troubling piece of information came from a church talk Brigham
Young gave in 1857:
William Smith has asserted that I was the cause of the
death of his brother Samuel, when brother Woodruff,
who is here to day, knows that we were waiting at the depôt
in Boston to take passage east at the very time when Joseph
and Hyrum were killed. Brother Taylor was nearly killed
at the time, and Doctor Richards had his whiskers nearly
singed off by the blaze from the guns. In a few weeks
after, Samuel Smith died, and I am blamed as the cause of
- Prophet Brigham Young, July 1857, Journal of Discourses,
vol. 5, p.77
of church history sources reveals theses clues:
Harrison Smith, born in Tunbridge, Vt., March 13, 1808.
Died July 30, 1844, broken hearted, and worn out with persecution.
Aged 36. The righteous are removed from the evils to come."
- Times and Seasons, Vol.5, No.24, p.760
& Joseph was Murdered Carthage Jail in Hancock Co[,]
Illinois. Samuel Smith died in Nauvoo, supposed to have
been the Subject of Conspiracy by Brigham Young."
- Joseph Smith Family Testimony, William Smith Notes
Circa 1875, Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, p. 488
would such an accusation be layed against Brigham Young?
understand the context, you have to remember that after
Smith and Hyrum were killed, there was some conflict over
who should be his successor. Brigham Young was not in Nauvoo
when Smith was killed, but started to head back as soon
as he heard the news. Meanwhile in Nauvoo, several potential
leaders were positioning to take the reins of leadership.
The most popular replacement was Samuel Smith, the brother
of Joseph Smith. William Clayton had recorded Joseph
declaring his brother Samuel his successor if both he and
Hyrum were killed.
Brigham Young's first cousin and church apostle, William
Richards, insisted that nothing should be decided until
Brigham Young could return to Nauvoo. However, many members
did not want to wait, and more and more support was gathering
behind Samuel Smith, Joseph Smith's brother, to become the
next Prophet and leader of the church.
a select few, this presented a problem because Samuel was
violently against polygamy. It was looking like Samuel Smith
would become the next prophet and he promised to denounce
the practice of plural marriage.
Quinn, from The
Mormon Hierarchy : Origins of Power explains what happened
Samuel Smith suddenly became violently ill and died on 30
July 1844. This added suspicion of murder to the escalating
drama. Council of Fifty member and physician John M. Bernhisel
told William Smith that anti-Mormons had somehow poisoned
his brother. William learned from Samuel's widow that
Hosea Stout, a Missouri Danite and senior officer of Nauvoo's
police, had acted as his brother's nurse. Stout had given
him "white powder" medicine daily until his death. Samuel
became ill within days of the discussion of his succession
right, and by 24 July was "very sick." There had been
enough talk about Samuel's succession claims that the newspaper
in Springfield, Illinois, reported: "A son of Joe Smith
[Sr.] it is said, had received the revelation that he was
to be the successor of the prophet."
Smith eventually concluded that Apostle Willard Richards
asked Stout to murder (his brother) Samuel H. Smith. The
motive was to prevent Samuel from becoming church president
before Brigham Young and the full Quorum of Twelve arrived
(in Navuoo). William's suspicions about Stout are believable
since Brigham Young allowed William Clayton to go with the
pioneer company to Utah three years later only because Stout
threatened to murder Clayton as soon as the apostles left.
Clayton regarded Hosea Stout as capable of homicide and
recorded no attempt by Young to dispute that assessment
concerning the former Danite."
could dismiss William Smith's charge as a self-serving argument
for his own succession claim, yet Samuel's daughter also
believed her father was murdered. "My father was undoubtedly
poisoned," she wrote. "Uncle Arthur Millikin was poisoned
at the same time-the same doctors were treating my father
and Uncle Arthur at the same time. Uncle Arthur discontinued
the medicine-without letting them know that he was doing
so. (Aunt Lucy [Smith Millikin] threw it in the fire). Father
continued taking it until the last dose-he spit out and
said he was poisoned. But it was too late-he died."
Nauvoo's sexton recorded that Samuel Smith died of "bilious
fever," the cause of death listed for two children but no
other adults that summer."
troubling allegation should not be ignored but cannot be
verified. Nevertheless Clayton's diary confirms the efforts
of Richards to avoid the appointment of a successor before
his first cousin Brigham Young arrived. Stout's diary
also describes several occasions when Brigham Young and
the apostles seriously discussed having Hosea "rid ourselves"
of various church members considered dangerous to the church
and the apostles. Stout referred to this as "cut him off-behind
the ears-according to the law of God in such cases."
Stout's daily diary also makes no reference whatever to
his threat to murder Clayton in 1847. When the Salt Lake
"municipal high council" tried Hosea Stout for attempted
murder, he protested that "it has been my duty to hunt
out the rotten spots in the Kingdom." He added that
he had "tried not to handle a man's case until it was right."
Evidence does not exist to prove if the prophet's brother
was such a "case" Stout handled."
- D. Michael Quinn, The
Mormon Hierarchy : Origins of Power, p.152-153
not a testimony killer, but still a fascinating episode
in the history of the church, and a revealing look into
what faithful members recorded during the leadership succession
in the church.