16 Stunning Photographs with Eyewitness Accounts to Help you Remember the Martyrdom on this 170th Anniversary
Even the coldest heart is moved by the events that took place in the Carthage Jail on Thursday, June 27, 1844—170 years ago today. Joseph died not only as a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, but as a Mayor of one of the largest cities in America, General of the Nauvoo Legion (the largest city militia in the western United States), a declared candidate for President of the United States, and more tenderly, as a husband to Emma Hale Smith and father of eleven children (six then deceased, one yet unborn). Joseph died, as the Prophets of old, as a witness of the Savior of mankind. The following accounts are given to paint a picture of some of the feelings that surround that fateful day in June of 1844. I have added the photographs so you may journey with the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum to Carthage.
“Willard, the time will come that the balls will fly around you like hail, and you will see your friends fall on the right and on the left, but there shall not be so much as a hole in your garment.” (Joseph Smith to Willard Richards, Summer 1843)
“The last time I saw the Prophet, he was on his way to Carthage jail…They stopped..at the house of Brother Rosecrans. We were on the porch and could hear every word he said…one sentence I well remember. After bidding good-bye, he said to Brother Rosecrans, ‘If I never see you again, or if I never come back, remember that I love you.’ This went through me like electricity. I went in the house and threw myself on the bed and wept like a whipped child. And why this grief for a person I had never spoken to in my life, I could not tell. I knew he was a servant of God, and could only think of the danger he was in, and how deeply he felt it…” (Mary Ellen Kimball on June 24, 1844)
[Joseph looking at the Temple site and at the city of Nauvoo on the way to Carthage:] “This is the loveliest place and the best people under the heavens; little do they know the trials that await them.” [Sometime later that same day on the road to Carthage, 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 it shall be said of me ‘He was murdered in cold blood.’” (Joseph on the Martyrdom Trail, June 24, 1844)
“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…you need not have any fears that any harm can happen to us…may God bless you all, Amen.” (Handwritten Letter from Joseph to Emma 8:20 a.m., June 27, 1844)
“…the life of my servant shall be in my hand; therefore they shall not hurt him, although he shall be marred because of them. Yet I will heal him, for I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.” (Jesus Christ to the Nephites, concerning Joseph Smith)
“We have had too much trouble to bring ‘Old Joe’ here to let him ever escape alive…You’ll see that I can prophesy better than ‘Old Joe,’ that neither he nor his brother, nor anyone who will remain with them, will see the sun set today.” (Frank Worrell, Officer of the Guard of Carthage Jail, June 27, 1844)
[Conversation between Joseph and Dan Jones in the Carthage Jail, past midnight on June 27, 1844:] “Brother Dan, are you afraid to die?” Joseph asked.
“Has that time come, think you?” Dan replied. “Engaged in such a cause, I do not think that death would have many terrors.” Joseph then said, “You will see Wales and fulfill the mission appointed you ere you die.”
Early that morning Dan Jones left the jail to meet with Governor Ford. He explained to the governor with great anxiety how the lives of Joseph and Hyrum were in great danger, and the threats that were made towards them, to which Governor Ford replied: “You are unnecessarily alarmed for your friends’ safety, sir. The people are not that cruel.” Dan Jones returned to try to reenter the jail but was not allowed. His life was spared; he did fill his mission to Wales, as Joseph prophesied and brought untold thousands into the Church.
Jailer at Carthage, George W. Stigall, heard of the impending danger to the lives of the prisoners (whom he admired and knew were innocent men) and suggested they go from his upstairs bedroom where they had been staying to the inner cell next to the bedroom where they would be safer. Joseph turned to Dr. Willard Richards and said, “If we go into the cell, will you go in with us?” The doctor answered, “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.” Willard replied, “I will.” Witnessing this loyalty, Joseph wept. (This conversation took place between Willard Richards and Joseph about 5:00 p.m., less than fifteen minutes before the brutal murders, June 27, 1844)
“A great crime has been done by destroying the Expositor press and placing the city under martial law, and a severe atonement must be made, so prepare your minds for the emergency.” (Governor Thomas Ford, State of Illinois, June 27, 1844. This was said about the time of the martyrdom while he was in Nauvoo.)
“I felt a dull, lonely, sickening sensation…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, that we were left alone. Oh, how lonely was that 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.” (John Taylor)
“Had he [Joseph] been spared a martyr’s fate till mature manhood and age, he was certainly endued with powers and ability to have revolutionized the world…as it is, his works will live to endless ages, and unnumbered millions yet unborn will mention his name with honor, as a noble instrument…who…laid the foundations of that kingdom spoken of by Daniel, the prophet, which should break in pieces all other kingdoms and stand forever.” (Parley Parker Pratt)
“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.
” (John Taylor)
“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…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’…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.” (Lucy Mack Smith, mother of Joseph and Hyrum, June 29, 1844, Nauvoo Illinois)
“My Dear Companion…We are in great affliction at this time. Our dear Br. Joseph Smith and Hyrum has fell victims to a ferocious mob. The great God of the Creation only knows whether the rest shall be preserved in safety or not…I have been blessed to keep my feelings quite calm through all the storm. I hope you will be careful on your way home and not expose yourself to those that will endanger your life. Yours in haste. If we meet no more in this world may we meet where parting is no more. Farewell.” (Mary Ann Angell Young to her husband, Brigham Young, President of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, dated June 30, 1844)
“We would beseech the Latter Day Saints in Nauvoo, and else where, to hold fast to the faith that has been delivered to them in the last days, abiding in the perfect law of the gospel. Be peaceable, quiet citizens, doing the works of righteousness…Rejoice then, that you are found worthy to live and die for God: men may kill the body, but they cannot hurt the soul.” (W.W. Phelps, W. Richards, John Taylor, July 1, 1844)
 Smith, Joseph, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1980), 6:619 (Hereinafter, History of the Church).
 History of the Church, 6:547.
 The Juvenile Instructor, 15 August 1892, 27: 490-91.
 History of the Church, 6:554-55.
 Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, ed. and comp. Dean C. Jessee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1984), 611.
 History of the Church, 6: 558.
 3 Nephi 21:10.
 Dan Jones, “The Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith,” 20 January, 1855, handwritten manuscript in the Church Historian’s Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 Ibid. See also History of the Church 6:603.
 History of the Church 6:16.
 Ibid. 623.
 Ibid. 7:106.
 Pratt, Parley P. Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Revised and Enhanced Edition. Edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor. Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 2000, pp. 45, 46.
 Doctrine and Covenants 135:3.
 Smith, Lucy Mack. Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother. Edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor. Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, 1996, pp. 457, 458.
 Mary Ann Angell Young to Brigham Young, 30 June, 1844, dated at Nauvoo, Illinois, housed at Church Historian’s Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 Times and Seasons, vol. 5, no. 12, (l July 1844): 568
By Dennis Lythgoe Deseret News staff writer
Valeen Tippetts Avery’s fascination with the last son of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith came while she was working on a biography of the prophet’s wife, Emma.David Hyrum Smith was born in 1844 after the death of his father, and Avery became so interested in him that he became the subject of her Ph.D dissertation.
The title was changed from “Insanity and the Sweet Singer” to “From Mission to Madness: Last Son of the Mormon Prophet,” and her dissertation in history at Northern Arizona University became a prize-winning book. (Winner of the locally prestigious Evans Biography award, given by Utah State University, and the Mormon History Association’s award for best biography; it has also been nominated for several other awards, including the nationally prestigious Bancroft Prize in History.)According to Avery, David Smith was “the sweet singer of Israel to congregations in the Midwest, because his preaching resembled that of Old Testament prophets — but he could also sing.”
Speaking by telephone from her home in Flagstaff, Ariz., where she teaches history at NAU, Avery said Smith’s life was one of both success and tragedy. Although a brilliant and charismatic poet, painter, philosopher, naturalist and highly effective missionary for the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in IIlinois, Smith was stricken with mental illness while still in his 30s. He was committed to the Northern Illinois Hospital and Asylum for the Insane, where he remained until his death in 1904.
While his older brother, Joseph Smith III, was serving as president of the RLDS Church, David Smith felt that going on a mission to Utah, to try to convert the “Brighamites,” was his most important duty, and he did so several times. In spite of the conflict that existed between the LDS and the RLDS Churches, Smith managed to make friends with many Utah Mormons. And even though he and Brigham Young exchanged harsh words, there is evidence that they felt a natural affinity for one another. There was no one Young respected more than Smith’s father, and he wanted Smith in the Utah Church. Meanwhile, Smith felt moved to teach Young the error of his ways.
Implicit in this story is the connection between the LDS and RLDS churches, which also intrigued the author. “I didn’t understand the relationship between the two churches, most of all the sons of Joseph and Emma, and Brigham Young, and the church in the West, ” she said. Avery, who is LDS, could see this was a story about which church would be most successful in establishing Mormonism as an American religious tradition.
“Who would control Mormonism in the American experience? Would it be the more moderate RLDS version that conformed more to Protestant viewpoints and refused to accept polygamy or the doctrine of the gathering? I would have bet that Joseph III, with his more moderate Mormonism, would have appealed to a larger number of people. But I would have been wrong.The Western LDS Church was more stringent, more radically different than standard Christian theology, yet it succeeded in identifying itself more as an American religion.”
Avery did not set out to write a history of the two churches, although she believes that needs to be done. But she admits that “If there’s another book in me, the thing that excites me the most is a book about Mormons vs. Mormons over who would determine the shape of Mormonism in American culture.”
Avery plans to let a year pass before plunging into another project, however. She also knows she has emerged as a biographer and is not sure if she “can tell the story of a movement and a competitive religious agenda with the same success as that of a human life.”
But “From Mission to Madness” is also more than a biography. Avery puts this Mormon story into the larger context of “a 19th Century American family defining who they were, how they made a living and how they would deal with an extraordinary son and brother who becomes mentally ill. Its value to the 20th Century is not only telling that story but suggesting that families are not perfect. There are struggles to find answers to the problems of individual family members. It’s a story that reaches out to all of us. It was a joy and an agony to write. It was wonderful to see this family figure out how they were going to live their lives.”
Avery struggled herself with the degree to which she should analyze David Smith’s illness. Should she talk to professionals and try to make a definitive diagnosis? Should she shorten other aspects of the book so she could treat the medical problem in a speculative way? She finally decided to describe Smith’s character the best she could and leave the decision of what his illness might have been to modern clinicians. She has already heard from a variety of medically-trained people who have suggested Smith had hypoglycemia, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or even a frontal lobe tumor.
“I finally decided David deserved to have his story told without a footnote that said his illness might have been alleviated with pills. I’m turning it loose now for the medical professionals.”
While Avery was researching her book, Smith’s grandson, Lynn Smith — then in his 80’s — would occasionally call her and read an intriguing line from a letter in the family collection he was keeping. That way, she knew he had a valuable collection she needed to make the story complete. Lynn would not let her see the papers, but when he died, he donated them to the RLDS Church in Missouri, which granted her immediate access.
An intriguing aspect of Avery’s study is that David Smith never knew his own father. But as he traveled to Utah and talked to many people who did know his father, Smith learned an enormous amount about him. And he started to understand various aspects of his own personality as they related to his father’s.
Avery was impressed with the ways Smith tried to combine his interest in religion with that of science, and how he tried to explain scientific concepts in terms that the average RLDS Church member in Missouri and Iowa could understand. Avery believes that when David became institutionalized, the RLDS Church lost its most compelling spokesman. “They lost the one man most uniquely qualified to bridge the gap between their identity and the larger American public. He understood Mormonism, in the context of both churches, so he could have explained it to the larger American culture.”
Avery also believes that Smith “combined the musical talent of his mother with the charismatic qualities of his father and came out with the very best of both those very strong people.”
(During a visit to Salt Lake City this week, Avery will discuss her book and sign copies during the Sunstone Symposium at the Salt Palace, Friday, July 16, beginning at 12:45 p.m.)read more