Joseph F. Smith 1838–1918

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    Shortly after Joseph F. Smith’s birth, a company of men broke into the Smith home. His mother Mary was ill at the time and his father Hyrum was in jail. Ransacking the house, the men entered the room where the baby slept and, without realizing it, threw bedding on top of him. They would have been surprised if they had known a baby was hidden by their actions.

    Everyone was relieved when the men finally left the home. After a few minutes Mary remembered Joseph, and she and her sister Mercy ran to check on him. When they saw what had happened they were fearful the baby had smothered. Fortunately, their frantic efforts to revive him were successful.

    Tragedy continued to follow Joseph F. in his childhood. Before his sixth birthday his father Hyrum and the Prophet Joseph were martyred in Carthage Jail. After his father’s death, Joseph F. helped his mother prepare for the trek west. Not yet ten years old, the boy drove two yoke of oxen from Winter Quarters to the Salt Lake Valley in the summer of 1848, a distance of over 1,000 miles. The journey was made even more difficult for the family since the captain of the train disapproved of Mary traveling without a husband, fearing that she would be a burden. But Mary was determined to ask for no special favors and promised that she would make the trip without his help and be the first to arrive in the valley. With fervent prayer and with the help of her young son, she kept that promise.

    Joseph F. lost his mother at the age of fourteen. Many years later he said. “The strongest anchor in my life, which helped me to hold to every principle, was the love of my dear mother.”

    By the time Joseph F. was fifteen years old, he had had as many experiences as most adults. Just four months after his fifteenth birthday he was called to serve a mission in Hawaii. In his lifetime he served missions for the Church in Hawaii, the United States, and Great Britain, and was also called to be president of the European Mission. At the age of twenty-seven he was ordained an apostle.

    In 1901 Joseph F. became the first president of the Church born of LDS parents. Under his presidency the Church experienced increased prosperity and improved public relations with the world at large.

    Joseph F. Smith was the first president of the Church to visit Europe. When John Ruothoff, a young boy with failing eyesight, discovered that President Smith would be visiting in Holland, he said to his mother, “The Prophet has the most power of any missionary on earth. If you will take me with you to the meeting and he will look into my eyes, I believe they will be healed.”

    After the meeting President Smith lifted John’s bandages, looked into his eyes, blessed him, and promised him that he would see again. Later at home when the bandages were removed the boy cried out, “Mama, my eyes are well; I cannot feel any more pain. I can see fine now, and far too.”

    [illustration] Illustrated by Howard Boughner