Special Thanks to Seth Smith for making this video!
Joseph Smith was the Prophet and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some have argued against the idea that Joseph Smith died a martyr because he used a gun in the last moments of his life. The Prophet had promised to defend his brethren with his own life on several occasions and was courageously doing so on that day. In 1842 Joseph said, "When my enemies take away my rights, I will bear it and keep out of the way; but if they take away your rights, I will fight for you."(History of the Church 5:181) He also said, "If I do not stand with those who will stand by me in the hour of trouble and danger, without faltering, I give you leave to shoot me." (History of the Church 6:94) In a sermon in 1841 he preached, "What greater love hath any man than that he lay down his life for his friend? Then why not fight for our friend until we die?" (The Words of Joseph Smith, pg. 81)
A member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and secretary to the Prophet, Willard Richrards related what happened after Hyrum was killed: "[Joseph] open[ed] the door two or three inches with his left hand, discharged one barrel of a six shooter [pistol] at random in the entry, ...Joseph continued snapping his revolver round the casing of the door into the space as before, three barrels of which missed fire; while Mr. Taylor, with a walking stick stood, by his side, and knocked down the bayonets and muskets which were constantly discharging through the doorway, while I stood by him ready to lend any assistance, with another stick, but could not come within striking distance without going directly before the muzzles of the guns. " Willard Richards, Two Minutes in Jail, Times and Seasons, Aug. 1, 1844, 5:598-99.
"[Joseph], however, instantly arose, and with a firm, quick step, and a determined expression of countenance, approached the door, and pulling the six-shooter...from his pocket, opened the door slightly, and snapped the pistol six successive times. Only three of the barrels, however, were discharged. ..., I had in my hands a large, strong hickory stick,... and while Brother Joseph was firing the pistol, I stood close behind him. As soon as he had discharged it he stepped back, and I immediately took his place next to the door, while he occupied the one I had done while he was shooting. Brother Richards, at this time, had a knotty walking-stick in his hands belonging to me, and stood next to Brother Joseph a little farther from the door, in an oblique direction, apparently to avoid the rake of the fire from the door.... [The mob] pushed the door some distance open, and protruded and discharged their guns into the room, when I parried them off with my stick, giving another direction to the balls.
It certainly was a terrible scene. Streams of fire as thick as my arm passed by me as these men fired, and, unarmed as we were, it looked like certain death. I remember feeling as though my time had come, but I do not know when, in any critical position, I was more calm, unruffled, energetic, and acted with more promptness and decision. ...[while]the muzzles of those firearms...belched forth their liquid flames and deadly balls. While I was engaged in parrying the guns, Brother Joseph said, "That's right, Brother Taylor, parry them off as well as you can." These were the last words I ever heard him speak on earth.
Every moment the crowd at the door became more dense, as they were unquestionably pressed on by those in the rear ascending the stairs, until the whole entrance at the door was literally crowded with muskets and rifles, which, with the swearing, shouting, and demoniacal expressions of those outside the door and on the stairs, and the firing of the guns, mingled with their horrid oaths and execrations, made it look like pandemonium let loose, and was, indeed, a fit representation of the horrid deed in which they were engaged." John Taylor, Witness to the Martyrdom, pg. 88-90