John Taylor’s June 27, 1854, Account of the Martyrdom

On June 27, 1854, John Taylor, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave what appears to be his first public address sharing his eyewitness account of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Two scribes, George D. Watt and Thomas Bullock, recorded the meeting. George D. Watt’s skill with Pitman shorthand enabled him to work quickly. He recorded these sermons virtually verbatim, only occasionally missing a few words as he strove to keep up with the speakers. Most of what Watt recorded survives in his 1854 papers in a bound notebook. Two-thirds of John Taylor’s address was recorded in this notebook. The last third of the address was recorded in another notebook, which either no longer exists or has not been located.

Presented here, for the first time, is a transcription of Watt’s shorthand recording of John Taylor’s account of the martyrdom, which includes details that do not appear in Taylor’s other accounts of the events surrounding the murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Since the last third of the speech is missing, it is replaced here with Thomas Bullock’s longhand record.

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 50:3
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