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Was Joseph a martyr for his beliefs?
- Critics charge that Joseph was actually a coward, and that he did not willingly die for his beliefs. They claim that he does not deserve the title of "martyr."
The Church's response
To seal the testimony of this book and the Book of Mormon, we announce the Martyrdom of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and Hyrum Smith the Patriarch. They were shot in Carthage jail, on the 27th of June, 1844, about 5 o'clock P.M., by an armed mob, painted black--of from 150 to 200 persons...They were innocent of any crime, as they had often been proved before, and were only confined in the jail by the conspiracy of traitors and wicked men; and their innocent blood on the floor of Carthage jail, is a broad seal affixed to 'Mormonism' that cannot be rejected by any court on earth; and their innocent blood on the escutcheon of the State of Illinois with the broken faith of the State, as pledged by the Governor, is a witness to the truth of the everlasting gospel, that all the world cannot impeach; and their innocent blood on the banner of liberty, and on the magna charta of the United States is an ambassador for the religion of Jesus Christ that will touch the heart of honest men among all nations; and their innocent blood with the innocent blood of all the martyrs under the altar that John saw, will cry unto the Lord of Hosts, till He avenges that blood on the earth. Amen.
—History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. 6, 629-631.
As can be seen by the Church's response, Joseph was called a martyr immediately after he died. A variety of criticisms are presented related to the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. The following sub-articles address specific criticisms that are commonly raised.
- Joseph's qualification as martyr—
Does Joseph Smith qualify as a "martyr?" (Link)
- Defy warning to flee to the west?—
Did Joseph "defy" a warning from God to flee to the west? (Link)
- Removal of temple garments before leaving for Carthage—
Joseph and others with him removed their garments before traveling to Carthage Jail. Why did they do this? (Link)
- Joseph fired a gun—
Critics claim that Joseph could not have been a "martyr" because he had and used a gun at Carthage Jail. (Link)
- Hiding Joseph's gun—
Critics claim that the Church has attempted to hide Joseph's gun, despite the fact that it is on display at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City (Link)
- Nauvoo Legion to rescue Joseph?—
Some critics have claimed that Joseph attempted to call in the Nauvoo Legion to rescue him from Carthage Jail. (Link)
- Masonic cry of distress—
Joseph's words at the window of Carthage Jail bear some resemblance to a Masonic distress call. (Link)
- Why did Joseph attempt to leave through the window?—
Was Joseph acting in a cowardly fashion when he ran to the window of the jail? (Link)