Little Evaline Burdick sat on the floor of her family’s small log cabin in Kirtland, Ohio. It was wash day, and there were clothes and bedding hanging outside on the line and drying on the lawn. She played happily while her mother tended to the washing.
Evaline saw a tall, handsome man with sandy hair walk up the steps of their front porch and enter the open door of their cabin. He greeted her mother and then picked Evaline up. He held her in his left arm and crossed the room to a large mirror. They both looked in the mirror and smiled at each other. Gently he set her back on the floor and asked where her father was.
When the kind man left the room, Evaline’s mother called her over and told her that the man was Joseph Smith, a true prophet of the Lord. What a good man he was! Evaline would never forget that experience.
The Prophet Joseph Smith loved children. He was never too busy to stop and play with young people, to compliment them on something they had done, or to pick wildflowers for little girls. During the winter, he loved sliding on the ice with his own children and their friends.
Joseph was always willing to help children in need. Once, in Nauvoo, Illinois, Margarette McIntire and her brother Wallace were walking home after a rainstorm. The ground had become very muddy, and the two children became stuck in the mud. Unable to get out, they began to cry. Soon, when they looked up, they saw the Prophet Joseph. He got them to higher ground, wiped the mud off their feet, and took out his handkerchief to wipe away their tears. He spoke kind words to them and sent them home with smiles on their faces.
When wagonloads of grown people and children came in from the countryside for church meetings, Joseph would make his way to the wagons and greet each person. He would pay special attention to the children, taking each of them tenderly by the hand and giving them his blessing.
Once, while Joseph was delivering a sermon in someone’s home, a little girl became tired and sleepy and began to cry. Joseph stopped speaking for a moment, sat down, and motioned for her to come to him. He held her on his lap, patted her, and she went peacefully to sleep while he completed his sermon.
In Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1843, the Prophet saw a young boy, Jesse N. Smith, walk by his home. He called the boy to his side and asked him what book he was reading in school. When Jesse replied, “The Book of Mormon,” Joseph was very happy and took him into the house and gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon for his very own. The boy treasured that gift the rest of his life.
Joseph loved to play a version of baseball with the young boys. He could knock the ball so far that the other players would tell the boy going after it to take his dinner along. Joseph would laugh and go on with the game.
The Prophet Joseph also taught young people the joy of serving others. Once, in Nauvoo, he and some young men were playing ball. When they began to get tired, he stopped the game, called them together, and said, “Let’s build a log cabin.” So off they went, Joseph and the young men, to build a log cabin for a widow.
Joseph understood Jesus’ words when He said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14). Like Jesus, Joseph loved children. And children loved him.