Joseph Smith/Martyrdom/Qualification as martyr

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Joseph Smith's qualification as a martyr

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Question: Does Joseph Smith qualify as a "martyr"?

An examination of the historical records shows that Joseph was well aware of his fate and faced it head-on as a willing martyr

An examination of the historical records shows that Joseph was well aware of his fate and faced it head-on as a willing martyr. His death marked a fulfillment of his own prophetic words that appeared as his last narrative in the History of the Church on Saturday June 22, 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.[1]:6:546

What is a martyr?

Webster's Dictionary provides the following definitions of the word "martyr":

  1. a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion
  2. a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle

Based upon this definition, we examine whether or not Joseph Smith qualifies as a "martyr."

Did Joseph voluntarily suffer death?

Joseph was a willing and innocent sacrifice on behalf of his people. He anticipated his death. Wilford Woodruff recorded Joseph's words in 1843 relative to his sacrifice:

I understand my mishion [sic] & business. God Almighty is my shield.... I shall not be sacrafised [sic] untill [sic] my time comes. Then I shall be offered freely.[2]

Similarly in his speech to the Nauvoo Legion on June 18, 1844:

I do not regard my own life. I am ready to be offered a sacrifice for this people; for what can our enemies do? Only kill the body, and their power is then at an end. Stand firm, my friends; never flinch. Do not seek to save your lives, for he that is afraid to die for the truth, will lose eternal life.... God has tried you. You are a good people; therefore I love you with all my heart. Greater love hath no man than that he should lay down his life for his friends. You have stood by me in the hour of trouble, and I am willing to sacrifice my life for your preservation.[1]:500[3]

Hyrum and Helen Andrus describe Joseph's willingness and those who pleaded with him to not surrender:

As Joseph contemplated the scene, he could picture in his mind the militia overrunning Nauvoo and committing the same autracites as were acted upon the Saints in Missouri. Thus on Monday the 24th of June, Joseph expressed his resolution as "hundreds gathered before the Mansion House early in the morning. In their midst, with head erect, towering above the rest, the Prophet stood gazing alternately on the devoted city and its much loved citizens. He listened to the entreaties of the throng not to give himself up or he would be murdered. A few brave-hearted men proposed to escort him to the West. Others, up north would have him go, while a fearless tar (sailor) proffered him a safe passage on a steamboat to whither he would go. A smile of approbation lit up the Seer's countenance. His lovely boys, hanging on to his skirts, urged on the suite and cried, "Father, O Father don't go to Carthage. They will kill you." Not least impressive were the pleadings of his mother: "My son, my son, can you leave me without promising to return? Some forty times before have I seen you from me dragged, but never before without saying you would return; what say you now, my son?" He stood erect, like a beacon among roaring breakers, his gigantic mind grasping still higher. The fire flashed in his eye. With hand uplifted on high, he spoke, "My friends, nay, dearer still, my brethren, I love you. I love the city of Nauvoo too well to save my life at your expense. If I go not to them, they will come and act out the horrid Missouri scenes in Nauvoo. I may prevent it. I fear not death. My work is well nigh done. Keep the faith and I will die for Nauvoo."[4]

A guard from Carthage warned Joseph in Nauvoo before he left:

"If you go there they will kill you." "I know it, but I am going. I am going to give myself for the people, to save them" Joseph said.[5]

Joseph told the company who were with him:

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 toward God and toward all men. If they take my life I shall die an innocent man, and my blood shall cry from the ground for vengeance, and it shall be said of me "He was murdered in cold blood!" [1]:6:555

On June 24, after Joseph's last visit with his family before going to Carthage, William Clayton writes:

He appeared to feel solemn & though[t]ful, and from expressions made to several individuals, he expects nothing but to be massacred. This he expressed before he returned from over the river but their appearing no alternative but he must either give himself up or the City be massacred by a lawless mob under the sanction of the Governor.[6]

In Joseph Smith's letter to Emma written from the Carthage Jail, on the final day of his life, he wrote:

"Dear Emma, I am very much resigned to my lot, knowing I am justified, and have done the best that could be done. Give my love to the children and all my friends."[1]:6:605

Was Joseph willing to die for his faith?

Joseph was, and always had been, willing to die for his faith, his God, and his people. Danel Bachman, illustrating this willingness, cited an 1838 incident when Joseph and Hyrum were in the hands of their enemies and were sentenced to be executed. Did he resist? No! Joseph, speaking of his feelings at the time said:

As far as I was concerned, I felt perfectly calm, and resigned to the will of my heavenly Father.... And notwithstanding that every avenue of escape seemed to be entirely closed, and death stared me in the face, and that my destruction was determined upon, as far as man was concerned; yet, from my first entrance into the camp, I felt an assurance, that I with my brethren and our families should be delivered. Yes, that still small voice, which has so often whispered consolation to my soul, in the depth of sorrow and distress, bade me be of good cheer, and promised deliverance.

Hyrum said of the event:

I thank God that I felt a determination to die, rather than deny the things which my eyes had seen, which my hands had handled, and which I had borne testimony to, wherever my lot had been cast; and I can assure my beloved brethren that I was enabled to bear as strong a testimony, when nothing but death presented itself, as ever I did in my life. My confidence in God was likewise unshaken."[7]

Joseph's history, words, and actions go contrary to many of his critics' picture of cowardliness. Joseph was well aware that the anti-Mormon sentiment was to "exterminate, utterly exterminate the wicked and abominable Mormon leaders, the authors of [their] troubles."[1]:5:456

See also Brian Hales' discussion: William and Jane Law and the Prophet
William Law was Joseph's counselor, but eventually broke with the Prophet and helped publish the Nauvoo Expositor. (Link)
Plural Marriage and the Martyrdom
Did Joseph Smith Intend to Abandon Plural Marriage?
William Marks related that Joseph’s conversation denouncing plural marriage occurred “three weeks before his death” or around June 6. Perhaps Joseph had such a change of heart during the first week of June, but this seems unlikely and other parts of Marks’ recollection are implausible. (Link)


Question: Is it possible that Joseph Smith is not a martyr because, while in jail, he had a gun and he had the temerity to defend himself?

Joseph and Hyrum were martyrs by the accepted definition of the term—they suffered death for their beliefs

It seems clear that:

  1. Joseph and Hyrum were martyrs by the accepted definition of the term—they suffered death for their beliefs. (Note that martyrs can die for worthy or ignoble causes, but this makes them no less martyrs.)
  2. The Church has not hidden this fact, but published it from the beginning and includes it in the History of the Church twice.
  3. Joseph was not guilty of murder, because no one died from his shots, and his actions would have been justifiable as self-defense and defense of others even if deaths had resulted.

Critics of Joseph Smith redefine the term "martyr"

In order to make their argument tenable, the critics must do three things. First, they must take some creative liberties with the English language. In this case, the word being redefined is the term martyr. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines a "martyr" as

“a person who chooses to suffer or die rather than give up his faith or his principles.”[8]

The online resource, Dictionary.com, defines a martyr as

“one who chooses to suffer death rather than renounce religious principles.”[9]

Both are nearly identical and fairly standard definitions, and neither includes a requirement or qualifiers of any sort. However, some anti-Mormon writers have taken the term martyr and subtly changed its definition to suit their own needs. The new definition would probably read something like this: Martyr: a person who chooses to suffer or die rather than give up his faith or his principles without any resistance or effort at self-defense on his part whatsoever.

Critics are free to use such a definition, but it belongs to them alone; it is not the standard use of the word, and not what Church members mean when they refer to the "martyrdom" of Joseph and Hyrum Smith at Carthage.

Throughout Christian history, "martyrs" have been understood to be those who suffered quietly, and those who resisted, even with violence, and even to the death of those who persecuted them for their beliefs.

The first anti-Mormon argument thus focuses on the fact that Joseph had a firearm and that he used that firearm to defend himself. Is it possible that Joseph's announcement that he was going “as a lamb to the slaughter” is false, since he fought back?

Anyone who has ever worked on a farm or in a slaughterhouse knows that sheep do not go willingly to the slaughter. They kick and buck, bleat, scream, and make every attempt to escape their fate. In fact, they make such a haunting sound, that the title of an extremely popular Hollywood film was based on it: The Silence of the Lambs. The term “lamb to the slaughter” simply refers to the inevitability of the final outcome. No matter how valiantly they struggle, the fate of the sheep is sealed. If we apply this understanding to Joseph Smith and his brother, it is clear that they truly were slaughtered like lambs. Fight as they might, they were doomed.

Ensign (June 2013): 40, shows Joseph with the pepperbox pistol he would fire to defend himself and others prior to his murder.


Question: Did Joseph order Jonathan Dunham, head of the Nauvoo legion, to rescue him?

There is little good evidence from the extant documents that Joseph attempted to have the Nauvoo Legion rescue him

Fawn Brodie claimed that Joseph Smith was panicking at Carthage Jail, and wrote an order to Jonathan Dunham (head of the Nauvoo legion), telling him to attack the jail and "save him at all costs" [10]

There is little good evidence from the extant documents that Joseph attempted to have the Nauvoo Legion rescue him. By contrast, he repeatedly ordered the militia to stay home and his followers to avoid assembling. He repeatedly expressed resignation as to his fate, and just prior to his martyrdom was seeking to add more legal help to his hearing two days distant—a strange choice if he expected to be liberated by the militia.

The entire tale sounds more like gossip or grumbling among a few who felt that the Mormons militia could have rescued Joseph if given the chance

That Dunham would receive orders from Joseph and refuse to follow them seems incredible. It would also be strange for Stout to be the only primary source to learn of such orders. Why would Dunham tell anyone that he had refused an order from the prophet? Why would he tell Stout, a fierce supporter of Joseph? Why did others not hear of this and report it? Why was Dunham not blamed by other LDS members later?

Stenhouse tells the story, and claims that the order was found discarded on the ground—again, this seems incredible. Why would Dunham dispose of such an incriminating bit of evidence so carelessly? If it was found, why did Brigham Young or other Church leaders never hear of, mention, or save it? The entire tale sounds more like gossip or grumbling among a few who felt that the Mormons militia could have rescued Joseph if given the chance.

Dunham's death was reported in William Clayton's diary as follows:

Daniel Spencer has returned from the West. He brings word that Brother Jonathan Dunham died of a fever.[11]

Thus, the attribution of Dunham's death to suicide occurs later. Even if the suicide claim is accepted, Oliver Huntington's witness says that it was because Dunham felt guilty for being unable to fortify Nauvoo adequately before Joseph went to Carthage for the last time.

The weight of evidence cannot, at present, sustain the claim that Joseph commanded the Nauvoo Legion to come rescue him.[12] Errors, miscitation of sources, and typographical problems have further clouded this issue.

The critics and their sources: There are two basic 'streams' of this theory

The first derives from Fawn Brodie (1945):

Other authors have followed Brodie. Abanes (One Nation Under Gods), for example, merely quotes Brodie as his source. Denton simply repeats the claim without acknowledging Brodie as the source.

Brodie's evidence derives from two sources:

  • Allen J. Stout, manuscript journal, 1815-89, p. 13.
  • T.B.H. Stenhouse, Rocky Mountain Saints: a full and complete history of the Mormons, from the first vision of Joseph Smith to the last courtship of Brigham Young (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1873), 164n..

Brodie says that Stout's story "is confirmed" by Stenhouse, but Stenhouse mentions no names.[13]:n.94

New wrinkle: Hofmann forgeries

The second evidential stream draws on the first, but adds a new wrinkle. This wrinkle is one of the Hofmann forgeries.[14] Mark Hofmann forged the supposed letter from Joseph to Dunham, and it was published in a collection of Joseph's personal writings before the forgery was discovered.

Despite the fact that the document is a forgery, some authors have continued to use it. For example, D. Michael Quinn used it as evidence as late as 1994, and cites the Jessee transcript of the letter (cited above):

The morning of 27 July, Smith sent an order (in his own handwriting) to Major-General Jonathan Dunham to lead the Nauvoo Legion in a military attack on Carthage "immediately" to free the prisoners. Dunham realized that such an assault by the Nauvoo Legion would result in two blood baths—one in Carthage and another when anti-Mormons (and probably the Illinois militia) retaliated by laying siege to Nauvoo for insurrection. To avoid civil war and the destruction of Nauvoo's population, Dunham refused to obey the order and did not notify Smith of his decision. One of his lieutenants, a former Danite, later complained that Dunham "did not let a single mortal know that he had received such orders."

  • Citing: "Joseph Smith to Jonathan Dunham, 27 June 1844, in Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, xxv, 616-17; History of the Church, 6:529. Volume 6 link referred to this order but neither quoted nor summarized it....Allen J. Stout journal, 13; also T. B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints...,164n, told the incident without naming Dunham."[15]:141

</blockquote>

There is no mention in History of the Church that Joseph wrote a letter to Dunham urging him to come to their rescue

We note too that the History of the Church citation is also in error; Quinn transposed two numbers; the correct citation is 6:592. Despite this claim, there is no mention in History of the Church that Joseph wrote a letter to Dunham urging him to come to their rescue. Joseph wrote several known letters to Dunham, none of which supports Quinn's claim. The History of the Church entry reads:

"Willard Richards made copies of the orders of Joseph Smith as Mayor to Marshal John P. Greene, and as Lieut.-General to Major-General Jonathan Dunham."

These are clearly the letters referred to earlier in the History of the Church (see 6:493), which say nothing about rescuing the prisoners at Carthage.

Quinn goes on to claim that:

However, another former Danite took self-inflicted retribution for the death of Joseph Smith. When Nauvoo Mormons learned that Jonathan Dunham had ignored the prophet's direct order to lead the Nauvoo Legion in a rescue at Carthage Jail, some called him a "coward and traitor." Others dismissed him as a "fool and idiot."....[15]:179

He here uses the same citation as before: the Jesse volume, with its forged Hofmann document.

Quinn's retraction and the error's perpetuation

In 1995, Quinn wrote a letter in which he acknowledged his reference to the forged document and included and explanation:

While vacationing in California during January, I received a telephone call informing me that my newly published book Mormon Hierarchy had cited a Hoffman-forged letter to Jonathan Dunham in the source notes. I'll spare you my immediate reaction, but it was stronger than "Oh hell!"....

The only parts of the Dunham letter I used were the variant date (a day later than History of the Church) and the word "immediately," but during my rushed revision of this passage I mistyped the month in my narrative. I should have caught my misstatement that Joseph Smith wrote these orders a month after his June death, but I never saw that error. Nor did I see the typographical error of transposing the page-number citation in History of the Church for the letter.[16]

Quinn continues to insist on his misreading of the History of the Church entry (see discussion above), only correcting his typographical error in the citation (6:592 instead of 6:529).

Quinn ignores that he also claimed (without evidence save from the forgery) that the writing was "in his [Joseph's] own handwriting."

Quinn went on to claim that he could only locate this information in Silitoe and Roberts' 1988 volume Salamander. While the information is available in Salamander (see pp. 110, 132, 282, 547, and plate 37), this was not the only source available. The letter's forged status was also discussed in Dialogue 21/4 (Winter 1988): 170. BYU Studies included a long list of forged documents and other material related to the Hofmann forgeries in 1989, including the Dunham letter.[17] Deseret Book and Dean Jesse had also released an errata sheet for his Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, which was available by DATE. [citation needed]

Quinn made corrections for the 1997 printing of Origins of Power. However, his publisher issued the New Mormon Studies CD-ROM in 1998, but still included Quinn's erroneous 1994 version in this digital product.

Quinn: distorting another source

Quinn tries to provide extra proof by writing that:

Later general authority Seymour B. Young (who had survived the Haun's Mill massacre) recorded a different story he learned from another former Danite. Ever since the martyrdom, Dunham "seemed to grieve over the matter" of not rescuing the prisoners at Carthage, and the anniversary of the prophet's death pushed him into despair. A month later he persuaded "a friendly Indian" (Dana) "to kill and bury him."[15]:179

For this claim, Quinn appeals again to Stenhouse (who, as noted above, mentioned no names and could have had no personal knowledge of these events), and to an Oliver B. Huntington statement, in Seymour B. Young diary, 23 May 1903, LDS archives. But, this supposed confirmation turns out to be nothing of the sort. Dean Jessee wrote, in a review of Quinn's work that

In his treatment of Joseph Smith's death, Quinn refers to the statement by Allen Stout that Joseph, in Carthage Jail, had ordered Jonathan Dunham, commander of the Nauvoo Legion, to bring the legion and rescue him; and that Dunham did not respond (p. 141). Quinn quotes Seymour Young's 1903 conversation with Oliver Huntington, reporting that Dunham "seemed to grieve over the matter" of failing to rescue Joseph; depressed, Dunham persuaded a friendly Indian to kill and bury him (pp. 179-80). But Quinn has altered the Young conversation with Huntington to support Stout's story that Joseph had sent for the Nauvoo Legion. According to Young, Huntington informed him that, in the spring of 1844, Joseph told Dunham to fortify Nauvoo so the Saints could make a stand against their enemies. Dunham's depression after the martyrdom was over his failure to complete the fortification; he felt that had he done so, the Prophet might not have had to go to Carthage in the first place.[18]:167

Jessee makes no mention of Quinn's further difficulties in using the forged Hofmann document years after its status as a fraud was revealed. Thus, the case for Joseph's order to Dunham rests only on Stout's account. Stenhouse mentions the story, but he was in England at the time. He could have had no independent confirmation.

This does not stop Quinn from later, in his timeline, acting as if his entire scenario is well-proven:

28 July. Jonathan Dunham, despondent about disobeying Smith's orders to rescue him from jail, commits suicide. Later disclosures indicate that Dunham, who was a captain of Nauvoo's police, major-general of the Nauvoo Legion, and a Council of Fifty member, accomplished the suicide by asking a native American friend (Lewis Dana, fellow member of the Fifty) to "kill and bury him."[15]:652

No references are provided, a deficiency which reviewers have noted.[19]

Joseph's orders to Dunham

June 17, 1844: Joseph issued three letters of instruction which impacted Dunham. The first was to John P. Greene, marshal of the city:

SIR.—Complaint having been made to me on oath that a mob is collecting at sundry points to make an attack on this city, you will therefore take such measures as shall be necessary to preserve the peace of said city according to the provisions of the charter and the laws of the state; and with the police and the Legion, see that no violent set is committed. General Dunham is hereby instructed to act with the Marshal in keeping the peace, according to law.

The second two letters addressed Dunham directly:

Complaint having been made on oath that a mob is preparing to make an attack upon this city and citizens of Nauvoo, and having directed the Marshal to keep the peace, you are hereby commanded to order the Nauvoo Legion to be in readiness to assist said Marshal in keeping the peace, and doing whatever may be necessary to preserve the dignity of the state and city....

You are hereby instructed to execute all orders of the Marshal, and perform all services with as little noise and confusion as possible, and take every precaution to prevent groups of citizens, &c., from gathering on the bank of the river, on the landing of boats or otherwise, and allay every cause and pretext of excitement as well as suspicion, and let your operations be efficient and decided.[1]:493

On June 18, 1844 Joseph declared martial law

On the 20th Joseph said, "I went with my staff and Major-General Dunham to the prairie, to view the situation of the ground, and to devise plans for the defense of the city, and select the proper locations to meet the mob, and made arrangements for provisions for the city, instructing my agent to pledge my farms for the purpose."[1]:507 On the evening of the 22nd, Dunham was instructed to have the legion cohorts use entrenching tools to prepare the city's defense.[1]:528

On June 22, 1844 Joseph instructed Dunham by letter to prepare the city for defense

Joseph wrote to Dunham,

You will proceed without delay, with the assistance of the Nauvoo Legion, to prepare the background [Eastern part] of said city for defense against an invasion by mobs, cause the Legion to be furnished with tents, and make your encampment in the vicinity of your labor.[1]:532

On June 24, 1844 Joseph instructed Dunham to comply with the governor's order for the Nauvoo Legion to return state arms

Joseph instructed Dunham to comply with the governor's order for the Nauvoo Legion to return state arms.[1]:556 The next day, Joseph and Hyrum surrendered themselves and went to Carthage.

Joseph returned to surrender himself to the Illinois governor, Thomas Ford, after being appealed to by Emma and others

Joseph was safely away in Iowa with Hyrum. He returned to surrender himself to the Illinois governor, Thomas Ford, after being appealed to by Emma and others. Emma reported that Joseph said, "I will die before I will be called a coward."[20]

Joseph also remarked that "If my life is of no value to my friends [those in Nauvoo who were urging him to return for fear of the mob] it is of none to myself....if they had let me alone there would have been no bloodshed but now I expect to be butchered. Hyrum likewise remarked that "We had better go back and die like men." And, on the way out of Nauvoo to Carthage, Joseph was reported to say, "I go like a lamb to the slaughter."[21]

Joseph's attitude in Carthage

On 25 June, Joseph wrote a letter to Emma from Carthage

Joseph wrote,

There was a little mutiny among the "Carthage Greys"; but I think the Gov. has & will succeed in enforcing the laws. I do hope the people of Nauvoo will continue placid pacific & prayerful.

N.B. Governor Ford has just concluded to send some of his malitia to Nauvoo to protect the citizens, & I wish that I they may be kindly treated. They will co-ope=rate with the police to keep the peace of the city The Governors orders will be read in hearing of the police & officers of the Legion, as I suppose.[22]

Joseph hopes Mormons will remain "placid, pacific, and prayerful." He notes that the state militia will keep peace in Nauvoo—a sure obstacle to any attempt to call out the militia.

Joseph wrote to Emma, from Carthage (8:20 am) on 27 June 1844 asked her to tell Dunham to instruct people to stay home

...I want you to tell Bro Dunham to instruct the people to stay at home and attend to their own business and let there be no groups or gathering together unless by permission of the Gov— they are called together to receive communications from the Gov— which would please our people, but let the Gov. direct. —Bro Dunham of course, will obey the orders of the Government officers, and render them the assistance they require....I am very much resigned to my lot knowing I am Justified and have done the best that could be done give my love to the children[23]

Joseph is here forbidding assembly of the people, a necessary prelude to any attempt to rescue him or Hyrum.

Joseph's last letter to was to lawyer Orville H. Browning on 27 June 1844

Joseph's last known letter was to an attorney he wished to add to his legal defense:

Myself and brother Hyrum are in Jail on [a] charge of Treason, to come up for examination on Saturday morning 29th inst. and we request your professional services at that time, on our defence without fail....P.S. There is no ground of action, for we have not been guilty of any crime; neither is there any just cause of suspicion against us when facts are shown but certain circumstances make your attendance very necessary.[24]


Question: Did Joseph "defy" a warning from God to flee to the west?

Vilate Kimball described Joseph's pause as his stopping to compose his mind and getting the will of the Lord concerning him, that will of course being that he should return and face his fate

D. Michael Quinn makes the following claim:

Mar 21,1858 - Brigham Young tells this special conference that Joseph Smith disobeyed revelation by returning to Nauvoo to stand trial, that the church’s founding prophet lost Spirit of God the last days of his life, and died as unnecessary martyr. He published this talk as pamphlet. [25]

Joseph's mind was made up. Vilate Kimball described Joseph's pause as his stopping to compose his mind and getting the will of the Lord concerning him, that will of course being that he should return and face his fate. "Their giveing [sic] themselves up," says Vilate, " is all that will save our city from destruction."[26] Thus, although Joseph disregarded the Lord's warning to leave, he sought the Lord's will concerning his decision to return in order to save Nauvoo. There is no indication that he sinned or lost the Lord's guidance by doing so.

Did Joseph return to Nauvoo contrary to Lord's instruction?

Danel Bachman discussed this issue at the Joseph Smith Symposium in 1992:

Vilate Kimball adds a unique perspective to the Prophet’s return across the Mississippi on 24 June. Some accounts say that Joseph had a revelation directing him to head west (HC 6:545-46). But Vilate wrote to her husband that, “Joseph went over the river out of the United States, and there stoped [sic] and composed his mind, and got the will of the Lord concerning him, and that was, that he should return and give himself up for trial” (Esplin 235). Was there a revelation? Were there two revelations? No one knows, but I do not doubt the possibility.[27]

Joseph no doubt would have sought the Lord's guidance before returning to Nauvoo. The Church held a conference in Boston shortly after Joseph's death, with much of the Quorum of the Twelve being present.[28] Elder Woodruff arrived in Boston on July 10th, and Orson Hyde arrived on the 18th. According to Elder Woodruff, Elder Hyde "had advertised to Preach upon the murder of Joseph and Hyram Smith."[29] Woodruff provided in his journal a synopsis of Elder Hyde's comments,

A word about Br Joseph being killed. Some have thought he could not be killed. But the Lord never said so neither did Joseph say so. So did Peter say to Jesus when he told him that he would be slain or offered, far be it from thee. This shall not come upon thee. Jesus said get the behind me Satan. Thou savoreth not the things that be of God but of men.

In the first instance The Prophet crossed the river to Iowa & while there he inquired of the Lord what he should do and the Lord told him to return and give himself up. He appeared to be aware that he would be slain.[30]

Examination of sources used to support the critical claim

From History of the Church, Vol 6, Ch. XXIX:

Saturday, June 11 [22], 1844.--About 9 p. m. Hyrum came out of the Mansion and gave his hand to Reynolds Cahoon, at the same time saying, "A company of men are seeking to kill my brother Joseph, and the Lord has warned him to flee to the Rocky Mountains to save his life. Goodbye, Brother Cahoon, we shall see you again." In a few minutes afterwards Joseph came from his family. His tears were flowing fast. Be held a handkerchief to his face, and followed after Brother Hyrum without uttering a word. (emphasis added)

According to this, Hyrum said that the Lord warned Joseph to flee to the Rocky Mountains. When Joseph ultimately turned back toward Nauvoo, he was turning away from safety toward likely death.

Brigham Young expressed his view on this action. From the journal of Charles Walker:

21 March 1858

Bro. Brigham spoke a little on the rise and persecution of the Church said that if Bro. Joseph Smith had been led by the Spirit he had, he would never given himself up and gone to Carthage but he would have gone right to these mountains and would have been alive today to lead this people. Said the sheep must follow the shepherd not the shepherd follow the sheep. Said it was not policy to shed the blood of our enemies and was better to leave our homes than to be driven from them spoke of us burning our houses. . . said he was going to send 500 families across the Desert to the White Mountains as soon as possible. Said some might think he was mistaken says he is the voice of God to this people and their salvation and you can do as you darn please but I am going there when the time comes. (emphasis added)
—Charles Walker Journal p3[31]

Examination of Quinn's claim relative to the source used

Based upon the Brigham Young source shown above, D. Michael Quinn claims:

  1. That Joseph Smith disobeyed revelation by returning to Nauvoo to stand trial.
  2. That the church’s founding prophet lost Spirit of God the last days of his life.
  3. That Joseph died as unnecessary martyr.

Examining the Brigham Young quote that Quinn used as his source, it is clear that Brigham believed that if Joseph had "been led by the Spirit he had," that he would have not returned to Nauvoo and that his life would have been spared. Thus Brigham felt that Joseph's death was not necessary. This could be used to support Quinn's claims #1 and #3.

Quinn's claim #2, that Joseph "lost the Spirit of God the last days of his life," is clearly not supported by Brigham's statement. In fact, it states quite the opposite—that if Joseph "had been led by the Spirit he had," that he would not have returned to Nauvoo and ultimately been killed.

Why did Joseph return to Nauvoo?

Why did Joseph turn around and return to Nauvoo? In response to the accusations of abandonment from Emma and some in his party, Joseph said,

"'If my life is of no value to my friends it is of none to myself.' Joseph said to Rockwell, 'What shall I do?' Rockwell replied, 'You are the oldest and ought to know best; and as you make your bed, I will lie with you.' Joseph then turned to Hyrum, who was talking with [Reynolds] Cahoon, and said, 'Brother Hyrum, you are the oldest, what shall we do?' Hyrum said, 'Let us go back and give ourselves up, and see the thing out.' After studying a few moments, Joseph said, 'If you go back I will go with you, but we shall be butchered.' Hyrum said, 'No, no; let us go back and put our trust in God, and we shall not be harmed. The Lord is in it. If we live or have to die, we will be reconciled to our fate.' After a short pause, Joseph told Cahoon to request Captain Daniel C. Davis to have his boat ready at half-past five to cross them over the river."[32]


Question: Why did Joseph Smith attempt to leave through the window of Carthage Jail?

The idea that Joseph tried to escape through the window to save the lives of Richards and Taylor is in harmony with one of the reasons he went to Carthage to begin with

Non-Mormon Colonel John Hay, an American poet and statesman, recorded the day's details leading up to the murder, shedding light on the mood of the mob that infamous day. He wrote:

[The mobsters] followed their leaders off on the road to Carthage, with rather vague intentions. They were annoyed at the prospect of their picnic coming so readily to a close, at losing the fun of sacking Nauvoo, at having to go home without material for a single romance... These trudged along under the fierce summer sun of the prairies towards the town where the cause of all the trouble and confusion of the last few years awaited them.

The farther they walked the more the idea impressed itself upon them that now was the time to finish the matter totally. The unavowed design of the leaders communicated itself magnetically to the men, until the entire company became fused into one mass of bloodthirsty energy...

...As the avengers came in sight of the mean-looking building that held their prey, the sleeping tiger that lurks in every human heart sprang up in theirs, and they quickened their pace to a run. There was no need of orders,-no possibility of checking them now. The guards were hustled away from the door, good-naturedly resisting until they were carefully disarmed.162

Interjecting into Hay's narrative, the view from inside the jail finds the mob rushing up the stairs to the room where Joseph and his friends were. It was "at this point, Joseph sprang to his coat for his six-shooter, Hyrum for his single barrel, Taylor for Markham's large hickory cane, and Dr. Richards for Taylor's cane. All sprang against the door, the balls whistled up the stairway, and in an instant one came through the door...Joseph Smith, John Taylor and Dr. Richards sprang to the left of the door, and tried to knock aside the guns of the ruffians...Joseph, seeing there was no safety in the room, and no doubt thinking that it would save the lives of his brethren in the room if he could get out, turned calmly from the door, dropped his pistol on the floor and sprang into the window when two balls pierced him from the door, and one entered his right breast from without, and he fell outward into the hands of his murderers, exclaiming. 'O Lord, my God!'"[33]

The idea that Joseph tried to escape through the window to save the lives of Richards and Taylor is in harmony with one of the reasons he went to Carthage to begin with.[34]

The historical account reads that "Dr. Richards' escape was miraculous; he being a very large man, and in the midst of a shower of balls, yet he stood unscathed, with the exception of a ball which grazed the tip end of the lower part of his left ear. His escape fulfilled literally a prophecy which Joseph made over a year previously, 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."[35]

Mr. Hay continuing with his narrative writes:

Joe Smith died bravely...after he half leaped, half fell, into the jail yard below. With his last dying energies he gathered himself up, and leaned in a sitting posture against the rude stone well-curb. His stricken condition, his vague wandering glances, excited no pity in the mob thirsting for his life.

A squad of Missourians who were standing by the fence leveled their pieces at him, and, before they could see him again for the smoke they made, Joe Smith was dead.

The moment the work was done, the calmness of horror succeeded the fever of fanatical rage. The assassins hurried away from the jail, and took the road to Warsaw in silence and haste. They went home at a killing pace over the wide, dusty prairie.


Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957). Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "hc" defined multiple times with different content
  2. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 2:217. ISBN 0941214133.
  3. Danel Bachman, “Joseph Smith: A True Martyr,” 328-329, from a speech given at the Joseph Smith Symposium, 22 February 1992, in Susan Easton Black & Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., Joseph Smith: The Prophet (BYU Religious Studies Center 1993), 315-32.
  4. Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, They Knew the Prophet (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974), 183.
  5. Bachman, "Joseph Smith, a True Martyr," 330.
  6. Bachman, "Joseph Smith, a True Martyr," 328.
  7. Bachman, "Joseph Smith, a True Martyr," 324-325.
  8. Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition (New York: World Publishing Company, 1970), 870.
  9. Dictionary.com website, s.v. "martyr."(accessed May 7, 2003).
  10. Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 392.
  11. William Clayton and George D. Smith (editor), An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1995), xxx (entry dated [citation needed]).
  12. Note that Bushman ignores the claim about a private letter to Dunham: Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 548.
  13. D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Signature Books, 1994), {{{pages}}}.
  14. Allen D. Roberts, "'The Truth is the Most Important Thing': The New Mormon History According to Mark Hofmann," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 20 no. 4 (Winter 1987), 92. See also second edition of Jessee's Personal Writings where he lists the five forged documents that have been removed (p. xix).
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Signature Books, 1994), {{{pages}}}.
  16. "D. Michael Quinn's Responses To Questions About Use of Sources in the 1994 Publication of Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power," (9 February 1995). off-site
  17. Anonymous, "The Mark Hofmann Case: A Bibliographical Guide," Brigham Young University Studies 29 no. 1 (Winter 1989), 104–124. off-site
  18. Dean C. Jessee, "review of The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power," Journal of Mormon History 22:2 (Fall 1996): {{{start}}}.
  19. "In a work where source notes are taken as seriously as they are in this book, it is unfortunate that they were not included in appendices 6 (Biographical Sketches) and 7 (Selected Chronology). The careful student needs to be able to weigh the evidence for the extensive and sometimes sensational information that is given here." - Jessee, review of Mormon Hierarchy, 167–168.
  20. Elder Edmund C. Briggs, "A Visit to Nauvoo in 1856," Journal of History [Reorganized] 9 (October 1916): 453-54; cited by Dallin H. Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, Carthage Conspiracy, the Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1979), 27 n. 65. ISBN 025200762X.
  21. Dallin H. Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, Carthage Conspiracy, the Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1979), 17. ISBN 025200762X. Sources cited are: (a) History of the Church, 6:549. Volume 6 link (b) "Journal of Wandle Mace," 144 (c) Editor, "Editorial," Times and Seasons 5 (15 July 1844), 585. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  22. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 603-604.
  23. Jessee, Personal Writings, 611.
  24. Jessee, Personal Writings, 612.
  25. D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power (Signature Books, 1997), 757 ( Index of claims )
  26. Danel Bachman, “Joseph Smith: A True Martyr,” given at the Joseph Smith Symposium, 22 February 1992, in Susan Easton Black & Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., Joseph Smith: The Prophet (BYU Religious Studies Center 1993), 315-32
  27. "Joseph Smith, a True Martyr," 328, cited from Ronald K. Esplin, "Life in Nauvoo, June 1844: Vilate Kimball’s Martyrdom Letters," Brigham Young University Studies 19 no. 2 (Winter 1979), 235.
  28. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 2:414. ISBN 0941214133. Woodruff notes: "There being present a majority of the quorum of the Twelve viz seven as follows: B. Young H. C. Kimball, O Hyde O. Pratt Wm. Smith, L. Wight & W. Woodruff, And a large number of Elders. Elder B. Young took the Chair. Conference opened by Prayer."
  29. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 2:420,423. ISBN 0941214133. Woodruff notes in his July 10th entry: "I here took the Cars for Boston. Arived at 9 oclock with Elder Stodard. Distance 100 miles. Sister Foss gave me $1 Calvin 50 cts Rhoda Scammans $2.50 cts to help bear my expenses home. I had to pay $2.75 cts to Boston."
  30. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 2:427 (journal entry dated 18 July 1844). ISBN 0941214133.
  31. Eldon Watson (editor), Brigham Young Addresses (1982), 3:87. and Richard S. Van Wagoner, Complete Discourses of Brigham Young 5 vols. (Signature Books and Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2010), 3:1418. See here for addenda and review.
  32. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), {{{vol}}}:547-550.
  33. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:617-618. Volume 6 link
  34. Danel Bachman, “Joseph Smith: A True Martyr,” 325-326, from a speech given at the Joseph Smith Symposium, 22 February 1992, in Susan Easton Black & Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., Joseph Smith: The Prophet (BYU Religious Studies Center 1993), 315-32. Bachman concurs that Joseph's attempted escape from the window was to save the lives of his friends in the room.
  35. History of the Church, 6:619. Volume 6 link