Doctrine and Covenants

Week 29: Martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph; Brigham Young led the Saints west

D&C 135–136

27 May 2021

Lesson Materials







Additional reading and links


While he was incarcerated in Carthage Jail, Joseph Smith received a six-shot pistol from Cyrus Wheelock. Hyrum Smith remarked, “I hate to use such things, or to see them used.” The Prophet replied, “So do I, but we may have to, to defend ourselves.” When the armed mob stormed the jail, they fired first, killing Hyrum almost instantly. In defense of himself, John Taylor and Willard Richards, Joseph opened the door to their room slightly and snapped the pistol six times; only three of the barrels discharged. At least three members of the mob were injured by Joseph’s gun, but there is no evidence that any of them died.

Joseph’s pistol was a six-barrel Allen & Thurber “pepperbox,” patented in 1837 and manufactured in Massachusetts. Each smoothbore barrel was individually packed with gunpowder, a .32 caliber ball, and a wad. The double-action trigger rotated the barrel assembly and actuated a bar hammer that struck the six individual percussion caps that ignited the powder and discharged the ball and wad. It had no sights and was exceptionally difficult to aim beyond point-blank range (which is how Joseph used his).

This video from the Forgotten Weapons YouTube channel explains the history of the Allen & Thurber pepperbox and demonstrates how it was operated.