:
”About the fist of February 1839 by the request of her husband, my sister was placed on a bed in a wagon and taken on a journey of about 40 miles to visit him in prison, her infant son, Joseph F. Smith then being about 11 weeks old. The weather being extremely cold, we suffered much on the journey. We arrived at the prison in the evening. We were admitted and the doors closed upon us. A night never to be forgotten. A sleepless night. I nursed the darling babes and in the morning prepared to start for home with my afflicted sister as long as a memory lasts will remain in my recollection the squeaking hinges of that door which closed upon the noblest men on earth. Who can imagine our feelings as we traveled homeward but would I sell the honor bestowed upon me by being locked up in jail with such characters for gold? No! No!”
Mary never wrote down a personal account of what happened that day in Liberty Jail. It was an emotional, and personal time for the couple, maybe too personal to write down. Seeing her husband again, after she assumed she would never see him again in this life changed Mary. It started a time of healing for Mary from her health struggles and having a new baby with her husband in jail, mob attacks, bitter cold weather, no way of staying warm, and little to no food on top of all the other things, seeing Hyrum again gave her hope.
After their trying journey to Liberty Jail, Mary started to recover! The time with her husband must have been exactly what she needed!
Elder Jefferey R. Holland gave a beautiful talk about going through our own, personal Liberty Jails. The talk is called “Lessons from Liberty Jail” September 7, 2008:
“In one way or another, great or small, dramatic or incidental, every one of us is going to spend a little time in Liberty Jail—spiritually speaking. We will face things we do not want to face for reasons that may not be our fault. Indeed, we may face difficult circumstances for reasons that were absolutely right and proper, reasons that came because we were trying to keep the commandments of the Lord. We may face persecution, we may endure heartache and separation from loved ones, we may be hungry and cold and forlorn. Yes, before our lives are over we may all be given a little taste of what the prophets faced often in their lives.
But the lessons of the winter of 1838–39 teach us that every experience can become a redemptive experience if we remain bonded to our Father in Heaven through it. These difficult lessons teach us that man’s extremity is God’s opportunity, and if we will be humble and faithful, if we will be believing and not curse God for our problems, He can turn the unfair and inhumane and debilitating prisons of our lives into temples—or at least into a circumstance that can bring comfort and revelation, divine companionship and peace.”
“I testify that the Father and the Son live and that They are close, perhaps even closest via the Holy Spirit, when we are experiencing difficult times. I testify that heaven’s kindness will never depart from you, regardless of what happens (see Isaiah 54:7–10; see also 3 Nephi 22:7–10). I testify that bad days come to an end, that faith always triumphs, and that heavenly promises are always kept. God is our Father, Jesus is the Christ, and this is the true and living gospel—found in this, the true and living Church. I testify that President Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God, our prophet for this hour and this day. I love him and sustain him as I know you do. In the words of the Liberty Jail prison-temple experience, “Hold on thy way. … Fear not … , for God shall be with you forever and ever” (D&C 122:9).
As, Elder Jefferey R. Holland said, “bad days come to an end, faith always triumphs, and heavenly promises are ALWAYS kept! This gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of hope! He gives us hope in dark times.
More Stories about Mary Fielding Smith:
Places to Visit for learning about Mary Fielding Smith:
Bedfordshire, England- Where Mary was born
Kirtland, Ohio- Where Mary met her Husband.
Liberty Jail, Missouri
“This is the Place Park”, Salt Lake City Utah- Mary’s Millcreek, Utah house is preserved.
Salt Lake City Cemetery- Where Mary is buried, next to her sister, Mercy.
“Mary Fielding Smith: Daughter of Britain, Portrait of Courage” By Don C. Corbett