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Joseph Hancock

Question: What nickname did the Prophet Joseph Smith give Joseph Hancock when he served in Zion’s Camp in 1834?

Answer: Joseph Hancock was born March 18, 1800 at Springfield, Massachusetts, to Thomas and Amy Ward Hancock. When he was young, his parents moved to Ontario County, New York.

Joseph married Betsy Johnson on February 18, 1823 in Ontario, New York. They had one son born in New York and then they moved to Mayfield, Ohio, where they had four more children. It was here they were baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830 by Daniel Stanton. Joseph received a Certificate of Membership from the Clerk, Newell K. Whitney. The certificate stated that the church was organized according to law and that Joseph Hancock was a member. He carried the certificate the rest of his life in all his wanderings.

Joseph’s wife, Betsy, died in December 1831. After her death, Joseph moved to Kirtland, Ohio, where he worked as a brick maker on the Kirtland Temple. He left the children in the care of his sister, Clarissa, who cared for them as her own. Joseph gave of his time freely to help complete the Kirtland Temple. He engaged in this occupation until he was called to join Zion’s Camp.

Joseph joined Zion’s Camp in 1834 and, as a successful hunter, was dubbed “Nimrod” by the Prophet Joseph Smith, a nickname that stayed with him. He came down with cholera on the trip to Missouri, but was healed by the Prophet. After arriving back in Kirtland, Joseph married Experience Wheeler (Rudd), a widow with a large family. Her husband had died of cholera while in Zion’s Camp in 1834.

On February 14, 1835, an important meeting was called for all members of Zion’s Camp to be in attendance. From this group the twelve Apostles were chosen, and two weeks later, Joseph was Ordained a Seventy by Joseph Smith Jr., Oliver Cowdery, and Sidney Rigdon, and called to the First Quorum of Seventy.

In the summer of 1835, Joseph and Experience were married in Kirtland and gathered with the Saints and their kin to Clay County, Missouri. Their one daughter, Amy Hancock, was born on May 12, 1835 in Liberty. In 1838, they were driven from their home and land and stated they suffered a loss of $4200.00 financially. Joseph traveled through a trackless prairie to Iowa to a place called Montrose and there selected a home site. He enjoyed the Saints across the river at Nauvoo and once again associated with the Prophet Joseph and his family.

On the night of June 22, 1844, Joseph and Hyrum crossed the river, fleeing from enemies to trusted friends, to the home of Joseph Hancock. They began outlining their plan to go West together, to go forth into the wilderness to find a place of safety for the Saints. Joseph Hancock had been chosen by the Prophet Joseph to go with him as a hunter. However, three men came and convinced Joseph and Hyrum to return to Nauvoo. It was a sad farewell. Joseph accompanied them to the boat at the river, and they departed. He saw them alive no more but wept as a child with grief as he viewed their lifeless bodies in death in Nauvoo. The two brothers were murdered on June 27, 1844 by a mob who rushed the Carthage Jail.

In 1846, after the Nauvoo Temple was finished, the Saints were forced out of Nauvoo, and Joseph and Experience made their way to Garden Grove, then Mount Pisgah, and then Winter Quarters. In 1847, Joseph was asked to be in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company. He was 47 years of age. He was in the 12th Ten led Norton Jacobs, Captain. Joseph was assigned to be one of the Scouts and a foot hunter on the trek west. After the company arrived in the valley, Joseph helped explore for timber. He was given property near the temple site for his service, but after returning to Winter Quarters that fall with Brigham Young, he was unable to return for two years because of sickness and poverty. When he returned to the Valley about 1851, he was instead given land near Provo, Utah. His wife, Experience died soon after and was buried at Provo.

Being a hunter and a scout, Joseph went to Oregon in 1852, and when he came back, he went to San Bernardino, California, and lived with his son for some time. In 1867, Joseph traveled to Iowa, to visit relatives. He returned to Utah in 1882. His daughter, Amy, was now the wife of George W. Hancock, Joseph’s brother, Solomon’s son, and lived in Payson, Utah. Joseph lived with her and her family for eleven years in Payson. He died in Payson on July 5, 1893, at age 93. He was buried in the Payson City Cemetery.

The Prophet Joseph Smith had blessed him saying, “You will live as long as you want, and I name you Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.’ Joseph Hancock lived to be 93 years old. The day Joseph died, he sat at the breakfast table and related the promise of Joseph Smith. He said, “Now I have lived as long as I wish, so will pass on,’ and he went to the bedroom and fell asleep.

Source: “Biographies of the Original 1847 Pioneer Company,’ Church News, Updated, 14 October 2009;, “History of Joseph Hancock.’ This history is recorded in “Experience of Payson Pioneers’ by Ivan Y. Haskell, pp 149 – 160;

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