A Young Folks' History of the Church by Nephi Anderson - HTML preview

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The Martyrdom


On January 29, 1844, Joseph Smith was nominated for President of the United States. Neither he nor his friends had much hopes of his election, but it gave the citizens of Nauvoo at least a chance to vote for an honest man who was their friend. Brethren were sent to various parts of the country to make speeches in his favor, and Joseph published his views on how the government should be conducted. One of his ideas was that the government should set the negro slaves free, paying their masters for them. President Abraham Lincoln, twenty years later, also favored this plan.

Meanwhile, Nauvoo prospered and the Church grew. When the weather would permit, meetings were held in a grove near the temple, there being no room large enough to hold the large crowds of people. Joseph continued to give many glorious truths to the Church about the nature of God, the land of Zion, baptism for the dead, and many other things.

The Prophet's prediction that there was a Judas in their midst soon proved too true; and there were more than one. William Law, Joseph's second counselor, William Marks, president of the Nauvoo Stake, with many other leading men proved themselves false to Joseph and the Church. They even planned with Joseph's enemies to have him killed. They were also proved guilty of other sins and were therefore cut off from the Church. After this, these men said Joseph was a fallen prophet, and so they organized a church of their own. It did not amount to anything, however.

Joseph's periods of peace were not many. Apostates were his worst enemies, and they were all the time annoying him by having him arrested on all manner of false charges. These men were very bitter, and they howled around him like a pack of wolves, eager to devour him; but Joseph trusted in the Saints and they in him, for those who were faithful to their duties knew by the Spirit of God that Joseph was not a fallen prophet.

In June, 1844, the enemies of the Saints began to publish a paper in Nauvoo, called the Expositor. Its purpose was to deprive the people of Nauvoo of their rights, so it boldly said. One paper was printed, and that was so full of false statements and abuse against the city officials that the city council declared it a nuisance and had the press, type, etc., destroyed.

This raised great excitement among the enemies of the Church. Joseph and seventeen others were arrested, tried before a court in Nauvoo, and acquitted; but this did not satisfy the mobbers. On the advice of the United States judge for that district, Joseph and his brethren allowed themselves to be arrested again and have a trial before Justice Daniel H. Wells, then not a "Mormon." They were again discharged as innocent of crime.

Now mobs began to threaten again, but the Nauvoo Legion was ready to defend the city. As the Legion was drawn up in front of Joseph's house one day—it was the 18th of June—he got upon a platform and spoke to the soldiers. That speech was long remembered by those who heard it. It thrilled them through and through and at the word they would gladly have marched and met the mob in battle; but that was not Joseph's way. He was always willing to have the laws carried out even if he suffered thereby, so that his enemies could have no just excuse. That was the Prophet Joseph Smith's last public speech.During the excitement Governor Ford arrived at Carthage, a town about eighteen miles from Nauvoo, and the county seat of Hancock county. The governor sent word to Nauvoo that he wanted some explanation of the trouble, so Joseph sent some of the brethren to him. The governor treated his callers rudely. Carthage was full of mobs, and the governor seemed to believe all they told him about the "Mormons." He organized the mobs into troops. Joseph asked the governor to come to Nauvoo and investigate the whole matter; but no: Joseph must go to Carthage. The governor said he would protect him if he would go.

It was on the evening of June 22nd. Joseph and Hyrum had called some brethren together: "All they want is Hyrum and myself," said the Prophet. Joseph and Hyrum both seemed certain that if their enemies got them in their power again they would be killed. Joseph then proposed that he and Hyrum should escape to the Rocky Mountains. Preparations for this trip were made and they were rowed over the river to Iowa, when Joseph's wife sent some of the brethren to plead with him to return. Some brethren also found fault with him in running away to "leave the flock to the wolves."

Joseph replied, "If my life is of no value to my friends, it is of none to myself." So they went back, Joseph saying, "We shall be butchered."

On the morning of June 24th Joseph and eighteen brethren set out for Carthage to be tried again on the old charge. As he rode out the Prophet made many expressions of goodby to his friends. Four miles from Carthage they met a company of militia going to Nauvoo with an order from the governor that the Nauvoo Legion give up its arms. Joseph rode back with them to see that this was done. Twice he bade his family farewell. His face was pale, and he was suffering.

"I am going like a lamb to the slaughter," he said, "but I am calm as a summer morning." At Carthage they were received with oaths and threats by the troops. Apostates and soldiers swore that the brethren would never leave Carthage alive.

The next day the governor paraded the prisoners before the troops, who insulted them as they passed along. Then they were placed in the jail awaiting their trial.

The day following, the prisoners were marched to the court house, guarded by the troops; but the trial was postponed until the next day, and the brethren were taken back to jail.

This was the 26th of June. That night Joseph was lying on the floor with some of the brethren. Brother Dan Jones was on one side and Brother John S. Fullmer on the other.

"Lay your head on my arm for a pillow, Brother John," said Joseph, and then he talked with him in a low tone. Joseph expressed a desire to see his family again and preach to the Saints once more.

To Brother Jones he whispered, "Are you afraid to die?" When Brother Jones said he was not, Joseph replied, "You will yet see Wales, and fulfill the mission appointed you, before you die." (Dan Jones did a wonderful missionary work in Wales.)

The next morning the guards frequently told some of the brethren that if they did not wish to be killed they had better get away from Joseph. This was told to Governor Ford, but he paid no attention to it.At 10:30 that morning, June 27, the governor with the most friendly of the troops left for Nauvoo, and the brethren were left to their fate.

In an upper room of Carthage jail, Joseph, Hyrum, John Taylor, and Willard Richards were spending their time in writing letters, singing, talking, and praying. In the afternoon Joseph asked Elder Taylor to sing the hymn, commencing:

"A poor wayfaring man of grief."

And when it was done he asked him to sing it again. Brother Taylor said he could hardly sing it, he felt so sad, but he sang the hymn again.

About 5 o'clock in the afternoon a mob of about two hundred men surrounded the jail. They had blackened their faces with powder and mud. Then the firing began. The mob rushed up the stairs, shooting into the room where the four brethren were. The prisoners sprang to the door to close it but the guns of the mob forced it open. Elders Taylor and Richards tried to push the guns aside with their canes. The bullets flew like hail into the room. One ball came through the door and struck Hyrum in the head. Four others hit him, and he fell back saying:

"I am a dead man."

Joseph gazed on his brother and exclaimed: "Oh! dear brother Hyrum!"

Elder Taylor now tried to jump from the window. A ball struck him, and he was about to fall from the window, when another bullet from the outside hit his watch in his vest pocket and threw him back into the room. Here he was hit by two more balls, and he rolled under the bed.

Then Joseph went to the open window intending to leap out. Two bullets struck him and he fell outward, exclaiming:

"O Lord, my God!"

As soon as he had struck the ground a mobber set him against a well curb a few feet from the jail, and then, by order of Col. Levi Williams, a mobber and Baptist preacher, four men sent bullets into his body.

Then the mob fled, and the whole town of Carthage with them, fearing the vengeance of the people of Nauvoo. But vengeance is the Lord's.

Willard Richards was not hurt. That night he spent in attending to his wounded brother, John Taylor, and watching over the dead bodies of the Prophet and Patriarch.

Joseph's earthly work was done, and the Master had called him away from the haunts of mobs and wicked men. He sealed his testimony with his blood. He had spent his life in working for the salvation of his fellowman, and even yet in a freer and grander sphere he is working for the cause of Christ and the Church.

Topics.—1. Joseph nominated for president. 2. Traitors. 3. The Expositor. 4. Joseph goes to Carthage. 5. The martyrdom.

Questions and Review.1. When was Joseph nominated for President of the United States? 2. What were his ideas of slavery? 3. Where were the large meetings in Nauvoo held? 4. Who proved false to Joseph? 5. How did the Saints know that Joseph was not a fallen prophet? 6. What was the Nauvoo Expositor? 7. Why was it destroyed? 8. Why did Joseph object to being tried in Carthage? 9. On what occasion did Joseph deliver his last speech? 10. Why did not Joseph go west to the mountains? 11. What did Governor Ford promise? 12. Give some expressions of the prophet on going to Carthage. 13. Who were with Joseph in jail? 14. Tell about the martyrdom. 15. When did it take place? 16. How old was Joseph when he was killed?