I’ve recently been invited to a website called StayLDS.com. Let me quote the mission of StayLDS:
StayLDS.com is dedicated to helping people who are struggling in some way to remain involved in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after a major shift in (or challenge to) their faith. We are committed to being a supportive, positive environment in which people with any difficulty can commune openly and honestly in a spirit of love and support.
I think I was invited there since I deal with many of the topics in church history that people find problematic. I think it is ok to deal with these tougher issues. I don’t always have orthodox responses, but I strive to put them in proper historical context, and I want to help people stay in the church. In a way, I feel like a missionary. In addition to the resources on the front page, there is a forum where most anybody can ask a question and create a discussion.
One of the people there took great issue with the fact that a gun was smuggled into the Carthage Jail, and he felt like the church was covering up this fact. I’ve known a gun was smuggled to Joseph for years from visits to the Carthage Jail in Illinois, and the tour guides do not try to hide this fact. Anyway, I’ve already promised to post on the book called Carthage Conspiracy by Dallin H Oaks. The writer at StayLDS inspired me to detail the fact that Elder Oaks had already published about the smuggled gun in 1975.
The writer also learned that John Taylor believed that Joseph may have killed one or two of the assailants with this gun. So, I wrote the paragraphs below to refute this fact, though Joseph did wound 3 men, who never were tried for the murder. While this information may be surprising to some, I just don’t think there is a cover up of this, as evidenced by Elder Oaks book which came out more than 30 years ago.
I highly recommend Carthage Conspiracy. Dallin Oaks clerked for Chief Justice Earl Warren of the United States Supreme Court from 1957 to 1958. After his clerkship he practiced at the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago. Oaks left Kirkland & Ellis to become a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. During part of his time on the faculty of the Law School, Oaks served as interim dean. Oaks left the Law School upon being appointed President at Brigham Young University. Oaks served as president of Brigham Young University from 1971â€“1980. Currently, Elder Oaks is an apostle, and is fourth in line to become the next prophet, behind Packer, Perry, and Nelson.
The book was first published in 1975 by the University of Illinois Press, and Oaks goes into great detail of the trial of the accused assassins. There are plenty of details in there that aren’t well known or discussed. You can find it for as cheap as $5.29 plus shipping at Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/025200 … d_i=507846
Page 20 discusses the actual events of the mob at the jail. I am including most of his footnotes below.
In the Carthage jail on the morning of June 27 Joseph Smith wrote a letter to his wife, reassuring her that, if there was an attack, some of the militia would remain loyal. Later he and Hyrum entertained several visitors, including Cyrus H. Wheelock, who, fearing an attack on the jail, slipped a pistol into Joseph’s pocket.
Further down on the page (pages 20-21), (I’ve created another paragraph for readability)
“While there were guards around the jail,” eyewitness William Hamilton recalled later, “they were guards that did not guard and in fact I think understood the whole matter.” [Quoted in Berry, “The Mormon Settlement in Illinois”, 88, 89] The guards fired directly into the attackers from a distance of twenty feet, but no one fell. Scuffling briefly with the guards, the mob tossed them aside and stormed up the stairs toward the room where the prisoners were held. Upon hearing the guns firing below, Joseph and Hyrum seized their pistols and ran to the door to hold it shut against the attackers. Some of the mob fired shots through the wooden door, hitting Hyrum in the face. He fell upon his back, dead, his head toward an open window on the east. Joseph, seeing his fallen brother at his feet, stepped up beside the door and began firing his pistol at the men in the hallway. After attempting to fire all six barrels (three misfired) he ran to the window. Outside were more of the mob, who fired at him from below as bullets struck him from behind. [This account is based on the recollections of eyewitnesses Willard Richard, John Taylor, and John H. Sherman. Joseph Smith’s Journal kept by Willard Richards, June 27, 1844; Times and Seasons 5 (August 1, 1844), 598; Smith, History of the Church, VII, 102-4; VI, 617,19; Scofield, History of Hancock County, 846-47.]He teetered on the sill, with one leg and an arm out the window, and then fell to the ground, landing on his left side. [Hamilton and Sherman agree on this. Se also testimony of Thomas Dixon in “Minutes of Trial,” 60] An examination of his body showed he had been hit four times, once in the right collar bone, once in the breast, and twice in the back. Accounts differ as to whether he was dead before he hit the ground, [See Willard Richards to Brigham Young, June 30, 1844, Richards Papers, Church Archives] but Thomas Dixon, who was standing near the jail, said that while there was blood on his pants when he came to the window, “he was not dead when he fell–he raised himself up against the well curb.” [Cf. Ford, History of Illinois, 354, and Marsh, “Mormons in Hancock County,” 53, with the recollection of William H. Hamilton in Scofield, History of Hancock County, 845.] He then “drew up one leg and stretched out the other and died immediately.” [This recollection is attributed to Thomas Dixon in “Documents relating to the Mormon Troubles,” 26, handwritten notes on the trial testimony, Chicago Historical Society.] William R. Hamilton confirmed Dixon’s statement that the body was not molested after it hit the ground.[Scofield, History of Hancock County, 845; “Minutes of Trial,” 60. Another eyewitness states that Joseph was stabbed with a bayonet while on the ground. Samuel Otho Williams to John A. Prickett, July 10, 1844.]
A Hancock County historian has stated that the grand jury was presented with the names of about sixty persons for indictment. They voted first on the entire sixty, but the evidence was so inconclusive that the number of grand jurors who voted to indict was less that the required twelve. The grand jury then struck off the ten names with the least evidence and voted once more, but again failed to secure the minimum votes. They continued in this manner until the list of potential defendants contained only the nine persons with the strongest evidence against them. In this last instance the requisite twelve votes were finally obtained, and the nine defendants were accordingly indicted or formally charged with the murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.[Gregg, Prophet of Palmyra, 301-2. The Warsaw Signal, October 30, 1844, maintains that no indictment could be obtained from Tuesday through Friday, but that on Saturday the Mormons “smuggled” in two additional witnesses who provided the basis for the indictment.]
There were separate indictments for the two murders. Each charged the same nine defendents: John Wills,[A Mormon Source gives this as “John Patrick Wells.” Smith, History of the Church, VII, 162] William Voras,[So in indictment. Other sources often show it as “Voorhees.”] William N. Grover, Jacob C. Davis, Mark Aldrich, Thomas C. Sharp, Levi Williams, and two men named Gallaher and Allen, whose first names were not given.[There were three Gallahers in the Warsaw militia units: Charles, Patrick, and William. “Muster Roll of the Commissioned and Non-Commissioned Officers, Musicians and Privates belonging to the 59th Regiment 4th Brigade and 5th Division, Illinois Militia, under the command of Levi Williams,” Chicago Historical Society.]
From page 52, please note the 3 wounded:
Wills, Voras, and Gallaher were probably named in the indictment because their wounds, which testimony showed were received at the jail, were irrefutable evidence that they had participated in the mob. They undoubtedly recognized their vulnerability and fled the county. A contemporary witness reported these three as saying that they were the first men at the jail, that one of them shot through the door killing Hyrum, that Joseph wounded all three with his pistol, and that Gallaher shot Joseph as he ran to the window.[Hay, “The Mormon Prophet’s Tragedy,” 675] According to Hay, Wills, whom the Mormon prophet had shot in the arm, was an Irishman who had joined the mob from “his congenital love of a brawl.”[Statement of Jeremiah Willey, August 13, 1844, Brigham Young correspondence, Church Archives.] Gallaher was a young man from Mississippi who was shot in the face.[Hay, “The Mormon Prophet’s Tragedy,” 669, 675. Another source says Wills was a former Mormon elder who had left the Church. Davis, An Authentic Account, 24.] Hay described Voras (Voorhees) as a “half-grown hobbledehoy from Bear Creek” whom Joseph shot in the shoulder. The citizens of Green Plains were said to have given Gallaher and Voras new suits of clothes for their parts in the killing.[Statement of Jeremiah Willey, August 13, 1844]