Joseph F. Smith Remembers His Father


Sometimes the memories we have of events that happened when we were young are happy, and sometimes they are not. But it is important to keep a record of these events in a journal, just as Joseph F. Smith did, so that they will never be forgotten and so that we can learn from them.

1 Joseph F. Smith, sixth President of the Church, was the son of Hyrum Smith. Although the Saints loved his father—and this knowledge brought Joseph F. much happiness—Hyrum was also hated and persecuted by many who did not believe the Church was true.

2 Joseph F. never forgot one happy occasion when he sat on the knee of the Prophet Joseph Smith, brother of Hyrum. Joseph F. was only five years old and was playing on the bank of the Mississippi River when his father and his Uncle Joseph crossed the river on their way home to prepare to go to Carthage.

3 When they landed, little Joseph F. took his father’s hand, and they went with the Prophet to Hyrum’s house. There, while Hyrum was shaving, the Prophet took Joseph F. on his knee and said to his brother, “Hyrum, what’s the matter with Joseph; he seems so white?”

“Oh,” answered Hyrum, joking about the poverty of the family, “he lives on skim milk.”

4 Joseph F. always remembered the anguish he felt the last time he saw his father. He wrote, “Without getting off his horse, Father leaned over in his saddle and picked me up off the ground. He kissed me good-bye and put me down again, and I saw him ride away.” Several days passed before five-year-old Joseph F. and his mother, Mary Fielding Smith, had any news of Hyrum.

5 Then the tragic night came. Joseph F. later wrote, “I remember the night of the murder … when one of the brethren came from Carthage and knocked on Mother’s window after dark and, with a trembling voice, called to my mother, ‘Sister Smith, your husband has been killed.’”

6 Joseph F. always remembered the fear he felt that night as he lay in his bed listening to his mother crying.

7 Soon after Hyrum’s death, the family began making preparations to go west. With his father gone, Joseph F. assumed responsibility for helping his mother all he could. Not yet ten years of age, Joseph F. drove the oxen the entire distance from Winter Quarters to the Salt Lake Valley—over a thousand miles—in the summer of 1848.

8 This journey proved to be an extra hardship because the captain of their group was against Mary Fielding Smith and her family going on the arduous journey without a father to take care of their needs. He told Mary that she and her children would be a burden to the rest of the company. But Mary told the captain that she would ask no special favors, would make the trip without his help, and would even beat him to the valley! She kept her word, with much help from her young son, Joseph F., the future prophet.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Grant Wilson