Joseph & Hyrum Smith's Martyrdom

118 Primary Sources


Webster's 1828 dictionary's definition of "Martyr."


Laws of Illinois state that treason consists of “levying war against the government and people of this state".

Dec 19, 1838

John Edward Page describes his wife and two children as martyrs, having died as a result of the persecution of the Church in Missouri.


Parley Pratt calls David Patten a "martyr" for dying of his wounds received during the Battle of Crooked River.

Apr 10, 1839

Alanson Ripley calls those who died in Missouri martyrs and says their blood stains the hands of those that wish to destroy the Church of God.

Oct 12, 1839

Willard Richards says that John Young is a "martyr" because he died because of his afflictions in Missouri.

Mar 15, 1842

Nauvoo Lodge minutes records the initiation of Joseph and Sidney Rigdon as Entered Apprentice Masons.


John Taylor recounts the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith on June 27, 1844.

Apr 18, 1844

Willard Richards records the excommunication of William and Wilson Law, Jane Law, Robert Foster, and Howard Smith for "unchristianlike conduct."

Apr 25, 1844

Warsaw Signal labels the "Spiritual Wife doctrine" a "secret working", "iniquity", and "hellish".

Apr 26, 1844

Joseph's journal records the arrest, trial, and fine of Augustine Spencer for $100 due to an assault on his brother, Orson Spencer.

Apr 28, 1844

William Clayton records the formation of the "new church" led by William Law and other "dupes" who "had been cut off from the Church" that claimed Joseph was a "fallen prophet".

May 9, 1844

Foster (through his lawyers Emmons and Higbee) files a lawsuit against Joseph Smith and Coolidge, alleging false imprisonment and injury as a result of an arrest on April 6th, 1844.

May 9, 1844

Hancock County court document records Charles Ambrose Foster's lawsuit against Joseph for false imprisonment and injury, asking for $1000 in damages.

May 10, 1844

Editors of the Nauvoo Expositor issue a prospectus for the paper.

May 21, 1844

Joseph and Joseph W. Coolidge state that Charles Ambrose Foster's lawsuit against them has no merit.

Jun 5, 1844

Thomas C. Sharp lambasts Joseph just before the martyrdom.

Jun 7, 1844

Extracts of the NE attacking JS.

Jun 7, 1844

Joseph initiates court action to obtain a debt of $22.75 from Sylvester Emmons.

Jun 7, 1844

Nauvoo Expositor claims that Joseph Smith used his position as Prophet to gain political and civic power.

Jun 7, 1844

Nauvoo Expositor claims that Joseph was practicing plural marriage using manipulation and secrecy.

Jun 7, 1844

Nauvoo Expositor claims that Joseph and other Church leaders introduced false doctrines into the Church and were apostates.

Jun 10, 1844

Richards records the hours-long debate of the Nauvoo City Council concerning the Nauvoo Expositor.

Jun 10, 1844

Joseph orders the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor.

Jun 10, 1844

Joseph Smith records Nauvoo City Council's order to destroy the Nauvoo Expositor and the actions taken to fulfill the order.

Jun 10, 1844

Nauvoo City Council orders Mayor Joseph Smith to destroy the Nauvoo Expositor.

Jun 10, 1844

Joseph Smith orders acting General Dunham of the Nauvoo Legion to be prepared to assist Marshall Greene in destroying the Nauvoo Expositor.

Jun 11, 1844

TS calls for violent vengeance on "Infernal Devils" of Nauvoo.

Jun 11, 1844

Joseph calls for all citizens of Nauvoo to curtail such speech as might inflame passions and raise up mobs.

Jun 11, 1844

Thomas Morrison writes out an arrest warrant for Joseph for "unlawfully & with force" destroying the Nauvoo Expositor, considered the property of the publishers.

Jun 12, 1844

John Taylor defends the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor as legal and necessary.

Jun 12, 1844

Joseph Smith details his arrest for the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor, and his trial, and discharge that same day in Nauvoo.

Jun 12, 1844

The Nauvoo Neighbor reports on and defends the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor.

Jun 12, 1844

Willard Richards records the petition from Joseph Smith for a writ of Habeas Corpus, allowing the Nauvoo City Municipal Court to investigate and dismiss charges in their own court.

Jun 13, 1844

Those arrested for destroying the Nauvoo Expositor proclaim they are innocent of the charges brought against them.

Jun 13, 1844

Willard Richards records that justices of the Nauvoo Municipal Court dismissed the charges against those that destroyed the Nauvoo Expositor.

Jun 13, 1844

William Clayton records Joseph presiding in the Nauvoo Municipal Court, where the men accused of "inciting a riot" over the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor were "tried. . .& set free".

Jun 14, 1844

Joseph writes a letter to Governor Thomas Ford explaining his view of the events surrounding the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor.

Jun 14, 1844

Warsaw Wignal reports that the date of June 19, 1844 was set for citizens to assemble and enact the planned vigilante justice.

Jun 14, 1844

Warsaw Signal records a resolution adopted by a mass meeting of citizens that Joseph should be surrendered to authorities or "a war of extermination should be waged".

Jun 15, 1844

Samuel James and Porter Rockwell went to visit Governor Ford to deliver papers and letters related to the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor.

Jun 16, 1844

Joseph's journal records a visit from Judge Jesse Thomas who advised that holding a third trial before a "jusstice of the peace" would prevent mob violence.

Jun 16, 1844

Joseph asks Gov. Ford for "immediate council and protection" from those that threatened to "exterminate 'the Saints'".

Jun 17, 1844

Willard Richards gives a detailed summary of the Nauvoo City Council's legal deliberations concerning the Nauvoo Expositor.

Jun 18, 1844

Joseph issues a proclamation declaring martial law in Nauvoo in response to threats made in local news publications.

Jun 18, 1844

Joseph states his intentions to protect the rights and safety of Nauvoo citizens even at the cost of his own life.

Jun 19, 1844

Thomas C. Sharp talks about exterminating the "wicked and abominable Mormon leaders."

Jun 19, 1844 - Jun 20, 1844

Warsaw Signal claims Nauvoo leaders detained people in Nauvoo during martial law.

Jun 21, 1844

Nauvoo Neighbor prints full legal summary of the third trial proceedings concerning J.S. et. al. charged with "inciting a riot" before Daniel Wells, justice of the peace.

Jun 21, 1844

Gov. Thomas Ford writes to Joseph Smith, requesting "one or more well informed and discreet persons" to "lay before [him]. . .the matter".

Jun 22, 1844

Governor Ford writes to the Nauvoo City Council condemning the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor and outlining the steps he intends to take.

Jun 23, 1844

Joseph writes to Thomas Ford expressing his willingness to stand trial in Carthage, so long as Ford will assure physical safety and impartiality in the trial.

Jun 24, 1844

Warrant authorizing the arrest of Joseph Smith for the "Crime of Treason against the Government and people of the State of Illinois".

Jun 25, 1844

Robert F. Smith records the bail recognizance for Joseph et. al. in the riot case; sets date for trial to next session (October 1844).

Jun 26, 1844

Foster gives his account of the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor in a letter to the editor of the NY Daily Herald.

Jun 27, 1844

Willard Richards recounts the events of the attack on Carthage jail in his journal.

Jun 27, 1844

Joseph writes to Emma Smith relating his status, and that that Gov. Ford is disbanding his troops and traveling to Nauvoo.

Jun 30, 1844

The NNE asserts JS and HS killed by a mob for their religion.

Jun 30, 1844

Public Ledger reprints portions of the Nauvoo Neighbor Extra's report of the Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.

Jun 30, 1844

The NYDH reprints the NN extra calling JS and HS martyrs.

Jul 1, 1844

H. T. Reid states that Joseph & Hyrum Smith were required to remain in jail "until discharged by due course of law," and that their trial was postponed by two days.

Jul 1, 1844

H. T. Reid recounts the postponement of the trial concerning "inciting a riot" and collection of recognizances by Robert F. Smith, justice of the peace.

Jul 3, 1844

QW, an Illinois neswpaper, reports that JS was killed in a rescue attempt.

Jul 12, 1844

Spirit of Democracy, an Ohio newspaper, reports Joseph trying to escape Carthage.

Jul 13, 1844

James Bennett records that Joseph fired a revolving pistol at his assailants.

Jul 19, 1844

Public Ledger says of the killing of Joseph and Hyrum Smith is a "grosser act of treachery was never committed."

Aug 1, 1844

Willard Richards recalls that Joseph witnessed Hyrum's death, then fired into the hallway at martyrdom.

Aug 2, 1844

Liverpool Mercury refers to the killing of Joseph and Hyrum Smith as an "assassination."

Aug 3, 1844

New York Herald reprint describes Joseph and Hyrum Smith as martyrs.

Aug 3, 1844

Thomas Ford calls Joseph and Hyrum's death assassinations and considers it a disgrace.


Thomas Ackley Lyne records that Joseph was attacked by a mob of 200 and fired at them.


George T. M. Davis relates Joseph shot and wounded 3 of the mob including John Wills ("Mr Wills").


W. M. Daniels recalls that the many of the men involved in the mob were from Carthage and/or members of the local militia.


W. M. Daniels recounts at length the events leading up to the death of Joseph & Hyrum Smith from his perspective as a non-Latter-day Saint member of the state militia.

Jan 11, 1845

The Nauvoo City Council records Joseph Smith as a martyr in January of 1845.

Feb 1845

William Clayton includes a summary of the events leading the Martyrdom in the Council of Fifty minutes.

Mar 1, 1845

The Council of Fifty minutes refers to Joseph as a "martyr" in 1845.

Aug 20, 1845

BT, a Finnish newspaper, reports an Unknown Mormon tried to break into Carthage Jail, sparking the conflict.

Nov 1, 1845

Willard Richards notifies the Church in Times and Seasons of the excommunication of William Smith on Oct 12, 1845 for having "turned away from the truth".

Dec 21, 1845

John Taylor and W. W. Phelps discuss the removal of temple garments by Joseph and Hyrum Smith and John Taylor prior to Carthage.

1850 - 1855

CW recalls that JF gave JS a pistol in Carthage, which he gave to HS when CW gave him another pistol.

Dec 1, 1852

Jedediah Morgan Grant reports that Joseph fired on the mob after seeing Hyrum Smith die.

Dec 1, 1852

W. M. Daniels recalls that Joseph probably tried to escape to save the others in the room.

Jan 1, 1854

Thomas Ford says Joseph had a six-barrelled pistol at Carthage.


Gov. Thomas Ford recalls the "excitement" in Carthage in Nauvoo; relates his decision to disband the militia for "danger of collision" if he were to march with them to Nauvoo.

Jun 27, 1854

John Taylor recalls Joseph fired into the mob 3 times with a pistol given to him by Cyrus Wheelock.

Dec 1, 1854

Willard Richards recalls Joseph fired a six-shooter pistol into the mob. John Taylor and Willard Richards had sticks.


Thomas Sharp reports on resolutions adopted by a council of citizens at Carthage suggesting violence against the Latter-day Saints.


Thomas Ford state that Joseph and Hyrum were under his sworn protection and surrendered as prisoners.


GAS records JS speaking of going like a lamb to the slaughter, under the protection of TF.


GAS says JS and HS were "deprived of any weapons to defend themselves" in Carthage Jail.


Joseph and Hyrum Smith and Willard Richards cross the Mississippi into Iowa at 2 a.m., fleeing Nauvoo and lodging with William Jordan.


Emma Smith sends word to Joseph that he should "give himself up" and that some Nauvoo citizens felt betrayed he was fleeing Nauvoo.


Records of "passes" Gov. Thomas Ford gave to Cyrus Wheelock so he can visit Joseph in jail and return to Nauvoo safely.


A summary of the conversation between Joseph and Thomas Ford while Joseph was imprisoned in Carthage Jail.

Jun 20, 1856

Stephen Markham recounts a conversation where Joseph Smith expresses if he were ever "taken" by authorities he would be massacred "or he was not a prophet of God".

Aug 21, 1856

John Taylor recalls Joseph "snapped" his pistol six times into the mob, it fired three times successfully.

Aug 23, 1856

John Taylor reports that John M. Bernhisel was told by Joseph that he went "as a lamb to the slaughter."

Aug 23, 1856

John Taylor recalls Cyrus Wheelock gave Joseph a six shooter pistol.

May 27, 1857

William Smith claims that his brother Samuel was likely poisoned by Brigham, and that Brigham may have removed potential successors.

Nov 18, 1857

Deseret News reports Cyrus Wheelock's recollection that he gave Joseph a six shooter revolver; Joseph gave a single barrel pistol to Hyrum Smith.

Nov 25, 1857

Deseret News reports a memory that Joseph fired into the mob.

Jul 19, 1862

CW says he gave JS a six-shooter, JS gave HS a single barrel pistol, which he got from JF.


John Foxe records Christian Martyrs in his Book of Martyrs.


John Foxe notes that other martyrs might be mentioned, by torture, imprisonment, loss of property, banishment, etc.


John Foxe tells of a martyr who fled and begged for death.


John Foxe tells of martyrs who were armed and defended themselves before being martyred.


John Foxe tells of a martyr who drowned one of her attackers.


William Clayton records Emma Smith and others sending messengers to convince Joseph to "give themselves up," citing a concern that "the city would be destroyed and the people massacred."


Orson F. Whitney claims that Joseph gave the Masonic signal of disress as he leapt from a window at Carthage.

Jan 1, 1890

JT recalls JS "snapped" his pistol six times, three discharged.


Oliver B. Huntington writes that Joseph and others removed their garments prior to their martyrdom because they feared their garments would be mocked.


Fawn Brodie reports that "it is said that Eli Johnson demanded that the prophet be castrated."

Feb 17, 1990

Leonard says the Church has had both pistols Joseph and Hyrum had in Carthage "for many years," and both will be displayed soon at the Museum of Church History and Art.


Joseph & David Lyon summarize all that is currently known about the ballistic and forensic evidence concerning the killing of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.

Apr 1, 2021

Deseret News article says the pepperbox Joseph used in Carthage was rediscovered in 1996 and has been on display since 2015.

Feb 2022

Justin Griffin's documentary theorizes that John Taylor is the one who shot Joseph.

May 4, 2022

Jana Riess discusses inaccuracies in "Under the Banner of Heaven" in its portrayal of Brigham Young's involvement in Joseph Smith's death.

Dec 2022

Church members call those who died in Missouri "martyrs."