Dr. Nathan Smith, who operated on Smith’s leg, was an accomplished surgeon in the 1800s. The procedure was unprecedented, leading some to believe Smiths’ encounter was miraculous.

By Aaron Shill, Deseret News
Published: Saturday, July 12 2008 11:40 p.m. MDT

It took the curiosity of a Boston-area surgeon to uncover the identity of the man who conducted Joseph Smith’s famous leg operation.Once LeRoy Wirthlin made his discovery about four decades ago, it became apparent that Joseph and his family weren’t the only Smiths of significance in the room when the 7-year-old boy underwent surgery around 1813.Dr. Nathan Smith was pretty important in his own right, and Wirthlin’s placing of the once-renowned New England physician within this historic account added an intriguing new facet to the story.It was a historic convergence that saved Joseph’s leg. And Wirthlin, a Latter-day Saint who himself is a retired surgeon, knows just how important Nathan Smith’s presence was.”You wonder what would have happened,” Wirthlin says during an interview conducted for an episode of the Joseph Smith Papers Project television series produced by KJZZ. “One thing for sure is that Joseph Smith would not have been able to kneel in the grove in Palmyra with an above-knee amputation.”Wirthlin isn’t a historian by profession, but his research into Dr. Smith became a great boon to scholars. The discovery not only confirmed existing accounts of the event, but also provided additional details that some, like Wirthlin, consider miraculous. While his role in the surgery is still often overlooked, Nathan Smith gives the long-told story a more expansive place on the historical landscape while enriching Latter-day Saints’ understanding of this significant event of the Restoration.”This was the first miracle that we know about in the life of Joseph Smith,” Wirthlin said.

The beginning of the end for the anonymity of Joseph Smith’s surgeon came when LDS historian Richard Bushman, who at the time was a stake president in Boston, asked Wirthlin to assist him with some research about the operation.Documentation on the surgery is confined to two sources, and Bushman showed Wirthlin one of the accounts — a note from Joseph Smith dictated to Willard Richards that was intended for the Manuscript History of the Church.In his interview for the television series, Wirthlin says he was “astounded” by what he read. Joseph Smith named a medical school (Dartmouth) and the doctors who treated him (Smith, Stone and Perkins), while making reference to 11 “doctors” (some presumed to be medical students) visiting the home.The next day, Wirthlin says, he met a colleague in the elevator at Massachusetts General Hospital who was carrying a book about early New Hampshire surgeons. Wirthlin used the book to identify Nathan Smith and Cyrus Perkins.”That little bit of information then began a quest to dig into this more deeply,” Wirthlin says.The pursuit took him to the Dartmouth Baker Memorial Library, where Wirthlin was given access to Dr. Smith’s letters, notebooks and ledgers for research.What Wirthlin and other researchers have discovered is that Dr. Smith was a highly competent and compassionate physician who, after serving as an apprentice, studied at Harvard before traveling to England to further educate himself. He returned in 1797 and founded the Dartmouth Medical School, one of four medical schools he established throughout his career.Smith was a “country doctor,” according to Ronald K. Esplin, managing editor of the Joseph Smith Papers Project. He rode miles on horseback to visit patients in their homes, since there were no hospitals at the time. While Smith billed the patients and expected payment, many of his treatments ended up being “charity cases” because the recipients were unable to pay, Esplin said.Dr. Smith was also a teacher who had a lasting influence on the region. Wirthlin calls him a “great medical educator” who was competent in anatomy, physics, chemistry and pharmacology medicine.”He left a legacy of students who were the foundation of rural New England medicine for the next generation or two,” Esplin said.According to Smith’s biographers, Oliver S. Hayward and Constance E. Putnam, the physician cared for the welfare of his patients but was also brilliant and innovative.”For the duties of a practical surgeon, Dr. Smith was eminently qualified, and upon the manner in which he performed these duties, his reputation must, in a great measure, ultimately rest,” his biographers write in the book “Improve, Perfect, and Perpetuate: Dr. Nathan Smith and Early American Medical Education.”The most significant aspect of Dr. Smith’s career as it relates to the Prophet was that he resisted using amputation as a means to treat cases such as Joseph Smith’s. Instead, Dr. Smith used a surgical technique to combat osteomyelitis, a bacterial infection, where he operated directly on the bone to remove dead fragments.Joseph Smith’s case was a complication from the typhoid fever epidemic that hit the area, causing what Wirthlin calls “tremendous” and “unrelenting” pain.In addition to what was dictated by Joseph Smith himself, the only other written account of the surgery came from the Prophet’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, who wrote: “My poor boy at this time was in almost total despair, and cryed(sic) out, ‘Oh father, the pain is so severe, how can I bear it?’ “Dr. Smith’s biographers concur with Wirthlin’s findings — that the accounts of Joseph Smith and his mother provide adequate documentation of Dr. Smith’s involvement in the boy’s surgery.”Both give sufficient detail to make clear that the doctors in question were Nathan Smith and his medical school colleague (and at the time, partner in practice) Cyrus Perkin,” Hayward and Putnam write. “The two separate descriptions of the surgery that circumvented the need for amputation both accord well with what is known about Nathan Smith’s procedures…Thus, although we do not know positively that Smith himself performed the operation, we can be confident that he was the surgeon in charge.”Wirthlin went on to publish three articles about his findings, one of which was printed in the March 1978 edition of the Ensign. According to Esplin, Wirthlin’s work helped re-establish Dr. Smith as a significant figure in American medical history.”By the time Wirthlin got digging around, people had really forgotten Nathan Smith,” Esplin said.

Thanks to the accounts from Joseph Smith and his mother, Latter-day Saints have a sound understanding of the events surrounding the surgery — that Lucy and her son objected to amputation, that Joseph refused to be tied down or accept alcohol, that his father held him through the procedure, and that his mother re-entered the room several times upon hearing her son’s screams.But until Wirthlin’s discovery, not much was known about the surgeon — and that he was likely the only man in the country who could have saved the boy’s leg.And he just happened to reside within short riding distance.”It is truly remarkable that this guy had those skills and he was probably the only one in the United States who had them at the time,” Esplin said.The details of Dr. Smith’s stature and proximity to the Prophet’s family make the circumstances seem at the very least an amazing coincidence, if not miraculous.First, there is the fact that Dr. Smith resided in Hanover, N.H., just a handful of miles from the Smith home in Lebanon.There were also circumstances that factored into Dr. Smith’s availability. According to Wirthlin, Dr. Smith was anticipating a move to Connecticut to establish a medical school at Yale University, but he was delayed by the typhoid epidemic, which struck his own family. Otherwise, he would not have been at Dartmouth when Joseph Smith’s leg required treatment.Historians have surmised that the Smith family may have known of Dr. Smith because, at the time of Joseph’s sickness, his brother Hyrum was attending the Moore Academy at Dartmouth. Esplin points out that neither Alvin nor Joseph had many educational opportunities, but during this particular time, Hyrum was afforded the chance.According to Wirthlin, not only did Dr. Smith have 17 years of experience in practicing the technique before treating Joseph, he was the only surgeon who combated severe osteomyelitis by operating on the bone. The standard procedure at the time was amputation.”This procedure that Nathan Smith advocated was not done anywhere else in the world,” Wirthlin says. “The surgery that he performed did not catch on. Nobody seemed to be able to do it.”In her account, Lucy Smith described the surgery in detail.”He bored first on one side of the bone, which was affected, then on the other side: after which, he broke it off with a pair of pincers; and in this manner, took away large pieces of the bone,” she wrote.According to Wirthlin, the procedure never caught on and wasn’t widely accepted until 1874; it didn’t become standard practice until World War I. A believing Latter-day Saint, Wirthlin, in the 1978 Ensign article, concludes that the circumstances were far from coincidental.”What Lucy Smith is here describing is the technique that became known in 1874!” Wirthlin writes. “How was such a surgical feat possible 80 years before this time in the tiny community of Lebanon, New Hampshire? The answer is one that Latter-day Saints would hardly call coincidence.”Generations ahead of his time, he was the only man in America who could have saved Joseph Smith’s leg.”Dr. Smith’s biographers also reflect on the religious significance of these two individuals crossing paths.”Whether Nathan Smith can be credited with having saved Joseph Smith’s life, certainly he saved the boy’s leg,” they write. “Who knows whether religious history might have turned out quite differently if Joseph Smith had been an amputee from early childhood?”

Dr. Smith’s presence not only added a new facet to the story — it furthered scholars’ understandings of the accounts that have been in place since the mid-1800s.Lucy Smith’s history was written in 1845, approximately 32 years after the leg operation was performed. The length of that time period often caused historians pause, according to Esplin.Then there was Joseph Smith’s description of “eleven Doctors” visiting the home — a number that seemed high before historians came to understand who Dr. Smith was.”But after all this (research) has been done it turned out to be pretty solid description,” Esplin said.According to Wirthlin, Lucy Smith’s detailed description of the surgery proved credible. Wirthlin writes in the Ensign that her recollection aligned with the procedure described in notebooks found at Dartmouth.”They always questioned her memory on this thing but this was accurate and she nailed it and I have developed a great respect for her after reading her account,” Wirthlin says in his interview.While it may have seemed strange that there were more than 10 doctors in the room, Wirthlin points out that as an educator, it was standard procedure for Dr. Smith, who “routinely invited 10 to 20 of the medical students along on these trips as part of their training,” Wirthlin writes.”This was how they operated,” Esplin said. “These are good accounts…(Wirthlin is) the one who made the whole episode understandable.”What the accounts also show, according to Esplin, is that the Smith family was “functional” and worked together to assure each other’s well-being. And, the fact that this episode was the only event from Joseph’s younger years that was recorded by both the Prophet and his mother speaks to its significance.”Both he and his mother thought it was important enough to mention, and they mention almost nothing about his boyhood,” Esplin said. “In their minds, it’s one of the most significant (events) of his pre-teen years — the most significant.”For them, this loomed huge. It was the major event.”


By R. Scott Lloyd
Church News staff writer
Published: Saturday, March 15, 2008

Observing the 200th anniversary of the birth of Samuel H. Smith, brother of the Prophet Joseph and the first formal missionary in this dispensation, his descendants and relatives listened to Elder M. Russell Ballard give this challenge:

Photo illustration by John Clark
Page from missionary journal of Samuel Smith is superimposed on William Whitaker’s painting of him.

Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Statue of Samuel H. Smith, replicating one at Provo Missionary Training Center, is displayed in Salt Lake Tabernacle during commemoration of his 200th birthday, at which Orem Institute Choir, in background, performs.

“March 13 is Samuel H. Smith’s 200th birthday. Let us give to others the knowledge of the Restoration as an everlasting present of love and sincere appreciation for this first great missionary of this dispensation.”

Elder Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke at the March 9 meeting in the Salt Lake Tabernacle along with Ardeth G. Kapp, former Young Women general president, who told of the impact Samuel Smith had on one of her ancestors, John Portineus Greene, an early convert to the Church.

The Orem Institute Choir, directed by Ryan K. Eggett with Linda Margetts accompanying on the Tabernacle Organ, presented several musical selections.

Elder Ballard began his talk by noting his own Smith family legacy; through his mother’s line, he is a great-great-grandson of Hyrum Smith, brother of Joseph and Samuel. “So I’m here legally,” he quipped.

Elder Ballard said, “The hand of God prepared the Smith family for their arrival in Palmyra,” the New York area where Joseph received the First Vision.

The apostle reviewed the family history of the Smiths, telling of John Lathrop, a minister of the Church of England who died in Massachusetts in 1653. With 42 followers, he was arrested and imprisoned in England for teaching that the gospel should be taught more freely to common people and they should be able to read the Bible for themselves.

He also spoke of Robert Smith, who emigrated in 1638 at age 12 from England to the New World. One of his descendants was Asael Smith, who declared, “It has been borne in upon my soul that one of my descendants will promulgate a work to revolutionize the world of religious faith.”

Joseph Smith Sr., son of Asael, married Lucy Mack, a descendant of Robert Lathrop, Elder Ballard related. He added that with their marriage, “God’s hand wove together the believing blood of the Smiths and the believing blood of the Macks.”

That believing blood flowed through Samuel’s veins, he remarked, noting that in Harmony, Pa., in 1829, Samuel acted with Emma and others as a scribe as Joseph translated the Book of Mormon. “It was Samuel who brought Oliver Cowdery to Harmony. There Samuel learned first hand of the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood and the ordinance of baptism. Joseph records that Samuel asked for his own testimony of the truth in prayer and received that witness. Samuel was baptized soon after, becoming the third person to be baptized in this dispensation. Samuel also had the blessing of being one of the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon. Samuel was one of the six founding members of the Church and was ordained an elder at the first conference on June 9, 1830. All of these experiences were Samuel’s because of his commitment and willingness to serve his Prophet-brother Joseph.”

As the first formal missionary, Samuel traveled more than 4,000 miles between 1830 and 1833, Elder Ballard said. He noted that at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, there is a life-size statue of Samuel with a knapsack full of copies of the Book of Mormon.

“Since Samuel’s first missionary service, the Church has called over 1 million missionaries to serve in 348 missions, now teaching the gospel in 176 nations and in 164 languages and dialects,” he said. “What a wonderful beginning to spreading the message of the Restoration to the people of the world.”

He asked those who had served missions to stand; most in the congregation stood in response.

Sister Kapp, whose maiden name is Greene, said John Portineus Greene was a Methodist minister who, in 1812, married Rhoda Young, sister of Brigham Young.

In 1830, she said, Samuel Smith brought a copy of the Book of Mormon to the Greene home in Bloomington, N.Y. Rhoda was there, but John was out preaching. Samuel had Rhoda read the promise in Moroni 10:4-5. She felt the truthfulness of it. One day, in desperation, John took the book from her, declaring he would show in the first two pages he came to that it was written under the influence of Satan. But the first page he came to contained the testimonies of the witnesses. He then went through it cover to cover before he laid it down and was converted by its power, Sister Kapp said.

John gave the book to Rhoda’s brother, Phineas, who, in turn, gave it to Brigham Young. It eventually came to Heber C. Kimball. In short, Brigham and Phineas Young, Heber C. Kimball, and John P. Greene all were converted through that one Book of Mormon copy.

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By Gerry Avant
Church News editor
Published: Saturday, Dec. 31, 2005

SHARON, Vt. — Although the southern Vermont countryside had gone without snow for a couple of days when Elder M. Russell Ballard arrived at the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial on the morning of Dec. 23, a thick blanket of white covered the ground, trees and rooftops of structures on the property of the historic site.

Except for the sounds of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir drifting on the frigid air — part of a recorded narration about the birth of Jesus Christ — it was quiet at the mammoth granite shaft that has stood for the past century in honor of Joseph Smith. No one was outside during the few minutes that Elder Ballard walked and talked with the Church News about the significance of that date, and about his great-great-granduncle Joseph Smith and his great-great-grandfather Hyrum Smith.

In response to a question about his thoughts and reflections on being at the site where the Prophet Joseph was born exactly 200 years ago, Elder Ballard said, “You don’t realize the impact of Joseph’s life until you come out here and see this almost desolate area where his father and mother were trying to eke out an existence. They already had four children. Their little baby girl passed away shortly after being born, so there were Alvin, Hyrum and Sophronia, and now comes to them in this setting, Joseph.

“I am sure they didn’t realize who had come into their home 200 years ago. But the Lord in His great design, had the Smith family and the Mack family in His eye from the very foundations of the world, ultimately to this day where Joseph could be born here.”

Elder Ballard spoke of the difficulties and the struggles Joseph Smith Sr. and his wife, Lucy Mack Smith, had with farming and failing, and “the Lord moving them through some of that trauma and difficulty, keeping that family so deeply humble. They arrived in Palmyra when the son born here was in his 14th year.”

“You have to stand in reverence when you’re in the proximity of where Joseph was born,” he said. “He was an instrument in the hands of the Lord; his work has impacted more than 12 million people in the world today.

“We don’t worship him, but surely we honor him and we hold him in the highest esteem as the Prophet of this the dispensation of the fulness of times. As Brigham Young said, Joseph was prepared from the foundations of the world to lead this dispensation. It’s overwhelming when you see the full picture.”

Elder Ballard spoke of members reading the Book of Mormon during the closing months of 2005 and said, “Just think, 130 million copies of the Book of Mormon have been printed. It has been translated in over 77 languages scattered in every corner of the world — all from this humble beginning here in Sharon, Vermont.”

Asked to share some of his personal thoughts about the great men to whom he is related, Elder Ballard said, “I have heralded Joseph’s name and Hyrum’s name and Joseph F. Smith’s name as strongly as I know how to do. This Church must never lose sight of the contribution and the strength of Joseph’s brother Hyrum because I’m not sure Joseph would have survived as long as he did had he not had Hyrum at his side. For an older brother, almost six years older, to be willing to be so subservient to his younger brother whom he knew had the experience that he said he did is a remarkable thing. When I think of Joseph, I think of Hyrum. I think of both of them together.”

He spoke of their martyrdom, saying, “They were taken, and their witness is to the whole world, and we’re privileged to be here on Joseph’s 200th birthday.”

Elder Ballard declared, “There is no question that my love and affection for Joseph Smith is more than just being the Prophet of this dispensation, but, in effect, an exemplar and leader in many ways of the Smith family. I just love the concept of the companionship of Joseph and Hyrum. I really see them, when I think about them. Joseph was born here. His 5-year-old brother, going on six, was running around here somewhere trying to stay busy and probably very excited with the fact that he had a baby brother.”

On walking where he knew his great-great-grandfather had walked, run and played as a young boy, Elder Ballard said, “A way to keep yourself humble is to come to these places and glimpse how they lived. When you realize what they did, sometimes you have to ask yourself, ‘What am I doing?’ Once in a while . . . I think I hear them say, ‘Why don’t you get busy and do something@f0’ I think that’s what they would expect us to do.”

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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.

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By Eldred G. and Hortense Smith


On February 15, 2000 an historical and significant gathering took place in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. More than 3,000 descendants of the great Patriarch Hyrum Smith came to praise and pay tribute in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of his February 9, 1800 birth. This in itself was historic, but also it was the largest gathering of Smith descendants in the history of the family. It was the first time Hyrum’s children have met together as a family in this Century.

Those entering the Assembly Hall or watching in the Tabernacle overflow were greeted with a huge screen projection of Hyrum and a display of precious articles belonging to him and the family, that were brought across the plains in the family wagons in 1848. The program followed:

CONDUCTING: Craig R. Frogley…………….4th great grandson
Trustee of the JS Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Foundation

PRAYER: Michael Nebeker ……………………5th great grandson

MUSICAL PORTRAYAL……………… Love is the Master Key
by Lorena Normandeau …….Grand Daughter of JS Jr.
Father Smith: Hulbert Keddington2nd ggrndson-in-law
Hyrum Smith: Scott Frogley ………. 4th great grandson
Joseph Smith Jr: Jason Woodland.. 4th great grandson
William Smith: Aaron David Lowe 4th great grandson
Accompanied by: Jenny Frogley ..4th ggdghter-in-law

Portrayal by: Matthew D. Maddox 3rd ggrndson-in-law
Script by Vivian Adams……………2nd ggrand daughter

Eldred G. Smith, President, Hyrum Smith Association

LOVINA: Ronda Thompson4th great granddaughter
JOHN: E. Gary Smith ……………..3rd great grandson
JERUSHA: Pamela Alligood3rd great granddaughter
SARAH: Cherise Clayton ….4th great granddaughter
JOSEPH F: Russel Smith Walker 2nd great grandson
MARTHA ANN: Carole King2ndrd ggranddaughter

I LOVE HIM original music and words
by Noni Sorensen ……………. 2nd great granddaughter
Sung by: Kent Sorensen…………….3rd great grandson
Accompanied by: Lindsay Sorensen…4th ggdaughter

SPEAKER: M. Russell Ballard…………………2nd great grandson
Trustee of the JS Sr & LM Smith Foundation

SURPRISE TRIBUTE: President Gordon B. Hinckley-Prophet

THE LIGHT WILL NOT GO OUT original music-words
by Noni Sorensen ………….. 2nd great granddaughter
Sung by: Dan Sorensen…………….. 3rd great grandson
Accompanied by: Lindsay Sorensen…3rd ggdaughter

PRAYER: LaRene Gaunt ………………. 2nd great granddaughter

Patriarch Eldred G. Smith reminded the descendants of the promise given Hyrum’s patriarchal blessing -“that his name would not be blotted out, for his children would rise up after him to preserve his memory.” Elder Smith issued a charge to the children to fulfill that promise by being a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ as Hyrum was.

Elder Russell M. Ballard of the Council of the Twelve charged the family using the words of Joseph F. Smith in a letter to one of his children: “…We are their children and they love us as we love one another. We should seek to honor them and follow in their footsteps. May the Lord bless us that we may bear the name of Hyrum Smith as his sons and daughters… with the same strength and courage in carrying forth this great work.”

President Gordon B. Hinckley honored the family with his attendance and said, “I am not a Smith, but I’m a great admirer and one who loves the name of Hyrum, the martyred brother of the Prophet Joseph.” He closed with this charge, “May we of this generation walk in the light of his strength and power and capacity.” His verbal charge was followed by a musical response, a stirring song ‘The Light Will Not Go Out’ that committed us as a family to keep the light burning.

Excitement, love and warmth permeated the atmosphere as a costumed family member presented a moving monologue portraying Hyrum. Many felt that he carried the appearance of the projected picture – as if he had come to life. The descendant responses were filled with moving accounts, deeply touching stories and powerful history of the lives of Hyrum and his children.

Members of the Hyrum Smith family left this great gathering with renewed appreciation and love for their progenitor, and a charge to respond with increased devotion and dedication to the truths espoused by him.


All of this plus the cemetery wreath ceremony was captured on video and will be reproduced for the benefit of generations to come. The video can be obtained for a short time only for $10.00. Please fill out the order-registration card. You may include your dues payment of $15.00 with the video order. Please use the envelope and form to order. You may purchase as many as you would like for family gifts including those yet unborn.

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The Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Foundation Newsletter


Volume 9, Spring 2000

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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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Descendants of Joseph and Hyrum Smith are joining in a project to renovate and landscape the Smith family cemetery in Nauvoo where the Prophet and his brother and 25 of their family members are buried.

The burial site, overlooking the Mississippi River, is next to the old log Homestead where Joseph and Emma lived prior to their move kitty-cornered across the street into the Mansion House. Among those buried at the site, in addition to Joseph and Hyrum, are Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, Emma Smith, and Samuel and Don Carlos Smith, brothers of the Prophet.Project chairmen said that two of the driving forces behind upgrading the hallowed grounds are the limited access to the Smith family grave site area, and particularly a plea of Emma Smith, made to her son Joseph III in 1867:

“I have always felt sad about the neglected condition of that place, and as I do not expect ever to be able to build me a house to live in, I would like to fix a place to be put away when I have done all my work on the earth. . . .

“I have got twenty-five dollars that no one has any right to but myself. . . . I feel anxious to apply that money on the graveyard. After I have done that I think we can ask our Smith relations to help mark Father’s and Mother’s graves, if no more.”

The “Smith relations” mentioned by Emma Smith – the descendants of Joseph and Hyrum – last year formed the Joseph & Hyrum Smith Family Foundation. The foundation is currently raising funds to landscape, beautify and provide for open public access and ongoing maintenance of this historic cemetery.

In the project, new monuments will be placed on the graves of Joseph, Emma and Hyrum Smith. A patio and a lighted brick walkway leading to Water Street and a new sprinkler system will be installed. Additional trees and flower beds will dot the grounds.

A dedication ceremony for the completed project is planned for Aug. 4 at 4 p.m. in the cemetery. President Wallace B. Smith of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a great-grandson of Joseph Smith, will participate.

Also taking part will be Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve, a great-great-grandson of Hyrum Smith, and other family members.

As part of the dedication, a time capsule will be encased in the new monuments with the names of those who helped or contributed to the project in any way.

The project leaders said, “A new-found spirit of unity is developing through this project in the spirit of Joseph and Hyrum, of whom it was said, `In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!’

“These brothers set the example to their descendants through their love which was expressed by Hyrum near the time of the martyrdom when, given the opportunity to escape, he told his brother, `Joseph, I can’t leave you.’ ”

Eldred G. Smith, a great-great-grandson of Hyrum Smith and project co-chairman, said, “The RLDS Church has been very cooperative and gracious in working with us and allowing the Joseph and Hyrum Smith Family Foundation to undertake this project.”

Dan M. Larsen, a descendant of Joseph Smith and executive director of the project, declared, “I truly believe this can be a beginning of an extraordinary relationship between the Smith family members and the RLDS and LDS churches and an opportunity to once more work together in old Nauvoo.”

Elder Ballard referred to Joseph Smith’s expressed desire: “The place where man is buried is sacred to me. . . . In the morning of the resurrection let me strike hands with my father.”

Elder Ballard added, “I am sure there will be personal joy and satisfaction for each one of us knowing that we helped provide a pleasing resting place from which these great ancestors of ours can rise on the morning of the resurrection and `strike hands.’ “


Church members have been thrilled by the story of eight-year-old Joseph Smith’s courage during the time when the bone in his leg became infected and amputation seemed the only solution. We remember his willingness to endure the pain of an alternative operation by having his father hold him in his arms, rather than try to relieve the pain with alcohol. As a surgeon I have always wondered about Joseph Smith’s operation and particularly about the physicians who successfully performed it.

This was, after all, 1813, in the most rural area of New Hampshire. The infection in Joseph’s bone (osteomyelitis) followed an epidemic of typhoid fever that affected all the Smith children. In those days and up until the discovery of antibiotics in this century, osteomyelitis was a devastating problem. Since the day of Hippocrates of ancient Greece, the standard method of treatment had been the simple application of poultices and plasters to the inflamed flesh. This had little effect: when infection occurs in the bone, long segments of the bony shaft die, and the body, growing new bone, encases the dead material within a living layer. Inevitably, the dead bone separates and lies in the center of an abscess cavity, draining continuously or spreading infection to other parts of the body, resulting in death. Usually in the late stages the leg had to be amputated.

In 1874 the techniques of operating on the bone to remove the dead fragments and allow drainage were described and widely accepted. This operation, known as sequestrectomy, became standard procedure after World War I.

That was a century later. But here is Lucy Mack Smith’s description of the operation in 1813:

“The surgeons commenced operating by boring into the bone of his leg, first on one side where it was affected, then on the other side, after which they broke it off with a pair of forceps or pincers. Thus they took away large pieces of bone.”

What Lucy Smith is here describing is the technique that became known in 1874! How was such a surgical feat possible sixty years before its time in the tiny community of Lebanon, New Hampshire?

The answer is one that Latter-day Saints would hardly call coincidence. In a little known note to the Manuscript History of the Church, Joseph named his doctors: “Smith, Stone and Perkins” of Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, New Hampshire, 8 kilometers from the Smith home.

These were not the ordinary, poorly trained country physicians so commonly found in those days. Nathan Smith, graduate of Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, sole founder of the Dartmouth Medical School, later to found three additional New England medical schools, was also president of the New Hampshire Medical Society and had, prior to treating Joseph Smith, accepted the position of the first professor of medicine and surgery at Yale Medical School in New Haven, Connecticut. He had delayed moving to New Haven so he could care for the victims of the 1813 typhoid epidemic in the communities surrounding Hanover, New Hampshire.

Cyrus Perkins was Nathan Smith’s former pupil and a graduate of the Dartmouth Medical School. Perkins had later returned to the area to become the professor of anatomy and join his former teacher in a medical practice.

Stone was very likely also a former student of Smith’s: earlier class rolls of the Dartmouth Medical School lists several Stones.

Even more significantly, Nathan Smith was one of early America’s greatest medical men and had, on his own, devised an operation for osteomyelitis as early as 1798 that he published in 1827 but that was not used for two generations. In other words, generations ahead of his time, he was the only man in America who could have saved Joseph Smith’s leg.

Without a college education, Nathan Smith apprenticed himself to a country physician for three years, then began his own practice in Cornish, New Hampshire. Dissatisfied with his preparation, he applied to the newly founded Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts three years later. He became its fifth graduate and returned to his country practice in 1790.

Now he felt his mission included raising medical standards and proficiency among his colleagues as well. He petitioned Dartmouth College trustees to establish a medical school and spent a year in Edinburgh, Scotland, accumulating equipment, books, and clinical experience. His opening lecture in 1797 was the beginning of Dartmouth’s medical college.

For thirteen years, he single-handedly taught anatomy, chemistry, surgery, remedies, and the theory and practice of medicine, until the New Hampshire legislature allowed Perkins to join him as professor of anatomy in 1810.

Neither one received a salary for the teaching: tuition fees and their joint medical practice made up their income. Since Dr. Smith had trained many of the physicians in upper New England, he was consulted on many difficult cases, which meant travelling as much as 160 kilometers on horseback over rough dirt roads. He routinely invited ten to twenty of his medical students along on these trips as part of their training.

This pattern was repeated in Joseph Smith’s case. After Dr. Stone had unsuccessfully performed two operations on Joseph’s diseased leg, his mother insisted on another opinion and requested a “council of surgeons.” Nathan Smith, his partner, Cyrus Perkins, and medical students from Dartmouth came to do the necessary surgery.

At first an amputation was suggested: Lucy Mack Smith instead asked for the experimental operation of removing only the diseased bone. Her description of the procedure is accurate and parallels the description of the operation found in early Dartmouth medical student notebooks.

The operation was successful, and Joseph’s wounds healed. The fact that a wound with the exposed shaft of bone healed so readily is truly miraculous; however Nathan Smith had achieved an unusual record of good results—he never described amputation following his operation. Joseph used crutches for three years but his life and his leg were spared.

After the epidemic and the operation, both Nathan Smith and Joseph Smith left New Hampshire, Nathan Smith to become a professor at Yale Medical School and Joseph to return to Vermont for three years before moving to Palmyra, New York, where he eventually began his great work.

It is hard to call it an accident—a boy plucky enough to refuse amputation despite two unsuccessful operations; a mother who requested the experimental procedure, not knowing Nathan Smith was the only surgeon in the United States who had such a successful experience treating osteomyelitis; and the undramatic conjunction between the right man and the right time.