June 27, 1844
At about 5:00 p.m. local time on June 27, 1844 – 171 years ago today – an armed mob attacked the jail in Carthage, Illinois, and murdered Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum. The murderous mobocrats undoubtedly hoped that the death of the charismatic Prophet would ultimately put an end to “Mormonism.” That hope was a manifestation of their absolute failure to understand Joseph Smith and his work: “Mormonism” did not end, but went on to flourish.
Though grief stricken, the Latter-day Saints moved forward and continued to build the great temple of Nauvoo, a project initiated by Joseph Smith under divine command and inspiration. The enemies of the church redoubled their efforts, ultimately forcing the Saints out of the beautiful city of Nauvoo. That exodus marked the beginning of an historic migration that would see tens of thousands of people from North America, Europe, and other distant lands gather in the Intermountain West, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gained a foothold in the desert, and from which it has spread around the globe.
June 27, 2002
Exactly one hundred fifty eight years after the tragic events at Carthage, President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the recently completed Nauvoo Temple, a magnificent building that recreates much of the original building constructed by Joseph Smith and his successor, Brigham Young. The Nauvoo Temple stands as a monument to the memory of the work of Joseph Smith, a work that has spread throughout the world. Few, in any, remember the names of those who killed Joseph Smith, but the prophetic declaration that Joseph’s “name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people” has been fulfilled in our day.
June 27, 2015
Yet for me, the greatest witness of the divine legacy of Joseph Smith happened today in a simple ceremony in a neighborhood church building in Salt Lake City. At about 9:30 this morning, a dear friend of mine was baptized by immersion, received the gift of the Holy Ghost, and was confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
His is an unusual story. He grew up in an active family and served a mission at age 19. We first met in the mission field, and continued our friendship in the years following our missions. We were college roommates for two years and kept in touch after we each moved away for graduate school, and after we married. But through a series of tragic mistakes and circumstances, my friend found his life in ruins, excommunicated from the church and cut off from his wife and children.
In these difficult circumstances, my friend met and married a wonderful woman whose life had also been scarred by tragedy and poor choices. They were, as he describes it, two souls with broken lives who came together and began to build a life together. They supported each other in remarkable ways. My friend, an attorney by training, slowly established a successful law practice; for thirty years his wife worked with him every day as his paralegal. She was a baptized member of the church, but held hard feelings against the church and some its members and wanted nothing to do with church. But both my friend and his wife were good people. They were religious people, and participated in other churches. And they found a degree of happiness together.
Then tragedy struck again. My friend’s wife, the person who had helped him rebuild his life, succumbed to cancer. Left alone, my friend – whose faith had wavered but who had never really doubted – began to realize that if he wanted to be with his dear wife in the next life, he needed to make some changes: he needed to participate in the saving ordinances restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. With the help of a wonderful bishop, wonderful ward, and a wonderful pair of missionaries, he worked to rebuild his faith in Jesus Christ, to repent, and to qualify himself for baptism.
As I witnessed his baptism today, I felt like Ammon: “Have we not reason to rejoice?”
I am grateful, on this 27th day of June, for the legacy of Joseph Smith, and for the great redeeming work of the gospel of Jesus Christ which was restored again to the earth in its fulness though the great Prophet of the Restoration.