(by Susan McCloud deseretnews.com 6-25-15)
Joseph and Hyrum were in the jail at Carthage, Illinois, in June 1844. It was different this time. This time, they had come to their deaths, and the brothers knew it.
"I am going like a lamb to the slaughter," the Prophet Joseph Smith had stated when he left his beloved Nauvoo, Illinois, that morning, in the company of 25 of his faithful brethren of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see Doctrine and Covenants 135:4). "I have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward all men. I shall die an innocent man … and it shall be said of me, 'He was murdered in cold blood'" (see "Joseph Smith: A Photobiography," by Susan Evans McCloud).
One by one, Joseph’s friends were sent out on important errands, being eyes and ears of the imprisoned prophet. The Welsh Mormon convert Dan Jones was the last to go on the morning of June 27, 1844, with a letter to the Prophet’s lawyer O. H. Browning; Jones was not allowed to return. Thus only the brothers Joseph and Hyrum Smith remained with two of the apostles, who had been with them from the start, John Taylor and Willard Richards.
Where were the rest of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles?
• John E. Page had been in Pittsburgh, editing and publishing “The Gospel Light” since June 1843, and he was most probably still in the Pittsburgh area.
• Amasa Lyman was ordained an apostle and was released when Orson Pratt was re-instated, but he was then appointed as an additional counselor in the First Presidency by Joseph, though not yet officially sustained. Lyman was in Cincinnati, though he may have been traveling when he heard of their deaths and hence headed straight to Nauvoo.
• George A. Smith, cousin to Joseph and Hyrum, was staying with LDS Church members in the area of Jacksonburg, Michigan. He would later serve as first counselor to Brigham Young in the Salt Lake Valley following the death of Heber C. Kimball. George A. Smith was so valiant in his colonizing efforts in Southern Utah — at Brother Brigham’s behest — that St. George was named in honor of him.
• Orson Hyde had been sent to carry a petition, written by the Prophet, to the nation’s authorities in Washington, D.C., and was present at the conference in Boston at the end of June, along with several others of the Twelve. Three years earlier, he had served the unique mission for which he is most remembered — traveling to Israel, where on Oct. 21, 1841, he solemnly dedicated the sacred land to the return of the Jewish people.
• William Smith, brother of the Prophet, was also in the East, where the severely poor health of his wife kept him from travel. He had been an apostle since the Kirtland, Ohio, days but was inconsistent in his activity and dedication. He did not go West with the body of the Saints, yet he did not affiliate himself with the reorganized church until 1878.
• Heber C. Kimball and Lyman Wight had been in Philadelphia and were traveling to New York before continuing on to the conference in Boston. Young and Wilford Woodruff were in Boston. Brother Woodruff recorded their state when the rumors of Joseph’s assassination reached them:
“Elder Brigham Young arrived in Boston this morning. I walked with him to 57 Temple Street, and called upon Sister Vose. Brother Young took the bed and gave vent to his feelings in tears. I took the big chair, and veiled my face, and for the first time gave vent to my grief and mourning for the Prophet” (see "A Comprehsive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," 7:195).
Some of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles experienced premonitions of the tragedy before knowing of its reality. Many felt a spirit of darkness and overwhelming sorrow.
On the actual day of the martyrdom, Thursday, June 27, 1844, Young wrote in his journal: “I felt a heavy depression of Spirit, and so melancholy I could not converse with any degree of pleasure. Not knowing anything concerning the tragedy enacting at the time in Carthage jail, I could not assign my reasons for my peculiar feelings” (see "The Fate of the Persecutors of the Prophet Joseph Smith," by N.B. Lundwall, as quoted in "Brigham Young: An Inspiring Personal Biography," by Susan Evans McCloud).
• Orson Pratt was in New York, according to his journal, but probably journeyed to Boston, for he “returned with several other of the Twelve to Nauvoo” (see orsonprattbrown.com/Angela/AaronBrown/orson-pratt.html). As the first group of pioneers headed West, Pratt and William Clayton ingeniously designed an odometer to measure the distance traveled daily, counting and noting each revolution of the wagon’s wheel. Pratt had the distinction of being the very first Saint to stand on the ground where Salt Lake City would emerge.
• Parley P. Pratt, Orson’s older brother, was traveling with another brother, William, on a canal boat near Utica, New York, and was “constrained by the Spirit to start prematurely for home.” He records: “As we conversed together on the deck, a strange and solemn awe came over me, as if the powers of hell were let loose. I was so overwhelmed with sorrow I could hardly speak.”
He urged his brother to stay still and take care concerning any mention of the gospel: “Let us observe an entire and solemn silence, for this is a dark day, and the hour of triumph for the powers of darkness,” as recorded in the "Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt.". This overwhelming experience took place at nearly “the same hour that the Carthage mob were shedding the blood of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, near one thousand miles distant,” according to his autobiography.
John Taylor survived the severe wounds he received at Carthage and went on to become the third president of the LDS Church. Willard Richards, a large man, fulfilled Joseph’s prophecy that “the time would come when the balls would fly around him like hail, and he should see his friends fall on the right and on the left, but that there should not be a hole in his garment,” according to "Joseph Smith: A Photobiography." He brought the bodies of the Prophet Joseph and Hyrum, the patriarch, back to Nauvoo and their sorrowing people. With the power of the Spirit to sustain him, Richards urged the Saints to trust to God to avenge them, and to keep the peace.
The majority of the members of the Twelve, arrived in time to attend the great meeting called by Sidney Rigdon, surprising him with their presence. Several members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostle presented assurances on the order of the kingdom, as received through Brother Joseph. The Saints' confidence in the Twelve was reinforced when hundreds heard and saw the embodiment of Joseph in Brigham Young as he stood and spoke. During one of his presentations, Young said, “Brother Joseph laid the foundation for a great work, and we will build upon it. … The Twelve have the power now — the seventies, the elders, and all of you have power to go and build up the kingdom in the name of Israel’s God” (Minutes of Special Meeting in Nauvoo, Brigham Young Papers, as quoted in "Brigham Young: An Inspiring Personal Biography").
The work went forward as had ordained it through God's prophet. The Twelve were not apostles of Joseph Smith; they were apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. They knew this well, and the knowledge was magnified time and time again within their lives.
But they owed much to the faithfulness and worthiness of their beloved Prophet Joseph. “I used to think, while Joseph was living,” Young told the Saints, “that his life compared well with the history of the Saviour” (see "Journal of Discourses," Vol. 5).
Sources: "Journal of Discourses," Vol. 5; "A Comprehsive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Vol. 7; "Brigham Young: A Personal Biography," by Susan Evans McCloud, Covenant Communications; "The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo," by B. H. Roberts, Bookcraft; "They Knew the Prophet," by Hyrum and Helen Mae Andrus, Bookcraft; "Joseph Smith: A Photobiography," by Susan Evans McCloud, Aspen; "Fate of the Persecutors of the Prophet Joseph Smith," by N. B. Lundwall, Deseret Book; "Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt," Deseret Book; "The Twelve to Bear Off the Kingdom," Ch. 23 in "Church History in the Fulness of Times," student manual; historyofmormonism.com; mormonwiki.com/Orson_Hyde; "Joseph Smith's Brothers: Nauvoo and After," by Richard Lloyd Anderson, Ensign, September 1979; "Orson Hyde’s 1841 Mission to the Holy Land," by David B. Galbraith, Ensign, October 1991; historypreserved.com/orson_hyde.htm; orsonprattbrown.com/Angela/AaronBrown/orson-pratt.html