Joseph and Hyrum

"To seal the testimony of this book and the Book of Mormon, we announce the martyrdom of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and Hyrum Smith the Patriarch. They were shot in Carthage jail, on the 27th of June, 1844, about five o'clock p.m., by an armed mob - painted black - of from 150 to 200 persons. 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. . . ." (D&C 135:1.)

About 18 months before his death, Joseph Smith spoke to the Saints in Nauvoo about the building of the kingdom of God. In that sermon, delivered Jan. 22, 1843, the Prophet declared: "I know what I say; I understand my mission and business. God Almighty is my shield; and what can man do if God is my friend? I shall not be sacrificed until my time comes; then I shall be offered freely." (History of the Church 5:259.)A few months later, the Prophet spoke more directly: "I prophesy they never will have power to kill me till my work is accomplished, and I am ready to die." (HC 6:58.)

When the Prophet and his brother, Hyrum, were brutally murdered, the mob that carried out that heinous deed certainly must have thought The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would falter and come to an end.

But since that bleak day 150 years ago, the gospel of Jesus Christ has continued to roll forth until today its message of salvation touches the lives of millions of people throughout the world.

Speaking in April conference 1955, Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then of the Council of the Twelve, said: "Mormonism was not destroyed by the cruel martyrdom, but here was its vitality. The bullet-torn flesh fertilized the soil; the blood they shed moistened the seed; and the spirits they sent heavenward will testify against them throughout the eternities. The cause persists and grows."

With the same courage that Joseph and Hyrum preached the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, they bore the ultimate testimony, a witness sealed by their own blood.

The martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum "has always been an inspiration to the people of the Lord. It has helped them in their individual trials; has given them courage to pursue a course in righteousness and to know and to live the truth, and must ever be held in sacred memory by the Latter-day Saints who have learned the great truths that God revealed through His servant Joseph Smith." (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 490-491.)

Joseph and Hyrum had a choice. They did not have to submit to the blood-thirsty mob. History records that Joseph and Hyrum, knowing an army of mobsters was approaching Nauvoo, crossed the Mississippi River to divert the furor away from the inhabitants of the city. Once across, they could have headed west in safety and freedom. However, in Hyrum's words, they decided to "see the thing out." (Willard Richards, "The Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith," The Improvement Era, 10:566-67.)

On the road to Carthage to "deliver himself up to the pretended requirements of the law," the Prophet uttered this poignant declaration: "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 YET BE SAID OF ME - HE WAS MURDERED IN COLD BLOOD." (D&C 135:4.)

In speaking of the martyrdom, Elder John Taylor, who was a witness to the events of that day and who himself would later become president of the Church, testified: "Joseph Smith . . . has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it." President Taylor then detailed Joseph's many accomplishments, all achieved in only 20 years: "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." (D&C 135:3.)

Few of us will be asked to pay the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the gospel, but that does not mean we should be any less valiant in our own testimonies - of the gospel, of the divinity of Jesus Christ or of the surety that Joseph Smith helped usher in the last dispensation.

During this sesquicentennial year of the martyrdom, Latter-day Saints are turning thoughts toward the Prophet and his brother Hyrum, not to worship them but to honor them as noble and valiant servants of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

"In life, they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!" (D&C 135:3.)

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