Special Feature

About the Martyrdom

The 175th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith

Exactly 175 years ago, on Thursday, June 27, 1844, Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed by a mob that stormed the Carthage Jail. Here are key documents and important articles about the martyrdom that have been published in BYU Studies Quarterly.

“Joseph Smith’s Iowa Quest for Legal Assistance: His Letters to Edward Johnstone and Others on Sunday, June 23, 1844,” John W. Welch
Joseph and Hyrum Smith crossed the Mississippi River from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Montrose, Iowa Territory, in the early hours of Sunday, June 23, 1844. They were seeking spiritual guidance and considering their options as they were threatened with arrest: going west, going to Washington, or submitting to arrest. This article gives details of the events of that day and presents little-known documents: letters from Joseph Smith to Iowa lawyers, as he sought legal assistance in preparation for submitting to arrest. By the end of the day, June 23, Joseph, Hyrum, and their companions returned to Nauvoo. They submitted to arrest the next day, and Joseph and Hyrum were martyred on June 27 in Carthage, Illinois.

"John Taylor's June 27, 1844 Account of the Martyrdom," LaJean P. Carruth and Mark L Staker
On June 27, 1854 Elder John Taylor gave what appears to be his first public address sharing his eyewitness account of the martyrdom or Joseph and Hyrum Smith. This shorthand account is incomplete and thus is supplemented with a later copy of the same public address. Taylor gives his testimony of Joseph as a prophet, the legal circumstances of the arrest and the detainment at the jail, and the events of the assault at the jail.

"Road to Martyrdom: Joseph Smith’s Last Legal Cases," Joseph I. Bentley
This article tells of the actions of six men (Francis and Chauncey Higbee, William and Wilson Law, and Robert and Charles Foster) who were key actors in the events leading up to the martyrdom. It examines the legality of the destruction of the Expositor and the charge of treason against Joseph and Hyrum Smith. 

"Life in Nauvoo, June 1844: Vilate Kimball’s Martyrdom Letters," Ronald K. Esplin
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. Heber C. Kimball’s journal tells how much Vilate’s letters meant to him. In 1844, after concluding to become a candidate for President of the United States, Joseph Smith sent out from Nauvoo hundreds of preaching and electioneering missionaries. These included some of the Twelve, who were also to seek Congressional redress for past wrongs to the Mormons.  

"The Martyrdom of Joseph Smith and His Brother Hyrum by Dan Jones," Ronald D. Dennis
Dan Jones was with Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith the night before they were killed. Joseph prophesied that Dan Jones would go to Wales as a missionary, and Jones served two long missions in Wales. He published his account of the history of the Church in Welsh in 1846-47. This article provides the section of that history about the martyrdom in English. It also provides a second report written by Jones in 1855, as a letter to Thomas Bullock. 

"The Day Joseph Smith Was Killed: A Carthage Women’s Perspective," Alex D. Smith
The Account of Amanda Benton Smith, a resident of Carthage, Illinois, and non-Latter-day Saint, suggests that the leaders of the Carthage Greys may not have been complicit in the attack on the jail. 

"Physical Evidence at Carthage Hail and What It Reveals about the Assassination of Joseph and Hyrum Smith," Joseph L. Lyon and David W. Lyon
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.