This week marks the anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith at Carthage Jail.
On the morning of June 24, 1844, the Prophet Joseph Smith along with several associates including his brother Hyrum, set out for Carthage from Nauvoo. Pausing near the temple Joseph said, “This is the loveliest place and the best people under the heavens; little do they know the trials that await them.” A little later 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.”
When they arrived at Carthage, Joseph and his companions were arrested and imprisoned in Carthage Jail. On 27 June Joseph wrote to Emma: “I am very much resigned to my lot, knowing I am justified, and have done the best that could be done. Give my love to the children … and all who inquire after me. … May God bless you all”
Later that day, a mob burst into the Jail and killed Joseph and Hyrum.
The LDS Guide to the Scriptures defines a martyr as ‘A person who gives his life rather than forsake Christ, the gospel, or his righteous beliefs or principles.’
Other latter-day martyrs include David W Patten, Rafael Monroy, Vicente Morales and countless Saints who died in persecutions such as in Jackson County, Nauvoo, and Haun’s Mill as well as those who died crossing the plains to their promised land.
The word martyr comes from the Greek ‘martur’ meaning ‘witness’. Each week s we partake of the Sacrament we covenant to be ‘witnesses’. Perhaps we need to consider more fully what that word means and what we covenant to be.
‘For most of us, however, what is required is not to die for the Church but to live for it. For many, living a Christlike life every day may be even more difficult than laying down one’s life.’ (James E Faust, General Conference, October 2006)