Last night I went to the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti. Locally, The Manti Pageant. I’ve never gone, having heard conflicting reports for years about whether it was an overall positive experience or not. Plus, it’s way-the-heck-out-there. With the encouragement of friends, we decided to go.
I only saw a couple of protesters. Someone tried to give me a million dollar bill with Joseph Smith’s likeness on it. I’m not sure what that was about, but in retrospect I wish I’d taken it, so I could at least scan it into the computer and post it or something fun. In the moment I just felt like I shouldn’t encourage them, or take anything they were offering since it might make them think it’s okay to start yelling at me about crap I’ve already heard hashed and re-hashed and copied and facsimiled and lost and dug up and laid out to dry then read over and over and over and over and over again. And again.
Not to sound bitter, but even before my mission in the big old Texas shaped belt buckle of the Bible belt, I’d heard it all.
As far as protesters that I’ve encountered goes, these ones were almost polite. Most of them stayed away this year, which is pleasant since they’ve been known to get nasty. I even smiled when uncomfortable eye-contact was made just because they were so very non-threatening. Not like that freak dressed up in a velvet devil costume who almost smacked me in the forehead with a burned copy of the Book of Mormon when I was just trying to get to my car at General Conference last October.
Anyway, the point is, the experience was very positive and spiritual over all. My sister can tell you about the voice recording that is clearly forty years old, but whatever, I cried along with everyone else. It’s emotional. It’s beautiful. I’m definitely going back next year.
June 27, 1844 Joseph Smith Jr. was martyred. He wasn’t the only one, either. His brother and my ancestor Hyrum Smith died that day with him.
This next Monday it will make one-hundred and sixty seven years since the events in Carthage.
The depiction of the attack at Carthage was very well done and powerful. Very touching. As with other depictions of Joseph’s martyrdom, it was missing some details. Anti-Mormons love to bring up the fact that Joseph had a gun that was snuck into him in jail by his friends and he fired back at the mob firing on him. They also like to point out that he jumped out the window. The reason they do this is because they think it negates what he stood for if he resorted to defending himself and his friends, or if he tried to escape. If they can prove that Joseph was a coward, then he deserved to be persecuted, right?
I’ve often heard Joseph’s status as a martyr disputed.
A martyr is someone who is killed because of something they believe in. Whether or not they fight back or even whether what they believe in is true or not is completely incidental. Martyrs can be made by angry mobs, bigoted neighbors, government sanction…
Personally, I do not believe that anything Joseph did was shameful. He was not a God. He was a man, a great man and a prophet, but still human. He did not have the power to save himself. He fired a gun to defend himself, his brother’s corpse and his friends. It was the futile struggle of a man who knew he was going to die; a man whose friends were so sure that he was in danger that they decided to smuggle a pepper-box pistol to him.
I’m glad he jumped out the window. If he hadn’t, he would have kept drawing the gunfire into the room with his friends and his brother who had already been shot and killed through the door. If Joseph Smith hadn’t jumped through the window, bullets would have kept flying, then my other great-great-great grandfather Willard Richards might have been shot and killed, just like Hyrum Smith, lying still on the ground with a gunshot wound to the face, just a few feet away. I never would have been born.
Whatever the reason Joseph went for the window, the result is that it ended the attack. Willard Richards and John Taylor left Carthage alive.
It’s personal to me, because that was my family being persecuted.
So, why does it continue? Why are there people out there who still work to try and negate the good that my ancestors have done by exploiting and misrepresenting their humanity? It’s pretty simple to trace the pathology actually.
They are terrified that people might think that the persecution of my people and my family legitimizes our belief that God called a prophet to restore the fullness of the gospel and the priesthood authority that had been lost in apostasy after the martyrdom of Jesus Christ and his apostles.
They don’t believe it, so they try to say that we were never persecuted; that we deserved the hardships that came to us because of our foolish choices and our false beliefs.
Interestingly enough, this constitutes further persecution.
Christian Brethren, anyway you turn this, it still looks like a big smelly pile of excrement of bull to me. Jesus had a lot to say about how you should treat your neighbor and what you should do with your time, especially a particularly lovely Tuesday night in Manti. Help a neighbor with yard work? Go to a spiritually uplifting pageant? Stay home and read the Bible?
I’ll admit that it hurts my heart a little that my Church almost seems ashamed to depict the martyrdom with all its details. I don’t think we have anything to be ashamed off.
I was thinking about this a lot last week. This morning, while reading the scriptures, I came across this verse in Alma that really spoke to me.
I would that ye should do as I have done, in remembering the captivity of our fathers; for they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it was the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and God of Jacob; and he surely did deliver them in their afflictions. - Alma 36:2
The context is talking about different fathers and different bondage, but the God is the same. God of Abraham. God of Isaac. God of Jacob. God of Joseph and Hyrum. God of Ailsa.
By the world’s definition, Joseph Smith Jr. was a martyr. However, what the world thinks really doesn’t matter. It may have been the world who imprisoned Joseph, but God Delivered him. His final worlds, “Oh Lord, my God,” were directed towards his maker and mine. Nothing that any anti-Mormon nutcase or sophisticated intellectual philosopher can say will ever change that Joseph Smith met his maker as a martyred prophet. I know that this is true because it had been confirmed to repeatedly by the Holy Ghost, most recently, while I read a verse in Alma chapter thirty-six verse two.
My fathers were in bondage and none could deliver them except it was their God.