The Martyrdom of the Prophet

Adapted from Reed Blake, “Martyrdom at Carthage,” Ensign, June 1994, 30–38; see also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society course of study, 2007), xxi, 23–24, 460, 529–30.

The Martyrdom of the Prophet

The Martyrdom of the Prophet, left page(click to view larger)

Illustrations by Sal Velluto and Eugenio Mattozzi

Some wicked people wanted to kill Joseph Smith. He and his brother Hyrum decided to leave their homes in Nauvoo so they would be safe. They sadly said good-bye to their families and started their journey.

Men are seeking to kill my brother Joseph, and the Lord has warned him to flee to the Rocky Mountains to save his life.

Troops came to Nauvoo to arrest Joseph and Hyrum. People in Nauvoo worried what the troops would do, so Emma sent men to tell Joseph and Hyrum. They decided to go to Carthage. Joseph knew he would die there.

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 an innocent man, and it shall yet be said of me—he was murdered in cold blood.

A constable arrested Joseph and Hyrum and sent them to Carthage Jail. Many people visited the Prophet there. On June 27, 1844, Hyrum, Elder John Taylor, and Elder Willard Richards stayed with him in the upstairs bedroom of the jail.

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The room got very hot that afternoon. The men opened the windows to try to cool off. Hyrum read a book while Joseph talked to a guard. John Taylor sang “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” (Hymns, no. 29).

A poor, wayfaring Man of grief hath often crossed me on my way …

Please sing that song again, John.

Brother Hyrum, I do not feel like singing.

You will get the spirit of it.

A mob of angry men gathered around the jail. Then they rushed up the stairs, shooting their guns. Hyrum was killed.

Oh! My poor, dear brother Hyrum.

Joseph fired six shots to try to stop the mob. Then he ran to the window. Men in the mob shot him, and he fell out of the window.

Oh Lord, my God!

When the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo heard about the Prophet’s death, they were heartbroken. More than 10,000 people walked through Joseph’s house to see the bodies of the beloved Prophet and his brother.

“Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. … He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and … sealed his mission and his works with his own blood” (D&C 135:3).