At the October 2009 General Conference LDS Apostle Jeffrey Holland gave a talk titled, “Safety for the Soul.” This talk has been closely examined and critiqued in a series of videos posted by FlackerMan on You Tube. In video #2 (of 5) FlackerMan examines Mr. Holland’s claim of Joseph Smith’s dying testimony of the Book of Mormon. In October 2009 Mr. Holland said,
“May I refer to a modern last-days testimony. When Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, started for Carthage, to face what they knew would be an imminent martyrdom…”
In his critique, FlackerMan disputes the frequently asserted LDS claim that Joseph Smith knew he was going to die at Carthage. FlackerMan asks some pretty interesting questions related to Joseph’s behavior in relation to his death; they, in turn, call into question the notion that Joseph was willingly going like a lamb to the slaughter as he travelled from Nauvoo to Carthage (see D&C 135:4). I have edited and listed many of FlackerMan’s questions here for your consideration.
- Joseph removed his temple garments before going to Carthage and told others to do the same (D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, 146). Why would he do this if he were about to die a martyr’s death for his testimony?
- Joseph, Hyrum and others drank wine while singing songs in Carthage Jail (History of the Church, 7:101). Why would Joseph disobey the Word of Wisdom, a direct revelation from God, if he knew he was very soon to stand before that God for judgment and be required to give an account of his behavior?
- Joseph sent an order to the Nauvoo Legion instructing an attack on Carthage Jail to free the prisoners. When the mob approached, Joseph mistook them for his liberators and told the frightened jailer, “Don’t trouble yourself, they have come to rescue me” (Quinn, 141). Why would Joseph have made plans for, and expected, his escape if he knew he was going to die?
- Joseph had and used a gun defensively during the attack (History of the Church, 7:101-103). Why would he bother to fend off his attackers if he was going “like a lamb to the slaughter” and knew he was about to die?
- When Joseph’s gun ran out of ammunition he ran to the window and, using the Masonic distress code, called for help from fellow Masons who might have been in the mob (see E. Cecil McGavin, Mormonism and Masonry, 16-17). Why would he call for help if he knew his destiny was to die that day? Indeed, if Joseph knew his death was imminent, why did he not just give himself up for the safety of his friends who were with him?
- After the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum, the LDS Church was in crisis. No clear direction for succession in leadership had been set in place. This lack of direction resulted in many schisms and breakaway Mormon groups all claiming to be God’s only true church. If Joseph knew he was never to return from Carthage Jail, why didn’t he definitively name a successor before his death?
Did Joseph Smith know he was going to Carthage to die? The circumstances and Joseph’s behavior surrounding his death make that seem highly unlikely. This is yet another faith-promoting Mormon myth employed to persuade people to pin their eternal hopes to what is ultimately a lie.