For the last two years of Joseph’s life, from the spring of 1842 on until June of 1844. Joseph was revealing things as fast as he possibly could. I think he had a sense that he needed to download all of his knowledge, all of the revelations, everything that he knew, so that he would leave no pages unturned before the end.
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Maurine and I lead a church history tour every year. We’ve done this for 30 years. We take our many participants through two days of Revolutionary War and the foundations of freedom. Then we go to Sharon, Vermont and begin Joseph Smith’s life chronologically and naturally we end the two weeks in the Carthage Jail. It’s an unbelievable experience. We always have a testimony meeting that last day after the emotional experience of the Carthage Jail. I’ll never forget one year, one of the brothers on the tour, who had been especially attentive throughout that two-week period, said emphatically in his testimony, while still on the Jail grounds, “I’m so angry. I’m just so angry!” Since we had never heard that as part of a testimony before and he gave a rather long pause, I cut in and asked aloud, “Why?” He said, “Because they killed him. They killed Joseph Smith. It was unjust. It was wrong. It was so wrong. I’m just so angry.” And that was his final testimony. And it stuck with me. Let’s explore the historical, emotional and passionate ending of Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s lives today.
Welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. We are Scot and Maurine Proctor and we are delighted to be with you again today and share our witnesses and testimonies of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Will you share this podcast with your family and friends? It’s easy, just tell them to go to latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast or tell them to go to any of their favorite podcast platforms and just search for Meridian Magazine Come Follow Me.
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It’s hard to believe that through all these podcasts this year, we are coming to the end of our studies of the Doctrine and Covenants, well, or the end of this year’s study of this sacred volume of scripture. And that naturally leads us to the Carthage Jail. How can we possibly describe in 30 or 40 minutes all the events that led to the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith? It’s impossible. But we do take our people to the Carthage Jail. And when we’re there, we do give about a 20-30 minute lecture which is full of emotion and passion and power, as we bear our testimonies of the Prophet Joseph.
We hope that through these past 48 podcasts this year on the Doctrine and Covenants, that you have come to know that we know that this great work is true. We love the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We love the Prophet Joseph Smith, and his wife, Emma and his family. We love those early heroes of the restoration. We love Brigham Young and Mary Ann Angell. We love John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff and Parley P. Pratt and Eliza R. Snow and Mary Fielding Smith and Mercy Fielding Thompson. These are our friends and our heroes.
And it makes us emotional to think of coming to the end of this year of study. But what are all the things that led to Joseph’s martyrdom in Carthage? There are so many things that go into this and most of the time people think that Joseph was brought to Carthage because of plural marriage. That just isn’t the case. It was hardly known publicly by that time, but among the apostates who participated in the conspiracy to kill Joseph, it certainly may have played a role, but it wasn’t the major role.
By this point, Joseph Smith had known for some time that his life was coming close to an end. He knew at least as early as March 1829 that the possibility of the martyrdom was there. In Doctrine and Covenants, Section Five, Verse 22, it says:
22 And that you be firm in keeping the commandments wherewith I have commanded you; and if you do this, behold I grant unto you eternal life, even if you should be slain. (Doctrine and Covenants 5:22)
So, this is 15-plus years before the martyrdom. I think Joseph always had a sense that he would have to seal his testimony with his blood. And to get some personal insight into Joseph. He had one fear about dying, and that is he did not want to be hanged.
I think each one of us has some particular way of dying that we would not like to face. I know for you Maurine, you would not like to be burned to death. And I have a particular aversion to drowning because I witnessed my own brother drown and that was a very traumatic experience for me. But I think all of us have some kind of fear, but Joseph’s fear was to be hanged. He just did not want to be hanged. We will keep that in mind.
For the last two years of Joseph’s life, from the spring of 1842 on until June of 1844. Joseph was revealing things as fast as he possibly could. I think he had a sense that he needed to download all of his knowledge, all of the revelations, everything that he knew, so that he would leave no pages unturned, and no i’s undotted and no t’s uncrossed. Of course, among those things, was the organization of the Relief Society on March 17 1842.
This was critical, and by May the 4th, 1842, just 48 days after the Relief Society was organized, Joseph revealed the temple endowment for the first time. By the spring of 1844, he was meeting with the Twelve in an unfinished room of the Nauvoo Temple, and there he gave them instructions, and he gave them all the keys that had been given to him by all the angelic ministers who had come to him. He wanted to lay clearly and squarely upon the shoulders of the Twelve all of the keys so that he did not carry them alone. And if he were to be slain, which he would be in a matter of about two months, all the keys would be borne off by the Twelve apostles. So, this was critically important
that these meetings took place, and we actually have a recording of Wilford Woodruff’s voice on a brand-new technology which used wax drums to record voices. This was near the end of his life and it is fantastic to listen to. The recording is more than 120 years old and is very crackly and hard to understand but it is very discernable.
And I think it is fantastic that we get to hear his actual voice that he gave us his eyewitness, in-person testimony of Joseph Smith in those meetings. Now, when I was growing up, I always liked to imitate sounds and voices. My brother, Kirk, was much better at voices, but my specialty was sounds. I have a variety of things that I can do. I’m not sure my ability to imitate sound is a great gift, but it does allow me to have perfect pitch and to hear and understand languages very quickly. When we’re on the church history tour and I’m speaking over a microphone or in our little headphones, I give that particular imitation of Wilford Woodruff and that recording and it goes something like this:
“I bear my testimony that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God to lay the foundation of His Church and Kingdom in the last dispensation and the fulness of time. The Prophet Joseph Smith laid down his life for the word of God. In all his testimony to us the power of God was visibly manifest in the Prophet Joseph.”
Joseph laid his hands upon each member of the Twelve at this time in April 1844 and gave each of them ALL of the keys that he held. He gave them the charge that they were to bear off the kingdom on their shoulders now or they would be damned.
Now, the enemies of the church thought if they could kill Joseph, they would kill what was then called “Mormonism.” They would kill the progress of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints altogether. Nauvoo had become a bustling city in Western Illinois to rival Chicago in size. The people were industrious and they, the enemies of the Church had to shut the Saints down. And of course, they were very much wrong, but they pursued that Satan-inspired course anyway. A number of things happened in rapid succession, and one of the most notable was on Friday, June 7th, 1844. A series of apostates got together, including most notably William Law, former counselor in the First Presidency, and his brother Wilson Law, Charles and Robert Foster and Francis and Chauncey Higbee—all of whom were disaffected from the Church and in full-blown apostasy—and they began a newspaper, the Nauvoo Expositor, in the heart of the city of Nauvoo. That first issue was over 12,500 words, most of which were slanderous, lying filth leveled against the Prophet Joseph. The paper outlined, as it declared by its own apostate board: deceptive practices, false doctrines, evil doings of Joseph, political power mongering of Joseph in his bid for President of the United States, etc.
Now, Joseph was the mayor of Nauvoo at this time. So, on Saturday, June 8 and Monday, June 10, Joseph gathered the city council together to discuss this nuisance in the city limits. They spent three hours deliberating in each meeting as to what to do. In their Nauvoo city charter, there was a directive that said that if there was a nuisance inside the city limits, and that nuisance was dangerous to the safety of the community or of its citizens, that that nuisance could be removed.
Remember, these very Saints had experienced the violence in Missouri and Ohio and, with tensions now escalating in Nauvoo, the council members were concerned about the Expositor’s potential to incite further violence against both the Saints and the owners of the press. “Additionally, in the honor culture of 19th-century America, men were expected to respond to public attacks on their character, a social norm that made it difficult to let offenses pass.
With the sanction of the city council, Joseph Smith ordered a marshal, with the assistance of the Nauvoo Legion, to destroy the printing press. On Monday evening, June 10, the marshal and his posse of approximately 100 men removed the press, scattered the type, and burned the remaining copies of the newspaper.
The Nauvoo City Council had reason to believe their actions were legal. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits government interference with the press, applied only to the federal government, not state and local governments, until after the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868.” (Article, Nauvoo Expositor, Church of Jesus Christ website: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/history/topics/nauvoo-expositor?lang=eng)
Many legal scholars have concluded that the Nauvoo City Council acted legally to destroy copies of the newspaper but may have exceeded its authority by destroying the press itself.
Now the destruction of the Expositor fanned the flames of controversy and would not pass without answer. In neighboring Warsaw, Illinois, just about 17 miles to the south, a leading anti-Mormon newspaper editor named Thomas Sharp seized this opportunity to rally and mobilize Hancock County citizens against the Saints. Mr. Sharp had always had a chip on his shoulder since the beleaguered Latter-day Saints arrived on the eastern shores of the Mississippi River and they would not take advantage of his offers to sell them large tracts of land in and around Warsaw. His newspaper published this call to action on Wednesday, June 12:
“War and extermination is inevitable! Citizens ARISE, ONE and ALL!!!—Can you stand by, and suffer such INFERNAL DEVILS! TO ROB men of their property and RIGHTS, without avenging them. We have not time for comment, every man will make his own. LET IT BE MADE WITH POWDER AND BALL!!!” (Warsaw Signal, June 12, 1844, p. 2)
One note here, Scot. I think it’s fascinating that Joseph Smith was a candidate for President of the United States at this time and he sent ten of the Twelve apostles out on missions, campaigning for him and proselyting, but mainly, I think Joseph was getting them out of the way so they, too, would not be harmed or killed.
At this crucial and fever-pitched juncture, Illinois Governor Thomas Ford stepped in to try to prevent a civil war. He reviewed the Nauvoo City charter and the city council’s justifications for putting this newspaper to an end. He decided to charge Joseph and Hyrum on a charge of inciting a riot and said they needed to stand trial at Carthage, the county seat for Hancock County and claimed by some to be “the only safe place in Hancock County for Joseph Smith.” Governor Ford gave Joseph his sacred word of honor and personal promise that he would assure Joseph’s safety.
Joseph could see what all this was leading to. So, while legal preparations were being made, Joseph was making his own plans. Joseph said, “The way is open. It is clear to my mind what to do. All they want is Hyrum and myself…We will cross the river tonight and go away to the west.” (History of the Church, 6: 545-46) Joseph had prophesied years before that “the Saints would continue to suffer much affliction…and some of you will live to go and assist in making settlements and build cities and see the Saints become a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains.” (Ibid, 5:85)
On Monday, June 17, an affidavit was signed by Stephen Markam, a faithful, trusted friend and bodyguard of the Prophet Joseph, that mobs were gathering from Warsaw and potentially from Missouri to imminently launch an all-out attack on Nauvoo.
On Tuesday, June 18, Joseph issued this official statement as mayor of Nauvoo:
From the newspapers around us, and the current reports as brought in from the surrounding country, I have good reason to fear that a mob is organizing to come upon this city, and plunder and destroy said city, as well as murder the citizens; and by virtue of the authority vested in me as Mayor, and to preserve the city and the lives of the citizens, I do hereby declare the said city, within the limits of its incorporation, under martial law. The officers, therefore, of the Nauvoo Legion, the police as well as all others, will strictly see that no persons or property pass in or out of the city without due orders.
On June 20, Robert Foster wrote to John Proctor, one of your relatives, Scot, the following: “There are thousands of armed men ready now and thousands more coming from Missouri and the country around.” (Ibid, 6:520)
Later that evening Joseph said to a number of friends present: “I advised my brother Hyrum to take his family on the next steamboat and go to Cincinnati. Hyrum replied, “Joseph, I can’t leave you.” Whereupon I said to the company present, “I wish I could get Hyrum out of the way, so that he may live to avenge my blood, and I will stay with you and see it out.” (Ibid, 6:520)
As many of you know, Hyrum was not only the Patriarch of the Church at that time, but he had been ordained on January 25, 1841 as Assistant President of the Church, a position only truly held by Hyrum and Oliver Cowdery before him.
That’s right. Biographer Edward Tullidge gives us some interesting insight here:
Concerning the statement in the text about the Prophet’s desire to have Hyrum live, and the purpose of it, Tullidege recorded it this way: “I want Hyrum to live to lead the Church, but he is determined not to leave me” (Tullidge, p. 491)…[T]here is evidence in addition to his statement that the Prophet did desire Hyrum Smith to succeed him in the presidency of the Church, and even “ordained” him to take that place. At the October conference following the martyrdom of the two brothers, President Brigham Young said: “Did Joseph ordain any man to take his place? He did. Who was it? It was Hyrum. But Hyrum fell a martyr before Joseph did” (Times and Seasons Vol. 5, page 683; see also History of the Church, 6:546, footnote 2)
With all of this going on, during the late evening of Saturday, June 22, Hyrum determined to never leave Joseph’s side, Joseph and Hyrum made their way to the river. Aaron Johnson lived a few hundred yards to the west of Joseph and Emma, right on the Mississippi River bank, and he loaned the brethren a leaky skiff to row across the river to the island near the Iowa side. Ever Joseph’s loyal friend, Porter Rockwell took the oars and Willard Richards, a member of the Twelve and secretary/scribe to Joseph, volunteered to come with them.
During that very night when they were hiding out on that island and were making plans to go to the west, messages were being sent across the river by rowboat such as, “Joseph. Don’t leave us now.” “Joseph, you are a coward for leaving.” “Joseph, why would you leave us at this most critical hour?”
On Sunday, June 23 a sheriff’s posse arrived in Nauvoo to arrest Joseph, but they could not find him.
On the island, “Joseph said to [Porter] Rockwell [his most trusted bodyguard], “What shall I do?” Rockwell replied, “You are the oldest and ought to know best; and as you make your bed, I will lie with you.” Joseph then turned to Hyrum, who was talking with [Reynolds] Cahoon, and said, “Brother Hyrum, you are the oldest, what shall we do?” Hyrum said, “Let us go back and give ourselves up, and see the thing out.” After studying a few moments, Joseph said, “If you go back, I will go with you, but we shall be butchered.” Hyrum said, “No, no; let us go back and put our trust in God, and we shall not be harmed. The Lord is in it. If we live or have to die, we will be reconciled to our fate.” (History of the Church, 6:549-50) Joseph said to Hyram, if my life is of no worth to my friends, it is of no worth to me.” They then made the fateful decision to return to Nauvoo and give themselves up to “the law.”
Now, even though Joseph and Hyrum were the only ones under arrest, many of the other brethren went with them to Carthage, including Willard Richards, and John Taylor, with Steven Markham, Dan Jones, John Fullmer and Cyrus Wheelock coming thereafter. At 6:30 AM on Monday, June 24, Joseph said goodbye to his family. Both Joseph and Emma wept as he departed. They had been through this kind of thing together many times before. Joseph stopped by the temple construction site, where the temple was about nine feet above the ground, looked out over the beautiful city and that view of the horseshoe bend of the river and said, “This is the loveliest place and the best people under the heavens; little do they know the trials that await them.”
When they were 4 miles outside of Nauvoo, they were stopped and word had come from the Governor to ask Joseph to return to Nauvoo and give orders to have the Nauvoo Legion give up all their state arms. At this point, the Nauvoo Legion may have numbered upwards of 5,000. To put this in perspective, the standing army of the United States at that time was only 8,573 men. This was a formidable force in Nauvoo and the governor was trying to avert an all-out war—and—more importantly for him, to make the way easier for the murder of the Prophet and his brother.
Joseph returned and gave orders for the Legion to disarm, which they did. Joseph was able to say farewell to his family one last time. He hugged four-months pregnant Emma and their four other children. They had now lost six of their children. Emma said to Joseph through her tears, “You will return, won’t you Joseph?” He could not answer her. As he got up on his horse she held his leg and said, “YOU WILL RETURN, won’t you Joseph?” Both began to weep—and Joseph turned his face towards Carthage.
As they were heading towards Carthage on the 26 1/2 mile journey from Nauvoo, Joseph stopped at one point, and he looked out over a beautiful parcel of land and fields. And the men said, “Come, why are we waiting here? Let’s be going on.” And Joseph said, “”If some of you had got such a farm and knew you would not see it any more, you would want to take a good look at it for the last time.” (Ibid, 6:558)
As they continued on, Joseph said ““I am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but I am calm as a summer’s morning. I have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward all men. If they take my life I shall die an innocent man, and my blood shall cry from the ground for vengeance, and it shall be said of me ‘He was murdered in cold blood!’ ” We sometimes speculate that he may have intimated: “I am going like THE lamb to the slaughter.” Either way, he truly was going to be slaughtered and he knew it. They finally arrived at Carthage just before midnight, and over fourteen hundred Illinois militia had gathered there, drinking and brawling a good portion of the day as they awaited for the arrival of their prey.
Now the charge of causing a riot would allow for bail and many of the brethren were charged with this for a total bail of $7,500. The money was gathered quickly. Then, on Tuesday, June 25, the diabolical apostate, Wilson Law, was able to get the charge for Joseph and Hyrum changed to treason. This offense did not allow for bail and was punishable by hanging. Joseph did not like this at all.
Now Joseph, Hyrum, Willard Richards and John Taylor, the latter two the only members of the Twelve in Nauvoo, were in the jail together. A few others came to be with them, Stephen Markham, John Fullmer, Cyrus Wheelock and Dan Jones.
Both Joseph and Hyrum bore a faithful testimony to the Latter-day work, and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and prophesied of the triumph of the Gospel over all the earth, exhorting the brethren present to faithfulness and persevering diligence in proclaiming the Gospel, building up the Temple, and performing all the duties connected with our holy religion. (Ibid, 6:610)
During that last night, Wednesday, June 26 into Thursday, June 27, the brethren had been moved to the jailer’s bedroom in the southeast corner upstairs of the building. The jailer, knowing these were not dangerous or guilty men, thought they would be safer upstairs above the ground and away from close visual examination from the outside.
Late that evening Joseph said, “I would like to see my family again,” and “I would to God that I could preach to the Saints in Nauvoo once more.”
Dan Jones and John Fullmer lay next to Joseph Smith on the floor of the bedroom. Joseph whispered to Dan, “Are you afraid to die?” Dan said, “Has that time come, think you? Engaged in such a cause I do not think that death would have many terrors.” Joseph replied, “You will yet see Wales, and fulfill the mission appointed you before you die.” (Ibid, 6: 601)
Dan Jones left the jail the next morning to seek legal counsel for Joseph for the trial coming on Saturday. As he went through the south door of the jail to exit, he passed Frank Worrell, the head of the Carthage Greys. Worrell said, “We have had too much trouble to bring old Joe here to let him ever escape alive, and unless you want to die with him you better leave before sundown…you’ll see that I can prophesy better than Old Joe.” (Letter from Dan Jones to Thomas Bullock, January 20, 1855, as quoted in “The Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith,” BYU Studies, Winter 1984, p. 102)
Dan Jones was never allowed back in the jail. It saved his life. He was even chased by a mob with balls flying all around him but he was never hit. He did go on to fill many missions to Wales and brought many thousands of his fellow Welsh into the Church.
Joseph was writing letters that morning, seeking help and sending his final farewell to Emma:
June 27, 1844. 8:20 AM.
… Dear Emma, I am very much resigned to my lot, knowing I am justified, and have done the best that could be done. Give my love to the children and all my friends, Mr. Brewer, and all who inquire after me; and as for treason, I know that I have not committed any, and they cannot prove anything of the kind, so you need not have any fears that anything can happen to us on that account. May God bless you all. Amen.” (History of the Church, 6:605)
Governor Ford had visited the brothers in the jail that day and reassured them of his commitment and promise of their safety. Of course, he was in on the conspiracy. Of course, he knew what was about to happen that very day. He left with his own men and headed for Nauvoo so that he could be out of the way of the violence.
The jailer suggested they might want to move into the dungeon for safety. Joseph asked Willard Richards if he would go with him into the dungeon. Willard responded:
“Brother Joseph you did not ask me to cross the river with you—you did not ask me to come to Carthage—you did not ask me to come to jail with you—and do you think I would forsake you now? But I will tell you what I will do; if you are condemned to be hung for treason, I will be hung in your stead, and you shall go free.” Joseph said “You cannot.” The doctor replied, “I will.” (Ibid, 6:616) Willard knew of Joseph’s fear of hanging and was willing to be hanged in his place. That is so tender.
Now that day, had worn on and the men were feeling rather depressed. It was very hot in the jail. The windows were open. Joseph and Hyrum and Willard and John were the only ones left in the jail. Joseph said, Brother John, sing for me that new hymn that’s been circulating in Nauvoo, the new hymn that was Joseph’s favorite, A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief. And so, John Taylor with his beautiful British tenor voice, sang all seven verses of that hymn. At the end of that Joseph said, Oh, brother, John, sing it for us again. John said, “I don’t feel much like singing.” Hyrum said, “Start singing and you’ll feel like singing.” And so he did. He sang all seven verses again, and this really buoyed the spirits of Joseph and Hyrum and I’m sure Willard Richards as well and even John Taylor.
But now, it was just past five o’clock on Thursday, June 27 1844, as a mob of between 150 and 200 men started towards the jail. Their faces were painted black as if they could disguise themselves so that they would not be known, but they were known of God. Some of them were apostates from the Church and had once sat in sweet counsel with the Prophet himself. Worrell and his Carthage Greys put up no resistance. They fired some shots up into the air, and then many of the mob ran up the stairs and the slaughter began.
The first shot that was fired was to destroy the latch on the door that was already not working. Joseph and Hyrum braced themselves against the door pushing with all their might to hold it shut. The second shot that was fired came right through the door and struck Hyrum in the left bridge of the nose near his left eye. He was also hit in the chest and again in the throat and in his leg. He fell back and cried, “I am a dead man.” Joseph cried out, “Oh, my dear brother Hyrum!” Now, remember, Hyrum was the assistant president of the Church and if he would have died second, he would have been, according to their understanding, the president of the Church for a few seconds.
Willard Richards and John Taylor were on either side of the Smiths with hickory canes or what Willard Richards called his rascal beater. And there they thought they could beat the rifles barrels down as best they could and parry them off. As John Taylor was trying to parry the rifles, he could see that this was not helping enough. And so. John went towards the window directly across the room from the door, and there, I think he was trying to make an escape through the window or see if that was possible and draw fire away from Joseph. As he got to the window, he was hit once in the wrist and then again, this time in the chest as he was in the window. This ball hit and pulverized his pocket watch and the force of that ball hitting him knocked him back into the room. He was hit again in the thigh, which, as he reported, dropped him like a bird that had been shot. While on the floor, he was hit again in the hip and took a chunk out the size of a man’s hand and blew blood all over the eastern wall of the jail. In that condition, he rolled under the bed to try to escape further injury.
Now at this point, the most interesting thing happens. Joseph turned calmly. I think that says a lot about Joseph. He knew of course what was going to happen but in the midst of all this, he turned calmly. How could that possibly be? That is astounding. He went for the window, perhaps to draw fire away from Willard Richards. Of course, the balls were flying around in every direction, and hitting everywhere but Joseph came to the window. And he was hit once from behind in the back once in the shoulder blade, and once in the front in the sternum and once in the chest on the right side. And as he fell through the window, or leaped, he cried out, “Oh, Lord, my God!” This was a clarion call for help to any who were of the Masonic order. There were many Masons in the mob and obviously they broke their covenants that day. Joseph fell the 15 ½ feet to the ground. A cry went out, “He’s leaped the window!” The mob hurried out of the landing and down the stairs. Willard Richards looked out the window and saw him as his eyes closed, and he saw his beloved prophet for the last time on this earth. The mob fired on Joseph and shot him in a brutal manner many times after he was dead.
Willard Richards was trying to escape at this point or go out of the room and as he began to leave the room he heard Brother Taylor say, “Take me with you.” He carried Brother Taylor and brought him into the dungeon and covered him with a straw mattress. He said, ‘Brother John, I want you to live so that you can tell the world what happened here.” You have to understand, Willard Richards was the largest target in the jail. He weighed 300 pounds. But Joseph had told him two years before “the time would come when the balls would fly around him like hail, and he should see his friends fall on the right side and on the left, but that there should not be a hole in his garment.” (Ibid, 6:619) Miraculously, Willard Richards was spared with only his earlobe grazed by a ball.
At this point, right as the mob came back up the stairs and they were looking around the jailer’s bedroom for the others so they can kill the witnesses, a lone horseman came riding into town at breakneck speed crying at the top of his lungs, “The Mormons are coming! The Mormons are coming.” And we know from the Smith family records that this was Joseph and Hyrum’s brother, Samuel Harrison Smith! He had ridden the 26 ½ miles from Nauvoo to Carthage and had out ridden the mob, but during that chase, he had received an injury in his side and he said to his mother, Lucy Mack Smith, “I have a dreadful distress in my side ever since I was chased by the mob.” Thirty-three days later, Samuel Harrison Smith died as well.
With Samuel’s warning, the mob scattered. It was not true, however, as the Saints would not seek revenge. A note was sent to Nauvoo from Elder Richards, “Joseph and Hyrum are dead. Taylor wounded…I am well. Our guard was forced, as we believe, by a band of Missourians from 100 to 200. The job was done in an instant, and the party fled towards Nauvoo…the citizens are afraid of the Mormons attacking them. I promise them no!” (Ibid, 6:621-622)
John Taylor wrote: “I felt a dull, lonely, sickening sensation at the news. When I reflected that our noble chieftain, the Prophet of the living God, had fallen, and that I had seen his brother in the cold embrace of death, it seemed as though there was a void or vacuum in the great field of human existence to me, and a dark gloomy chasm in the kingdom, and that we were left alone. Oh, how lonely was the feeling! How cold, barren and desolate! In the midst of difficulties he was always the first in motion; in critical positions his counsel was always sought. As our Prophet he approached our God, and obtained for us his will; but now our Prophet, our counselor, our general, our leader, was gone, and amid the fiery ordeal that we then had to pass through, we were left alone without his aid, and as our future guide for things spiritual or temporal, and for all things pertaining to this world, or the next, he had spoken for the last time on earth.” (See John Taylor, Martyrdom Account, pp. 48–53, Joseph Smith Papers)
Now you think about this from the perspective of a mother, from this precious Lucy Mack Smith. By the time Samuel died a few weeks later, she had lost seven of her eight sons. She had lost her husband. She had lost three daughters-in-law. She had lost three sons-in-law, and she had lost 15 grandchildren! Her heart was truly broken.
Lucy recorded: “After the corpses were washed and dressed in their burial clothes, we were allowed to see them. I had for a long time braced every nerve, roused every energy of my soul, and called upon God to strengthen me, but when I entered the room and saw my murdered sons extended both at once before my eyes and heard the sobs and groans of my family and the cries of “Father! Husband! Brothers!” from the lips of their wives, children, brothers, and sisters, it was too much; I sank back, crying to the Lord in the agony of my soul, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken this family!” A voice replied, “I have taken them to myself, that they might have rest.” Emma was carried back to her room almost in a state of insensibility…
“Oh! at the moment how my mind flew through every scene of sorrow and distress which we had passed, together, in which they had shown the innocence and sympathy which filled their guileless hearts. As I looked upon their peaceful, smiling countenances, I seemed almost to hear them say, “Mother, weep not for us, we have overcome the world by love; we carried to them the gospel, that their souls might be saved; they slew us for our testimony, and thus placed us beyond their power; their ascendancy is for a moment, ours is an eternal triumph.”
“I then thought upon the promise which I had received in Missouri, that in five years Joseph should have power over all his enemies. The time had elapsed and the promise was fulfilled.”
We testify with every fiber of our beings that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God. We testify that He did indeed see God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ in the grove. We testify that Joseph was the instrument that brought forth the Book of Mormon and through whom the holy priesthoods were restored to the earth. We testify that the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been brought back to the earth and that we have a living Prophet today, even Russell M. Nelson. We testify that this great book of Doctrine and Covenants is true. We blessed beyond measure to live in these latter days.
That’s all for today. We’ve loved being with you. Next week we will talk about the last sections in the Doctrine and Covenants, Sections 137 and 138, with the lesson, “The Vision of the Redemption of the Dead.” Thanks to Paul Cardall for the music and to Michaela Proctor Hutchins for producing this show. Have a wonderful week and see you next time.