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Monday, March 14 2011

Missionary Moment: The Michael Kennedy Conversion Story (Third Great Grandson of Joseph Smith)

By Mike Kennedy Notify me when this author publishesComment on Article
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“Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, 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).  I used to wonder in my early days of membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, since Joseph Smith has done so much for the salvation of men in this world and taught such doctrine about the eternal preservation of the family, why he did not have all of his own family sealed to him?

Albright_Kennedy1portrait

Joseph Smith and his beloved wife, Emma, saw a terrifying revelation, given five years before, come true at Carthage in a most horrifying way, severely impacting his family: “If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? And if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb…” (D&C 122:6).

It makes sense that a loving God would have a plan that would recover the family of Joseph and Emma, honor the sacrifices made, and fulfill Joseph’s petition that his family would come to “be converted and redeemed with Israel, and know that thou art God” (D&C 109:70).  I did not know then that the Lord did have a plan, nor that I would be a big part of that effort.

My name is Michael Allan Kennedy, and I was raised in a small mining town in central Nevada. Tonopah is located about halfway between Las Vegas or Reno, a bit over a four hour drive in either direction.  In addition to mining, Tonopah relies on government operations such as the Tonopah Test Range for Nuclear Testing, bombing operations for the new F-117 Nighthawk, and Area 51, which is nearby.  The military likes isolation and Tonopah is isolated. 

In my growing years, I was also isolated from both the LDS and the RLDS churches.  I never heard of either church or even the word “Mormon”. The first time I heard “LDS” I thought it was some discussion about “LSD”.  Joseph Smith was never part of any of our family discussions during my life until about halfway through my junior year in high school.  My mother and father did not participate in any formal religious organization, but we were raised understanding and believing in a divine supreme being and were raised with confidence that such a being did exist.

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During a cold wintery afternoon in my American history class, Miss Glass, our teacher, felt her students would have a greater appreciation for the development of our country if we knew, in addition to the founding fathers and other historical characters, how our own ancestors were involved in the development of our nation.  By the end of the class period we received an assignment to research during the next two weeks our own family history.  Using our research we were to create a pedigree chart, select someone from that chart, and prepare both a written and an oral report on that ancestor.  This report was to show how this person, by our own interpretation, helped with the development of America. 

Taking this assignment home I asked my father for some help.  He told me there were three individuals he felt had something to do with American history in our family lines and named them off:  Orville and Wilber Wright, Jonathan Swift, and some ambiguous person by the name of Joseph Smith.”  I asked my dad who he was, and was informed, “He is the founder of the Mormons!” 

“Who are they?” I asked.  “The Mormons founded Utah,” said my dad.  Well, that sounded very “American History” to me so I selected him.  My dad left the room indicating he would be right back with the help I needed.  Within a few minutes he returned with a box and told me that everything I needed to complete my assignment I would find in this box.

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My father told me that he grew up never really knowing his family.  He explained that his father, Roger Alexander Kennedy, was killed about a year after he was born and he was raised by a step father who was very abusive.  Sometime after my father turned 17, he joined the Army which required a birth certificate.  That was when my father first learned that the man he called father was not really his father:  “I was raised with the name Roger Allan Butler and never liked the name Roger so all my friends called me Al Butler.”  My father started in the military with that name and during his service in the Korean War it was changed to R. Allan Kennedy.

The military shipped my father off to serve in the Korean War. Dad told me of several unique experiences during the War when he felt a higher power watching out for him and preserving him.   Because of these experiences he felt he wanted to know a little more about his true heritage, so he contacted his favorite aunt, Glenna Henderson, who lived in Independence, Missouri.    At the end of the war after my father was discharged, he visited with Aunt Glenna, and she gave him this box of records.

After explaining, my father left the room and I took the box over to the table and began

going through its contents by sorting it on the table.  I pulled out a picture of Emma Hale Smith, wife of the Prophet, then another one of Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph’s mother.  I also found a journal of Alexander Hale Smith, Joseph’s son, and other documents and artifacts.  As I was extracting the material from the box, the doorbell rang. Being the closest to the door, I answered it.

At the door were two young gentlemen, slightly older than me, well-dressed, with name tags indicating that they both had the same first name, “Elder”.  One of them said, “Hello, I’m Elder Archibald, and we have a message for the head of the household.”  I brought them in and called for my dad.

As we were waiting for my father to arrive, these young men glanced at the artifacts on the table and noticed the pictures.  The two elders stared at each other for about a minute and then Elder Scott asked me what these items were. I told them that I was working on a school homework assignment involving one of our ancestors, whose name was Joseph Smith, and who founded the Mormon Church.

How was I to know that the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” which was on their name tags and “the Mormons” were the same thing!  It was obvious these young men were very excited.


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