I happened to open up my scriptures a few days ago to the story of Joseph Smith’s martyrdom in Doctrine & Covenants 135. In 1844, the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith was murdered in cold blood by a mob of 150-200 men because he was a religious leader, and for no other reason but hate.
In the wake of Whitney Houston’s tragic death, or perhaps because I had seen so much in the news of her iconic impact on the music industry last week, I imagined for a moment that I was reading a freshly pressed internet headline, instead of 150 year old scripture. Because of that, it affected me differently.
Then, I imagined this horrific headline, and wondered how people might respond to it if it were a different person and happened last week:
I would be.
Fortunately, we all know that this did not happen to Whitney. And if it had, we would be certain to bring every last one of her killers to justice. That said, for as loved and adored as Whitney Houston is in our generation, if she had lived and died in 1844, she might also be waiting for justice.
For the early Mormon’s, this was their reality.
I get that not everyone who reads this blog believes that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, or even that he was a great guy. I am grateful to have friends of many faiths. I also get that this happened in 1844, and that things were a lot different then.
But for me, personally, I do believe he was a Prophet, and this tragic headline makes me feel loss despite the fact that it did happen over 150+ years ago.
An entire spectrum of joy has been opened up to me and millions of others in the world because of the work Joseph Smith did in translating the Book of Mormon, and restoring the gospel of Jesus Christ…
Because of this weeks gospel insight, I have a new respect for William Phelps who wrote, shortly after this tragedy in 1844 (now a hymn):
“Wake up the world for the conflict of justice. Millions shall know Brother Joseph again.”
Thankfully, his words ring true.