Doctrine & Covenants 135
Brigham Young told the Saints in his day, “Joseph Smith holds the keys of this last dispensation, and is now engaged behind the veil in the great work of the last days… (no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the Celestial Kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith (Journal of Discourses, 7:289).
Praise to the Man!
Joseph Smith ranks among the dozen or so of the greatest and mightiest souls so far sent to earth. Christ is first, Adam second, and, in the priestly hierarchy, Noah is third. “Adam is the father of the human family, and presides over the spirits of all men,” and Noah “stands next in authority to Adam in the Priesthood” (Teachings, 157). (Bruce R. McConkie,The Millennial Messiah, 331).
Josiah Quincy, a prominent New England citizen who later became the mayor of Boston, visited Joseph Smith two months before the Martyrdom. Many years later he wrote about the people who had most impressed him during his life. Regarding Joseph Smith, he wrote, “It is by no means improbable that some future text-book, for the use of generations yet unborn, will contain a question something like this: What historical American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful influence upon the destinies of his countrymen? And it is by no means impossible that the answer to that interrogatory may be thus written Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet” (Josiah Quincy,Figures of the Past from the leaves of Old Journals, 5thed. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1883, 376).
Doctrine & Covenants 135
The Law of Witnesses was fulfilled! (2 Corinthians 13:1)Two died and two lived to tell the story.If not, the only record we would have would be those who killed him.Thursday, June 27, 1844. Joseph was 38 and Hyrum 44.On at least 19 different occasions, beginning in 1829,Joseph told the Saints that he would probably not leavethis life peacefully(History of the Church4:587, 604; 6:558).Doctrine and Covenants 5:22 and 6:29-30.
Doctrine& Covenants135:1J. Fielding Smith said that it was needful that these martyrs seal their testimony with there blood, that they might be honored and the wicked condemned.The Lord revealed to Brigham Young that it was needful that he should seal his testimony with his blood, that he might be honored and the wicked might be condemned (Doctrine and Covenants 136:39).At the funeral of Elder Richard L. Evans, President Joseph Fielding Smith, an Apostle said, “no righteous man is taken before his time(Ensign, Dec. 1971, 10).Willard Richards said the exact time was 5:16 and 26 seconds(Willard Richards, in Glen M. Leonard,Nauvoo:APlace of Peace, a People of Promise(2002), 398).
Doctrine& Covenants135:2This fulfilled a prophecy which Joseph Smith gave Willard Richards a year previous. Balls would fly like hail and he should see his friends fall on the left and right, but should not be a hole in his garment. A ball did graze the tip of his left ear (History of the Church, 6:619).
The Night Before the Martyrdom:That night Willard Richards, John Taylor, and Dan Jones remained with Joseph and Hyrum in jail. They prayed together and read from the Book of Mormon, Joseph bore his testimony to the guards. Much later, Joseph was lying on the floor next to the riverboat captain Dan Jones. “Joseph whispered to Dan Jones, ‘are you afraid to die?” Dan said, ‘Has that time come, think you? Engaged in such a cause I do not think that death would have many terrors.’ Joseph replied, ‘You will yet see Wales (Jones native land), and fulfill the mission appointed you before you die.’” Elder Jones later fulfilled the prophecy, serving a great mission in Wales (History of the Church,6:601).
Doctrine & Covenants 135:3Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord,had done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.None have been privileged to do a labor that would have a greater effect on more of our Father’s children than Joseph Smith.
President Hinckley said in General Conference that Joseph Smith the Prophet has given to our present world more holy scripture than any other single prophet.The total amount of pages in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price and the Joseph Smith Translation almost rival the amount of pages found in the Old Testament(ConferenceReport, 1977).
Doctrine& Covenants135:5“Testators”The “testators” are now dead,” and their testament is in force.What is a “testator?”A witness or witnesses who have left us something valuable!
Doctrine& Covenants135:6The martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith cost the best blood of the nineteenth century to bring them forth for the salvation of a ruined world.
Why did Joseph and Hyrum have to die in such a brutal way?The answer is given by the Lord in Doctrine & Covenants 136:39:Many have marveled because of his death; but it was needful that he should seal his testimony with his blood, that he might be honored and the wicked might be condemned.
Reaction of Others Not There!
Louisa Barnes Pratt (wife of Addison Pratt) said that at the time of the martyrdom, dogs barked, cows bellowed, and a depressed gloomy spirit set around. Women began to cry.It wasn’t until hours later that they heard the Prophet had been killed.Louisa said that no one had ever heard anything like it in Nauvoo before.
Wilford Woodruff said the following about the day of the martyrdom.He wrote,“Brigham Young and myself were at the railroad station at the time Joseph and Hyrum were assassinated and this was June the 27that a quarter past five in the evening. It was half past six in Boston as we sat in the station. As we sat in the station Brigham was very sorrowful and depressed in Spirit not knowing the cause.Brigham said,“This was the time that Satan had struck the heaviest blow since the Son of God was crucified.”We came to know afterward that all of the Twelve, wherever they were on that day, felt like the President of the Quorum, sorrowful and burdened in Spirit without knowing why.
George Albert Smith said that at the time of the martyrdom he heard a voice which said, “Joseph is dead aint you glad!”George A. Smith was offended but knew that it was true.Parley P. Pratt told some of the brethren he was with, “This is a sorrowful day. The horrors of hell have been turned loose, let us not say anything.” He didn’t know why, but he told his companions that this day we do not teach the Gospel nor do we say anything because of the horrors of hell have been let loose.
PraiseWhether in the work place, around the fireplace, or in community service --- we can all do something else which is simple but powerful. Isaiah spoke of providing the “garment of praise.” (Isaiah 61:3) Of course, there are times in rendering humanitarian service when we need to give an actual, physical cloak, but, most often, those with whom most of us work need material clothing less than the “garment of praise” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Successful Leadership in Organizations, Communities and Families”).Those who have breathless bread may still shiver for recognition and yearn for the succor of deserved commendation (Neal A. Maxwell, “King Benjamin’s Sermon: A Manual for Discipleship”).