A great, great granddaughter of Joseph and Emma Smith takes us on her journey from animosity and fear of the Church to conversion.
I would like to share with you my journey to find my great-great grandparents Joseph and Emma Smith. When I was young my mother taught me about Heavenly Father, the Savior, and the Holy Ghost. This foundation was integral throughout my childhood as I encountered many trials and traumas which could have taken me down dark and lowly paths were it not for this knowledge she gave me. It also prepared me for the introduction to my great-great grandparents Joseph and Emma Smith, two individuals I was not aware of until age twelve.
I was born August 7, 1962 in Maryville, Tennessee to Joseph Frederick Smith and Mary Sue Roberts Smith. By the time I was twelve years old we had moved nearly forty times. Yet my heart was always filled with cherished memories of the Smoky Mountains and our mountain people who lived there. My Pappaw Roberts was part Cherokee and a spiritual giant. I remember he always seemed so grand to me. He was a good man who was always searching for spiritual truths and taught my mother the same. His example of following the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all things was something that my mother relied on for strength and comfort, for she suffered much physical abuse at the hands of her mother who suffered from a depressive illness.
At the age of nineteen, Mother married my father, Joseph Frederick Smith. My father is a man of many talents, especially music, excelling in the style of Bluegrass. He passed that love of music on to his children, teaching us all how to sing and harmonize. Wherever we lived, Dad would take part in bluegrass parties or “jam” sessions. We loved performing with him and this love of music carried down to my own children.
When I was nine years old living in Oregon, I was abused by a neighbor. After this experience I was debilitated in every way. I stopped singing. I would not do anything in public. I would take zeros in school rather than give an oral report. I looked down when I walked; I would not look people in the face.
My self-image suffered severely; I hated myself. I thought I was ugly and stupid. This destructive thought process drained me to the point I had no energy. I withdrew to my room. I became lost in writing, reading, and music; food became my best friend. The more I hated myself, the more I ate. Food was my only joy aside from music and reading. I was made fun of at school and did not have the inner strength and confidence to let the remarks roll of my back or throw a comeback comment their way and laugh it off. Every comment rang like truth within my heart and it eroded my spirit.
There is one thing I did not forget. The example of my mother’s devotion to Heavenly Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost showed me that I would always have three friends who loved me no matter what, and I leaned on that. Whenever I felt alone, I talked to Jesus like he was my best friend sitting right beside me. Though I heard no reply, I felt His presence, and I knew He heard me. Knowing that I had those connections kept me grounded and helped me to refrain from unhealthy activities that some victims turn to such as; drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity. There was something in me that just did not want to cross those lines.
In 1973 I bought an album by the Osmonds called “The Plan.” This purchase would change my life. I can still picture pulling the album out of the sleeve and putting the record on. The music began to play. As the album cover fell open into the palms of my hands, my mind was opened to something I had never seen before. It was my first introduction to the Plan of Salvation. As I looked at the visual images of pre-mortal life, childhood, eternal marriage, and returning home, I heard the words “Let me take care of you and keep an eye on you....”
I looked at the record as it was playing, and then at the illustrations before me, realizing that this album was completely different. This was not “Puppy Love”, or “One Bad Apple.” The moment left me feeling removed from everything while I tried to sort out what I was experiencing. I was very aware of a presence that was both comforting and enlightening. However, there was a struggle within me that I did not understand; I felt compelled to keep the experience to myself, especially from my father. Such emotions were confusing to me. I had always loved my father a great deal and could not understand why I felt impressed to keep this music to myself. So I followed my feelings, absorbing the music and this desire to know more, in silence. In the future I would learn the reason for caution.
One day I was listening to the song “Are You up There?” My father walked past my room pausing beyond my bedroom door. He made a negative comment that I do not recall. I knew he did not care for The Osmonds because their hair was too long for his taste, so he thought they were hippies. I was moved to ask him that day why he didn't like them. I will never forget the look on his face as he replied, "They are Mormons.” I had never seen such a look on his face before. His countenance
Two months after this experience we traveled to Ava, Missouri to visit my Grandma Smith. She lived in a log cabin on a hill nestled in the rich and lush foliage of the Ozark Mountains. On this particular visit, I walked into the living room of the cabin, which led into a small sitting room and sat down. As I rested my head against the cushioned back of the couch, my eyes fell on two portraits hanging side by side on the wall before me.
It is hard to describe the feeling I had at that moment except to say that for a brief period it seemed as if time stood still. My hearing did not pick up audible sounds around me. I felt as if there was no one else on earth except me and those two portraits. My attention was first drawn to the man in the portrait which hung on the left; the familiarity was deep and instant. The gentle, fair complexioned face housed eyes that seemed to hold stories in their backdrop hues of gray and piercing blue; knowledge in a face so fair, a history that spoke volumes which reached out and embraced me in unknown depths.