From William A. Morton, From Plowboy to Prophet: Being a Short History of Joseph Smith, for Children. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1912.
A Cold-Blooded Murder
On the 6th day of April, 1844, a special conference of the Church was held in Nauvoo. There were twenty thousand people present. The Prophet seemed to be filled with the Spirit of the Lord. He preached for three and a half hours, and during all that time the people sat in silence, drinking in the glorious truths that fell from his lips. That sermon will never be forgotten. People often talk about it now.
At that time a number of men were cut off from the Church. Their names were William Law, Wilson Law, Chauncey L. Higbee, Francis M. Higbee, and Robert D. Foster. They had been found guilty of wicked things. They had even gone so far as to lay plans to kill the Prophet.
These vile traitors went to Carthage, Illinois, and made false and wicked charges against the Prophet Joseph. On hearing that an order had been issued for his arrest, Joseph went to Carthage and placed himself in charge of an officer of the court. All he wanted was a fair trial, and that it be held at once. The other side, however, wanted the case held back for a time. it was decided to do this. Joseph was given in charge of the sheriff; but that officer allowed him to return with his companions to Nauvoo. Joseph learned later that it was the intention of his enemies to kill him that night in Carthage.
On the night of the 22nd of June, 1844, Joseph and his brother, Hyrum, left Nauvoo. They had decided to go to the Rocky Mountains, to escape from their enemies, and to choose a place of safety and rest for the Saints. Tears streamed down the Prophet’s cheeks as he bade good-by to his loved ones.
Some time after Joseph and Hyrum had left, Emma Smith, the Prophet’s wife, and others sent messengers after them, asking them to come back, as they were being spoken of as cowards. They turned at once and started back towards Nauvoo. “Hyrum,” said Joseph, “we are going back to be murdered.” To this Hyrum replied, “If we live or die we will be reconciled to our fate.”
Next morning Joseph, with seventeen others, started for Carthage. On the way Joseph said to his companions, “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 toward God and toward all men. If they take my life I shall die an innocent man, and my blood shall cry from the ground for vengeance, and it shall yet be said of me, ‘He was murdered in cold blood’.”
On the 27th of June, 1844, the Prophet Joseph, his brother, Hyrum, apostles John Taylor and Willard Richards were sitting as prisoners in Carthage Jail. They were very sad, for they felt that something awful was going to happen. Joseph asked Brother Taylor to sing a hymn, which he did.
A little later the brethren saw a number of men with painted faces running around the jail. they had guns in their hands. They rushed up the stairway, burst open the door and began firing upon the prisoners. The beloved Hyrum was the first to fall. he received three bullets, and sank to the floor, saying, “I am a dead man.” Joseph sprang to the window. As he stood for a second looking out, two bullets from behind and one from the mob in front pierced his body, and he fell to the ground exclaiming, “My Lord! my God!” elder Taylor received five bullet wounds, but, strange to tell, they did not prove fatal. Elder Richards was left unharmed.
Thus ended the mortal lives of two of the noblest and best men the world has ever seen. Save Jesus of Nazareth, no greater Prophet ever lived than Joseph Smith.