On This Day in History: June 7 Bloody End of Mormon Leader

Brooklyn Daily Eagle/June 7, 2007

Nauvoo, Illinois — On June 7, 1844, Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, had made romantic overtures to the wife of a Canadian convert named William Law. Incensed, Law quit the Latter-day Saints and brought out one issue of the Nauvoo Expositor in which he attacked the practice of Mormon polygamy. Law's lead article explained: "We are earnestly seeking to explode the vicious principles of Joseph Smith, and those who practice the same abominations and whoredoms." Smith, accompanied by the Nauvoo city marshal, proceeded to destroy Law's printing press. Charged by the governor of Illinois with inciting a riot, Smith started to flee, changed his mind and went to jail. Confined to a spacious upstairs cell of the Carthage, Illinois jail, Joseph Smith was drinking wine with his brother and some friends in the late afternoon of June 27 when he heard an angry mob approaching. Arming himself with a 6-chambered revolver that had been smuggled to him, Smith waited. Part of the mob forced his cell door, and emptied their weapons into Smith's brother Hyrum and friends. Smith, throwing down his revolver, leaped for the window ledge. Bullets from the court below and from inside the cell struck him. Groaning, "Oh Lord, my God," Smith pitched over and plummeted two stories to the ground below. Some accounts say he was killed by his fall. Others claim he survived it only to be propped up in a sitting position and finished off by a firing squad of four. The Mormon prophet was dead, but in less than two months there would be a new prophet, a 43-year-old onetime carpenter and house painter from Vermont named Brigham Young.

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