SALT LAKE CITY — Religious conflict, persecution and martyrdom on an international scale were topics of discussion at the Church History Symposium held Friday, March 7, at the Conference Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The focus of the 2014 symposium was “The Worldwide Church.”
Craig Manscill of the Church History Department gave a presentation based on his research. To date, his findings include 28 pages of information about martyrs in church history, though he noted that his research is not yet complete.
The most recognized martyrs in the history of the LDS Church are Joseph and Hyrum Smith, who were assassinated by a mob in Carthage, Ill., in 1844. But Manscill pointed out that many other men, women and children also died in a form of martyrdom as a result of persecution and conflict, particularly in the early days of the church.
Manscill’s definition of a martyr is: believers who are put to death by violent means, missionaries who die of natural causes and pioneers or immigrants who died after having been driven from their homes. Much of the presentation focused on the first group of martyrs, including victims of the Haun's Mill massacre and an incident in 1852 where five priesthood holders were hanged in French Polynesia.
“Though mournful, this is an important story to be told,” Manscill said during his presentation.
Manscill told the Deseret News that much of his study is driven by gratitude to those who faithfully serve God.
“We don’t celebrate their lives or commemorate the dates,” Manscill said of Latter-day Saint martyrs, “but we should at least have an essay on them to know, and for their family’s sake and for the sake of the church, overall.”
He said that his intent is to write an essay about each Mormon martyr, including the 17 known international martyrs, “so that we can better understand the great sacrifice that they have made in witnessing for Christ.”
Manscill, of Farr West, Utah, received degrees from Weber State University and Brigham Young University and has been a religious educator for 25 years.