The Martyrdom

Church History in the Fulness of Times Teacher Manual, (2001), 43–44


  1. 1.

    The Prophet Joseph Smith was periodically reminded by the Lord that he might have to give his life for the gospel the Lord restored through him.

  2. 2.

    The Prophet and Hyrum Smith died as a result of betrayal by traitors who were or had been members and leaders in the kingdom of God.

  3. 3.

    The Prophet Joseph Smith laid the foundation of the kingdom of God.

    Suggested Approaches

  • We do not know how early the Prophet Joseph Smith knew that he would be required to seal his testimony of the Restoration. At least a few scriptural passages in the Doctrine and Covenants foreshadow his martyrdom (see D&C 5:22; D&C 6:30; D&C 122:9).

    1. 1.

      On 31 August 1842 the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Inasmuch as the Lord Almighty has preserved me until today, He will continue to preserve me … until I have fully accomplished my mission” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], p. 258).

    2. 2.

      On 22 January 1843 the Prophet Joseph told the Saints, “I shall not be sacrificed until my time comes; then I shall be offered freely” (Teachings, p. 274).

    3. 3.

      On 15 October 1843 the Prophet said, “I prophesy they [his enemies] never will have power to kill me till my work is accomplished, and I am ready to die” (Teachings, p. 328).

    4. 4.

      On 7 April 1844 he said, “I cannot lie down until all my work is finished” (Teachings, p. 361).

    5. 5.

      In April 1844 he said: “Brethren, I have desired to live to see this temple built. I shall never live to see it, but you will” (in The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946], p. 72).

    6. 6.

      On 22 June 1844 he said, “I told Stephen Markham that if I and Hyrum were ever taken again we should be massacred, or I was not a prophet of God” (Teachings, pp. 376–77).

    7. 7.

      On 23 June 1844 Hyrum said to his brother, “Let us go back and give ourselves up, and see the thing out.” The Prophet Joseph replied, “If you go back I will go with you, but we shall be butchered” (Teachings, pp. 377–78).

    8. 8.

      On 24 June 1844 the Prophet said, “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter … and it shall be said of me, ‘He was murdered in cold blood.’” (Teachings, p. 379).

    9. 9.

      On 25 June 1844 he told his enemies in Carthage, “I can see that you thirst for blood, and nothing but my blood will satisfy you” (Teachings, p. 381).

  • Read and discuss Doctrine and Covenants 136:37–42and share the following experience related by Lucy Mack Smith about the funeral of the Prophet and Hyrum in Nauvoo:

    “After the corpses were washed and dressed in their burial clothes, we were allowed to see them. I had for a long time braced every nerve, roused every energy of my soul and called upon God to strengthen me, but when I entered the room and saw my murdered sons extended both at once before my eyes and heard the sobs and groans of my family … , it was too much; I sank back, crying to the Lord in the agony of my soul, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken this family!’ A voice replied, ‘I have taken them to myself, that they might have rest.’ … At that moment how my mind flew through every scene of sorrow and distress which we had passed, together. … As I looked upon their peaceful, smiling countenances, I seemed almost to hear them say, ‘Mother, weep not for us, we have overcome the world by love; we carried to them the gospel, that their souls might be saved; they slew us for our testimony, and thus placed us beyond their power; their ascendency is for a moment, ours is an eternal triumph.’” (History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958], pp. 324–25).

    Note that at the time of his brothers’ funeral, Samuel Smith was suffering from fatigue as a result of having been chased by a mob himself the day of the Martyrdom. He died four weeks later on 30 July.

  • Read and discuss section 135. Make a list of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s contributions as listed in this section.

  • Point out that the Prophet had sent most of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles away on missions just prior to these events. The two who remained, Elders John Taylor and Willard Richards, were witnesses of the Martyrdom. Their lives were miraculously preserved.

    Theme Sources

  • History of the Church, 6:271–74, 278–81, 284–86, 331–33, 341, 344–61, 398–631.

  • Comprehensive History of the Church, 2:221–308.

  • Readings in LDS Church History, 1:465–512.

  • Dallin H. Oaks, in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, pp. 46–47; or Ensign, May 1987, pp. 38–39.

    Elder Oaks, a descendant of Emer Harris, talks about the promised blessing the Prophet Joseph Smith gave Dennison Lott Harris and Robert Scott, who were both willing to give their lives for him.

  • Kenneth W. Godfrey, “The Road to Carthage Led West,” Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1968, pp. 204–15.

    A discussion of the leading causes that produced the climate in which Joseph and Hyrum Smith were murdered.

    Additional Sources

  • Lyndon W. Cook, “William Law, Nauvoo Dissenter,” Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1982, pp. 47–72.

    Having access to the diary of William Law, the author presents new information regarding Law’s life and career.

  • Horace Cummings, “Conspiracy of Nauvoo,” Contributor, 5:251–59.

    The report of Dennison Harris and Robert Scott as they attended meetings in Nauvoo where dissident Church members planned the death of Joseph Smith.

  • Ronald D. Dennis, “Dan Jones, Welshman: Taking the Gospel Home,” Ensign, Apr. 1987, pp. 50–56.

    Provides a biographical sketch of Dan Jones and then shows how he fulfilled the prophecy Joseph Smith made to him in Carthage Jail.

  • Bruce R. McConkie, “Joseph Smith: A Revealer of Christ,” 1978 Devotional Speeches of the Year (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1979), pp. 115–21.

    Discusses Joseph Smith’s role as the head of a major dispensation.

  • Richard Lloyd Anderson, “Joseph Smith’s Prophecies of Martyrdom,” in Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, 1980 (Provo: Brigham Young University, 1980), pp. 1–14.

    Examines the foreshadowings the Prophet Joseph Smith received throughout his life that he would suffer a martyr’s death.

  • Dallin H. Oaks, “The Suppression of the Nauvoo Expositor,” Utah Law Review, Winter 1965, pp. 862–903.

    A detailed account of the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor, the events that led to it, the legal precedents upon which the decision was made, and the events that followed its destruction.

  • Dan Jones, “The Martyrdom of Joseph Smith and His Brother Hyrum,” introduction by Ronald D. Dennis, Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1984, pp. 79–109.

    Dan Jones’s account of the Martyrdom.

  • Paul D. Ellsworth, “Mobocracy and the Rule of Law: American Press Reaction to the Murder of Joseph Smith,” Brigham Young University Studies, Fall 1979, pp. 71–82.

    The story of the Martyrdom as found in America’s newspapers.

  • Dallin H. Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, Carthage Conspiracy: The Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1975).

    A book-length study of the trial.

  • Ronald K. Esplin, “Life in Nauvoo, June 1844: Vilate Kimball’s Martyrdom Letters,” Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1979, pp. 231–40.

    Two letters of Vilate Kimball written to her husband Heber, giving an account of the emotional climate in Nauvoo just prior to the Martyrdom, and describing the impact of the Martyrdom on the people of Nauvoo.

  • Stanley B. Kimball, “Thomas L. Barnes: Coroner of Carthage,” Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1971, pp. 141–47.

    A brief discussion of the life and career of Thomas Langley Barnes and his involvement with others in taking care of the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.