Joseph and Hyrum Bore Valiant Testimonies to the End

By Pamela Price

Hyrum and Joseph Preaching in Carthage Jail by Nancy Harlacher

Hyrum and Joseph Preaching in Carthage Jail
By Nancy Harlacher

Joseph and Hyrum's trip to Carthage was their last earthly journey together. They took advantage of their stay in the jail to preach the Gospel, for their mission was the same as it had been on April 6, 1830, the day that the Church was organized. As Joseph and Hyrum awaited their fate in the Carthage Jail, they fervently preached the good news of the Gospel to those around them. Records show that they were just as eager to bear their testimonies to the armed men who were guarding them, as to the brethren who visited them in jail.

Elder J. H. (Jasper Henry) Lawn recalled his father, Captain John (Long) Lawn's experience on the day before the martyrdom, which would have been June 26. Elder Lawn wrote:

My father was one of the guards, placed by Governor Ford at Carthage Jail, the day before Joseph and Hyrum Smith were martyred; and heard each of them speak from the stairway to the guard below. And when Hyrum spoke, he told them to take their pencil and note down Revelation the sixth chapter, from the ninth to the eleventh verses inclusive. For said he, "That is now about to be fulfilled." My father made a note of it at once, and was so much affected by what he had both seen and heard while there, that as soon as he was released from duty that evening, he came home and read those three verses to my mother, and turned down the leaf. The above incident was told me by my mother, some years afterward, as nearly as I can remember as related. And she showed the bible to me, with the verses marked, and the leaf down. I have his bible now just as he left it in 1847; when he died. (Elder J. H. Lawn, Autobiography of Elder J. H. Lawn, page 3; owned by Arthur Hawley; see also Autumn Leaves 22:60-61)

Revelation 6:9–11, to which Hyrum referred them, states:

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held; and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

Other testimonies support Captain John (Long) Lawn's statement that both Joseph and Hyrum preached to the guards at the jail on June 26, as the following shows.

Wednesday, June 26, 1844.... The Prophet, Patriarch, and their friends took turns preaching to the guards, several of whom were relieved before their time was out, because they admitted they were convinced of the innocence of the prisoners [John Long was included in this group]. They frequently admitted they had been imposed upon, and more than once it was heard, "Let us go home, boys, for I will not fight any longer against these men...."

During the evening the Patriarch Hyrum Smith read and commented upon extracts from the Book of Mormon, on the imprisonments and deliverance of the servants of God for the Gospel's sake. Joseph bore a powerful testimony to the guards of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the Gospel, the administration of angels, and that the kingdom of God was again established upon the earth, for the sake of which he was then incarcerated in that prison, and not because he had violated any law of God or man. (LDS History of the Church 6:592, 600)

It is written also:

When Joseph went to Carthage to deliver himself up to the pretended requirements of the law, two or three days previous to his assassination, he said:

I am going like a Iamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as the summer's morning; I have a conscience void of offense, toward God, and toward all men—I SHALL DIE INNOCENT, AND IT SHALL YET BE SAID OF ME, HE WAS MURDERED IN COLD BLOOD.

The same morning, after Hyrum had made ready to go—shall it be said to the slaughter? Yes, for so it was—he read the following paragraph near the close of the Fifth chapter of Ether, in the Book of Mormon, and turned down the leaf upon it:

And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity. And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me, If they have not charity, it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore thy garments shall be made clean.

And because thou hast seen thy weakness, thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.

And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles, yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood." (RLDS Doctrine and Covenants 113:4a–5c; LDS Doctrine and Covenants 135:4–5)

Faced with death, Joseph and Hyrum did not waver. At every opportunity they preached to the guards, and whomsoever was present at the jail. Both were valiant in testimony to the end. May we, as orthodox members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints also be faithful.

(Vision 54 [November 2006]:5)