Joseph Smith was unjustly confined in Liberty Jail from December 1838 to April 1839 along with several other Church leaders. Joseph suffered helplessly, knowing that the Latter-day Saints were being driven from Missouri under an "extermination order" from the governor. The Prophet and his companions were imprisoned in a rough stone dungeon measuring 14 by 14 feet, with a ceiling just over 6 feet high. Only two small barred windows allowed light and air into the cell. The six prisoners suffered from winter weather, filthy conditions, hunger, and sickness.
While in Liberty Jail, the Prophet wrote letters to his family and the Saints. His correspondence contains some of the most poignant revelation found in scripture. In this miserable jail, Joseph learned that his sufferings were still not comparable to those of the Savior, as the Spirit whispered to him: "The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?" He was taught that in the end "all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."1
In early April 1839, Joseph and the other prisoners were allowed to escape, and they fled to safety in Illinois.
The jail was eventually torn down, though some of the dungeon floor and walls remained. The property was purchased for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1939. President Joseph Fielding Smith dedicated a partial reconstruction of the jail housed within a visitors' center in 1963.