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  • 6/27/2010

Latter-Day Saints Founder Joseph Smith Murdered (1844)

joseph smith

Joseph Smith, Jr. (December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844) was the American religious figure who founded the Latter Day Saint movement, also known as Mormonism. Smith's followers declared him to be the first latter-day prophet, whose mission was to restore the original Church of Jesus Christ, said to have been lost soon after the death of the Apostles which caused an apostasy. This restoration included the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the priesthood authority, and the publication of the Book of Mormon and other new scriptures. As a leader of large settlement communities, Smith also was recognized as a political and military leader in the American Midwest.

Adherents to denominations originating from Joseph Smith's teachings currently number between thirteen and fourteen million. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the largest denomination with reported membership of over 13 million. The second largest is the Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, with about 250,000 members. Other groups who follow Smith's teachings have membership numbering from dozens to the tens of thousands.

A few disaffected Mormons in Nauvoo joined together to publish a newspaper, the Nauvoo Expositor. Its first and only issue was published 7 June 1844. The paper was highly antagonistic toward Smith; the bulk of the Expositor's single issue was devoted to criticism of Smith's practice of polygamy and his political power. The city council, headed by Smith – who was mayor of Nauvoo – responded by passing an ordinance declaring the newspaper a public nuisance designed to promote violence against Smith and his followers. Under the council's new ordinance, Smith and the city council ordered the city marshal to destroy the paper and the press.

This action was seen by many non-Mormons as illegal; Smith was accused of violating the freedom of the press. Violent threats were made against Smith and the Mormon community in Nauvoo. Charges were brought against Smith and he submitted to incarceration in Carthage, the Hancock County seat. Smith's brother, Hyrum, and eight of his associates including John Taylor and Willard Richards, accompanied him to the jail. The Governor of the state, Thomas Ford had promised protection and a fair trial. All of Smith's associates left the jail, except his brother Hyrum, Richards and Taylor.

carthage jail

On June 27, 1844, an armed group of about 200 men stormed the jail, and went to Smith's cell. Despite a brief struggle, the group was able to open fire on Smith and his associates. Hyrum Smith was shot in the face, and died immediately. As the mob burst through the doorway, Joseph Smith (who had earlier been given a six-shooter by a visitor) managed to fire three shots at the mob. Richards was unharmed, while Taylor was shot several times, but survived. (One of the bullets may have glanced off the pocket watch in his left breast pocket. Smith, however, was shot multiple times while trying to jump out an open window. After he fell from the window, he was shot several more times, killing him. He was 38 years of age.

Smith and his brother were initially buried below the Smith Homestead in Nauvoo. They were later disinterred on the orders of Smith's grandson Frederick M. Smith and reburied along with Smiths' wife Emma in a location thought to be safer from Mississippi flooding.

Photo 2: An etching of the Carthage Jail, c. 1885, where Smith was killed in 1844.

Source: encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com


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