On February 9, 1800, a historic tale of loyalty and brotherhood began. For on this wintry day, in Tunbridge, Vermont, Lucy Mack Smith gave birth to her second son, Hyrum. Hyrum’s younger brother Joseph was born almost six years later. Hyrum didn’t know then that his new brother would one day be a prophet, but he already felt a special concern for little Joseph.
All the Smith children grew up with a rich supply of love—and nearly as much work. School often had to be set aside when too many chores and too little money stood in its way. For a short time, when he was about thirteen, Hyrum was able to attend an academy in Hanover, New Hampshire. But classes there ended abruptly for him when an epidemic of typhus fever broke out, for Hyrum was needed at home to help care for his sick family.
Joseph had come down with the fever, and the infection moved to his leg. Caring for her ailing children had drained Mother Smith until she, too, became ill, and since Hyrum was a trustworthy boy and had uncommon tenderness and sympathy, he was allowed to care for his little brother. Joseph, suffering greatly with the pain in his leg and unable to get around by himself, was moved to a low bed, where Hyrum could sit beside him. Much of each day and night for many days Hyrum sat holding his brother’s affected leg in his hands, pressing it between them to help ease the pain. Hyrum’s loving care undoubtedly helped Joseph recover, and it strengthened the bond between them.
Several years later, when the teenage Joseph related to his family that he’d seen a vision, Hyrum—along with his mother and father—believed the report and began devotedly working to support Joseph in any way that he could. Some older brothers might have grown jealous at the Lord’s choosing a younger brother to lead. Not Hyrum. Never feeling or displaying envy, he continued to offer love and assistance to Joseph throughout his life. Perhaps one of the Lord’s most precious gifts to Joseph was his brother Hyrum.
On many evenings the family gathered near the hearth to be taught by the young prophet. They listened to what the Lord had revealed to Joseph, and to the fascinating tales that he told them about how the ancient Nephites and Lamanites dressed, what their buildings looked like, how they traveled, and what kinds of weapons they used. Hyrum and the other family members were anxious to learn and to assist Joseph in his calling.
Hyrum was baptized by Joseph in 1829; he was one of the eight additional witnesses to the existence of the golden plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated; and he was a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, later being called as Church Patriarch.
As his work for Heavenly Father increased, Joseph relied more and more upon Hyrum. Often he waited to make decisions until he could talk to his older brother and consider his advice. Hyrum also helped solve arguments and problems between people. Joseph once said that if Hyrum couldn’t make peace between two people who were disagreeing, even the angels couldn’t.
And Joseph often expressed love and admiration for his older brother. Once he said, “I pray in my heart that all my brethren were like unto my beloved brother Hyrum.” He then added that they had never rebuked or criticized one another. Few brothers can claim that! Joseph also prayed that Heavenly Father would bless Hyrum for his loyalty.
The brothers seldom separated; their desire to be together continued until the end. Only a few days before Joseph and Hyrum were taken to Carthage, Joseph asked Hyrum to leave, with his family, for Cincinnati, Ohio, where he would be safe. Hyrum rarely refused Joseph’s requests, but on this occasion he did, saying, “Joseph, I can’t leave you.”
Joseph once said about Hyrum, “I love him with that love that is stronger than death.” In the end their love did carry them to death together. On June 27, 1844, while they were being held as prisoners in the Carthage jail, a mob stormed into the building and murdered Hyrum. Seeing his brother fall, Joseph exclaimed, “Oh, dear brother Hyrum!” Then, just minutes later, he, too, fell dead, also a victim of the mob’s gunshots.
The brothers willingly gave everything they had, even their lives, in service to Heavenly Father. They left behind, as precious gifts to us, the results of their work. Among these gifts shines a quiet example of lasting brotherhood.