I ran across a story of courage about my third great grandfather, Emer Harris and his teenage son, Denninson, (shown in yellow highlights on the chart) that was told by Elder Dallin H. Oaks in the April 1987 Priesthood Session of General Conference. Elder Oaks starts off explaining that the story involves his second great-grandfather, Emer Harris. That means Elder Oaks and I are related through Emer Harris!
You can also view the video by clicking here. Start at 11:59 and go to 16:01
The spokesmen at this first meeting denounced Joseph Smith as a fallen prophet and stated their determination to destroy him. When the Prophet heard this, he asked the young men to attend the second meeting. They did so, and reported the plotting.
A third meeting was to be held a week later. Again the Prophet asked them to attend, but he told them this would be their last meeting. “Be careful to remain silent and not to make any covenants or promises with them,” he counseled. He also cautioned them on the great danger of their mission. Although he thought it unlikely, it was possible they would be killed. Then, the Prophet Joseph Smith blessed Dennison and Robert by the power of the priesthood, promising them that if their lives were taken, their reward would be great.
In the strength of this priesthood blessing, they attended the third meeting and listened to the murderous plans. Then, when each person was required to take an oath to join the plot and keep it secret, they bravely refused. After everyone else had sworn secrecy, the whole group turned on Dennison and Robert, threatening to kill them unless they took the oath also. Because any refusal threatened the secrecy of their plans, about half of the plotters proposed to kill these two immediately. Knives were drawn, and angry men began to force them down into a basement to kill them.
Other plotters shouted to wait. Parents probably knew where they were. If they didn’t return, an alarm would be sounded and a search could reveal the boys’ deaths and the secret plans. During a long argument, two lives hung in the balance. Finally, the group decided to threaten to kill the young men if they ever revealed anything that had occurred and then to release them. This was done. Despite this threat, and because they had followed the Prophet’s counsel not to make any promises to the conspirators, Dennison and Robert promptly reported everything to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
For their own protection, the Prophet had these courageous young men promise him that they would never reveal this experience, not even to their fathers, for at least twenty years. A few months later, the Prophet Joseph Smith was murdered.
Many years passed. The members of the Church settled in the West. While Dennison L. Harris was serving as bishop of the Monroe Ward in southern Utah, he met a member of the First Presidency at a Church meeting in Ephraim. There, on Sunday, 15 May 1881, thirty-seven years after the Prophet Joseph Smith had sealed his lips to protect him against mob vengeance, Dennison Harris recited this experience to President Joseph F. Smith (see Verbal Statement of Bishop Dennison L. Harris, 15 May 1881, MS 2725, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City; the account was later published in the Contributor, Apr. 1884, pp. 251–60). Dennison Harris’s posterity includes many notable Latter-day Saints, including Franklin S. Harris, long-time president of Brigham Young University.
Franklin S. Harris is my Grandfather's brother. I enjoyed reading this story of courage and am proud of my Harris heritage.