Zion’s Camp was an expedition headed by Joseph Smith to redeem Zion from its enemies. The mission was short, lasting from May to June 1834, but it left a lasting impact on the future of the Church. Here are a few interesting facts you may not have known about this event in Church history.
Today, we know the expedition by the term “Zion’s Camp.” However, those involved and those who spoke of the experience for years afterward called it the “Camp of Israel.” The name was inspired by the revelation which called for Joseph Smith to form the camp. In Doctrine and Covenants 103:16, the Lord says, “Therefore, I will raise up unto my people a man, who shallthem like as Moses led the children of Israel.”
The term Zion’s Camp gained prominence in the late 1840s. Wilford Woodruff used the name in a Times and Seasons letter he wrote and after Camp of Israel was also used to describe pioneer parties Zion’s Camp became more popular.
It’s a common misconception that only men participated in Zion’s Camp. This is understandable since no primary sources exist from or about the women and children. However, rosters indicate approximately 20 women and children joined the men on their march and worked in faith alongside them. They helped with domestic duties, helped provide unity to the camp, and experienced the same trials and miracles. Sister Betsy Parrish was the only female member of the camp who died due to the wave of cholera and is included on the list of martyrs.
When we think of Zion’s Camp, we often imagine an excited military band looking to save their people from angry mobsters. While there’s a kernel of truth to that tale, the expedition was originally one of defense and protection. Joseph Smith believed the governor of Missouri was going to employ the militia to help the Saints reclaim the lands they’d been forced off of. The militia wouldn’t be able to stay so the Saints would need to provide their own defensive group to prevent any further trouble.
However, the governor decided to renege on his promise of help. Joseph Smith sought revelation and the Lord told the camp it was no longer necessary for them to move forward.
As Zion’s Camp traveled, local members of the community grew concerned about their presence and armed themselves for battle. Five men approached the camp and swore that an army of 400 men was ready to attack them the next day.
The Lord provided a miracle. That night, as the army was gathering, a great storm brewed and sent huge hailstones and rain, filling the river and preventing an attack.
Zion’s Camp would later be seen as a proving and testing ground for early Latter-day Saint leaders. Of the original Quorum of the Twelve Apostles called, eight served in Zion’s Camp. The majority of the First Quorum of the Seventy were also chosen from among Zion’s Camp members. Joseph Smith himself was refined as a prophet through the experience.
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.