12. Joseph Smith Funeral

On June 28, 1844, after being shot by a mob, the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum Smith were placed in two separate wagons covered with branches to stop decay caused by the summer sun, and taken to Nauvoo by Willard Richards, Samuel Smith, and Artois Hamilton. The wagons left Carthage at 8:00 in the morning and arrived in Nauvoo around 3:00 in the afternoon. The members of the Mormon Church in Nauvoo were grief-stricken at the news of Joseph and Hyrum’s deaths, and thousands were there waiting for the arrival of the bodies.The next day Joseph and Hyrum’s bodies were laid at the Mansion House, which had been Joseph’s home. Thousands of mourners silently filed past the bodies throughout the day. By 5:00 p.m. the last of the mourners filed past the house. Joseph’s and Hyrum’s coffins were filled with sand, nailed shut and taken to the graveyard, where a public funeral was held, but their bodies were secretly buried in the basement of the Mansion House so that those who wanted to collect a reward for their deaths could not find their remains.At the public funeral, John Taylor wrote and read a stirring eulogy, which can now be found in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 135. Part of the eulogy said,

Joseph Smith MormonJoseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it, [and] will be classed among the martyrs of religion and the reader in every nation will be reminded that the Book of Mormon and this book of Doctrine and Covenants of the church, cost the best blood of the nineteenth century to bring them forth for the salvation of a ruined world.”

At the end of the eulogy, Taylor said Joseph “lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!”1

William W. Phelps a close friend of Joseph’s also spoke at the funeral and wrote the song, “Praise to the Man,” which is still sung by members of the Mormon Church. The lines of this hymn give great insight into the feelings of the saints at Joseph’s and Hyrum’s funeral.

“Verse 1: Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah! Jesus annointed that Prophet and Seer. Blessed to open the last dispensation, Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.

Chorus: Hail to the Prophet, ascended to heaven! Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain. Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren; Death cannot conquer the hero again.

Verse 2: Praise to his memory, he died as a martyr; Honored and blest be his ever great name! Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins, Plead unto heaven while the earth lauds his fame.

Verse 3: Great is his glory and endless his priesthood: Ever and ever the keys he will hold. Faithful and true, he will enter his kingdom, Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.

Verse 4: Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven; Earth must atone for the blood of that man. Wake up the world for the conflict of justice. Millions shall know “Brother Joseph” again.”

Following the death of Joseph Smith there was some confusion as to who should lead the Church. Eventually Brigham Young, the senior Apostle, was sustained as the next prophet and president of the Mormon Church. On August 8, 1844, Brigham Young spoke to the members of the Church. At this meeting many reported that Brigham seemed to look and speak like Joseph, and this confirmed to them that it was God’s will that Brigham Young be the next leader of the Church.

Other Links:

1 Section 35:3, 6. Doctrine and Covenants.
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