Five Dollars for Joseph Smith


“I’m beginning to wonder?” said one of the men on the high council in Missouri, “if Joseph Smith isn’t a fallen prophet.” Several of the other men, worried and frightened as mobs continued to terrorize the Saints who were trying to flee the state, murmured their agreement. “There he is in jail in Liberty, Clay County, while the Saints need him! Does that sound like a true prophet?”

But Solomon Hancock stemmed the tide of disaffection by saying, “Brethren, I’m a firm believer in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. Brother Joseph is not a fallen prophet! He will yet be exalted and become very high.” (History of the Church 3:225.)

That event, recorded in Joseph Smith’s History of the Church, was just one example of the great love Solomon Hancock had for the gospel—and for the Prophet Joseph Smith.

And perhaps because of Solomon’s loyalty to the Prophet, he was chosen to perform one of the last kindnesses given to Joseph Smith before his death.

Solomon’s wife, Phoebe Hancock, was pregnant when once they went to Quincy, Illinois, to buy food and clothes. Solomon had promised his wife five dollars to buy clothes and other articles for the new baby, which would soon be born, and their wagon was also loaded with butter and eggs to sell in town.

But just before they arrived in Quincy, Solomon informed his wife that he felt he could not give her the five dollars after all. She was surprised—and more than a little disappointed. After all, the money was for things their baby would need.

“I’m sorry,” he told her, “but I’ve had three strong warnings from the Spirit that I shouldn’t expect to use this money for the baby.

Frustrated, Phoebe showed her husband the list of items that she had planned to buy with the money, but Solomon only told her that she should use the money from the sale of the butter and eggs to buy the most important items. She reluctantly complied, and bought all that she could with the little money she had. But she was so disappointed that on the way home she sat down on the wagon board, pulled her bonnet down to hide her face, folded her arms, and turned her back on her husband.

They had traveled only a little way when they came to a crossroads, where they were surprised to meet the Prophet Joseph Smith. To their dismay, the men with the Prophet were taking him to prison in Carthage, Illinois.

Joseph called Solomon by name and said, “Have you got five dollars?”

“Yes, I have,” Solomon said.

“I knew it,” Joseph responded. “I told these men we would get something to eat before we got to the Carthage jail.”

Solomon gave the Prophet the five dollars, and his guards took him on his way. Phoebe wept, and asked forgiveness for wanting the money which the Prophet needed so much for food.

Soon the Prophet and his brother were killed by a mob that stormed the prison, and Solomon’s and Phoebe’s grief at the death of the Prophet could be assuaged, a little bit, by the knowledge that the Spirit had called on them to aid him during his last hours. (From Erastus and Francis Hancock, an Informal Family History.)

[illustration] Illustrated by Scott Greer

Spencer J. Palmer, professor of religion and history at Brigham Young University, is a high councilor in the BYU Twelfth Stake. He lives in the Edgemont Eleventh Ward, Provo Utah Edgemont Stake.