Samuel Smith, the first missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and brother of the Church’s first President, the Prophet Joseph Smith, was born 200 years ago, on March 13, 1808.
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a descendant of Hyrum Smith, a brother of Samuel and Joseph, spoke at a devotional in March in the Salt Lake Tabernacle about the first missionary’s legacy.
“Since Samuel’s first missionary service,” said Elder Ballard, “the Church has called over one million missionaries to serve in 348 missions. [They are] now teaching the gospel in 176 nations and in 164 languages and dialects.”
Elder Ballard said that while Samuel Smith did not bring any new members into the Church during his first mission, in New England, his giving copies of the Book of Mormon to those he met led to the subsequent conversion of Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and their families.
Samuel introduced Oliver Cowdery to the Prophet Joseph, and Oliver became a close friend and scribe to the Church’s first President as well as a fellow leader. After Joseph and Oliver were baptized in 1829, Samuel Smith was the third person baptized a member the Church.
For a time Samuel also served as scribe during the translation process of the Book of Mormon. He was one of the original six members of the Church when it was formally organized on April 6, 1830, and was one of the Eight Witnesses to the Book of Mormon. Those witnesses all stated that they saw and handled the gold plates.
While several others did missionary work before Samuel Smith’s missions, such as Thomas B. Marsh, Solomon Chamberlain, and other members of Samuel’s family, Samuel was the first to undertake a formal missionary assignment after the Church was organized. His missionary journeys between 1830 and 1833 covered more than 4,000 miles (6,400 km).
Samuel died in Nauvoo, Illinois, 33 days after his brothers Joseph and Hyrum were killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois. The illness that caused his death was a result of his exertions to escape the mob while trying to go to the aid of Joseph and Hyrum.