Church History
Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family

“Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family,” Church History Topics

“Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family”

Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family

The home life and nurture provided by Joseph Smith’s parents and siblings shaped much of Joseph’s early prophetic work. His attention to prayer and Bible study owed much to his parents’ religious commitments. When Joseph reported visions of angels, the news delighted family members who, like Joseph’s father and mother, had already enjoyed profound spiritual experiences of their own.1 Late in life, Joseph wrote poignantly of his desire that the names and deeds of his parents and siblings always be remembered. “Words and language,” he wrote, are “inadequate to express the gratitude that I owe to God for having given me so honorable a parentage.”2

From the beginning of Joseph Sr. and Lucy’s marriage, the family experienced failed harvests and economic hardship. They moved several times between villages in Vermont and New Hampshire before finding more favorable prospects in the Finger Lakes region of New York. In 1816, the Smith family moved to Palmyra, New York, and they soon settled on a farm in nearby Manchester. In this area, over the next decade and a half, Joseph Jr. experienced his earliest visions, translated and published the Book of Mormon, and organized the Church of Christ.3

The Smith family followed the Church to Kirtland, Ohio, in 1831; to Missouri in 1838; and to Nauvoo, Illinois, in the early 1840s. Joseph Sr. and Lucy lived with their adult children for the rest of their lives. Tragically, within a four-year span between 1841 and 1844, Joseph Sr. and four of his sons (Don Carlos, Hyrum, Joseph, and Samuel) died from illness or assassination. Most remaining family members chose not to move to the Great Basin after Joseph Smith’s death.

Joseph Smith Sr. (1771–1840)

(See “Joseph Smith Sr.,” Church History Topics.)

Lucy Mack Smith (1775–1856)

(See “Lucy Mack Smith,” Church History Topics.)

Unnamed Son (about 1797)

Joseph Sr. and Lucy’s first child, a son born about a year after their marriage, did not survive past infancy. The Smiths did not name this child.4

Alvin Smith (1798–1823)

The Smith family’s first child to live past infancy, Alvin, was born on February 11, 1798, at the family’s home in Tunbridge, Vermont. Alvin’s mother called him a “youth of . . . singular goodness of disposition” with “Kind and amiable manners.”5 After the Smiths moved to Palmyra, Alvin’s labor became critical to the family’s temporal support, and he led out in building a frame home on the Smith farm.

Alvin believed in Joseph’s account of the appearance of the angel Moroni and encouraged him to follow the angel’s instructions. According to a family friend, Moroni even instructed Joseph to bring Alvin with him when the time came to obtain the Book of Mormon plates.6 But just a few months before his 26th birthday, Alvin died from what his mother described as “bilious cholick.”7 The doctor who tended to Alvin administered a compound of mercury and chlorine called “calomel,” a remedy considered toxic by many physicians at the time but commonly used by freelance doctors.8 The treatment aggravated Alvin’s condition, and Alvin perished within days. Historians have suggested that appendicitis may have been a primary cause of his death.9

Lucy mentioned in her biographical sketch that Alvin’s fiancée attended his funeral, but nothing else is known about Alvin’s engagement.10

Alvin’s death devastated the Smith family. At his funeral, a local minister upset the family by implying Alvin was consigned to hell because he had not been baptized.11 In 1836, Joseph experienced a vision of the celestial kingdom and marveled when he saw Alvin there. The Lord revealed that those, like Alvin, “who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God.”12 When Joseph announced the doctrine of proxy baptisms for the dead in 1840, his brother Hyrum was baptized for Alvin in the Mississippi River.

Hyrum Smith (1800–1844)

(See “Hyrum Smith,” Church History Topics.)

Sophronia Smith Stoddard McCleary (1803–1876)

The Smiths’ first daughter, Sophronia, was born on May 16, 1803, while the family lived in Tunbridge, Vermont. A few years later, the area became afflicted with a typhoid epidemic, and Sophronia and her younger brother Joseph had the most severe cases in the family. Nine-year-old Sophronia struggled with typhoid fever for three months before she suddenly stopped breathing and lay motionless. Her mother wrapped her in a blanket, took her in her arms, and paced the floor. Neighbors urged Lucy to accept that Sophronia had died, but the child eventually awoke, gasped for air, and sobbed. She recovered and lived to the age of 73 years.13

Sophronia believed in her brother Joseph’s visions. She felt the sting when the surrounding community treated the family harshly. A couple of months after Joseph received the plates from the angel Moroni, Sophronia married Calvin Stoddard, who eventually joined the Church. Sophronia and Calvin and their 14-month-old daughter, Eunice, made the journey to Kirtland, Ohio, with Lucy’s company, but about two months after arriving in Kirtland, little Eunice died from unknown causes. Sophronia bore a second child, Mariah, a year later, but before the Saints left Ohio, Calvin died in New York, leaving Sophronia a widow at age 34.14

Sophronia married William McCleary in 1838, and the two moved to Missouri and then to Illinois.15 Sophronia and William appear to have planned to move to Winter Quarters, but William died before they left, so Sophronia instead chose to remain in Illinois, where she could be close to her family. For the next 30 years, she lived near her sisters, Katharine and Lucy, until her death in 1876.16

Joseph Smith Jr. (1805–1844)

(See “Joseph and Emma Hale Smith Family,” Church History Topics.)

Samuel Harrison Smith (1808–1844)

Supposing the Book of Mormon would merely spark a reformation of existing churches, Samuel Smith expressed concern when he learned that his older brother Joseph intended to found a new church. He withdrew to the nearby woods and prayed to know if the Lord had guided Joseph. When he returned, he promptly asked to be baptized, becoming the first person after Joseph and Oliver to receive baptism. Samuel remained faithful the rest of his life.17

Samuel was one of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon and served one of the first preaching missions in Church history.18 During his brief mission in 1830, he delivered a Book of Mormon to the Young family, which introduced the restored gospel to future Church President Brigham Young and future Apostle Heber C. Kimball.19

While serving another mission two years later, Samuel helped establish several branches in the northeastern United States.20 During this mission, Samuel met his future wife, Mary Bailey. Samuel and Mary had four children.21 Samuel was a member of the School of the Prophets in Kirtland and served as a member of the high council. In Nauvoo, he assisted Bishop Vinson Knight as a counselor and also served as a city alderman, a guard of the Nauvoo Legion, a regent of the University of Nauvoo, and a member of the Nauvoo City Council.22

Samuel married Levira Clark after Mary died in 1841 during childbirth.23 They moved to Plymouth, Illinois, and were living there when Samuel learned his brothers Joseph and Hyrum were imprisoned in Carthage Jail. Samuel set out on horseback to assist them, and according to later accounts, he encountered two men in a thicket, who immediately gave chase. He narrowly evaded his attackers, only to discover upon his arrival in Carthage that his brothers had been killed. Shocked and grief-stricken, Samuel made arrangements for the nearby hotel to protect the bodies until he could bring them to Nauvoo.24 Tragically, less than a month later, Samuel himself died. A local newspaper named the cause of death “bilious fever,” though friends and family blamed his traumatic riding encounter for setting off the fatal illness.25

Ephraim Smith (1810)

Ephraim Smith, the seventh child and sixth son of Joseph Sr. and Lucy, lived only a few days. He was born March 13 and died March 24, 1810. The Smith family lived in Royalton, Vermont, during Ephraim’s short life.26

William B. Smith (1811–1893)

William Smith accepted his older brother Joseph’s prophetic claims and was baptized. He held several Church offices throughout his life and became one of the original members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He also served several missions, marched to Missouri with the Camp of Israel, and was ordained Patriarch to the Church.27

photograph portrait of William Smith

Photograph of William Smith.

In 1833, William married Caroline Amanda Grant, a member of a family he had met during one of his missions. Before Caroline died in 1845, William had begun practicing plural marriage, having married a second wife some months before the martyrdom of his brothers Joseph and Hyrum.28 Between 1844 and 1889, William married four more times, though two of the marriages ended in divorce. William had seven children.29

In addition to his Church service, William was active in civic affairs. In Nauvoo, he served as a member of the city council. He was the editor of the Nauvoo Wasp for a short time but was replaced after a contentious exchange with Thomas C. Sharp, another local newspaper editor. William represented Hancock County in the Illinois State Legislature, where he defended the city charter of Nauvoo against calls to revoke it.30

The only son of Joseph Sr. and Lucy to live past the summer of 1844, William initially supported Brigham Young as Joseph’s successor. However, discord with fellow members of the Twelve led William to change his mind. He was excommunicated in 1845 after a brief and unsuccessful bid to lead the Church. He later joined various other churches before finding a permanent place with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, led by his nephew Joseph Smith III.31

When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, William misrepresented his age so as to appear young enough to enlist in the Union Army. During his military service, William adopted the middle initial “B” to distinguish himself from the many other soldiers named William Smith. He died on November 13, 1893, at the age of 82.32

Katharine Smith Salisbury Younger (1813–1900)

The Smiths’ second daughter, Katharine, joined the Church as a teenager. Family tradition tells of one occasion when Joseph asked Katharine and Sophronia to hide the golden plates from a mob, which the sisters did by covering the plates in their bedsheets and then lying down and feigning sleep.33 Katharine moved to Kirtland, Ohio, with her mother, Lucy, and that same year married a recent convert named Wilkins Jenkins Salisbury.34

Katharine’s married life proved difficult. Wilkins struggled to find work and may have suffered from alcoholism. He spent at least a decade outside of Church fellowship and died at odds with leaders in Utah. At times, Katharine raised her children in near-destitute circumstances. One visitor to the Salisbury home in 1843 lamented that Katharine’s children had no shoes despite the severe winter. The Smith family supported Katharine through these difficulties, and Church leaders also helped, later sending money for her to build a house in Illinois.35

Like her mother and other siblings, Katharine remained in Illinois after the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum. After Wilkins’s death in 1853, Katharine settled near her mother and sisters, where she remained for the rest of her life. When her son, Don Carlos, reached 14 years of age, she sent him to live with her older sister, Sophronia, possibly due to her own family’s poor financial conditions. Although Katharine never traveled west, she maintained a warm correspondence with her Smith relatives in Utah. These relatives visited Katharine often while traveling on missions. She died in 1900 at the age of 86.36

Don Carlos Smith (1816–1841)

Family members described Don Carlos Smith as good-natured, kindhearted, and affectionate. Only 14 years old when Joseph published the Book of Mormon, Don Carlos supported his older brother early on. He was “one of the first,” stated Joseph, “to receive my testimony.”37 Later the same year, Don Carlos accompanied his father on a trip to Stockholm, New York, where the two shared news of the Church with relatives. Soon after, Don Carlos moved to Kirtland, Ohio, with his mother and sisters.38

While living in Kirtland, Don Carlos learned the printing trade under Oliver Cowdery. Don Carlos helped publish much of the Church’s early literature, including the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. On July 30, 1835, he married Agnes Moulton Coolbrith, a convert from Boston who boarded with Don Carlos’s parents.39 Don Carlos and Agnes had three daughters.

After moving to Nauvoo, Don Carlos continued his profession as a printer. He edited and published the Times and Seasons newspaper and raised money for a third edition of the Book of Mormon.40 He also served brief missions to Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee and was president of the high priests quorum.41 He died of malaria in August 1841 at age 26; his nephew and namesake, the infant son of Joseph and Emma, died of the same disease just eight days later.42

Lucy Smith Millikin (1821–1882)

By the time of Lucy Smith’s birth on July 18, 1821, her brother Joseph had already experienced his First Vision. Lucy grew up with much of Joseph’s religious ministry already underway, and she lived with her parents throughout the Kirtland and Missouri periods of the early Church. Shortly after arriving in Commerce (later Nauvoo), Illinois, Lucy married Arthur Millikin, a convert from Maine. She joined the Nauvoo Relief Society, and in 1843 she accompanied her husband on a mission to Maine. Lucy remained in Illinois after the deaths of her brothers Joseph and Hyrum. Between 1846 and 1852, she took her aging mother into her home. About four years after her mother’s death, Lucy settled near Colchester, Illinois, where she and her husband developed a respectable reputation among their neighbors. Sometime around 1880, Lucy began caring for her daughter-in-law who had contracted a respiratory disease. She caught the disease herself and died on December 9, 1882.43

portrait of Lucy Smith Millikin

Photograph of Lucy Smith Millikin.

Related Topics: Joseph Smith Sr., Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph Smith Jr., Hyrum Smith