Author: Reynolds, Sydney Smith
Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith, parents of the Prophet Joseph Smith, were married in Tunbridge, Vermont, in 1796. Joseph, Sr., worked as a cooper, shopkeeper, schoolteacher, farmer, and laborer to provide for a growing family. Accounts of these years describe hard work, severe economic reversals, and strong family loyalty. Both parents were dissatisfied with the religions of their time, but family members believed in God, prayed, read the Bible, and were concerned about the salvation of their souls.
After the failure of a number of business and farming ventures, they moved to the village of Palmyra, New York, in 1816, near which Joseph Smith, Jr., experienced his early visions (see Visions of Joseph Smith). From the beginning, the Smith family supported young Joseph's claim to angelic visitations and prophetic power. Nine children grew to adulthood (a first son was stillborn; another, Ephraim, died shortly after birth in 1810), and all were loyal to their belief in their brother Joseph's divine mission.
Alvin (1798-1823), the oldest son, was a great strength to his family as he cleared land and worked to build a house for the family in Manchester. He died in November 1823 of an overdose of calomel prescribed for a stomach ailment. On his deathbed Alvin encouraged the seventeen-year-old Joseph to "be a good boy, and do everything that lies in your power to obtain the Record," referring to the Book of Mormon plates (Smith, p. 87). In an 1836 vision, Joseph saw Alvin in the Celestial Kingdom (D&C 137).
The Smiths participated in the early events of the restoration and followed young Joseph first to Ohio and then to Missouri and Illinois, suffering hardship and persecution, but continuing faithful. Don Carlos Smith (1816-1841), the youngest brother, was president of the high priests at Kirtland and Nauvoo and an editor of the Times and Seasons. He died in August 1841 at the age of twenty-five.
The close relationship of Hyrum Smith (1800-1844) and his younger brother Joseph is a prominent theme in the History of the Church. John Taylor declared of them, "In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!" (D&C 135:3). Hyrum became Second Counselor in the First Presidency and was named patriarch and assistant Church President in 1841. He married Jerusha Barden in 1826, and after her death in 1837 he married Mary Fielding (see Smith, Mary Fielding). He was the father of eight children and was assassinated with Joseph at Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844.
Samuel Harrison Smith (1808-1844) was the first missionary in the Church. Along with Hyrum and his father, Joseph, Sr., he was one of the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon. He married Mary Bailey and, after her death, Levira Clark. Upon hearing of the danger to his brothers at Carthage, Samuel attempted to ride to their aid, but was fired upon and chased away by the mob. He eluded his pursuers with hard riding, but arrived too late to intervene. He died within the month, apparently of an injury sustained in that ride. Samuel's family went west with the Saints, as did the family of Hyrum Smith.
William Smith (1811-1893) was the only brother in the family to survive the Nauvoo period. He became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1835 and Church Patriarch after the death of his brother Hyrum in 1844. Unwilling to accept the leadership of the Twelve over the Church after the death of Joseph, he was excommunicated in 1845. He may have been a pivotal influence in the decision of the Smith sisters and their mother to remain in Illinois after the main body of the Church moved west. He vigorously encouraged Mary Fielding Smith and Hyrum's children to remain in the area, but they chose to follow Brigham Young and the Twelve. William joined the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1878.
The three sisters in the Smith family were Sophronia, Catherine, and Lucy. Sophronia (1803-1876) married Calvin Stoddard in 1828 and bore him two daughters. After Calvin's death in 1836, she married William McCleary. Their temple endowments are recorded after Joseph and Hyrum's martyrdom, which indicates that they were in harmony with Church leadership at that time, but they did not go west with the Saints.
Catherine (1813-1900) fulfilled her father's blessing that she would live to a good old age. She married Wilkins Jenkins Salisbury in 1831, and they were the parents of eight children. After his death in 1856, she remained in Hancock County, Illinois, a prominent member of the community.
Lucy (1821-1882), the youngest, was especially beloved by all the family. She married Arthur Millikin when almost nineteen and became a welcome support to her mother, who lived with the couple for seven years after the death of Joseph, Sr. Lucy stayed in Illinois and with her sisters joined the RLDS Church in 1873. The sisters maintained cordial relationships with their Utah relatives throughout their lives.