Carthage Conspiracy

Mormon Heretichistory, joseph, LDS, Mormon, smith, violence 95 Comments

*Note–This was posted this morning.  Due to a technical glitch, it was erased.  Some comments may have been erased from this morning as well.  I am re-posting it this evening.

As you search across the bloggernacle, sometimes you’ll find antagonists who take great issue with the fact that a gun was smuggled to Joseph Smith at the Carthage Jail.  These antagonists often act as if the church is covering up this fact.  For years I’ve known a gun was smuggled to Joseph from personal visits to the Carthage Jail in Illinois.  Tour guides do not try to hide this fact.  Some antagonists love to quote that John Taylor believed that Joseph may have killed one or two of the assailants with this gun.  However, this is inaccurate.  Elder Dallin Oaks wrote a book called Carthage Conspiracy: The Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith which goes into great detail about the events surrounding Joseph Smith, as well as the trial of Joseph’s accused assassins.

Joseph did wound 3 men.  What antagonists won’t tell you is that these men had very incriminating wounds to prove they were at the jail during the mob riot.  These men were indicted by a grand jury on charges of murder, but fled to avoid criminal prosecution for murder.  While some may be surprised to learn that Joseph had a gun, I just don’t think there is a cover up of this fact, as evidenced by Elder Oaks book which came out more than 30 years ago.

I highly recommend Carthage Conspiracy. Some may wonder whether Elder Oaks is qualified to write a book such as this.  Dallin Oaks clerked for Chief Justice Earl Warren of the United States Supreme Court from 1957 to 1958. After his clerkship he practiced at the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago. Oaks left Kirkland & Ellis to become a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. During part of his time on the faculty of the Law School, Oaks served as interim dean. Oaks left the Law School upon being appointed President at Brigham Young University. Oaks served as president of Brigham Young University from 1971–1980.  In 1976, Oaks was listed by U.S. attorney general Edward H. Levi among potential Gerald Ford Supreme Court candidates.[4] In 1981, he was closely considered by the Ronald Reagan administration as a Supreme Court nominee.[5][6] Oaks served on the Utah Supreme Court from 1980 to 1984, when he resigned to accept a call by the LDS Church to become a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.[2] Currently, Elder Oaks is fourth in line to become the next prophet, behind Packer, Perry, and Nelson.

The book was first published in 1975 by the University of Illinois Press, and Oaks goes into great detail of the trial of the accused assassins. There are plenty of details in there that aren’t well known or discussed. You can find it for as cheap as $5.29 plus shipping at Amazon.  Page 20 discusses the actual events of the mob at the jail. I am including most of his footnotes below.

In the Carthage jail on the morning of June 27 Joseph Smith wrote a letter to his wife, reassuring her that, if there was an attack, some of the militia would remain loyal. Later he and Hyrum entertained several visitors, including Cyrus H. Wheelock, who, fearing an attack on the jail, slipped a pistol into Joseph’s pocket.

Further down on the page (pages 20-21),  (I’ve created additional paragraphs for readability.)

“While there were guards around the jail,” eyewitness William Hamilton recalled later, “they were guards that did not guard and in fact I think understood the whole matter.” [Quoted in Berry, “The Mormon Settlement in Illinois”, 88, 89] The guards fired directly into the attackers from a distance of twenty feet, but no one fell. Scuffling briefly with the guards, the mob tossed them aside and stormed up the stairs toward the room where the prisoners were held.
Upon hearing the guns firing below, Joseph and Hyrum seized their pistols and ran to the door to hold it shut against the attackers. Some of the mob fired shots through the wooden door, hitting Hyrum in the face. He fell upon his back, dead, his head toward an open window on the east. Joseph, seeing his fallen brother at his feet, stepped up beside the door and began firing his pistol at the men in the hallway. After attempting to fire all six barrels (three misfired) he ran to the window.
Outside were more of the mob, who fired at him from below as bullets struck him from behind. [This account is based on the recollections of eyewitnesses Willard Richard, John Taylor, and John H. Sherman. Joseph Smith’s Journal kept by Willard Richards, June 27, 1844; Times and Seasons 5 (August 1, 1844), 598; Smith, History of the Church, VII, 102-4; VI, 617,19; Scofield, History of Hancock County, 846-47.]
He teetered on the sill, with one leg and an arm out the window, and then fell to the ground, landing on his left side. [Hamilton and Sherman agree on this. See also testimony of Thomas Dixon in “Minutes of Trial,” 60] An examination of his body showed he had been hit four times, once in the right collar bone, once in the breast, and twice in the back.
Accounts differ as to whether he was dead before he hit the ground, [See Willard Richards to Brigham Young, June 30, 1844, Richards Papers, Church Archives] but Thomas Dixon, who was standing near the jail, said that while there was blood on his pants when he came to the window, “he was not dead when he fell–he raised himself up against the well curb.” [Cf. Ford, History of Illinois, 354, and Marsh, “Mormons in Hancock County,” 53, with the recollection of William H. Hamilton in Scofield, History of Hancock County, 845.] He then “drew up one leg and stretched out the other and died immediately.” [This recollection is attributed to Thomas Dixon in “Documents relating to the Mormon Troubles,” 26, handwritten notes on the trial testimony, Chicago Historical Society.] William R. Hamilton confirmed Dixon’s statement that the body was not molested after it hit the ground.[Scofield, History of Hancock County, 845; “Minutes of Trial,” 60. Another eyewitness states that Joseph was stabbed with a bayonet while on the ground. Samuel Otho Williams to John A. Prickett, July 10, 1844.]
Here’s the detail describing what happened to those 3 shots Joseph fired into the mob. From page 51,

A Hancock County historian has stated that the grand jury was presented with the names of about sixty persons for indictment. They voted first on the entire sixty, but the evidence was so inconclusive that the number of grand jurors who voted to indict was less that the required twelve. The grand jury then struck off the ten names with the least evidence and voted once more, but again failed to secure the minimum votes. They continued in this manner until the list of potential defendants contained only the nine persons with the strongest evidence against them. In this last instance the requisite twelve votes were finally obtained, and the nine defendants were accordingly indicted or formally charged with the murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.[Gregg, Prophet of Palmyra, 301-2. The Warsaw Signal, October 30, 1844, maintains that no indictment could be obtained from Tuesday through Friday, but that on Saturday the Mormons “smuggled” in two additional witnesses who provided the basis for the indictment.]
There were separate indictments for the two murders. Each charged the same nine defendents: John Wills,[A Mormon Source gives this as “John Patrick Wells.” Smith, History of the Church, VII, 162] William Voras,[So in indictment. Other sources often show it as “Voorhees.”] William N. Grover, Jacob C. Davis, Mark Aldrich, Thomas C. Sharp, Levi Williams, and two men named Gallaher and Allen, whose first names were not given.[There were three Gallahers in the Warsaw militia units: Charles, Patrick, and William. “Muster Roll of the Commissioned and Non-Commissioned Officers, Musicians and Privates belonging to the 59th Regiment 4th Brigade and 5th Division, Illinois Militia, under the command of Levi Williams,” Chicago Historical Society.]

From page 52, please note the 3 wounded:

Wills, Voras, and Gallaher were probably named in the indictment because their wounds, which testimony showed were received at the jail, were irrefutable evidence that they had participated in the mob. They undoubtedly recognized their vulnerability and fled the county. A contemporary witness reported these three as saying that they were the first men at the jail, that one of them shot through the door killing Hyrum, that Joseph wounded all three with his pistol, and that Gallaher shot Joseph as he ran to the window.[Hay, “The Mormon Prophet’s Tragedy,” 675] According to Hay, Wills, whom the Mormon prophet had shot in the arm, was an Irishman who had joined the mob from “his congenital love of a brawl.”[Statement of Jeremiah Willey, August 13, 1844, Brigham Young correspondence, Church Archives.]
Gallaher was a young man from Mississippi who was shot in the face.[Hay, “The Mormon Prophet’s Tragedy,” 669, 675. Another source says Wills was a former Mormon elder who had left the Church. Davis, An Authentic Account, 24.] Hay described Voras (Voorhees) as a “half-grown hobbledehoy from Bear Creek” whom Joseph shot in the shoulder. The citizens of Green Plains were said to have given Gallaher and Voras new suits of clothes for their parts in the killing.[Statement of Jeremiah Willey, August 13, 1844]
I’ve never understood why anyone would question Joseph’s actions.  He had been beaten, and been subject to harrassment and death threats for years.  I came across an anti-Mormon website which used this smuggled gun and Joseph shooting others to paint the picture that Joseph didn’t go like a lamb to the slaughter, but went out with guns blazing.  Well, I’m no sheep farmer, but I don’t think sheep sit there peacefully before they die–they fight back.  I just don’t understand why anyone would be troubled by this.  I agree that it is a little strange that Joseph had a revolver while incarcerated, but would anybody who had been threatened like he had act any differently?

Comments 95

  1. Thanks for putting this together, MH. I too have been to Carthage several times. As you say, it is well known that he had a gun.

  2. MH,

    I think what bugs people about Joseph having a gun is that the church describes him as a “martyr,” and martyrs typically don’t “go down fighting.” (Offhand, I can’t think of any [others] who did. Maybe somebody else can?) Meekness, like Christ making Peter put his sword away, is strongly associated with martyrdom in many people’s minds.

  3. Kuri,

    Jesus came into the world to die for our sins and was walking to a demise that had been prophesied for eons. Joseph was a mere man with no such mission to fulfill by his death. Not an apt comparison.

    Joseph did what any rational man would do, which is defend himself and his friends by whatever means he had available. He wasn’t asked to be a martyr and he didn’t want to be a martyr — he had too much to live for. Martyrdom, in my book, has to do with the intentions of the killers — was a person killed by enemies of the cause for which he lived? If yes, the murdered was a martyr for that cause.

    Those who agree with the cause are not scandalized when champions of their cause show they would rather live than die for the cause. There was nothing cowardly or unseemly in Joseph’s behavior. I simply don’t comprehend how anything he did was unseemly or anything less than I would have hoped to do in the same circumstances.

  4. #2: Offhand, the first one that comes to mind is St. Olaf, the Viking king who Christianized Norway and then died fighting the (highly irked) pagans at the Battle of Stiklestad. Saint Anthemius (died fighting the Moors in Spain in the 700s.)

    I’ve seen Joseph’s critics characterize the events at Carthage as “Joseph’s death in a gunfight.” That’s “frankly pathetic,” if I may use that excellent phrase in an better context. That insinuates that Joseph willingly got in a fight, took his chances, and can’t object to coming in second. Bollocks. He was lynched, and the fact that he had the means to get a few shots off in his self-defense doesn’t change that.

    Too bad he didn’t have an AK, I say.

  5. Hi MH,
    “I’ve never understood”
    I haven’t been at this for a while, but I’ll take a shot at your lack of understanding. 🙂

    I’ve also been to Carthage on several occasions and had the tour. While I think the church does nice job with its visitor center and guides, you must admit that the perspective is certainly biased. While I agree with your premise that the church doesn’t hide the fact that he had a gun, the “lamb to the slaughter” statement doesn’t seem to hold with the actions of Joseph before he was killed.

    Here’s my perspective for what it’s worth.

    First, Joseph tried to escape Nauvoo after the warrant for his arrest was issued. Only after feeling betrayed by his wife and some of the twelve did he agree to turn himself in. (His letters to Gov. Ford portray a man who feels trapped and guilty, desiring a way out of the mess he created.)

    Second, JS had a meeting with Gov. Ford just before going to jail, mostly to attain his assurance that he would be protected while incarcerated and receive a fair trial. (Not really the actions of someone ready to die a martyrs death and consigned to his fate.)

    Third, the arrest warrant demanded by the governor had nothing to do with JS beliefs or the fact that he was president of the church. He was being arrested for destroying a press and overstepping his authority as mayor. As we believe in obeying the law of the land, JS had no choice but to turn himself in and face a jury of his peers. His position as mayor and popularity in Nauvoo would be ample just cause for the magistrate to deny JS incarceration and trial in his home town. (So, if he didn’t go he would be an outlaw and living on the lamb.)

    Forth, As soon as Joseph became convinced that the governor wasn’t going to honor his promises, he immediately sent for the Nauvoo Legion to come break him out of jail. This action would have resulted in the loss of life on both sides and started a war with the US, something the Nauvoo Legion commander was smart enough to avoid. (Again, not the actions of a man willing to die for the cause, but rather a man willing to sacrifice some of his believers to save his own life.)

    Fifth, JS uttering the Masons call for help as he attempted to leap from the window after emptying his pepperbox. (Again, trying to get away and leave Willard Richards and John Taylor to face the anger of the mob as they stormed the room is not the actions of a man going like a “lamb to the slaughter “, but rather a desperate man trying anything to escape.)

    Joseph was on a path of ever escalating crises with his isolationist (Zion) thinking and strange practices that the outside world found abhorrent. It would seem to me that his life was catapulting out of control toward the end. His wife had left him, leading brethren apostatizing, adultery accusations coming from within and without the church, and the Saints losing confidence in his ability to communicate with God. All this culminated at Carthage, a path he himself set in motion with a very predictable ending. To me, that’s not becoming a martyr for a cause, it’s getting caught up in the consequences of some very poor decisions earlier.

  6. Post

    Kuri, I decided to look at for definitions of a martyr. The first 2 seem appropriate to our discussion:

    1. a person who willingly suffers death rather than renounce his or her religion.
    2. a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause: a martyr to the cause of social justice.

    Both apply here–#2 seems more appropriate in Joseph’s case. The term martyr is often used to describe jihadists–certainly they die “with guns blazing”. Other modern examples seem to include David Koresh (Waco raid), MLK, or even Warren Jeffs–not killed, but a person who “endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause”. I think people who act like Joseph didn’t have a right to defend himself are misusing the term martyr. Joseph didn’t need to act like Ghandi or Jesus to be a martyr. He was “put to death [and] endure[d] great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause” and “suffer[ed] death rather than renounce his or her religion.” Now some may quibble over whether Joseph “willingly suffered death”. Certainly Joseph wasn’t rushing to die, but he wasn’t about to renounce his religion either.

  7. Lorin #3,
    I was just saying why some people question whether Joseph deserves the label “martyr.” Although I believe he was probably a grifter rather than than a prophet, I personally don’t find the label inappropriate.

    Thomas #5,
    Thanks for the information. I agree that “died in a gunfight” is a complete mischaracterization.

    MH #7,
    Those are some interesting comparisons, and as Thomas pointed out, there have been some Christian “fighting martyrs” as well. Still, I think his death isn’t quite what comes to mind when most people think of martyrdom.

  8. Post

    Doug, it looks like we were composing comments at the same time. Do you think the dictionary definitions appropriately apply to Joseph? Do the other people Thomas and I listed fit the definition of martyr? Would someone who participated in the Crusades fit the definition of a martyr?

  9. “I just don’t understand why anyone would be troubled by this. I agree that it is a little strange that Joseph had a revolver while incarcerated, but would anybody who had been threatened like he had act any differently?”

    In answer to the last question some people do indeed act very differently when threatened with and when subject to violence. At different times in his life JS himself acted very differently. But there is also a long list of religious leaders and others who refused violence even when they faced violence and threats almost daily.

    You really can’t understand why anyone would be bothered by an individual who was committed to Christ embracing the use of violence? That should be very easy to understand. It doesn’t mean that we should judge, or condemn JS for what he did, but to pretend that what he did was only natural, is synthetic at best.

  10. Post

    Douglas Hunter,

    You really can’t understand why anyone would be bothered by an individual who was committed to Christ embracing the use of violence?

    While I am aware of the scriptures of peace that Christ taught, it wasn’t all peace. The Bible is full of punishments of death.

    Exd 21:17 And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.
    Exd 21:16 And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.
    Exd 21:17 And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

    Christ prophesied of the violence done against the righteous.

    Mat 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
    Luk 21:20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
    Luk 21:22 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

    Anyone who reads the Bible shouldn’t be afraid to defend themselves, nor people who read the Book of Mormon. The Title of Liberty is for those who fight for wives, families, and children. Certainly Joseph was fighting not only for his life, but his literal brother (Hyrum), and brothers in the gospel. God is frequently cited to help us fight our battles.

    2 Nephi 29:14 “I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever”

  11. Lorin #3,

    not to threadjack but Jesus did say we should all take up the cross, follow him even to death, and that his followers would do greater works than even he did. How we want to deal with those sayings we can certainly debate but I think there is a overly quick assumption we make when we assume that Jesus’ life, vocation, and death’s purpose amount to little more than him being bound, beaten, and sacrificed like the thousands of animals sacrificed in his day. The manner in which he approached death, in which he engaged his enemies, and sought to establish the kingdom of God are not just for him but apparently Jesus himself taught we should do likewise (see sermon on the mount and various sayings throughout his life).

    I agree that Joseph did what any normal person would do and Im not going to judge him because he felt he needed a firearm for protection, but I think when people say that martyrs dont use weapons they have a somewhat valid point.

  12. Thanks MH

    I think if you did a poll in your wards you would be shocked to know that most of the congregation don’t have a clue about Joseph Smith using a gun. Most those members wouldn’t know that Joseph Smith was married to more than one wife – think back to John Dehlins earlier pod cast.

    In the church movies we don’t show Joseph using a gun or him standing around his other wifes. If the tour guides are starting to share it more about JS usin a revolver it must be because of public pressure, as this was certainly not the case in years past!

    The bloggernacles is far more informed than Joe and Jane average member!!

  13. I’ve been a member for over 30 years and thought I was clued up on church history. Until General Conference related reading informed me otherwise, I had no idea that Joseph Smith had a gun in Carthage Jail. I agree with James above. Were a poll to be taken in my ward on this subject, I’m willing to bet that very few members would know he had a gun.I freely admit this news came as a complete shock to me.

  14. #13-4 – Maybe I am wrong but I have a completely different impression. I have been in discussions in at least three different wards (in different stakes) where the martydom was discussed; in everyone the gun was mentioned (and not by me) and no one batted an eyelid. Also, I think the same about Joseph and polygamy. I just think John Dehlin was wrong about his impression on this count, although I think he was pretty good in general.

  15. Elder Marvin J. Ashton – ‘A lie is any communication given to another with the intent to deceive.’ A lie can be effectively communicated without words ever being spoken. Sometimes a nod of the head or silence can deceive” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1982, 10; or Ensign, May 1982, 9).

    If we are using the word Martyr, knowing that the common understanding of the word is a Christlike non violent approach then are we not being dishonest. Joseph went out fighting against insurmountable odds sought to draw fire away from John Taylor by climbing out the window, in hopes that someone would show compassion cried out the Masonic call for protection, seems more honest to common understanding.

    To clarify my thoughts in politics potentially damaging information is released on days of tragedy or huge achievements such as sporting events, apologies that are printed on page 12, product retractions on size A10 paper. this might not be lying but it is not completely honest and transparent.

  16. Eh. We just had that lesson in senior Primary. It mentions the guns: “Only four men remained in Carthage Jail: the Prophet Joseph Smith; his brother Hyrum; and John Taylor and Willard Richards, two of the Apostles. These four men had two guns that had been given to them by friends who visited them. Elder Taylor and Elder Richards also had walking canes.” Later in the lesson: “The brethren tried to bar the door shut and use their few weapons to drive off the mob. Joseph Smith fired a pistol and John Taylor used his heavy cane to try to knock down the guns of the mob as they were pushed into the room through the door, but there were too many people in the mob for the brethren to defend themselves.”

    It cannot be said that the Church hides this when it is explicitly part of the lesson for children as young as 9 years old!

  17. mrQandA

    I disagree with your ‘common’ definition of martyr. are you not aware that muslims commonly refer to sept 11 hijackers as martyrs? non-violence has nothing to do with the definition of martyr. your definition seems to be a personal definition rather than an informed one.

  18. Yeah, it seems like “much ado about nothing” to me. Joseph protected himself by all the means he had available to him. And who knows how he would have acted had he been alone in that room. It’s issues like this that separate those who have substantive differences with the Church from angry people who just want to find fault with EVERYTHING.

  19. MH – I’m sorry but if you conducted a consensus of what is a martyr, our audience would predominately be from a Christen background, I agree it is a personal definition rather than an informed one however the majority of the prospective membership would not have an “informed” definition of martyr they would have the archetypal Christ in mind.

    Politically that is called “SPIN”.

  20. Arthur – I doubt you would find many here who would disagree with JS defending himself, However it is how we choose to tell Joseph Smith’s story that is the issue.

    Are we choosing to omit items that would change the JS story ?
    Are we painting a rosier picture than actually existed ?

    Are we at risk of Deceiving those we are supposed to be serving ?

  21. #21 – I am not sure I could call it spin. That is like blaming an author when you mis-understood what they were saying. A cat is a cat regardless of what people understand that may mean. In the same way I may talk about certain things at church, like a Testimony in a certain way but mean completely different things from the people listening, but I cannot put qualifiers on everything I say. Moreover, in the in the Ashton quote I notice that the ‘intent to deceive’ seems to be the key phrase and I am not convinced that on this issue anyone is intending to deceive. I think people are just not always as well informed as they could be. I mean the quote from the primary manual above is interesting and I had not read that before.

    I should point out that I think we make too much of the martyrdom in another way which MRQandA highlights which is the comparison to Christ. I think he was a martyr but that does not mean that this was the sealing of a testament. I think that if we stopped that kind of talk there would be less issue with the gun thing.

  22. I’ve grown up in the Internet age. Maybe people older than me had to rely on the Church’s rosy picture but I have a feeling that pretty much every person 25 years old and younger has had every other perspective available to them. Just point and click.

    The days of informational monopolies are over. This issue (and many others) will be moot in 10 years.

  23. I think part of the problem comes from the way martyrs are characterized in the Church, as point out by Doug G. While the Church doesn’t necessarily hide the fact that Joseph wielded a gun in Carthage, it rarely volunteers that fact either. More importantly is the emphasis on the fact that Joseph “died for the cause” so to speak, but the added layer is that he did so as only a Prophet can, ie, he entered Carthage knowing the outcome. What is also included in about every lesson I can remember is the famous “I am going as a lamb to the slaughter…” quote. This story defines the expectation for a martyr in Mormon culture by suggesting that Joseph was more than just a victim of chaos or circumstance, but a willing participant (almost Messianic, D&C section 135) in a cause which required his sacrifice for the greater good. This is not exactly a subtle message suggested from the Church through lessons and visitors centers. Unfortunately, again as Doug G. has succinctly pointed out, the gun and every other exhaustive effort employed by Joseph Smith to save his life, sort of mitigates his ultimate “divinity”, for lack of a better word. I am not at all troubled by the fact that Joseph Smith defended himself against a violent mob, but because of it I am not convinced he was aware of his fate.

  24. #15 – Although I have always known about the gun and also don’t find it particularly significant, I think you’re way, way off on the polygamy issue. I come from solid pioneer stock on both sides, was raised in a highly active, orthodox mormon family, never missed primary, seminary, institute, general conference, etc., and have lived in Arizona and Utah my entire life, and I didn’t learn that Joseph Smith was a polygamist until I was 30 years old. In my opinion, the only way a member of the church will learn of Joseph’s polygamy is from independent research (of non-church sources) or by being educated by another person. Immersing onesself in pretty much anything that eminates from the church or church leaders gives no indication that this practice originated with JS. The church’s posture is to basically suggest that polygamy was a Utah practice. Perhaps the situation is different in the church in the UK, although I served my mission in the UK and I never heard a word about it while I was there.

  25. #25. Question about that. How does that change your opinion of Joseph? You were willing accept Brigham practicing polygamy but not Joseph? How does that change your testimony? Not trying to be confrontational, just trying to understand.

  26. Rico – I agree, I do not see any key intent to deceive by those who put together the teaching programs, I might cautiously suggest negligence, (in the pre-internet era).

    I disagree with you on our responsibility to ensure our words are understood by those we are teaching. yes a Cat is a Cat but depending on the culture it has different meanings, “I saw this Big Cat in front of me and was a little scared” has differing meanings depending on the continent. In France I would be seen as a coward with a fear of animals, Africa I might be tackling a Lion, China I’m out too lunch.

    My point is we use many emotive words and may understand the meaning in a variety of different ways, if we are trying to convey truth then we must ensure the person being taught understands our implications.

  27. Joseph Smith in a gunfight? The next thing you know people will be claiming that Christ was captured by the Romans after a sword fight. Oh, wait…

  28. # 26 – That’s a fair question, Arthur. Actually I was never comfortable with polygamy, which I realize doesn’t make me unique. The thing that really shook me with learning about Joseph’s involvement was how it made me feel about the things that I had been told and taught all my life by my parents, church leaders, etc. It was much bigger than the simple fact that he practiced polygamy (although I do think there are some aspects to Joseph’s practice that are independently disturbing). To me it called into question so many other things that I had been led to believe about JS specifically and church history generally, and once I started looking into it, I felt like my concerns were borne out. Additionally, once you learn about Joseph’s polygamy, there are serious implications about the entire Nauvoo period, and things like the “martyrdom” were, to me, seriously implicated. Ultimately I felt like the church’s presentation of these issues was completely dishonest and honestly I felt very betrayed by the whole thing.

    That said, I didn’t lose my testimony or decide to leave the church because Joseph Smith practiced polygamy, but I do think it was AN impetus to my deciding to look into things on my own and give the church an honest appraisal. It was more of a jumping off point, although not the only one.

  29. Cowboy – Should Joseph the Martyr, stop being taught ? or Should MH’s looser but more correct definition be taught more.

    brjones – I guess the difficulty can be that after “30 years” finding out something about the church’s past that does not fit with the ideal; should there be regular Q&A sessions in Church (no topic bared). I saw this recently at a youth conference which seemed to work quite well.

  30. #26 – Sorry, Arthur, I forgot to answer your initial question. To be honest, I still have a very soft spot in my heart for Joseph Smith as a person. I think no matter what he was, he oozed humanity (in both good and bad ways). That said, my opinion of him is completely different than it was before I decided to learn about him and the early church from sources outside the church. Obviously I can’t speak for anyone else, and I won’t say definitively that the church has an agenda of presenting Joseph Smith as someone other than who he was, but I can say that in my life, that is absolutely how he was presented. He was portrayed as a quasi-saint, and that’s how I thought of him. Obviously having learned some unsavory things about his character and his actions, my opinion of him couldn’t help but be affected. Let me reiterate, though, that I don’t think this means he was necessarily a scoundrel or any worse than any other man. But I believe now that he that’s all he was – just a man. He was a guy who struggled with issues like everyone else. Is it possible that he was that as well as a prophet? Sure. I personally don’t believe it, but I don’t believe the two things are mutually exclusive. More than anything it just makes me feel very bad that my parents, family members, church leaders, etc., didn’t think enough of me intellectually and/or spiritually to trust me with the truth and allow me to make up my own mind, or, even more, to trust that I could come to know on my own what they knew to be true. They thought they had to feed “the truth” to me ready made on a platter. I find that unbelievably hurtful, to be candid. So ultimately, the things that Joseph Smith did and was are significant independently, but the issue of having been led down the path (in my opinion) is also a much broader issue.

  31. I really, really wish I could generate some kind of sympathy for your story. I really do. It seems you’ve walked and honest path and you just maybe put a little too much trust in the Church. I (and pretty much everyone in my generation) have been raised to trust no one, to attack everything, to scour histories, and then come to conclusions. My struggle with polygamy ended probably around the same time that I was getting my driver’s license. I read all about Joseph’s pepper box when I was very young, and I thought it was much ado about nothing then, too. I visited mosques and synagogues growing up, Evangelical churches, and small, amazing Pentacostal churches. I read everything I could about the life of the Prophet Joseph, including very unflattering things on every website I could find. Not only that, but I read about the Early Christian Church (including my favorite, the Byzantine Empire), and all the unflattering things there. I read about the Nicene Councils and the selection of the NT canon. It was only then that I decided that the LDS Church was right for me. I realized that there can be truth in imperfect vessels, including myself. This is a lesson that greatly helped me as I got older, because it’s our job as humans to interact with imperfect people, and love them. I couldn’t have learned that lesson from a perfect Church.

    So when I hear stories like yours I burst a blood vessel (figuratively) in my forehead trying to generate some kind of sympathy, but I just simply can’t. If your search for truth is like mine, then it will include 1) a paradigm, 2) subversion, and 3) containment. Step 3 is where you realize the Church really isn’t that bad after all. Unfortunately it took you 30 years to get through steps 1 and 2.

    That’s just tragic to me, but I take comfort in knowing that, thanks to the Internet, those stories will happen much less frequently than they did 30 years ago. Learning Church history only from the Church is like forming your opinion of George W. Bush based on what Tony Snow said.

    Sorry if that all sounds judgmental and unChristlike. I’m really really trying.

  32. #30 – I’m not sure what the answer is, although I like the idea of some program of honest discussion of history. The problem with whitewashing things is that for many people, the feelings of hurt and betrayal can be absolutely catastrophic. I’m not trying to be melodramatic, and I realize that not everyone has that experience, but many do. I think for some people, once they get to that point, they are never going to trust the church again. I don’t think this is necessary. Since when is honesty a bad policy? I understand that there is a fine line, and I wouldn’t expect the church to roll out a cirriculum that lays bare every skeleton in its closet. But I think the faithful history policy is not only dishonest, it’s counterproductive. In the internet age, there’s just no way that information isn’t going to get into people’s hands anyway, so why not present it in a way that you can control the spin? I definitely like the idea of Q&A, because it only requires you to address things that are a) already an issue for people, and b) that they find significant.

    I think it’s also worth noting that this isn’t just an issue of “hey you told me something and that isn’t exactly how it happened.” We’re talking about a church that is led by god and that promises that every person will be given a manifestation of this fact through honest search and prayer. Well, why does a church in that position need to be dishonest about its history, or anything else for that matter? I believe this raises serious credibility issues for the church in many people’s minds. If the church is true, and the spirit is standing ready to bear witness of this fact, then what is the harm in letting people know both sides of an issue and allowing them to be told by the spirit what is the truth? It’s not only insulting to bypass this process, it also smacks of a very mortal fear that people will come down on the other side. I would expect a little more confidence in the process from a church with deity at its disposal. Again, this is just my opinion, and I realize that these things don’t bother many people. But I think my concerns are shared by many, and I think this is a growing problem in the church. I don’t think the timing of Elder Holland’s talk in the last conference is a coincidence.

  33. What has always struck me from this account is what event triggered (bad pun alert) Joseph’s use of the pistol.

    “Joseph, seeing his fallen brother at his feet, stepped up beside the door and began firing his pistol at the men in the hallway.”

    I’ve always seen it as an immediate response to the death of his brother.

  34. #27 – I agree that differences occur, my point is more that, I can never explain something sufficiently well to all people in my ward let alone the Church. The word martyr is the one I would use for Joseph Smith, but I acknowledge there are problems with it, as there are with other words used to describe the same point.

    #25 – Anecdotally I am sure we can all come up with our different stories. My point was rather that the survey about this polygamy issue has never been done to my knowledge. I shared my point of view to just show that it is not all one way. the wards I was in were not only different stakes but in different countries. My point is that just because it is not talked about at Church does not mean it is not known or talked about elsewhere. but i am perfectly willing to concede that I am wrong because I too have not done the research.

    #30 – Can I stab at the question to Cowboy? I mentioned earlier my dissatisfaction with how the Church does frame this debate. I would be happy to see a decanonization of D&C 135, like the Lectures on faith. Especially as its authenticity is debated and moreover, I think it is doctrinally suspect. With that I think we should use Joseph and Hyrum as testaors who died in order to seal a new covenant. I think we are ok to say he was a martyr.

  35. #32 – No apology necessary, Arthur. I honestly don’t take any umbrage at all. I hope it didn’t come across as a plea for sympathy, because I have been infinitely happier since I left the church than I ever was in it. I agree with you that the tragic aspect is that it took me so long to get through steps 1 and 2, and I’m absolutely willing to take responsibility for that. Ultimately, it’s my responsibility to search out the truth and follow it, and I can’t blame anyone for my thoughts, beliefs or actions but myself. I do think there is a place for sympathy for children, though, who are being raised in a situation where they are being encouraged (strongly) to follow blindly and accept everything they’re being told. But clearly at some point you have to start thinking for yourself. I’m happy to say that (even though it was late in the game) I did what you have suggested, and I did all my due diligence and came to what I believe was an enlightened conclusion. If you do that I think at the end of the day you will be able to comfortably live with your choices. I think that’s what was missing for so long.

    All that, however, is somewhat of a separate issue from the church’s responsibility to be more open about its history, or even the advisability of such openness.

  36. when the church puts together primary lessons outlining joseph had a gun, I don’t think anyone can make a claim that the church is covering up this fact. in fact, it seems to me that anti-mormons who quote john taylor saying that joseph killed someone during the riot are the ones who are truly guilty of distorting facts here.

    I can sympathize with converts who didn’t attend primary as children and haven’t visited carthage for not knowing this info, but to say the church is distorting truth on this issue is itself a distortion. this charge applies equally to the anti-mormon websites who refuse to acknowledge facts that have been published for over 30 years.

  37. #24: Agreed. “Joseph died in a gunfight” is Frankly Pathetic. “Joseph went to Carthage knowing he would be killed” isn’t supported by the evidence, either; Joseph did say “IF I am killed, it will be said, He was killed in cold blood.” Joseph knew he was in the tightest spot of his life — but he clearly was hoping and striving to get through it, as he had escaped perils before.

    This is another hole in the “THEY WOULD NOT DO THAT!” logic of Elder Holland’s “Safety for the Soul” address. (Which isn’t great to begin with; under that logic, we’re required to credit every visionary who ever died without recanting, i.e., almost all of them.)

    Joseph at Carthage has been mythologized into a kind of Christ figure. (Paul Johnson, in his excellent “A History of Christianity,” refers to Joseph’s martyrdom as “providential,” allowing (in his view) the Church to create a sacred history comparable to the Bible.) Like most mythologies, it only works if you stand back and squint when while looking at it.

  38. FWIW, I joined the church pre-internet and I’ve “always” known that Joseph had plural wives and that he fired back at the lynch mob. (By “always,” I mean those things have been part of the stories for me as long as I’ve known the stories.) Maybe those things weren’t taught in my Sunday classes, but my only sources of information back then were “church-approved” books.

  39. Incidentally, regarding the claim that “Forth, As soon as Joseph became convinced that the governor wasn’t going to honor his promises, he immediately sent for the Nauvoo Legion to come break him out of jail. This action would have resulted in the loss of life on both sides and started a war with the US, something the Nauvoo Legion commander was smart enough to avoid. (Again, not the actions of a man willing to die for the cause, but rather a man willing to sacrifice some of his believers to save his own life.)”

    On this claim, you should take a closer look at the sources. In particular, Richard L. Anderson’s essay in Expressions of Faith goes into detail on this charge. FAIR also has much of the information, but it is not as detailed or as good as Anderson’s essay. Basically, the story comes from Hosea Stout, who was in Nauvoo, not Carthage, at the time, and he reports an unsourced rumor to this effect. This rumor got repeated later by Brodie, and then Sam Taylor, and then forged by Mark Hofmann, and then Hofmann’s forgery got cited and Stout’s rumor irresponsibly inflated in the retelling by Mike Quinn. But Anderson shows that there is no good reason to take the rumor seriously. Stout only reports a rumor for which he gives no source, and he is the only one in Nauvoo who reports it. Stenhouse retells the story much later, but he was in England, and had no first-hand observations to add.

    Anderson shows first that the eye-witnesses in the jail report that Joseph refused to send for the legion. Second, those eye-witnesses report all sorts of wild rumors circulating in Carthage when Dan Jones left the jail with a different message. Third, the story about Dunham supposedly getting a message and then pocketing it and telling no one makes no sense. If Dunham told no one (as Stout’s rumor claims), where does the story come from? If there really was a message, why don’t we hear about it from John Taylor (or any of the others there), who report that Joseph pointedly refused to send such a message. And Anderson shows that Dunham was trusted by the Nauvoo leadership after Carthage, something that would be inconsistent of they thought he had refused Joseph’s call for aid.

    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

  40. Arthur: I see you qualified your statement in #32 about “your generation” by limiting it possibly to just yourself. I just wanted to point out that my perspective of the rising “Millennial” generation is different than yours. I would argue that your experiences visiting other religious, exploring LDS history on the Internet, and such are exceptional for LDS youth, even in the Internet age. I work at a major LDS university, and although students ubiquitously know how to Tweet, to Facebook, and to Google, they don’t come to school having much attention span for serious study or any great critical information evaluation skills. Their Internet skills are largely limited to finding music to download, You Tube videos to watch, and photos of their friends about which they can comment. There are exceptions, of course (yourself a shining example).

    Additionally, although every LDS family dynamic is unique, I would wager that most do not actively encourage honest appraisal of the Church’s truth claims with all the information on the table. Most families will teach their children to hang the Church’s truthfulness on receiving a spiritual witness of the Book of Mormon’s divinity, coupled with a culture of largely unquestioning obedience and sacrifice to the Lord and his appointed representatives on Earth. Why would they try to foster testimony and devotion any differently than do the missionaries?

    Even the “rebellious” spirit of teenagers reflects my point: it is one thing for a troubled teen to say “I don’t believe in your Book of Mormon or in Joseph Smith!”, and something entirely different to say “After a thorough study, I cannot resolve the historical and moral inconsistencies of the man Joseph Smith with his claims to be God’s prophet, and although I acknowledge his religious zeal and spiritual charisma, I cannot accept Mormonism!” The first is most often a reaction against the rigid rules and boundaries that religion set up for its adherents, and which the teenager has not accepted for him- or herself. The second is something entirely different, representing a rejection of not necessarily the social and moral strictures of religious life, but of the necessity of setting them up in a Mormon context as a matter of course following an acceptance of JS as a prophet and continuing priesthood authority flowing to the present day through TSM and the modern LDS church. I suspect the former is far, far more common than the latter, even among the rising generations.

  41. Maybe you’re right. I did quickly qualify myself. I’m about to go into graduate study in psychology, and I would be very very interested in finding out to what extent the Internet plays a part in my generation’s spirituality. Perhaps I should do graduate research in the area so I don’t have to just use myself as an example.

  42. Kevin,

    I think your making everyone’s point here about problematic church history if you want to believe JS didn’t call for the legion. I say that because I was taught about it in seminary and told that Dunham ignored Joseph’s call. It’s also mentioned at Carthage by the senior missionary that gave us the tour. (Perhaps he’s been removed.) 🙂

    “Anderson shows first that the eye-witnesses in the jail report that Joseph refused to send for the legion.”

    This is the kind of “spin” and deception employed by FAIR that frankly it gets my dandruff up. The statement that JS didn’t call for help comes from “History of the Church” Vol. 7 page 100. Willard Richards offers to go to Nauvoo and collect a sufficient force to break him out of jail. Joseph refused.

    Two points here: First, Dr. Richards didn’t say he was going to get the legion, he said was going to “collect a sufficient force”. Dan Jones had already left the jail by this time with orders to get the legion so why would he let Willard Richards go and get a group of armed men? His refusal was most likely because he had already taken care of it. Second, It was reported by the jailor that when the mob first appeared Joseph told him not to worry as they were probably his troops coming to break him out. If he wasn’t expecting his troops, why tell the jailor what he did?

    Stephen Markham also went to Nauvoo to get a party of men to set Joseph and company free and was also unsuccessful. Although it can be argued that he did this on his own, he still couldn’t raise enough men to do the job. So why is it so hard to believe that the Nauvoo Legion commander disregarded his call for help? Moreover, Governor Ford disbanded the legion right after Joseph death, so Brother Dunham wasn’t entrusted with leading it afterwards anyway. The fact that the legion allowed itself to be disarmed and disbanded is actually further evidence that they weren’t willing to go to war for Joseph or in memory of him. Why would he not be trusted anymore when obviously they all were seemingly on the same page?

    Richard Anderson is employing a very well understood methodology in LDS apologetics with his story. Call into question any piece of evidence that doesn’t support your conclusions and accept things that do with reckless abandon. I don’t know for sure if JS called for help or not, but all the evidence available from June 1st to June 27th 1844 would seem to support the notion of someone working very hard to get out of the situation he put himself in.

  43. MH,

    Sorry it’s taken so long to get back to you. Joseph Smith died at the hands of a mob who hated him because of the cult like organization he started. History is replete with others in the same boat with the same outcome. Does that make him a martyr for the cause? Perhaps, but what cause are we talking about? There were other reformers working in the 1800’s without fear of being killed. I would purpose to you that if JS had setup the church as we find it today, he would have never been in the situation to die for the cause. In other words, he died for polygamy and isolationism, the two things we’ve spent a goodly amount of effort trying to get past. So, did JS die in-vane?

  44. #11-

    The question is not if we can we find quotes in the bible that we can use to justify violence. Clearly many people can and do. Proof texting reveals nothing.

    One of the more common themes in both the OT and NT concerns the ethical and spiritual obligation we have for the well being of others. This is a very old Hebrew theme and it is further refined in Christ’s teachings. The many examples given suggest that our spiritual / ethical obligations are of the highest order and are indeed a spiritual priority.

    If one wants to make the case for violence it’s necessary to explain the nature and meaning of the suspension of the ethical that any violence by definition involves. scripture itself does not provide the answer to such a question. Further, it is necessary to explain why violence is spiritually superior to not doing violence. In you post you seem to be relying on the apparent pragmatics of the situation to provides the necessity of violence and to make that necessity plain to all. But what if its not plain? On the spiritual level pragmatics do not provide such an impetus. So what are the spiritual, prophetic, and ethical necessities of violence in such a situation or any situation? I don’t think this question can be answered, I don’t think it has an answer, its merely there to provide an avenue of exploration that would reveal the extreme challenge that violence poses to the ethical and the spiritual.

  45. Doug G, perhaps you could use some good shampoo when you get your dandruff up. 🙂 (I think you meant dander. I love you like a brother, and I have to give you a hard time. That just really made me chuckle.)

    Now Doug, let’s be honest. All sides are guilty of “spin”, but I think the real spinmasters on this topic are the antagonists. The church often gets rightfully accused of glossing over unpleasant facts, but this particular issue is not one of them. As Coffinberry said, the details about the gun are in the primary manual. It is the anti-Mormons who distort the facts much more than the LDS church does on this issue, and if one wants to claim any semblance of objectivity, I think this is a case where the anti-Mormons exaggerate and distort facts to make this look much worse than it is. Do you agree?

    Doug and Douglas: The Bible and Book of Mormon are replete with examples that that many people would problematic in which the “good guys” used to outwit the “bad guys”. Antagonists act as if God intervenes only with miracles (never questionable tactics), but sometimes it seems that less spiritual means are used for “God’s purposes” (especially in the Bible.) Abraham tried to kill Isaac. Jacob cheated Esau out of the birthright. Nephi killed Laban.

    If Joseph was plotting to get out of jail, I don’t see it as materially different than Moses and Joshua employing spies in their wars to beat their enemies. Joshua even utilized the prostitute Rahab to help in their defeat of Jericho. Now it can easily be argued that if Joshua was truly a prophet, why would he utilize a woman of such ill-repute? Certainly we can look at Joshua and find major faults with the way he handled the war effort in Jericho, as I have done previously. Frankly, I think there are many questionable practices in the Bible, that the Bible uses to justify certain moral behavior. Yes some of these things really bother me. I think it is important to acknowledge these and set the record straight, and I think Oaks and the church do a very good job on this particular topic. My survey of anti-Mormon websites on this topic leads me to believe they intentionally are distorting facts here.

    Doug, I find your question strange: “he died for polygamy and isolationism, the two things we’ve spent a goodly amount of effort trying to get past. So, did JS die in-vane?” So, are you saying that Joseph’s primary purpose in setting up the church was to promote polygamy and isolationism? I’m not denying that those play a prominent role in the church’s history, but polygamy wasn’t even acknowledged for the first 12 or so years of the church’s existence. Isolationism was Brigham’s legacy, not Joseph’s. I don’t believe for a minute that Joseph was trying to promote isolationism. With Joseph running for President of the US at the time of his death, this is the polar opposite of isolationism.

  46. Douglas Hunter, I admit I am a pragmatist. It’s nice to pretend that we live in a spiritual world, and that we should put spiritual priorities above practical concerns. I think the Bible has ethically questionable stories, where one has to make the decision on whether to lose one’s life to save it (in the next world), or save one’s life to make this world a better place. If all the good people are killed because they won’t fight back, what keeps the world from going to a downward spiral of nuclear holocaust? If we want to keep this world around, there have to be pragmatists who may use ethically questionable tactics at times. Otherwise, evil triumphs. Is the greater good accomplished when evil triumphs because good men do nothing, or is it ok to go to war to put someone like Hitler to death to prevent him from a reign of terror. I go with option 2. I don’t think non-violence is a good option in a situation like this, and I think violence is warranted.

    It’s all good and well to try to use non-violent means to get the message across, but is India a better place because Ghandi refused to use violence? Perhaps Ghandi provides a great spiritual lesson in non-violence, but perhaps he didn’t really affect things in the long run in India. I think people like him and Mother Teresa are admirable, and they serve a useful purpose, but if everyone were like them, I’m afraid that people like Hitler would triumph. I think these are the kinds of questions that we all must wrestle with. Perhaps there is no right answer. I think pragmatism and pacifism have their place in the conversation. The scriptures are replete with these paradoxes. Abinadi dies in a non-violent protest, while Captain Moroni defends wives, religion, and freedom. I find no fault with either, but I admit I’m partial to Captain Moroni over Abinadi.

  47. “I have been in discussions in at least three different wards (in different stakes) where the martydom was discussed; in everyone the gun was mentioned (and not by me) and no one batted an eyelid.”

    Since its now more or less common knowledge maybe will see the church movies showing the prophet holding the gun Joseph Smiths wifes standing next to Emma 🙂

  48. Maybe but I have not seen any church movies of the martyrdom. Plus Joseph never really seemed to have put his wives in the same room because it was secret and so perhaps for historical accuracy they don’t put them on screen together. I do suggest this, but as Church movies are didactic unless it serves an educational purpose they won’t put it in. But primary manuals. They already include it. Plus anyone that did not know joseph was a polygamist seems to have missed D&C 132. He did write it.

  49. MH – I don’t think that many people have issue with JS defending himself, or even looking to evade capture. the issue is his status of martyr and the impression that gives. I doubt many would call David Koresh a Martyr but you are happy to include him in the list due to the awkward definition of martyr.

    do you not see that most active members have not been to Carthrage, and many are not in nor have been in primary most gain there historical information from, Videos, Testimony meeting and lessons (please highlight where in our lessons Sunday school, priesthood).

    Again I don’t believe the Church or anyone has been intentionally dishonest, but if we were to show a video of Waco in a “didactic” way to teach a moral lesson, omitting the Davidian’s use of firearms, surely this paints a different picture and you can see why some may take issue with this?

    If mentioning JS as a Martyr means that people such as David Koresh can claim the same accolade then I’d rather the title be reserved for only those who died in a non-violent way such as Christ.

  50. “Plus Joseph never really seemed to have put his wives in the same room because it was secret and so perhaps for historical accuracy they don’t put them on screen together.”

    Actually I think Joseph did actually gather many of his wives together into the same room on numerous occassions, I believe he called it The Relief Society.

  51. While I love the oppurtunity to draw parallels between early Mormonism and other similar religious groups (carefully avoiding the word “cult” which has a stronger connotation than what I think applies, not sure on that one yet.) it should be noted that in Waco, the branch of Davidians (I think that’s what they called themselves) actually locked themselves in the compound and drew arms first. So as a matter of the gun issue with Joseph Smith, the scenario was not the same. As far as what precipitated the matter, that is a different issue. According to Wikipedia it was alleged polygamy, including child sexual abuse which brought the matter to the fore.

  52. #48 – MH, I don’t think it’s entirely fair to say that polygamy is Brigham’s legacy and not Joseph’s. Joseph introduced it, practiced it to a degree that rivals anyone’s in the history of the church and instituted it as an eternal and necessary practice. The fact that he lied about it and Brigham didn’t doesn’t necessarily mean it’s Brigham’s legacy and not Joseph’s. Besides, the point being made was that polygamy was the primary motivation behind his assassination, and by that time everyone knew what Joseph was doing, so I think it’s a fair point. All you have to do is read the Nauvoo Expositor to understand the motivation of those who killed him, and it wasn’t really about the church’s theology. Obviously you can argue that polygamy was a doctrine of the church and so again bring the motive back around to religious belief, but I think that is somewhat disingenuous. For the most part I don’t think the church’s neighbors cared about their beliefs, they cared about their actions. Secondly, I would agree with you that isolationism is not an appropriate description of the church’s posture toward their neighbors. I think religious imperialism might be a more apt term, and I think it’s fair to say that that, combined with polygamy, was absolutely behind not only the assassination of Joseph and Hyrum, but many of the trials the saints had experienced leading up to those events. That’s not to say that the persecution of the saints was justified, because there is no justification for incidents like Hahn’s Mill, but again, I think it’s disingenuous to paint a picture in which Joseph and the saints were just peacefully minding their own business, trying to worship on their own and keeping to themselves. They were very aggressive, to the point of threatening, to their neighbors in several instances, and this was a major motivation in the way things unfolded.

  53. mrQandA, where is the church teaching joseph had no firearm? it is in the primary manual and oaks book, and guides at carthage point out this fact. apparently not everyone is getting the message but I think that is a problem with every large organization. once again the church isn’t misrepresenting it-but I think that some anti mormon websites are.

  54. brjones, I was pointing out that isolation was brigham’s legacy. polygamy belongs to both, and I agree that it played a part in joseph’s death. but I think religious imperialism was a larger reason for the lynch mob forming than people give credit. I think polygamy was icing on the cake, but the mob was more concerned with religious imperialism than polygamy.

  55. Sorry MH, I just misread your comment.

    #59 – I would agree with this for the most part. I guess it’s a fair distinction to say that the Nauvoo Expositor was driven largely by polygamy, but that was not necessarily the same makeup as the lynch mob. I don’t know that I’d go so far as saying that polygamy was “icing on the cake” since there were other incidents of violence that may have been driven by the manner in which Joseph practiced polygamy (the tarring and feathering at the Johnson farm comes to mind). But I think it’s very possible that if it had just been mormons practicing polygamy among mormons that outsiders would have left them alone, regardless of how distasteful they found that particular practice.

  56. #58 – In my opinion, I think some of the other facts surrounding the events at Carthage that have been discussed, such as Joseph originally planning to flee, summoning the legion, etc., are more compelling on the issue of whether or not Joseph was really going to Carthage as a martyr, than the issue of the gun. Obviously it’s ultimately a matter of opinion, but I’ve never been particularly bothered by the fact that he had and used a gun. I think it’s difficult to ever fault someone for trying to save his own life, and definitely for trying to save the lives of others, as may have been the case. Even Jesus made an attempt to get out of the atonement/crucifiction, according to scripture, and I’ve never heard anyone say that this fact diminishes his sacrifice. Again, I think there are other points that have bearing on whether Joseph was truly acting as selflessly and nobly as is portrayed by the church, but I just don’t really think him using a gun is that relevant.

  57. brjones I agree. I know some people want to take issue with joseph’s ‘lamb to slaughter’ comment. but I don’t have a problem with it at all. 200 heavily armed men with the intention of lynching joseph is a slaughter: 2 men dead,and a third critically wounded is the definition of a slaughter. so joseph got 3 shots off- big deal. it was like a lamb to slaughter and I can’t understand why anyone takes issue with this either.

    I think it is fair game to call joseph’s actions prior to incarceration, but to characterize this as a gun battle than joseph merely lost (as if joseph initiated the battle) is a clear mischaracterization.

  58. “I know some people want to take issue with joseph’s ‘lamb to slaughter’ comment.”


    Theres no question that the martyrdom was lambs to the slaughter, but the objection people (me) raise to this comment has nothing to do with whether or nor Joseph Smith had a fighting chance. This comment is often employed to demonstrate that Joseph Smith was aware of his fate prior to going to Carthage, through the spirit of prophecy.

  59. MH — Joseph did say “if” I am killed. That “if” usually gets omitted from quotes of the “lamb to the slaughter” remark.

  60. Here’s the quote from page 17.

    The charges of betrayal and cowardice stung the prophet. ‘If my life is of no value to my friends it is of none to myself,’ adding ‘if they had let me alone there would have been no bloodshed but now I expect to be butchered.’

    ‘The prophet remarked as he rode out of Nauvoo, ‘I go as a lamb to the slaughter.’

    I can provide footnotes if you want.

  61. I realize this is a bit of a rehash of my last comment, but I’m not sure why this gets people so worked up. Any person with even a marginal level of intelligence and perceptiveness would have understood that, in the current circumstances, Joseph Smith’s life was in serious danger. In fact, everyone seemed to have understood that. The only people who thought there wasn’t any real danger of him being killed were those members who were sure the lord would deliver him. But even that isn’t a comment on the danger level, but rather reflects faith that the lord would work a miracle to deliver him. It didn’t take a prophet to predict that this was likely going to be the end for Joseph, or at least that an attempt would be made. Frankly, you would have to have been and idiot not to see it coming.

  62. “It didn’t take a prophet to predict that this was likely going to be the end for Joseph, or at least that an attempt would be made. Frankly, you would have to have been and idiot not to see it coming.”

    This articulates my point very well. It is one thing to throw the bones and predict rain, and entirely another to see the approaching thunderhead and conclude that there’s a storm-a-brewin’. Which makes even more sense when we take into account that Joseph was on the lam before it was lambs to the slaughter.

  63. it seems to me like brjones, cowboy and I agree that joseph’s life was in danger, so I still don’t understand why anyone has a problem with the ‘lamb to slaughter’ comment, or characterizing joseph as a martyr. at this point it seems to be a semantic argument rather than one based on facts, and the semantic argument seems to be splitting hairs, imo.

  64. I think the problem for those in Cowboy’s camp is not really anything Joseph did or said. It’s more the fact that some have attempted to cast his words and actions in a more prophetic or benevolent light than is perhaps the reality. Obviously he didn’t do anything objectively wrong in trying to save his life, even for a prophet, in my opinion. But there are clearly some who feel that there have been attempts made to color the events to make it appear that, as opposed to acting the way any person in that situation would have acted, Joseph acted in some higher or nonbler prophetic manner.

  65. Again, Brjones say’s it better than I am. Among the list of things about Joseph Smith that I find objectionable, attempting to save his life is not one of them. If he did infact kill three men, which apparently he did not, I would still find no reasonable objection to his conduct at that time. I don’t even have a problem with the quote, it just wasn’t prophecy.

  66. I guess the point of my article was to take issue with people who get all worked up when they discover Joseph had a gun and shot 3 people. I carpool to work, and I asked my buddy if he knew Joseph shot 3 people. He did not know that. As I related the story, he said he did recall that Joseph’s gun misfired 3 times, so after telling the story, he did recall Joseph had a gun, though the details of the jailhouse shooting were dim for him. He wasn’t bothered by the fact that Joseph shot people, given the fact that there were 200 armed men storming the jail; he felt that Joseph was justified in his actions. I just take issue with those who think it is so sinister for Joseph to defend himself. That makes no sense to me.

    I also have a problem with people who take issue with the “lamb to slaughter” comment. Whether one wants to claim it was an inspired comment, or simply common sense doesn’t really bother me. What bothers me are people who look at Joseph’s actions and say, “see, Joseph didn’t act like a lamb. He should have been submissive and laid his life down like Jesus.” This kind of Monday morning quarterbacking makes absolutely no sense to me, and makes mountains out of molehills. I think such comments are hypercritical, and not grounded in reality. These people seem to forget that Joseph had been threatened, beaten, and seen his followers killed.

    While the anti-Nephi-Lehies were willing to be perfectly pacifist and willingly died, their children became the 2000 Stripling Warriors who were not pacifists at all. I think most people are like the latter group, not the former.

  67. Wow. 72 comments mostly arguing about what “martyr” and “lamb” really mean. Each of us really does see what we believe, rather than believing what we see.

    Great post, MH – and I also can’t get worked up about this one. I first heard about this when I was in primary, and that was decades ago. If the Church has tried to hide or distort this, it’s done a lousy job of it.

  68. Interesting article. Yes the gun and Smith’s defense is not shocking however, the church has tried to keep the gun quiet. In the 70’s the front cover of the Ensign showed Joe’s gun. In the 80’s & 90’s it disappeared and was never talked about. The past two years the gun has come back to surface where it’s ok to admit he had one. The gun and his defense is not really an issue in my view.

    Was Smith a martyr? If he was in jail because of his religious beliefs and he refused to deny or denounce those beliefs, then ok he was a martyr. However, it is very clear that he was jailed for breaking the law. The “mob” did not come after him because of his beliefs in polygamy, the BOM, multiple Gods, etc. They came after him for putting himself above the law and threatening others way of life and beliefs. If he as mayor can destroy someone’s property and deny them due course of the law, it wouldn’t take long before he would do the same to others who disagreed with him. If Smith was more “Christlike” he never would have been in that mess. Given the time period and all the doings by Smith before this, anyone could’ve seen it coming unless blinded by faith.

    Overall my problem is that the church actively hides or misleads members in knowing and finding the truth. Only someone who knows how to research and takes the time to search will find the truth. The majority are left with only a portion of the truth that makes the church look good. Oh. that’s why Smith wanted to destroy Law’s printing press, he was printing about polygamy which went against the standards. Hmm, some church practices still exist. If the church teachings are true, then it can withstand all the garbage, if you must hide all the garbage, you loose credibility. If some of the church is not true, then does that mean the whole is not true?

  69. MH,

    My apologies for the hasty and poorly written comment I wrote in the few minutes I had before leaving town this week. I’ve read the posts by folks who have looked into this deeper than me and agree with brjones on imperialism vs. isolationism. Having said that, polygamy accusations got Joseph’s “dander” up and drove him to destroy the William Law’s press. Therefore, while I agree the mob probably didn’t care too much about polygamy, Joseph wouldn’t have been put within their reach had he never started the practice.

    The Mormons were diligently trying to establish “Zion” thereby developing communities with large groups of people who voted in blocks and networked within. (Not a very pleasant situation for the locals or their economies.) So again, I agree the mobs rallied against the church and Joseph because they were a threat. His death then was the direct result of “imperialism” and polygamy. Don’t you agree?

    I am curious about a couple of thing involving the guns at Carthage. If Hyrum died first and Joseph sprang to his side and realized there was nothing he could do to help him, why didn’t he grab Hyrum’s’ revolver? Wouldn’t you go to the door armed with as much firepower as you could to defend yourself? More likely an exchange of gun fire erupted between the mob coming up the stairs and Joseph when his brother was shot. I suspect he went to his brothers side after firing and then to the window for escape. Not that it changes the story much, but the way it’s written in Church history seems problematic. Also, Hyrum is said to have been shot in the back as well as the face at the same time. Given the height of the window and the shallow angle needed to clear the window case and hit a man in the back standing in the middle of the room, the shooter would have needed a modern high powered rifle as he would have had to have been back over a hundred yards. The ball also managed to go all the way through his body and break his vest pocket watch. I just don’t think a shot fired from that distance would have enough velocity to penetrate the torso of a full grown man. As I said, there seems to be some problems with the official account. Just wondering if anyone else found these things interesting?

  70. Doug, “while I agree the mob probably didn’t care too much about polygamy, Joseph wouldn’t have been put within their reach had he never started the practice.”

    Let’s pretend that polygamy had nothing to do with the events in Nauvoo. The Saints were kicked out of Kirtland and Missouri, and it had nothing to do with polygamy. In Kirtland, the bank failure and local elections were the problem. In Missouri, the slave issue and local elections were the problem. Polygamy played no issue in these two expulsions (because polygamy was unsubstantiated rumors at this time.) Joseph had been arrested for lots of things, and the issue wasn’t really polygamy per se, but it was the Nauvoo charter, and Joseph’s attempts to circumvent the law by essentially making Nauvoo review any arrest warrants. The polygamy issue/destruction of the press provided a reason to arrest him, just like the bank failure caused problems. If the two problems had been reversed, (polygamy in Kirtland and bank in Nauvoo) we’d be talking about the bank failure rather instigating the crisis rather than polygamy. The mob was looking for a reason to lynch Joseph, and the Nauvoo Expositor provided them with a reason. I’m sure that they were looking for any reason, and it could have been Joseph’s failed extradition to Missouri, or Gov Boggs attempted assassination which could have easily been the straw to break the camel’s back. Polygamy is a scape goat–habeas corpus and control of county law was the real issue gentiles had a problem with.

    Once again, we seem overly focused with Joseph’s supposed misdeeds. Part of the reason the Nauvoo charter was created was because gentiles had burned, beaten, robbed, and arrested Joseph and his followers. Joseph was reacting to the frontier misjustice that was handed to him. Why would someone have any confidence in gentile justice when not a single person was was arrested for Haun’s Mill Massacre, which had to be fresh on Joseph’s mind? Nobody was convicted of Joseph’s murder, even though 200 participated in the lynching. Joseph had appealed to the President to redress property illegally taken in Missouri, and the president said it was a local issue, and offered no help. Joseph was subject to mob justice, which was far from fair.

    If you want to blame Joseph for his destruction of the printing press, let’s not forget that just a few years earlier, the mobs had destroyed the church’s printing press in Missouri, and nobody was arrested for that. What was the scandal the church printed at the time? It wasn’t polygamy, it was the church advocating free blacks come to Missouri–a slave state. I’m sure Joseph felt justified since it was apparently legal to destroy the church’s printing press in Missouri. But printing press justice is blind when gentiles destroy Mormon presses–when it turns the other way, the Mormons end up dead. Where is the justice in that? Can anyone fault Joseph for acting the same as the Missourians with regard to printing presses? Where do you think he got the idea? Why was nobody arrested in Missouri?

    As for Hyrum being shot in the face and back, it seems to me that he was probably shot in the face by those approaching from the door. He probably turned as he fell, and the lynch mob shot him in the back. I don’t think Cubans/Russians provided a high powered rifle to Lee Harvey Oswald who hid in the Book Depository (as with JFK) to shoot Hyrum in the back when there were so many participants in close proximity who could have easily shot Hyrum in the back. There was so much action going on, I don’t think John Taylor and Willard Richards needed to focus on such details. Once again, such analysis seems hypercritical to me. Have you done similar analysis on the Haun’s Mill Massacre?

  71. MH:

    I can appreciate the sentiment that the law was not always fair with the Church. That is not an adequate justification for the destruction of William Law’s printing press, which was a case of Mormons vs Mormons. It was an internal conflict, and the contents of the expositor showed Joseph Smith to be a fraud, ie, he was practicing polygamy when he publicly declared that he was not.

  72. #76 – I also think it’s a bit overly simplistic to say that the church’s problems in Kirtland and Missouri were due to control of the law. I would reassert my contention that religious imperialism was the primary culprit here. While there is absolutely no justification for the way the mormons were treated, it shouldn’t have been a stretch to foresee what the reaction would be when Joseph continued to preach publicly and aggressively that the lord was going to destroy the church’s enemies and give the saints all their property. How did he really think the church’s neighbors were going to react to this? This kind of rhetoric doesn’t make their behavior ok, but it certainly makes it predictable. And lest we paint a picture of the saints as being nothing but meek and mild and continuing to turn cheek after cheek without retaliation, let’s not forget how the mormons raided the town of Gallatin, burned it to the ground, took all the property and sent women and children out into the cold, and then bragged about it afterward. Obviously the same was done to the mormons, so I’m not saying that they were any more guilty than others, or even that they were the instigators. But it makes Joseph’s subsequent declarations that the church would “no longer” submit to mob justice ring a little hollow.

  73. I completely understand that 2 wrongs don’t make a right, but it seems like criticism of Joseph ignores the injustices endured. nobody remembers the printing press in missouri when the talk about the expositor.

  74. #79 – I think this is a fair point, MH. I guess my only response would be that, at least in this forum, the issue of the printing press has not been used so much as a justification of the treatment of Joseph as support for the argument that Joseph’s death was not simply for his beliefs, but was a direct and indirect result of his behaviors, including polygamy. I also think it’s fair to point out that those who destroyed the church’s printing press in Missouri and those who murdered women and children at Haun’s Mill and ran the saints out of state after state are not claiming to be prophets, who acted at the behest of and in the name of god. Joseph Smith and the church ARE making that claim. History remembers those who persecuted the saints as scoundrels and religious bigots. That’s not really in question. Joseph Smith’s claims, though, deserve to be held to a much higher standard. Who cares if some thugs in Missouri destroyed the church’s printing press? It was criminal and it was wrong, but those people were just ignorant persecutors. Not relevant to history beyond that act. But a man who did the same thing and then claimed to be acting on directions from god, is a completely different story (I’m not suggesting that he ever claimed that destroying the printing press was a direction from god, but as a prophet, I think all his actions are open to a higher degree of criticism). Or a man who directed his followers to pillage a town and drive women and children into the cold and steal others’ personal property, is a different story. Are his acts any worse than those who did it first? I think not. Should he have taken a higher road in his reactions? I guess that’s a matter of opinion. But I certainly think that those who criticize Joseph for some of these behaviors have a decent argument that a prophet should have been above that kind of response.

  75. brjones, I agree that a prophet should be held to a higher standard. from the d&c, we see that Joseph was constantly petitioning the Lord for help ‘ how long must we endure this suffering?’

    there will be a difference of opinion as to whether joseph was patient enough. certainly joseph didn’t follow through on his zion’s camp experience to go to war in missouri so most tbm’s are going to say joseph exercised much more patience than gentiles did. elder oaks gave a conference talk a few years ago stating that freedom of the press wasn’t always followed in joseph’s day. certainly the destruction of the church press in missouri indicates oaks is correct. in hindsight, joseph shouldn’t have ordered the destruction of the press, though he did get the city council to approve the move, unlike the mobbers in missouri. his actions were a higher standard than in missouri though obviously they should have been higher. but I think the mobbers were looking for any excuse to attack joseph and even if he had handled the expositor problem better, the mobbers would have found something else to lynch him for.

    it is also important to understand that part of joseph’s imperialism was because the mormon constitutional rights were trampled. joseph was adopting some of the heavy handed tactics only after the saints were denied justice. I am sure he felt his imperial rule would have been more just than the democracy which had failed to protect the saints.

    I am not saying I endorse joseph’s position on theocracy, but I am trying to explain his mindset and actions.

  76. #81 – I understand, and I don’t necessarily disagree with you. I personally wouldn’t rush to judge Joseph’s actions too hastily. I think, to a somewhat lesser degree, the actions he took in response to mob justice on occasion is in the same vein as him trying to save his life in Carthage. So again, I’m not saying he was wrong, I’m just saying that it didn’t always show the best judgment on his part. I would add that, although in the Kirtland and Missouri years, I would not necessarily disagree with you about the motivations behind Joseph’s religious imperialism. In the Nauvoo years, though, with the proliferation of extreme dogmas and practices like polygamy, the council of 50 and being ordained the king of the earth, I think Joseph may have lost all sense of perspective and his imperialism may have crossed over into the beginning of some kind of religious hysteria. Doctrinal implications aside, the tone of the King Follett discourse is somewhat troubling, particularly when he compares himself to the likes of Paul, John, Peter and Jesus and finds them on the short end of the stick. I don’t think his imperialist behavior in his last months can be chalked up as a reaction to oppressive neighbors.

  77. Like I said, I think there’s a decent case that it was a deepening religious hysteria. If you don’t like that terminology, call it a development in his theology. Either way, I think it’s a stretch to argue that it wasn’t primarily internally motivated. The fact is, Joseph and the saints had been persecuted consistently, and long before Nauvoo, and Joseph never responded with, to my knowledge, rants like the one in the King Follett discourse or having himself ordained as the king of the earth. Throughout the Nauvoo period his rhetoric grew increasingly more paranoid and imperialist, and his talk of worldly power grew demonstrably more constant and serious, considering his presidential aspirations and the unabashed imperialist platform upon which he ran. I just don’t see how such an uptick in this kind of thinking and rhetoric can be written off as a reaction to pressures from outside the church, as opposed to a development of his theological philosophy.

  78. I’m not sure the tit for tat over printing presses has much relevance. If the Nauvoo expositor was destroyed in response to external persecution from rival communities, or an agressive military, then mabey there would be a point here. The fact is, the Nauvoo expositor was the result of internal turmoil with Church leadership, and again Joseph Smiths nefarious practices and teachings, such as polygamy. So I don’t follow the line of reasoning that says, “well, the dirty pool played by the mobs in Missouri was to destroy our printing press, commensurte justice suggests we can destroy the expositor which was produced by a former apostle in Nauvoo”. The two events were just dissimilar enough that they bear no justification for one another, even in some sort of imperfect way.

  79. MH,

    I don’t want you to misread what I’m getting at with your original post. I think the killing of Joseph and his brother were horrible acts committed by men I would never want to associate with. A despicable part of early American history that has no justification no-matter what Joseph and his followers did. We are a nation of law and thereby must be subject to them even when we don’t think we’re getting treated fairly. That goes both for the folks in Illinois as well as the Saints.

    In writing about this subject, I was merely trying to show the circumstances that led up to the lynching. The fact that Joseph and Hyrum were armed is a very small part of the story. The events that led up to their arrest are not well understood or taught to members for reasons I’m still not sure I understand.

    As Cowboy and Brjones alluded to, Joseph’s end has more to do with the internal fracturing of his organization then any outside hatred. The Kirtland problems also were a direct result of internal struggles with Joseph’s leadership and the failure of the bank. So, to your point, he was in-trouble most when his group became a house divided on critical issues. Polygamy was no different and therefore happened to be the catalyst that got him in front of a lynch mob.

    I don’t think we’re in disagreement on any of your points accept that you seem to be implying that everything that happened to him was the fault of others. (Both with apostates and frontier justice.) I just don’t see it that way. He narrowly escaped Missouri with his life and yet continued on the same path that got him imprisoned there. I’ll reiterate my comment from before. If Joseph had established the church, as it is today, he would never been killed by a mob. So again, what did he die for? It wasn’t for the restoration as the things the church and Joseph did that ignited hatred are not part of who we are today. If you’re going to insist that he died as a martyr, I think you should be willing to go the next step and show what causes he brought to life that needed his blood to seal.

    My point in bringing up Hyrum’s killing was to show that the official history of the martyrdom is colored by the people who wrote it. John Taylor worked very hard to portray both men going to the slaughter innocent of any wrong doing. I don’t think we have the other side of the story here to balance it with. The events at Carthage probably went down much differently than his report. Things like, who fired first, how many were actually in the mob, and if the governor took part in the conspiracy are lost to history. Given the church’s propensity to “color” events toward the eye of the believer, I don’t think we can trust this one source for all the facts.

  80. Brjones, I guess I have a different take on the facts you mentioned in 84. I think there is a decent case that prior persecutions were precisely the reason Joseph turned more militant in Nauvoo. Quinn makes the claim that Joseph taught the saints to bear afflictions patiently 3 times, and then they were welcome to retaliate. He outlines it in his book Origins of Power, I believe. Additionally, the saints were constantly asking Joseph when the Lord was going to intervene. Surely these people influenced Joseph toward a more militant position. Appeals had been exhausted, and Bushman says that Joseph ran for president, not because he thought he would win, but rather to gain concessions as a third-party candidate. (It seems like Bushman compared Smith’s run to John Adams, or someone like that–I’ll have to double-check.)

    As we look at the evidence, Joseph originally wanted to build an egalitarian society like the city of Enoch, where there were no poor among them. When his friends turned into mortal enemies, I think Joseph became increasingly frustrated. Bushman says in this interview, (referring to Mormon theocracy under Joseph and Brigham), “That intense pressure from the federal government was backed up by every branch of government, including the Supreme Court, which was, in Joseph Smith’s spirit, the Mormons’ last best hope. They believed to the end that the Constitution was on their side and that they were simply claiming religious freedom, but the Supreme Court knocked down their claims one after another…..Mormonism gave up on its radicalism because the United States government beat it out of them. They were forced to the point of extinction and then realized it all had to be abandoned to preserve their existence as Mormons.”

    Surely this had something to do with Joseph’s increasing militancy in the days of Nauvoo, and not merely some sort of invented “religious hysteria.” Such comments don’t seem to take into account the virulent persecutions Joseph was subject to.

    Smith was forced into politics by the abuse that the Mormons received. As soon as they were driven out of their first city site in Independence, Mo., he turned to the government for redress. He never obtained it. No level of government, from local justices of the peace to governors to the president of the United States – to whom he constantly appealed – ever came to the defense of the Saints.

  81. That last paragraph in 87 is a quote from Bushman.

    Cowboy, “I’m not sure the tit for tat over printing presses has much relevance. “ Viewed in isolation, I agree with you. However, I don’t think the printing press should be viewed in isolation. I think Bushman’s words apply here as well.

    Doug, “the official history of the martyrdom is colored by the people who wrote it.” I couldn’t agree more. Once again, the main reason I wrote this post was to take issue with the antagonists, whose “official history of the martyrdom is colored by the people who wrote it.” From the antagonistic websites I’ve seen, none of them talk about the issues we are talking about. They paint Joseph as a master schemer, who got what he deserved. They never mention misdeeds of the mobbers (unlike you, Cowboy, and brjones), but make the lynching sound justifiable. I think that’s reprehensible. I thank you 3 for explicitly stating that these mobbers were thugs and murderers, but that kind of balance is missing from “official” websites antagonistic to the church, and I find that just as problematic (if not more so) than the church’s whitewashing of certain events.

    If Joseph had established the church, as it is today, he would never been killed by a mob. Agreed, but the church today would be nothing if it weren’t for Joseph Smith.

    So again, what did he die for? It wasn’t for the restoration as the things the church and Joseph did that ignited hatred are not part of who we are today. If you’re going to insist that he died as a martyr, I think you should be willing to go the next step and show what causes he brought to life that needed his blood to seal.

    There’s so many ways to go with this question. If we look at Jesus, why was he killed? In the Jewish court of the day, he was guilty of blasphemy. While this was a capital offense for the Law of Moses, blasphemy didn’t matter to the Romans. So the Jews had to invent another reason to make Jesus guilty of a capital offense. So, they said he was a King, and therefore guilty of treason against Rome. Treason was a capital offense, and anyone causing a ruckus in the name of revolution would be put to death. So, the case can be made that Jesus didn’t die as a martyr of religion–the Romans couldn’t have care less about the Jews and their religion–Jesus was guilty of treason, and was a traitor to Rome. Romans will say it had nothing to do with religion–heck, even the Pharisees probably would have agreed with that position, and I doubt Pharisees would have seen Jesus as any different from David Koresh. (By the way, thievery wasn’t a capital offense either. The two “robbers” Jesus was crucified between were also revolutionaries. That’s a mistranslation.) So, I think martyr could be in the eye of the beholder/follower, and it has been throughout this discussion.

    What did Joseph die for?

    The Sunday School answer is D&C 135:1 “To seal the testimony of this book [D&C] and the Book of Mormon.”

    The historical answer is “because he tried to set up a theocracy, and ticked off too many people.”

    I remind you that Latter-Day Saints still believe that theocracy is the ultimate form of government, and when Christ comes again, it will be the form of government that Jesus uses. We haven’t backed away from that belief, or even polygamy as an eternal principle (though I know you are familiar with my beliefs on polygamy, which are not orthodox). Consecration is still seen as the ideal economy of God. We still believe in eternal progression and temple work as Joseph taught. So, while the church isn’t as radical on these beliefs as it was in the 1830’s and 1840’s. As Richard Bushman says, “Mormonism gave up on its radicalism because the United States government beat it out of them.” The church as a whole hasn’t fully abandoned the things Joseph died for–it has just placed them in a dormant state, with the idea that when Christ comes again, there will be the restitution of all things that Mormons believe Joseph died trying to implement.

  82. #87 – I definitely see your point, MH, and honestly, I don’t think we’re too far apart on this issue. I don’t think any reasonable person would have a hard time recognizing that the saints were definitely on the receiving end of the vast majority of the awful things that were going on at the time. There’s no way to really know exactly what was driving Joseph in the last months of his life. I guess I would agree to an extent that joseph’s increased militancy could have been caused, or at least exacerbated, by the increased intolerance and persecution of outside forces. At the same time, to me that’s kind of like a kid teasing and provoking another kid until the second kid hit hits the first, and then the first kid beats the second kid up in “self defense”. There is no excuse for reacting with violence, but there are REASONS that help explain why it happened, even if they are by no means JUSTIFICATIONS for doing it (I hope this doesn’t sound like an excuse for the inexcusable acts that took place). There’s no question that the persecutions against Joseph and the saints steadily increased. I just think it’s leaving a lot out not to acknolwedge how much Joseph’s actions and rhetoric had to do with constantly stirring up those outsiders to discomfort and ultimately hatred of the church. It doesn’t justify anything that anyone did to them, but I think it does help to paint a more complete picture of how things got to the point they eventually did. I also think that Cowboy and Doug G. make a good point about internal strife and enemies. The church, in my opinion, tends to lump all the enemies of the church into one group and then juxtapose them against Joseph and the saints. I think it’s more accurate, though, to delineate between those outsiders who hated the church for various reasons, and those who turned against the church from within, often for very different reasons. As has been pointed out, the Nauvoo Expositor was driven by intensely personal feelings of those who were very close to Joseph. This is obviously a much different situation than those opposed to the saints in the Missouri War or those politicians who turned their backs on the church. That said, I think it’s also fair to note that the motivation of the lynchmob may have been very different from those who printed the Expositor.

  83. I think I’m ok with this statement, MH, as long as it’s clear that I don’t condone a single act of violence or hatred against joseph or the saints. I don’t think he or they deserved the things that they suffered, and I think the people who perpetrated those acts were the vilest of cowards.

    I’m hoping your comment was an observation and not an indictment (it’s hard to read tone in this forum).

  84. The church has been good to leave out and change many details about history especially any that shows the negative actions of the church. Every place the saints were kicked out of had nothing to do with church doctrine. The gentiles didn’t care what others believed as long as it didn’t harm them. That’s where the church went wrong is in trying to take over the gentiles.

    In Missouri it was more than the slave issue that got the press destroyed, the church offended everyone that was there before them. Bogg’s extermination order was named such to use the same words the church leaders used in Missouri when they said they were going to “exterminate all the gentiles from the land”. The government was reacting to the church’s violence against Missouri citizens. Boggs tried working with the saints. (Many of the records in Missouri confirm this). Hhans Mill was a bad violent act however the gentiles were beaten and threatened by the saints previously. The leaders of the church and the Dannites caused much conflict for everyone. Smith could have prevented all the violence if he acted more like a man on God. Perhaps Brigham Young was right when he said Joseph was a fallen prophet.

    There was much violence and suffering among everyone both gentile and saint. The records (outside of church resources) state that the mormon leadership was the main cause of these inflictions. Isn’t it fair to state that the saints (those who participated in violent acts) were also cowards?
    Why was it so important to Joseph to try to take over everything that the gentiles had? Why did he think he was so much greater than everyone else? His death by a mob was just a matter of time and none of it had anything to do with the religion.

  85. “I’m hoping your comment was an observation and not an indictment.”

    Brjones, I assure you that my comment was an observation. I really do think we see this issue quite similarly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *