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Martyrdom

Tragedy noted 160 years later

CARTHAGE, Ill. — Carthage and Nauvoo, cities that were both hauntingly sad 160 ago, now sparkle with an air of friendliness and cooperation.

Illinois Nauvoo Mission President J. Samuel Park, with Sister Ann Park, holds wreath placed at Carthage Jail Historic Site and Visitors Center.
Illinois Nauvoo Mission President J. Samuel Park, with Sister Ann Park, holds wreath placed at Carthage Jail Historic Site and Visitors Center. Photo: Photo by Elder Jack Renouf

Time has healed as understanding and mutual respect for the differences of others have evolved. It is a day for honoring the two fallen heroes of the Restoration, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum.

One can look back and wonder at the sorrow that must have gripped their frail mother, Lucy Mack Smith. Their detractors thought the Latter-day work was over but it remains stronger, better and even more vibrant just as Joseph prophesied: "No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing."

In Carthage on Saturday, June 26, 75 members of the Nauvoo Ward joined with citizens of Carthage to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. BYU's contemporary band, Synthesis, brought its big band sound to the steps of the Carthage Courthouse to an appreciative audience. On this very day 160 years earlier Joseph the Prophet was incarcerated in the Carthage jail, but now there are expressions of welcome and acceptance between these two communities.

On Sunday, June 27, in addition to the regularly held meetings, three special services were held to note the 160th anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum. It was overcast and cool as hundreds gathered at the historic site of the Smith Family Cemetery in Nauvoo. There members of the Community of Christ and the Illinois Nauvoo Mission met together in a memorial service to celebrate the life of Joseph Smith and his family. The Nauvoo Brass Band and the young performing missionaries provided music.

In Carthage that afternoon, townspeople inquired about the memorial services being held at the Carthage Jail Historic Site and Visitors Center. Some 200 people, including many children, quietly participated in the tribute to the memory of the two men who sacrificed their lives there. Illinois Nauvoo Mission President J. Samuel Park and Sister Ann Park placed a floral wreath next to the statues of Joseph and Hyrum.

The light of setting sun reflects off Nauvoo temple and statues of Joseph and Hyrum.
The light of setting sun reflects off Nauvoo temple and statues of Joseph and Hyrum. Photo: Photo by Elder Jack Renouf

In his remarks at the 3 p.m. commemoration, President Park said that in another two hours, it would be "about 160 years to the hour in which some pretty memorable things took place," referring to the time Joseph and Hyrum were killed in Carthage.

"May the Spirit of the Lord be with us as we contemplate what happened that day," he added.

Also offering remarks during the event was Buddy Youngreen, president of the Joseph Smith Senior Family Foundation. "Brother Buddy," as he was introduced by President Park, spoke of the limited formal education Joseph Smith received as a boy. However, he added, "by the time he exited this life he was very well educated."

He spoke of the profound teachings and use of biblical phrases by the Prophet, explaining that there is "such a great reward when we put some of his words under a microscope."

In Nauvoo that evening a "Sunday Sociable" was held in the Joseph Smith Auditorium of the Church's Visitors Center. The hardships of the Smith family as they moved from place to place — New York, Ohio, Missouri and finally a resting place in Nauvoo for the two brothers — were shared in a program. Guests lingered outside after the performance to enjoy newly placed bronze statues of Joseph and Hyrum on horseback west of the gleaming white Nauvoo Illinois Temple with a breathtaking view of the Mississippi River sunset. Three small bouquets of flowers were placed by children in honor of Joseph and Hyrum.

Crowd listens to performance in program at Carthage Jail observing 160 years since martyrdom.
Crowd listens to performance in program at Carthage Jail observing 160 years since martyrdom. Photo: Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps
Illinois Nauvoo Mission President J. Samuel Park addresses crowd of some 200 at Carthage Jail Historic Site during June 27 commemoration of martyrdom of Prophet Joseph and brother Hyrum, 160 years previously to the hour.
Illinois Nauvoo Mission President J. Samuel Park addresses crowd of some 200 at Carthage Jail Historic Site during June 27 commemoration of martyrdom of Prophet Joseph and brother Hyrum, 160 years previously to the hour. Photo: Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps
On June 27, 1844, the Prophet Joseph fell in death from this window.
On June 27, 1844, the Prophet Joseph fell in death from this window. Photo: Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps