Friday, October 12, 2012

Illinois Trip: Carthage Jail

If you have any questions regarding my beliefs and the things written below, please feel free to email me or read more about my faith at  I am always happy to share my testimony and explain the teachings of our religion.
I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints all of my life.  I was taught, at a very young age, the history of our church and the influences of Latter-day prophets.  The most influencial Latter-day prophet in our church's history is Joseph Smith.

(The following is an explanation of Joseph's story found on
The western part of New York State in the early 1800s was known as the "Burned Over District." The fervor over religion was intense. Many religions sent ministers seeking converts to their flock. So much so that no one, it was supposed, was left to convert. It was a time and a place of theological turmoil.
This is the setting into which Joseph Smith, Jr., son of Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith, was born. His large family found themselves in the heart of this religious revival, wanting to live good lives but not sure which of the competing churches was the right one to join. Members of Joseph's family leaned toward different religions, but none felt certain that theirs was the true Church of Christ.

As a young man of fourteen years, Joseph already had a desire to find the truth. Like the rest of his family, he was deeply religious, and when the time came for him to be baptized, Joseph had to decide which of the many Christian denominations to join. After careful study, he still felt confused. He later wrote, "So great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was [ … ] to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong [ … ] In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?" ( Joseph Smith-History 1:8, 10 ).

Joseph turned to the Bible for guidance. He read, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5 ).  This verse deeply impressed him. He decided to pray about what he should do, with simple faith that God would hear and answer him.

In the spring of 1820, Joseph went to a grove of trees near his home and knelt in prayer. He described his experience: "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me [ … ] When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other-This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" ( Joseph Smith-History 1:16-17 ).  This vision of Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ was the beginning of Joseph Smith's calling as a prophet of God. He was told that none of the churches on the earth had the fullness of truth. Over time, Joseph Smith was chosen to establish Christ's Church and restore the priesthood, or the authority to act in God's name. He was led by God to an ancient record and given the ability to translate it into English. This record is called the Book of Mormon. He continued to pray and receive revelation for the Church throughout his life. These revelations were compiled into a book of scriptures referred to as the Doctrine and Covenants and shows that God still leads His children today. Joseph Smith formally organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 6, 1830.
Sometimes, when we reach a position of responsibility, we feel like we don't need help anymore, but Joseph Smith relied on the Lord more and more after he was called as a prophet. He knew that his responsibility was not to spread his own teachings, but to pass along the things God revealed to him. Most of the text that makes up the Doctrine and Covenants is God's answers to Joseph Smith's prayers and questions. He asked God to clarify parts of the gospel and asked for guidance about how he should lead the Church and the growing number of Mormons. God told him to call apostles, prophets, and other leaders to oversee the Church.
Early Mormons endured serious persecution because of a perceived commercial, political and religious threat to their neighbors, so Joseph and the people he called to assist him had to lead multiple Mormon migrations to friendlier areas of the country. Despite all of the suffering they endured, early members of the Church built temples, did missionary work, built thriving cities and some served in the United States military as they migrated west.
We sometimes think that dying for a cause is the purest display of devotion, but living for something is usually much more demanding. Joseph Smith did both. He wore out his life in God's service, suffering derision and violence for the things he believed. He did not die in public with the sympathy of the world; he was shot by a mob while he was locked in a jail on false charges.
He showed his devotion to God in life and in death. It was said of him, "he lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and . . . has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood" ( Doctrine and Covenants 135:3 ).

After our adventurous beginning (as previously posted here) we arrived at Carthage Jail a little after 5pm, closing time.  Since tours were not opperating at that time, we decided to walk around the grounds and then return in a couple days on our way back to Chicago for the official tour through the jail.  It was nice to have the grounds to ourselves right as the sun was setting.  The church has restored the jail and grounds, creating a beautiful memorial for both the prophet, Joseph Smith, and his older brother, Hyrum Smith, who was also killed on June 27, 1844 at the Carthage jail.
Along the walkway leading up to the visitor center and jailhouse are several plaques retelling the story of Joseph's life experiences ending with a beautiful statue of Joseph and Hyrum. 
I love the depiction of the relationship Hyrum has for his younger brother and prophet.  The loving supportive hand on the shoulder and the protective grip on Joseph's left arm.  Hyrum followed his younger brother to Carthage, fully knowing the risks.  He would have, and did, protect, support, and love him til the end. 
A couple days later we were able to take the official tour of the jailhouse.  There was much persecution towards the Mormons in the early 1800s, having to move continually from city to city in order to preserve their way of life and remain safe from violent mobs.  Under false accusations, and no trial given, Joseph was taken to Carthage Jail.  Hyrum and several other bretheren of the church accompanied Joseph in hopes of keeping him safe from the angry mobs surrounding the jailhouse.
Several members of the outside mob broke through the front door at the bottom of these stairs, opening gunfire up to the second floor jail cell.  The jailor's wife and children, whose bedroom was located on the right side of this staircase, heard the gunfire and ran out the back of the house, just in time to escape the shots firing.  After entering the house several members of the mob ran up these stairs towards the upper rooms where Joseph was being held.
Hearing the sounds coming from the staircase, Hyrum rushed to the door to try and keep the mob out and Joseph safe.  He was killed instantly by a shot fired through the door, as shown below.  Then the mob proceeded to kick the door down to where Joseph was being held.
Joseph was standing with his back to the window when two shots from outside were fired, striking him and making him fall from the second floor of the jailhouse.
It was an amazing experience to be able to stand on such hollowed ground.  The spirit is so strong while listening about the events of that day.  Our prophet, Joseph, and his loving brother, Hyrum, truly did seal their testimonies of the truthfulness of this Gospel with their lives.  I am constantly humbled by their countless sacrifices made to bring about the restoration of Christ's church on the earth.

There was such a peaceful feeling the spirit brought while on the grounds, that we decided to stay for a bit after the tour.
Daxton loved looking at all the colorful leaves changing in the trees.
He was also very open with his snuggles and kisses, which grandma and grandpa were super excited about.
You can never have too many kisses!
Daxton is such a happy, loving little baby.
He is a constant blessing in our lives with a smile and laughter that melts our hearts.
I realize that Daxton doesn't understand the importance of where we were that day at Carthage, but I know that he felt the Spirit's peaceful presence as we visited and reflected on the great sacrifices made by courageous servants of our Lord.

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