June is filled with historically significant events such as D-Day, June 6, 1944, the beginning of the Normandy Invasion which ultimately resulted in the liberation of France.
We also celebrate Father’s Day. I cherish memories of my father who took me with him to the farm where he taught me to work, he taught me in church and school, he believed in me, encouraged me, went out of his way for me, taught me by example to serve and more importantly taught me to be a man and an honorable husband and father. Even though he passed away thirty years ago, I still miss him greatly. It would be wonderful if we could have great experiences with our fathers, and our children honor us as fathers with love and respect. Happy Father’s Day!
I intend, however, to focus this message on events surrounding the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith wherein he and Hyrum sealed their testimonies in blood on June 27, 1844. These occurrences should be impressed on the hearts and minds of SUP members.
John C. Bennett, Mayor of Nauvoo, was charged in May 1842, with assuring women that sexual relations with him were not sinful because Joseph Smith approved. If they became pregnant, he, a physician, would perform an abortion. Some women succumbed to Bennett’s advances.
Investigations revealed he had a history of moving often using his persuasive talents to take advantage of people. It was also discovered he had abandoned his wife and children. Bennett was excommunicated from the church although it was not yet publicized.
On May 19, 1842, the city council accepted Bennett’s resignation as mayor appointing Joseph in his place. John remained in Nauvoo even as the Women’s Relief Society condemned his lies and seductions. His excommunication became public on 15 June when Joseph published a short notice in the Times and Seasons. A few days later Joseph denounced Bennett’s lies and womanizing before a crowd of over a thousand Saints.
John left Nauvoo in a hurry three days later.
Bennett began sending libelous letters, filled with lies and exaggerations denouncing Joseph Smith to newspapers. In one letter he accused the Prophet of ordering the shooting of Lilburn Boggs. These allegations aroused critics of Joseph and the Church. Missouri Governor, Thomas Reynolds, demanded Illinois Governor, Thomas Carling, arrest Joseph and extradite him to Missouri. Fearing an unfair trial, Joseph went into hiding August 10, 1842.
When Governor Carling was succeeded by Thomas Ford in December 1842, Joseph, after four months of hiding, trusting that Governor Ford was more sympathetic, turned himself into Wilson Law, an officer in the Nauvoo Legion and brother to Joseph’s counselor, William Law. He was taken to Springfield for a hearing. Judge Pope, on January 5, 1843, freed Joseph ruling he would not have to stand trial in Missouri. Still, John C. Bennett continued to write embellished falsehoods about Joseph.
On June 21, 1843, Joseph learned the Missouri governor was again seeking his arrest. Governor Ford honored this request. Shortly thereafter, the prophet was arrested by law enforcement officers from Missouri and Illinois on charges of kidnapping and abuse. A writ of habeas corpus was obtained from a nearby judge. When the Nauvoo court declared Joseph’s arrest illegal, Governor Ford refused to interfere in the decision.
The morning of July 12, 1843, Joseph, at Hyrum’s request, asked William Clayton to write the words of the Lord, a ten-page hand written dictation now the 132nd section of the Doctrine and Covenants, authorizing plural marriage.
By December 1843, Joseph learned William Law was guilty of adultery. About this time Hyrum showed William the revelation on marriage. William took it to his wife, Jane, saying he doubted its authenticity. Joseph confirmed it was true. William plead with Joseph to renounce it.
When William was denied access to temple ordinances at the Red Brick Store because of adultery, he became incensed. In December he and his wife stopped meeting with endowed Saints and he began plotting with others who opposed Joseph. Soon William Law was released from the First Presidency.
During this time Joseph wrote to five potential presidential candidates for the 1844 election asking their attitude regarding support for the Saints regaining lost lands in Missouri. Two did not answer, two said it was a state matter, and the last would not commit to help. Because of these responses, Joseph announced his candidacy for president of the United States. On January 29, 1844, the Quorum of the Twelve officially nominated Joseph and he accepted.
William Law professed to believe in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, but being furious about plural marriage, he along with his wife, his brother, Wilson, Robert and Charles Foster, Chauncey and Francis Higbee, Joseph Jackson and others conspired against Joseph.
In April William and Jane Law, and Robert Foster were excommunicated. On 21 April William Law held a public meeting wherein he denounced Joseph as a fallen prophet and began organizing a new church.
Meanwhile, Thomas Sharp at Carthage filled his newspaper with lurid criticisms of Joseph and the church, labeling members “…a gang of outlaws, blacklegs, and bloodsuckers.”
On 10 May, Law announced plans to publish a newspaper, the Nauvoo Expositor. He also charged Joseph with adultery and defamation. Emma was pregnant and very ill. Joseph, not wanting to go into hiding again, decided to go to Carthage, the county seat, to fight the accusations.
The prosecution asked for a delay because a star witness was missing. The hearing was put off and Joseph was released which enraged Thomas Sharp.
On June 7, 1844 the only issue of the Nauvoo Expositor appeared. The next day, Saturday, Joseph convened the city council. When it got late, the meeting adjourned until Monday morning.
Monday Joseph proposed declaring the newspaper a public nuisance. The council voted to destroy the press and assigned the city marshal to oversee the destruction. That evening the marshal and about a hundred men broke into the print shop, dragged the press into the street and with sledgehammers smashed it to pieces. The type drawers were dumped; the pile was sent on fire along with newspaper copies.
Thomas Sharp used the destruction of the press to rally against the Saints. Two days later an armed mob of 300 men formed at Carthage to march on Nauvoo. On 12 June, Joseph and the city council were arrested by a lawman from Carthage. The Nauvoo Municipal Court ruled the charges baseless and released the prisoners. Knowing of the Carthage mob, Joseph, the mayor and Nauvoo Legion commander, mustered the legion and put Nauvoo under martial law.
Governor Thomas Ford promised protection if Joseph and the city council would stand trial. Instead, on the night of 22 June, Joseph, Hyrum, Willard Richards and Porter Rockwell crossed the Mississippi into Iowa. Joseph
sent Rockwell back to Nauvoo to bring him a horse and to give Emma a letter.
Emma sent Hiram Kimball and Lorenzo Wasson to convince Joseph to return and go to trial. Joseph’s response was, “If my life is of no value to my friends it is of none to myself.” They returned arriving the afternoon
of 23 June.
The morning of June 24th Joseph and Hyrum mounted horses to leave for Carthage. Joseph said as he left, “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but I am as calm as a summer morning.”
Three hours later they met troops who had orders to confiscate state issued arms from the Nauvoo Legion. Joseph returned with them to make sure the men gave up their arms to avoid giving the mob a reason to attack. His group then traveled to Carthage arriving a little before midnight 24 June.
The next morning Joseph and Hyrum turned themselves over to the constable. Later that day the court released them to await charges of causing a riot. Before they could leave, two apostates brought complaints of declaring martial law and of treason, a capital offense for which there is no bail.
Joseph and Hyrum were placed in the county jail where several friends kept them company. The next day they were moved to the second floor of the Carthage Jail to a room with a wooden door and a broken latch. Despite his promise, on 27 June, Governor Ford and some militia went to Nauvoo but did not take Joseph with them. Ford also disbanded one militia unit at Carthage leaving the Carthage Greys as guards.
About 5:00 the jailer asked if the prisoners wanted to move to a more secure cell. They replied they would after supper. Within ten minutes about a hundred men with blackened faces stormed the jail rushing up the stairs to force their way inside. A ball hit Hyrum in the face and another hit his lower back. Willard Richards suffered only a nick in his ear, John Taylor was wounded five times. When a ball hit his leg, he fell against the windowsill smashing his watch; it read 5:16.
Joseph ran to the window. As he straddled the windowsill, two balls hit him in the back. Another came through the window hitting him just below the heart. “Oh Lord, my God,” he cried. He fell headfirst out the window. Joseph, the prophet of the restoration, had sealed his testimony with his blood on June 27, 1844.
I pray we always remember that Joseph lived great and died great.
May we all have a good month and enjoy the beginning of summer.
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