By Dennis Lythgoe Deseret News staff writer
Valeen Tippetts Avery’s fascination with the last son of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith came while she was working on a biography of the prophet’s wife, Emma.David Hyrum Smith was born in 1844 after the death of his father, and Avery became so interested in him that he became the subject of her Ph.D dissertation.
The title was changed from “Insanity and the Sweet Singer” to “From Mission to Madness: Last Son of the Mormon Prophet,” and her dissertation in history at Northern Arizona University became a prize-winning book. (Winner of the locally prestigious Evans Biography award, given by Utah State University, and the Mormon History Association’s award for best biography; it has also been nominated for several other awards, including the nationally prestigious Bancroft Prize in History.)According to Avery, David Smith was “the sweet singer of Israel to congregations in the Midwest, because his preaching resembled that of Old Testament prophets — but he could also sing.” Continue reading