Usually when we see this reference, we think about the semicentennial celebration of the Mormon arrival in the Great Basin. As I have worked on the martyrology of Joseph Smith, I have encountered an earlier Mormon Jubilee whose story bears telling.
As many will recall Lilburn “Buster” Boggs was the Missouri governor during the Mormon War of ~1838 and issued the instructions to the state militia that we have called “the extermination order.” In May 1842, Boggs was shot and wounded, though not fatally. Suspicions immediately turned to the Mormons, and Smith’s loyal (and hairy) lieutenant, Orrin Rockwell, was arrested for attempted murder. Because Rockwell was assumed to be acting on Smith’s orders, Boggs arranged for extradition proceedings against Joseph Smith as a “fugitive from justice.” Several attempts were made to arrest Smith, and they contributed to the frequency with which, through latter 1842, Smith was on the lam as well as some of the more impressive excesses of the Nauvoo City Council/Municipal Court (it eventually became essentially illegal to arrest Joseph Smith in Nauvoo).
Finally Joseph Smith agreed to a hearing of habeas corpus on one of the warrants of extradition. Though he was hopeful that the attempted extradition was invalid on a technicality, it is clear that he worried about the possibility that he would be taken to Missouri and killed, a worry shared by many of his followers. He was taken to Springfield, where Butterfield argued his case, which boiled down to the fact that he could not be a fugitive from Missouri if he had not been in Missouri since before the crime (ie he would have committed the crime in Illinois, not Missouri). For whatever reasons, the writ of habeas corpus resulted in Smith’s freedom (an act he and his followers understood to mean his full and final acquittal of all charges).
Smith’s return from the trial was a show fit for a king. An initial hymn was written (by Wilson Law and Willard Richards) “the evening of the 7th of January 1843, and sung by the party who accompanied General Joseph Smith from Springfield, (where he had voluntarily been for trial on Habeas Corpus.) on his return to Nauvoo. Dedicated to all lovers of Illinois liberties.”
The hymn was to be sung to the tune of either Auld lang syne or Na luck about the house, and it began with
And are you sure the news is true?
And are you sure he’s free?
Then let us join with one accord,
And have a jubilee.
We’ll have a jubilee, my friends,
We’ll have a jubilee;
With heart and voice we’ll all rejoice
In that our Prophet’s free.
The hymn stretched on, whimsically revisiting scenes and characters from the legal show and ended on a similar note
And now we’re bound for home, my friends,
A band of brothers true,
To cheer the hearts of those we love,
In beautiful Nauvoo.
We’ll have a jubilee my friends,
We’ll have a jubilee;
With heart and voice we’ll all rejoice,
In that our Mayor’s free.
Eliza RS Smith would write a similar expansive salute to the salvation of their prophet (her revered husband since the month after Boggs was shot). But such encomiums were not the end of the celebration. In what may be (this is not my area of expertise, and I am open to correction) the first expression of the use of fast offerings (a theme I will visit in another post), a church-wide fast of gratitude explicitly styled on Isaiah 58:6ff was enjoined on the Saints. Brigham Young, as the president of the Traveling High Council (ie Quorum of Twelve) wrote,
Feeling a deep sense of gratitude to our Heavenly Father, for the great blessings which he has conferred on us in the deliverance of our beloved President Joseph Smith, from the oppression with which he has so long been bound, the Travelling High Council invite the brethren in Nauvoo, to unite with them in dedicating Tuesday, the 17th day of January inst., as a day of humiliation fasting, praise, prayer and thank-giving, before the great Eloheim, that he will continue the outpouring of his holy spirit upon this people–that they may ever walk humbly before him–seek out and follow the councils given through his servant, and ever be united, heart and hand, in building up this stake of Zion and the Temple, where God will reveal himself to his people; that no strife or confusion may ever be found in our midst, but peace and righteousness may be our companions,–and as he has hitherto sustained his Prophet in all the difficulties he has had to encounter, so he will continue to do, until he has finished the great work committed to his charge, and that all those who have been called to his assistance in the holy ministry may be diligent and faithful in all things, that his hands may be staid on high, like unto Moses–that our enemies, if such we have, may repent, and turning away from their enmity, get forgiveness and salvation–and that they may have no dominion over the servants of God or his saints; but that Zion may flourish upon the mountains and be exalted on the hills, and that all nations shall flow unto it and be saved, we will humble ourselves with fasting and supplication, and sing praises unto our God, with the voice of melody and thanksgiving, for the deliverance he has wrought out for his servant Joseph, through the legally constituted authorities of our Government.
While there are a wide variety of threads worthy of discussion (and please, go ahead), I am struck by the dramatic energy of the return of the Prophet, of the sense of existential unity that existed in the Mormon city, centered in the person of their God-sent leader, the way a society lived and breathed through the person of their seeric guide. I think I will remember the grand parade singing their own version of Auld lang syne when I am invited to participate in a Mormon communal fast.
 “Buster” I had to make up.
“The Mormon Jubilee,” The Wasp 1:37 (14 Jan 1843): 1.
Brigham Young and Willard Richards, “Proclamation to the Saints in Nauvoo,” The Wasp 1:37 (14 Jan 1843): 3.
 I was listening, Kristine.