“Other Gentiles Went Forth out of Captivity”

Alan C. Miner

According to Mark E. Petersen, when it is realized how despotic the European kings were at this period, it is easily understood that the colonists did indeed flee from captivity and oppression. Under such kings as James I of England, there was hardly a semblance of freedom. He was the supreme dictator in government, in economics, in education (what there was of it), and in the state of religion. He controlled the detailed lives of his people.

France, Spain, England, and Portugal were the principal powers involved in the discovery and exploration of America, and this is significant. All were ruled by despots, and when immigrants finally were allowed to leave the "mother countries," they indeed fled from captivity. The history of the Pilgrims and Puritans gives ample evidence of this fact. [Mark E. Petersen, The Great Prologue, pp. 32-33]

“Other Gentiles Went Forth out of Captivity”

In 1 Nephi 13:13 we have reference that Nephi "beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters." According to Mark E. Petersen, the history of the Pilgrims and Puritans gives ample evidence of the type of captivity they left to come to a land of freedom and liberty. However, we quote herein a story published in the 1933 manual for deacons quorums of the Church to illustrate that the captivity was literal--even a captivity behind jail doors. The story follows:

If one were to search among all the Prophet Joseph Smith's progenitors for one who best typified his righteous zeal for true freedom and his dauntless devotion to truth, perhaps no finer exemplification could be found than his fifth great-grandfather, the Rev. John Lathrop.

He was a young minister of the Church of England, happily married, with a family of beautiful children. He labored faithfully until in his conscience he felt he could no longer approve the things he must teach. He resigned his position, left the church, and in 1623 became pastor of the First Independent Church of London.

Persecution raged against him and his little band of devoted followers. They were forced to meet secretly, to escape the anger of the opposing bishop. One day, as they met in worship they were discovered by agents of the bishop, who suddenly invaded their meeting place, seized forty-two of their number, and sent them in fetters to the old Clink Prison, in Newgate. Finally all but Mr. Lathrop were released on bail, but he was deemed too dangerous to be set at liberty.

During these months of his imprisonment a fatal sickness had seized upon his wife, and she was about to die. Upon his urgent entreaty, the bishop consented for him to visit his dying wife if he would promise to return. He reached home in time, gave her his blessing, and she passed away. True to his promise, he returned to prison. His poor, orphaned children wandered about in helpless misery until someone suggested that they appeal to the bishop at Lambeth. One can picture the mournful procession as they came before him and made known their sorrowful plight.

"Please, sir," they cried piteously, "release our father or we too shall die." The bishop's heart was softened and touched with pity, and he granted to John Lathrop his freedom if he would promise to leave the country and never return.

Gathering around him his children and 32 of his congregation, he sailed to America, settling in New England, where he was warmly welcomed and soon became one of the leaders among the Puritans of his day.

[Mark E. Petersen, "American History and Nephi's Vision," published in the Deseret News, March 25, 1933. Quoted by George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, pp. 121-122]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary