Joseph Smith, Prophet of God

Mormons consider Joseph Smith, Jr. (1805–1844), the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church), to be a true prophet. The Prophet Joseph, who was ultimately killed by his religious and political foes, is remembered as a martyr for the cause.

On June 25, 1844, Governor Thomas Ford of Illinois told the state militia that Joseph and his brother Hyrum were “dangerous men” (History of the Church, 5:563) and guilty of treason. The two brothers went to Carthage, Illinois , to deliver themselves up to the “pretended requirements of the law” (Doctrine and Covenants 135:1), according to the demands of the governor. Joseph Smith said of the event, “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 towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall be said of me—He was murdered in cold blood” (Doctrine and Covenants 135:4).

After delivering themselves up, Joseph and Hyrum were confined in Carthage Jail. The men were accompanied by John Taylor and Willard Richards, members of the Church administrative body known as the Quorum of the Twelve. The four men remained in the jail for two days, during which time the jailers treated them well and friends visited them. On June 27, 1844 a mob, made up of members of the town militia who were in charge of protecting Joseph, overran the jail. The mob, later described by John Taylor as men who were “armed” and “painted black” (Doctrine and Covenants 135:1) entered the room in which the men were being held. The room was on the second floor of the jail, at the top of the stairs. The mob forced the door open and poked their gun barrels into the room. They began shooting, despite efforts by Willard Richards to deflect the gun barrels with his walking stick. Hyrum Smith was shot multiple times and died, falling to the floor.

John Taylor was also shot in several places. He was not killed but sought refuge by rolling under the bed. Joseph Smith ran toward the window where he was shot in the back from inside the jail and shot in the chest from outside the jail. He either fell or leaped out of the window, landing on the ground outside the jail, where he was again shot by members of the mob. The Prophet Joseph Smith died at that time. (See History of the Church, 6:602-618, also Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, 348).

John Taylor and Willard Richards were both present at the martyrdom and survived. John Taylor, who later became the third President and Prophet of the Church, wrote: “Hyrum was shot first and fell calmly, exclaiming: I am a dead man! Joseph leaped from the window, and was shot dead in the attempt, exclaiming: O Lord my God! They were both shot after they were dead, in a brutal manner ” (Doctrine and Covenants 135:1).

To this day, Joseph Smith is remembered by Mormons as the first prophet of the Restoration, accomplishing tasks that established the Lord’s true Church again to the earth. John Taylor makes this point clear, in his record:

“Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fullness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum” (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3).



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