"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."
Joseph Smith uttered these prophetic words June 24, 1844, in the final moments of what would be his final horse ride from his beloved Nauvoo. He was dead three days later.
Yet much about the man, his life and his faith can be gleaned from that mounted journey to Carthage, Ill. It wasn't a pleasure ride. He had been ordered by Illinois Gov. Thomas Ford to ride to Carthage from Nauvoo and turn himself in to state authorities to answer treason charges. Though resigned to his fate, Joseph Smith perhaps took comfort that he didn't travel alone. He was flanked by his older brother, Hyrum, who would himself become a martyr inside Carthage Jail. Death awaited, yet Joseph was calm. His conscience was clear.
Now Nauvoo visitors can better visualize Joseph's and Hyrum's final moments of freedom. A heroic-sized bronze statue capturing the Smith brothers' historic horseback sojourn to Carthage was placed Dec. 8 in a pedestrian plaza west of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple.
Crafted by LDS artists Stan Watts and Kim Corpany, the piece is entitled "Calm As A Summer's Morning." The sculpture, more than 11 feet tall, stands atop a stone pedestal and depicts Joseph in placid conversation with his brother Hyrum.
Brother Watts said he and Sister Corpany created the sculpture to demonstrate "Joseph's concern for his brother and Hyrum's [devotion] to [Joseph]. . . . and their willingness to do the Lord's work."
The two began the statue early in 2003, often laboring 14 hours a day, six days a week. Brother Watts sculpted the human figures, while Sister Corpany concentrated on her specialty, the horses. Sister Corpany says the end result has justified the many hours the two spent working together in Brother Watts' foundry in Kearns, Utah. She recognizes the Lord's hand in their creation.
"I know I'm not capable of pounding as much clay as we have done. I know we've had help," she said.
The finished statue was fitted to its pedestal just 15 days before Joseph Smith's Dec. 23 birthday. The pedestal will soon be covered in granite, and landscaping will be added at the base of the sculpture in the coming months.
Brother Watts believes art can teach many lessons. Perhaps Nauvoo's many visitors, while enjoying the statue, can deepen their understanding of Joseph and Hyrum Smith's sacred mission.
The sculpture "is an expression of appreciation and love for these two men," Brother Watts said.
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