Church Where Joseph Smith’s Ancestors Worshipped Honored

  By Laurie Williams Sowby, Church News contributor

  • 6 June 2013

A combined choir composed of members from the Arlington Ward and Topsfield Congregational Church, together with the Topsfield Congregationalist handbell choir, performed at a program celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Topsfield church.  Photo Courtesy of Nancy Dredge.

Article Highlights

  • Members of the Arlington Ward choir, Cambridge Massachusetts Stake, helped celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Congregational Church of Topsfield, Massachusetts, on May 19.
  • The Prophet Joseph Smith’s ancestors, including his grandfather Asael Smith, worshipped there from 1628 to 1791.
  • Both Congregationalists and Latter-day Saints sang a rendition of “The Spirit of God.”

“I loved the spirit of unity and love that was there that day, that we can be committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and we can celebrate together the things that we have in common.” —Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Cambridge First Ward

TOPSFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS

Members of the Arlington Ward choir, Cambridge Massachusetts Stake, were invited to help celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Congregational Church of Topsfield in a special service May 19. Five generations of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s ancestors, including his grandfather Asael Smith, worshipped at the church in the northeast Massachusetts town from 1628 to 1791. 

Historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich of the Cambridge First Ward spoke about the Smith family’s place in the community during the early years of the Congregational Church. She made special mention of Samuel Smith, Joseph’s great-grandfather, who was heavily involved in the community as town meeting moderator and as a representative to the state legislature.

“I loved the spirit of unity and love that was there that day, that we can be committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and we can celebrate together the things that we have in common,” Sister Thatcher Ulrich said in an interview about the anniversary celebration. “There was a sense of what we have in common, which I think is a lovely way to approach this. Not an emphasis on difference, but an emphasis on a shared commitment to God and a shared commitment to love and community and family.”

Margaret Moore, Arlington Ward choir director, led the combined choirs in “Oh, What Songs of the Heart,” and “Oh Lord, I Would Hear Thy Word.” In addition, Bart Dahlstrom, music director of the Topsfield church, performed Bach’s Toccata in D Minor on the organ, and the Topsfield Congregationalist Church handbell choir played Pachelbel’s “Canon.” The congregation, made up of both Congregationalists and Latter-day Saints, joined in for a rousing rendition of “The Spirit of God.”

The Topsfield Congregational Church in northeast Massachusetts, where five generations of the Smith family worshipped, recently celebrated its 350th anniversary.

“It was friendly and fun,” said Bishop Charles Dredge of the Arlington Ward. “The program was beautifully constructed.”

Mr. Dahlstrom felt similarly.

Plaque on the grounds of the Congregational Church explains the Smith family’s connection to Topsfield.

“We were delighted to collaborate with the Arlington Ward choir,” Mr. Dahlstrom said. “This event was a tribute to all the people who have worshipped at our church over the centuries. We were so happy to have a representation of Mormons to connect us with the Smith family and their influence in the church and in the town.”

Choir members were enthusiastic about singing together, and the Congregational singers requested a future joint concert at the LDS meetinghouse in Arlington.