Joseph Smith Sr.

Associated Locations:

  • Topsfield, Province of Massachusetts Bay

Associated Dates:

  • July 12, 1771 – Born

“He was more than ordinarily prepossessing in personal appearance. His kind, affable, dignified and unassuming manner naturally inspired strangers with feelings of love and reverence. To me he was the veritable personification of my idea of the ancient Father Abraham. And in his decisions he was strictly just; what can be said of very few, may be truly said of him, in judging between man and man: his judgment could not be biased by either personal advantage, sympathy, or affection. Such a man was worthy of being the father of the first prophet of the last dispensation.” 1

Christ-like Character Traits

Eliza R. Snow said, “The idea of such a man as Father Smith-so patriarchal in appearance-so circumspect in deportment and dignified in his manners, being guilty of riot, was at once ludicrous and farcical to all sane-minded persons.” 2

Inspiring Stories

Faith, a Principle of Power

Still, Father and Mother Smith were determined to stay in Missouri as long as the Lord wanted them there. Finally, however, He spoke through the Prophet Joseph, who sent word that they should join the body of the Saints in Illinois. It was the depth of winter. The cold was severe, and the roads heavy with mire. They left Far West, leaving most of their furniture and provisions behind. Because their horses were wind-broken, they were compelled to walk much of the way.fn Father Smith was sick. On the third day of the journey, a pouring rain began to fall, which continued throughout the following day. In the evening they sought shelter among the residents of northern Missouri but were continually refused.

It was at this point, if we have rightly pieced together the historical accounts, that they encountered a heavy snowstorm. “We halted,” said Perrigrine Sessions, who was a member of the travelling party, “at a farm house to buy corn and to stay all night. Father Smith asked the owner if we could camp there and buy feed for our animals.” The owner asked, “Are you Mormons?” Father Smith, with the forthrightness of Paul, said, “Yes, we are.” In stone-cold anger the owner said, “D–d you, you can’t stay on my property,” and with insult and threat drove the travellers into the street. “Here we stopped and gathered together in the falling snow,” recalled Brother Sessions. Then, Father Smith, who stood as silver purified seven times in the furnace, “removed his hat and with uplifted hands he prayed: ‘In the name of the Lord whom we serve, let that man be cursed in his basket and in his store and let his name be cut off from under heaven.'” And, remembered Brother Sessions, “we all said, Amen.”

Brother Sessions concluded: “When I came to travel this same road two years later, this incident was brought fresh to my mind. For behold, there was nothing to mark the spot but the ruins of his home, burned to ashes; his orchard [was] broken down; his farm [was] a picture of desolation; his wife and three children were burned to death in their home and he at this time was in close confinement for the insane. I saw the power of the priesthood manifested, for at the next farm we were received kindly and given all the comfort and assistance we needed and Father Smith left his blessing on this household as we departed. Here my eyes beheld the fulfillment of his words to the letter as there I looked upon a picture of prosperity and happiness. 3

Power of Prayer

When Father Smith prayed, the Lord listened. Mother Smith tells, for instance, of typhus fever striking Sophronia, who, after ninety days of enfeebling fever, seemed to knock on death’s door. “As she thus lay,” said Mother Smith, “I gazed upon her as a mother looks upon the last shade of life in a darling child. In this moment of distraction, my husband and myself clasped our hands, fell upon our knees by the bedside, and poured out our grief to God in prayer and supplication, beseeching him to spare our child yet a little longer.

Did the Lord hear our petition? Yes, he most assuredly did, and before we rose to our feet he gave us a testimony that she would recover.…

From this time forward Sophronia continued mending, until she entirely recovered. 4

Inspired Teachings

Lorenzo Snow was destined, however, to see yet greater power. He had heard Father Smith read, by the power of the Holy Ghost, from the lives of those whom he blessed, and he had also heard him make prophetic promises upon their heads. But after the meeting, Father Smith was to turn his inspired attentions to the young investigator. Lorenzo’s sister Eliza introduced them. “‘Why, Brother Snow (he called me Brother Snow, although I had not been baptized, and I did not know that I ever would be), do not worry,’ he said, ‘I discover that you are trying to understand the principles of Mormonism,’ ‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘that was the object I had in view.’ ‘Well,’ said he, ‘do not worry, but pray to the Lord and satisfy yourself; study the matter over, compare the scriptures with what we are teaching; talk with the brethren that you are acquainted with, and after a time you will be convinced that “Mormonism” is of God, and you will be baptized.

Father Smith’s seeric sights saw further than Lorenzo’s baptism, however, for in addition he announced: “You will become as great as you can possibly wish-even as great as God, and you cannot wish to be greater.” This announcement, that Lorenzo, not yet even a member of the Church, would one day become as great as God which could only mean that he himself would therefore have to become a god!-is all the more dramatic when placed in its historical context: the Prophet Joseph Smith did not publicly announce this doctrine until the April conference of 1844,fn nearly eight years after the conversation between Father Smith and Lorenzo Snow. 5



Joseph Smith’s Family History FAQs: Was Joseph Smith Senior a failure as a father? Was he a poor provider, oft defeated and unmoored? Did he have a problem with alcohol and other vices?

  1. McConkie, Mark L. Father of the Prophet: Stories and Insights from the life of Joseph Smith Sr. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft Inc. 1993
  2. McConkie, Mark L. Father of the Prophet: Stories and Insights from the life of Joseph Smith Sr. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft Inc. 1993
  3. McConkie, Mark L. Father of the Prophet: Stories and Insights from the life of Joseph Smith Sr. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft Inc. 1993
  4. McConkie, Mark L. Father of the Prophet: Stories and Insights from the life of Joseph Smith Sr. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft Inc. 1993
  5. McConkie, Mark L. Father of the Prophet: Stories and Insights from the life of Joseph Smith Sr. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft Inc. 1993
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