On June 27, 1844, at about five o’clock in the afternoon, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were assassinated by enemies of the Church in the county jail at Carthage, Illinois. John Taylor, severely wounded at the same time, later called the Smith brothers “martyrs1 of religion” and declared that the Restoration of the gospel had “cost the best blood of the nineteenth century.”2 These faithful souls personified the Savior’s teaching: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”3
“God is my friend,” wrote Joseph Smith to his wife in 1832. “In him I shall find comfort. I have given my life into his hands. I am prepared to go at his call. I desire to be with Christ. I count not my life dear to me, only to do his will.”4 Days before his death, in 1844, the Prophet reiterated, “I am ready to be offered a sacrifice for this people.”5
Leaving Nauvoo for Carthage, Joseph said, “I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men.”6 The Prophet humbly acknowledged, “I am a lover of the cause of Christ.”7
Joseph Smith Quotes
“That friendship which intelligent beings would accept as sincere must arise from love, and that love grow out of virtue, which is as much a part of religion as light is a part of Jehovah. Hence the saying of Jesus, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ [John 15:13]” (History of the Church, 6:73).
“I calculate to be one of the instruments of setting up the kingdom [foreseen by] Daniel . . . , and I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world. . . . It will not be by sword or gun that this kingdom will roll on: the power of truth is such that all nations will be under the necessity of obeying the Gospel” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 366).
“I do not regard my own life. I am ready to be offered a sacrifice for this people; for what can our enemies do? Only kill the body, and their power is then at an end. Stand firm, my friends; never flinch. Do not seek to save your lives, for he that is afraid to die for the truth, will lose eternal life. Hold out to the end, and we shall be resurrected and become like Gods, and reign in celestial kingdoms, principalities, and eternal dominions” (History of the Church, 6:500).
Newel Knight, Early Member of the Church
“O how I loved those men [Joseph and Hyrum Smith], and rejoiced under their teachings! . . . But I must live, and labor, and try to do good, and help to build up the kingdom of our God here on the earth. And I pray God my Father that I may be reconciled unto my lot, and live and die a faithful follower of [their] teachings” (in William G. Hartley, “They Are My Friends”: A History of the Joseph Knight Family, 1825–1850 (1986), 153–54).
Joseph F. Smith, Sixth President of the Church, 1901–1918
“It is the duty of the Latter-day Saints, . . . to teach to the children that are brought within our influence and care the divinity of the mission of Joseph Smith, the prophet. Do not forget it. Do not let him perish out of your thoughts and minds” ("Character, Mettle and Mission of the Latter-day Saints," Improvement Era, Oct. 1910, 1057).
Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the Church, 1995–2008
“How great indeed is our debt to [Joseph Smith]. . . . It was he who brought us a true knowledge of God, the Eternal Father, and His Risen Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. . . . He brought us the marvelous Book of Mormon as another witness for the living reality of the Son of God. . . . Through him were restored the keys of the holy temples, that men and women might enter into eternal covenants with God and that the great work for the dead might be accomplished to open the way for eternal blessings” (“A Season for Gratitude,” Ensign, Dec. 1997, 2).
How did Joseph Smith view his own calling as a prophet?
Speaking of his prophetic calling and the premortal council in heaven, Joseph said, “I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council” (History of the Church, 6:364). “I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty,” Joseph said on another occasion (History of the Church, 5:401). “I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world” (History of the Church, 6:365). Joseph was neither boasting nor arrogant. “I was informed [by an angel],” he matter-of-factly explained, “that I was chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of His purposes in this glorious dispensation” (History of the Church, 4:537).
How can I be a friend of God as Joseph Smith was?
Most are not called upon to die for the cause of Jesus Christ, but we are all called to give our lives by living His gospel. By so doing, we earn the trust upon which friendship is based. Brigham Young offered this powerful insight into becoming a friend of God: “We may have confidence in God until doom’s day, until we carry out in our lives all that we now know about God, and it will profit us little, unless we take a course that he may have confidence in us” (Deseret News, Mar. 25, 1857, 21).
Online Resources at ChurchofJesusChrist.org
“The Martyrdom”—Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2003), 273–85
“Sacrifice and Blessings in Nauvoo”—Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 54–67
“A Tribute to the Martyrs”—Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2002), 348–50
“He Was a Prophet, Seer, Revelator, Restorer, Witness, and Martyr”—in “Joseph Smith: First President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2004), 17–19
“He Is the Great Prophet of This Dispensation”—Presidents of the Church Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2004), 19
Online Resources at BYU
“The Joseph/Hyrum Smith Funeral Sermon”—Richard Van-Wagoner and Steven C. Walker, BYU Studies, vol. 23, no. 1 (1983), 3–18
William W. Phelps's recollection of his speech.