Myth #1 The Nauvoo Expositor directly led to the death of Hyrum and Joseph Smith.
It was his (Thomas Sharp) newspaper (Warsaw Signal/Message) that initiated and perpetuated the bitter and, in the end, murderous attitudes that led to the outcome at the Carthage jail. (Marvin S. Hill, “Carthage Conspiracy Reconsidered: A Second Look at the Murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Summer 2004, p. 119)
Joseph I. Bentley, the third presenter in the session, said, “The suppression of the Nauvoo Expositor is commonly thought to be the event that led to the death of Joseph Smith.”
He added, “But much less known is a completely different matter that did lead directly to the martyrdom, and more obscure still are the types and frequency of legal cases that arose from those actions and their ultimate outcomes.”
As a response to mob outrage stemming from the Expositor incident, Joseph declared martial law “to preserve the city and the lives of its citizens,” Brother Bentley said. The Nauvoo Legion was thus called to duty. At the same time, Joseph requested Gov. Thomas Ford come and help him keep the peace.
“Joseph boldly addressed the legion with a drawn and uplifted sword defying mob rule but not official authority,” Brother Bentley said. “This show of force may have actually forestalled an expected invasion of Nauvoo that was actually planned for that same week, and it certainly did protect the saints for the moment, but it is what ultimately caused the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, this one act.”
It provoked a charge of treason, which placed Joseph and Hyrum in Carthage Jail to await trial. There they were murdered by a mob. (R. Scott Lloyd, “Law in Joseph Smith’s day,” Church News, May 26, 2009 reporting on the 44th annual Mormon History Association Conference.)
Myth #2 The Nauvoo Expositor was an “anti-Mormon” newspaper.
…the new body of doctrine alienated many Mormons who had embraced the faith during the church’s earlier days when it more closely resembled traditional Christianity. The new revelations concerning multiple marriage, along with the emerging doctrines concerning the plurality of gods and eternal human progression, precipitated a large departure from the church during the last year of Smith’s life. One of those people was a man named William Law. A former counselor of Smith’s, Law was appalled by the rumors of those novel teachings, withdrew from the church and established an opposition press known as the Nauvoo Expositor. In the Expositor’s first and only issue, the paper stated as its purpose the disclosure of the corrupt doctrines that had taken hold within the Mormon church. Indeed, the Expositor was not an anti-Mormon publication; the editors insisted on the first page that “we all verily believe, and many of us know as a surety, that the religion of the Latter Day Saints, as originally taught by Joseph Smith . . . is verily true.” (Timothy L. Wood, “The Prophet and the Presidency: Mormonism and Politics in Joseph Smith’s 1844 Presidential Campaign,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Summer 2000, p. 188)
Myth #3 William Law was with the mob that killed Joseph and Hyrum Smith.
Willard Richards lied and claimed that William Law and brother Wilson Law were with the mobs that killed Joseph and Hyrum Smith.