“Oh Lord my God!”
These words rang out through the tiny village of Carthage in the afternoon of June 27, 1844 as a man, hunted and persecuted very literally to death, fell, wounded and bleeding from a second story window to the unforgiving ground beneath.
A somber air hangs over the scene even now, more than a hundred years beyond the grave and one might very well wonder how it can be that civilized men could form such an unruly mob in order to put to death a preacher for testifying his love and knowledge of the Savior Jesus Christ.
The reality of these events came flooding into my mind as my finger caressed the bullet hole in the simple wooden door that separated four honest disciples from 200 bloodthirsty demons of hell in the guise of human flesh as they clamored up the stairs with murder in their hearts and obscenities in their mouths. The original floorboards that soaked up the blood of Hyrum Smith and John Taylor remained sturdy beneath my feet as I left the scene of cold blooded homicide and carefully walked down the steep stairs that Joseph’s tread was destined never to grace again.
But it was outside the prison house, beneath the window that my heart truly grew solemn. Here was the spot where this magnificent prophet’s lifeless body had met the earth in one terrible crash.
What of his last words? People often wonder whether or not this man truly was all he said he was. Some consider him a liar, a fabricator, an adulterer and a threat. Perhaps they have their reasons for attacking him even now with vehemence and hatred. But those words still echo in the streets of Illinois and throughout the pages of history. These words left his mouth after he had been shot twice in the chest and as his nearly spent body fell through the air, plummeting toward death. Very likely at that point they were involuntary and illustrate where he had most spent his time, his thought and his effort and where he most acutely placed his hope and his faith. Was this the final cry of a robber or a madman? No. This was prayer of a man so deeply involved in the service of God that his whole soul yearned upward even as his frame collapsed to the floor. This was the profession of faith of a man who worshiped and honored the Lord his God, and proclaimed the truthfulness of His gospel with literally his very last breath.