A Tribute to Brother Joseph
previous next

“A Tribute to Brother Joseph,” Liahona, Dec. 1997, 33

A Tribute to Brother Joseph

For most of Joseph Smith’s 38 years he was considered a mystery by those who knew him only by rumor. But to those who really knew him, he was the Lord’s prophet and their friend. To those who knew him best—his family—he was also brother, husband, father, son. Joseph Smith loved his family and placed a high premium on his friendships.

It is this Joseph that artist Liz Lemon captures in the paintings reproduced here. While early members of the Church referred to the General Authorities as “elder” or “president,” most of those who knew the Prophet referred to him simply as “Brother Joseph.” The language was his own. He was among friends, and he preferred not to stand on ceremony. And so, in the following pages, we remember once again not only the Prophet but also “Brother Joseph.”

Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood

If Father Will Hold Me: When Joseph was seven years old, his leg became severely infected. A surgeon examined him and prepared to cut away the diseased bone. He recommended confining Joseph with cords and having him drink alcohol to deaden the pain. “No,” exclaimed Joseph, “I will not touch one particle of liquor, neither will I be tied down; but I will tell you what I will do—I will have my father sit on the bed and hold me in his arms, and then I will do whatever is necessary in order to have the bone taken out.” At intense physical pain to Joseph, the surgery went forward—successfully (Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith [1958], 56–58).

Moroni: Joseph was praying one night at age 17 when “a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air. … He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do” (JS—H 1:30, 33).

Strength of Body and Mind: “[The Prophet Joseph Smith] was brimming over with the noblest and purest of human nature, which often gave vent in innocent amusements—in playing ball, in wrestling with his brothers … and enjoying himself; he was not like a man with a stake run down his back, and with his face cast in a brazen mold that he could not smile, that he had no joy in his heart. O, he was full of joy; he was full of gladness; he was full of love” (Joseph F. Smith, Collected Discourses, volume 5, 23 December 1894).

Let’s Get Papa: “Oh God, grant that I may have the privilege of seeing once more my lovely family in the enjoyment of the sweets of liberty and sociable life. To press them to my bosom and kiss their lovely cheeks would fill my heart with unspeakable gratitude” (Joseph to Emma Smith, 12 November 1838).

Tiny Hands: “On my return home, I found my wife Emma sick. She was delivered of a son, which did not survive its birth” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:209). In all, Joseph and Emma lost five children to death.

Emma’s Hymns: The Lord called Emma Smith “an elect lady, whom I have called” to be “a comfort unto my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun.,” and “to make a selection of sacred hymns … to be had in my church. For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart” (D&C 25:3–12). A measure of how Emma fulfilled her calling is found in a tribute paid by her mother-in-law, Lucy Mack Smith: “I have never seen a woman in my life, who would endure every species of fatigue and hardship, from month to month, and from year to year, with that unflinching courage, zeal, and patience, which she has ever done” (History of Joseph Smith, 190–91).

Going Like a Lamb

“God Bless You, Mother!” Joseph and others were taken prisoner at Far West, Missouri, bound in a wagon with the canvas cover nailed tight. When his mother reached him, Joseph pushed his hands out under the canvas so she could hold them. Lucy cried, “Joseph, do speak to your poor mother once more—I cannot bear to go till I hear your voice.” Joseph sobbed, “God bless you, mother!” Then the wagon pulled away, tearing him and his mother apart. Joseph and the other prisoners spent the next six months in Liberty Jail (Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, 290–91).