Of Goodly Parents


M. Russell Ballard
Taken from a general conference address given October 5, 1991.
You know about Joseph Smith’s great work in the Restoration. But were you aware of the important role his family played?

The ancient prophet Nephi wrote that he was “born of goodly parents” (1 Ne. 1:1). So was the Prophet Joseph Smith; he once declared, “Words and language are inadequate to express the gratitude that I owe to God for having given me so honorable a parentage” (History of the Church, 5:126).

The Lord foreordained his father, Joseph Smith, Sr., who is spoken of in the holy scriptures, to be one of the earthly parents of the Prophet. Joseph of Egypt prophesied that the latter-day seer whom God would raise up to do his work would be “called Joseph” (JST, Gen. 50:33), and his name would “be after the name of his father” (2 Ne. 3:15).

The heavenly messenger Moroni admonished young Joseph to go to his father following a glorious night of sacred instruction. In Joseph’s words, this messenger “commanded me to go to my father and tell him of the vision and commandments which I had received. I obeyed; I returned to my father in the field, and rehearsed the whole matter to him. He replied to me that it was of God, and told me to go and do as commanded by the messenger” (JS—H 1:49–50).

Joseph Smith, Sr., was in tune with the Spirit of the Lord. He knew that his young son spoke the truth. He not only believed the boy’s words but encouraged him in the work he had been called to do.

Joseph, Sr., endured ridicule and persecution because of his prophet son’s experiences and claims. Yet he was unwavering in his loving support and defended his son.

He saw and handled the plates of gold from which the Book of Mormon was translated and testified throughout his life to the truthfulness of that sacred book. His name remained firmly affixed, with those of the other witnesses to the Book of Mormon, in the front pages of that second witness of Jesus Christ. On one occasion he was imprisoned and told he would be released if he would deny the Book of Mormon. Not only did he not deny it, but he converted two persons during his 30-day confinement.

At the time of his death, Joseph Smith, Sr., was described as “a man faithful to his God and to the Church in every situation and under all circumstances through which he was called to pass” (History of the Church, 4:192).

Equally important in shaping and influencing his life was his mother, Lucy Mack Smith. Although this strong woman gave occasional leadership, her primary role appeared to be support to the family. She gave birth to eleven children and endured faithfully as all but four preceded her in death. During her life, she watched three of her children and one grandson die as a result of ruthless mob violence and persecution.

Lucy prepared herself early in her marriage to raise a prophet. On one occasion she became seriously ill, and the doctors said she would die. Lucy records that she “made a solemn covenant with God that if He would let me live I would endeavor to serve him according to the best of my abilities.” After a voice assured her that she would live, she told her mother, “the Lord will let me live, if I am faithful to the promise which I made to him, to be a comfort to my mother, my husband, and my children” (Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith, ed. Preston Nibley, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1979, p. 34).

She gave continual encouragement, support, and strength to her son, Joseph the Prophet. His mother was the first person with whom young Joseph shared some of his momentous experiences of the Sacred Grove. Years later, he shared with her the joy and relief he felt when the Lord allowed others to view the sacred plates of gold. Lucy wrote that “Joseph threw himself down beside me, and exclaimed, … ‘you do not know how happy I am: the Lord has now caused the plates to be shown to three more besides myself. They have seen an angel … and they will have to bear witness to the truth of what I have said, for now they know for themselves, that I do not go about to deceive the people, and I feel as if I was relieved of a burden which was almost too heavy for me to bear” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, p. 152).

Her determination to testify to the restoration of the gospel may have led her to dictate her well-known History of Joseph Smith. This was a major undertaking in her day. The book’s importance to the Church today is immeasurable! It contains many details of the Prophet Joseph’s life that might never have been known otherwise. It stands as a monument to the devotion of Lucy Mack Smith and her family.

Like great parents of all ages, Lucy turned to prayer for divine help to sustain her family. During the march from Ohio to Missouri known as Zion’s Camp, Joseph and Hyrum were seriously ill with cholera, and their lives were almost taken. At one point, “Hyrum sprang to his feet and exclaimed, ‘Joseph, we shall return to our families. I have had an open vision, in which I saw mother kneeling under an apple tree; and she is even now asking God, in tears, to spare our lives. … The Spirit testifies, that her prayers … will be answered’” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, p. 229).

Hyrum Smith, older brother, friend, and mentor to the Prophet, showed absolute, unequivocal love, loyalty, and allegiance to the Lord and to his younger brother, Joseph. Their brotherhood may be unsurpassed. The scriptures tell us, “In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!” (D&C 135:3).

Hyrum was unwavering, even in the face of death. Following one period of great deprivation and persecution, he wrote:

“I thank God that I felt a determination to die, rather than deny the things which my eyes had seen, which my hands had handled [the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated], and which I had borne testimony to, wherever my lot had been cast; and I can assure my beloved brethren that I was enabled to bear as strong a testimony, when nothing but death presented itself, as ever I did in my life” (Times and Seasons, Dec. 1839, p. 23).

Joseph Smith is one of the great, noble ones to come to the earth. He and his brother Hyrum deserve our honor, respect, and gratitude as do other members of their family who assisted with the restoration of the fulness of the gospel.

[illustrations] Joseph Smith, Sr., and Lucy Mack Smith, parents of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr.

[illustration] (Top, left) Joseph Smith, Sr., was in tune with the Spirit of the Lord. He not only believed his son’s words but encouraged him in the work he had been called to do.

[illustration] (Left) Hyrum Smith, older brother and mentor to the Prophet, showed absolute love, loyalty, and allegiance to the Lord and to his younger brother, Joseph.