Courageous Mormon Boy

“Courageous Mormon Boy,” Friend, Aug. 1995, 43

Heroes and Heroines:

Courageous Mormon Boy

(Based on The Lord Needed a Prophet by Susan Arrington Madsen, Deseret Book, 1990.)

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7).

Joseph F. Smith was one of the youngest missionaries to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was only fifteen years old when he was called to preach the gospel to the people of the Hawaiian Islands.

This mission call came at a difficult time in Joseph F.’s life. His father, Hyrum, a brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, had been killed in Carthage Jail when Joseph F. was only five years old. His mother, Mary Fielding Smith, died in the Salt Lake Valley when he was thirteen, and he felt alone and frightened.

To comfort him, the Lord blessed Joseph F. with a beautiful dream soon after his mother died. He dreamed that when his life was over, his beloved mother and father, President Brigham Young, and the Prophet Joseph Smith met him in heaven. They put their arms around him, and he could feel how much they loved him. It made him feel peaceful and safe inside.

As Joseph F. began his mission to Hawaii, his mission president, Francis Hammond, gave him a blessing promising him that he would become “a mighty man.” He blessed him that “the spirit of his father, Hyrum, the martyr, would rest upon him.”

Joseph F. served a very successful mission in Hawaii. He was quite poor, however, since he had no family to send him money. He sometimes went for several days without food, but the Hawaiian people often shared with him.

After nearly four years in Hawaii, Joseph F. returned home. One morning when he and several other missionaries were returning to Salt Lake City, a group of rough Mormon-haters rode up on horses, firing their guns and cursing.

The leader jumped off his horse and shouted, “We will kill anyone who is a Mormon!” The other missionaries had fled into the woods, but Joseph F. bravely stood his ground. The man shoved a gun in Joseph F.’s face and asked, “Are you a Mormon?”

Joseph F. stood tall and said, “Yes siree; dyed in the wool; true blue, through and through!”

The man was surprised at his reply. He put the gun away, shook Joseph’s hand, and said, “Well, you are the pleasantest man I ever met! I’m glad to see a fellow stand up for his convictions.” He jumped back on his horse and rode off with his companions.

For the next sixty-one years, Joseph F. Smith’s life was full of service to the church he defended so proudly that morning by the campfire. At age twenty-seven, he was ordained an Apostle, and he served as a counselor to four Church presidents: Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Lorenzo Snow. In 1901, Joseph F. Smith was ordained the sixth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served as President for seventeen years, until his death in 1918.

Illustrated by Larry Winborg

Photos from VRL

1. Joseph F. Smith was sent on a mission to Hawaii when only fifteen.

2. Returning from his mission, he was threatened by a Mormon-hater.

3. Joseph as a teenage missionary

4. As a boy, Joseph helped to drive his widowed mother’s team across the plains.

5. Delivering a speech as President of the Church