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Lyman Wight, (1796-1858)

Biography (1796-1844) in "History,"
Millennial Star 27 (1865)


Lyman Wight, the son of Levi Wight and Sarah Corbon, was born in the township of Fairfield, Herkimer County, New York, on the 9th day of May, 1796. He served the republic in the war of 1812-15 with Great Britain.

He united with Isaac Morley and others in forming a society in Kirtland, Ohio, conducted on the common stock principle, being one phase in the rise and progress of the Campbellite church.

He was baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ, by Oliver Cowdery in 1830, and was soon afterwards ordained to the office of an elder. He was ordained to the office of high priest by Joseph Smith at the June conference in Kirtland, 1831. While at that conference, he testified he had a vision and saw the Savior. He went to Missouri in 1831 by revelation.

He soon after went to Cincinnati on a mission to preach the gospel. On arriving in that city he called at a hotel and engaged his board for several weeks. The landlord asked him if he was a merchant. He said, "No." He asked him what his business was. He replied, he was a preacher of the gospel. He asked him what order he belonged to. He answered, he was after the order of Melchizedek. He created so much curiosity that they wished to hear him preach. He told them that was his business, and if they would open the courthouse, he would do so willingly. They obtained the house, and he delivered a series of lectures and built up a branch of the Church and baptized upwards of one hundred.

The family of Higbees were among the first baptized; they were fishermen and Brother Wight would fish with them through the day and preach at night. One evening he went from the fish net to the courthouse and stood on the top of a stove barefooted, with his trousers rolled up to his knees and his shirt sleeves up to his elbows, and preached two hours. Some of the people remarked, "He preaches the truth, though he does not look much like a preacher."

Many that he baptized went to Jackson County, Missouri, and were with him through the persecution of 1833. During that persecution, he was a dread to his enemies and a terror to evil-doers, and his life was often sought after.

He commanded the brethren in Jackson County in their defense against the mob. In one instance he was chased by seven men about six miles; they were fully armed and came upon him so suddenly that he had to mount his horse with a blind bridle, without any saddle or arms, except a pocket knife. His horse being fleet, he escaped by out-running them and leaping a deep wide ditch, where none of his pursuers dared follow.

On the 23rd day of July, 1833, he signed an agreement with others that the Saints would leave Jackson County before the first day of January, 1834; but before that time they were all driven out. After the Saints were driven out of Jackson County into Clay County, volunteers were called for to go and visit the Prophet in Kirtland. Several of the elders were asked by Bishop Partridge if they could go; but they made excuses. Lyman Wight then stepped forward and said he could go as well as not. The bishop asked him what situation his family was in. He replied, his wife lay by the side of a log in the woods with a child three days old, and he had three days' provisions on hand; so he thought he could go very well. Parley P. Pratt next volunteered, and they went together to Kirtland in February, 1834. On their arrival at Kirtland, the Prophet obtained the word of the Lord, and they were commanded [D&C 103:30-33] to gather up the strength of the Lord's house to go up to Zion, and it was the will of the Lord that there should be five hundred men, but not to go up short of one hundred. In fulfillment of this commandment, Lyman Wight went through Pennsylvania, and on the 15th day of March, he attended a conference at Avon, New York; he also went through Michigan, northern Indiana and Illinois, and assisted Hyrum Smith in gathering up a company of eighteen, who joined Zion's Camp at Salt River, Missouri, June the 8th, where the camp was reorganized, and Lyman Wight was appointed the second officer. He walked the whole journey from Michigan to Clay County without stockings on his feet. By the appointment of Joseph Smith, he gave a written discharge to each member of the camp when they were dismissed.

July 3 [1834], he was ordained one of the high council of Missouri.

He was one of the signers of an appeal to the world making a proclamation of peace in Missouri, July, 1834.

He spent the summer of 1834 in Clay County, Missouri. He took a job of making 100,000 bricks and building a large brick house for Colonel Michael Arthur in Clay County; Wilford Woodruff, Milton Holmes, Heman T. Hyde and Stephen and Benjamin Winchester, labored for him through the season.

He was counseled to go to Kirtland and get his endowments. He started in the fall of 1835, and preached his way through to Kirtland, baptizing such as would receive his testimony. While on the journey he called at the city of Richmond, Indiana and gave out an appointment to preach in the courthouse. He walked through the city, and being a stranger was unknown; but wherever he went, the people were blackguarding the "Mormons," and many declared they would tar and feather the preacher when he came to meeting that night. At the time of appointment Brother Wight was at his post. There being no light provided, he went and bought candles and lighted the room. The house was soon filled with men who brought tar and feathers for the "Mormon" elder.

He preached about two hours, reproving them most severely for their meanness, wickedness and mobocratic spirit. At the close of the meeting he said, "If there is a gentleman in this congregation, I wish he would invite me to stay with him overnight." Whereupon, a gentleman stepped forward and tendered him an invitation, which he willingly accepted. His host said, "Mr Wight, it is astonishing how you have become so well acquainted with the people here, for you have described them very correctly." He was kindly entertained and furnished with money in the morning to aid him on his journey.

He spent the winter of 1835-1836 in Kirtland and received his endowment.

He returned to Missouri in 1836.

David W. Patten preferred a charge against Brother Wight for teaching false doctrine. He was tried before the high council at Far West, April 24, 1837; and it was decided that he did teach false doctrine. He made the required acknowledgements.

He opposed the selling of land in Jackson County, Missouri, and considered W. W. Phelps and John Whitmer in transgression for selling theirs.

June 28, 1838, he was chosen and ordained the second counselor to John Smith, president of the stake at Adam-ondi-Ahman, by Joseph Smith. Sheriff Morgan, of Daviess County, had agitated the people of the surrounding counties, by asserting that he had writs against Joseph Smith and Lyman Wight which he could not serve without endangering his life. He invited the people to assemble together in Daviess County with their arms, so that he could summon them as a "posse comitatus" to make the arrests, the real design being to murder Joseph and Lyman, as they had not offered any resistance, neither had the sheriff made any attempt to arrest them. They went before Justice Austin A. King, at Ragland's [John Raglin] farm, to allay this excitement, and gave bonds in the sum of two hundred and fifty dollars for their appearance in court.

Lyman subsequently went before three mobocratic magistrates, under the protection of General Atchison's militia, and gave bonds for his appearance in court, in the sum of one thousand dollars, on a charge of misdemeanor. This examination was had in Atchison's camp at Netherton Spring, in Daviess County, surrounded by several hundreds of the mob, and about one hundred militia. His life was repeatedly threatened, and it required the energy of Generals Atchison and Doniphan to prevent his murder. At the close of the examination, he asked for thirty writs against members of the mob, but was refused.

He was commissioned a colonel in the militia of Caldwell County previous to his removal to Daviess, and in Daviess he commanded his brethren while defending themselves against the mob.

In October, 1838, after learning that Far West was surrounded by a mob, he raised fifty-three volunteers in Adam-ondi-Ahman (25 miles distant,) and repaired immediately to Far West to aid in its defense, where, with Joseph and Hyrum Smith and others, he was betrayed into the hands of his enemies, by Colonel George M. Hinkle, on the 31st; and was sentenced by a court martial to be shot the next morning (November 1) [1838] at 8 o'clock. During the evening, General Moses Wilson took him out by himself, and tried to induce him to betray Joseph Smith, and swear falsely against him; at which time the following conversation took place. General Wilson said, "Colonel Wight, we have nothing against you, only that you are associated with Joseph Smith. He is our enemy and a damned rascal, and would take any plan he could to kill us. You are a damned fine fellow; and if you will come out and swear against him, we will spare your life, and give you any office you want; and if you don't do it, you will be shot tomorrow at 8 o'clock." Colonel Wight replied, "General Wilson, you are entirely mistaken in your man, both in regard to myself and Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith is not an enemy to mankind, he is not your enemy; but is as good a friend as you have got. Had it not been for him, you would have been in hell long ago, for I should have sent you there by cutting your throat, and no other man but Joseph Smith could have prevented me and you may thank him for your life. And, now, if you will give me the boys I brought from Adam-ondi-Ahman yesterday, I will whip your whole army." Wilson said, "Wight, you are a strange man; but if you will not accept my proposal, you will be shot tomorrow morning at 8." Colonel Wight replied, "Shoot and be damned."

This was the true character of Lyman Wight; he was true as the sun to Joseph Smith, and would die for his friends. He was taken to Jackson County with Joseph, Hyrum and other prisoners. They were chained together, and fed on human flesh in prison by their Christian guards, and he continued to suffer with his brethren until the 15th day of April, 1839, when he started with Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Alexander McRae and Caleb Baldwin and guard, to go to jail in Columbia, Boone County; but on the night of the 16th, the sheriff fell asleep, the guard got drunk, and the prisoners left them, and went to their families and friends in Illinois.

October 20, 1840, Brothers Lyman Wight and Reynolds Cahoon were appointed counselors to John Smith, president of the Saints in Iowa Territory.

January 19, 1841, he was appointed one of the Nauvoo House Association.

He was called and appointed, at the April conference following to be one of the Twelve Apostles, in the place of David W. Patten, who fell a martyr at Crooked River in Missouri.

He was commissioned a Brevet Major General of the Illinois Militia by Governor Thomas Carlin.

He went to Kirtland in 1842, and rebaptized about two hundred of the cold, dead members of the Church, and brought many of them to Nauvoo.

July 1, 1843, he was examined as a witness before the municipal court of Nauvoo, and gave a plain, unvarnished account of the persecution against the Saints in Missouri, and of the sufferings of Joseph Smith and his fellow prisoners, concerning which he said, "We were committed to Liberty Jail, under the care of Samuel Tillery, jailer; we were received with a shout of indignation and scorn by the populace. The jailer sent for a mittimus some days after. His "tender mercies" were intolerable; he fed us on a scanty allowance of filthy and unpalatable food, and for five days on human flesh; from extreme hunger I was compelled to eat it." The guards inquired, "How do you like Mormon beef?"

During the winter of 1843-1844, he was employed in the pine country, at Black River, Wisconsin Territory, superintending the procuring of lumber for the temple and Nauvoo house.

In a letter directed to the Presidency and Twelve, dated Black River Falls, February 15, 1844, he wrote his views about preaching to the Indians, and going to Texas.

In the spring of 1844, he started on a mission through the eastern states, and was appointed one of the delegates of the Baltimore Convention. He delivered a speech on Bunker Hill, on General Joseph Smith's claims to the presidency of the United States; and on hearing of the death of Joseph, he returned to Nauvoo with the Twelve.

After his return to Nauvoo, he said, "I would not turn my hand over to be one of the Twelve; the day was, when there was somebody to control me, but that day is past."