Mormon: Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith

MONDAY, JUNE 27: “I’m a Mormon!” Have you seen the latest up-beat advertising campaign for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? So far, the multimedia campaign has debuted in New York City and is expected to cross the nation by later this year. It’s all part of mainstreaming the message of this growing religious group of 14 million members.

The church’s role in the American public square is a crucial political issue right now—just as it was in 1844 when Joseph Smith threw his own hat into the ring of presidential hopefuls. In 2011, two Mormons are campaigning for a presidential nomination: Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman. With both men’s families “steeped in the Church” and “of Mormon royalty,” according to a Washington Post article, the competition for Mormon votes will be head-to-head. Still, many members of today’s Church say that they won’t necessarily vote for either Mormon; many say they will vote for whichever candidate seems best for the role. A recent OurValues column reported on polling among American voters about their attitudes toward candidates’ religious affiliations.

Smith, the LDS church’s founder, and his brother Hyrum Smith were murdered on June 27, 1844, when a mob stormed an Illinois jail where they were being held at the time. The LDS church’s page of teachings about Smith’s death is headlined: “The Prophet Seals His Testimony with His Blood.”

In 1994, for the 150th anniversary, the church held a nationwide commemoration. But, these days, public programming focuses more on Smith’s teachings than his violent death. In late June 2011, for example, the LDS website focuses less on the martyrdom than on the upcoming Nauvoo Pageant that is open to the public from July 5-30. The Pageant is a professional-quality musical production on the life Joseph Smith, full of colorful historical costumes and up-beat song-and-dance numbers. ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm has seen the show and recommends it as entertaining and interesting for non-Mormon visitors, if you’re touring that part of Illinois in July. If you’re going, make sure to look around on the pageant website to learn about other activities for families related to the show.

Originally published at, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.

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