That the Prophet Joseph and his brother, Patriarch Hyrum Smith, were martyred by a mob at Carthage Jail in June 1844 is a well-known fact. A lesser-known fact is that their brother Samuel Harrison Smith, first missionary for the Church, also died a martyr’s death as a direct result of his attempts to aid his brothers while in Carthage. The Joseph Smith, Sr., family had always stood together in their efforts to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion. In her writings, Lucy Mack Smith, mother of the Martyrs, clearly demonstrates that members of the Smith family not only possessed close family ties, strengthened by the gospel, but they also recognized in themselves a divine destiny.
Sharing his mother’s perspective, the Prophet Joseph Smith viewed the Smith family as the nucleus of latter-day Israel and perceived his family solidarity as an essential supporting pillar of the Restoration. Joseph despaired at the notion of disunity. The Prophet’s fear concerning a family division proved prophetic, when the deaths of the Martyrs removed the essential stabilizing element from the flock.
The western Exodus of the Mormons in 1846 resulted in a physical separation of members of the Smith family. The wives and children of Hyrum and Samuel smith went west under the direction of Brigham Young and the Twelve Apostles. The Prophet’s family, his brother William, and his sisters Sophronia, Katherine, and Lucy, and their families, chose to remain behind. Because of ill heath, his mother also decided against joining the western migration, remaining in nearly deserted Nauvoo, Illinois.