Joseph’s Family


M. Russell Ballard
From an October 1991 general conference address.
We should show honor, respect, and gratitude to the Prophet Joseph Smith and his family for the roles they played in restoring the fulness of the gospel.

Each person who has a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ should love and appreciate Joseph Smith Jr., for he is “the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, [who] has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it” (D&C 135:3).

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.” 1

The Prophet’s Father

The Lord foreordained his father, Joseph Smith Sr. 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” (Joseph Smith Translation, 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 remains 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.” 2

Just a few months following his passing from this life, the Lord revealed that Joseph Smith Sr. was in His presence, and “blessed and holy is he, for he is mine” (D&C 124:19). Indeed, Joseph Smith Sr. played a vital role in establishing the kingdom of God upon the earth.

The Prophet’s Mother

Perhaps less visible than the Prophet’s father, but equally important in shaping and influencing his life, was his mother, Lucy Mack Smith. She gave birth to 11 children and endured faithfully as all but 4 preceded her in death. During her life, she watched six of her immediate family and one grandson die as a result of ruthless mob violence and persecution.

Early in her marriage, Lucy prepared herself 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.” 3

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. 4

The Prophet’s mother shared also in his sorrows, sufferings, and persecutions. One time a mob took Joseph and his brother Hyrum prisoner and threatened to shoot them. The two brothers were confined under a cloth cover in a wagon. Their courageous mother risked her life and forced her way through the hostile mob to comfort her sons. Joseph and Hyrum could not see their mother and could only extend a hand from under the confining cover. As Lucy’s hand and the hands of her sons touched, the wagon drove off, literally tearing the sorrowing mother from her two sons.

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.’” 5

Lucy’s sons Joseph and Hyrum ultimately sealed their testimonies with their blood. As the grieving mother looked upon their lifeless remains, she cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken this family!” As a kind blessing to a faithful mother, the Lord softened her grief and granted to her the peace that only God can bestow. A voice spoke to her soul: “I have taken them to myself, that they might have rest.” 6

The Prophet’s Brother Hyrum

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).

Throughout Hyrum’s life, he guarded his younger brother as tenderly as if the Prophet had been his own son. Joseph surely knew the value of true and faithful associates because he had trusted many who later proved to be false.

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.” 7

From the Prophet Joseph and Hyrum, we can learn many valuable lessons. While standing in Nauvoo at the foot of the headstone of these noble men, I had the impression that they would have me counsel all members of the Church to remain anchored to the basic and simple principles of the gospel. Study the scriptures, look to the leaders of the Church for guidance in these troubled times. Be careful of the schisms, divisions, and contentions that are among us today. Keep the commandments so the Holy Ghost will be with you in your search for truth and knowledge.

I bear humble witness that 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. Jesus, our Lord and Savior, stands at the head of the Church. Our Heavenly Father lives and watches over each of His children. To this I humbly testify.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Paul Mann

[illustration] Despite persecution against his son, Joseph Smith Sr. not only believed young Joseph’s words, he encouraged Joseph in the work he was called to do.

[illustrations] The Prophet’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, gave continual support and strength to her son. She was the first person with whom Joseph shared his experience in the Sacred Grove. Lucy also faced a hostile mob, giving comfort to Joseph and Hyrum when all she could see were their hands.

Show References

    Notes

  1.   1.

    History of the Church, 5:126.

  2.   2.

    History of the Church, 4:192.

  3.   3.

    History of Joseph Smith, by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith, ed. Preston Nibley, 1979, 34.

  4.   4.

    See History of Joseph Smith, 152.

  5.   5.

    See History of Joseph Smith, 229.

  6.   6.

    See History of Joseph Smith, 324.

  7.   7.

    Times and Seasons, Dec. 1839, 23.