Discovering the Atonement Behind the Razor Wire

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The following names and character descriptions are fictional aggregates:

The jagged razor wire caught my attention this time, as I once again entered its shrouded confines. It reminded me of our previous home in Africa, only the wire was there to keep “bad guys” out while this was to keep them in. I mused at the contrast. As the group of inmates assembled in the “institute room” of the prison chapel, I took notice of the tattoos, facial hair, and white “uniforms” while I shook hands, greeted and felt such a kinship as I had never expected in all the years of my teaching. I loved these men and yearned for the Spirit to hallow our experience together in the scriptures.

We had spent a couple of hours the week before within Alma 32 and the faith seed. I asked, “If our Father, who you love and are learning to trust, were to come in His glory and embrace you today, what would it be like for you? I suggested that we use DC 5:19 as a reference”

…the inhabitants thereof are consumed away and utterly destroyed by the brightness of my coming.

Breaking the stunned silence, a tall burly fellow remarked, “Wow that would be a dangerous hug…crispy critter!!” Then guiding him to Alma 33, his clear FM voice resounded as he read verse eleven:

And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee in all mine afflictions, for in thee is my joy; for thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son.

He paused to wipe a tear and I stopped him from reading further. I had never been moved by that verse in all my years teaching. As he paused, I heard myself ask, “Have any of you been judged before?” They looked at me incredulously. They were all there because they had been found guilty, by a judge. “Have any of you ever judged each other?” Now I could see the knowing looks pass between them. “Yet, our very creator, our Father, turns away judgment. He who knows us best withholds judgment for now! Why? Careful…it would be easy to say, ‘Well, because the Son will be the judge, so Father doesn’t judge us.’ Read carefully. He knows our imperfections and rebellions. He knows our crimes and private whoredoms. He looks on sin with NO allowance. So why withhold judgment?”

The room was sacredly silent, eyes scanned the verses with hope. “Your Father in Heaven, who knows you intimately, loves you and does not pronounce judgment upon you! He does not look or listen to you through some lens of guarded judgment…He does not judge you.” I felt the truth of those words ripple up my spine and could see that they felt it too. I added, “Not only does He turn away judgement but notice what He calls it and how He feels about how we respond to it, in verse 16

For behold, he said: Thou art angry, O Lord, with this people, because they will not understand thy mercies which thou hast bestowed upon them because of thy Son.

Then I asked, “What did the Son do through His atonement that He calls, “His mercies” that allows Father to turn away those deserved condemnations?”

“Alma 42”…They raced to turn the pages. They knew instinctively that the Atonement of Christ would redeem them SOMEDAY but what was it that activated it even at the very time they were committing sin? As they paused, hoping for clarity, I said, “verse 4.” They read silently…

And thus, we see that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God.

Now I had discussed probation with students many times but somehow it seemed strange to ask these inmates, “What can you tell me about probation?” One, with huge tattooed biceps explained, “Ya get a chance to be good without havin’ to come here.”

I asked, “So is it a good thing or a bad thing to find out you are on probation?”

One in a wheelchair quietly said, “Depends on where you are.” “What do you mean,” I asked. “If you are out there and find out, it could be either good news or bad news depending on if you know what being in here is like. If you know, then it is good news, ‘cause you don’t want to be in here!”

“Ah, so what was our state when Christ created this world and made certain that it would be a probationary state? I asked a younger Latino man to read verse 5 and the first part of 10.

For behold, if Adam had put forth his hand immediately, and partaken of the tree of life, he would have lived forever, according to the word of God, having no space for repentance; yea, and also the word of God would have been void, and the great plan of salvation would have been frustrated.

Therefore, as they had become carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature…

An older, kindly gentleman asked, “So God knew we would sin?”

“Indeed, but since this is probation, what does that mean?”

This wizened grandfather smiled and said, “It means that though we are accountable, we aren’t judged yet!”

“Please notice the end of verse 10, why are we on the earth then?”

…this probationary state became a state for them to prepare; it became a preparatory state.

Another portly gentleman, quipped, “It means we get a do over!” Then he got serious, “It means that I tried some things that didn’t feel right but I tried them anyway and got caught and put in here. It means that I can learn from it and still become all I have been pleading for, but, really thought I had just gone too far for any hope! But, this is a time to prepare, to discover, to repent and change before being judged!! We can become better before judgement!!!” His smile mixed with tears didn’t go unnoticed as the grandfather laid a hand upon his arm.

Moses 6:55 came into my mind…we turned and read:

And the Lord spake unto Adam, saying: Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin, even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good.

“As children born to appetite-driven, natural-man parents, it is only logical that the children would be the same, since those tendencies come from the natural appetites of the body. So naturally, those appetites lead to temptation which leads to sin. But what does sin then naturally cause and why?”

An exuberant balding middle-aged man suddenly let out an “Ahhhhhh!” “The natural result is the taste of bitterness. Sin never is happiness!!! There certainly isn’t much happiness in here! Our Father gives us time to learn to choose the good, after tasting the alternative or watching someone else suffer from it!”

I challenged his thinking, “Look closely, it doesn’t say “That they may CHOOSE the good.” Why does He use the word “PRIZE?”

He was so excited he almost stumbled over his words, “So if we are awake, this preparatory state is a protective covering, it is what the Savior’s Atonement did for us. Not only can we repent and change, we receive no permanent judgements until the day of judgement. Secondly, He is on our side, cheering for us and helping us rather than just waiting to catch us sinning. The natural consequence of sin is like a bitter taste, our desire for the sin changes, so once we have tasted the sweetness of the fruit, we prize it for all eternity!” He paused, thought deeply then exclaimed, ”We need to help everyone taste that sweet fruit, so they know that there is another choice besides bitterness!”

I added, “Would you be interested to know that the ancient Hebrew for “atonement” is kapharwhich literally means, “to cover.”

It seemed right to take them to DC 88:5, 6, 13, 34

Jesus Christ, his Son …ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;

The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.

…that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.

So, our merciful Father’s directed the Son to create a sort of protective probationary covering whereby judgment and the destructive forces of consequence are temporarily “turned aside” so that, with time and understanding, we can repent and change sufficiently to live in the glorious presence of the Father that would otherwise consume us (DC 5:19). Then, His work, glory, and light, if we choose, can perfect us, “in Christ.” (see DC 88:34; Moses 1:39, Moroni 10:32)

As we closed, and I walked out past the razor wire, I knew they would be safe, enveloped in His wise, loving mercy, until delivered to His perfecting law.

The Serialization of Lucy Mack Smith’s History of Her Son

Addressing Pornography Site Updated and Added to Gospel Library

BThe Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mothery Scot and Maurine Proctor

The following is a chronological listing of each of the published chapters of The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother.  Please click on any chapter or section to read or reread it, or to catch any you have missed.


Gift Honors Surgery that Saved Joseph Smith’s Leg

ByNancy Fontaine

giving_surgery_01Descendants of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church, have created a scholarship at the Geisel School of Medicine to honor and give thanks for a pioneering surgery that Dartmouth’s Dr. Nathan Smith performed on young Joseph.

Two hundred years ago, a surgeon in rural New Hampshire saved a young boy’s leg and possibly his life. This was no ordinary treatment, however. The surgeon was Dr. Nathan Smith, founder of Dartmouth’s medical school; the child was Joseph Smith, who later founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and the surgery was far ahead of its time.
Continue reading “Gift Honors Surgery that Saved Joseph Smith’s Leg”

Joseph Smith’s Challenging Brother

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By Kyle Walker

Cover image: William B. Smith, ca. 1880, courtesy of Mary Dennis.

As a member of the founding family of Mormonism, William B. Smith has long been a person of interest in Latter-day Saint history. Six years younger than his prominent elder brother Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of the Mormon religion, Smith was present for his brother’s earliest recitations of his revelatory experiences, an early witness to the events connected to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and a participant in most of the meetings that laid the groundwork for the establishment for what would eventually become known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Smith held many prominent positions within the movement, as he migrated with the Saints through the states of New York, Ohio, Missouri, and finally to Illinois. He was an active missionary from 1832 through 1845 and had marked success in adding hundreds of converts to the expanding church.

Smith progressed rapidly through the priesthood hierarchy of the Church, becoming a member of the original Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1835. When the Church was headquartered at Nauvoo, Illinois, he was among those trusted by his brother to be initiated into the Quorum of the Anointed (endowed) and be introduced to plural marriage. The following spring he became part of the private Council of Fifty, just prior to the murder of his two older brothers, Joseph and Hyrum. While he resided in Illinois, his was the privilege of representing Hancock County in the state legislature, where he played a key role in defending Nauvoo’s controversial charter. Smith successfully published the Wasp, a newspaper at Nauvoo, and oversaw the publication of the Prophet in New York in 1843-45 during the time he presided over the eastern branches of the Church.

These papers were instrumental in defending the Saints’ viewpoints at the state and national level. William also succeeded his brother Hyrum as Church patriarch, acting in that calling even before he returned to Nauvoo in May 1845 where the Twelve confirmed this hereditary office. He energetically magnified this calling, bestowing more than three hundred blessings on the Saints during the summer of 1845 as patriarch. As the only surviving male member of the Smith family after the summer of 1844, he was looked to by many members of the Church for his views on succession and church policy.

In October 1845, simmering tensions between him and his fellow apostles boiled over, and he was excommunicated in a dramatic break with Brigham Young and the main body of Mormons who eventually settled in Salt Lake City. From that point on, Smith’s name all but vanishes from Church history.

Saints in the West branded him an apostate, and any mention of his name in LDS Church history decried his rebelliousness and insubordination. For that reason, most of his contributions to the building up the early Church have been lost to the reader. While there were certainly challenges related to his personality that impacted his leadership and decision-making, simply dismissing him from the record fails to account for his vast contributions during the fifteen years between 1830 and 1845.

But William lived an additional forty-eight years, dying at age eighty-two in the obscure town of Osterdock, in northeastern Iowa. The twelve years following his dramatic departure from Nauvoo were equally turbulent as he roared through various factions of the LDS movement. In addition to several unsuccessful attempts at organizing his own church, Smith joined with noted dissidents: James J. Strang, Lyman Wight, Martin Harris, John C. Bennett, George J. Adams, and Isaac Sheen. His interactions with pockets of Saints throughout the Midwest and East are a valuable resource in understanding the views of those who did not follow Brigham Young’s leadership.

His voluminous surviving letters not only reveal Smith’s attitudes and motives, but also those with whom he interacted. He also made multiple attempts at being reinstated into the LDS Church in the West, including being rebaptized in 1860. However, most of these attempts included William’s stipulation that he be restored to his former offices, something Church leaders in Salt Lake City were unwilling to grant. In the end, he never gathered to Salt Lake City.

One little-known discovery in researching William was his openness towards African-Americans in early Church history. He ordained a black convert in Lowell, Massachusetts, Q. Walker Lewis, to the office of elder in the Church’s Melchizedek Priesthood. Lewis and Smith labored together for more than a year after Lewis was ordained an Elder, while Smith presided over the eastern branches. William similarly ordained black convert Joseph T. Ball a High Priest, and afterward installed him as president over the Boston Branch of the Church.

He later argued forcefully, in a view that ran counter to Joseph Smith III’s sentiments at the time, that the “Constitution of these United States makes no distinction in the human family; all men are born free and equal.” He quoted the apostle Paul that “god has made of one blood all nations,” and argued “by what authority [then] have we the right to say that a colored man has no right to be ordained to all the powers of the priesthood, necessary for the building up the church of Christ in any part of the world, among any race of people, whether black or white.” Thus, when the Civil War broke out, William eventually joined the fray, enlisting in Rock Island, Illinois, and serving for about a year and a half. He participated in skirmishes in the Arkansas River Valley, and while he returned without being wounded in battle, he suffered from ailments contracted during the Civil War for the remainder of his life.

Finally, in 1878, William linked his experience and aspirations with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now the Community of Christ), under the leadership of his nephew Joseph Smith III. Prior to its organization, William had laid out the blueprint for the formation of his nephew’s church, something that has been previously ignored in RLDS histories.

Though the tenets he outlined were eventually adopted by his nephew, RLDS leaders viewed William as a liability. While Joseph III accepted William into his Church on the basis of his original baptism in Joseph’s Church, he never appointed William to a prominent position within the movement, even as Church patriarch, and discouraged his attempts to infiltrate the Church’s hierarchy. As a result, once again, William’s contributions to the formation of the RLDS Church, as well as what he brought to that movement for the better part of fifteen years, have been vastly understated in RLDS histories.

Another chapter of William’s life that has received little attention were his final years spent in Northeastern Iowa. By the decade of the 1860s William had remarried and seemed to make a fresh start, distancing himself from any branch of Mormonism for about eighteen years. During this time period he established a solid and respectable reputation in the communtiy of Elkader, Iowa, occasionally preaching in the community, overseeing the Sunday School Association, and speaking at funerals and other notable celebrations.

Towards the end of his life, Samuel Murdock, a local judge, described William as an individual “whole life was one of rectitude and honor.” Such a tribute highlights the contrasting descriptions of William’s unstable life—remembered as both rogue and respected citizen; saint and sinner; apostle or an apostate; profligate brother of the Mormon prophet or revered patriarch. For these reasons, and with my background as a professional counselor, I had a desire to flesh out William’s complex personality. William remains for me one of the most fascinating characters in nineteenth-century Mormon history.

With all of William’s contributions to Mormonism, it is rather surprising that more has not been written about him. Calvin P. Rudd, a former faculty member from the Salt Lake LDS Institute of Religion, wrote a master’s thesis in 1974, but only minimally accessed the vast resources on William owned by the RLDS Church. Nearly everything else written about William is by authors who have focused on his struggle with Church authorities over the scope of his patriarchal authority in 1845. Only one has attempted to highlight his interactions with his nephew Joseph Smith III, and none of the articles have attempted to probe the depths of Smith’s complex personality.

Consequently, his life has been presented in truncated vignettes. This biography covers his entire life, beginning with William’s recollections of and contributions to early Mormon history prior to his 1845 break with Brigham Young and the Twelve and continuing with the events of the final fifty years of his life. From that basis and with due caution about the pitfalls in attempting to “diagnose the dead,” in Steven Harper’s felicitous phrase, I attempt to sort out the complexities of his enigmatic personality. Despite the abrupt discontinuities, reversals, disappearances, and spectacular public comebacks, this biography bridges those gaps in the life of William B. Smith.

“Why study the process of dissent?”, asked Ronald W. Walker in his classic history Wayward Saints: The Social and Religious Protests of the Godbeites against Brigham Young (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 2009). Answering his own question, Walker clarified that studying dissent assists to flesh out clues related to “personality trait[s]” that help us understand the individual. But, he emphasizes, even more importantly, “the process helps to clarify a historical era. By defining the ideas and policies that divided the apostate from the mainline believer, we find what a former age valued—even to the point of defying old allegiances and old associates.

In short, by studying dissent we gain the means to view a society as the participants themselves saw it—and not necessarily as we today assume it to have been.” (p. 72). In the case of Willliam B. Smith, we gain additional insights into the dynamics of Mormonism’s first family. One item that came to the fore was the Smith family’s rather remarkable ability to continue to support and encourage their wayward son and brother.

My personal interest in William dates back many years, when I first began researching on the Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith family. Most of what I had heard and read about William prior to my research was adverse and dismissive. Prior research has referred to him derisively, including articles that included in their titles, “Problematic Patriarch,” “A Wart on the Ecclesiastical Tree,” and the “Persistent ‘Pretender.’” I certainly concur with some of these author’s perceptions about the challenging nature of William’s leadership.

By all accounts, William was a complex person who wrestled with insecurities and fits of passion that sometimes overrode his noble desires and family loyalty. But I also began to discover his vast contributions to the upbuilding of Mormonism, including his missionary success, his persuasiveness as a gifted orator, his propensity to accurately portend the future, and his charismatic leadership. I had a desire to highlight all sides of his personality, which I felt was more complex than can be captured in a single article and best evaluated over the course of his life.

7 Things You Probably Didnt Know about the Prophet Joseph Smith

byScot Facer Proctor

Please note: Just last week we released an incredible iPad tool www.josephsmithwitness.comthat will completely enhance the way you look at Joseph Smith and the Restorationits more than an app, more than a book, its an experience. One user said: What a gift! I felt like Parley P. Pratt when first reading the Book of Mormon: eating and sleeping held no allure. I read virtually nonstop from cover to cover. The photographs are stunning, the text is moving, and the story riveting. The following are a few fun facts you will glean from Witness of the Light.

Many of us know only a few common facts about Joseph Smith: He was born in Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont on December 23, 1805. His fathers name was Joseph Smith. He lived on a farm in western New York when he had the First Vision. The Church was organized on April 6, 1830. Joseph was in the Liberty Jail and he lived in Nauvoo, etc.

Let me give you at least 7 facts you probably didnt know about the Prophet Joseph Smith.

One: Joseph Smith the Prophet lived in no fewer than twenty different homes from his childhood to his death. Of the fourteen homes he lived in after he was married to Emma Hale, they only owned three of them. When Joseph and Emma finally had a home that was all theirs and that they really wantedthe Mansion House in NauvooJoseph would only live in it for 10 months before he would be killed.

Two: During the Kirtland period, Joseph Smith received a cascade of revelations, 67 of which are canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants. Those 67 revelations were received in 10 different specific locations. Forty-six of these revelations were received in just three different rooms; a) fourteen in a room on the Isaac and Lucy Morley Farm; b) fifteen in the John and Elsa Johnson Farmhouse upper room, southeast corner; and, c) seventeen in the southeast upper room in the Newel K. (and Elizabeth) Whitney Store.

Three. It was thought for many years that Joseph Smith was involved in about 50 lawsuits that were leveled against him. With the latest research and compilations it is clear that he was involved in more than 220 cases and in every case was found to give more than lip service to honoring, obeying and sustaining the law. These range from simple collection cases to complex trials. One of those trials led him to a Springfield, Illinois courtroom. If you look in the photograph above, youll see a trap door just above the judges bench. In that upper floor was a small law firm with two young attorneys. One was Stephen T. Logan. The other partner would later become the President of the United StatesAbraham Lincoln. Lincoln appeared before this U.S. District Court concerning 40 regular cases and 72 bankruptcy proceedings. Mary Todd Lincoln attended the trial of Joseph Smith.

Four. Joseph and Emma Hale Smith had eleven children, two of whom were adopted. They lost six of those children to death, four in infancy. Josephs parents, Joseph Smith, Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith also had eleven children. Two of them would die in infancy, then five more sons would die in adulthood: Alvin, Don Carlos, Joseph, Hyrum and Samuel Harrison. Joseph Smith Sr.s parents, Asael and Mary Duty Smith, also had eleven children, all of whom lived to adulthood.

Five. The Angel Moroni visited Joseph Smith (and others) no less than twenty-two times. We are most familiar with the first five visits, then the visit each year at the Hill Cumorah to prepare Joseph to receive the gold plates. That leaves 13 more visits to account. These visits and interviews became an integral part of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the bringing forth of the Book of Mormon.

Six. The revelation known as the Word of Wisdom was received on Wednesday, February 27, 1833. That date is familiar to us, but we dont often know what led to Josephs receiving that revelation. Twenty-four brethren had been meeting together in what was called the School of the Prophets (or School of the Elders). Twenty-two of those brethren used tobacco. The brethren would, as Brigham Young recounted, light a pipe and begin to talk about the great things of the kingdom and puff away. The room would become filled with thick smoke. Then they would put a wad of tobacco in one side of their mouth, and then the other, and chew away and spit on the floor. Emma Smith had to clean the floors and she was disgusted with the filthiness of these habits. One day she emphatically said to Joseph, It would be a good thing if a revelation could be had declaring the use of tobacco a sin.

Seven. A revelation was given on April 26, 1838 in Far West, Missouri indicating that in one year from that very day, the brethren should recommence laying the foundation of my house then they should take leave for a mission to England from that very spot. In the mean time Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued the Extermination Order and the Latter-day Saints had been driven from the State of Missouri to Illinois. How could they fulfill that directive from the Lord? Risking their lives, five of the Twelve made the dangerous journey, mainly in darkness and in hiding, to fulfill this prophecy. Before the sun arose on April 26, 1839, these faithful member of the Twelve held a meeting with others, quietly sang hymns, laid a huge stone in place in the southeast corner of the Far West Temple site, ordained two new members of the Twelve, Wilford Woodruff and George A. Smith, and then took their leave back to Illinois. Many know that part of the story. What is tender is that Joseph and Hyrum, Lyman Wight, Alexander McRae and Caleb Baldwin had escaped from the Liberty Jail on April 6 and were making their way east to Illinois while the other brethren were making their way west to Far West to fulfill the prophecy. This is faith and super faith.

We have created this app, which is more like a book with extras like 230 photos, videos and interactive pages, so that you might have a more thorough knowledge base of Joseph Smith and the Restoration and that you might see this marvelous work and a wonder unfold in beautiful, panoramic form on your iPad.

To take a look at all the features of the App and see many sample pages, please CLICK HERE.

To download the App or to gift the App, using your iPad or your iTunes account, go THIS LINK. Delivery time is immediate.

Please note, if you are on a desktop or PC and you try to go to this link, it will ask you to open your iTunes account. This App is currently designed for and compatible with iPad. An Android version is scheduled to be released sometime the first quarter of 2015.

16 Stunning Photographs with Eyewitness Accounts to Help you Remember the Martyrdom on this 170th Anniversary

By Scot Facer Proctor

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Even the coldest heart is moved by the events that took place in the Carthage Jail on Thursday, June 27, 1844170 years ago today. Joseph died not only as a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, but as a Mayor of one of the largest cities in America, General of the Nauvoo Legion (the largest city militia in the western United States), a declared candidate for President of the United States, and more tenderly, as a husband to Emma Hale Smith and father of eleven children (six then deceased, one yet unborn). Joseph died, as the Prophets of old, as a witness of the Savior of mankind. The following accounts are given to paint a picture of some of the feelings that surround that fateful day in June of 1844. I have added the photographs so you may journey with the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum to Carthage.

Sixteen moves in seventeen years of marriage finally brought Joseph and Emma to this home in Nauvoo. They called it the Mansion House and who in their position wouldnt? It had twenty-two rooms when completed. Joseph would only live here ten months.

Willard, the time will come that the balls will fly around you like hail, and you will see your friends fall on the right and on the left, but there shall not be so much as a hole in your garment.[1](Joseph Smith to Willard Richards, Summer 1843)

Sun sets over the horseshoe bend of the Mississippi River near where Joseph, Hyrum, Willard Richards and Porter Rockwell crossed in a leaky skiff. After Joseph came from his family to leave, his tears were flowing fast. He held a handkerchief to his face, and followed after Brother Hyrum without uttering a word.[2]

The last time I saw the Prophet, he was on his way to Carthage jail…They the house of Brother Rosecrans. We were on the porch and could hear every word he said…one sentence I well remember. After bidding good-bye, he said to Brother Rosecrans, If I never see you again, or if I never come back, remember that I love you. This went through me like electricity. I went in the house and threw myself on the bed and wept like a whipped child. And why this grief for a person I had never spoken to in my life, I could not tell. I knew he was a servant of God, and could only think of the danger he was in, and how deeply he felt it[3](Mary Ellen Kimball on June 24, 1844)

Here by the front gate of their fence Joseph said good-bye to Emma and the children for the last time. You will return wont you? Emma purportedly asked Joseph.

[Joseph looking at the Temple site and at the city of Nauvoo on the way to Carthage:] This is the loveliest place and the best people under the heavens; little do they know the trials that await them. [Sometime later that same day on the road to Carthage, Joseph said,] I am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but I am calm as a summers morning. I have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward all men. If they take my life I shall die an innocent man…and it shall be said of me He was murdered in cold blood.[4](Joseph on the Martyrdom Trail, June 24, 1844)

The Temple walls were approximately 9 feet off the ground when Joseph rode by them on the way to Carthage. Joseph often prayed that he would see the completion of the house of the Lord. Surely that prayer was answered. But not on this side of the veil.

Dear Emma, I am very much resigned to my lot knowing I am justified and have done the best that could be done. Give my love to the children and all my friends…you need not have any fears that any harm can happen to us…may God bless you all, Amen.[5](Handwritten Letter from Joseph to Emma 8:20 a.m., June 27, 1844)

Plowed fields of the original Joseph Smith Farm just outside Nauvoo not far from the Nauvoo Burial Grounds. Here Joseph stopped and gazed upon his land. As they rode away Joseph looked back over and over again. The men escorting him to Carthage told him to be moving on. Joseph said, If some of you had got such a farm and knew you would not see it any more, you would want to take a good look at it for the last time.[6]

…the life of my servant shall be in my hand; therefore they shall not hurt him, although he shall be marred because of them. Yet I will heal him, for I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.[7](Jesus Christ to the Nephites, concerning Joseph Smith)

Summer afternoon on part of the original 26 miles of the road from Nauvoo to Carthage, now called the Martyrdom Trail.

We have had too much trouble to bring Old Joe here to let him ever escape alive…You’ll see that I can prophesy better than Old Joe, that neither he nor his brother, nor anyone who will remain with them, will see the sun set today.[8](Frank Worrell, Officer of the Guard of Carthage Jail, June 27, 1844)

Joseph, Hyrum, and the others, arrived at this place, the Carthage Jail, around midnight, Monday, June 24, 1844.

[Conversation between Joseph and Dan Jones in the Carthage Jail, past midnight on June 27, 1844:] Brother Dan, are you afraid to die? Joseph asked.

Has that time come, think you? Dan replied. Engaged in such a cause, I do not think that death would have many terrors. Joseph then said, You will see Wales and fulfill the mission appointed you ere you die.[9]

Some of Brother Dan Jones converts from his native Wales would later form a choir that would, over time, become the most famous singing group in all the world: The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Early that morning Dan Jones left the jail to meet with Governor Ford. He explained to the governor with great anxiety how the lives of Joseph and Hyrum were in great danger, and the threats that were made towards them, to which Governor Ford replied: You are unnecessarily alarmed for your friends safety, sir. The people are not that cruel.[10] Dan Jones returned to try to reenter the jail but was not allowed. His life was spared; he did fill his mission to Wales, as Joseph prophesied and brought untold thousands into the Church.

That Thursday, June 27, 1844 was especially hot and humid. The air was heavy and the brethrens shirts were wet with perspiration.

Jailer at Carthage, George W. Stigall, heard of the impending danger to the lives of the prisoners (whom he admired and knew were innocent men) and suggested they go from his upstairs bedroom where they had been staying to the inner cell next to the bedroom where they would be safer. Joseph turned to Dr. Willard Richards and said, If we go into the cell, will you go in with us? The doctor answered, Brother Joseph, you did not ask me to cross the river with you-you did not ask me to come to Carthage-you did not ask me to come to jail with you-and do you think I would forsake you now? But I will tell you what I will do: if you are condemned to be hung for treason, I will be hung in your stead, and you shall go free. Joseph said, You cannot. Willard replied, I will.[11] Witnessing this loyalty, Joseph wept.(This conversation took place between Willard Richards and Joseph about 5:00 p.m., less than fifteen minutes before the brutal murders, June 27, 1844)

Original door of jailers bedroom still has the hole (right middle panel) where a ball from one rifle blasted through and hit Hyrum in the left bridge of the nose, felling him to the floor.

A great crime has been done by destroying the Expositor press and placing the city under martial law, and a severe atonement must be made, so prepare your minds for the emergency.[12](Governor Thomas Ford, State of Illinois, June 27, 1844. This was said about the time of the martyrdom while he was in Nauvoo.)

The mob, with faces painted black, rushed up these stairs that fateful Thursday afternoon, rifles loaded, scores of deadly balls were fired through the doorway into the jailers bedroom where Joseph, Hyrum, Willard, and John were imprisoned. Numerous other shots whistled through the open windows.

I felt a dull, lonely, sickening sensation…When I reflected that our noble chieftain, the Prophet of the living God, had fallen, and that I had seen his brother in the cold embrace of death, it seemed as though there was a void or vacuum in the great field of human existence to me, and a dark gloomy chasm in the kingdom, that we were left alone. Oh, how lonely was that feeling! How cold, barren and desolate! In the midst of difficulties he was always the first in motion; in critical positions his counsel was always sought. As our Prophet, he approached our God and obtained for us his will; but now our Prophet, our counselor, our general, our leader was gone, and amid the fiery ordeal that we then had to pass through, we were left alone without his aid, and as our future guide for things spiritual or temporal, and for all things pertaining to this world, or the next, he had spoken for the last time on earth.[13](John Taylor)

Hyrum lay dead on this floor. John had rolled under the bed after being hit with four balls, one of which struck him in the chest at the heart, but was miraculously stopped by his pocket watch. The watch stopped at 16 minutes, 26 seconds after 5 oclock. Joseph tried to escape through the window on the left. He was hit four times, once in the collar bone, once in the breast, and twice in the back. He leaped or fell from the window crying aloud, Oh Lord, my God.!

Had he [Joseph] been spared a martyrs fate till mature manhood and age, he was certainly endued with powers and ability to have revolutionized the world…as it is, his works will live to endless ages, and unnumbered millions yet unborn will mention his name with honor, as a noble instrument…who…laid the foundations of that kingdom spoken of by Daniel, the prophet, which should break in pieces all other kingdoms and stand forever.[14](Parley Parker Pratt)

View of the outside of the Carthage Jail and the well where the mob placed the body of Joseph Smith and fired upon him in a brutal manner at point blank range. With walls between two and two-and-a-half feet thick, the seven-room Carthage Jail was considered by Governor Thomas Ford and others, the only safe place in Hancock County for Joe Smith.

Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.

[15](John Taylor)

D.J. Bawden bronze of Joseph and Hyrum, the Prophet and Patriarch. At the Carthage Jail, at the time of the martyrdom, Joseph was thirty-eight years old and Hyrum, forty-four. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated.[16]

After the corpses were washed and dressed in their burial clothes, we were allowed to see them. I had for a long time braced every nerve, roused every energy of my soul and called upon God to strengthen me, but when I entered the room and saw my murdered sons extended both at once before my eyes and heard the sobs and groans of my family…it was too much: I sank back, crying to the Lord in the agony of my soul, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken this family! A voice replied, I have taken them to myself, that they might have rest…I then thought upon the promise which I had received in Missouri, that in five years Joseph should have power over all his enemies. The time had elapsed and the promise was fulfilled.[17](Lucy Mack Smith, mother of Joseph and Hyrum, June 29, 1844, Nauvoo Illinois)

My Dear Companion…We are in great affliction at this time. Our dear Br. Joseph Smith and Hyrum has fell victims to a ferocious mob. The great God of the Creation only knows whether the rest shall be preserved in safety or not…I have been blessed to keep my feelings quite calm through all the storm. I hope you will be careful on your way home and not expose yourself to those that will endanger your life. Yours in haste. If we meet no more in this world may we meet where parting is no more. Farewell.[18](Mary Ann Angell Young to her husband, Brigham Young, President of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, dated June 30, 1844)

It was from this window where the Prophet Joseph leaped trying to escape the jail or draw fire away from the others. The graze marks from the lead balls that were fired can still be seen in the window sill 170 years later.

We would beseech the Latter Day Saints in Nauvoo, and else where, to hold fast to the faith that has been delivered to them in the last days, abiding in the perfect law of the gospel. Be peaceable, quiet citizens, doing the works of righteousness…Rejoice then, that you are found worthy to live and die for God: men may kill the body, but they cannot hurt the soul.[19](W.W. Phelps, W. Richards, John Taylor, July 1, 1844)


[1]Smith, Joseph,History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,7 vols. (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1980), 6:619 (Hereinafter,History of the Church).

[2]History of the Church,6:547.

[3]The Juvenile Instructor, 15 August 1892, 27: 490-91.

[4]History of the Church,6:554-55.

[5]Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, ed. and comp. Dean C. Jessee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1984), 611.

[6]History of the Church,6: 558.

[7] 3 Nephi 21:10.

[8] Dan Jones, “The Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith,” 20 January, 1855, handwritten manuscript in the Church Historian’s Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid. See alsoHistory of the Church6:603.

[11]History of the Church6:16.

[12] Ibid. 623.

[13] Ibid. 7:106.

[14] Pratt, Parley P.Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Revised and Enhanced Edition.Edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor. Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 2000, pp. 45, 46.

[15] Doctrine and Covenants 135:3.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Smith, Lucy Mack.Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother.Edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor. Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, 1996, pp. 457, 458.

[18] Mary Ann Angell Young to Brigham Young, 30 June, 1844, dated at Nauvoo, Illinois, housed at Church Historian’s Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[19]Times and Seasons,vol. 5, no. 12, (l July 1844): 568

Why Prophets Have Prayed for Joseph Smith’s Posterity

By Scot and Maurine Proctor
Text is by Maurine Proctor. Photos by Scot Facer Proctor

In some ways the Lucy Mack/Joseph Smith Sr. reunion held this year the first weekend in August was like most of our family reunions—only super-sized. More than 1,000 people registered and joined together for three days. They came from 19 states as well as Canada, Australia and Romania. While they ate coleslaw and watermelon just like the rest of us at our reunions, they also took over “This is the Place” Heritage Park for a day and had reserved seating for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Spoken Word broadcast.

They almost reached the record for having the world’s biggest family reunion.

Their ancestors’ names—Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Lucy Mack Smith, Mary Fielding, Samuel Smith—live in us as Church members. We can feel them in our own belief DNA, a sort of resonance in our souls. Their stories reside in us, woven like a golden thread through our spiritual sensibilities.

For those who gathered at this reunion, however, the Smiths are actually in their DNA, and you can’t help looking longer at some faces that seem to resemble Joseph, catch a face shape or nose that seems familiar, see some leadership energy that reminds you of the prophet.

The prophet had pled for his family in these words:

“O God, let the residue of my father’s house…ever come up in remembrance before thee and stand virtuous and pure in thy presence, that thou mayest save them from the hand of the oppressor, and establish their feet upon the rock of ages, that they may have place in thy house and be saved in thy kingdom, even where God, and Christ is, and let all these things be as I have said, for Christ’s sake. Amen – Joseph Smith Jr.

As it turns out he had great reason for concern. When Joseph and Hyrum were martyred at Carthage and Brigham led the Latter-day Saints west, the family was splintered. A shattered Emma stayed behind with her children in a hostile environment, including her son Joseph Smith III. He later formed a new church, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Lucy Mack, now widowed and in precarious health, stayed with Emma. Samuel had died 33 days after the martyrdom from injuries sustained when he went to warn his brothers.

Joseph’s other male siblings had all died, except for William who had been excommunicated. His sisters stayed behind with their families.

Samuel’s widow, Levira Clark Smith came West in 1851. Don Carlos’s widow Agnes Coolbrith Smith came West and then went on to California. Hyrum’s widow, Mary Fielding Smith, came to Utah with his children.

Do you Remember Who You Are?

It was a scattered family, no longer united in religion or united with each other. Over time, many of them would forget their origins. They would forget who they were. If you asked some of them who Joseph Smith was, they had no idea of his significance.

Kenny Duke, a descendent of Catharine, Joseph Smith’s sister, said, “I never knew about Joseph Smith at all until my teenage years. One day my uncle, who was a bulldozer operator, asked, do you know who you are? Teenagers know everything, but I didn’t know how to answer that question. He was well-versed in the family. He was an official in the RLDS church. He was a pastor in the church in Carthage. He said, “I want to take you and introduce you to your relatives.”

For Kim Smith, a direct descendent of Joseph Smith, it was worse. She said, “Growing up in my dad’s family, I saw animosity. I didn’t know my cousins who lived 15 miles down the road. I couldn’t figure out why we were so separated on so many issues. My mom taught me about Christ, but this didn’t seem like Christ like love.”

Kim’s first acquaintance with Joseph and Emma Smith was seeing their pictures in her grandmother’s house and feeling uncommonly drawn to them—as if she knew them and loved them, but she didn’t know who they were. As she learned, she was also indoctrinated with misunderstandings and some outright lies about who Brigham Young was. She was taught that Brigham Young had plotted the murder of Joseph Smith, that he had conspired to render Emma destitute.

These were hard prejudices to overcome, ground into the heart of an impressionable youngster, even in the face of facts to the contrary. Yet, Kim, eager to heal her family, began to research the issues that separated them, where the splits and contention came from, and it became her desire to help them heal. She gained a testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was baptized.

Michael Kennedy, a third great grandson of Joseph Smith and the first one in the family to hold the Melchizedek priesthood, had never heard of Joseph, until one day in his little high school in Tonopah, Nevada, the teacher gave an assignment. They were supposed to write about someone in their family history.

Michael said, “Taking this assignment home I asked my father for some help. He told me there were three individuals he felt had something to do with American history in our family lines and named them off: ‘Orville and Wilber Wright, Jonathan Swift, and some ambiguous person by the name of Joseph Smith.’ I asked my dad who he was, and was informed, ‘He is the founder of the Mormons!’

His father left the room and came back with a big box and told Michael that everything he needed was in that box. “My father told me that he grew up never really knowing his family.”

For some of Joseph’s posterity, the loss of knowledge corresponded with distance. Some of Joseph Smith’s posterity moved to Australia, and 1/3 of his down line are there now.

Then, of course, there was a direct line of Smiths who led the RLDS church until 1995 when a non-descendent was appointed. The RLDS would change their name to the Community of Christ and begin to distance themselves from Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.

Joseph Fielding Smith’s Prayers

What do you do about a family so divided as Lucy Mack Smith and Joseph Smith Sr.’s family, especially in light of the paramount importance of eternal family in the teachings of their son Joseph@f0 Wouldn’t this in fact just make Joseph weep@f1 Where is the turning of the hearts to the fathers@f2 Where the idea of remembering@f3 Surely a mending and healing and a coming together was critical, especially as a debt of gratitude to this first family of the Restoration who had given so much.

Hyrum’s descendants were strong and numerous, numbering today near 30,000. Among them are prophets and apostles, including, President Joseph F. Smith, President Joseph Fielding Smith and Elder M. Russell Ballard. Because of the gospel, they have a strong sense of their heritage, a vibrant family association. Other siblings of Joseph have few descendents and Joseph and Emma have a posterity that numbers at about 1300.

It mattered to bring all of this posterity together again and teach them who they were and what Joseph Smith did, because it mattered to him. A binding together was part of the covenant, unity a necessity to build Zion.

It also mattered to someone else. Vivian Adams, granddaughter of the prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, remembers that he used to say, “’I pray every day that the descendents of the prophet will come into the Church.’ This was a constant theme on his mind.” She remember having a family home evening with him about it when she was as young as 16.

Line upon line, Joseph Fielding Smith’s prayers were answered, beginning with Gracia Jones. Like so many other of his posterity, Gracia did not know anything of her posterity.

“One time, when I was in grade school,” she said,” I brought home my history book. My mother was always interested in reading what we were studying in school. When she discovered a brief historical account of Joseph Smith having founded communities, and that he started a religious movement, she said to me, “Joseph Smith is your great-great grandfather, but don’t you ever tell anybody.”

Still, friends gave her a Book of Mormon, she read it, received a testimony of it, and didn’t realize she was doing anything unusual when she was baptized, the first of Joseph Smith’s posterity. When she came to Utah, it was arranged for her to meet Joseph Fielding Smith, and he burst into tears when he saw her.

He told her, “I have prayed all of my life for your family and I am so happy to see this day when I can see you and that you are a member of the church.” Gracia said, “He was very affectionate and very emotional. Sister Jessie Evans just enveloped me in her big hug.”

In 1969, Hugh B. Brown told her, “You have a great burden on your shoulders.” She was to begin gathering the names of Joseph Smith’s family.

A first reunion in Nauvoo was set for the descendents of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith for August of 1972. Gracia called relatives saying, “My grandmother is Coral Smith Horner, and I know that she is a cousin to your mother or your father. We’re beginning to gather names for a family reunion and I wonder if you’d be willing to help, and I’d just write as fast and furiously as possible to get their names and addresses down and we sent them invitations.”

It was agreed at that first family reunion that religion would not be discussed, “but we couldn’t help ourselves,” said Gracia. Still the overriding feeling was discovery of new cousins, of heritage that had been lost or disfigured, of slow awakening.

It was the beginning, and reunions were generally held every other year after that, usually in the Mid-west.

A Meeting Called by Elder Ballard

Then a turning point came in 1996. Elder Ballard called Smith family members who were members of the LDS Church to a meeting. Vivian Adams said, “When I walked into the room, I felt the spirit of family there. Elder Ballard explained, ‘I cannot go to my grave and face Joseph and Hyrum having done nothing for Joseph’s family, and I’m bringing you together to do this.’ He introduced the Church’s family history staff and said, ‘These people are going to train you how to find the descendents.’

Looking for descendancy involves additional and somewhat more complicated family history skills. For six months the family history staff trained and worked with this committee of Smiths (largely made up of Hyrum’s descendents) to find their family members. It was a job of dedication that involved several hours a week of commitment, and then ultimately meeting as a group once a month for years.

The night after Craig Frogley was called to chair the group he had a dream. He couldn’t sleep well that night and saw a forest focused on two trees. At the time he wasn’t familiar with the dreams that Joseph Smith Sr., had had, but he knew this was significant. He said, “The trees were remarkable, unusual trees. The wind was blowing, and as I looked at them I watched the branches of one of the trees in the wind begin to spread, and they reached out and began to grow with the rest of the trees until they became an umbrella with all these tree trunks underneath. “I didn’t understand the dream at the time I had it. It was just so vivid. During the morning hours as I lay there unable to go back to sleep, it distilled into my mind. We would be an umbrella that would support and spawn other Smith ancestor organizations, like the descendents of Joseph, to become strong and successful.”

Vivian Adams said, “The next year, we went to the temple in April and did the temple work for all of these people we had researched. This was one time in the Mt. Timpanogos temple when an entire session was full of Smith descendants from Samuel, Hyrum, and Joseph who were there to do the work for Joseph’s posterity.

“Our kids and our cousins were in various sealing rooms binding family. Even though Joseph wasn’t there physically, you could feel that he was there spiritually and we just had a remarkable time.’

Elder Ballard said, “We have done the temple work for all of Joseph’s posterity that we have found who are deceased. We will continue to do that. We will continue to bind his family to him as we find them, identify them, and can do the work for them.”

He said, “There’s been a great effort on the part of the Joseph Smith Jr. Association family to do that.They have gone out all over the country trying to seek out and find their cousins.”

Gracia Jones and her husband Ivor, for instance, have been actively about this for many years. They take their camper van across the states seeking out cousins. When they meet them, they stay and visit, bringing out pictures and stories these cousins have never heard before. Sometimes the visit of a day turns into a week. The first priority is just to find each other, but often more follows. Two hundred of Joseph’s posterity are now members of the Church.

Family organizations and reunions are important to help people understand who they are, but for the Smiths that is a special privilege and burden. Their mantra is “Calling all Smiths” and they want to find them all.

Frances Orton, president of the group said, “We have a responsibility to honor those who did so much for us before. When we come together, we’re trying to honor their memory by going out and living good lives.”

They want the rising generation who carry this heritage not to be carried off in the current of the world. To this end, the reunion was filled with heritage activities. Children who were learning a Zion’s Camp song and making swords out of water noodles. Two dressed up as Joseph and Hyrum singing together. They tell stories, show films, have lectures. Their coming together is not only to know each other but also to be educated. They have a website filled with activities for family home evenings to acquaint children with Joseph Smith.

This year Elder Ballard told them this story: “Joseph F. Smith had never visited Carthage until 1906. In 1906 he found himself in Nauvoo with Charles and Preston Nibley. Charles Nibley was one of Joseph F. Smith’s dearest friends. He was the presiding bishop of the church.

“In Nauvoo, Joseph F. said to Preston, “This is where my father lifted me up from the ground to the horse that he was on and kissed me when I was five. I stood here and watched him and my uncle Joseph, whom I adored, ride off to Carthage.

“When Joseph F. and the Nibleys went to Carthage Jail, they walked into the room where Joseph, Hyrum, John Taylor and Brother Richards were, The host who was showing them through the jail said this, “This stain on the floor is the blood of Hyrum Smith.”

Preston Nibley recorded that Joseph F. Smith went over and sat on the bed, put his hands over his face and wept, so much so the tears were bouncing off of the floor. The President said to Charlie, “Charlie, take me out of here. The greatest blood in this dispensation, perhaps in all dispensations, was split by our forefathers and given as a witness and a testimony of the restoration of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Remarkable Reunions

The Smith reunions are remarkable. In 2011 they met in Kirtland and re-enacted the temple dedication. They had the children chip stones from the very quarry used to build the temple.

What’s more they are the caretakers of the pioneer cemetery in Nauvoo. They have planted trees at a Lucy Mack Smith pavilion. They have had each family member in attendance create a time capsule with their testimony and family feelings to be opened in ten years.

Last year, one segment of the family spearheaded an “I Dig Nauvoo” project. It was an archaeological project to uncover Lucy Mack and Joseph Smith Sr.’s log cabin in Nauvoo.

This year they sponsored the Joseph Smith Miracle 5K run to mark the 200th year since 7-year-old Joseph’s leg was saved by Dr. Nathan Smith, the only man in the nation who could have done that. (Read about the Miracle 5K Run here)

They’ve only just begun with their plans. Vivian Adams said they envision writing projects like gathering the Lucy Mack-Joseph Smith Sr. papers. They hope to do some restoration projects.

An Affirmation

It might have been easy for the Hyrum Smith family to have been vibrant and connected because they knew who they were. Yet instead, for the Smiths to go back a generation and seek out each other for a wider bonding from a family that had been shredded is truly remarkable. With that same devotion, they intend to teach their children.

Dan Adams affirmed at the reunion opening, “Remember who Joseph Smith and his family were and how tall they stood. They were a powerful, spiritual people. They knew who they were. They knew where they were going. They saw with an eye of faith. The terrible ordeals they lived through became a blessing of fortitude and courage that they would need later on in life. In the Restoration, they were the first family of faith.

“This family goes from Palmyra, to Kirtland, to Far West, to Nauvoo. They teach like nobody’s business. They bring people in by the tens of thousands. They have visions. They restore things. They change people’s lives. That’s who we are. That’s the Smith blood that flows through our veins, to see what other people can’t see, to stand up and testify, to restore things, and build things and show people what they can do in difficult troubled times.”

That’s quite a charge to a family.

When Mother Smith saw her two sons, Joseph and Hyrum, martyred, she cried out in a mother’s grief, “O God, why hast thou forsaken this family@f4” He hadn’t.

The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother

By Scot and Maurine Proctor

Editors’ Note: To prepare for the Doctrine & Covenants year of study in gospel doctrine, Meridian will offer you in the weeks to come short excerpts from Lucy Mack Smith’s history of her prophet son Joseph. Considered by scholars to be one of the premier source documents about the restoration, Lucy’s story reads like a novel as she paints vivid pictures of the men and women whose lives were carved out by the significant events. She is fluent and insightful, enduring and passionate as she tells stories we find nowhere else in Church history. You become, as one reader said, “a fly on the wall in the Smith family kitchen” reading Lucy’s story. Few can read this story without feeling poignant emotion for Joseph’s life and death.

Lucy Mack Smith’s history has been available for generations, edited by Martha Jane Knowlton Coray. For the revised and enhanced edition, however, we went back to Lucy’s original raw notes which surfaced again in the late 60’s in the Church archives. Based on these notes, we re-edited a new edition which was much closer to Lucy’s own voice and includes important scenes and soliloquies taken from the original. We also added over 600 footnotes and 100 photographs of the places Joseph knew well to put the story in context.

If there is one book to make you compelled toward Church history during this Doctrine & Covenants study year, this would be it. In this first of a series, we give you the background on how Lucy Mack Smith’s biography came to be. Next week we discuss the controversy that once surrounded it.

It was the bleak midwinter of 1844-45, only months since her sons Joseph and Hyrum had been murdered by a gloating mob in Carthage Jail, when Lucy Mack Smith sat down to tell her life story to a twenty-three-year-old scribe named Martha Jane Knowlton Coray. Lucy was sixty-nine years old, afflicted, as she said, “by a complication of disease and infirmities” and still aching with loss. In the fall of 1840 she thought she had experienced the most misery she would ever know. She recalled: “I then thought that there was no evil for me to fear upon the earth more than what I had experienced in the death of my beloved husband. It was all the grief which my nature was able to bear, and I thought that I could never again be called to suffer so great an affliction as this.” But time had proven her wrong. Her nature would be called upon to bear more. On a June night in 1844, word had come to Nauvoo that her two sons had been murdered and thirty-three days later another son, Samuel, would languish and die of complications arising from being chased on horseback by the mob. Of her six sons who had lived to maturity, five were gone, and with the exception of some sons-in-law, Lucy’s family was reduced to widows and fatherless children.

These weren’t her only losses. Once her son Joseph had received a heavenly vision ahd had learned that he was the prophet to restore the gospel in the latter days, trial had plagued Lucy. She had lost her farm in New York; she had seen her husband imprisoned; she had trudged through an incessant rain on the way to Missouri that reduced her to near death; she had seen soldiers whoop and holler as they dragged her sons to jail with a death sentence on their heads. Of the endless grief, she said, “I often wonder to hear brethren and sisters murmur at the trifling inconveniences which they have to encounter…and I think to myself, salvation is worth as much now as it was in the beginning of the work. But I find that ‘all like the purchase, few the price will pay.’”

It was a woman who not only was willing to pay the price for her religious convictions, but already had, who sat down with the scribe that winter in Nauvoo. Thus, her history rings with sincerity and deeply-felt emotion. However much others may have doubted and harangued her son Joseph, Lucy had no doubt that he was exactly what he claimed himself to be-a prophet. She had a remarkable story to tell and she told it remarkably-with passion, candor, and fluency. Apart from anything else,, it would be a wonderful story for generations of readers, but beyond that, it gives a personal glimpse of Joseph Smith seen nowhere else. Here is Joseph dealing with excruciating pain during a crude operation on his leg, sick with misery at Martin Harris’s loss of the 116 pages, laying a cloak down on the hard floor night after night to give someone else is bed in Kirtland. Through Lucy’s recollections, we enter the Smith family home, hear their conversations, watch a young prophet beginning to understand that he has a profound destiny. It is a rare thing to have a sustained narrative from the mother of a man who was had such a significant impact on the world.

What’s more, we come to know Joseph better in these pages because we come to know Lucy. To understand his mother is to understand something more about the son. They share the same native flair for expression, the same courage in the face of opposition. They are both high-spirited, deeply loyal to their beliefs, hardworking and intelligent. Most of all, they share a passion to understand who God is and what he expects of them. When Lucy was a young married woman, sick and apparently dying, she made a covenant with God: “I covenanted with God that if he would let me live, I would endeavor to get that religion that would enable me to serve him right, whether it was in the Bible or wherever it might be found.” For Lucy, this began an intense search for the true religion that is echoed in her son’s similar yearnings. Joseph is certainly a product of the mother and home from which he came.

The Preliminary Manuscript
It is not entirely clear who motivated the creation of Lucy Mack Smith’s history. In January 1845, she wrote to her son William that she was constantly answering questions on “the particulars of Joseph’s getting the plates, seeing the angels at first, and many other things which Joseph never wrote or published,” and she had “almost destroyed her lungs giving recitals about these things.” She “now concluded to write down every particular.” In her rough preface to the work she also states that she has been induced to write because “none on earth is so thoroughly acquainted as myself with the entire history of those of whom I speak.” But it is also evident that at the same period Church historian Willard Richards and his staff were working on the Church history up to Joseph’s death and they gave encouragement to Lucy to supply the background only she could give. In that same letter to William, she said, “I have the by council of the 12 undertaken a history of the family that is my father’s family and my own.”

At any rate, sometime in the early winter, Mother Smith approached Martha Jane Knowlton Coray to be her scribe.

Martha Jane’s husband, Howard remembered the event: “In the fall of 1844, I procured the Music Hall for a school room: it was large enough to accommodate 180 students and I succeeded in filling the room. Sometime in the winter following, Mother Smith came to see my wife about getting her to help write the history of Joseph, to act in the matter only as her, Mother Smith’s amanuensis. This my wife was persuaded to do; and so dropped the school.”

Ailing or not, Lucy wanted to get this history down, and it appears that she dictated her story to Martha through that winter, who wrote it with clear penmanship, excellent spelling, and little punctuation. Of course, whenever a second person is involved in a work the question arises. What part of the product reflects the personality and style of the author and what part the influence of the scribe? Martha Jane supplies the answer to this. She wrote Brigham Young that because of her practice of note taking, “this made it an easy task for me to transmit to paper what the old lady said, and prompted me in undertaking to secure all the information possible for myself and children….Hyrum and Joseph were dead, and thus without their aid, she attempted to prosecute the work, relying chiefly upon her memory, having little recourse to authentic statements whose corresponding dates might have assisted her.” …

Thus, what Martha wrote down appears to be the raw, unedited Lucy, a reflection of her intellect and heart. What she expressed was her life as she saw it and the part that her family had played in bringing forth the Book of Mormon and the restored religion. It was not originally what it has long been titled, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith. It was instead, “The History of Mother Smith, by Herself,” a family history, a story of drama, spiritual adventure, and pathos, but most of all a personal story. Thus, without hesitation, she shared intimate details probed feelings and made assessments, felt free to soliloquize. She was frank, for instance, to say that she looked forward to standing at the bar of God, where after a lifetime of persecution, justice will finally reign and her persecutors will be brought to task. And though she shared her suffering, she was not full of self-pity, but rather grateful to be the mother of a prophet and part of a transcendent work…

During 1845, Howard Coray turned over his school to others and joined his wife, Martha Jane, in a labor to revise the Preliminary Manuscript. Howard had been one of Joseph Smith’s clerks, whose assignment included compiling the official historical record of the Church. Together they substantially revised the Preliminary Manuscript. This was not merely a job of correcting grammar or changing and clarifying confusing chronologies. It has been suggested that “about one-fourth of the revised manuscript is not in the preliminary draft, while approximately ten percent of the earlier manuscript is omitted from the revised manuscript.” What was added in the revision was information designed to make it a more balanced and complete history, as well as expand the information on Joseph Smith’s own version of the First Vision and Moroni’s first visit were included. Additional information was added from “The History of Joseph Smith” published earlier in the Times and Seasons. Gaps were filled, necessary explanations added. While Mother Smith was probably frequently consulted during the entire composition, and she clearly gave her approval to the final version, certainly her biggest contribution had already passed.

It is not surprising, then, to observe that while the revised version had strengths lacking in the Preliminary Manuscript, it is also further from Lucy’s own voice. The Corays deleted many of her soliloquies, they axed intimate details of family life and affectations, they sometimes avoided emotions, they polished her phrases. Unfortunately, comparing the Preliminary Manuscript with the revised version, it is clear that this is not always a favor. The Corays’ edits led to a more fussy, formal speech pattern than Lucy is given to. Ironically, their changes sound old-fashioned to the modern ear, as opposed to Lucy’s more direct speech. But it is the moving from Lucy’s perceptions and feelings that is the greater loss.

The work of revision appears to have been finished by the end of 1845, for on the afternoon of November 19, 1845, the Twelve discussed the need to “settle with Brother Howard Coray for his labor in compiling” Lucy’s history, and a settlement was made in January 1846. The Twelve’s financial support and long interest in the project certainly made them feel that the Church had a vested interest in it.

Though Lucy was anxious that the manuscript be published, the end of 1845 found the Church with two other projects that consumed the energies and resources of the Saints. Their enemies had never let off the persecution. They had formed “wolf packs” to hunt the Saints; they had burned homes beyond Nauvoo, sending a flood of refugees into the city; they had harassed the Twelve with lawsuits and now Nauvoo had been turned into a workshop to build wagons to flee the city. Packing to leave everything they owned while they continued to build a temple absorbed the Saints that winter, and Lucy’s manuscript naturally took a backseat.