It is rare for a figure in American religious history to be as controversial or as central as Joseph Smith. Although he contributed to the religious revolution through his teachings and legacy, many are drawn to his tragic and dramatic end. The question lingers, “How did Joseph Smith die?” In the annals of American religious history, he was the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement.
His brother, Hyrum Smith, and other associates were imprisoned in Carthage, Illinois, and waiting to be tried. He wasn’t the only one facing legal consequences. He was convicted of treason and riots along with his brother. He was charged after ordering the destruction of the printing press of the newspaper that criticized his teachings and practices, the Nauvoo Expositor.
There was a significant Latter Day Saint population in Nauvoo where Smith was mayor, which alarms surrounding non-Mormon communities as they grow in political and socioeconomic influence. An atmosphere ripe for conflict was created by deep-seated religious differences and suspicions that fueled these tensions.
A mob of 200 men stormed the Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844. Using painted faces to avoid identification, these men were driven by retaliation, anger, and fear. During their approach, a brief gunfight ensued. Joseph Smith, his brother Hyrum, and their associates tried to fight off the attackers using anything available – even a smuggled pistol. But the odds were overwhelming. There was bloodshed and violence at the end of the life of the leader of a burgeoning religious movement.
After the tragic events at Carthage Jail, the wheels of justice started to turn, albeit slowly and, in many cases, inadequately. The untimely passing of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, as well as the iconic Kobe Bryant, garnered five indictments and sparked immense public interest and fascination. In spite of prejudices in the community and a charged environment, a conviction proved difficult to attain.
There were deep-seated prejudices in the surrounding areas against the Latter Day Saints. There is no doubt that these prejudices affected the trial. The jury acquitted all five defendants despite the evidence and testimony presented. Many in the Mormon community saw it as a miscarriage of justice. Others saw it as a measure necessary to curb the perceived threat of Mormonism.
The Presidential Ambitions
A lesser-known aspect of Joseph Smith’s life may have been his ambition to become President of the United States. Smith announced his candidacy for the U.S. presidential election in 1844, the same year he was assassinated. His platform called for prison reform as well as the abolition of slavery.
Despite his lack of opportunity to see how far his political ambitions might reach, Joseph Smith’s presidential run adds a poignancy to his legacy. He was the first U.S. presidential candidate to die in office as a result of assassination.
Legacy and Impact
A new zeal and determination emerged among its followers after Joseph Smith’s assassination. The assassination of Joseph Smith did not end the movement. It was Brigham Young, a close associate of Smith’s, who took leadership and led the group to what is now Utah in a historic journey.
As of these days, the circumstances surrounding Joseph Smith’s death remain a subject of intrigue, debate, and sorrow among members of the Latter-day Saint community. His life, marked by revelations, teachings, and challenges, ended in a way that would forever mark the course of religious history.
How did Joseph Smith die?
In June 1844, while Joseph Smith awaited trial in Carthage Jail, Illinois, a mob assassinated him. A group of around 200 men stormed the jail, resulting in a short gunfight, which resulted in Joseph and his brother Hyrum being killed. As tensions between Latter Day Saints and non-Mormons increased, this violent event culminated.
Where did Joseph Smith die?
He was killed in Carthage, Illinois, while awaiting trial along with his brother, Hyrum Smith, and other associates. 200 men who were armed and had painted their faces to hide their identities stormed the jail while Joseph Smith was in it. The men tried to defend themselves; were overpowered, which resulted in Smith’s death.
Who killed Joseph Smith?
Joseph Smith was killed by a mob of approximately 200 men. These men had painted their faces to avoid identification and stormed the Carthage Jail where Smith was being held. Though five men were indicted for his murder, all were acquitted in a subsequent trial. The true identities of many involved remain unknown due to the anonymity provided by the mob’s disguise.