Carthage, Illinois
Carthage Jail
Section (135)
June 1844
"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 - 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, and both received four balls.
Joseph met with visitors the morning of the martyrdom, counseling the Saints to be faithful and keep the commandments. In the afternoon, John Taylor sung "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" at Joseph's request. "Hyrum Smith was forty-four years old in February, 1844, and Joseph Smith was thirty-eight in December, 1843; and henceforward their names will be classed among the martyrs of religion; and the reader in every nation will be reminded that the Book of Mormon, and this book of Doctrine and Covenants of the church, cost the best blood of the nineteenth century to bring them forth for the salvation of a ruined world; and that if the fire can scathe a green tree for the glory of God, how easy it will burn up the dry trees to purify the vineyard of corruption. They lived for glory; they died for glory; and glory is their eternal reward. From age to age shall their names go down to posterity as gems for the sanctified."
Doctrine and Covenants 135:1, 6
About 5:00 p.m., mobbers attacked and forced their way into the room. Several shots were fired through the door. A bullet struck Hyrum first, killing him instantly.
Key Events
Joseph and Hyrum Smith rode on horseback to Carthage to answer false charges of riot and treason. They were held in the jail pending trial.
Mobbers had conspired to get Joseph away from the safety of Nauvoo, so they could murder the Prophet.
A mob stormed the jail and killed Joseph and Hyrum on 27 June 1844.
Samuel Smith, a younger brother of the Prophet, heard of the mob's intent to kill Joseph and Hyrum. He raced on horseback to Carthage through a mob that chased and shot at him. Samuel arrived too late to help his brothers, and he died a month later from a fever contracted during the episode.
John Taylor and Willard Richard were in the jail with Joseph and Hyrum at the time of the martyrdom. Taylor and Richards survived the tragedy, later becoming prominent leaders in the Church.
At the fateful moment, just after Hyrum's death, the Prophet jumped from the left window as he was shot with two balls from outside the jail, and two balls from within.
Words of Joseph Smith
"There is something going to happen; I don't know what it is, but the Lord bids me to hasten and give you your endowment before the temple is finished . . . now if they kill me you have got all the keys, and all the ordinances and you can confer them upon others, and the hosts of Satan will not be able to tear down the kingdom, as fast as you will be able to build it up . . . on your shoulders will the responsibility of leading this people rest, for the Lord is going to let me rest a while." (Times and Seasons 5:561)
"I defy all the world to destroy the work of God; and I prophesy they never will have power to kill me till my work is accomplished, and I am ready to die. (History of the Church 6:58)
"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." (Doctrine and Covenants 135:4)
Joseph died against the curb of the well, having sealed his testimony with his own blood. The Lord later comforted Joseph and Hyrum's grieving mother with the words, "I have taken them unto myself, that they might have rest."
Copyright 2005 Steve Mortensen. All rights reserved.