Mormon History

Mormonism's Mother of God - 1856

The Mormon July 12, 1856

Mother  Lucy  Smith.

                                              WASHINGTON, D. C., July 5, 1856.
ED. MORMON: -- In the 19th number of your paper I read a notice of the death of Mrs. Lucy Smith, mother of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and who has been for the last twenty-six years familiarly known to all the saints as "Mother Smith."

She was born in Gilsum, Cheshire county, New Hampshire, July 8, 1776. She was the daughter of Solomon Mack, who was born in Lyme, New London county, Connecticut, September 26, 1735. He served in the war against France, and took part in many severe contests, and retired from them suffering many personal injuries, and was discharged in 1759; subsequently married Lydia Gates, daughter of Nathan Gates, of East Haddam, Ct.

He commenced a new settlement in the wilderness, forty miles from inhabitants, his wife adding to the duties of mother those of instructress, as there were no schools in the wilderness. On the commencement of the War of Independence he enlisted into the service of his country; was for a considerable length of time in the land forces, and afterwards -- accompanied by two of his sons, Jason and Stephen -- entered the navel service of the colonies, and continued to encounter many of the stirring and thrilling incidents to which our young marine was constantly exposed until the close of the war. Mother Smith was therefore born in troublesome times, the first seven years of her life being spent in the care of her pious and intelligent mother, while her father and brothers were battling for the independence of their country. They were exposed to every vicissitude which was incident to the distracted state of the colonies, and the absence of the protectors of the family.

In youth, Lucy was somewhat remarkable for a pensive character; her mind being awakened to the death of her sister Lovina, she determined to obtain that which she heard spoken of so much in the pulpit -- "a change of heart." Of this circumstance she says in the history of her life: -- 'To accomplish this I spent much time in reading the Bible and praying in my great anxiety to experience a change of heart." She went to live with her brother Stephen, in Tunbridge, Vermont, and on the 24th of January, 1778, was married to Joseph Smith, by whom she had ten children -- Alvin, born Feb. 11, 1779 -- who died Nov. 19, 1824; Hyrum, born Feb. 9, 1800; Sophronia, born May 18, 1803, at Tunbridge, Vermont; Joseph, Jr., born Dec. 23, 1805, at Sharon, Windsor County Vermont; Samuel Harrison, born March 13, 1808, and died July 10, 1844; Ephraim, March 13, 1810, died March 24, 1810; William, born March 13, 1811 at Royalton, Vt.; Catherine, born July 8, 1812, at Lebanon, New York; Don Carlos, born March 25, 1816, at Palmyra, Wayne Co., New York; Lucy, born July 18, 1821, at Palmyra, Wayne Co., New York. The care of rearing such a family, the labor of opening new farms in a wilderness country, (as Western New York then was), which must have necessarily surrounded a mother, where a family enduring much sickness and distress from accident were her lot. She became a member of the Presbyterian church, and three of her children, Hyrum, Samuel Harrison and Sophronia followed her example; and while Joseph was seeking the Lord with all his heart to know what church he should join, the visions of heaven were opened unto him, and he was entrusted with the Plates of the Book of Mormon, inspired by Revelation to translate them, received the authority of the Priesthood, and laid the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which is now so widely spread throughout the world.

During the infancy of the Church, and while the work preparatory to its organization was going on, Mother Smith and her family had severe struggles to encounter by the opposition of the world, persecution, poverty and sickness; her faith and works were sufficient to bear her up against every oppression which men heaped upon her devoted family. Immediately upon the organization of the church, on April 6, 1830, she received baptism for the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost, which buoyed her up against all opposition, and prepared her to rejoice amid the most dreadful persecutions and sacrifices that mortal was ever called upon to endure. In 1831 her husband and family moved to Kirtland, Ohio, where they resided until '37; but the hand of persecution was not arrested by this movement. Her son, Joseph, was followed by a multiplied succession of vexatious law suits, which were invariably unsuccessful, but being attended with heavy expense, served to impoverish the family. On the 25th of March, 1832, Joseph Jr., was dragged from his bed at midnight, daubed with tar and feathers, and otherwise severely injured. Aquafortis was poured into his mouth, he was choked by the throat and left for dead. His infant child, sick with the measles in bed with him, at the time of the outrage, was thereby exposed to night air, and died immediately (she [sic] may be called the first martyr of this dispensation).

In 1837 the persecution in that county became so dreadful that her husband was made a prisoner, and the family were under the necessity of fleeing from Kirtland, and afterwards located in the Far West Missouri -- but it appears only to encounter a more terrible storm. The fatigue of this journey of a thousand miles land travel, and -- performed under indigent circumstances -- were enough to wear our persons of their age, yet they were endured much better than could have been expected; but this labor was hardly dispelled by rest when a renewed persecution burst around the Saints with unabated fury.

The cruelty of this mob, exceeding all possibility of description, was legalized by the exterminating order of Lilburn W. Boggs, Governor of Missouri, and rigidly enforced by Major General Clark, who marched thirteen thousand men to Far West, and executed the cruel decree. Joseph and Hyrum, her beloved sons, were betrayed into their hands under positive pledges of protection.

They were then permitted to bid adieu to their mother and families, and were told that "to-morrow they die at 9 o'clock," from which fate they were providentially saved through the interference of the gallant General Doniphan, who declared to Major General Lucas, "It is cool blooded murder; and if you execute them I will hold you responsible before an earthly tribunal. So help me God!" An imprisonment of six months followed, during which time they were asked how they liked "Mormon beef," having reference to human flesh, on which they had been fed; all the members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints were expelled from the State during the winter and spring, or perished by the violence of their enemies. An aged father and mother arrived in Quincy, Ill., penniless and friendless, surrounded by the wives and children of those imprisoned, and who had perished from murder, exposure or otherwise. Soon after the family arrived at Nauvoo, Ill. The toil and suffering of this persecution was too much to be borne by a man of his age, and Joseph Smith, Sr., died at Nauvoo, Sept. 14, 1840. He had faithfully performed the duties of Patriarch over the whole church, and blessed the fatherless for six years. He was the first to receive the testimony of Joseph, and had borne the heat and burden of sustaining the word of the Lord all day long, and at last laid down to rest, full of faith, integrity, charity and good works, aged [sixty-nine] years and one month and two days.

Mother Smith was thus left a widow, worn out with toil and sorrow -- her house having been filled with sick, like a hospital, from the time of their expulsion from Missouri, many of whom owed the preservation of their lives to her motherly care, attention and skill in nursing them, which she did without any pecuniary consideration, and the extent of which cannot be appreciated but by those only who are personally acquainted with the dreadful scenes of sickness and distress which followed in consequence of the Missouri expulsion. From this time until the day of his death she lived with her son Joseph. She was visited, congratulated and comforted by thousands who had partaken of their bounty, or listened to her testimony, and those who were desirous of making her acquaintance. Her spirit was like a fountain of light, that dispelled error and disseminated truth, wherever its influence was felt. From the time of the commencement of the work until the death of her husband their house was open to all, and tens of thousands of persons listened with delight to her teachings.

On the 7th day of August, 1855 [sic], she was called upon to part with her youngest son, Don Carlos, who was suddenly snatched away from this vale of tears, occupying at the time of his death the position of Brigadier General of the Illinois militia, and editor of the Times and Seasons, leaving a widow and ten children. He was universally respected, and his loss deeply felt and deplored by the community. The assassination of Joseph and Hyrum, under the protection of the Governor of Illinois, so shocked and benumbed her sensibilities and her aged frame, that she never fully recovered. This awful scene, the bringing home of the mutilated bodies, the violation of all legal protection, the moaning cries of widows and fatherless children, brothers and sisters, besides tens of thousands of weeping friends, combined to form a scene that no mother upon the face of the earth was ever before called upon to encounter. As if the blow had not been sufficient to crush a mother's heart, Samuel Harrison Smith, in escaping from the murderers of his brothers, overheated himself, which brought on a fever, that terminated fatally, July 30, 1844.

But recovering somewhat from the effect of her afflictions, she composed a history of her life which contains many thrilling incidents of herself as well as that of her family, which are given in her own style, yet mingled somewhat with evidence of difficulty of her remembering dates. When the Saints resolved to leave Nauvoo for the Rocky Mountains, she addressed a general conference, bearing testimony of the truth of her desire to lay her bones in Nauvoo beside her husband and sons. From that time until the day of her death, she mostly resided in Nauvoo, with her youngest daughter, Lucy Miliken, excepting the two last years she resided with her daughter-in-law, widow of her son Joseph. She enjoyed the gifts and influence of the holy spirit much, and the following hymn was given her in 1833, which she sang in the Nephite tongue, which caused great sensation and tears to flow in the congregation, and the gift of interpretation followed. The hymn has reference to the last great battle of the Nephites against the Lamanites, around the Hill Cumorah, in the State of New York, where the plates were found from which the Book of Mormon was translated. It is called "Moroni's Lamentation:"

I have no home, where shall I go?
While here I'm left to weep below
My heart is pained, my friends are gone,
And here I'm left on earth to mourn.

I see my people lying round,
All lifeless here upon the ground;
Young men and maidens in their gore,
Which does increase my sorrows more.

My Father look'd upon this scene
And in his writings made it plain,
How every Nephite's heart did fear,
When he beheld his foes draw near.

With axe and bow they fell upon
Our men and women, sparing none;
And left them prostrate on the ground;
Lo here they now are bleeding round!

Ten thousand that were led by me
Lie round this Hill call'd Cumorah!
Their spirits from their bodies fled,
And they are numbered with the dead.

Well might my Father in despair
Cry, "Oh! ye fair ones, once how fair!
How is it that you have fallen? oh!
My soul is filled with pain for you!

My life is sought, where shall I flee?
Lord, take me home to dwell with thee;
Where all my sorrow will be o'er,
And I shall sigh and weep no more.

Thus sung the Son of Mormon, when
He gazed upon his Nephite men;
And women, too, which had been slain,
And left to moulder on the plain.

Blessed woman! her name and memory are engraven upon the tablets of the heart of tens of thousands. and will be handed down to millions yet unborn, that will speak her praise and talk of her virtues and goodness, of her motherly kindness, her watchful care and administration to the sick and afflicted, the kind and affectionate mother, the beloved wife, the partner of her aged and venerable husband, for her deeds of love, her virtue, faith, hope and confidence in her God, the trials and persecutions she bore for the gospel of truth, her unvarying steadfastness to truth through all circumstances, and filled with charity to all, her God blessed her and nerved her up to bear the persecutions and trials she was called upon to undergo, and gave her strength and grace sufficient for her day, and in copious profusion poured out his Holy Spirit upon her.

Few indeed are the women that have ever lived or graced this lower world, that occupied the position she did. The chosen of the Lord, to bear and bring into the world one of the greatest prophets the world ever produced; one chosen and ordained of God to bring about His glorious purposes in the dispensation of the fulness of time that all holy prophets have spoken concerning ever since the world began, together with his brother Hyrum, clothed with the holy priesthood of God, holding the keys of salvation, immortality and eternal life to a ruined and fallen world -- conversed with God and his Redeemer, and with holy angels from the courts of the eternal world -- gazed upon the order and glory of the same, and understood the law that appertains to eternal life. Not only so, but the wife, the partner of the early father of such sons and prophets; her husband a patriarch of the Most High over all the church of God, pouring out his blessings in the name of his Redeemer upon the heads of thousands, by virtue of his priesthood and office, and causing the hearts to beat with joy; also many others of her sons, valiant in the cause of truth, clothed with power and eternal life, priests of the most high God. But her labors are closed, and like a shock of corn fully ripe, she has gone down to her grave in peace, full of honor and goodness, there to await the morning of the first resurrection, after having lived to commit to the silent tomb her husband, Joseph, Hyrum, Don Carlos, Samuel, &c.; but she has gone to meet them, kings and priests of the Most High, Noble mother in soul! blessed among women and queen among the mighty ones! thy calling and election has been made sure; and in the morning of the resurrection, with thy husband, sons and daughters wilt thou come forth and take thy place, and stand in thy lot with thy husband and offspring -- no more to be separated, no more to endure persecution, trials, tears, pains and sorrows, but bask in the smiles, fruition and blessings of a celestial world, under the smiles of thy Good and Redeemer while eternity goes and eternity comes. Peace to her ashes! Amen.
                                     G. A. SMITH.

Note: This article was reprinted in the August 23, 1856 issue of the LDS Church's San Francisco newspaper -- The Western Standard. Apostle George A. Smith carefully avoids telling exactly where Lucy Mack Smith died, who preached her funeral sermon, who her family survivors were, etc., etc. He also neglects to name the "daughter-in-law, widow of her son Joseph." As polygamy was openly being professed by the Salt Lake City Mormons at this time, the identity of Lucy's "daughter-in-law," among her late son's many wives is left ambiguous -- except to implicitly admit that it was a daughter-in-law who had not obeyed the LDS First Presidency's order for all straggling Mormons to move west. George A. Smith further neglects to mention that Lucy Mack Smith and most of her family had denounced Brigham Young and allowed their names to be published in support of the holy presidential claims of Elder James J. Strang. Since Lucy never came back into the Brighamite fold, the heavenly glories her nephew George paints as awaiting her, beyond the veil, might be just a little suspect, from the orthodox Utahan viewpoint at least.