“To Seal the Testimony”
Lesson 32 – D&C 135; Our Heritage pgs. 62-66
Martyrs in the scriptures include John the Baptist, Abinadi, Zacharias, and Stephen. They were all martyred because of their commitment to the truth. Today’s lesson reviews the latter-day martyrdom of the brothers, Joseph and Hyrum Smith.
In Nauvoo, at least for a few years, the Saints prospered as the Church grew rapidly, the Saints labored on the temple, and the heavens were opened with numerous revelations being given to the Prophet Joseph Smith for the benefit of the Church. But animosity grew and during 1843-44, the opposition to the Church grew more intense and violent. Enemies arose both outside and inside the Church and their efforts to destroy the Church increased. The climax came on 27 June 1844.
(Special report on pages 62-63, “The Martyrdom” in Our Heritage)
D&C 135:4-5. D&C 135 was written by Elder John Taylor, who was wounded in the mob’s attack on Carthage Jail and the Prophet.
The Prophet was reported to be as “calm as a summer’s morning” even though he knew that he might be slain at Carthage. He and Hyrum might have received comfort from Ether 12:36-38.
D&C 135:1-2 tells us the bare facts about the martyrdom. Elder Willard Richards, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and a close friend of the Prophet, was present at the jail during the mob’s attack and gave this account, which begins as the mob arrived just after 5:00pm on 27 June 1844: “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 passed between us, and showed that our enemies were desperados… Joseph Smith, Mr. Taylor, and myself sprang back to the front part of the room, and…Hyrum Smith retreated two-thirds across the chamber directly in front of and facing the door. 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. From the holes in his [clothing], it appears evident that a ball must have been thrown from without, through the window, which entered his back on the right side, and passing through, lodged against his watch…At the same instant the ball from the door entered his nose. As he struck the floor, he exclaimed emphatically, “I am a dead man.” Joseph looked towards him and responded, ‘Oh, dear brother Hyrum!’ and opening the door two or three inches with his left hand, discharged one barrel of a six shooter (pistol) at random in the entry…A ball [from a musket of one of the mob] grazed Hyrum’s breast, and entering his throat passed into his head, while other muskets were aimed at him and some balls hit him. Joseph continued snapping his revolver round the casing of the door into the space as before…, while Mr. Taylor with a walking stick stood by his side and knocked down the bayonets and muskets which were constantly discharged through the doorway…When the revolver failed, we had no more firearms, and expected an immediate rush of the mob, and the doorway full of muskets, half way in the room, and no hope but instant death from within. Mr. Taylor rushed into the window, which is some fifteen or twenty feet from the ground. When his body was nearly on balance, a ball from the door within entered his leg, and a ball from without struck his watch…in his vest pocket near the left breast, … the force of which ball threw him back on the floor, and he rolled under the bed which stood by his side… Joseph attempted, a the last resort, to leap [from] the same window from whence Mr. Taylor fell, when two balls pierced him from the door, and one entered his right breast from without, and he fell outward, exclaiming, ‘Oh Lord, my God!’ … He fell on his left side a dead man” (History of the Church, 6:619-20).
Elder John Taylor was shot four times but recovered from his wounds. A year before the martyrdom, the Prophet had accurately prophesied that Elder Willard Richards would escape unharmed. Elder Richards recalled that in this prophecy, the prophet had said that “the time would come that the balls would fly around him like hail, and he should see his friends fall on the right and on the left, but that there should not be a hole in his garment” (History of the Church, 6:619).
Before the Prophet’s father, Joseph Smith, Sr. died, he gave his son a blessing: “You shall live to finish your work…You shall live to lay out the plan of all the work which God has given you to do” (History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley , 309-10)
(Class members may wish to express what most impressed you about the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith did more for the salvation of men in this world than anyone except Jesus
D&C 135:3 records some of the Prophet’s major achievements. He did “more save Jesus for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it”, because his work blessed not only the Saints in this dispensation, but also billions who lived at other times who were unable to receive the gospel blessings. We will appreciate his contributions more if we think of how much they bless our daily lives and prepare us for eternity:
· Truths about the Godhead
D&C 130:22-23. In the King Follett sermon given 7 April 1844, the Prophet taught: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form of man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, and talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 345)
· The authority of the priesthood
Through the prophet Joseph Smith, heavenly messengers restored the Aaronic Priesthood, the Melchizedek Priesthood, and the keys of the priesthood. Then, the Lord gave revelations about priesthood offices, organization, covenants, ordinances, duties, and blessings. Without those revelations, we would not understand the priesthood power or its operations.
· Truths about our origin and our relationship to God
D&C 76:23-24; Abraham 3:22-28 teach that we are literally children of God and that we lived with him before we came to this earth as mortals. Think about how this knowledge affects your daily life.
While serving in the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley said: “[Joseph Smith] translated and published the Book of Mormon, a volume of 522 pages which has since been retranslated into [many] languages and which is accepted by millions across the earth as the word of God. The revelations he received and other writings he produced are likewise scripture to these millions. The total in book pages constitutes the equivalent of almost the entire Old Testament of the Bible, and it came through one man in the space of a few years” (Ensign, May 1977, 65)
· Truths about the plan of salvation
Lessons 19 and 20 provided information in detail about what the Prophet revealed about the plan of salvation.
· Truths about the salvation of the dead
The Prophet taught that those who died without an opportunity to receive gospel ordinances and covenants would have an opportunity to accept or reject these ordinances and blessings just as if they had had the opportunity in this life. He also taught that we need our dead and they need us for the whole human family to be joined together as the Father intended. See D&C 128:18.
· The building of temples and the performance of temple ordinances
The receipt of endowments and the sealing of families together forever were revealed through Joseph so that we might enjoy the blessings of eternal families.
· Other contributions included:
The Church was restored through him
He began the gathering of Israel and the missionary work to spread the gospel throughout the earth
The Law of Consecration, a celestial principle, was revealed through him
The Lord’s law of health, the Word of Wisdom, was revealed through him
We learned about the future building of latter-day Zion and the New Jerusalem through him
He wrote the Articles of Faith
President Spencer W. Kimball asked: “How many of you know the Articles of Faith?…Do you know them? Have you repeated them? You are always prepared with a sermon when you know the Articles of Faith. And they are basic, aren’t they? I would think it would be a wonderful thing if [we] would learn them word-perfect. That means that you don’t miss and you don’t forget” (Ensign, Nov. 1975, 79)
Lessons may be found on the Internet at www.neumanninstitute.org