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Scot and Maurine Proctor
Friday, August 09 2013

Why Prophets Have Prayed for Joseph Smith's Posterity

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Text is by Maurine Proctor. Photos by Scot Facer Proctor

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In some ways the Lucy Mack/Joseph Smith Sr. reunion held this year the first weekend in August was like most of our family reunions—only super-sized. More than 1,000 people registered and joined together for three days. They came from 19 states as well as Canada, Australia and Romania. While they ate coleslaw and watermelon just like the rest of us at our reunions, they also took over “This is the Place” Heritage Park for a day and had reserved seating for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Spoken Word broadcast.

They almost reached the record for having the world’s biggest family reunion.

Their ancestors’ names—Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Lucy Mack Smith, Mary Fielding, Samuel Smith—live in us as Church members. We can feel them in our own belief DNA, a sort of resonance in our souls. Their stories reside in us, woven like a golden thread through our spiritual sensibilities.

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For those who gathered at this reunion, however, the Smiths are actually in their DNA, and you can’t help looking longer at some faces that seem to resemble Joseph, catch a face shape or nose that seems familiar, see some leadership energy that reminds you of the prophet.

The prophet had pled for his family in these words:

"O God, let the residue of my father's house...ever come up in remembrance before thee and stand virtuous and pure in thy presence, that thou mayest save them from the hand of the oppressor, and establish their feet upon the rock of ages, that they may have place in thy house and be saved in thy kingdom, even where God, and Christ is, and let all these things be as I have said, for Christ's sake. Amen - Joseph Smith Jr.

As it turns out he had great reason for concern. When Joseph and Hyrum were martyred at Carthage and Brigham led the Latter-day Saints west, the family was splintered. A shattered Emma stayed behind with her children in a hostile environment, including her son Joseph Smith III. He later formed a new church, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Lucy Mack, now widowed and in precarious health, stayed with Emma. Samuel had died 33 days after the martyrdom from injuries sustained when he went to warn his brothers.

Joseph’s other male siblings had all died, except for William who had been excommunicated. His sisters stayed behind with their families.

Samuel’s widow, Levira Clark Smith came West in 1851. Don Carlos’s widow Agnes Coolbrith Smith came West and then went on to California. Hyrum’s widow, Mary Fielding Smith, came to Utah with his children.

Do you Remember Who You Are?

It was a scattered family, no longer united in religion or united with each other. Over time, many of them would forget their origins. They would forget who they were. If you asked some of them who Joseph Smith was, they had no idea of his significance.

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Kenny Duke, a descendent of Catharine, Joseph Smith’s sister, said, “I never knew about Joseph Smith at all until my teenage years. One day my uncle, who was a bulldozer operator, asked, do you know who you are? Teenagers know everything, but I didn't know how to answer that question. He was well-versed in the family. He was an official in the RLDS church. He was a pastor in the church in Carthage. He said, “I want to take you and introduce you to your relatives.”

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For Kim Smith, a direct descendent of Joseph Smith, it was worse. She said, “Growing up in my dad’s family, I saw animosity. I didn’t know my cousins who lived 15 miles down the road. I couldn’t figure out why we were so separated on so many issues. My mom taught me about Christ, but this didn’t seem like Christ like love.”

Kim’s first acquaintance with Joseph and Emma Smith was seeing their pictures in her grandmother’s house and feeling uncommonly drawn to them—as if she knew them and loved them, but she didn’t know who they were. As she learned, she was also indoctrinated with misunderstandings and some outright lies about who Brigham Young was. She was taught that Brigham Young had plotted the murder of Joseph Smith, that he had conspired to render Emma destitute.

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These were hard prejudices to overcome, ground into the heart of an impressionable youngster, even in the face of facts to the contrary. Yet, Kim, eager to heal her family, began to research the issues that separated them, where the splits and contention came from, and it became her desire to help them heal. She gained a testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was baptized.

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Michael Kennedy, a third great grandson of Joseph Smith and the first one in the family to hold the Melchizedek priesthood, had never heard of Joseph, until one day in his little high school in Tonopah, Nevada, the teacher gave an assignment. They were supposed to write about someone in their family history.

Michael said, “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!’

His father left the room and came back with a big box and told Michael that everything he needed was in that box. “My father told me that he grew up never really knowing his family.” 

For some of Joseph’s posterity, the loss of knowledge corresponded with distance. Some of Joseph Smith’s posterity moved to Australia, and 1/3 of his down line are there now.

Then, of course, there was a direct line of Smiths who led the RLDS church until 1995 when a non-descendent was appointed. The RLDS would change their name to the Community of Christ and begin to distance themselves from Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.

Joseph Fielding Smith’s Prayers

What do you do about a family so divided as Lucy Mack Smith and Joseph Smith Sr.


27 Comments

  1. This brings tears of gratitude for all that Joseph and Emma have done for the restoration of the Gospel. I am so glad for their family and am so happy that many now have a testimony of their work.
  2. I loved this story. How beautiful!
  3. This is a brilliantly written article and extremely inspiring! Thank you for sharing it.
  4. I wept as I read this article. What a wonderful blessing it is for all of us to know our history. And perhaps even more so for the Smith family as many have lost the knowledge of the Restoration. I feel that knowing our ancestors helps us to look to their example and gives us greater abilty to endure well the trials that come into our own lives.
  5. Maurine and Scot, Greetings, dear friends! This is a beautifully written, moving article--as well as informative. Thank you so much, and congratulations on the many years and contributions of Meridian. Love, Sue Blunt
  6. Thanks for your coverage of the family reunion. As a life long member of Community of Christ (5th generation), I'd like to clarify that we have not "distanced" ourselves from the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith is the founding prophet of our church and is held in that regard. The Book of Mormon is one of our books of scripture just as the Bible and Doctrine and Covenants are as well.
  7. To the Proctors...........Thanks so much for publishing this very interesting and moving account of Joseph Smith's family and descendants. Here in SAfrica we don't hear much about "Our heritage"as members of the Church, and I personally regard this account as important because it has strengthened my testimony of Joseph. and Hyrum. Please continue with the marvellous work you are doing, love and best wishes, rex
  8. Hi Maureen, What great work you and Scot are doing. This is a great article. Yo write so well. I have one suggestion. Wouldn't it be more accurate to write, "Joseph Smith III was invited become the president ot the RDLS Church and he accepted," instead of "He formed a church?" Best wishes, Wade
  9. Thank you so much for this article. Here lately I have been wondering about Joseph Smith's family and what had become of them. This is so timely for me! I loved reading about this remarkable family.
  10. OK, so I cried! What a great article! I have followed this for years and love the updates! I often have tried to research the Smith siblings on the internet...great news! I love it!
  11. Everytime I read or hear the story, it brings tears to my eyes. I am sure that the prophet rejoices in seeing his family coming closer together all the time. Joseph has given the world something to live by and for and whoever wants to find the truth, can have a testimony about the restoration. I had some very sacred experiences and witnessing by the Spirit about the gospel and I will always be thankful to this prophet of the restoration and for everything his family did to stand by him. Erika, TX
  12. Publish more of these stories.
  13. I have been following the activities of this family ever since I read the first article by Gracia Jones about her great-great-grandmother, Emma Smith; then learned about Michael and Darcie Kennedy's meeting and efforts to bring the Smith family together. What an example they are to all of us to gather our ancestors together.
  14. Wow. What a wonderful article. I am just impressed with the binding that can occur between families. The Smith family is not so different from your family or my family. Greatness flows in our blood as we accept and further the work of the Lord, Jesus Christ. The turning of the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers is not limited to any one family. It is a promise to us all. GREAT ARTICLE.
  15. My heart breaks for the sufferings of the Joseph Smith Jr. family, but rejoices in their gathering and in the efforts made by so many to bring them together and to the truth. My love to Gracia and Ivor Jones and to the Hyrum Smith family. I am a descendant of Silas Smith, brother of Joseph Smith Sr.
  16. Wonderful, wonderful article!
  17. As I read this article, I wept. What a joy to hear that they are seeking out their family. I have a friend Miriam, who is Hyrum's Great. Great, Granddaughter (I hope I have enough greats). Her father just die this spring, he was 106 and the church Patriarch. They are truly a jewel in Josephs family tree. Miriam is truly a lovely, good lady. This has inspired me to get busy and get my family together. When I was little my mother's and father's families would have reunions every summer. What great memories I still have from those experiences. I think knowing your Aunts, Uncles, and cousins was a wonderful way to grow up and see how they lived their lives and it was an inspiration to the young. Know we are so scattered and divided from each other. Thank you for this wonderful article. I don't usually respond like this but this pulled at my heart strings. Patricia Johnson
  18. I was born into a family of descendents of LDS pioneers who loved and believed in Joseph Smith and the church he founded. It the age of 15, had an encounter with Joseph Smith in a dream that changed my heart and eventually the course of my life. I loved Joseph Smith then and I love him now. I think often of his descendents and pray for them to be restored to their rightful place in this great work of the Restoration of All Things pertaining to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God in these latter days. .
  19. I feel for the family in Australia, that can't travel to the States for the reunion, because I am in Europe and can't travel to the States for my family's reunion this year! I am seeing family on this side of the ocean though;-) Are they going to start having an Australian reunion too? After all, 1/3 is quite enough on it's own!
  20. This was a very interesting article, but you didn't identify the people you mentioned in the article or label your pictures--and that disturbed me. I wanted to know who they were, and how they fit into the family.
  21. What a wonderful article! I am so happy to hear of the gathering of the Smiths! Joseph and Hyrum must be so proud of their descendants! I hope the descendants of the splintered groups have their hearts softened.
  22. THANK YOU! Maurine for a most significant article about events that most of us would never have known of otherwise. Reading the story about Joseph F Smith and Preston Nibley in particular certainly bridged the gap between Joseph and Hyrum's day and ours.
  23. Good article. I am of the understanding that the descendents of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young have bridged or attempted to bridge the discord that has divided them for so long. The article mentions a division and hard feelings but did not resolve the matter. Perhaps some research and a story on this subject would be of interest.
  24. Thank you for writing this article and posting it. As a direct descendant of Frederick G. Williams, one of the prophet's best friends, I am further inspired to further the cause of our own family's genealogy. We do, indeed, have a great heritage and we owe it to these pioneers of faith and time to live up to their teachings, their examples, their sacrifices, and their love. I hope we can all make them proud and help others come more fully unto Christ by doing so. Fabulous article! What joy the prophet Joseph must feel!
  25. A moving article. So glad this has come together
  26. Loved this article! Have heard Gracia Jones speak - what a testimony! Am excited to keep going on my own family sealings! Mahalo!
  27. Dear Brother and Sister Proctor, I was just recently impressed to pick up, yet again, the beautiful book you re-edited and published "The Revised and Enhanced History Of Joseph Smith by His Mother." I love this book and am looking forward to a third reading! A very dear and lifelong friend of mine and I were just discussing how very valuable this book is and how we both agreed that it is the most touching and honest look at the Prophet Joseph's life that we have ever read and that the study of it has enriched both of our lives. My friend has also read it multiple times and feels an especial affinity to some of the experiences of the Smith family as his own personal story has recently been published and received some very unexpected attention both positive and negative from many members of our faith. We have discussed how grateful we are that you both took the time to compile and make these inspiring stories, writings and personal accounts available to the world and wish God's choicest blessings upon you and yours. Gratefully, Shauna May Broderick

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