Was Joseph Smith Martyred or Murdered?

Joseph Smith, the first prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was killed on June 27, 1844 by a mob while in Carthage Jail in the little town of Carthage, Illinois. Mormons believe he was martyred for the faith. In the LDS Hymnal, “Praise to the Man” is Hymn #27, and is often sung at LDS General Conferences and in ward services on Sunday mornings. This song gives praise to Joseph Smith. A sample of that song that speaks of Joseph Smith’s death is as follows:

Praise to his mem’ry, he died as a martyr;

Honored and blest be his ever great name!

Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins,

Plead unto heav’n while the earth lauds his fame.
Doctrine and Covenants section 135:1-7 describes this event as follows (remember, read this very carefully):

To seal the testimony of this book and the Book of Mormon, we announce the martyrdom of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and Hyrum Smith the Patriarch. They were shot in Carthage jail, on the 27th of June, 1844, about five o’clock p.m., by an armed mob—painted black—of from 150 to 200 persons. Hyrum was shot first and fell calmly, exclaiming: I am a dead man! Joseph leaped from the window, and was shot dead in the attempt, exclaiming: O Lord my God! They were both shot after they were dead, in a brutal manner, and both received four balls.

2 John Taylor and Willard Richards, two of the Twelve, were the only persons in the room at the time; the former was wounded in a savage manner with four balls, but has since recovered; the latter, through the providence of God, escaped, without even a hole in his robe.

Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!

4 When Joseph went to Carthage to deliver himself up to the pretended requirements of the law, two or three days previous to his assassination, he said: “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me—he was murdered in cold blood.”—The same morning, after Hyrum had made ready to go—shall it be said to the slaughter? yes, for so it was—he read the following paragraph, near the close of the twelfth chapter of Ether, in the Book of Mormon, and turned down the leaf upon it:

And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity. And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness, thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father. And now I … bid farewell unto the Gentiles; yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood. The testators are now dead, and their testament is in force.

6 Hyrum Smith was forty-four years old in February, 1844, and Joseph Smith was thirty-eight in December, 1843; and henceforward their names will be classed among the martyrs of religion; and the reader in every nation will be reminded that the Book of Mormon, and this book of Doctrine and Covenants of the church, cost the best blood of the nineteenth century to bring them forth for the salvation of a ruined world; and that if the fire can scathe a green tree for the glory of God, how easy it will burn up the dry trees to purify the vineyard of corruption. They lived for glory; they died for glory; and glory is their eternal reward. From age to age shall their names go down to posterity as gems for the sanctified.

They were innocent of any crime, as they had often been proved before, and were only confined in jail by the conspiracy of traitors and wicked men; and their innocent blood on the floor of Carthage jail is a broad seal affixed to “Mormonism” that cannot be rejected by any court on earth, and their innocent blood on the escutcheon of the State of Illinois, with the broken faith of the State as pledged by the governor, is a witness to the truth of the everlasting gospel that all the world cannot impeach; and their innocent blood on the banner of liberty, and on the magna charta of the United States, is an ambassador for the religion of Jesus Christ, that will touch the hearts of honest men among all nations; and their innocent blood, with the innocent blood of all the martyrs under the altar that John saw, will cry unto the Lord of Hosts till he avenges that blood on the earth. Amen.

Mormonism teaches that Joseph Smith died innocently and went to his death like a lamb would go to the slaughter. This is the language the Bible uses to talk about Jesus Christ, who clearly was innocent of all charges:

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. (Isaiah 53:7, NASB)

Notice the last half of that verse. Jesus went before the courts and did not open His mouth. In other words, he did not fight back. What of Joseph Smith? To be ‘faith promoting,’ the LDS Church portrays Joseph Smith’s death as pure martyrdom, in other words, he died innocently. Doctrine and Covenants 135:7 says that they were “innocent of any crime,” yet Joseph Smith (the mayor of Nauvoo and the Lieutenant General of the Nauvoo Legion of 2,500 men) ordered the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor newspaper for publishing information concerning Joseph Smith’s involvement in polygamy a few weeks before Smith surrendered to the authorities. Smith’s act of destroying the newspaper led him to being charged of riot and treason. Here is a video clip from the Mormon film Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration. This clip shows how Mormons view the death of Joseph Smith.

Notice how Joseph Smith looked so peaceful in the film.

The first picture is how Mormons view the Carthage Jail cell in the moments before Joseph Smith’s death. They were portrayed as innocent. The second picture is what really happened.

Joe's Martyrdom  joseph's martyrdom

Joseph Smith (pictured in the blue vest) had a gun, and he most definitely used it. John Taylor, who later became the 3rd president of the LDS Church (pictured in the brown pants and brown/tan vest), said this concerning the death of Joseph Smith:

Elder Cyrus H. Wheelock came in to see us, and  when he was about leaving drew a small pistol, a six-shooter, from his pocket,  remarking at the same time, ‘Would any of you like to have this?’ Brother  Joseph immediately replied, ‘Yes, give it to me,’ whereupon he took the  pistol, and put it in his pantaloons pocket…. I was sitting at one of the  front windows of the jail, when I saw a number of men, with painted faces,  coming around the corner of the jail, and aiming towards the stairs….

I shall never forget the deep feeling of sympathy  and regard manifested in the countenance of Brother Joseph as he drew nigh to  Hyrum, and, leaning over him, exclaimed, ‘Oh! my poor, dear brother Hyrum!’  He, however, instantly arose, and with a firm, quick step, and a determined  expression of countenance, approached the door, and pulling the six-shooter  left by Brother Wheelock from his pocket, opened the door slightly, and  snapped the pistol six successive times; only three of the barrels, however,  were discharged. I afterwards understood that two or three were wounded by  these discharges, two of whom, I am informed died.” (History of the  Church, 7:100, 102 & 103)

Is a religious man who takes a gun, fires three rounds into a mob, and killing two, as he is about to die, really going forth “like a lamb to the slaughter,” dying a martyr’s death? No, I do not think so. Imagine any of Jesus’s disciples doing this. They would not have been martyred, but rather, murdered.  The LDS publication called Our Heritage: A Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discusses Joseph Smith’s martyrdom on pp. 62-67, but nowhere speaks of Joseph Smith using a weapon when being attacked. The Mormon Church white-washes Joseph Smith’s death, making it out to be something it’s not. Take a look at these true martyrdoms in the early Christian church:

Matthew was martyred in Ethiopia, killed by a sword wound.

Mark was martyred in Alexandria, Egypt, as he was dragged through the streets by horses until he was dead.

Luke was hanged in Greece because he preached tremendously to the lost.

John faced martyrdom in Rome when he was placed in a large basin of oil and boiled, and survived. He was exiled to the Isle of Patmos, and later died a natural death in Asia Minor.

Peter was crucified upside-down.

James the Just was thrown off of a 100-foot ledge which was the southeast Pinnacle of the Temple (interestingly enough, this is the same place where Satan took Jesus when he tempted Christ to throw himself off of the ledge during the Temptation). When James survived the fall, he was beaten to death with a fuller’s club.

James the Greater, the son of Zebedee, was beheaded at Jerusalem.

Bartholomew was flayed to death with a whip in Armenia.

Andrew was crucified on an x-shaped cross. After being whipped severely, soldiers tied Andrew’s body to a cross with cords to prolong the suffering. Andrew spent two full days on the cross preaching to the lost: “I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.” After two days, he died.

Thomas was impaled with a spear while being a missionary to India.

Jude, the brother of Jesus, was killed by arrows when he refused to deny Jesus Christ.

Matthias was stoned and then beheaded by Jews in Jerusalem.

Barnabas was stoned to death.

Phillip was crucified.

Paul was tortured for an extended period of time, and then beheaded.

If none of those testimonies bring tears to your eyes, I don’t know what will. Now ask yourself, “Does Joseph Smith’s death deserve to rank with these martyrdoms?” These martyrs, along with tens of thousands of true saints who are STILL being killed throughout the world for their Christian faith, die innocently.

As Joseph Smith was shot, he exclaimed, ” ‘OH, LORD, MY GOD, IS THERE NO HELP FOR THE WIDOW’S SON!'” (Confessions of John D. Lee, reprint of 1880 ed., p. 153) This quote that Joseph Smith said was the Masonic sign of distress, and Joseph Smith was a 33rd degree mason. He even died with a Jupiter Talisman in his pocket, an occultic device used in conjunction with astrology and magic.  Joseph Smith was not “like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,” as Isaiah describes of Christ. Smith had a weapon, and used it. I am not against defending yourself when attacked. “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” (Luke 22:36, NIV) But when it comes to martyrdom, this is a different situation. In the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus was about to be arrested, Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, one of the priest’s servants. Peter was trying to defend Christ. Jesus responded to Peter by saying, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)

Joseph Smith did not die as a true prophet would have died. Mormons claim that Smith died great in the eyes of God, but he did not.

Joseph Smith’s martyrdom becomes Joseph Smith’s murder.

And similarly, Joseph Smith’s murder becomes Joseph’s Myth martyrdom.

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