The "Martyrdom" of Joseph Smith


Critics and supporters agree that the veracity of Mormonism hinges on Joseph Smith, Jr. (1805-1844), the founder and first prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS or Mormon Church). Smith began his own church with just six people and saw it grow and thrive, despite the many persecutions it endured. He and his brother Hyrum Smith were murdered on June 27, 1844, by an armed mob, an event that has prompted Mormons to classify them as martyrs. It has caused others, however, to raise the question whether someone who dies in a gun battle fighting against his enemies can be considered to be a martyr. A close examination of the term reveals that one must meet specific requirements to be considered a martyr, which involve, for example, the reasons why one is put to death and the way one faces such a death. An investigation of the reasons why Smith was murdered and the actions he took to avoid this fate inevitably makes it difficult to maintain that Smith was “like a lamb led to the slaughter.”