Joseph Smith – Death
Diary of Joseph Fielding
Source: Joseph Fielding, Diary (1843-1846), Church Archives in “They Might Have Known That He Was Not a Fallen Prophet”–The Nauvoo Journal of Joseph Fielding,” transcribed and edited by Andrew F. Ehat, BYU Studies 19 (Winter 1979).
On Monday morning, Joseph, his brother Hyrum, Willard Richards, John Taylor, the only two of the Twelve at home, with several others, started for Carthage, of course with solemn feelings, and it appears that Joseph in particular anticipated the fatal result in part, but said he wished at any rate that Hyrum might be saved to stand in his place. He expressed himself to this effect, that he should die for this people, and if so, he should be murdered in cold blood. Sometime before they reached Carthage, they met a company of men with orders from the governor of the state to take our public arms, i.e., the arms belonging to the state. The captain of this company was polite and friendly and gave the strongest assurances of their safety and it was agreed upon that the brethren return with them to Nauvoo.
I was down in the city when they came in, and was in Brother Hyrum’s company. In his own house, he was in better spirits by far than when he left. He told me he thought that all things would go well, etc. and as soon as the arms could be collected, they again took their leave of their wives and families, alas for the last time, and came to Carthage (from henceforth of cursed memory).
The governor, it appears, treated them respectfully and took them to his own lodgings until as he said, for fear of the people he desisted and after having had a trial in part, they were unexpectedly and unlawfully thrust into the jail. They went to Carthage on Monday evening, the 24th of June, 1844. On Thursday, the governor left them and with a company of men, came to Nauvoo, having left a guard at the jail, but of the Carthage Greys who had just before been in a state of mutiny. Yet as all the troops had pledged themselves to the governor to abide by the laws, these were entrusted with the care of the prisoners.
It seems that a party of the mob had come to Golding’s Point on their way to Nauvoo, and that messengers were sent to them to order them to disperse. At this, their leader, Colonel Williams ordered all who were not willing to go to Carthage and kill the Smiths to lay down their arms, and the rest to step out together, saying now is the time or never. This was soon done, and the murderers disguised themselves by blacking their faces and started on their way to shed blood, and came to the place about 5 o’clock in the evening of the 27th.
A young man named Daniels, who had given up his gun, went with them, as he said to see what they would do, and was an eye witness to all that passed. He heard Wills say he had shot Hyrum. This Wills was one of the company of Saints (an Irish man) who came with me from England with his wife and two children. He was an elder in the Church. It is understood that he received a wound in the arm from a bullet by Brother Joseph. It took his wrist and ran up by the bone, of which wound he soon after died. A ball passed through the door and entered Brother Hyrum on one side of his nose just below his eye, when he exclaimed, “I’m a dead man,” and fell, at which Joseph cried out to Hyrum. As he lay, another entered under his chin.
Brother John Taylor attempted to get out a back window, but a ball met him, which it seems threw him back into the room, owing to its taking his watch which beat in the watch, thereby giving the exact time at which it occurred. He had received four balls before he was taken by Brother Willard Richards and put under the bed. He suffered much but survived, a living martyr. Joseph too endeavored to escape by the same window but the mob quickly met him there. He fell from the window and was taken by the mob and was set against the well curb and four men shot him in the upper part of his body. Williams then said take his head off, but at this moment as Daniels states, a light shone between Joseph and the mob which so affected them that they had no power to touch him and the four men dropped their arms and had to be carried off by their companions. The whole then ran off, leaving their victims weltering in their blood. Thus the earth was once more stained with the blood of the Saints, even the anointed servants of God and their blood echoes the cry of former Saints for vengeance to be taken on the wicked that the earth may be cleansed from the blood of the righteous.
Their bodies were washed from blood and put into boxes and the next day were conveyed in two wagons under a guard to Nauvoo. This was the most solemn sight that my eyes ever beheld. I had often read of the martyrs of old, but now here I saw two of the greatest of men who sealed the truth which they had held and taught with their blood. Is this an earnest of what has to take place in this Last Dispensation? Is the blood of the sheep again to be shed like that of the shepherd as in former days? Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from us, but if not, let thy will be done and let us be strengthened to endure to the end.
Joseph and Hyrum Smith were of large stature, well proportioned and had a noble appearance, and this appearance was by no means lost in death, as they lay side by side, for what can make men more noble than to hold the truth of God against his own interest (temporally) to be at war with the world, for the salvation of the upright in heart, and finally seal that truth with their blood. When I think of them and write of them, I feel as though I want to ask their forgiveness that I have not mourned for them more deeply. Joseph had been brought before rulers and judges scores of times, but was never convicted of any crime, neither Hyrum, and although the governor said the burning of the printing press was unlawful, yet the persecutors said they knew the law would not reach him, but powder and ball would, so that they justly are ranked with the martyrs of Jesus Christ.
My consolation in the midst of this affair was that all had been done. Joseph and Hyrum had done all that they could have done and the foundation of the great work of the last days was laid so that it could be finished by the Twelve Apostles who had been instructed in all things pertaining to the kingdom of God on the earth. 1