Shadrach Roundy deserves a spot in the Justice League.
Shadrach Roundy was a bodyguard for Joseph Smith during the Prophet’s tumultuous final years. He was described as being “fully six feet tall, raw-boned and muscular, weighing slightly less than two hundred pounds.” He was known for being “positively fearless and full of integrity…Such was his character that he would rather have died than fail to do his duty” He didn’t wear a cape, but it wasn’t hard to imagine Shadrach Roundy as a pioneer Superman, a defender of faith in the face of great evil.
This Superman was put to the test when he faced down an angry mob consisting of 40 men roaring for the Prophet’s head.
Standing Against Evil
On June 7, 1844, William Law published a slanderous newspaper labeled The Nauvoo Expositor that claimed to be an exposé on the Church and its teachings. Citing the paper and press as a public nuisance and within their rights of the Nauvoo Charter, Joseph Smith ordered that the press be destroyed. This destruction of the press led to Joseph’s eventual arrest and imprisonment in Carthage Jail.
Carthage was not the only place his life was threatened during this time. On the night Joseph was indicted for “inciting riot”, William Law and forty armed citizens marched to Joseph’s home, and there was blood in their hearts.
The only one between them and the end of Joseph Smith was one Shadrach Roundy.
Joseph Smith had warned his faithful Superman that there would be an attempt to kidnap him that night. Shadrach was sent to guard the Prophet’s house with explicit instructions that no one was to be allowed in. He had been told they would be coming up the river, and so he was patrolling the river near the Prophet’s home when he heard voices at the gate. He hurried to the source of the voices to find William Law and forty other mobbers trying to get in.
As a bodyguard and member of the police force of Nauvoo, it’s expected that Shadrach would have some kind of weapon on him to defend both himself and the Prophet. Following the Expositor destruction, however, his weapons had been turned over to the government militia. Shadrach was only armed with his wits, his courage, and a hickory walking stick.
Speaking for myself, if I were suddenly facing down forty men with only a walking stick and a prayer, William Law would’ve gotten a nice view of my coattails as I either beat it or at least gone to get help. Luckily for Joseph, he had Superman instead of me guarding his house that fateful night.
Shadrach, using his hickory cane like a sword, forced the men back out of the gate. He then gripped the cane and laid it across the gate to keep the intruders out while he reasonably asked them what their business was for the night. William Law replied that they were “gentlemen merchants” who had come to see the mummies that Joseph Smith had in his possession. Shadrach retorted that “if they were gentlemen, they should come at gentlemen’s hours”.
Shadrach was joined by his companion Josiah Arnold, who was also on Joseph’s detail. He too was determined to keep back the mob that would’ve taken the Prophet away. Seeing the resolution in their eyes, the mob stopped trying to push their way through. William Law “asked if they knew who they were talking to.” This name dropping meant little to the two men of God, who replied that “yes, they knew him too well.”
William and his men still insisted on getting through, but Shadrach and Josiah would not move. In a final act of courage that delved deep into their faith in the Prophet and their Heavenly Father, they stated to the mob that “if they gained admission, it would be over their dead bodies.”
Such words you might expect to find in final showdowns between superheroes as they flex gigantic muscles, but the power in this quiet sentence was matchless when it came from humble men willing to fight to the death for a Prophet they loved. William Law saw it too; he and his band of criminals left soon after with their tails tucked between their legs.
Finding Our Hickory Stick
We can achieve this kind of personal valor in our own lives.
Shadrach wasn’t born a Superman. He built his courage as he learned to be obedient. Over his lifetime, he made hundreds of small and large sacrifices for the gospel that forged an iron spirit. When the opportunity came to stand up for righteousness, he was able to do so because he had taken the time to create that resolve. His hickory stick was not only a weapon to use against evil; it was an extension of his faith.
There will come a time when we will need hickory sticks of our own.
In the last days, the Lord has promised that even some of the elect will fall as doubt creeps into our ranks and trials sunder our testimonies. Our prophets, our families, even our very identities will be challenged by the hordes of Satan. It will feel at times as though we are defending ourselves with only a hickory stick against an onslaught that should surely overcome us. However, if that stick is an extension of our faith, we will be able to turn the tides with the strength of our courage and the might of our God.
Find your hickory stick, and if you wield it with faith, you too can become a Hickory Stick Superman.