061: The Martyrdom of Joseph Smith; D&C and Church History 32

“To Seal the Testimony”

How is your life different because of an obscure farmboy born in 1805 Vermont? This episode explores the contributions and martyrdom of Joseph Smith and Hyrum. This episode will cover:

  • The events leading up to Joseph’s death, including the role of the Laws
  • The events of the martyrdom, including some you likely have never heard before!
  • The connection of Joseph’s martyrdom to Masonry
  • The relationship of self-defense and martyrdom
  • Joseph’s stature in theology, history, and LDS culture

One Time Donations:

$5   $10   $25   $50   $100

Recurring Donations:

$5   $10   $25   $50   $100

Class Member Reading: Doctrine and Covenants 135; Our Heritage, pages 62–66; Acts 7:54–60; Hebrews 9:15–17; Mosiah 17:7–10; 3 Nephi 10:15; D&C 98:13; D&C 136:34–39

Additional Teacher Reading: Matthew 23:35; Ether 12:36–38; D&C 130:22–23; Joseph Smith—History 1:17; D&C 13; 110:11–16; D&C 76:23–24; Abraham 3:22–28; D&C 128:18



We are fortunate to have an expert class this time; enjoy learning from Joseph, Cheryl, and Kirk.

You can access my Reading Notes here.

You can access my Lesson Notes here.



To be added soon; see the lesson notes

Many thanks to Devin Roth for the beautiful bumper music. Check out his arrangement of hymns and other work at DevinRothMusic!

Thanks to James Estrada of Oak Street Audio for his quality post-production, and to William Newman for additional editing help.

Latest Comments

  1. Mark says:

    No mention of taking wine in Carthage Jail?


  2. Cheryl L. Bruno says:

    Much more interesting that they were reading aloud from Josephus! I’d love to know what page they were on.


  3. Nikki says:

    Fabulous episode. Thank you to Jared, Cheryl, Kirk, and Joseph for an informative and touching experience.


  4. Michael says:

    Before I get into the meat of my critique of some of the things brought up, let me give my opinion of William Law and William Marks. I see Law as trying to purge Mormonism of polygamy from the outside while William Marks was trying to do it from the inside. I hold a much softer place in my heart for those two families than most of my congregates do. With that said, there were some problems with the information presented regarding the relationship between the Laws and the Smiths.

    Looking at the primary documents, there are really five interpretations of the Law/Smith relationship and they are all problematic. I’ll only discuss the latter:
    1)Jane Law approached Joseph seeking to be sealed to him.
    2)Joseph Smith Approached Jane Law inviting her to be sealed to him
    3)Joseph Smith approached Jane Law seeking to seduce her
    4)Joseph Smith secretly sealed William and Jane Law to each other, but they rebelled anyway
    5)Joseph or Emma suggested a “wife swap” between the two couples.

    Number five was advanced by Joseph Jackson and was mentioned in the podcast. Jackson stated, “He [Joseph Smith] said that the truth was Emma wanted Law for a spiritual husband…that she wanted Law, because he was such a ‘sweet little man’.” Jackson also said, “He and [William] Law had better swap wives. To which he replied that that was all Emma Wanted…He [Joseph Smith] got up a revelation that Law was to be sealed to Emma, and that Law’s wife was to be his; in other words, there was to be a spiritual swap.” (Jackson, A Narrative of the Adventures and Experiences of Joseph H. Jackson in Nauvoo, Exposing the Depths of Mormon Villlainy, 21)

    Joseph Jackson is hugely problematic for many reasons. The historical record demonstrates that during his stay in Nauvoo, he had few opportunities for private conversation with Smith. He first introduced himself to Smith as a “Catholic priest” on May 18, 1843 (HoC 5:394). Two days later, William Clayton recorded Smith’s compassionate appraisal: “Jackson appears a fine and noble fellow but is reduced in circumstances.” Only three days later, Clayton recorded Smith’s disgust: “Jackson is rotten hearted” (George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of Williams Clayton, 106, May 23, 1843). In other words, Jackson had perhaps a three to five day window for personal interactions with Smith. Does one really think that within such a short period of time that Smith would have confided such intimate details to Jackson?

    Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, observed: “Jackson’s name never appeared on any roll, in any minutes, or in any diary or journal entry referring to the councils of the church, secret or otherwise”(Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 176). Despite being introduced to Smith in May 1843, Jackson is not mentioned in Smith’s diary until December 29, 1843. A journal entry a week later notes that Jackson received a commission as an aide in the Nauvoo Legion to Lieutenant General Joseph Smith (Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, 438). Other than these two references, all other entries identify Jackson as working against Smith.

    In 1887 Jane and William’s son, Tommy J. Law, flatly contradicted the allegation that Smith had tried to seduce Jane: “What has been said about Joseph [Smith] having made an attempt on her [Jane Law] is not true. In such a case my father would not have started a paper against him – he would have shot his head off” (Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 294-295).

    Furthemore, William Law emphatically denied such a possibility in early 1887 when he was responding by letter to inquiries made by Wilhelm Wyl who had been researching for his book, Mormon Portraits: “You [W. Whyl] speak of ‘swapping wives,’ and state that you have it from one who knows. Now let me say to you that I never heard of it till I read it in your book. Your informant must have been deceived or willfully lied to you. Joseph Smith never proposed anything of the kind to me or to my wife; both he and Emma knew our sentiments in relation to spiritual wives and polygamy; knew that we were immovably opposed to polygamy in any and every form”(William Law, “The Mormons in Nauvoo: Three Letters from William Law on Mormonism,” July 3, 1887). In the same letters, Law added: “The story may have grown out of the fact that Joseph offered to furnish his wife, Emma, with a substitute for him, by way of compensation for his neglect of her, on condition that she would forever stop her opposition to polygamy and permit him to enjoy his young wives in peace and keep some of them in her house and to be well treated.”

    So, what do we learn?
    1)Jackson is an unreliable source. The often sited quote regarding ‘wife swapping’ comes from his 1844 expose on Mormonism. He even states that as early as January 15, 1844 (7 months after Jackson came to Nauvoo) that Smith was telling him [Jackson] that, “He [Smith] had been endeavoring for some two months, to get Mrs. William Law for a spiritual wife…” Come on now.
    2)William Law and his son out-right denied the allegations of wife-swapping.
    3)We have to be careful not to continue to repeat false claims that the historical record just doesn’t completely support.


  5. Utahhiker801 says:

    Another helpful resource for information concerning the events surrounding the death of Joseph Smith that I found helpful was “Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith” by Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, chapter 13.

    The way everything was documented from diaries and letters really impressed me. I almost felt like I was intruding on a very personal event. I had to read this book in the library because it was part of their special collections and couldn’t be check out. There were times when the emotion of it caused me to tear up. Luckily, I was able to control myself because I’m not some guy who cries in the library :).

    Thanks for your hard work in preparing these lessons.


    • Utahhiker801 says:

      If you look up this book, go for the second edition published in 1994. It removes a reference to a Mark Hoffman forged letter. It doesn’t diminish the story by the correction. Hoffman generally just took established history and threw in a ‘shocking’ twist anyway.

      Or better yet, look both editions up and enjoy the adventure of discovery within the books.


Leave a Reply to Mark Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s