By Mark Swarbrick
Mormon history has intersected my life in some remarkable ways. Some of the fascinating events my research has uncovered are bits of history that are more intriguing than any fictional novel! What I am about to tell you are historical facts. The sources for what I shall relate are the writings of eye-witnesses of these events. They are people who lived during these times, many of them Mormons. Much of this comes straight out of the Mormon historical archives.
Growing up in Carthage, Illinois, where Joseph Smith was killed in 1844, and living next door to the former Mormon town of Nauvoo where so many early historical events occurred, I heard with great interest of the things that happened there. My parents attended college in Carthage in the early 1940s. At that time not even a hundred years had transpired since the death of Joseph Smith. First-hand accounts were still fresh in the minds of children whose parents had recounted these events to them. My mother heard actual accounts from elderly local people as they related what their parents had experienced.
My parents moved back to Carthage in 1961 when I was six years old. During the 60s my mother was curator of the Carthage Museum and thereby learned much about the early Mormon history.
Having caught my mother’s love of history, I have for a number of years made a study of the early happenings involving Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and the Mormon Church. I devoured every old newspaper and historical account in the Carthage museum and Dixon museum on these matters. I have studied numerous first-hand accounts and books written by those who lived during those times, and perused the writings of Mormons, ex-Mormons and people who knew and lived with Joseph Smith when he was an adult and also when he was a child.
Several times I visited the Carthage jail when I was just a youth. As you probably know, it is owned now by the Mormon Church and is preserved as a shrine to Joseph Smith. Many times I have taken the tour through the jail while the Mormon elder tells in hushed reverent tones that this is where the true prophet was martyred for his faith by a wicked angry mob: “Look here and see where his innocent blood is soaked into the floor. See the bullet holes in the door, and the window through which he fell when the bullets riddled his body. This is where Joseph and his brother Hyrum were murdered for no reason, martyred for their faith by a wild mob.”
Growing up in the area where many of these events transpired was one of the things that led me to research thoroughly the original first-hand accounts — testimony which reveals what actually transpired in those early days. I have uncovered many fascinating and little-publicized details which dispel some of the myths and half-truths that inevitably sprout up around any momentous event. I think you will find what I have uncovered intriguing, to say the least.
What you are about to read, some people don’t want you to know. I assure you that what you are about to read is the absolute truth – facts, as I have said, gleaned from old newspapers, histories, diaries and first-hand accounts. As you read, keep this question in mind: If it came to a choice between truth and tradition, would you choose truth?
Mormonism and Me in Dixon
When I was entering the 8th grade, my parents moved from Carthage to Dixon, Illinois. We moved into an old stone house in the country, known as Weatherstone, which Justice of the Peace Cyrus Chamberlin built in the early 1800s.
When Joseph Smith traveled to this area, he was arrested by Sheriff Reynolds of Jackson County, Missouri, and Constable Wilson of Carthage, Illinois. Smith was wanted for questioning in regard to the attempted assassination of the governor of Missouri. Smith’s personal body guard, Porter Rockwell, had fired two shots at the governor, seriously wounding him in the head. Rockwell was convicted and he eventually confessed. Rockwell, who was called “The Destroying Angel,” was a member of the nefarious band known as the “Danites,” a group of Mormons who were appointed to respond to anti-Mormon intimidation and violence with their own brand of intimidation and violence.
Rockwell implicated Joseph Smith as having given the order to murder the governor. Joseph Smith had “prophesied” a year earlier that the Missouri governor would “die by violent hands within a year.” Just before the shooting, Joseph Smith was asked by some of his followers where Rockwell had gone. Joseph Smith responded “Gone? Gone to fulfill prophecy!”  These events led to the Missouri Sheriff and Carthage Constable arresting Smith and holding him in Dixon, where, as I said, we had moved when I was entering the 8th grade..
Joseph Smith in Dixon
Smith’s arrest in Dixon came about in this manner: Joseph Smith and his first wife Emma were visiting his wife’s sister’s home about twelve miles from Dixon. The sheriff and the constable, having learned of Smith’s whereabouts, arrived at this home and inquired for Smith. They were told that he was not there.
As they were preparing to leave they caught sight of Smith about a hundred yards off, running towards a wooded area. They pursued on foot and found him hiding under some discarded blankets near an abandoned building. Having been thus apprehended, Smith offered no further resistance and was then taken to Dixon. While under arrest in Dixon, Smith managed to gain the attention of the town folk by hollering out a window that he was being held without being allowed access to an attorney.
At the time of this writing, my mother is curator of the historical museum in Dixon. She put together a booklet on the history of Dixon’s founder, John Dixon. In her research she learned that John Dixon was instrumental in securing legal assistance in this matter for Joseph Smith. John Dixon had a rider immediately dispatched to summon the Justice of the Peace to settle the matter. The rider arrived at the house now known by the name of Weatherstone, my former boyhood home in the 1970’s, but at that time, in the 1840’s, it was the home of Justice of the Peace Cyrus Chamberlin. Chamberlin came at once and Smith was provided with attorneys.
What happened next is somewhat comical. The Lee County Sheriff arrested the Constable and Missouri Sheriff, and they then proceeded to Ottawa to have a judge hear the matter. Thus they traveled to Ottawa, Smith in the custody of the constable and Missouri sheriff, and they in the custody of the Lee County Sheriff.
The judge in Ottawa was out of town so they then returned to Dixon. In Dixon, Smith’s attorney filed for a change of venue and the case was moved to Nauvoo, where Smith could be assured of release. In the meantime, Smith had dispatched a rider to summon the Nauvoo Legion, the Mormon Militia of Nauvoo, to free him in case the change of venue was not granted. Smith was already en route to Nauvoo when the armed Mormon militia intercepted them.
They then traveled to Nauvoo, Joseph Smith in the custody of Constable Wilson and Sheriff Reynolds, the constable and sheriff in the custody of the Lee County Sheriff, and that entire band surrounded and effectively in the custody of the Mormon Nauvoo Legion.
Thus they proceeded to the Mormon town of Nauvoo – a city that was then ruled by the Mormon Church – a theocracy wherein Joseph Smith was heralded by all as Prophet, Seer, Mayor and Lieutenant General of the Nauvoo Legion. In this place where there was no separation of church and state and where Smith was king of his own province, the Nauvoo court promptly released him and bid the “Gentile authorities” to be on their way.
To Kill a Governor
In order to fully understand the events leading up to Joseph Smith’s demise, it is necessary to review what transpired in that fateful summer of 1844, paying particular attention to the prevailing attitudes of the citizens of Hancock County. A number of factors had the populace very agitated. The evasion of accountability to due process to answer to the authorities concerning the shooting of the Missouri governor was a real burr under the saddle of many people.
You can well imagine that if today a religious leader predicted the violent death of a state governor, and then the man who makes that prediction sends one of his close associates into the state, and the man shoots the governor, you can easily see what a stir that would make.
This is exactly what happened with Smith and Rockwell. Joseph Smith refused to answer to the Missouri courts. He declared himself free of arrest warrants by virtue of a habeas corpus issue by the Nauvoo court, a court which he had complete authority over. Non-Mormons considered this a gross miscarriage of justice. The newspapers of the surrounding towns were buzzing with indignation. But this was only one of many grievances.
Mormonism and Politics
The people were also distressed that the Mormons all voted as a block as Joseph Smith directed them to. Since all converts from all over the world were being encouraged to move to Nauvoo, the Mormon voting power was quickly overwhelming the citizenry of the county. Those who had lived and worked and built the civil government in the county, long before the Mormons arrived, were now losing their say in civil matters.
As a result of this block voting, politicians were granting favoritism to the whims of Joseph Smith for the sake of political expediency. This lack of separation between religious and political authority, coupled with Smith’s totalitarian control over the Nauvoo militia and over all civil authority in Nauvoo, offended the citizen’s concept of religious and civil liberties, which were at the core of American conscience.
Pillaging the Gentiles
Another grievance was the matter of the practice of “Pillaging the Gentiles,” as the Mormons had been taught to call it. They were stealing from non-Mormons. That this was at one time encouraged during the Mormon War in Missouri is a matter of record in the Mormon speeches and sermons of the time. Complaints over the continuance of this practice by some Mormons in Illinois resulted in Joseph Smith issuing a decree that any involved in such activity should cease and desist.
My mother had often heard old-timers say that their parents had been very angry with the Mormons. They exclaimed that they were “common horse thieves” as they frequently engaged in the practice of stealing livestock from them simply because they were not Mormon.
Polygamy and American Decency
A fourth grievance was the practice of polygamy by Smith and other leaders of the church. America was then, in contrast to today’s standards, quite conservative and God-fearing. The practice of polygamy was a shock to their Christian sensibilities. I hesitate to mention these things, as any Mormon holds Joseph Smith in high regard and to hear any statement that would malign the prophet’s character must surely seem offensive. But love demands truth. I trust that you believe the words in Proverbs:
“Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:5-6)
There is documentation to establish that Smith had a minimum of 36 wives. Of the 36, 7 were children under the age of 18. The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of LDS apostle Heber C. Kimball, who was 14. Nancy Winchester was either 14 or 15. Fanny Alger and Flora Ann Woodworth were both 16. Sarah Ann Whitney, Lucy Walker and Sarah Lawrence were 17. He also had marriages of mother/daughter and sister combinations.
According to census reports of the time, the average marrying age for girls in 1840 was between 19.8 years and 23.7 years, so the marrying of a 14-year-old child by a 30-some year old already-married man was as offensive then as it would be now — even more so. And of course today, such a person would go to prison as a pedophile and have a permanent record as a sex offender.
Certainly a 14-year-old child is not ready for marriage, especially a secret “marriage” to a religious leader who already has a legal wife, along with many other secret wives. Imagine you lived during that time. Would you want your 14-year-old daughter involved in such an arrangement? Of course you would not. Can you see why this practice was so upsetting to both Mormons and non-Mormons?
According to the book Mormon Enigma, recommended by official LDS church historian Leonard Arrington (available from Deseret Books), Joseph’s first wife Emma was very shocked to learn that her husband’s philandering was greater than she had known — so shocked that she stated: “He deserved to die as he did!” I think it is fair to say that Emma knew Joseph Smith’s character better than anyone, then or now.
Joseph Smith, Adultery and Freedom of the Press
By far the gravest error that Joseph Smith committed was his multiple adulteries. There were at least ten women whom he married that were already married to other men. His rendezvous with these women were kept secret from their husbands. It is this offense which ultimately led to his death. As it says in Holy Scripture:
“Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is the one who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; Whoever touches her will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 6:27-29)
Smith approached Mrs. William Law, the wife of another Mormon. She refused his proposal to be one of his secret plural wives and told her husband about the matter when he arrived home. Law was understandably angry. Law, together with a number of other Mormons who were upset by Smith’s adultery and polygamy, sought unsuccessfully to bring him to repentance. They then purchased a printing press and started a newspaper, the Nauvoo Expositor, the purpose of which was to bring reformation to the licentious direction the Mormon leaders had taken.
That those who printed the Nauvoo Expositor were devout Mormons and upstanding citizens becomes clearly evident as one reads the newspaper. The paper delineates and denounces the newly espoused doctrine of blood atonement and polygamy. After expressing concern over the church’s totalitarianism and the number of law breakers taking refuge in the city and decrying Nauvoo’s disregard for state law the newspaper’s authors state:
“This revelation with other evidence, that the aforesaid heresies were taught and practiced in the Church; determined me to leave the office of first counselor to the president of the Church at Nauvoo, inasmuch as I dared not to teach or administer such laws.
Free toleration in religious sentiments, we deem compatible with the organization of our government, and should not be abridged.
We would not be worthy of the name of an American citizen, did we stand by and see, not only the laws of the State, but the laws of the United States, set at defiance, the authorities insulted, fugitives from justice fleeing for refuge, asking and receiving protection from the authorities of Nauvoo.”
One cannot read the paper without sensing that its authors had no ill intent towards their church or their Mormon brethren. They merely wanted reformation. You can read the newspaper online at: http://www.solomonspalding.com/docs/exposit1.htm
Joseph Smith’s reaction was to malign the publishers of the newspaper. Smith, along with the city council, ordered that the printing press be destroyed. The press was dragged out into the street and smashed and any existing copies of the newspaper were burned. This was of course illegal, being a violation of the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights which specifically guarantees freedom of the press.
Although non-Mormons of the county were troubled by Smith’s autocratic control over Nauvoo, by his adulteries and polygamy, and by the block voting practices of the Mormons, the majority were content to live and let live. But this destruction of a newspaper was the last straw for the non-Mormons. Freedom of the press was considered a hallmark of American freedom and a guaranteed right under the constitution.
Amidst the firestorm that followed, Smith’s brother Hyrum made the mistake of offering a reward for the destruction of the Warsaw newspaper for its alleged unfavorable reporting of Mormon events. The life of the editor was also threatened. The citizens of Warsaw were so alarmed that they mustered their militia and prepared for a Mormon attack. Following is an excerpt from a newspaper of the time which reflects the tense excitement these events engendered. From the Warsaw Signal June 12, 1844:
“We have conversed with a gentleman of undoubted veracity, who was in Nauvoo, and present in the council room, at the time the ordinance to destroy the Expositor press, was under consideration, and from him, we received the following items from the speeches of Joe and Hyrum Smith.
Joe (Joseph Smith) became very much excited in the course of his speech, and appeared wrathy at his own followers, because of their not entering into his schemes with sufficient zeal. In giving vent to his feelings he used the following language: ‘If you (the people of Nauvoo) will not stick by me, and WADE TO YOUR KNEES IN BLOOD FOR MY SAKE, you may go to Hell and be Damned, and I will go and build another City!!!’
Hyrum directed his fire against the PRESS; and in relation to the editor of this paper, he made use of the following language: ‘We had better send a message to long-nosed Sharp, that if he does not look out he might be visited with a PINCH OF SNUFF, that will make him SNEEZE.’ At this burst of oratory, the council were convulsed with laughter. Hyrum continued, “In relation to our Press, he said, “If any person would go to Warsaw boldly, in daylight, and BREAK THE PRESS of the SIGNAL OFFICE, with a sledge hammer, he would BEAR HIM OUT, if it cost him his farm. He could only be taken with a warrant at any rate, and WHAT GOOD WILL THAT DO!”
After quoting these things the newspaper continued…
“These extracts, will show, the Rulers of Nauvoo have doffed their saintly robes, and have come out in their true characters of HELLISH FIENDS. Yes! Hyrum & Joe are as truly Devils, as though they had served an apprenticeship of half of eternity in the Infernal Pit. And now Hyrum, in relation to your threats, we wish no better sport than you should send your minions here to destroy our press. Let them come!! We are ANXIOUS!!! As regards your threats to our person, we scorn them. We DEFY YOU, AND YOUR hosts! Recollect that OUR DEATH will be AVENGED!!! You, Devil as you are, cannot intimidate us. We will write and publish WHAT WE PLEASE, AND AS WE PLEASE!!!”
Joseph Smith then had the city council pass an ordinance to the effect that if any lawmen entered the city to arrest Smith in connection with the Missouri governor’s shooting, that these lawmen should be incarcerated in the city jail for life! When these new ordinances were publicized in the Nauvoo Neighbor, even those sympathetic to the Mormons began to realize that Joseph Smith held the law of the land in utter contempt.
Smith had also petitioned the United States Congress that Nauvoo be made a separate federal territory, and then declared that if the Congress did not grant his request, then “they shall be broken up as a government and God shall damn them and there shall be nothing left of them — not even a grease spot!” Such rhetoric was common for Smith when his ire was up. The LDS History of the Church, contains the Affidavit of Thomas B. Marsh which gives us a sample of the Prophet’s vehemence:
The Prophet inculcates the notion, and it is believed by every true Mormon, that Smith’s prophecies are superior to the laws of the land. I have heard the Prophet say that he would yet tread down his enemies, and walk over their dead bodies; and if he was not let alone, he would be a second Mohammed to this generation, and that he would make it one gore of blood from the Rocky mountains to the Atlantic ocean; that like Mohammed, whose motto in treating for peace was, ‘the Alcoran or the Sword.’ So should it be eventually with us, ‘Joseph Smith or the Sword.’ 
After Joseph Smith had the Nauvoo Expositor’s press destroyed, the owners of the destroyed newspaper went to Carthage and filed complaints and arrest warrants were issued. A posse was sent to Nauvoo and they arrested the destroyers of the press. However, the Nauvoo Court, which was under the rule of Joseph Smith, simply issued a writ of habeas corpus and had the men released. This act so inflamed the surrounding communities that they mustered the troops of the militias of their communities and made preparation to march upon Nauvoo and by force of arms bring the city into submission to county and state government.
The Beginning of the End – War Looms Closer
Cannon were brought in from as far away as Springfield and powder and guns were being brought in while troops drilled and prepared for battle. Meanwhile Joseph Smith gathered the Nauvoo Legion and with sword brandished made a public speech, vowing they shall defend what he considered his sovereign empire. Cooler heads amongst the non-Mormons suggested that word be sent to the governor of the state to come with the state militia so as to avert certain war.
The governor did come with his troops and war was averted, but only for a time. Smith fled across the river and planned to go into hiding. Many Mormons feared that if Smith ran off, the town would be sacked. Upon urgent pleas in a letter from his wife, he returned and surrendered himself to arrest at Carthage, where he was detained in the Carthage Jail. The governor ordered some of the Carthage Militia, the Carthage Greys, to guard the jail and then started to Nauvoo in order to work out a peaceful settlement to the crisis.
A number of lawmen from Missouri were still in Carthage at this time, desiring very much to see Smith brought to trial in the matter of the shooting of the Missouri governor. There were still outstanding warrants from Missouri for Smith’s arrest. Many people were very concerned that although he was in jail, his powerful influence would interfere with the judicial process.
There was good reason and strong precedent to fear this. Smith and his brother Hyrum had been arrested before in Missouri. In their first escape attempt from the Missouri Jail, Hyrum rushed the guard when he was letting in visitors to see them. After this escape attempt was foiled by extra guards on hand, Porter Rockwell smuggled augers to them. They nearly had a hole dug through the jail wall before they were found out.
Their third escape attempt came when a change of venue was granted and they were being moved to another county. En route, Hyrum got the sheriff drunk with a gallon of whiskey and then Smith bribed the sheriff with an offer of $800.00 for their freedom. That did the trick. Money talked – Joseph walked, or in this case rode, for the drunken sheriff also sold them the horses they needed for their escape.
Since Joseph Smith had escaped to Illinois as a fugitive from justice, it was feared something similar would happen in Carthage and that Smith would manage to use his political influence to escape prosecution. Many people were concerned that the governor would release Smith before the courts could deal with the matters in question. As a point of fact, the governor in his memoirs admits that it was his intention to find some way to set Smith free. Another concern was that the Nauvoo Legion would come and forcibly set him free. In fact, Smith had already sent a messenger with explicit orders to bring the Legion and free him. Two guns had already been smuggled in to the prisoners. Mormon Elder Cyrus H. Wheelock had brought a pistol in and had given it to Smith. This would have deadly consequences.
The Shootout at Carthage Jail
Because of these concerns a group of men, many of whom were Missourians who desired to take Smith into custody and remove him to Missouri, banded together under the leadership of troops from the Warsaw Militia, which had been under the command of Colonel Levi Williams.
According to eyewitness accounts, they were about thirty to forty in number and they were seen to march orderly to the jail in single file at the military quick-step. Only nine men of the Carthage Greys guarded the jail and they were no match for this organized fighting force which outnumbered them. They had no choice but to relinquish the jail. The troops entered the jail to take Smith into custody and head for Missouri.
Such plans were thwarted when they met with resistance and fight from the prisoners. Who fired the first shot will never be known. T.H. Gregg in his History of Hancock County alleges that Smith fired first. Taylor, who was in the jail with Smith, says that the troops fired first. Another account, which is perhaps the most accurate, suggests the troops fired first, but only to shoot the lock from the door, thinking it was locked. The door was in fact, not actually locked. The latch was broken and Hyrum and Joseph were holding it shut with their hands.
In any event, once that first shot was fired, a raging gun battle ensued with the bullets flying fast and furious. Smith and his brother Hyrum were both armed. Smith emptied his six-shooter through the partially open door as it was being forced open. Three of his six shots misfired, but three bullets found their mark, seriously wounding three men. Mormon Elder John Taylor, who was in jail with Joseph Smith, gives this account, which is recorded in the Documentary History of the Church, Volume 7:
“(Joseph Smith) pulling the six-shooter left by Brother Wheelock from his pocket, opened the door slightly, and snapped the pistol six successive times; only three of the barrels, however, were discharged. I afterwards understood that two or three were wounded by these discharges, two of whom, I am informed, died.”
Mormon leader John D. Lee wrote in 1877:
“Joseph reached out his hand and fired off his six shots at the crowd, and wounded several mortally.” 
Understandably, once Joseph Smith fired lethal shots into the Warsaw Militia, any chance of a peaceful capture was forfeited and the militia returned fire. Taylor was wounded, and Joseph’s brother Hyrum was killed. Smith ran to the window and, according to some Mormon sources, attempted to utter the Masonic distress cry, which would compel any Mason to render assistance. He only got out the first few words, “O Lord, My God,” and as he was attempting to escape out the window was shot and he fell through the window to his death.
TH Gregg’s History of Hancock County, which was written in 1880, gives this description of the attack on the jail:
“From a lady who resided perhaps nearest the jail, and who saw them approach, we lately obtained the following: That they strung along in single file and quick step, from the direction of the woods northwest of the town, until they came to the fence surrounding the building. This they scaled at once, and seized the guard. Her first impression was that they were Mormons, come to release the prisoners; and that impression was shared by the other inhabitants of the town, as the alarm spread. She thinks there were not more than thirty to forty men in the gang, as they filed along. The guard was soon overpowered, and a rush was made for the stairway… We believe they did not even contemplate the killing of the prisoners…from all the inquiries we have made, and looking at the circumstances as they are known to have existed, that is our honest and fixed conclusion. Of the thirty or forty men who approached the jail that day with stealthy tread, we do not believe there was one with murder in his heart…Let us look at the circumstances on which this opinion is based: There had been several demands made by Missouri for the delivery of Smith, in the near past, all of which had in some way been thwarted. Added to this, only a short time before, a public meeting at Warsaw and another one at Carthage had asked the Governor of Missouri to make another demand, and pledging aid in support of it. This purpose, we are convinced, and this only was to take the prisoners and run them into Missouri was as far as any purpose went, until they reached the door of the jail. There they were met with resistance and with fight…and it ended in death.”
The History of Hancock County has an entire chapter on the events leading up to the Mormon war in Illinois and its aftermath. It is a fascinating read. Being written in 1880, it is close enough to the time that its accounts are taken from eye witnesses, yet far enough removed that everyone involved could be candid without fear of legal ramifications. It can be read online or downloaded free from:
I revisited the Old Carthage Jail during the winter of 2007. The Mormon guide, as on previous visits, emphasized how the prophet Joseph Smith was martyred for his faith, that he went to jail as a lamb to the slaughter, and then was ruthlessly murdered by a wild mob for no apparent reason. No mention was made that Smith was illegally armed and that he killed two men and wounded a third as his last act before leaving this world.
This fact must be embarrassing, because although the guides always do admit, when asked, that they know about the gun, they never volunteer that information, nor do they seem to be informed as to how many times he pulled the trigger or that he killed two men. In one visit the guide was disbelieving that Smith had shot anyone. He said that it was suspicious that they never came forward at any hearing on the matter and so he doubted such an event. I pointed out that they could not come forward by reason of the fact that they were dead. He then suggested that this was false information that came from anti-Mormon sources. He didn’t seem to be aware that these facts are recorded in the LDS Documentary History of the Church, vol.7, pp. 101-103.
On my last visit in 2012 the guide was asked by someone why Joseph Smith was jailed. She gave no information about the newspaper that was destroyed, which is the event for which he was arrested. Nothing was said about polygamy, other men’s wives, or under-age secret brides, all of which were the reason for the newspaper. Nothing was said about the guns the prisoners had, or anything about others being killed in the melee.
When the guide asked if there were questions, I inquired as to the guns and the killings by Smith that John Taylor had noted. She then admitted that this was so. I asked her to elaborate about the newspaper, since this was the causative factor in his incarceration. The guide said it was a newspaper started by people “south of Navoo” that were “enemies” of Joseph Smith and that the paper contained “vulgar lies.” She said that the newspaper press was legally destroyed by decision of the Nauvoo city council. I asked if she had read the newspaper published by this printer and she responded that she had not.
Apparently this gentle lady had been misinformed. Clearly she was unaware that the Constitution of the United States guarantees freedom of the press and that destruction of a newspaper is illegal. Furthermore, the paper was not printed by enemies south of Nauvoo. The paper was printed by Mormons who lived in Nauvoo. They were dedicated to the Book of Mormon and only wished that Joseph Smith would depart from his polygamy and be the godly leader they desired. The paper only contained facts that are now known to be a matter of historical record.
Apparently the Mormon guide had the newspaper in Warsaw confused with the newspaper in Nauvoo. Warsaw is directly south of Nauvoo and the Warsaw Signal was critical of Joseph Smith and a threat by the Mormons to destroy that press and kill the editor had been made. But it is the newspaper in Nauvoo that was actually destroyed. The threats to the Warsaw Signal were made after the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor, which was owned and operated by sincere Mormons of Nauvoo who were disgruntled with the secret polygamy and adultery of Joseph Smith.
One has to wonder why so much misinformation and equivocation is disseminated by the LDS missionaries at the Carthage Jail. One would think that they would have thoroughly studied the history so as to give a historically accurate rendition of the facts. Even when they do know the pertinent facts, they do not disclose or acknowledge them unless confronted with the information. Perhaps they find the LDS theme of Joseph Smith as the righteous martyred prophet difficult to reconcile with his real actions.
At the Carthage Jail one is told that Joseph Smith was an innocent godly man. He was as a lamb led to the slaughter, martyred for his faith by a wild blood-lust crazed mob that killed him for no reason other than their unreasonable hate for a religion that was different than theirs.
The recorded indisputable historical record says this: Joseph Smith violated the constitution of the United States by destroying a newspaper and he threatened to destroy one of another city. He then evaded arrest by virtue of the Mormon Nauvoo court and the Mormon Nauvoo Legion. When the governor arrived with the state militia, Smith fled across the river into Missouri, but returned at the behest of his wife.
He surrendered to the authorities and was incarcerated in the Carthage jail. The would-be kidnappers came as an organized militia, marching orderly and briskly to the jail, intending to take him into more secure custody by removing him to a Missouri jail, from whence he had made prior escape. Smith, who according to John Taylor, had consumed wine earlier in the evening, responded with deadly force, killing two men and then was shot attempting to escape out the upstairs window.
Martyr or Murderer?
Neither the destruction of the newspaper’s press, nor Smith’s adulteries and polygamy which prompted the creation of the newspaper – the very causes leading to his incarceration and death – are ever mentioned during the Mormon guided tour of the old jail. Rather the emphasis is upon the holiness of Joseph Smith and that he was martyred for his faith.
As I pointed out to the guide: Christian martyrs do not fight back or try to escape, but follow the pattern of Jesus who prayed “Father forgive them, they know not what they do” and Stephen in the book of Acts, who as he was being stoned prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Jesus, when arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, told Peter to put away his sword. Of our Lord we read:
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; (1 Peter 2:23-24)
In contrast, Joseph would be the first so-called “martyr” in Christian history to go out in a raging gun battle! Christian martyrs die for believing in Jesus. Smith died because his “Destroying Angel” shot the governor of Missouri, because he ordered the destruction of a newspaper which was exposing his licentious and adulterous living, and because he had a history of jail escapes, and because he used deadly force against those who were trying to make him answerable to the Missouri courts.
If Joseph and Hyrum Smith had not had smuggled pistols, If Joseph had not shot three men, if the prisoners had not offered resistance by holding the door shut, things may have turned out differently. The men would have likely taken the prisoners into custody and run them into Missouri and turned them over to the legal courts in that state, as was their original intention. Although it is often claimed that Smith was killed by a “wild mob,” according to eyewitness accounts the group of men were not a mob as they approached the jail. They were seen to be marching single file in military fashion. Things did not degenerate to violence until resistance was offered.
This in no way excuses their action. Though they may have had legal papers from Missouri to take Smith, he was under arrest in Illinois and they had no authority to take him from there without due process of law. But in view of the fact that the governor was planning some kind of release for Smith, as was feared, and considering that Smith had sent for the Legion to free him, and in view of the fact that two smuggled weapons was already in Smith’s possession, it is understandable that things took the course they did. When elected officials cow to political pressure from a large group for the sake of political expediency, and ignore for too long the cries of the injured and abused, such unfortunate vigilante action tends to happen.
I pause in the narrative to consider the feelings of Mormon readers. I can understand that what I have related would be very upsetting to some. Joseph Smith is a hero in the minds of LDS people. Heroes and roll models are a wonderful thing to have.
I think it is a noble thing that Mormons respect the admirable qualities of reverence and godliness that are presented in the LDS stories of Joseph Smith. The fact that some of these stories are fabricated or distorted, does not take away from the nobility of a Mormon who appreciates and admires decent moral character.
Joseph Smith may not be what you have thought him to be. But of more importance is that you are someone who admires good character and despises bad character. That is honorable. Rejoice in that and do not be overly distraught about these difficult truths about Joseph Smith. It may be a bitter pill to swallow, but bitter truth is better than sweet lies.
Hold on to this: If you call yourself a Christian, then it is Jesus Christ who is your Lord and God. Not Joseph Smith. Jesus created you and everything else in the universe. He is the only one who walked on water, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for your sins and purchased your redemption. Let him be your hero, your hope and the object of your faith. A Christian’s faith rests upon Jesus Christ, our Lord, Savior and Creator, not upon a mere man.
The Aftermath – Carthage Completely Evacuated! Mormon Attack Feared!
The shootout at the Carthage Jail brought great alarm to the residents of Carthage, so much so that the entire town was evacuated in fear of an attack by the army of the Mormon Church. Men, women and children fled in great haste until every home was empty. Fortunately no attack came and the people returned to their homes. Tension remained high and militias gathered and trained and prepared for defense of the towns of the county.
Joseph Smith was still esteemed by most Mormons to have been a prophet, but many Mormons now considered that he had been a pedophile, a philanderer and a fraud. Consequently scores of people left the Mormon Church at this time. Smith’s short life had come to an end mere seconds after he took the lives of two others, but the new religion he started would live on. After some infighting over who should get rightful control over the church, Brigham Young eventually prevailed as the new prophet and leader.
Joseph’s widow, Emma Smith, left the church with a following who believed that Joseph’s son should become the next prophet when he grew older. Their church, one of the three largest branches, continues to this day. Mormonism has continued to fracture down through the years and today there are over one hundred different sects claiming to be the one true Mormon Church with the one true prophet.
To ensure continued peace, an agreement was worked out between Mormon authorities and the county and state governments to the effect that the Mormons would leave the state but would be allowed to remain in Nauvoo until the spring so that they would not have to travel in wintertime.
Brigham Young’s Harem and His Reign of Terror
John D. Lee, who was at the time Brigham Young’s personal bodyguard, describes the state of affairs in Nauvoo during this time. Polygamy was increasingly practiced. The church had declared that all marriages not officiated by the Mormon Church were null and void and that anyone wishing to stay married to their spouse must have a Mormon wedding, or if they wished, they could abandon their spouse and choose another. A number of couples engaged in wife swapping during this time of marital musical chairs.
Brigham Young continued to add to his harem and it mattered not if a woman was betrothed to another. If he wanted her, he would have her. No one dared defy the mouthpiece of the Almighty. Many left the church during this time and were angry over Young’s seductions of children and of his advances upon the fiancées of others. One of his wives was 15 and two were 16, while Brigham Young was in his 40s. John D. Lee tells of his great love for Emeline, his betrothed, and then writes:
“One day Brigham Young saw Emeline and fell in love with her. He asked me to resign my claims in his favor, which I did, though it caused a great struggle in my mind to do so, for I loved her dearly.” 
Yet, so much was John D. Lee under the mesmerizing spell of Brigham Young that he remained loyal:
Many a night have I gone with him, arm in arm, and guarded him while he spent an hour or two with his young brides…
At this point Brigham Young had so many ex-Mormon and non-Mormon enemies that he had to stay carefully hidden and guarded. John D. Lee explains the activities that caused the ground-swell of enemies against Mormonism and Brigham Young in particular:
“If they were suspicious that any man wanted to serve a writ on his Honor, Brigham Young, they were careful never to let that man escape. Sometimes they would treat them with great kindness, and in that way decoy them to some out-of-the-way place, and “save” them, as they called it. They were not only on the track of officers, but all suspected characters who might come on to spy out what was going on; for instance, the consecrating of the stock of their enemies, by the Saints, and driving it in at night and butchering it, and distributing it among their friends… Whatever the police were ordered to do, they were to do, and ask no questions. Whether it was right or wrong, mattered not to them, they were responsible only to their leaders…Under Brigham Young, Hosea Stout was Chief of Police. They showed me where they buried a man in a lot near the Masonic Hall. They said they got him tight and were joking with him while some men were digging his grave. They asked him to go with them into a pit of corn, saying it was fully grown. They told him they had a jug of whiskey cached out there. They led him to his grave, and told him to get down there, and hand up the jug, and he should have the first drink. .As he bent over to get down, Rosswell Stevens struck him with his police cane on the back of the head and dropped him. They then tightened a cord around his neck to shut off his wind, and then they covered him up, and set the hill of corn back on his grave to cover up any tracks that might lead to his discovery… Another man they took in a boat…They then tied a rope around his neck and a stone to the other end of the rope, and sent him to the bottom of the Mississippi River…
I knew of many men being killed in Nauvoo… and I know of many a man who was quietly put out of the way by the orders of Joseph and his Apostles while the Church was there…It has always been a well understood doctrine of the Church that it is right and praiseworthy to kill every person who speaks evil of the Prophet. This doctrine was strictly lived up to in Utah…In Utah it has been the custom with the Priesthood to make eunuchs of such men as were obnoxious to the leaders. This was done for a double purpose: first, it gave a perfect revenge, and next, it left the poor victim a living example to others of the dangers of disobeying counsel and not living as ordered by the Priesthood…
In Nauvoo it was the orders from Joseph Smith and his apostles to beat, wound and castrate all Gentiles that the police could take in the act of entering or leaving a Mormon household under circumstances that led to the belief that they had been there for immoral purposes….In Utah it was the favorite revenge of old, worn-out members of the Priesthood, who wanted young women sealed to them, and found that the girl preferred some handsome young man. The old priests generally got the girls, and many a young man was unsexed for refusing to give up his sweetheart at the request of an old and failing, but still sensual apostle or member of the Priesthood.
As an illustration… Warren Snow was Bishop of the Church at Manti, San Pete County, Utah. He had several wives, but there was a fair, buxom young woman in the town that Snow wanted for a wife…. She thanked him for the honor offered, but told him she was then engaged to a young man, a member of the Church, and consequently could not marry the old priest…. He told her it was the will of God that she should marry him, and she must do so…the authorities called on the young man and directed him to give up the young woman. This he steadfastly refused to do…
His fate was left to Bishop Snow for his decision. He decided that the young man should be castrated; Snow saying, ‘When that is done, he will not be liable to want the girl badly, and she will listen to reason when she knows that her lover is no longer a man.’ …An attack was made on the young man. He was severely beaten, and then tied with his back down on a bench, when Bishop Snow took a bowie-knife, and performed the operation in a most brutal manner, and then took the portion severed from his victim and hung it up in the school-house on a nail, so that it could be seen by all who visited the house afterwards.
The party then left the young man weltering in his blood, and in a lifeless condition. During the night he succeeded in releasing himself from his confinement, and dragged himself to some hay-stacks, where he lay until the next day, when he was discovered by his friends. The young man regained his health, but has been an idiot or quite lunatic ever since….
After this outrage old Bishop Snow took occasion to getup a meeting… When all had assembled, the old man talked to the people about their duty to the Church, and their duty to obey counsel, and the dangers of refusal, and then publicly called attention to the mangled parts of the young man, that had been severed from his person, and stated that the deed had been done to teach the people that the counsel of the Priesthood must be obeyed. To make a long story short, I will say, the young woman was soon after forced into being sealed to Bishop Snow…Brigham Young… did nothing against Snow. He left him in charge as Bishop at Manti, and ordered the matter to be hushed up.” 
John D. Lee continues in his explanation of how the people were taught that their lawlessness was above accountability by virtue of their being Mormons:
“No doubt the stock of many an innocent man was driven away, and this served to bring others into trouble. Thus things grew worse the longer the Saints remained at Nauvoo. It was an unfortunate matter, and much of the trouble that came upon the Church was brought on through the folly and fanaticism of the Saints. I have seen relentless cruelty practiced by those who directed this cattle stealing. They teach the rising generation to look upon every Gentile or outsider, as their enemy, and never to suffer one of their number to be sentenced by a Gentile court. They have even gone so far as to teach them not to allow a Gentile Judge to hang a Mormon dog; that they have no right to come into this territory, and to sit in judgment upon the Saints, that the Saints are to judge the world instead of the officers of the world judging them.”
I have quoted at great length from original sources in order to establish that the Mormons were not driven from Illinois to Utah because of their faith, as is often stated, but rather their expulsion was the result of their lawless state of rebellion against the state and federal governments of the United States of America, and because of the brutal and barbaric acts they committed. I must hasten to add that none of this is said to cast derision upon Mormons of today. These are merely facts of history that are well established and that must be understood in order to comprehend the true history of the Mormon Church. Sanitizing the history may be politically correct but does no service to mankind. We can not learn from history if it isn’t accurately represented. I can understand that this information would be shocking to any Mormon, as these facts are different from the things you have been told. All I can say is, read on and check my sources. I am telling you the truth. It is very important that the things we believe are grounded in truth. I am sure you would agree with that. Sometimes truth is painful, but working through the facts to real spiritual truth will bring the divine reward of a more accurate understanding of God and a closer walk with Jesus. So although this may be tough reading for you, please read on, there is good news to come! War in Illinois Inevitable
With anarchy and rebellion to such a degree, war quickly became inevitable. As non-Mormon citizens grieved the murders of their loved ones and suffered the loss of their livestock and goods, more and more people cried out to the civil authorities to do something about the Mormons and bring the perpetrators to justice. This of course was virtually impossible, as the city of Nauvoo — the capital city of the Mormon church — along with its Mormon army was operating as a sovereign government at war with the rest of the nation.
Arrest warrants were issued for three Mormon men by the last names of Clifford, Furness and Picket, who were known to have been committing violent atrocities against non-Mormons. They were charged with robbery and false imprisonment. Deputy Sheriff John Carlin of Carthage attempted unsuccessfully to arrest the individuals in Nauvoo. Finding his authority and power as sheriff utterly disregarded in the Mormon city, he left and called for an organization of a posse to enforce the law.
Two Armies Clash at Nauvoo
The Mormon church determined not to allow the posse to serve its warrants and defied the “Gentile” posse to try against the might of the Mormon army. In response to this the posse was grown to an army of 700 men. They advanced upon Nauvoo but were unsuccessful in entering the city. Two days ensued of skirmishing and firing of artillery between the two armies. Following is a description of the first engagement of the war:
“Arriving on the verge of the city, the army, all except the artillery and flankers, was halted, while the latter advanced and commenced an attack on the Mormon works, from which they had been firing during the whole time of the march. A hot fire was kept up by the artillery from both sides for fifteen or twenty minutes. During this time, the Mormons did no execution on our ranks, while the balls from our cannon rattled most terrifically through the houses in the city.
At length a fire of small arms was heard from some Mormons who had taken position on the extreme left in a cornfield. Immediately, Colonel Smith’s regiment was ordered up and drove the assailants before them. The second regiment was in the mean time ordered up to the support of the artillery. By this time the action became general.
The Mormons were in squads in their houses, and poured in their shots with the greatest rapidity. Our men were also divided off into squads, took shelter where they could best find it, and returned the fire with great energy. The greater part of the first regiment had no better shelter than a cornfield and a worm fence; the second regiment was open ground, having but two or three small houses to cover the whole body; while our artillery was entirely exposed.
The firing of small arms was continued for half an hour, during which time our men steadily advanced, driving the enemy, in many instances, from their shelter. For a short time their fire was almost entirely silenced; but, unfortunately, at this juncture our cannon balls were exhausted; and our commander, deeming it imprudent to risk a further advance without these necessary instruments, ordered the men to be drawn off. This was done in good order, and in slow time the whole force returned to the camp.
In this action we had about five hundred men engaged, and four pieces of artillery; two hundred men and one piece of artillery having been left at the camp for its protection.” 
Nauvoo Surrenders! Forced Exodus – Nauvoo Abandoned in One Day!
Eventually a deputation of 100 citizens from Quincy arrived to mediate a truce. An agreement was reached wherein Nauvoo would surrender and agree to leave the city as soon as they were able to cross the Mississippi. By 3 pm the next day nearly the entire Mormon population had crossed the river. The Mormon ruffians, Clifford, Furness and Picket – whose lawlessness brought about this war which cost the lives of good men – escaped justice and were never arrested. Thus ended the Mormon rule of the city of Nauvoo. The Mormons made their famous exodus to the Utah Territory, under the leadership of their new prophet, Brigham Young.
Considering the Facts
I realize that what you have just read is not the history that you have been told. But please give my words an honest hearing. You now have some new things to consider. I am sure you are a reasonable and thoughtful person and surely you have regard for what is sensible, logical, accurate, and true. I have footnoted everything so that you can check the sources yourself. Much of my research into these things has involved first-hand accounts from letters, diaries, newspapers, and LDS histories of the time. I am not regurgitating mere anti-Mormon rhetoric but have endeavored to honestly report the facts of history.
Some questions to think about: Why do you think the Mormon Church wants to color its history to make it appear more favorable to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young than what the facts relate? If you lived during that time, and Joseph Smith came in the night when you were gone and asked your wife, or your 14-year-old daughter to become a secret wife, do you think you might have become what the Mormon Church calls an apostate?
Why do you suppose that Mormon tour guides at the Old Carthage Jail don’t tell visitors about the guns that Joseph and Hyrum had, or that the Mormon prophet killed two people? Why do you suppose they don’t mention that he was in jail because he had a newspaper destroyed for reporting his polygamy? If Joseph Smith had submitted to the authorities and allowed the courts to make a decision regarding the destruction of the press, and had not declared martial law and had not called out the Nauvoo Legion to defy judicial process, do you think that things might have been handled more peaceably?
Has the Mormon Church ever told you of all the castrations and murders that were carried out in Nauvoo under the leadership of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young? Do you think that when Joseph Smith called upon his people to “wade to your knees in blood for my sake” that he inflamed the situation? Do you think that a true prophet of God should behave in such a manner? Are you aware that most of these facts are recorded in the LDS History of the Church?
We began this chapter by reviewing Jesus’ test of a prophet: To examine their fruit. We have seen immorality, impurity, sensuality, disputes and dissensions are listed as deeds of the flesh. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young exhibited all of these with their adulteries, fornications with young girls, and rebellion against governmental law and order. According to Jesus’ instructions these men should be regarded as false prophets. Therefore the book of Mormon Smith presented and the teaching of Smith and Young should be disregarded.
In the next chapter we shall delve into some of the doctrinal positions of Mormonism that are at variance with the Holy Bible. I know you are a Mormon because you have found some good in the church and your heart is hungry for what is good and true. There are many things good in Mormonism. The emphasis upon family and moral living is to be praised.
I don’t want to take away from anything that you have found that is good and right. I am sure you agree that life is full of learning experiences. Don’t limit yourself from only learning through one avenue. There are many ways that God uses to reveal His truth. Please give me a hearing while I explain truths that, if heeded, will bring you into a closer and truer walk with God.
 Joseph Smith had relatives near Dixon and he was once arrested there. Consequently the museum in Dixon has interesting information on these events.
 When I was there in 2007 the glass plate covering the blood was gone and the plank of wood from the floor had been replaced. I asked the Mormon guide about this and he said it was removed because they didn’t know if it was really the prophet’s blood or animal blood placed there later by sensationalists.
 Joseph Smith’s motive for murder was that the Missouri governor had issued an order to exterminate the Mormons when they lived in Missouri. LDS followers are seldom told that this order of the governor was partially in response to Sidney Rigdon’s inflammatory speeches. Rigdon, a member of the First Presidency of the Mormon Church, made an address on July 4, 1838 in which he said: “it shall be between us and them a war of extermination, for we will follow them, till the last drop of their blood is spilled, or else they will have to exterminate us: for we will carry the seal of war to their own houses, and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed.” Joseph Smith liked this statement so much he had it published in a pamphlet.
 The History of the Saints: An Expose of Joe Smith and Mormonism, John C. Bennett, p. 282.
 This account is eye-witness testimony from Constable Wilson, who was known for his honesty and integrity. It is recorded in the book History of Hancock County, TH. Greg, 1880.
 This of course should be no reflection upon today’s Mormons, many of whose lives reflect exemplary moral conduct. It does reflect upon Joseph Smith and the teachings and practices then employed in the church.
 http://www.i4m.com/think/polygamy/teen_polygamy.htm Accessed 2 January 2009
 http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org/ Accessed 2 January 2009
 http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org/ Accessed 2 January 2009
 “William Law, a former counselor in the First Presidency, wrote in his 13 May 1844 diary: “[Joseph] ha[s] lately endeavored to seduce my wife, and ha[s] found her a virtuous woman” The Laws elaborated on this in a public meeting shortly thereafter. “The Prophet had made dishonorable proposals to [my] wife . . . under cover of his asserted ‘Revelation,’ ” Law stated. He further explained that Joseph came to the Law home in the middle of the night when William was absent and told Jane that “the Lord had commanded that he should take spiritual wives, to add to his glory.” Law then called on his wife to corroborate what he had said. She did so and further explained that Joseph had “asked her to give him half her love; she was at liberty to keep the other half for her husband” Jane refused the Prophet, and according to William Law’s 20 January 1887 letter to the Salt Lake Tribune, Smith then considered the couple apostates.
 At least six married women rejected Smith’s advances. See http://www.i4m.com/think/history/Joseph_Smth_mens_wives.htm Accessed 2 Jan. 2009
 I have a copy of this edition of the newspaper. Not all were destroyed. Copies are available from the Carthage Museum.
 The incorrect punctuation is as it is found in the original.
 Millennial Star, Vol. XXII, 1860, p.455
 History of the Church, Volume 3 Page 167
 BYU-TV recently ran a program on Joseph Smith in which they reported that Smith and his cohorts made this escape because “their jailors were careless, or perhaps even helped them.” Such trivialization of law-breaking and the willful non-reporting of facts is typical of Mormonism’s propensity to rewrite history to protect and bolster their prophet’s image.
 No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, Fawn Brodie
 Jonathan Dunham was sent with written orders from Joseph Smith for the Nauvoo Legion to come and free him. He never delivered the orders. Why is not known. Providence perhaps, for it would have surely been a blood bath.
 In No Man Knows My History, Fawn Brodie writes that Hyrum was armed as well.
 The door was in fact, not locked. The latch was broken and Hyrum and Joseph were holding it shut with their hands.
 Mormonism Unveiled, by John D. Lee, 1877
 William Morgan gives this information concerning what a Mason is supposed to do “in case of distress”: “The sign is given by raising both hands and arms to the elbows, perpendicularly, one on each side of the head, the elbows forming a square. The words accompanying this sign, in case of distress, are, ‘O LORD, MY GOD! is there no help for the widow’s son?’ ” (Freemasonry Exposed, p. 76). The Mormon writer E. Cecil McGavin believes that Joseph Smith gave the Masonic signal of distress “…Joseph stood at the open window, his martyr-cry being these words, ‘O Lord My God!’ This was NOT the beginning of a prayer, because Joseph Smith did not pray in that manner. This brave, young man who knew that death was near, started to repeat THE DISTRESS SIGNAL OF THE MASONS, expecting thereby to gain the protection its members are pledged to give a brother in distress.” Mormon leader John D. Lee in his book Mormonism Unveiled, 1877 writes that Smith did utter the entire Masonic distress call.
 John Taylor, in History of the Church, Vol. 7, page 101
 TH Gregg in his History of Hancock County makes an excellent case for this.
 History of Hancock County, TH. Greg. 1880
 Mormonism Unveiled, John D. Lee, 1877
 Mormonism Unveiled, John D. Lee, 1877
 Mormonism Unveiled, John D. Lee, 1877, pp. 284-286
 History of Hancock County, TH Gregg. The engagements of this war are also recorded in the Warsaw Signal and can be read online at: http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/dbroadhu/IL/sign1845.htm Accessed Jan. 2, 2009