Shortly after Joseph F. Smith’s birth, a group 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 sheets and blankets 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 a wagon and four oxen from Winter Quarters to the Salt Lake Valley in the summer of 1848, a distance of over 1,600 kilometers. The journey was made even more difficult for the family since Mary had promised to ask for no special favors and that she would make the trip without anyone else’s help, yet be the first to arrive in the valley.
Joseph 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. 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 he became the first president of the Church born of LDS parents. When John Ruothoff, a young boy from Holland with failing eyesight, discovered that President Smith would be visiting in his country, 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.”