Zion’s Camp (George Albert Smith) – Institute Video

Hope you all enjoyed a few days off of Institute last week with Saturday’s Warrior. Now we’re back, but it’s still a movie day (Who didn’t love movie days in Institute?). This one is relevant to what we’ve been studying. It’s all about that time God told an army of 150 men to march 1000 miles to do nothing, as told from the perspective of someone who, in fact, would later become prophet and was directly related to Joseph Smith, Jr.


0:00:05- My, what studly horses you’ve got there.  Two horses for say… 30 men?

0:00:08- yes the condition of the Missouri Saints is growing worse. Poor people are squatting on land and the neighbors are upset. They’re throwing rocks through windows now.  Edward Partridge has been tarred and feathered and the print shop destroyed.  In August 1833, D&C 98 was given, giving the Saints the right to retribution unto the 3rd and 4th generation.  The Saints had tried to use lawyers to get the land back, probably sparking the second round of violence in October 1833 (tar and feathering).  The speakers are , I think, Orson Hyde and John Gould, who were sent back to inform the Prophet of conditions.

0:00:12- Yeah, they were close to starvation and living in tents BEFORE this point, but let’s ignore that shall we?

0:00:14- Heber C. Kimball sideburns of awesome.

0:00:15- This man is Sylvester Smith.  Take a good look at him. He is the villain of the film if there is one.  They don’t say it, but he was one of the inaugural seven Presidents of the Seventy. Cowdery ordained him a high priest on October 25, 1831 and in 1832, he served as a traveling missionary on a journey from Ohio to Vermont.  They are going to turn him into a villain.  He was not related to Joseph Smith, Jr.

0:00:18- I cannot identify who these two men are who are supposed to be relating the story.  I’m guessing two of the Colesville Saints who were told to move on to Mississippi.  Governor Dunklin, or the “Father of public schools” as he is known outside Mormonism, was actually petitioned by Joseph Smith himself, so they are taking some liberties here.  He replied directly to Joseph:

No citizen, nor number of citizens, have a right to take the redress of their grievances, whether real or imaginary, into their own hands. Such conduct strikes at the very existence of society, and subverts the foundation on which it is based…make a trial of the efficacy of the laws; the judge of your circuit is a conservator of the peace. If an affidavit is made before him by any of you, that your lives are threatened and you believe them in danger, it would be his duty to have the offenders apprehended and bind them to keep peace.

So he pushed the Saints to the courts. I’m not sure why they are saying he would use troops to return the people to their homes. I’m guessing they are referring to this, printed in the Times and Seasons:

Missouri Attorney General R. W. Wells writes on behalf of Governor Dunklin that if the Mormons want to return to their homes in Jackson County, “an adequate force will be sent forthwith to effect that object.” If Mormons wish to organize their own volunteer company, “the Colonel” would be obliged to accept them. “As only a certain quantity of public arms can be distributed in each County; those who first apply will be most likely to receive them. The less, therefore, that is said upon the subject the better.”

Times and Seasons 6, no. 1 (June 1, 1845): 912.

Dunklin did not comment on the matter other that to push for courts. It sounds historical, but I wish they gave references in these movies so we could look it up. Also, he clearly did not say “provide your own guards,” but the very opposite.

0:00:20- Very handsome Joseph Smith, Jr.  He looked more like this:

What Joseph actually looked like.

with a prominent nose.

0:00:24 – Parley P. Pratt, I believe.

0:00:30- Shooshing of leaders of the church.

0:00:41- This is not, in fact, Peter Parker.  This nerdy teenager in spectacles is, in fact, George Albert Smith. Our Hero.  Hurray!

0:00:46- This is not how he received the revelation to start Zion’s Camp, with everyone staring at him.  It was recorded without detail by two historians, however, and was printed in the newspaper.

D.P. Hurlbut is sent on a mission by the Kirtland Saints to gather affidavits from the Smith neighbors at this time, thinking it would bolster the case of the Saints. Instead, he comes back with affidavits proving Joseph is a fraud. These affidavits are later printed in E. Howe’s Mormonism Unvailed.  By the end of December, Joseph files a complaint against Doctor P. Hurlbut for threatening to kill him (Papers of Joseph Smith, Volume 2 2:19n1).

Joseph writes brethren in Missouri to use the courts, write the governor and the president, but do not sell their lands.

0:01:20 – Interesting that the promise he gives is that, “he will lead them there and back again.”  I think they’ve confused this prophesy for the subtitle of the Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.  The prophesy says:

V. 17 “Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered.”

V. 55-58

Go and gather together the residue of my servants, and take all the strength of mine house, which are my warriors, my young men, and they that are of middle age also among all my servants, who are the strength of mine house, save those only whom I have appointed to tarry;

And go ye straightway unto the land of my vineyard, and redeem my vineyard; for it is mine; I have bought it with money.

Therefore, get ye straightway unto my land; break down the walls of mine enemies; throw down their tower, and scatter their watchmen.

And inasmuch as they gather together against you, avenge me of mine enemies, that by and by I may come with the residue of mine house and possess the land.

V. 74 All the land which can be purchased in Jackson county, and the counties round about, and leave the residue in mine hand.

Yeah, no “Joseph will go there and back again,” but rather terms of warfare, breaking, burning, etc. combined with “purchase land.” Also, no revelation about no harm for those who follow. This revelation is not an official one to Zion’s Camp, but a personal one to Brigham Young: “To Brigham Young and his older brother Joseph, the Prophet promised: ‘If you will go with me in the camp to Missouri and keep my counsel, I promise you, in the name of the Almighty, that I will lead you there and back again, and not a hair of your heads shall be harmed’” (Brigham Young, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 18011844, ed. Elden J. Watson. Salt Lake City: Smith Secretarial Service, 1968, 8).

He did say, according to George Albert Smith, that none of them would be “harmed.” Think about that statement,  Is sickness harm?

0:01:30 – Quick shot of young Brigham Young so that it kinda sorta fits the data… kinda.

George Albert Smith

0:01:50- Zion’s camp departed May 4, 1834. About 200 men and a number of women and children volunteered to join this expedition. They crossed most of the state by the end of June.

0:02:00- Here we see happy singing Zion’s Camp.  They left May 4th and in 8 days George A. Smith records that he ate raw pork and bread for breakfast for the first time. By May 14th, 10 days after the camp set out, the bread was exhausted. Sylvester Smith’s first recorded complaint comes when they are unable to buy bread at the planned location.

0:02:51- “most of the men in the Camp complained to him of sore toes, blistered feet, long drives, scanty supply of provisions, poor quality of bread, bad corn dodger, frowsy butter, strong honey, maggoty bacon and cheese. … Even a dog could not bark at some men without their murmuring at Joseph” (Instructor, May 1946, 217).

Heber C. Kimball wrote, “I frequently invited the Prophet to ride, seeing him lame and footsore.  On such occasions he would bless me and my team with a hearty good will.”  George A. reports that the prophet also had his fair share of blisters, but it is clear that Joseph rode more than the men (Quoted in Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball. 1888. 56).

0:02:59 – I find no record of the Prophet ever giving George Albert Smith new boots. This is made up whole cloth to make Joseph seem less harsh.

[Edited: A member of George Albert Smith’s family corrected me on this.  This is a family story told by George A himself.  See comments for 2-3 sources.]

0:03:29- Sylvester Smith throws a tantrum. In reality he, at this point, stated he wished the party were more prepared.

0:03:41- Prophet makes statement after seeing Sylvester leave the camp implying that the Lord is behind the suffering. No such comments were made as far as any record indicates until he prophesies the sickness.

0:04:00- Look, vultures! Kinda random since they really ran into rattlesnakes and Joseph taught that… well, read the quote:

In pitching my tent we found three massasaugas or prairie rattlesnakes, which the brethren were about to kill, but I said, “Let them alone — don’t hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition, and continue to make war upon it? Men must become harmless, before the brute creation; and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the sucking child can play with the serpent in safety.” The brethren took the serpents carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek. I exhorted the brethren not to kill a serpent, bird, or an animal of any kind during our journey unless it became necessary in order to preserve ourselves from hunger (History of the Church, Vol.2, Ch.5, p.72).

Why did that rattlesnake bite you? I don’t know, but it’s probably your fault for being soft, pink, and having no fangs, claws, scales or any sort of protection beyond your brain.

0:04:13- “Milk to wash down rancid mess”  Ah yes, our ever angry villain wants milk and complains about rotten meat (which it was). Why they have him ask about milk is anyone’s guess, as I doubt they had milk on a 1000 mile walk. Anyway, here we see him throw the first punch in a fistfight over being told to quit whining. Immediately, we think of Laman and Lemuel and their murmuring.

If you look like this in the army, you’re gonna get punched.

 Here’s the only recorded instance of a fistfight in Zion’s camp:

The old wagon road that Zion’s Camp was to travel through Missouri passed immediately by the three hundred twenty acres of William Adams Hickman, approximately eleven miles east of Huntsville, Missouri, near present-day Missouri State Highway 24. Hickman was a prosperous young farmer, only about twenty years old. He and his wife, Bernetta, noted the approach of Zion’s Camp with interest. Although there was an air of secrecy surrounding the advancing company, it was extremely difficult to hide the identity of such a large contingent of fighting men. Hickman and his wife knew the camp’s identity and were hospitable to the weary marchers when they arrived.

Bernetta’s brother, Greenlief Burchardt, also knew who they were, but he was antagonistic and even hostile toward the camp. Apparently the differences of opinion between the two men were expressed, and in the passion of the moment, William Hickman challenged his brother-in-law Greenlief to a fistfight in defense of his right to entertain the Mormons on his farm. There is no evidence that the fight ever took place, but there is reason to believe that William and Bernetta treated the Mormon marchers kindly. Sources suggest that the Hickmans invited some of the marchers into their home for dinner, and evidence shows that the Mormons received fresh water, a scarce commodity, from their benefactors’ well.


Okay, so there is no evidence this fight even happened, it was at a house where they were served dinner, and it was non-members fighting over whether they should serve members of the militia.

 “Why bother with history, when you can make shit up” – The CES and Correlation Committee.

0:4:40 – So what really did happen with Sylvester Smith?  What did Joseph actually say?

Finding a rebellious spirit in Sylvester Smith, and to some extent in others, I told them they would meet with misfortunes, difficulties and hindrances, and said, ‘and you will know it before you leave this place,’ exhorting them to humble themselves before the Lord and become united, that they might not be scourged  – Joseph Smith, Jr. (History of the Church, Vol.2, p.68).

Then the next day, the horses are sick and Sylvester’s horse was more sick. From that, everyone knew that Joseph was a prophet and that Sylvester Smith was in trouble. Your horse is more sick, therefore, you’re evil. Sounds like frontier justice to me.

If only horses could talk, maybe they’d tell how angels struck them… or maybe they’d say, “You’re a superstitious ninny, Wilbur.”

The most accurate spot is where Sylvester complains about better planning. He really did that.

0:05:06 – “If we are united… act like Christians.”  Yeah, he never said this. The above quote is the relevant one. He didn’t importune them to come together, simply pronounced a curse.

0:05:26 – One character conspicuously absent from this film is the prophet’s dog. He took a dog with him that would bark and growl at Sylvester Smith, and for some reason Sylvester didn’t approve. He complained, to which other’s wrote, “Even a dog could not bark at some men without their murmuring at Joseph.” Of course, we all love it when the CEO brings his dog along, especially when that dog seems to want to attack us. Why would someone complain about that? I wonder why they left out the prophet’s dog barking at the members of the camp from the film? Probably the same reason they left out the horses being sick as the confirmation of Joseph’s words.

0:05:45- “Who leads the camp?”  This is a direct quote all the way up until the reply that, “The God of Israel leads the camp,” from the other kid.  That was never said. But this exchange is word for word up until that point.  A note, the manual calls the people asking  “spies,” but never mentions who on Earth would be “spying” on them. These were more likely just people in and around the area curious about a militia of 200 armed men wandering around where they lived.

0:06:30- The miracle of water. The source of this is in 1890. Oliver B. Huntington (who is disparaged as a record keeper by some apologists in other matters) quotes Zera Cole who was actually on the march.  Got that?  A second hand acount 50-60 years after the fact.  Hmmm… Who else gives such quality sources?  Anywho, the story, as recalled at the time is as follows:

One hot day in June [1834], after an unusually long, hard day’s travel, over a rolling prairies, without sufficient water laid in for the men and no water encountered for the teams, they made camp on a prairie, the end of which it was impossible to reach or even see.

After tents were pitched and the teams turned out a strong guard had to be placed to keep the animals. Men were very quietly complaining of the location, the lack of wood, and no water to cook with, even if they had plenty of wood. Some teams were about “give-out” and a thousand other little troubles acted out if not spoken of.

Got that?  Some men complain. Let’s just blame Sylvester though. Makes life easier if you have a constant villain.

The Prophet sat in his tent door watching and listening to all that could be seen or heard. At last he quietly asked for a spade. There was no noise, no bustle, no show of greatness or power about this man who had seen the Creator of heaven and earth and had received from Him at different times unmeasured power only in keeping with circumstances, and as the spade was handed him he measured the extent of the camp with his eye and in the most convenient place for all he commenced to dig in the earth. There was no rock to split open, as with Moses of old, or he could have done that more easily or quickly. But he quietly dug a well only a few feet deep and then left it.

Presently the water began to come in, and it kept rising in the well until the mules and horses came and drank therefrom, as the water was no near the surface. The Prophet went and sat in the door of his tent and witnessed the joy of all, even of the animals, as they quenched their thirst in this God-given supply. There was no wonder or proclamation over the matter, as Brother Cole stated it, and perhaps not a dozen in the camp witnessed it as he, Brother Cole, witnessed it, and he looked upon it as one of the greatest miracles ever performed by man as an instrument in the hands of the Great Creator

(Oliver B. Huntington, “An Incident in Zion’s Camp,” Juvenile Instructor 37, no. 1. 1, January 1902: 20-21; See also Oliver B. Huntington, “History of the Life of Oliver B. Huntington, Written by Himself 1878-1990,” typescript copy, BYU Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Provo, Utah, 23, 34; “William Cahoon, Autobiography,” in Stella Shurtleff and Brent Farrington Cahoon, eds. Reynolds Cahoon and His Stalwart Sons. Salt Lake City, Utah: Paragon Press, 1960. 81-82).

Okay, so a miracle, like when Moses split the rock, right?  Well maybe not so much…

The Missouri Department of Conservation states that the area around highway 65 is a marsh prairie. That just so happens to be identified by the Maxwell Institute as the same spot Joseph was at this point. “This area is largely wetlands,” says the website.

It has a high water table. So, either God could have prepared all of Missouri for the Prophet over millions of years, or the prophet knew something of where to find water, thought about where the grass was greenest, and dug.

Also, while taking a course on geography at BYU, they pointed out that you can dig ANYWHERE and if you dig deep enough you’ll find water. That’s why it’s a water table, and not water polk-a-dots.

Just a note, there is no note of the water ever being “poisoned” at all… this is made up whole cloth. They really didn’t have enough water due to poor preparation. Blame Sylvester Smith. Joseph’s lack of planning should never have been pointed out. Also interesting is that, according to the record, they were in tents when the water issue arose, not actively marching. It’s like the movie makers didn’t even try to read the records, but went from a Sunday School Manual.

0:08:30 – Actually, the one record is Mr. Cole and he said it wasn’t like when Moses smote the rock. But who’s counting.

0:08:40- June 3rd. Yes, Joseph actually said they would die, “like sheep with the rot.” Funny thing is, this is mentioned in the same journals just after “Zelph, the white lamanite.” I wonder why they left that bit out of this video. Immediately after being told they’d die, they buy honey.

They ride a ferry, then cure some hams.  The people say the meat stinks, and Zebadee Coltrin, the camp cook shown in the film, fries the ham.  They eat it with mush and honey.

A priest complains to a magistrate about the camp. The priest said to the magistrate, “that company march and have guns like an army—they pitch their tents by the side of the Road—they set out Guards and let nobody pass into their Camp in the night—and they are Mormons, and I believe they are going to kill the people up in Jackson County Missouri, and retake their lands.”

Hmm… very accurate assessment. Perhaps the spirit was with that priest.

So far… no scourge in the record. Maybe they repented? What does the movie show?

0:09:12- Military drills and exercises in Missouri. Funny, they had already reached Missouri when he dug for the water. Ah well, no one will notice right?

Orson Pratt and Oliver Cowdery were sent to Governor Dunklin’s as stated. Two days later they returned with the message that Dunklin refused to act. The governor had said that, “if he sought to execute the laws in that respect,” it would, “deluge the whole country in civil war and bloodshed.” Nonetheless, after counseling together, the camp decided “that we should go on armed and equipped.”

Why was Dunklin such a dunce? He has an army entering his territory bent on fighting to get lands back, and he does nothing? On 6 June, he wrote to James Thornton that he had determined to await the course of events. The Mormons had an undeniable right to return to their lands but might yet be persuaded to forfeit that right in view of the difficulties. His first advice would be for them to sell out if they could get a fair price. Another possibility would be to give both groups separate territories.

He thought he could REASON with the Saints to sell out.

0:09:47- The official account from the manual:

On the night of June 19, 1834, Joseph and his party passed safely through the town of Richmond [Missouri]. They camped between two branches of Fishing River. They were getting ready to lie down to rest when five rough men, with loaded guns, appeared before them. “You shall not live to see morning,” they said. “Sixty men are coming from Richmond, and seventy more from Clay County, to utterly destroy you.”

That night a terrible storm arose. The lightning flashed, the thunder rolled, and rain came down in torrents. Some of the mob said afterwards that Little Fishing River rose thirty feet in thirty minutes. The awful storm filled the enemies of the Saints with fear. They fled in all directions, trying to find shelter. One of their number was struck by lightning and killed.

The historical account:

The camp had been under constant threat of attack from Missourians who had assembled to destroy the Mormon marchers. On the morning of Thursday, June 19, an agitated black woman warned Luke Johnson that a large company was planning to destroy the Mormon camp. A farmer confirmed the report later that day. The camp hastily moved forward, believing that they could receive assistance from Latter-day Saints in Clay County, Missouri, but several incidents hindered their progress: a wagon broke down and had to be repaired before the camp could proceed, and the wheels ran off at least two others. None of the delays was particularly significant in itself, but combined, they hampered progress significantly.

Zion’s Camp was forced to stop “on an elevated piece of land between the forks of the Big and Little Fishing Rivers.” While the main group pitched their tents, five members of the mob rode across the river and threatened the Saints that they would “see hell before morning.”[10] Shortly thereafter it began raining. It rained in torrents throughout the night, “the thunder and lightning exceeded all description.”[11] Heber C. Kimball related that there was continual lightning throughout the night, bright enough to see to pick up a pin. Another account suggests that small hail fell in the camp;[12] many others indicate that hail the size of eggs fell only outside camp. Many of the brethren took refuge in a local church house, but others remained in their tents. Their enemies hid under wagons. One of the mob was reportedly killed by lightning, and another’s hand was torn off by a fractious horse frightened by the storm.[13] Tree limbs as large as four inches in diameter were torn from trees. The storm disorganized the Missourians, which curtailed their achieving their destructive objectives. They left, having failed in their intent to destroy Zion’s Camp.

Many of the camp members perceived the terrible storm to be providential intervention. http://rsc.byu.edu/archived/sperry-symposium-classics-doctrine-and-covenants/19-zion%E2%80%99s-camp-study-obedience-then-and-no

The differences are subtle.  Joseph didn’t feel impressed to make them stop, they were forced to. They didn’t all find safe haven in a building; many had to wait out the storm in tents.  But yes, the aggressors were battered and gave up their objective.

0:11:46- Records indicate the rain started just after the men spoke. I would guess there were already clouds in the sky. No records indicate this kind of cinematic divine intervention of clouds blowing in.

0:14-39- They show him drowning. He was struck by lightning. The only member of the opposition who died was killed by lightning and they didn’t show it?

0:15:29- “Go to where I left off.”  This is a cheap and simple play so that Joseph could pick up where he left off on translation. Revelation was never described this way. This is D&C 105 for anyone wondering.  And no, Zion was never redeemed, so God should have said, “Wait for a little season to be tried further, and Zion will be redeemed in the year 2100 (or later), suckers!”

0:16:10- Um, excuse me Joseph. Did you say we walked all this way not to fight? No wait, is that murmuring? I’ll just stand up and say nothin’.

0:16:12- Joseph is not recorded as saying that the scourge would be cholera, or that it would come back. He simply said, “a scourge would come,” and left it open. Once the cholera hit: presto, scourge was it. Cholera is a gastrointestinal disorder that causes severe cramping, vomiting, and a weakening of the victim because of the inability to keep down or process nutrients. Hyrum Smith indicated that, “it seized [us] like the talons of a hawk.”

George A. Smith recorded that “many of the brethren were violently attacked . . . some falling to the ground while they were on guard.” The disease spread quickly in the unsanitary conditions and, not uncommonly, by and to those who cared for those already infected. The numbers reported of casualties from the disease in Zion’s Camp vary. Most sources suggest thirteen or fourteen; one indicates that as many as twenty died from the disease. Burial was quick because of the rapid decomposition of the bodies. Many wrote of this incident, regretting that they couldn’t do more for their fallen comrades. Joseph Bates Noble, who had been caring for his dear friend, Elbur Wilcox, lamented: “Never in my life did I feel to mourn like as on this occasion. I was sensible that a strong chord of friendship bound us together, but I did not know that our hearts were so completely knit together as they were.”


The mob was so afraid of cholera, it prevented them from attacking. A curious thing is that the faithful were stricken and died along with the complainers. I’m not sure how that’s God’s wisdom. Kinda like an evil cartoon villain, “Fail me again, and you’ll suffer, just like my trusted lieutenant I just shot.”

0:17:51- Oh, so THAT’s why they altered the line. Because then they could work it in here as a faithful emotional jerking moment. I guess all edits to history are for that purpose.  That’s kinda, um, manipulative, deceptive and… well, maybe I’m just murmuring. I should watch out for cholera.

0:18:19- Try to picture this scene with him vomiting and pooping himself to death. It alters it significantly.

0:18:44- I want you to realize these are blood relations to Joseph, but they show him stoic. Jesse was the faithful one, and he was killed by the scourge. Joseph has leaned over to these boys and told them time and again that God was going to strike the camp. It’s just odd to me that they don’t let him even cry over family, nor do they provide adequate explanation as to why God would kill the faithful beyond “His work was done.” I’m okay with that reason, but I’d rather not vomit and poop myself to death, God, if that’s okay.

0:19:20- Another interesting thing is that they completely avoid the Clay County Saints in the film. They don’t show their suffering which God didn’t assist with. They don’t show how the interaction there went, because they might have murmured. Another thing to realize is that 9 of the 12 apostles were chosen out of Zion’s Camp, and that means that the Clay County Saints did not have a chance to become apostles like the Kirtland Saints. The Clay County Saints were the first converts from Palmyra area. Instead, it was Rigdon’s Kirtland group that primarily became apostles.

Moral of the Story- God is going to fuck with you. He might kill the innocent. He might starve you, make you eat raw pork, and withhold water, or ignore your pleas all together.  But don’t you dare talk back; you’re a bad person.

Second Moral- The writers of the story can fuck with history however they like to make anyone look bad, except Joseph.

Bonus Links for the Faithful


Saints without Halo’s Zion’s camp



Bonus link for the non-faithful


This entry was posted in Early Church History (1800s), New look at old Church Videos, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.
Last edited by Mithryn on November 16, 2016 at 5:02 pm

3 Responses to Zion’s Camp (George Albert Smith) – Institute Video

  1. I always liked movie days in seminary because they let me take a nap without the teacher noticing. 🙂

  2. Maureen Bryson says:

    At 2:59, the event of Joseph giving George A. his boots, this was recorded by George A. himself and included in the book “George A. Smith Family,” and also in “They Knew the Prophet” p 46. I am George’s gg gdau and this story has always been in our family. I believe it is also in “Builder’s of the Kingdom,” but can’t put my hands on that one tonight. Found this while preparing a lesson that quoted part of the story of Zion’s camp.

    • Mithryn says:

      Oh, very nice. Glad to hear the history and that it is real history. I’ll make the correction to the timeline.

      Always glad to know when I’m wrong.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.