Carthage and Nauvoo


The original Nauvoo Temple, in the 1840s


27 June 1844


After the Mormons were forced to abandon Nauvoo:
Frederick Piercy’s 1853 sketch of the remains of the Nauvoo Temple


We had a remarkable day today.  We spent time at Carthage Jail, where an anti-Mormon mob murdered Joseph and Hyrum Smith and grievously wounded the English-born future third president of the Church, John Taylor, on 27 June 1844.  It wasn’t my first time there, but I found it deeply moving.


Carthage Jail as it appears today


A statue of Joseph and Hyrum Smith on the grounds of the Carthage Jail Visitor Center


We also attended a session in the Nauvoo Illinois Temple, where we ran into George Durrant and his relatively new wife Susan Easton Black, who are serving a temple mission, and where, thanks to the president of the Temple, Elder Spencer J. Condie, we had a never-to-be-equalled-or-forgotten experience.


The new Nauvoo Illinois Temple
of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(Click to enlarge.)


Incidentally, I hope that Tom Sharp, of the Warsaw Signal, and the other architects of Joseph Smith’s murder get to peek in on things in their old environs once in a while.


The mob’s acton at Carthage was supposed to put an end not only to Joseph and Hyrum but to Mormonism.  Sharp died and is buried in Carthage, which looks as if it hasn’t had much economic activity since, say, 1940.  The only thing of any interest in the town, really, is the Carthage Jail, which is owned and maintained as a visitor center by . . . the Mormons.  It’s almost a shrine to Joseph and Hyrum.  And Thomas Sharp is forgotten, except as a distasteful footnote to the story of Mormonism and of the two brothers whose murder he encouraged.  Meanwhile,, half an hour away, much of Nauvoo has been restored.  The temple has been rebuilt.  The Mormons are back.


Posted from Keokuk, Iowa.



When will the super volcano under Yellowstone erupt again?
President Boyd K. Packer dead at ninety
Personal encounters with Elder Packer (Part 1)
Of blemishes and deformity
  • joe e.

    saw Nauvoo this past July, what a beautiful place it must have been in the 1840s also? Nauvoo itself gives off the same feeling to me as did Temple Square, of peace & safety. lady that works in the bookstore there is from SW of my home a bit, she has lived there in Nauvoo some 30 years as we learned visiting with her. we hope to go back soon!

  • kiwi57

    You posted your anti-Mormon propaganda piece twice.

    And it didn’t get better the second time around.

    Just thought you should know.

  • kiwi57

    So boilerplate anti-Mormonism is now “completely objective,” is it?

    Who knew?

    • Bob Oliverio


      I don’t believe being honest and factual about history makes anyone “anti-anything”. I agree with Dan’s depiction of Nauvoo/Carthage as a very interesting place to visit given its historical significance. I don’t believe that singling out Tom Sharp and the Warsaw Signal as “architects” of Bro Smith’s murder without recognizing that it was Bro Smith’s own illegal acts and deceit that were the origin and precursor to events in Carthage is fair and/or objective. But I also recognize Dan was probably attempting to be more faith promoting in his summary of his visit rather than historically objective.

      Still, I don’t believe I have said anything that was not true. But if you believe I have – please share your thoughts.

      • DanielPeterson

        I don’t regard it as somehow more objective, honest, or factual to believe that a murder victim is more to blame for his death than the perpetrators and those who expressly called for it, any more than I regard it as “more faith promoting” to pronounce rape victims more responsible for their rape than are their rapists.

        No matter how provocatively they dress, no matter how flirtatiously they behave.

        And even if Joseph Smith were guilty of all the offenses you charge him with.

        And don’t leave Hyrum Smith out of it. Was he the “architect” of his murder, too? And did John Taylor deserve to die, as well? (He survived, though gravely wounded, but no thanks to the mob.) Was Willard Richards’s escape unmerited? And what about Samuel Smith, roughly a month later? For that matter, what about the eventual forced exodus of the Latter-day Saints from Nauvoo? Did they deserve it?

  • DanielPeterson

    I seem to recall — please correct me if I’m wrong — that you, Bob Oliverio, have described yourself as an active, believing member of the Church.

    With that in mind, I’m sure that you wouldn’t level serious charges of unethical and illegal behavior against Joseph Smith without having studied the matter very carefully.

    So what do you think of Professor Dallin Oaks’s analysis of the case of the “Nauvoo Expositor”?

    • Bob Oliverio


      You are right – I am a member of the Church. I converted when I married. But my wife and I are both very comfortable in being honest about the the warts of Church history. We tend not to rationalize but rather analyze. She was BIC from a well recognized pedigree’d LDS family from Utah. But she and I probably don’t fit the, forgive me in advance should this offend anyone, the typical BYU/Provo/Utah image of an LDS couple. We BOTH have careers and no children yet! And she is an incredible woman and lady. And is unique within her family for being so. But that really has nothing to do with my comments here and I am quite sure that we are far more studied and versed on Church history than most of our Church members. Comes with our openess, backgrounds and careers!

      And for the record – I have leveled no charges against Joseph Smith. But you do have a flair for sensationalism – probably makes you an enjoyable speaker in your travels. And that is not a bad thing either.

      I have merely brought out facts about his actions in Nauvoo that were directly responsible for the powder keg he ignighted. I also believe you know my facts are correct or you would have offered evidence that they were not as opposed to questioning my faith.

      Yes, I have read Oaks and many other sources in my interest of this history. And it truly is a fascinating part of Church AND American history. Bro Smith was a significant player in the history of our country at that time. But I struggle w Oaks “law paper” for many reasons – one being the origin of its need. But beyond that, and for posters Smoot, Swenson and yourself — why was it even considered a “nuisance”? It seems as if the same rationale could have been used be Nixon against all media outlets disclosing the facts behind Watergate!!! “Nusiance”, in both cases, seemed to be a great excuse for: “I lied and got caught”!!! And the Nauvoo Charter had regulations for dealing with a nuisance that were violated in the case of destroying the Expositor. But more to the point – what did the Expositor print that wasn’t true? That’s not “nuisance” – just honest journalism. And can you honestly conclude that Smith did not lie and deceive with respect to his practice of polygamy? Can anyone??? That’s a rationalization that my wife and I abandoned years ago given the facts. And we’ve both been counseled about sharing our factual knowledge with other members in the ward.

      Admittedly, I have never believed polygamy, with the benefit of historical hindsight, was ever a commandment of God. Rather it was a lifestyle preference of Joseph. The practice of polygamy provided absolutely no spiritual value to the Church that we have not, nor would have not received through monogamy. (And please dont go to the standard explanation of sufferage, we suffered plenty without it!!!). I think most members would agree today. Rather it has been a major factor, along w blacks and priesthood, that has kept us from a far greater acceptance into the Christian community.

      But back to my original point in first posting here: Do you really believe Joseph, Hyrum and Taylor would have ever found themselves in the Carthage jail that day in 1844 if the Prophet had not been practicing polygamy, against Church doctrine at that time, and destroyed the Expositor????

      Sometimes bad actions lead to bad circumstances.

      • DanielPeterson

        I continue, Bob Oliverio, to be amused by the innocence with which you equate “honesty” with holding your views and imply that not holding your views equals dishones

        • Bob Oliverio

          No more so than I am with your untrue accusation. But again, I welcome your correction to any point I’ve made if you find it untrue or dishonest. And, again, do you believe the incident at the Carthage jail would have ever taken place had Joseph not been practicing polygamy and had the Expositor destroyed?

          • DanielPeterson

            “The incident at the Carthage jail,” as you rather curiously describe it, might not have happened had there been no polygamy and no action against the “Nauvoo Expositor.”

            But you’re playing with really loose conceptions of causation and responsibility.

            That “incident” would CERTAINLY not have occurred had Joseph never been born.

            So, in a sense, Lucy Mack Smith is to blame.

            And, please, don’t get me started on all of the evils that might have been prevented had there been no Big Bang.

      • Stephen Smoot

        “And for the record – I have leveled no charges against Joseph Smith.”

        So those times when you said “[Joseph Smith] broke federal, state, local and Nauvoo Charter laws,” or that Joseph Smith was a liar, or that he was pretty much responsible for his own murder because of his deplorable character and actions, those weren’t charges against Joseph Smith?

        What were they then, exactly?

        And do you honestly think that historians like Richard Bushman, Gordon Madsen, Kenneth Godfrey, Ronald Barney, Marvin Hill, and others are just “rationalizing” away the historical evidence behind the unjustified and unlawful murder of Joseph Smith?

        But that’s beside the point. The main problem on your part is the unwillingness to acknowledge that Joseph Smith was held illegally in Carthage on trumped up charges of treason as a pretext to murder him. That much seems clear. (See the link to the Joseph Smith Papers episode for a discussion of this.)

        Whatever you may think of the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor, or Joseph Smith’s role in it, as has already been pointed out here that in no way justified butchering Joseph and Hyrum, and nearly John Taylor, in cold blood.

        “Sometimes bad actions lead to bad circumstances.”

        Which of course justifies murder, right? Seems reasonable, I guess. You destroy someone’s property, and instead of paying damages or maybe doing some jail time, you get iced by a mob. Punishment fits the crime, and all that.

        “But beyond that, and for posters Smoot, Swenson and yourself — why was it even considered a “nuisance”?”

        Because it was. I again refer you to the delightful chat that the good folks at the Joseph Smith Papers participated in (linked above).

        “Admittedly, I have never believed polygamy, with the benefit of historical hindsight, was ever a commandment of God.”

        So you just chuck D&C 132 out the window? Same with the repeated statements by Joseph Smith and other early Church leaders (including Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, etc.) that they were commanded by God to practice it? If so, then were they crazy? Were they sincerely deluded? Were they deceived by false spirits?

        “Rather it was a lifestyle preference of Joseph.”

        Yes, of course. Joseph Smith and those who first commenced practicing “the Principle” were just chomping at the bit to get this started. They could hardly wait! I mean, think of all the perks that came with this wonderful “lifestyle preference”: estranging your wife and friends, heaping upon yourself bloodthirsty enemies, having your good name publicly besmirched and slandered, being forced into hiding as federal agents come seeking to arrest you, disenfranchisement, the threat of divine judgment if you didn’t practice it, etc. Yeah, polygamy sure was a hoot for Joseph and other early Mormons. Good time all around!

        Seriously, dude. Plural marriage was a lot of things, but it was not the “lifestyle preference” of Joseph Smith. Go read Brian Hales before you make more silly statements like this.

  • Stephen Smoot

    “He broke federal, state, local and Nauvoo Charter laws. ”

    Which ones, specifically? Inquiring minds want to know.

  • Stephen Smoot

    Also, it appears that the quote you recommend on p. 939 was aimed at denying that Joseph and the Church had anything to do with John C. Bennett’s “spiritual wife” doctrine. This seems to be what it means when it says the Church doesn’t have anything to do with “fornication, and polygamy” (i.e. the stuff Bennett was going, which was different than the plural marriage Joseph Smith was practicing).

    I’d recommend the work of Brian Hales on this subject.

  • RaymondSwenson

    Much as some newspaper publishers would wish it to be, even the criminal destruction of a printing press would not be a crime justifying capital punishment, let alone murder by a mob. The Nauvoo City Council action condemning the Expositor as a nuisance followed the forms of the law, and the owners could have used legal procedure to bring a civil lawsuit for damages, but no law in America would justify a third party, whose property was not involved, in committing homicide based on that dispute. The charge of treason against the state of Illinois, which was the basis for holding Joseph in jail until he could have a bail hearing, was transparently ridiculous, and a mere pretext for keeping him away from his supporters in Nauvoo. Using legal process to facilitate murder is itself a crime of conspiracy.

    Sadly, attacking Joseph for provoking the “righteous anger” of his killers was a form that was still being followed a century later by people who lynched black men and boys over offenses like looking at a white woman. The Muslim Brotherhooid is still employing that form against Copts in Egypt.

    • Stephen Smoot

      “The charge of treason against the state of Illinois, which was the basis for holding Joseph in jail until he could have a bail hearing, was transparently ridiculous, and a mere pretext for keeping him away from his supporters in Nauvoo. ”

      It’s actually even more nefarious than that, since Joseph had already posted bail on the “riot” charges, but was slapped with the ludicrous treason charge at the last minute to keep him in Carthage, as treason was a non-bailable offense.

      Oaks and Hill didn’t call it the “Carthage Conspiracy” for no reason.

  • Stephen Smoot

    Here is a nice discussion of the legal background to the martyrdom courtesy of the Joseph Smith Papers.

  • DanielPeterson

    You don’t seem to grasp, Bob Oliverio, that I understand your point, am fully aware of your facts, and think you fundamentally wrong-headed on the matter. It’s hard to know even where to begin. And — especially since I’m sitting right now in an airport, waiting to board a flight — I’m not much inclined to try.

    If you’ve really read Professor Oaks on the subject, and Dr. Leonard, and so on, and understood them, and you still believe what you believe, I’m not sure how to help you.

  • Josh Segundo

    Are you implying that Carthage is cursed, while Nauvoo is blessed?

    • DanielPeterson

      Not really. But that might be a plausible reading of the situation. Thanks for suggesting it.

    • Bob Oliverio

      Josh, you make an excellent observation. As I’ve learned, there is a much stronger correlation of causation and outcome in events that are 175 years apart today than could possibly exist between events that were about 10 days apart 175 years ago.