Joseph Smith Death Mask
Gospel Living

It’s a sign of honor and love.

06/24/24 | 1 min read
More about the tradition of death masks.

Did you know that when Joseph and Hyrum Smith died, someone made a “death mask” of their face?

A death mask is a wax or plaster cast that someone presses over a dead person’s face. It’s actually a really cool family history tool!

Death masks were used for centuries in many different cultures. Before photographs were invented, these masks helped people remember what others looked like. This was especially important if someone wanted to paint a picture or sculpt a statue of that person.

Death masks were usually created for famous people—like Mary Queen of Scots and Napolean. The fact that Joseph and Hyrum got masks was a big honor!

After they were killed, a furniture maker named George Cannon prepared their bodies for the funeral and made molds for the masks.

Over the past 180 years, the masks have inspired many artists who’ve portrayed Joseph and Hyrum in artwork, such as a statue that was recently added to a beautiful international collection in India.

Here’s what their mother, Lucy Mack Smith, said about seeing the peaceful expressions on the masks of her sons after their death:

“I seemed to almost hear them say: mother, weep not for us; we have overcome the world by love ... ours is an eternal triumph.”1

Joseph and Hyrum’s death masks can be viewed at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah. Or you can download 3D images of them from the museum website.

What helps your family remember those who have died?

Your Family's Traditions

Does your family have any traditions to honor someone when they die? Tell us about it at

1. From Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845,, 312–313.

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