At 5:16 p.m. on June 27th I want you to stop and take a look around. What do you see? What do you hear?

Contrast that with Joseph Smith’s last minutes.

I learned and re-learned many things as I read “Rough Stone Rolling.” I gained a better grasp of the culture and attitudes of the day and an ability to appreciate Brother Joseph as both a man and a prophet. What struck me though, and what sticks with me the most, is the account of his death. “Rough Stone Rolling” is hardly my first encounter with his martyrdom, yet somehow what time it occurred had never really registered. Maybe it was because when I looked up from the last chapter, the clock read 5:30 p.m. Sunlight was still pouring in through my window. I could hear neighbor kids skateboarding. I thought “A roughly this moment, a hundred-odd years ago, Joseph lay dying, surrounded by a mob. And the sun was shining.”

I don’t think any account I’ve read has actually mentioned the weather. For all I know it was cloudy. It doesn’t matter. The point is, he was murdered in essentially broad daylight. The mob was not hidden by the anonymity of night. I thought of mobs as collections of cowards, of those who needed the cover and support of the crowd. I thought that the attack had happened, if not in the dark of night, then at dusk, as the light faded away and shadows grew deep enough to hide in.

But, providing the couple hundred miles further north than Carthage, Illinois that I live doesn’t extend the daylight much beyond what it would have been on that day, that’s not so. There was light that day. Clouds or no, it would have been enough to see clearly by.

Yet not one man was ever arrested for involvement in the day’s events.

This speaks two things to me. One, of the brazenness of the killers. Two (which is probably closely related), the iniquity and cowardice of those in power. Mostly the first.

Tomorrow at 5:16, I will be just getting home from work. The neighborhood will be gearing up for the Canada Day weekend. Kids, recently freed from school, will probably be running around.

And I will look around me at the light, life and noise and think of a day 164 years ago and a man who sealed his testimony with his life.