To teach class members about the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and to strengthen their testimonies of his calling as a prophet of God.
Prayerfully study the following scriptures and other materials:
Review the material for this lesson in the Class Member Study Guide (35686). Plan ways to refer to the material during the lesson.
Ask a class member to prepare to summarize the first five paragraphs of the section “The Martyrdom” from Our Heritage (pages 62–63).
If the following pictures are available, prepare to use them during the lesson: The Prophet Joseph Smith (62002; Gospel Art Picture Kit 401) and Brother Joseph (62161).
If you use the attention activity, prepare to use the following pictures in addition to those listed above: John Preaching in the Wilderness (62132; Gospel Art Picture Kit 207) and Abinadi before King Noah (62042; Gospel Art Picture Kit 308).
Suggestions for Lesson Development
As appropriate, use the following activity or one of your own to begin the lesson.
Display the pictures listed in the “Preparation” section, items 4 and 5. Ask class members to think about what the men in these pictures have in common. After a moment, point out that one thing they have in common is that they all were martyred because of their commitment to the truth.
Explain that this lesson discusses the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. It also discusses the contributions of the Prophet Joseph.
Discussion and Application
Prayerfully select the lesson material that will best meet class members’ needs. Encourage class members to share insights that relate to the scriptural principles.
1. The Prophet Joseph Smith sealed his testimony with his blood.
Explain that the Saints prospered for a few years in Nauvoo. The Church and the city grew rapidly, work on the temple progressed, and the Prophet Joseph Smith received many revelations. However, during 1843 and 1844, animosity against the Church increased. Enemies both inside and outside the Church began trying to destroy it. This opposition climaxed on 27 June 1844.
Ask the assigned class member to report on the first five paragraphs of the section “The Martyrdom” from Our Heritage, pages 62–63. Also read D&C 135:4–5 with class members. Explain that D&C 135 was written by Elder John Taylor, who was wounded during the attack on the Prophet Joseph.
Why do you think the Prophet Joseph Smith could be as “calm as a summer’s morning” when he knew he might be martyred at Carthage? What comfort do you think Joseph and Hyrum would have received from Ether 12:36–38?
Read D&C 135:1–2 with class members. Also read the following account of the martyrdom by Elder Willard Richards, or ask a class member to read it. Explain that Elder Richards was a friend of the Prophet and a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. He was in Carthage Jail when the Prophet was martyred. His account begins as the mob arrived at the jail just after 5:00 p.m. on the afternoon of 27 June 1844:
“A shower of musket balls were thrown up the stairway against the door of the prison in the second story, followed by many rapid footsteps. …
“… A ball was sent through the door, which passed between us, and showed that our enemies were desperadoes. …
“… Joseph Smith, Mr. Taylor and myself sprang back to the front part of the room, and … Hyrum Smith retreated two-thirds across the chamber directly in front of and facing the door.
“A ball was sent through the door which hit Hyrum on the side of his nose, when he fell backwards, extended at length, without moving his feet.
“From the holes in his [clothing], it appears evident that a ball must have been thrown from without, through the window, which entered his back on the right side, and passing through, lodged against his watch. … At the same instant the ball from the door entered his nose.
“As he struck the floor he exclaimed emphatically, ‘I am a dead man.’ Joseph looked towards him and responded, ‘Oh, dear brother Hyrum!’ and opening the door two or three inches with his left hand, discharged one barrel of a six shooter (pistol) at random in the entry. … A ball [from the musket of one of the mob] grazed Hyrum’s breast, and entering his throat passed into his head, while other muskets were aimed at him and some balls hit him.
“Joseph continued snapping his revolver round the casing of the door into the space as before … , while Mr. Taylor with a walking stick stood by his side and knocked down the bayonets and muskets which were constantly discharging through the doorway. …
“When the revolver failed, we had no more firearms, and expected an immediate rush of the mob, and the doorway full of muskets, half way in the room, and no hope but instant death from within.
“Mr. Taylor rushed into the window, which is some fifteen or twenty feet from the ground. When his body was nearly on a balance, a ball from the door within entered his leg, and a ball from without struck his watch … in his vest pocket near the left breast, … the force of which ball threw him back on the floor, and he rolled under the bed which stood by his side. …
“Joseph attempted, as the last resort, to leap [from] the same window from whence Mr. Taylor fell, when two balls pierced him from the door, and one entered his right breast from without, and he fell outward, exclaiming, ‘Oh Lord, my God!’ … He fell on his left side a dead man” (History of the Church, 6:619–20).
Elder John Taylor was shot four times but recovered from his wounds. In fulfillment of a prophecy that the Prophet had made more than a year before, Elder Willard Richards received no wounds. Elder Richards recalled that in this prophecy, the Prophet had told him that “the time would come that the balls would fly around him like hail, and he should see his friends fall on the right and on the left, but that there should not be a hole in his garment” (History of the Church, 6:619).
Read D&C 135:6 with class members. What are your feelings as you think about the sacrifice the Prophet and his brother Hyrum made for their testimonies of the gospel?
Explain that before Joseph Smith Sr. died, he gave the Prophet a blessing and told him: “You shall even live to finish your work. … You shall live to lay out the plan of all the work which God has given you to do” (quoted in Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley , 309–10). Joseph Smith valiantly completed his mission, doing all that God asked him to do.
From what you know about the Prophet Joseph Smith’s life, what impresses you most about him?
2. The Prophet Joseph Smith did more for the salvation of men in this world than anyone except Jesus.
Read D&C 135:3 with class members. According to this verse, what were some of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s major achievements? In what ways did he do “more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it”?
Answers could include that his work blessed not only the Saints of this dispensation, but also the billions of people who have lived at all other times without receiving the blessings of the gospel or the saving ordinances of the priesthood. Use the following material to discuss these contributions in detail. Write the headings on the chalkboard. Explain that we can better appreciate the Prophet’s life and mission when we review how his many contributions bless our daily lives and will bless us eternally.
Truths about the Godhead
In a sermon given at the funeral of Elder King Follett on 7 April 1844, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught:
“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 345).
Why are the truths about the Godhead that were restored through Joseph Smith important to us?
Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve said: “Knowledge of God is the greatest truth in all eternity. … Joseph Smith came to reveal God, in a day of almost total spiritual darkness, in a day when men no longer knew the nature and kind of Being whom they should worship” (“This Generation Shall Have My Word through You,” Ensign, June 1980, 55).
The authority of the priesthood
Point out that through Joseph Smith, heavenly messengers restored the Aaronic Priesthood, the Melchizedek Priesthood, and keys of the priesthood (D&C 13; 110:11–16). As the Restoration unfolded, the Lord gave revelations about priesthood offices, organization, covenants, ordinances, duties, and blessings. We would not understand the priesthood or how it operates without these revelations.
What blessings do you have in your life because of the priesthood? How can we show our appreciation for the blessings of the priesthood?
Truths about our origin and relationship to God
What truths about our origin and relationship to God were restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith? (Answers could include that we are literally the spirit children of God and that we lived with Him before we were born on earth. See D&C 76:23–24; Abraham 3:22–28.)
How is the knowledge that you are literally a child of God a blessing in your life?
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said that the Prophet Joseph Smith “has given to our present world more holy scripture than any single prophet who ever lived” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 142; or Ensign, May 1976, 95). These scriptures include the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.
While serving in the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley said: “[Joseph Smith] translated and published the Book of Mormon, a volume of 522 pages which has since been retranslated into [many] languages and which is accepted by millions across the earth as the word of God. The revelations he received and other writings he produced are likewise scripture to these millions. The total in book pages constitutes the equivalent of almost the entire Old Testament of the Bible, and it all came through one man in the space of a few years” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1977, 96; or Ensign, May 1977, 65).
How have the scriptures that were brought forth through the Prophet Joseph Smith been a blessing in your life?
Truths about the plan of salvation
Truths about the salvation of the dead
What truths about the salvation of the dead were restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith? (Answers could include that we can perform vicarious baptisms in temples for those who died without receiving this ordinance. See D&C 128:18.) Why are these truths important?
The building of temples and the performance of temple ordinances
What are some of the blessings that have come into your life because of temples and temple ordinances? (You may want to discuss the blessing of eternal families, which is made possible by the sealing ordinance in the temple.)
You may want to review briefly some of the other contributions of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the blessings they bring to our lives:
The Church was restored through him (see lesson 9).
He began the work in this dispensation of taking the gospel to all nations and gathering Israel (see lesson 12).
The law of consecration was revealed through him (see lesson 14).
He wrote the Articles of Faith (see the first additional teaching idea).
Why is it important that we each have a testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God? How did your testimony of Joseph Smith’s calling develop? How has this year’s study of the Doctrine and Covenants strengthened your testimony?
How can we show our gratitude for the life and mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith?
Emphasize the importance of the contributions of the Prophet Joseph Smith in our lives. You may want to bear your own testimony of his calling as a prophet of God.
Additional Teaching Ideas
You may want to use one or more of the following ideas to supplement the suggested lesson outline.
1. The Articles of Faith
Explain that the Articles of Faith state many of the basic doctrines of the Church. They were written by the Prophet Joseph Smith as part of a letter to John Wentworth, a newspaper editor in Chicago who had requested a statement on the Church’s history and beliefs. They were later canonized as scripture in the Pearl of Great Price.
President Spencer W. Kimball asked: “How many of you know the Articles of Faith? … Do you know them? Have you repeated them? You are always prepared with a sermon when you know the Articles of Faith. And they are basic, aren’t they? I would think it would be a wonderful thing if [we] would learn them word-perfect. That means that you don’t miss and you don’t forget” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1975, 119; or Ensign, Nov. 1975, 79).
Why is it important that we know the Articles of Faith? Invite class members to tell of experiences in which the Articles of Faith have helped them.
2. “Praise to the Man”
Prepare to have class members sing
3. Video presentations
If the videocassette Teachings from the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History (53933) is available, consider showing “Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration,” a 13-minute segment.
If Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Video Presentations (53912) is available, consider showing “The Martyrdom of Joseph Smith,” a 2-minute segment.