Teenage Witness to the Martyrdom

By Golden R. Buchanan

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    Just a lad of eight or nine was I, but I have not forgotten what he said, or how the old man trembled as he talked.

    Grandpa Archie sat in Mother’s rocker, waiting for his lunch. Suddenly he called me to him, took me on his lap, and said, “Golden, I am old. I won’t be around much longer, but I have something to say to you that must not be lost. I want my grandchildren and their children to know that I was in Nauvoo when they murdered our Prophet.”

    His old body trembled, and he squeezed me until I was almost frightened as I felt the deep anger in his soul. His feeble eyes blazed, and his soft, faltering voice became as hard as ice, and as cold:

    “How I hated those who dared lay their hands upon the prophet I loved.”

    He sighed, and his old body relaxed a little. “I was there when they brought their bodies back from Carthage. I saw their bloody, lifeless forms; I heard the anguished cries of their wives and neighbors; I saw their sobbing children and tried to comfort them.

    “I knew the Prophet’s boys, played with them. They were often in our home, and I in theirs. Now they were fatherless, even as I. Their father was a martyr by bullets; my father was dead because of drivings, persecutions, and hate—but no less a martyr for the truth.

    “I was there when they buried the sandbags to deceive the mob and laid the bodies in secret graves.”

    Grandfather paused. He needed strength. And then he went on: “Listen again, my son. I tell you this because I want you to know. After the Prophet’s body fell from the window at Carthage, the mob rushed upon him to desecrate his body. But God would not permit this act of violence. He sent a sheet of lightning between the Prophet and those sons of the infernal pit, and they dared not touch him. Golden, my son, remember this—they could not touch him. They ran and are running still and will run till judgment day.”

    He was tired now and his voice trailed off, “I hope I am present at that day.”

    He dozed. Slowly the color crept back into his face, and when he opened his eyes, they shone with a light I had not seen before. Holding me at arm’s length, he commanded with a voice that no longer shook:

    “My boy, look at me and listen. I want you to hear it from one who was there. I want you to hear it from one who loved him. I want you to hear it from one who knows.

    Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Through him God restored his church, and it will never be destroyed or taken from the earth. Now, my boy, remember what I say. I, your grandfather, was 14 then, and I was there.”

    Editor’s note: The family of Archibald Buchanan (1830–1915) joined the Church in 1835 at Lima, Illinois. He came to Utah in 1852, filled a mission in the Elk Mountain Indian Mission, and afterward served for many years as Brigham Young’s interpreter to the Ute Indians. Brother Buchanan was a member of the first Sevier Stake high council.

    Illustrated by Larry Norton

    Show References

    • Brother Golden Buchanan is an assistant sealing supervisor in the Salt Lake Temple. He lives in Big Cottonwood 12th Ward, Salt Lake Big Cottonwood Stake.