The twenty-third of December is an important birth date to remember, for it was on that day in 1805 that the Prophet Joseph Smith was born.
The Prophet loved children and they loved him. He would often go out of his way to speak to a child. One boy recalled that when families drove from their farms into Kirtland to attend church meetings, the Prophet would go from wagon to wagon, seeking out the children to whom he gave special greetings.
They called the Prophet “Brother Joseph,” and he always had a smile for them. Once a group of children were playing in a home where the Prophet was hiding from wicked men who wanted to kill him. They overheard the older people tell of the Prophet’s danger, and one seven-year-old girl said, “I know what we can do. We can pray and ask our Father in heaven to keep Brother Joseph safe from harm.”
A few minutes later the Prophet went past a bedroom door in time to see the children kneeling together and to hear their simple prayer for his safety. Tears filled his eyes and then rolled down his cheeks. As the children rose from their knees, one of them said, “Now I know Brother Joseph will be safe.”
Then the Prophet returned to the room where his older friends had come to guard him through the night. He told them that they could go to their own homes, for he knew that prayers of children are heard and answered and that he could sleep in peace that night. And he did!
Here is what some of the children who knew and loved Brother Joseph wrote about him:
Margaret M. Burgess
The Prophet Joseph Smith was our neighbor. We lived next to him on the corner of Main and Parley streets. He came to our house quite often for short visits.
One day my older brother, Wallace, and I were on our way to school. It had been raining the previous day and the ground was very muddy, especially along the street on which the building known as Joseph’s brick store was. Wallace and I both got stuck fast in the mud and could not get out. And, childlike, we began to cry. Looking up, I beheld the loving friend of children, the Prophet Joseph, coming toward us. He soon had us on higher and drier ground. Then he stooped down and cleaned the mud from our little heavy-laden shoes, took his handkerchief from his pocket, and wiped our tearstained faces. He spoke kind and cheering words to us and sent us on our way to school rejoicing. You can see why Wallace and I loved him.
Years later my husband told me that when he was a child, Brother Joseph went to their home and asked if he could borrow one of his mother’s twin babies. He explained that his wife Emma had been sad and lonely since her own baby had died, and he thought it would comfort her take care of one of the girls. The Prophet picked up the baby in the morning and brought her back each night.
One evening when the baby was not home at the usual time, Mother Burgess went to see what was the matter. There was the Prophet rocking the little baby by the fire. He had her wrapped in a silk quilt, and he was singing to get her quiet.
Mary Alice Lambert
I was fourteen when I first saw the Prophet. I knew him the instant my eyes rested upon him, and at that moment I received my testimony that he was a prophet of God, for I never had such a feeling as thrilled my being. He was not pointed out to me. I knew him from all the other men, and, child that I was, I knew I saw a prophet of God.
John W. Hess
I was fourteen years old when the Prophet came to stay at our home. During the thirteen days he was with us, I learned to love him more dearly than any other person I ever met, including my mother and father.
Mary Jane Lytle
I knew the Prophet Joseph Smith. Many times when we were out on the playground at school, he would stop and talk with us. He always shook hands with the girls and played marbles with the boys. He was a great favorite among the children.
Jesse N. Smith
I knew the Prophet. While I was nine, I attended a school kept by a Miss Mitchell in his brother Hyrum’s brick office.
I was passing the Prophet’s house one morning when he called me to him and asked what book I read at school. I replied, “The Book of Mormon.” He seemed pleased. Taking me into the house, he then gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon to use at school. It was a gift I greatly prized.