Did Joseph Die a Martyr's Death?
April 8, 2020, 6:46 PM

Did Joseph Smith die a martyr’s death? First, there is the gunfight, which both the Church History Department and the official History of the Church acknowledge. (A witness says Joseph shot 4 men and put up a “handsome fight.”)

But more important is the definition of “martyr.” The evidence shows us that Joseph was killed for an act of suppressing the truth about either his immorality or his faith, that is, for the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor printing press. He died either covering up a crime, or (if one chooses to see it this way) covering up a principle of faith. If he had confessed the truth about what he was doing, he might not have died this way. And if he had died for confessing the truth, then he could have been properly considered a martyr.

Joseph did not die for saying, “Plural marriage is from God; I will die defending it.” Nor did he die for refusing to deny the Book of Mormon or his teachings. He does not die for reasons comparable to the martyrdoms of early Christians who refused to worship Caesar. It is meritorious to die for affirming one’s faith, but not for hiding it, or for covering up one’s sin.


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