Why was Joseph killed?

There is a new documentary titled, “Who Killed Joseph Smith?” It was released this last weekend, and can now be viewed on-line at this website: whokilledjosephsmith.com

I was favorably impressed with this attempt to explain how first Hyrum, and then Joseph, were murdered in Carthage Jail. The story told by the Latter-day Saints does not match the physical proof and this documentary does a better job of explaining what happened than does the LDS church’s account. The Latter-day Saints have recognized their original explanation cannot be accurate, and fails to account for physical injuries to the bodies of the slain brothers, and so their explanation has been changed and continues to be modified. These official changes are explained in the new documentary.

The conclusion of the new film will be hard for Latter-day Saints to even consider. To reach a correct conclusion a person must be open to considering any plausible alternative, no matter how unpleasant it may be.

Of course there were outside political and religious people hostile to Joseph Smith. But they were not alone. There were insiders, followers and even accompanying leaders in the inner-circles of the Latter-day Saints who were also disaffected by Joseph Smith’s leadership.

Joseph Smith was surrounded by ambitious and aspiring men. Joseph’s role in the Kirtland Anti-Banking Society failure, his continuing financial struggles, and pending bankruptcy at the time of his death are obvious proof that Joseph was not a successful businessman. There were many others who could manage money better, and who could figure out how to make the organization Joseph established profitable. Indeed, Brigham Young managed to monetize Mormonism as an institution and leaders have been chosen from business, banking, law and other professions for generations. The single individual who is the owner of the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is likely the “richest” man in the world today. I put “richest” in quotes because he clearly controls a vast financial empire, but presumably manages it with some degree of caution considering the claimed status as a religious leader. But the LDS Church is, by now, only a minor part of the wealth that office controls.

Joseph Smith never attempted to build a financial empire. He did attempt to establish a religious society, and hoped it could become independent of all other governments. But his impulse to provide for the needs of others, and particularly the poor converts streaming into his community caused many losses and set-backs.

Others who were close to Joseph knew he was an impediment to financial success. And, because of the lusts of the flesh, many later LDS leaders would admit that they got a “revelation” about plural wives while serving on missions in England, years before Joseph Smith purportedly began to teach it to them in complete secrecy. Joseph stood in the way of rolling out plural wives publicly, because he consistently condemned the practice publicly, brought church disciplinary proceedings against people he learned were practicing it, and made it impossible for it to become the standard practice for the society.

If other leaders thought they could do a much better job financially, and knew Joseph Smith would never publicly advocate what they knew God had “revealed” to them in England, then ‘it would be better that one man should die than an entire people be deprived of progress’–so to speak.

Before dismissing outright the possibilities raised in the new documentary, consider whether there were insiders, even in the highest ranks of Nauvoo society, who might benefit from the deaths of Hyrum and Joseph. If the wound in Hyrum’s neck was an entry wound, and from a pistol rather than a musket, and the injury to his face was an exit wound also from a pistol, then what? If the mob intended to hang, not shoot, the brothers, and inside the jail room they fell from pistol fire, what happened? Who could have been in the room armed with a pistol to fire upon the brothers?

The film is worth watching.