LDS apostle Elder M. Russell Ballard addresses historic gathering of Smith descendants

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865584098/LDS-apostle-Elder-M-Russell-Ballard-addresses-historic-gathering-of-Smith-descendants.html?pg=all

By Lucy Schouten
For the Deseret News

Descendants of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith met in greater force than ever before to both renew family ties and remember history at a reunion in Salt Lake City Aug. 1-4.

Roughly 1,100 Smith descendants from Hyrum, Joseph Jr. and Samuel Smiths lines came to This Is The Place Heritage Park for the reunion.

We need to work together as a family to gather our family, said Michael Kennedy, a Joseph Smith Jr. descendant who has dedicated his life to finding his fellow Joseph Smith Jr. descendants, who are scattered worldwide.

About 200 of the Smith descendants came just to participate in Josephs Miracle Run, a 5K race on Aug. 3 that celebrated the 1813 experimental surgery that saved young Josephs leg.

This topic was further explored later that day by Roy Wirthlin, who presented some of his newly discovered research on the work of the doctor who performed the surgery, Nathan Smith.

The honored guest at the reunion was David Longcope, who is a seventh generation doctor in an unbroken line from Joseph Smiths surgeon. He and his family participated in the race and especially enjoyed Wirthlins lecture. They were presented with the family history work of Nathan Smith as a gift from the family.

While the adults learned more about the courage and love of the Smith family from Wirthlin, their children were experiencing Zions Camp. The children made swords, learned a pioneer song and tried walking on wooden crutches like Joseph Smith would have needed after his surgery.

Don Lee, a descendant of Hyrum Smith, was the proud maker of the crutches. His wife, Gwen Lee explained, It just seems like if children have a very firm foundation and know that in their blood they carry this faith in God they can have the courage to go forth and be modern pioneers.

Meanwhile, the teenagers made a small wreath with 11 red roses, one for each of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smiths children

The wreath adorned the pulpit where, that evening, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke to the gathered family. Elder Ballard is a Hyrum descendant, and when he thanked the reunions organizers for their hard work, he remarked, [Organizing] the Smiths is kind of like herding cats sometimes.

He shared his testimony with the family and told them that they could best honor the legacy of the remarkable Smith family by being good missionaries.

We owe our forefathers our loyalty and our willingness to do whatever is necessary in the building up of the kingdom of God, he said.

The Smith descendants were recognized on the morning of Aug. 4 at the live broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word at the Conference Center.

Other music over the weekend included a concert on the evening of Aug. 2, where Nathan Osmond, among others, performed. The emcee for the evening was Rick Macy, who has portrayed Joseph Smith Sr. in several films.

Referring to the blend of faith-based history and family time that characterized the reunion, Nathan Adams, a reunion organizer, said, Only in the Smith family do you get to do things like this.

Lucy Schouten is an Arizona native studying journalism and Middle Eastern studies at Brigham Young University. Contact her atlucy@deseretnews.com.

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Race marks bicentennial of surgery that saved Joseph Smith’s leg

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865584072/Race-marks-bicentennial-of-surgery-that-saved-Joseph-Smiths-leg.html?pg=all

By Lucy Schouten
For the Deseret News

The Josephs Miracle Run 5K race, sponsored by the Smith Foundation, celebrated the 200th anniversary of the surgery to save Joseph Smiths leg on Aug. 3, 1813

The race was held at This Is The Place Heritage Park as part of the Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith reunion held Aug. 1-4. Of the roughly 500 participants in the 5K race and the childrens race immediately afterward, 300 were Smith descendants.

Francis Orton, a foundation member and race organizer, said the race was planned a year and a half in advance. When they realized that 2013 would be the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smiths boyhood surgery by renowned Dr. Nathan Smith, they saw an opportunity to publish Josephs name for good, she said.

The race proceeds and donations will go toward a $10,000 scholarship at Dartmouth Medical School, which was founded by Dr. Nathan Smith. The hope is for the race to be an annual event to create a perpetual scholarship.

Wed like to make it an annual event for at least the next few years, said Daniel Adams, a Hyrum Smith descendant and member of the foundation who helped organize the race. It took [Josephs leg] three years to heal so he could walk well again.

Adams views the surgery itself as miraculous because it was a cutting-edge operation that would not become an accepted medical practice until after World War One. The trial also developed the love and courage of the Smith family.

Hyrum would squeeze his leg and massage it for hours every day just so that he could handle the pain, Adams said, describing Josephs lengthy recovery process. This is why Joseph and Hyrum are so close, and so Hyrum will never leave Joseph, even in Carthage Jail.

One Hyrum descendant felt a special connection to the events. Ruth Whites son, Nathaniel, was born at the medical school at Yale, which Nathan Smith co-founded. Her son was born with many birth defects and now uses a wheelchair.

As soon as I heard about [the race] I felt the connection right off, she said.

White got an especially loud cheer as she crossed the 5K finish line, pushing her 10-year-old in a jogging stroller.

He was the only one who volunteered to train with me, White said with a laugh. Having him with me just made it more meaningful.

Also helping at the race were 35 missionaries who arrived at 5 a.m. Saturday morning to set up and then guide the runners. Two senior missionaries were stationed at the finish line, and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve awarded each finisher a medal after the race.

Emily Birningham, 83, and Marilyn Critchlow, both Smith descendants, walked the end of the race course to make sure all the grandkids finished the race successfully. Critchlow travelled from Romania for the event, and she spoke enthusiastically about the good turn-out and the excitement of getting the family together.

This is such a great activity, Critchlow said. It was worth it [to travel from Romania] just to hear the opening prayer at a race and the bagpipes.

And to have my 25 children and grandchildren in the race, added Birningham as they neared the finish line.

Lucy Schouten is an Arizona native studying journalism and Middle Eastern studies at Brigham Young University. Contact her atlucy@deseretnews.com.

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David Hyrum Smith: He was the sweet singer of Israel

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/706866/David-Hyrum-Smith–He-was-the-sweet-singer-of-Israel.html?pg=all

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.”

Speaking by telephone from her home in Flagstaff, Ariz., where she teaches history at NAU, Avery said Smith’s life was one of both success and tragedy. Although a brilliant and charismatic poet, painter, philosopher, naturalist and highly effective missionary for the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in IIlinois, Smith was stricken with mental illness while still in his 30s. He was committed to the Northern Illinois Hospital and Asylum for the Insane, where he remained until his death in 1904.

While his older brother, Joseph Smith III, was serving as president of the RLDS Church, David Smith felt that going on a mission to Utah, to try to convert the “Brighamites,” was his most important duty, and he did so several times. In spite of the conflict that existed between the LDS and the RLDS Churches, Smith managed to make friends with many Utah Mormons. And even though he and Brigham Young exchanged harsh words, there is evidence that they felt a natural affinity for one another. There was no one Young respected more than Smith’s father, and he wanted Smith in the Utah Church. Meanwhile, Smith felt moved to teach Young the error of his ways.

Implicit in this story is the connection between the LDS and RLDS churches, which also intrigued the author. “I didn’t understand the relationship between the two churches, most of all the sons of Joseph and Emma, and Brigham Young, and the church in the West, ” she said. Avery, who is LDS, could see this was a story about which church would be most successful in establishing Mormonism as an American religious tradition.

“Who would control Mormonism in the American experience? Would it be the more moderate RLDS version that conformed more to Protestant viewpoints and refused to accept polygamy or the doctrine of the gathering? I would have bet that Joseph III, with his more moderate Mormonism, would have appealed to a larger number of people. But I would have been wrong.The Western LDS Church was more stringent, more radically different than standard Christian theology, yet it succeeded in identifying itself more as an American religion.”

Avery did not set out to write a history of the two churches, although she believes that needs to be done. But she admits that “If there’s another book in me, the thing that excites me the most is a book about Mormons vs. Mormons over who would determine the shape of Mormonism in American culture.”

Avery plans to let a year pass before plunging into another project, however. She also knows she has emerged as a biographer and is not sure if she “can tell the story of a movement and a competitive religious agenda with the same success as that of a human life.”

But “From Mission to Madness” is also more than a biography. Avery puts this Mormon story into the larger context of “a 19th Century American family defining who they were, how they made a living and how they would deal with an extraordinary son and brother who becomes mentally ill. Its value to the 20th Century is not only telling that story but suggesting that families are not perfect. There are struggles to find answers to the problems of individual family members. It’s a story that reaches out to all of us. It was a joy and an agony to write. It was wonderful to see this family figure out how they were going to live their lives.”

Avery struggled herself with the degree to which she should analyze David Smith’s illness. Should she talk to professionals and try to make a definitive diagnosis? Should she shorten other aspects of the book so she could treat the medical problem in a speculative way? She finally decided to describe Smith’s character the best she could and leave the decision of what his illness might have been to modern clinicians. She has already heard from a variety of medically-trained people who have suggested Smith had hypoglycemia, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or even a frontal lobe tumor.

“I finally decided David deserved to have his story told without a footnote that said his illness might have been alleviated with pills. I’m turning it loose now for the medical professionals.”

While Avery was researching her book, Smith’s grandson, Lynn Smith — then in his 80’s — would occasionally call her and read an intriguing line from a letter in the family collection he was keeping. That way, she knew he had a valuable collection she needed to make the story complete. Lynn would not let her see the papers, but when he died, he donated them to the RLDS Church in Missouri, which granted her immediate access.

An intriguing aspect of Avery’s study is that David Smith never knew his own father. But as he traveled to Utah and talked to many people who did know his father, Smith learned an enormous amount about him. And he started to understand various aspects of his own personality as they related to his father’s.

Avery was impressed with the ways Smith tried to combine his interest in religion with that of science, and how he tried to explain scientific concepts in terms that the average RLDS Church member in Missouri and Iowa could understand. Avery believes that when David became institutionalized, the RLDS Church lost its most compelling spokesman. “They lost the one man most uniquely qualified to bridge the gap between their identity and the larger American public. He understood Mormonism, in the context of both churches, so he could have explained it to the larger American culture.”

Avery also believes that Smith “combined the musical talent of his mother with the charismatic qualities of his father and came out with the very best of both those very strong people.”

(During a visit to Salt Lake City this week, Avery will discuss her book and sign copies during the Sunstone Symposium at the Salt Palace, Friday, July 16, beginning at 12:45 p.m.)

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