Saturday, October 20, 2012

Joseph Smith Sr. the Father of the Prophet

This is mainly for my mother who wanted to know all about the Northeastern Church history tour Richard and I went on this past summer. We began in Boston and ended in Ohio visiting every early Church History site you know about and many you have never heard of before. It was life-changing and remarkable is so many ways.   Hope you enjoy!

Previous Posts: Who Were Joseph Smith's Ancestors
                          Religion Prior to the First Vision

By William Witaker

 Through this tour, I gained a GREAT love for the Smith family. This was truly one of the greatest families to have ever lived.  Born of noble ancestors, this family was called of God to lead the gospel in it's beginning restoration stages.  It would be hard to find a family as obedient, faithful, enduring, sacrificing,  as they were.  Great, great people.

Joseph Smith Sr. was born on  July 12, 1771 in Topsfield, Massachusetts to Asael and Mary Duty Smith in "a little house near the mill."

As a child of  10 years old he helped out in the Revolutionary War.  What he did, we are not sure. We can imagine what a young boy of his age would be used for in battle? Maybe he played the drum, loaded a musket, or carried a flag?  We can imagine that he was a dedicated, faithful, loyal, boy, trustworthy in every assignment he was given.

Very little is known of his growing up years. He was brought up by God-fearing Bible-believing, Bible-teaching, Bible-reading parents.  They were intensely religious, and brought up Joseph to fear God and to walk up-rightly before Him.  Like his father Asael, he did not affiliate with any church because none of them were the Church established like Christ's Church in ancient times. He spent much of his life waiting and seeking for His true church.
 While living in Tunbridge, Massachusetts  as a young adult, he met Lucy Mack.
Family legend is that they met in this Tunbridge Store.  They were married in January of 1796. Lucy was 20 and Joseph was 24.
"The village store built on the same site as the original village store in Tunbridge."
On our tour we were able to go shopping in this quaint little building that was kept up and looked quite authentic to that era.  The wooden floor boards were original, and I tried to imagine a young Joseph Smith Sr., and Lucy Mack meeting for the very first time--their paths crossing in what was no accidental meeting: The Parents to be of the Prophet of the Restoration!

Along with being"father of the Prophet"  Who was Joseph Smith Sr?

He was a man of incredible faith and fortitude.  He possessed a rare humility and resilience that allowed him to endure many of the hardships he was called upon to endure in his life-time.

He worked with his hands and was taught the skills of a cooper from his father. He perfected that trade so well, he then became a "wet cooper". A wet cooper is more skilled than  just a cooper. A wet cooper is someone who makes barrels, tubs, buckets that can hold water.  We know the importance of being able to make barrels from Joseph's Jr.s account of hiding the plates in a barrel of beans.

He had a great personality that attracted many to him. Many said he was the happiest person they had ever met. He was kind of a jokester and loved to make others feel comfortable by joking around a bit at first. 
He was incredible strong physically. He was 6'2" and about 200 pounds and could out wrestle anyone. He who thoughtful, reflective, prophetic, and deeply sensitive.
"Father Smith was a blending of the eternal and the mortal each supporting and giving vigor to the other. From his youth, he loved the scriptures, and the things they taught, and throughout his life they guided his conduct. But more than that he had a natural love of life, of laughter, of the value of hard work, and for the value of  useful recreations and relaxation. He was a mixture of the divine, not too embarrassed by his feelings to weep in front of family and friends, and yet strong enough to withstand the lash of persecution and the weight of oppression." (United by Faith, Kyle R. Walker, pg. 29)

How close was their family?

The Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith Family was a very close family. They were a family who went through everything together. They all felt to joy. They all experienced the persecution. They all Felt the power and importance of the work Joseph [the Prophet] was called to do. They were a remarkable family.

When problems arose, they met them together as a family. When Joseph told the family of the visitation of Moroni, the whole family were melted to tears and they believed every word that Joseph Jr. said." United by Faith, Kyle Walker  Their whole family suffered because of Joseph Smith's persecution.  Katherine speaks of how she suffered because of her brother's First Vision and visitation of angel Moroni.

Many of us are well acquainted with the accounts of Joseph [the Prophet's] persecutions.  But may not be aware of how each member of the Smith family endured so much for the gospel sake.  Father Joseph had to go into hiding many many times, as well as several of his sons.  Father Smith also was sent to debtors prison once for a small $14 debt.  He was told they would forgive the debt if he would deny the Book of Mormon, which of coarse he didn't.

They were a very close faithful family who endured all that they were asked to endure, who sacrificed, and who cared for one another deeply.  As a young 7 year old boy, Joseph had his leg operation [which I will talk about in another post] it was his brother Hyrum who carried Joseph around for weeks, holding his leg in a certain way as to ease the pain.

Alvin was a huge part of this family although he died at such a young age. This is an example of how tight, loving, sacrificing, and close this family was: When Alvin died, it completely devastated this entire family. For a long time afterward, they couldn't even talk about the Book of Mormon because Alvin loved it so much. Joseph[the Prophet] eluded to the fact that he never got over his death. He loved his older brother and looked up to him for everything.

When Joseph [the Prophet], Hyrum and others were betrayed into the hands of mob in Far West, Missouri, Joseph Sr. and Lucy stood in the doorway of their home and watched the events.  When they heard the horrid screaming from the mob, they concluded that Joseph [the Prophet] had been killed. Five or six guns were shot and Father Joseph "folding his arms across his heart cried out, 'Oh my God, my God! they have killed my son! they have murdered him! and I must die, for I cannot live without him!"  Father Joseph fell on his bed and never fully recovered from this event. Even after he learned the truth, the effects from this event and the sickness it caused eventually took his life. He died 2 years later.

This was an extremely obedient, faithful and loving family. One of the greatest to have ever lived.

What was Joseph Smith Sr's reaction to the First Vision and the visit of Angel Moroni?

Joseph Sr. loved the gospel and was a fierce defender of The Book of Mormon and the Restoration of the gospel from the very beginning. Almost immediately after they happened, he was teaching and testifying to others.

Keep in mind, the restoration of the gospel was not about "their family" as many of their time and ours believe.  This was about the true gospel that once was established on the earth through Jesus Christ and his apostles, being re-established on the earth again through the Prophet Joseph Smith.  He was the Lord's instrument on the earth.  Joseph Smith Sr. and their whole family knew this and never believed contrary. They testified of it's truthfulness until their last day.

There is not a lot recorded of Joseph Smith Sr.'s reaction to  Angel Moroni, however Angel Moroni told Joseph, that his father "would believe every word you say to him"...and he did. He was the first person after Joseph [the Prophet] to know about the visitation. He told his son, "be faithful and do everything he tells you"  He knew this was of God, and he believed his son.

Joseph Smith Sr.  was baptized on April 6, 1830.  "When he came out of the water, Joseph [the Prophet] stood upon the shore, and taking his father by the hand, exclaimed with tears of joy 'Oh my God! I have lived to see my own father baptized into the true Church of Jesus Christ'" 

Joseph Smith Sr. was prophet-like himself

When I think of Joseph Smith Sr. I think of an Abraham-like father figure of his time.
As the first great Patriarch of the Church, he gave thousands of patriarchal blessings in his life-time, as well as many many blessings in general. He had a spiritual gift for healing and many sought "Father Smith" as he was called, for a blessing. Prior to his death, he called all of his family around and gave each of them a father's blessing much like the prophets of old.
When he blessed his wife, he said, "Mother do you not know that you are the mother of as great a family as ever lived upon the earth?"
He was deeply spiritual and with a for-ordained mission of his own, he had dreams and visions pertaining the the true gospel of Jesus Christ.  Lucy Mack Smith, has recorded five, although there were seven in all. The one we are the most familiar with is the dream that is almost identical to Lehi's Dream recorded in 1 Nephi 8 of The Book of Mormon.
When he prophesied, everything came true to the letter.
"During the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, a woman who had walked a great distance to attend the dedicatory services was told she could not attend because she brought a 6 month old baby with her. Upset, the mother sought out Father Smith and explained she had no one to leave her child with. He told her to come in and that the child would not be a disturbance.  His promise was not only fulfilled, but enlarged. The baby slept soundly for the long 6 hour meeting. When the Hosanna shouts began, the infant awoke as if to join the congregation, then went right back to sleep."

By William Witaker
Joseph Smith Sr. died at the age of 63 in Nauvoo, Illinois on September 14, 1840.

*There are many great books out there on Joseph Smith.  I love the book United by Faith the Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family, by Kyle R. Walker.  Great book with a chapter devoted to each member of the Smith family.