The Feast-day of the Lord to Joseph and Hyrum Smith, For Being Martyred for the Truth

By January 5, 2008

It has recently been suggested that we should commemorate the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, rather than his birthday. I wonder how contemporary Latter-day Saints would respond to having an official holiday set aside to remember the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. In speaking to some of my friends and family about the idea, I’ve seen some resistance, in part I think to the contemporary fear of being perceived by outsiders as worshipping Joseph Smith. Parley P. Pratt, in his “One Hundred Years Hence. 1945.”, speculated that in the Millennium we will hold feast days to honor those that were slain for their testimonies of the truth.

Our curiosity excited us to inquire, what day they celebrated? To which the guide replied: “This is the Feast day of the Lord to JOSEPH AND HYRUM SMITH, for being martyred for the truth, held yearly on the 7th day of the fourth month, throughout all the tribes of Israel!”

Flesh and blood cannot comprehend the greatness of the scene; the worthy of the earth, with Adam at their head; the martyrs of the different dispensations, with Abel at their head; and honorable men from other worlds composed an assemblage of majesty, dignity, and ‘divinity,’ so much above the ‘little pageantry’ of man in his self-made greatness, that we almost forgot that mortals ever enjoyed anything more than misery, in all the pomp and circumstance of man’s power over man! This was a feast-day for truth! This was the reward of integrity!–This was the triumph of “kings and priests,” unto God, and was a holiday of eternity! Who could be happier than he that was among the holy throng? No one…[1]

I have a hard time imagining this being implemented prior to the Millenium, although as a student of collective memory I would love it if we did.


[1] “One Hundred Years Hence. 1945.” Nauvoo Neighbor, September 10, 1845;  Millennial Star, October 15, 1845, 140. Sam MB has summarized “One Hundred Years Hence” in its entirety.

Article filed under Categories of Periodization: Origins Cultural History From the Archives Memory


  1. Personally, I don’t want it. I’m fine with the thought, but I can picture *way* too many ways in which it could get out of control with some people.

    Comment by Ray — January 6, 2008 @ 12:26 am

  2. “ways in which it could get out of control with some people.”

    Like Christmas? That people might go overboard doesn’t seem reason enough to dismiss a holiday from consideration.

    I like the idea of remembering Joseph in the season of his martyrdom. A sacrament meeting talk in June seems appropriate to me. I actually arranged a fireside once (with permission from the Bishop), but then canceled it after people in the ward noted that it would conflict with Father’s Day, and that it might make it somewhat inconvenient for the speaker I’d invited.

    Comment by Bradley Ross — January 6, 2008 @ 7:03 pm

  3. Perhaps it could be a sort of Mormon All Saint’s Day. I recently read Patience Loader’s account of watching her father perishing in the handcart tragedy. Interestingly, the major thing she remembered of the consolation was that the leader said that he would raise “with a martyr’s crown.”

    …we would have to figure out who gets to be a martyr, though, I guess…

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 6, 2008 @ 8:32 pm

  4. ?we would have to figure out who gets to be a martyr, though, I guess?

    Yeah, expanding it beyond JS and HS, and perhaps David Patten and the Haun’s Mill folks (although even their status as martyrs is contested by some in the Church), would definitely be tricky. And given the contestation over whether or not we should even have martyrs other than Christ further complicates things.

    I, for one, think it would be worth it to think through these issues though, as I find the idea of having a day set aside to remember martyrs appealing, although I recognize the difficulties in such an endeavor.

    Comment by David Grua — January 6, 2008 @ 10:26 pm

  5. How much more difficult is it to define a martyr than a pioneer? Pioneer Day seems to be pretty open and flexible for personal interpretation of what makes one a “pioneer.” Couldn’t “martyr” also have the same flexibility?

    I personally love the idea. David, do you think there’s other issues at stake in opposing such a tradition besides fear of being perceived by outsiders as worshipping JS?

    BTW, “One Hundred Years Hence” is among my favorites of Pratt’s writings (and that’s saying a lot).

    Comment by Christopher — January 7, 2008 @ 12:31 pm

  6. How much more difficult is it to define a martyr than a pioneer? Pioneer Day seems to be pretty open and flexible for personal interpretation of what makes one a ?pioneer.? Couldn?t ?martyr? also have the same flexibility?

    In my opinion, there are by numerical necessity more pioneers than martyrs, given that to be defined as one of the latter you have to have met a violent death at the hands of the enemies of the Kingdom (although I’m open to the idea of considering those that died trying to flee from the enemy as martyrs). The definition of pioneer, on the other hand, has continually expanded from 1) members of the 1847 vanguard to 2) every one that crossed the plains prior to 1869 to 3) anyone who is the first member of the church in a region or even a family. I don’t think that the defintion of a marytr has the same kind of interpretive flexibility.

    David, do you think there?s other issues at stake in opposing such a tradition besides fear of being perceived by outsiders as worshipping JS?

    That’s a good question. I more and more see the church through the history of contact, so I think I probably look first for external pressures. It’s possible that Mormons are just averse to having (or multiplying) such holidays. Our only real holiday is Pioneer Day, and even that is losing his allure outside of the Mormon corridor (and even inside in places). IIRC, Davis Bitton found evidence that 19th-century Saints commemorated sporatically June 27th, but it never caught on. Bitton speculates that that occurred because it was too close to July 4th. So perhaps you are right Chris that there are internal factors that worked against commemorating June 27th even during the 19th century, when, imo, we were much less self-consious of what others thought of us.

    Comment by David Grua — January 7, 2008 @ 2:58 pm

  7. Interesting to note that Pratt suggests the

    7th day of the fourth month

    or in other words, April 7th, not June 27th. Why do you suppose that he suggested the day after the anniversary of the organization of the church?

    Comment by kevinf — January 7, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

  8. Kevin, I wonder that too. I wonder if he’s thinking that we’ll use a different calendar in the Millennium?

    Comment by David Grua — January 7, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

  9. I recall events connected to the 150th anniversary.

    Comment by Justin — January 8, 2008 @ 12:58 pm

  10. Justin: Thanks for the link. I suspect that there were similar commemorations for the 50th and 100th anniversaries, but I don’t know for sure.

    Comment by David Grua — January 8, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

  11. […] a small pamphlet entitled “The Angel of the Prairie,” a work that was similar to his “One Hundred Years Hence. 1945.”“The Angel of the Prairie” purports to be based on a dream in which Pratt is transported […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » “A true and perfect system of Civil and Religious Government, revealed from on High.” — January 17, 2008 @ 8:07 pm


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