32. “To Seal the Testimony”

Accounts of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith by the two men who were there in Carthage Jail are moving and inspiring in their respect for the lost leaders and their devotion to God.

“Two Minutes in Jail,” Willard Richards
This account, which is quoted in the Gospel Doctrine lesson manual, was printed in Times and Seasons, August 1, 1844. The account was included in a later history of the church.

“John Taylor’s June 27, 1854, Account of the Martyrdom,” LaJean P. Carruth, Mark L. Staker, BYU Studies, Vol. 50, no. 3
On the tenth anniversary of the martyrdom, John Taylor gave this address in Salt Lake City. It provides additional small details of events, but most of all it includes Taylor’s unwavering and forceful testimony of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling: “I know that he was a prophet of the Lord; that he lived in that capacity and died in that capacity and maintained his integrity to the end.”

“Physical Evidence at Carthage Jail and What It Reveals about the Assassination of Joseph and Hyrum Smith,” Joseph L. Lyon, David W. Lyon, BYU Studies, Vol. 47, no. 4
This article examines eyewitness accounts of the assault, the layout of the crime scene, the physical evidence left in the jail, and the types of weapons used and the wounds they inflicted on the Smith brothers, John Taylor, and Willard Richards. This multidisciplinary investigation of the martyrdom examines the accuracy of the first-hand accounts of Willard Richards and John Taylor and evaluates the crime scene.

“The Joseph/Hyrum Smith Funeral Sermon,” Richard S. Van Wagoner, Steven C. Walker, BYU Studies, Vol. 23, no. 1
As the hearse bearing the “bodies” of Joseph and Hyrum Smith (actually sandbagged coffins) passed the Nauvoo meeting ground the afternoon of Saturday, 29 June 1844, “William W. Phelps was preaching the funeral sermon.” The choice of Phelps as eulogist to the Prophet and the Patriarch is strange, the content of his sermon stranger, the tone of that sermon strangest of all.

“Life in Nauvoo, June 1844: Vilate Kimball’s Martyrdom Letters,” Ronald K. Esplin, BYU Studies, Vol. 19, no. 2.
Vilate Kimball’s letters provide a detailed view of the emotional and confused atmosphere in Nauvoo during the two weeks leading up to the murders, as well as give an insight into the impact on the city of the event itself.

“‘It Seems That All Nature Mourns’: Sally Randall’s Response to the Murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith,” Steven C. Harper, Jordan Watkins, BYU Studies, Vol. 46, no. 1.
Sally wrote to her friends in the East, explaining her perceptions regarding the Martyrdom, and thus provided one Latter-day Saint woman’s response to what she described as “one of the most horrible crimes committed that ever history recorded.”

“A Little Known Account of the Murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith,” Jan Shipps, BYU Studies ,Vol. 14, no. 3.
A non-Mormon, H. H. Bliss of La Harpe, Illinois, in June 1844 wrote to his family his perspective of the murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.

“The Lynching of an American Prophet,” Warren A. Jennings, BYU Studies ,Vol. 40, no. 1.
Here are letters from David Wells Kilbourne, who disliked the Mormons, describing the Martyrdom.

“Mobocracy and the Rule of Law: American Press Reaction to the Murder of Joseph Smith,” Paul Ellsworth, BYU Studies, Vol. 20, no. 1.
This article examines the way in which the nation’s press reacted to the slaying of Joseph Smith and his brother and suggests some reasons for the attitude of most newspapers regarding this event.

“Nauvoo’s Whistling and Whittling Brigade,” Thurmon Dean Moody, BYU Studies, Vol. 15, no. 4.
The repeal of the Nauvoo Charter in 1845 left the Mormon residents of the city virtually defenseless against persecutors. Feeling compelled to find some means of maintaining discipline in the city streets, the ecclesiastical leaders organized deacons into quorums of 12, headed by bishops, who were assigned to care for the poor and to guard the city. Out of this group arose the Whistling and Whittling Brigade, made up of mostly younger boys, who would escort suspected anti-Mormons, apostates, and other undesirables out of town. Their strategy was to employ harassment and “scare tactics” by following them around in large groups, whistling and whittling with large knives.

“‘Will the Murderers Be Hung?’ Albert Brown’s 1844 Letter and the Martyrdom of Joseph Smith,” Timothy Merrill, BYU Studies, Vol. 45, no. 2.
Albert Brown’s November 11, 1844, letter from Nauvoo to his New York relatives adds significantly to the historical record of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom. Brown wrote from the perspective of one loyal to Joseph Smith. When studied in connection with antagonistic accounts published earlier in BYU Studies, readers of the letter can sense the views, loyalties, and hostilities of the bitterly divided factions that swirled around Joseph Smith as they once did around Jesus Christ.

“Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith,” Joseph I. Bentley, Encyclopedia of Mormonism
An overview of events leading up to and including the martyrdom.

“Martyrs,” Robert C. Patch, Encyclopedia of Mormonism
The Doctrine and Covenants teach that “all they who have given their lives for [God’s] name shall be crowned” (D&C 101:15) and that the blood of the innocent ascends to God “in testimony” (D&C 109:49; cf. 98:13). In this connection, members of the Church refer to the murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith as “the martyrdom of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and Hyrum Smith the Patriarch” (D&C 135:1).

Additional resources

“John C. Calhoun Jr. Meets the Prophet Joseph Smith Shortly before the Departure for Carthage,” Brian Q. Cannon, BYU Studies, Vol. 33, no. 4
This article reproduces a letter from Senator John C. Calhoun to his brother shortly after visiting Nauvoo and meeting with the Prophet Joseph Smith just a few days before he was martyred. This letter contains several interesting, new, or confirming details, and it gives a vivid glimpse into life on the Mississippi River in 1844.

“The Martyrdom of Joseph Smith and His Brother Hyrum by Dan Jones, introduced and translated,” Ronald D. Dennis, BYU Studies, Vol. 24, no. 1
Dan Jones was with Joseph and Hyrum the night before the martyrdom. Here he tells the story as he wrote it as a missionary book that covers the history of the Church from the beginning to 1844.