Commemorating the 163rd anniversary of the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith, I post three versions of that event that I have enjoyed over the years.
Angels were standing, weeping by my bed.
Doctrine and Covenants Section 135 I read.
I read about 200 faces painted black at five o’clock.
Four gentle brothers bracing for shock.
Hyrum was the first to fall, calmly like a lamb.
His eyes were filled with tears he whispered, I am a dead man.
Joseph through the window fell, his body jerked with pain.
He cried O Lord my God, as the lead hit him again, and again.
Dragging off their bodies, the devil’s filthy crew.
Four times each they shot them both, and then they flew.
Laughingly, they condemned a nation of people and the land.
And, actually we do the same thing when we refuse to say:
Hey all our friends and neighbors, we have got another living Prophet–
at the head of our Church today.
Song from Mormon folk group The Sons of Mosiah, circa early 1970’s.
At four a new set of eight men replaced the afternoon guard while the main body of Carthage Greys camped a quarter of a mile away on the public square. Late in the afternoon, the jailer’s boy told the prisoners the guards wanted wine; Willard Richards gave him a dollar. When the wine was returned, the prisoners, their spirits “dully and heavy,” all partook. The guard turned to leave with the bottle. At the top of the stairs, someone called him two or three times, and he went down. The prisoners heard rustling and cries, then three or four shots. Looking through the curtain from the second-story bedroom window, Willard Richards saw a hundred armed men around the door. The four men in the room sprang for their weapons–Joseph for the six-shooter, Hyrum for the single-shot, Richards and Taylor for canes. As they threw their weight against the door, musket balls from the landing punched through.
Hyrum was the first to fall. A ball through the door struck him on the left side of the nose, throwing him to the floor. Three more balls entered his thigh, torso, and shin, killing him. John Taylor was hit in the thigh and fell against the windowsill, breaking his watch. Crawling toward the bed, he was struck again in the hip. Joseph pulled the trigger six times into the gall, dropped the pistol on the floor, and sprang to the window. With one leg over the sill, he raised his arms in the Masonic sign of distress. A ball from the doorway struck his hip, and a shot from the outside entered his chest. Another hit under the heart and a fourth his collarbone. He fell outward crying, “O Lord my God!” Landing on his left side, he struggled to sit up against the curb of a well and died within seconds. Richards raised his head above the sill far enough to see that Joseph was dead and then turned to help John Taylor. Taylor’s watch had stopped at sixteen minutes past five.
Richard Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling pp. 549-50.
1 To seal the testimony of this book and the Book of Mormon, we announce the amartyrdom 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. bHyrum was shot first and fell calmly, exclaiming: I am a cdead man! Joseph leaped from the window, and was shot dead in the attempt, exclaiming: dO Lord my God! They were both shot after they were dead, in a brutal manner, and both received four balls.
2 John Taylor and Willard Richards, two of the Twelve, were the only persons in the room at the time; the former was wounded in a savage manner with four balls, but has since recovered; the latter, through the providence of God, escaped, without even a hole in his robe.
3 Joseph Smith, the aProphet and bSeer of the Lord, has done more, csave Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the dfulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. 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 eblood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not fseparated!
4 When Joseph went to Carthage to deliver himself up to the pretended requirements of the law, two or three days previous to his assassination, he said: “I am going like a alamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a bconscience cvoid 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.”—The same morning, after Hyrum had made ready to go—shall it be said to the slaughter? yes, for so it was—he read the following paragraph, near the close of the twelfth chapter of Ether, in the Book of Mormon, and turned down the leaf upon it:
5 And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity. And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been afaithful; wherefore thy garments shall be made bclean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness, thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father. And now I . . . bid farewell unto the Gentiles; yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the cjudgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood. The dtestators are now dead, and their etestament is in force.
6 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 amartyrs 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 bgreen 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 creward. From age to age shall their names go down to posterity as gems for the sanctified.
7 They were innocent of any crime, as they had often been proved before, and were only confined in jail by the conspiracy of traitors and wicked men; and their innocent blood on the floor of Carthage jail is a broad seal affixed to “Mormonism” that cannot be rejected by any court on earth, and their innocent blood on the escutcheon of the State of Illinois, with the broken faith of the State as pledged by the governor, is a witness to the truth of the everlasting gospel that all the world cannot impeach; and their innocent blood on the banner of liberty, and on the magna charta of the United States, is an ambassador for the religion of Jesus Christ, that will touch the hearts of honest men among all nations; and their innocent blood, with the innocent blood of all the martyrs under the aaltar that John saw, will cry unto the Lord of Hosts till he avenges that blood on the earth. Amen.
Doctrine and Covenants Section 135