Already considered a lightning rod for his beliefs, running for president brought Smith even more negative attention. He exasperated this situation attempting to shut down his dissenters. A group of disgruntled former Latter-day Saints published the “Nauvoo Expositor,” a newspaper criticizing his leadership. Smith fired back.
As the leader of Nauvoo, he ordered the destruction of the press and he sent out the militia to enforce it. This unabashedly anti-democratic abuse of power would not go unchecked. He was charged with treason and conspiracy, along with his brother Hyrum.
Building his First Temple
Upon fleeing New York, Smith and his people landed in Kirtland, Ohio. For six years they flourished there. A year after arriving, Smith had a revelation from God to build a temple. That was just the start. Smith claimed to receive 65 revelations during construction.
He managed to oversee the project with a small group of impoverished followers. Church members donated labor and materials like glass and pottery used for making stucco. Soaring to 110 feet, it was reverently dedicated in 1836.
Why the City of Zion Temple was Never Built
During the temple-construction days of the Kirtland church, plans to build a sprawling compound of temples in the city of Zion were developing. Smith received a revelation in 1831 for building an “everlasting inheritance.” In 1833 the master plan was underway.
It intended Jackson County, Missouri to host 24 temples and accommodate 20,000 people. Why didn’t it happen? Once again, Mormons were chased out. Missouri citizens expelled the LDS from the city.
He Ended His Life as a Martyr
No longer welcome in the Illinois city he founded, Smith was arrested for treason and conspiracy. He and his brother were jailed in neighboring Carthage in February of 1844. At first, he attempted to flee. After consideration, however, Smith decided to accept his fate.
On June 27, 1844, a 200-strong anti-Mormon militia swarmed the Carthage jail cell and took Smith's life. His brother's life ended there too. Smith’s bullet-ridden body fell from the second-story window during his attempted escape.
The Making of a Martyr
Upon learning his fate and returning to Nauvoo to face charges, he said, “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter.” He also imparted to his followers, “I shall die innocent". This is the part Mormons believe.
Modern LDSs are taught of his martyrdom, and they are taught to love Joseph Smith, to the point that most LDS’ do not know Smith used military power to destroy the presses of the “Nauvoo Exposition.”