Late in the evening of 1 November 1838, Major General Samuel D. Lucas of the Missouri State Militia issued the following order to Brigadier General Alexander W. Doniphan:
Sir: You will take Joseph Smith and the other prisoners into the public square of Far West, and shoot them at 9 o'clock tomorrow morning.
Upon receipt of this order, General Doniphan promptly replied:
It is cold-blooded murder. I will not obey your order. My brigade shall march for Liberty tomorrow morning, at 8 o'clock; and if you execute these men, I will hold you responsible before an earthly tribunal, so help me God.
Doniphan's bold stand against his superior officer not only saved the life of Joseph Smith and his fellow prisoners but also marked him as a man of justice.