Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Charity and Joseph Smith

In church on Sunday, Elder Johnson and I were asked to tell our favorite story of Joseph Smith that illustrates the love he felt for others. I thought I'd include mine here.   


Charity and Joseph Smith
1 John 4:7 says, “Beloved, let us love one another for love is of God, and everyone that loveth is of God and knoweth God”.

Joseph Smith was an impeccable example of this concept.  One of my favorite stories of Joseph Smith’s love for others was what transpired and led to his martyrdom in Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844.

 Months before that dreadful day, there were three political parties existing in America: the Whigs, the Democrats, and the Anti-Mormon party. A few Mormons attended the Anti-Mormon meetings undercover. They learned that a plan was in place which had the intent of leading to another murderous catastrophe likened to what followed the extermination order given by Governor Boggs in Missouri October, 1838.

The plan was to rile up the surrounding community, offend the Mormons through slanderous publications all with the intent of stirring a Mormon uprising that would validate Mormon enemies coming in and destroying the whole community. The desired outcome was to be rid of the Mormons as well as to possess their property. The main reason for stalling was the simple logistics of the numbers of men in the Nauvoo Legion. There was an estimate of about 4000 trained men in Nauvoo compared to Carthage and Warsaw having only about 500 a piece.

Therefore, the Mormons as a whole would need to be villain-ized to convince surrounding communities to rise up against them. An all out war was on the horizon and Joseph Smith knew it and acted prayerfully and carefully to give the saints time to finish the Nauvoo Temple before leaving all behind and heading west far away from their enemies.

The editor of the Warsaw Signal, Thomas Sharpe, had been printing outlandish articles slandering Joseph Smith but they hadn’t had the desired effect of rioting on the part of the Mormons.  The Anti-Mormon Party decided to put a printing press right in the town of Nauvoo. The publication was called the Nauvoo Expositor and though the Prophet knew their intentions, he didn’t intervene until after the first printing. The only publication was what Joseph called, “a filthy sheet that would excite mobocracy and lead to death and destruction.” Joseph claimed that he could withstand persecution directed at him, in fact he was quite accustomed to it, but he could not ignore offenses directed at women and children especially those under his stewardship in Nauvoo. Joseph said that there is not a city in the whole country that would have tolerated such a publication.

 Joseph, as mayor at that time, met with the City Council, deliberated for two days, and sought legal direction from professionals including Governor Ford. It was determined that they had the legal right to declare the press a nuisance (a word with a much stronger connotation than it has today) and the press could then be legally destroyed. This way, the City Council would take full responsibility for the action not the community as a whole. The action did not set precedence; in fact, it had been done a number of times before in our country.

Not surprisingly however, after the job was done, enemies sent a writ against the entire City Council on charges of “rioting”. According to the Nauvoo City Charter, the men had the legal right to be tried in Nauvoo. Therefore, they went to court twice in their own town, once before a Mormon judge and another time before a Non-Mormon judge as requested by the governor. The men were acquitted both times. However, Governor Ford insisted that the accused answer again in Carthage where the writ had been originally issued and before the judge who issued it. Governor Ford said if they didn’t come to answer in Carthage, he would send a militia to hunt down the men and there may be bloodshed.

Joseph took a few days to decide what to do. He knew and had prophesied that if he were to go to Carthage, he would be killed. He also loved the people in Nauvoo and didn’t want to see them suffer as they had in Missouri. He knew that his mission on earth had been completed. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had been restored with the fullness of keys and rights to the Priesthood. Those keys rested fully in the hands of the twelve apostles and the church could carry on without him. All but two of the apostles had been sent on both religious and political missions. (As much as anything, I believe they were away for their own safety.) After deliberation and even attempting to leave Illinois at one point, Joseph made up his mind to go to Carthage sending the governor a note claiming that he was coming to Carthage not because it was legal but because the governor had requested it.

 The two remaining apostles, Willard Richards and John Taylor along with about 30 other men which included the City Council of course, went with Joseph to Carthage. Governor Ford had promised safety and a fair trial if Joseph would come voluntarily. Joseph received neither nor did he appear before the same magistrate who had issued the original writ which was the main reason Governor Ford gave for needing to come to Carthage in the first place.

Then after meeting bail for the original charge of rioting, many of the men went home. However, Joseph and Hyrum were quickly served a second writ for treason against the state obviously and simply because bail cannot be offered for treason. The judge however had dismissed the court and gone home so evidence for treason was never presented in court. As you see, Joseph and Hyrum were taken to Carthage Jail illegally on many accounts. He was killed two days later with both apostles, John Taylor and Willard Richards, alone to witness.

John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Christ offered himself as the ultimate sacrifice, of course, but Joseph too died as a martyr. He was only 38 years old and his wife, Emma, was at home six month pregnant with their last child when he was savagely gunned down. He came to Carthage knowing what would happen. He came willingly and out of love for others.

The saints struggled deeply wondering why Joseph was taken. In January 1847 from Winter Quarters, Brigham Young said, “Many have marveled because of his [Joseph’s] 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. (D & C 136:39)

“Everyone that loveth is of God and knoweth God.” Such was Joseph.

That is my favorite story that depicts Joseph's love for others. Will you do a little reading of your own and find another one?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing the events that were used to manipulate the Prophet and the illegal events that occurred to get Prophet Joseph Smith to submit to a false trial and legal proceedings. I'm looking forward to learning more about our church history as we visit next June. Hope we can see you both when we are there.