“A Brother like Hyrum,” Tambuli, Dec. 1988, 7
On February 9, 1800, a historic story of loyalty and brotherhood began. For on this wintry day, in Tunbridge, Vermont, Lucy Mack Smith gave birth to her second son, Hyrum. Hyrum’s younger brother, Joseph, was born almost six years later. Hyrum didn’t know then that his new brother would one day be a prophet, but early in life he felt a special concern for little Joseph.
All the Smith children grew up with a rich supply of love—and nearly as much work. School sometimes had to wait while chores around the family farm were done or the boys worked to help bring some money into the family. For a short time, when he was about thirteen years old, Hyrum was able to attend school in Hanover, New Hampshire. But classes there ended abruptly for him when an epidemic of typhus fever broke out, for Hyrum was needed at home to help care for his sick family.
Young Joseph had the fever, and the infection moved to his leg. Caring for her sick children had weakened Mother Smith until she, too, became ill. Since Hyrum was a trustworthy boy and had unusual tenderness and sympathy, he was allowed to care for his little brother. Much of each day and night for many days Hyrum sat holding his brother’s affected leg in his hands, pressing it between them, to help ease the pain. Hyrum’s loving care undoubtedly helped Joseph recover, and it strengthened the bond between them.
Several years later, when the teenage Joseph told his family that he’d seen a vision, Hyrum—along with his mother and father—believed him and began devotedly working to support Joseph. Some older brothers might have grown jealous at the Lord’s choosing a younger brother to lead. Not Hyrum. Never feeling or displaying envy, he continued to offer love and assistance to Joseph throughout his life. Perhaps one of the Lord’s most precious gifts to Joseph was his brother Hyrum.
Hyrum was baptized by Joseph in 1829; he was one of the eight additional witnesses to the existence of the golden plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated; and he was a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, later being called as Church Patriarch.
Joseph often expressed love and admiration for his older brother. Once he said, “I pray in my heart that all my brethren were like unto my beloved brother Hyrum.” He then added that they had never rebuked or criticized one another. Few brothers can claim that! Joseph also prayed that Heavenly Father would bless Hyrum for his loyalty.
The brothers seldom separated; their desire to be together continued until the end. Only a few days before Joseph and Hyrum were taken to Carthage, Joseph asked Hyrum to leave, with his family, for Cincinnati, Ohio, where he would be safe. Hyrum rarely refused Joseph’s requests, but on this occasion he did, saying, “Joseph, I can’t leave you.”
Joseph once said about Hyrum, “I love him with that love that is stronger than death.” In the end their love did carry them to death together. On June 27, 1844, while they were being held as prisoners in the Carthage jail, a mob stormed into the building and murdered Hyrum. Seeing his brother fall, Joseph exclaimed, “Oh, dear brother Hyrum!” Then, just minutes later, he, too, fell dead, also a victim of the mob’s gunshots.
The brothers willingly gave everything they had, even their lives, in service to Heavenly Father. They left behind, as precious gifts to us, the results of their work. Among these gifts shines a quiet example of lasting brotherhood.