Constables Sent to Arrest Joseph Smith Turn From Foes To Friends
Newell Knight writes of two seperate occasions when arresting officers were hostile to Joseph Smith but then befriended and protected him from mob violence.
In June 1830, Joseph was preparing to confirm Newell Knight and some other new church members when a constable showed up with a warrant and arrested the Prophet on the charge of being "a disorderly person," for setting the country in an uproar by preaching the Book of Mormon. The constable frankly informed the Prophet that the arrest was for the purpose of getting him into the hands of a mob waiting to ambush him.
Newell Knight writes, "but as the constable had discovered that Joseph was not the kind of person he had been led to believe, he would protect him from these designing persons. Joseph Smith accompanied the constable in a wagon and not far from the home of Joseph Knight the mobbers waited for the signal from the constable, but he whipped up his horse, obtained the lead and foiled the Prophet's enemies. The mobbers followed as best they could. In the flight one of the wagon wheels came off, and before it could be replaced the mobbers were again in sight. However, the wheel was replaced in time and with renewed energy the constable with his prisoner made his escape. Joseph was taken to South Bainbridge, Chenango County, and lodged in a tavern, where the constable kept guard all night. The officer threw his body across the entrance to the room, and slumbered lightly. He held a loaded musket in his hands ready to defend his prisoner from unlawful assault.
"The following day a court was convened to investigate the charges. ... The justice of the peace who heard the case, Joseph Chamberlain, was a man of fair mind and sought to make a decision in justice. Many witnesses were called and heard, but among those who testified were Josiah Stoal, Jonathan Thompson and the two daughters of Mr. Stoal and each gave testimony of the Prophet's good character. Other testimony was proved to be false. The trial lasted from ten o'clock in the morning until midnight, when the judge gave a verdict of not guilty. This of course was very displeasing to the mob." Frustrated that they were unable to attain a conviction, Joseph was arrested again the following day. This time on charges of "Casting Out Devils". Newell Knight also wrote about this episode.
"The constable who served this second warrant upon Joseph had no sooner arrested him, than he began to abuse him; and so heartless was he, that, although Joseph had been kept all day in court without anything to eat since the morning, he hurried him off to Broome County, a distance of about fifteen miles, before allowing him to eat. The constable took him to a tavern, where were gathered a number of men, who used every means to abuse, ridicule, and insult him. They spit upon him, pointed their fingers at him, saying, "Prophesy! prophesy!" and used their utmost ability to pain and torment his mind; and thus did they imitate those who crucified the Savior of mankind, not knowing what they did.
"The tavern was but a short distance from Joseph's own house; he wished to spend the night with his wife, offering to give any bail desired, for his appearance; but this was denied him. He applied for something to eat. The constable ordered him some crusts of bread and some water, which was the only fare he received that night. At length he retired to bed; the constable made him lie next to the wall, he then laid himself down, threw his arms around Joseph, as if fearing that he intended to escape; and in this not very agreeable manner was Joseph compelled to spend the night.
Next day he was brought before the magistrate's court of Colesville, Broome County, and placed on trial. His friends and lawyers were again at his side, and his former persecutors were arrayed against him with the rage and fury of demons visible upon their countenances, and manifested in their actions. Many witnesses were again examined, some of whom swore to the most palpable falsehoods, just as those had done who appeared against him the previous day. But they contradicted themselves so plainly that the court would not admit their testimony. Others were called who showed by their zeal that they were willing to prove anything against him, but all they could do was to tell some things they had heard somebody else say about him."
Joseph was once again acquitted of all charges. Newell Knight gave this account of the aftermath:
"Disappointment and shame were depicted on the faces of the assembled multitude, who now began to learn that nothing could be sustained against Joseph. The constable, who had arrested Joseph, and treated him in so cruel and heartless a manner, came forward and apologized and asked his forgiveness for the ill-treatment he had given him, so much was this man changed that he told Joseph the mob had resolved, if the court acquitted him, that they would take him, tar and feather him, and ride him on a rail; and further, that if Joseph wished, he would lead him out another way, so that he could escape in safety.
"After all the efforts of the people and court to sustain the charges brought against Joseph proving an entire failure, he was discharged and succeeded in making good his escape from the mob through the instrumentality of his new friend, the constable."
"Newel Knight's Journal, 1800-1846" Classic Experiences and Adventures (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969), pp. 46-104
History of the Church, Period I, vol. i,
George Q. Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet
Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, Vol 1, p.108