'We celebrate their memory by magnifying message of master'

Standing near the spot where Joseph Smith fell a martyr 150 years ago, President Howard W. Hunter issued a message of "love and hope to all the world."

"Come to the God of all truth, who continues to speak to His children through prophets," he admonished during a June 26 commemoration of the deaths of the Prophet and his brother, Hyrum. "Listen to the message of Him who continues to send His servants to preach the everlasting gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. Come and feast at the table laid before you by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Join us as we seek to follow the Good Shepherd who has provided it."President Hunter offered his remarks to local Church members and others gathered at the old jail site in Carthage, Ill., where the brothers were killed by a mob June 27, 1844. The service was telecast to meetinghouses throughout the United States and Canada. Also speaking were President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve.

Participating in the service were members of the presidency of the North America Central Area: Elders James M. Paramore, Hartman Rector Jr. and William R. Bradford, all of the Seventy. Elder Paramore conducted the service; Elders Rector and Bradford offered the invocation and benediction, respectively.

In his remarks, President Hunter said: "Joseph Smith's greatness consists in one thing - the truthfulness of his declaration that he saw the Father and the Son and that he responded to the reality of that divine revelation. He was directed to reestablish the true and living Church, restored in these modern times as it existed in the day of the Savior's own mortal ministry."

Continuing, President Hunter said: "Our hearts are subdued as we gather at this place where a lawless mob took the lives of these two noble and valiant men, Joseph and Hyrum Smith. They were servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. We celebrate their memory by magnifying the message of their Master.

In speaking of that message, the new Church president said: "The resurrection of Jesus Christ broke the bands of mortal death. Our Savior's atonement paid the price for the sins of all who will repent and seek eternal life. Our testimony of Jesus Christ also includes His teachings. By what He said and what He did, He taught us how to live.

"This world needs the gospel of Jesus Christ as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The gospel provides the only way the world will ever know peace. We need to be kinder with one another, more gentle and more forgiving. We need to be slower to anger and more prompt to help. We need to extend the hand of friendship and resist the hand of retribution. In short, we need to love one another with the pure love of Christ, with genuine charity and compassion and, if necessary, shared suffering, for that is the way God loves us.

"Of course, we need to keep the commandments of God, and we need to encourage all to do so. Obedience is the most genuine way to show our love for God. Our love must also extend to all of our Heavenly Father's children, even those who violate His commandments or despise His servants."

President Hunter explained: "As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we seek to bring all truth together. We seek to enlarge the circle of love and understanding among all the people of the earth. Thus we strive to establish peace and happiness, not only within Christianity but among all mankind.

"That which Joseph was instrumental in establishing, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is now a world religion, not simply because its members are now found throughout the world, but chiefly because it has a comprehensive and inclusive message based upon the acceptance of all truth, restored to meet the needs of all mankind."

President Hinckley said in his remarks: "We pause in reverence here this evening. We reflect on the miracle of the life begun in the green hills of Vermont and ended here in the jail of Carthage. That life was not long, less than 39 years. But the fruits of that life have been something almost beyond comprehension."

In speaking of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, President Hinckley noted: "This is June 26. One-hundred and fifty years ago, June 26 was on Wednesday. That morning, Gov. Thomas Ford of Illinois, who had come to Carthage, visited Joseph Smith in the jail. He and the Prophet talked for about an hour. . . .

Joseph SmithT told the governor of the danger surrounding him. The governor dismissed this. He said he was going to Nauvoo the next day and promised that if he did so, he would take Joseph with him. He repeated that pledge when he left that morning."

The next morning, President Hinckley related, the governor and his troops left for Nauvoo, "leaving those in the jail behind at the mercy of the mob militia. As the afternoon of that sultry day wore on, the Prophet asked John Taylor to sing `A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.' He sang all seven verses, and Joseph asked him to sing them again.

"The jailer suggested about 5 o'clock that the four of them in the jail - Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Willard Richards and John Taylor - might be safer if they went into the cell. Joseph indicated that they would do so after supper.

"A few minutes later, a noise was heard outside, followed by a cry of surrender. Then came two or three gunshots."

President Hinckley related that a mob of men with painted faces rushed up the stairs and began firing their weapons. "The prisoners pushed the door shut and then tried to knock down the guns sticking through the door. John Taylor used Stephen Markham's large hickory cane, and Willard Richards used John Taylor's cane. A bullet fired through the door hit Hyrum on the left side of the nose. He fell back saying, `I am a dead man!' "

John Taylor was hit, and then the Prophet, who "jumped to the window, paused for a moment, cried, `Oh Lord, my God,' then fell out the window, his body resting against the curb of the well.

"It was all over. Joseph was dead. Hyrum was dead. John Taylor was wounded. Willard Richards miraculously escaped," President Hinckley said.

"Joseph Smith died here at Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844, 150 years ago. But his work has grown in magnitude, strength and power, and will continue to do so. He sealed his testimony of the divinity of this work with his blood."

President Hinckley continued: "Those sad days are gone. But the glorious work, begun by him who was killed at Carthage, has grown in a miraculous and wonderful way. Today, there are nearly 9 million members of the Church which carries the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Last year, there were more than 4 million copies of the Book of Mormon printed and distributed. Members of the Church are found in more than 140 nations worldwide. There are more than 21,000 congregations in the Church. Before long, there will be 2,000 stakes of Zion.

"To quote a truism long ago and in different circumstances, `The blood of the martyrs has become the seed of the Church.' The testimonies which were sealed here in these very precincts, that hot and sultry day 150 years ago now nurture the faith of people around the world."

Elder Ballard told those gathered: "There is a sweet and peaceful feeling here today, and that is just as it should be. These were men of peace, brothers who were bound by their love of God as well as their love for each other. Although Hyrum was six years older, he recognized Joseph's sacred and holy calling, and he stood by his younger brother faithfully throughout his life - and death."

Elder Ballard said that as a result of their many experiences together, "Joseph came to depend upon Hyrum just as Moses depended upon Aaron."

In speaking of the integrity of Hyrum, Elder Ballard, who is a great-great-grandson to Hyrum, who was the Church Patriarch, said: "The Lord Himself . . . gave the greatest tribute to Hyrum when He said, `Blessed is my servant Hyrum Smith; for I, the Lord, love him because of the integrity of his heart, and because he loveth that which is right before me, saith the Lord.' " (D&C 124:15.)

Hyrum Smith, according to Elder Ballard, voluntarily accepted martyrdom with the Prophet. In a First Presidency blessing in 1835, Hyrum was told: "Thou shalt have power to escape the hand of thine enemies. Thy life shall be sought with untiring zeal, but thou shalt escape. If it please thee, and thou desirest, thou shalt have the power voluntarily to lay down thy life to glorify God."

At Carthage, "the time had come to voluntarily' lay down his life," Elder Ballard related. He quoted the words of John Taylor, who lay wounded after the June 27, 1844, martyrdom: "I had a full view of our beloved and now murdered brother, Hyrum. There he lay as I had left him; he had not moved a limb; he lay placid and calm, a monument of greatness even in death; but his noble spirit had left its tenement, and was gone to dwell in regions more congenial to its exalted nature.' "

Providing music for the commemoration service was a choir of members of the Nauvoo Illinois Stake and the Illinois Peoria Mission, directed by Maughan W. McMurdie of the Macomb Ward, Nauvoo Illinois Stake, and accompanied by Sister Martine H. Putnam, a missionary at the Nauvoo Visitors Center. The choir performed several hymns relating to the restoration and to the Prophet.

Soloists for the evening were Elder Howard H. Putnam, a missionary serving at the Nauvoo Visitors Center, who performed "The Seer," and Elder Kenneth B. Noble, who performed "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief." Elder Noble, a missionary serving at the Nauvoo Visitors Center, stood in front of statues of Joseph and Hyrum during his stirring rendition. After he finished, those gathered at the jail site and those listening to the telecast paused for a moment of silent reflection.

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