Joseph Smith – Work

Christ-like Character Traits

Good Worker

I knew all of the Smith family well. They have all worked for me many a day. They were very good people. Young Joe (as we called him then) has worked for me, and he was a good worker. . . They were the best family in the neighborhood in case of sickness; one was at my house nearly all the time when my father died. I always thought them honest. They were owing me some money when they left here. One of them came back in about a year and paid me. . . [Joseph Smith] worked for me many a time, and been about my place a great deal. He was always a gentleman when about my place. 1

Best Hand Ever Hired

[My father] hired Joseph Smith, Jr. Joseph and I worked and slept together. My father said that Joseph was the best hand he ever hired. We found him a boy of truth. He was about twenty-one years of age. 2

Inspiring Stories

Best Help Ever Found

I remember the excitement stirred up among some of the people over Joseph’s First Vision, and of hearing my father contend that it was only the sweet dream of a pure minded boy. One of our church leaders came to my father to remonstrate against his allowing such close friendship between his family and the “Smith Boy,” as he called him. My father defended his own position by saying that Joseph was the best help he had ever found. He told the churchman that he always fixed the time of hoeing his large field to that when he could secure the services of Joseph Smith, because of the influence that boy had over the wild boys of the neighborhood, and explained that when these boys, or young men, worked by themselves much time would be spent in arguing and quarreling, which often ended in a ring fight. But when Joseph Smith worked with them, the work went steadily forward, and he got the full worth of the wages he paid. I remember the churchman saying, in a very solemn and impressive tone, that the very influence the boy carried was the danger they feared for the coming generation, that not only the young men, but all who came in contact with him, would follow him, and he must be put down. 3

Skilled Financier, Orderly Farmer

Brother J. W. Crosby, a prominent man in early Dixie and an early preacher of the Gospel lived a close neighbor to the Prophet in Nauvoo. Being a very observing man he learned much of that great man’s home life, and he used to tell us many interesting things about it. He said the Prophet had great ability as a financier, and that had his enemies left him he would have become one of the wealthiest men in America. Everything his hand touched seemed to prosper. His fields, were always in good condition and yielded well. When people came to see him, and he had many visitors, their teams were fed the best of hay and his barn was full. No other orchard had as fine fruit as his did. If an inferior cow was by any means shoved on to him it would be but a short time before she became a first-class milker. Many men sought his advice when in financial difficulty, and none failed to profit by it if they followed the counsel he gave. A period of great prosperity for him, Brother Crosby said, would seem to induce a raid upon him. One trial after another would be launched until he was left penniless and perhaps in debt. On one of these occasions when the Prophet had been absent from home for some time, Brother Crosby went to his home to see if he might render some assistance. When he made the purpose of his visit known the [Prophet’s] wife burst into tears and said that if the persecution would cease they could live as well as any other family in the land. They could even have the luxuries of life. Bro. Crosby related the following items of interest concerning the Prophet. He was strong and active, and could build more rods of good fence in one day than most men could do in two, and he always left his fence clear of everything that might gather fire, such as underbrush, loose limbs, and tall strong weeds. He was orderly. His wood yard was an example of order. Logs were neatly piled and all trash cleared away. If he did not finish the log on which he was chopping the remnant was laid back on the pile and not left on the ground for a stumbling block. The chips he made he picked up himself into a basket and put them in a wooden box which stood in the wood yard to carried them into the house to be burned. Bro. Crosby confessed this: During a period of financial depression for the prophet, the ax was stolen from his wood yard and brother Crosby contributed to loan him the ax belonging to himself because of the unfailing habit of the Prophet to always sharpen the ax he had been using before it left his hand. People in that section burned hard wood and to keep the ax in good shape required much time and energy. Some of the home habits of this best friend, however, such as building kitchen fires, carrying out ashes, carrying in wood and water, assisting in the care of the children, etc. were not in accord with brother Crosby’s idea of a great man’s duty. 4

James Henry Rollins

After leaving Missouri, I went to my stepfather’s farm, nine miles from Montrose, in Iowa territory. While there, I received a letter from the Prophet requesting me to come to Nauvoo immediately. I went and asked Joseph what he wanted of me.

He said for me to move to Nauvoo, that he wanted me there.

I did as he advised.

Soon after this I went to Joseph, where he resided down on the flats in a mansion, and asked him what he desired me to do. The next morning I went with him to his store. He asked Newell K. Whitney if he had any work for me to do.

He replied that there was nothing that he knew of then, that he had sufficient help at present.

Joseph then said, “I have work for you.”

He took me through in the back of the store and showed me cords of hickory wood. He asked me if I was a good hand with the ax. I laughed and said, “Well, some little.”

I chopped and piled up the wood the same day.

The next day he came to the store and unbarred the outside cellar door, and asked me if I thought I could straighten up things.He was pleased with the change I made with the appearance of the cellar.

He was pleased with the change I made with the appearance of the cellar.

Early the next morning, Judge Cleveland brought a carload of hogs. Joseph asked me if I could cut them up and salt them. He said, “I want it done just as my wife Emma tells you.”

She told me to cut out the bones and salt the pork in the barrels, then add brine and molasses; and after laying for a certain time, smoke them in the carriage house.

I said I was afraid, as it was getting quite warm in the day, that the flies would spoil them.

She said, “Fix them as I want it done, if they all spoil.”

They did almost all of them spoil.

About this time, Lyman Wight, Amasa Lyman and Henry G. Sherwood came up the river with twenty-five barrels of Orleans sugar and several barrels of molasses.

Edward Hunter also came with a large supply of dry goods, from Philadelphia. Joseph told me to harness up his old Charlie to the buggy and take Brother Hunter around to view the city, to see Joseph’s farm, and to answer all the questions he might ask.

A good deal of work was being done on the temple, and the workmen received orders on the store for their labor. It was very crowded for two or three days, and as I stood in the counting room door looking at faces in the house, the men came to me and asked if I could wait on them.

Joseph said to me, “Why don’t you wait on these people?”

I told him that when I was ordered I would do so with pleasure.

He then said, “Go and wait on them.”

I then went to work behind the counter on the grocery side, and paid off many orders.

When Joseph came in and saw us looking tired and pale, he told us to shut up the store that night and not open again for two or three days, which we did until we got rested.

During the spring and summer of 1844, previous to his death, the Prophet told me to assist in carrying water and other commodities to the room above the store. Afterwards I found out it was to give endowments to some of the brethren.

A few days after this as I was alone in the store, standing outside of the counter, Joseph came in with his cane in his hand and stepped directly opposite of me on the other side and eyed me for a moment. Then he walked across to where I stood and raised his right leg and laid it on my left shoulder. He then took it down, walked back to his first position, and he said, “I thought to break you down with the heft of my leg, but you are stiffer than I thought you were.”5

  1. Interview with E. L. and William H. Kelley, March 1881, published in The Saints’ Herald, Plano, Illinois, XXVIII (June 1, 1881), p. 165; Juvenile Instructor, XVII (October 1, 1882), pp. 301-302; Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 1.
  2. Joseph Knight, Jr., Folder, Church Historian’s Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 1.
  3. Mrs. Palmer, “Stories from the Notebook of Martha Cox, Grandmother of Fern Cox Anderson,” Church Historian’s Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; Lee C. LaFayette, “Recollections of Joseph Smith,” Church Historian’s Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 1.
  4. Jesse W. Crosby, “LaFayette C. Lee, Notebook,” LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  5. A Sketch of the Life of James Henry Rollins, Church Historian’s Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
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