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Historic

Sites

Carthage Jail

Carthage, Illinois

Introduction

At the Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844, a mob murdered the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, who thus sealed their testimonies of Jesus Christ with their blood.

Several days earlier, the Prophet and others voluntarily went to Carthage, the county seat located about 20 miles southeast of Nauvoo, to answer charges of civil disturbance. Joseph and Hyrum were held in Carthage Jail pending trial and were guaranteed protection from mob violence by the governor of Illinois.

Joseph, Hyrum, John Taylor, and Willard Richards were in the jailer's upstairs bedroom when a mob stormed the jail shortly after five o'clock. The Prophet and his brother were shot and killed, John Taylor was seriously wounded, and Willard Richards escaped unharmed. The mob fled, and the martyrs' bodies were taken back to Nauvoo the next day.

The jail was used for about 25 years and then became a private residence. The Church purchased the building and property in 1903. To commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Martyrdom in 1994, the jail was restored to its appearance at the time of Joseph and Hyrum's death.

Quotes

Joseph Smith Quotes

I know not why; but for some reason I am constrained to hasten my preparations, and to confer upon the Twelve all the ordinances, keys, covenants, endowments, and sealing ordinances of the priesthood, and so set before them a pattern in all things pertaining to the sanctuary and the endowment therein. (Quoted by Parley P. Pratt in "Proclamation to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Millennial Star, Mar. 1845, 151.)

God Almighty is my shield; and what can man do if God is my friend? I shall not be sacrificed until my time comes; then I shall be offered freely. (History of the Church, 5:259.)

I defy all the world to destroy the work of God; and I prophesy they never will have power to kill me till my work is accomplished, and I am ready to die. (History of the Church, 6:58.)

On my part, I am ready to be offered up a sacrifice in that way that can bring to pass the greatest benefit and good to those who must necessarily be interested in this important matter. (History of the Church, 5:159.)

Witnesses

Willard Richards, Apostle, 1840–1854 

Willard Richards, an eyewitness of the assassination of the Smith brothers, wrote these words the same day: "A shower of musket balls were thrown up the stairway against the door of the prison in the second story, followed by many rapid footsteps. . . .

"A ball was sent through the door which hit Hyrum on the side of his nose, when he fell backwards, extended at length, without moving his feet. . . .

"Joseph attempted, as the last resort, to leap the . . . window, . . . when two balls pierced him from the door, and one entered his right breast from without, and he feel outward, exclaiming, 'Oh Lord, my God!' As his feet went out of the window my head went in, the balls whistling all around. He fell on his left side a dead man." (History of the Church, 6:619–20.)

Jane Elizabeth Manning James, Early Member of the Church, 1813–1908 

Jane James, a young black woman who had been employed at the Smith home, described that day this way: "I [knew] the Prophet Joseph. That lovely hand! He used to put it out to me. Never passed me without shaking hands with me wherever he was. Oh, he was the finest man I ever saw on earth. . . . When he was killed . . . I could have died, just laid down and died." (In Heidi S. Swinton, American Prophet: The Story of Joseph Smith (1999), 14.)

Key Events

Revelations Received

  • D&C Section 135  — 

    June 27, 1844. John Taylor wrote the circumstances surrounding the Prophet Joseph Smith’s Martyrdom.

Readings

Online Resources at LDS.org

Online Resources at BYU