Sunday, March 28, 2010


Leaving Hannibal, we decided to go straight to Carthage.  For me it set the stage.  Seeing Nauvoo from the end to the beginning gave me a beautiful conformation of the spirit and truth of Joseph Smith.  We were greeted at the visitor center by Bro Despain, such a small world, he was from Taylor, my hometown, and Jessica is friends with his granddaughter at Gilbert High.  He and his wife are serving their mission in Nauvoo.052
As we entered the Jail…which was really just a house with a cell build in the upper floor, you feel great power at walking in the footsteps of our first great prophet.  042 As Bro Despain led us up the stairs, all the stories that I have heard since childhood come to mind.  The stairs are narrow, which make you wonder about the men who would climb them in hate and ignorance.  Did they push and shove so as to be the first to the top, did the noise of their shoes on the hardwood steps bring a sense of dread to the men in the upper room. 
Joseph and Hyrum went to Carthage, and on 25 June 1844 they were falsely accused of rioting and treason (working against the government). They and several of their friends were put in the Carthage Jail, where mobs threatened and cursed them. In jail the brethren prayed and read the Book of Mormon. The Prophet bore his testimony of the truth of the gospel to the men guarding them.

Dan Jones was one of the brethren in jail with the Prophet. On the morning of 27 June 1844 one of the prison guards told him:

“We have had too much trouble to bring Old Joe here to let him ever escape alive, and unless you want to die with him you had better leave before sundown; … and you’ll see that I can prophesy better than Old Joe, for neither he nor his brother, nor anyone who will remain with them will see the sun set today” (History of the Church, 6:602).

Dan Jones reported this threat to Governor Ford, but the governor replied, “You are unnecessarily alarmed for the safety of your friends, sir, the people are not that cruel”.  Then the governor left Carthage, leaving some of the Prophet’s worst enemies in charge of the jail. That day most of the Prophet’s friends were ordered to leave the jail.

Only four men remained in Carthage Jail: the Prophet Joseph Smith; his brother Hyrum; and John Taylor and Willard Richards, two of the Apostles. These four men had two guns that had been given to them by friends who visited them. Elder Taylor and Elder Richards also had walking canes.050

Because the governor had left Carthage and had put some members of the mob in charge of the jail, the four men knew their lives were in danger. That morning Joseph had written a letter to his family telling them that he loved them and that he was innocent. In the letter he also pronounced a blessing on his family and friends. In the afternoon John Taylor sang “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief”.   (As Bro Despain played this for us, I couldn't stop the tears, I knew Joseph was thinking of his wife and children, and all the testimonies that would be tested as a result of this day) This beautiful song about the Savior comforted the men greatly, and the Prophet asked Elder Taylor to sing it again.

Around five o’clock in the evening a mob of about one hundred men attacked the jail. Many of the men had blackened their faces with mud and gunpowder so they would not be recognized.The guards at the jail were friends of the mobbers and made no serious attempt to stop the attack. Some members of the mob shot at the windows of the jail, and others ran up the stairs to shoot into the room where the Church leaders were.045

The brethren tried to bar the door shut and use their few weapons to drive off the mob. Joseph Smith fired a pistol and John Taylor used his heavy cane to try to knock down the guns of the mob as they were pushed into the room through the door, but there were too many people in the mob for the brethren to defend themselves.

Hyrum Smith was shot in the face by a bullet fired through the door.  049He fell to the floor, crying out, “I am a dead man!” As he fell he was hit by three other bullets. Joseph cried out, “Oh dear, brother Hyrum!” .

John Taylor moved toward the open window, hoping to jump to safety. A bullet fired from inside the jail hit his leg and he started to fall out the window, but a second bullet from outside the jail hit his pocket watch with such force that it pushed him back into the room, saving his life. Elder Taylor was hit with three more bullets as he crawled under the bed.

After Hyrum and John Taylor were shot, the Prophet moved to the window. He was hit by two bullets fired from the doorway of the room and a third bullet fired from outside the jail. He cried, “Oh Lord, my God!” and fell out the window.046

The mob inside the jail ran out to see the Prophet’s body,055 (a view from outside the house, the window he fell from is the upper window on the side.) and Willard Richards hurried to the window. After seeing the Prophet’s lifeless body, Elder Richards ran for the door. He stopped when he heard John Taylor cry out from under the bed. He knew he would not be able to carry Elder Taylor out right away, so he hid him under an old mattress, saying, “If your wounds are not fatal, I want you to live to tell the story” Elder Richards expected to be shot as he left the jail, but before the mob could make sure they had killed all four men, someone mistakenly shouted, “The Mormons are coming!” and the mob members fled into the woods.

Elder Richards had not been injured in the attack. This miracle fulfilled a prophecy made a year earlier by Joseph Smith, who had told Elder Richards that there would be a time when “the balls [bullets] would fly around him like hail, and he should see his friends fall on the right and on the left,” but he would not be hurt.
Carthage is a very powerful place to visit.  It’s hard to imagine how intolerance can lead to hate which can lead to violence.  My testimony of the truthfulness of this church was strengthened by the spirit which you feel by walking here Joseph walked, touching the bullet hole in the door, and looking out the window where he fell.  What a wonderful place this would be to serve a mission some day.


Ron and Paula said...

Cindy that was beautiful! I hope Ron and I can go visit there someday. You and Arlon will be great missionaries! :)