Lines on the Assassination (Eliza R. Snow) – Poetic tribute to Joseph & Hyrum Smith
Shortly after the martyrdom, Eliza R. Snow, one of the plural wives of the Prophet Joseph Smith, wrote the following poetic words testifying that Joseph’s personality was not effaced in the way writers claim today. This poem is one of the greatest writings on the prophet’s life other than Doctrine and Covenants 135. Eliza R. Snow Smith was the plural wife and therefore widow of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Written only days following the tragic massacre in Carthage Jail, this poem is her inspiring tribute and honoring memorial to the man she loved dearer than her own life.
Lines on the Assassination
By Eliza R. Snow
On the Assassination of Generals Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith, First Presidents of the Church of Latter-day Saints, who were Massacred by a Mob, in Carthage, Hancock county, Illinois, on the 21th, June, 1844.
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar, the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.
And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season. until their fellow servants also, and their brethren, that should be killed as they were. should be fulfilled.— Rev. vi. 9, 10, 11.
Ye heav’ns attend! Let all the earth give ear!
Let Gods and seraphs, men and angels hear—
The worlds on high—the universe shall know
What awful scenes are acted here below!
Had nature’s self a heart, her heart would bleed;
For never, since the Son of God was slain,
Has blood so noble, flow’d from human vein
As that which now on God for vengeance calls
From “freedom’s ground”—from Carthage’s prison walls.
Oh! Illinois! thy soil has drank the blood
Of Prophets martyr’d for the truth of God.
Once lov’d America! what can atone
For the pure blood of innocence, thou’st sown?
Were all thy streams in teary torrents shed
To mourn the fate of those illustrious dead:
How vain the tribute, for the noblest worth
That grac’d thy surface, O degraded Earth!
Oh! wretched murd’rers! fierce for human blood!
You’ve slain the prophets of the living God,
Who’ve borne oppression from their early youth,
To plant on earth the principles of truth.
Shades of our patriotic fathers! Can it be,
Beneath your blood-stain’d flag of liberty;
The firm supporters of our country’s cause,
Are butcher’d while submissive to her laws?
Yes, blameless men, defam’d by hellish lies,
Have thus been offer’d as a sacrifice
T’ appease the ragings of a brutish clan,
That has defied the laws of God and man!
‘Twas not for crime or guilt of theirs they fell—
Against the laws they never did rebel.
True to their country, yet her plighted faith
Has prov’d an instrument of cruel death!
Where are thy far-fam’d laws—Columbia! where
Thy boasted freedom—thy protecting care?
Is this a land of rights? Stern Facts shall say
If legal justice here maintains its sway,
The official pow’rs of State are sheer pretence
When they’re exerted in the Saints’ defence.
Great men have fall’n and mighty men have died—
Nations have mourn’d their fav’rites and their pride;
But Two, so wise, so virtuous, great and good,
Before on earth, at once, have never stood
Since the creation—men whom God ordain’d
To publish truth where error long had reign’d:
Of whom the world itself unworthy prov’d:
It Knew Them Not; but men with hatred mov’d
And with infernal spirits have combin’d”
Against the best, the noblest of mankind!
Oh! persecution! shall thy purple hand
Spread utter destruction through the land?
Shall freedom’s banner be no more unfurl’d?
Has peace indeed, been taken from the world?
Thou God of Jacob, in this trying hour
Help us to trust in thy almighty power,
Support thy Saints beneath this awful stroke—
Make bare thine arm to break oppression’s yoke.
We mourn thy Prophet, from whose lips have flow’d
The words of life, thy Spirit has bestow’d—
A depth of thought, no human art could reach
From time to time, roll’d in sublimest speech,
From the celestial fountain, through his mind,
To purify and elevate mankind:
The rich intelligence by him brought forth,
Is like the sunbeam spreading o’er the earth.
Now Zion mourns—she mourns an earthly head:
The Prophet and the Patriarch are dead!
The blackest deed that men or devils know
Since Calv’ry’s scene, has laid the brothers low!
One in their life, and one in death—they prov’d
How strong their friendship—how they truly lov’d:
True to their mission, until death they stood,
Then seal’d their testimony with their blood.
All hearts with sorrow bleed, and every eye
Is bath’d in tears—each bosom heaves a sigh—
Heart broken widows’ agonizing groans
Are mingled with the helpless orphans’ moans!
Ye Saints! be still, and know that God is just—
With steadfast purpose in his promise trust:
Girded with sackcloth, own his mighty hand,
And wait his judgments on this guilty land!
The noble martyrs now have gone to move
The cause of Zion in the courts above.
Times and Seasons, 1 July 1844, p. 575