A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith's Family MemoirLucy’s Book
A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s Family Memoir
Edited by Lavina Fielding Anderson

Although much of her original voice was lost through editing in the more formal, first published edition of her memoir—14 percent of the overall content having been discarded—Lucy’s original manuscript survives and is presented here for the first time in its entirety. For comparison’s sake, it is arranged in parallel columns with the first (1853) edition. Significant variants from later printings are indicated in the editor’s footnotes, with prefatory chapters that provide historical background and textual genealogy.

Lucy’s story is gripping and occasionally heart-breaking. As Irene Bates notes in the foreword, the memoir is given “to a new generation of [Lucy’s] spiritual grandchildren” as both history and as inspiration. By restoring passages that relate Mother Smith’s own, personal understanding of important events, her reactions to them, and her portrayal of Mormon women as competent and strong (a theme that was removed from later editions), editor Lavina Fielding Anderson has allowed Lucy to say what she originally intended.

Mormonism begins with Lucy Mack, mother of the prophet Joseph Smith. In her dictated memoir, readers detect the same seeds of religious fervor and frontier idiom that characterized her son’s writings and sermons.

Lucy Mack Smithtitle page:
Lucy’s Book
A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s Family Memoir
Edited by Lavina Fielding Anderson
Introduction by Irene M. Bates
Signature Books / Salt Lake City

Lucy Mack Smith

about the editor: Lavina Fielding Anderson (Ph.D., English, University of Washington) lives in Salt Lake City with her husband Paul, a museum exhibit designer at Brigham Young University. They have one son. She is the editor of the Journal of Mormon History, co-editor of the Case Reports of the Mormon Alliance, current-issues editor of the Mormon Women’s Forum Quarterly, and production editor for the Review of Higher Education. She is a past president of the Association for Mormon Letters. She has been an associate editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought and of the Ensign magazine. Her books include (as editor) Chesterfield: Mormon Outpost in Idaho; (co-editor) Sisters in Spirit: Mormon Women in Historical and Cultural Perspective; Tending the Garden: Essays on Mormon Literature; (contributor) On Their Own: Widows and Widowhood in the American Southwest, 1848-1939; Religion, Feminism, and Freedom of Conscience: A Mormon/Humanist Dialogue; The Wilderness of Faith: Essays on Contemporary Mormon Thought; and Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism. She is a recipient of the Grace Fort Arrington Award for Distinguished Service from the Mormon History Association.

jacket flap:
“Am I indeed the mother of a prophet of the God of Heaven?” Lucy Mack Smith asks readers in the rough draft of her memoir. She answers in the affirmative. Yet her question conveys an intimacy that is absent from the polished, final version of her book. Dictated to a scribe, her spontaneity creates an ambiance that allows readers to picture her sitting in her rocking chair in Nauvoo, Illinois, reminiscing with a friend. This sense is heightened by her scribe’s phonetic rendering of frontier slang. For instance, Lucy worries about “the measels and other ketchin diseases,” rendered as “contagious disease” in the final version. She describes her son coming “upon a green sward under an apple tree,” saying that, “Here he lay down”—flattened in the printed version, eliminating the word “sward.” Where Joseph’s brother says, “We must keep to work,” this becomes in the published edition, “We must not slacken our hands.”

But literary issues aside, Lucy’s original narration carries significance due to what it says, and does not say, about Mormonism’s founding, in corroborating what other family members and early converts reported. For instance, she used the terms “dream” and “vision” interchangeably. She remembers that her son’s famous first vision occurred in his bedroom at night, echoing the well established tradition of her husband’s own prophetic dreams. The line dividing the physical and spiritual blurs further when Lucy tells that when her son retrieved the gold plates of the Book of Mormon, he was accosted three times by three different individuals, each of whom jumped up from behind a log, struck Joseph “a heavy blow” with a gun, and then allowed him to escape. The reader is left to wonder whether these were men or devils.

Not that such distinctions between the supernatural and material world would have mattered to Lucy, who lived comfortably in both. A popular novelist in her day, von Goethe, described a young man spending a day in the country and sensing unseen spirits that held sway over his emotions, and proclaiming that “God in His Infinity bears us aloft in perpetual joy.” Lucy similarly felt that she was often “in the purview of angels,” and her heart “bounded at the thought.” Though “surrounded by enemies,” she was “yet in extacy [sic] of happiness”; and “truly,” she said, “my soul did magnify and my spirit rejoiced in God my savior.” Her ability to express the reality of this spiritual world and the intensity of her emotional responses make her, among a handful of eyewitnesses, one of the most compelling chroniclers of early Mormonism.

Jacket design by Ron Stucki
Signature Books is a registered trademark of Signature Books Publishing, LLC
Printed in the United States of America

copyright page:
dedication: To Maude D. Fielding and Herman J. Fielding—My Lucy, my JosephFrontispiece photo courtesy Utah State Historical Society

© 2001 Signature Books. All rights reserved. Signature Books is a registered trademark of Signature Books Publishing, LLC.
Lucy’s Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s Family Memoir was manufactured in the United States of America and was printed on acid-free paper.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Smith, Lucy, 1775-1856
Lucy’s book : a critical edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s family memoir / Lucy Mack Smith ; edited by Lavina Fielding Anderson, introduction by Irene M. Bates.
p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index.

1. Smith, Joseph, 1805-1844. 2. Mormon Church–History. 3. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–Presidents–Biography. I. Anderson, Lavina Fielding. II. Bates, Irene M. III. Title.

BX8695.S6 S65 2000
[B] 99-047372
ISBN 1-56085-137-6 (cloth)

Acknowledgments [see below]
Foreword: Lucy Mack Smith—First Mormon Mother by Irene M. Bates [see below]
Editor’s Introduction: The Domestic Spirituality of Lucy Mack Smith [see below]
The Textual History of Lucy’s Book
preface [see: Lucy’s Book  – 01]

I. Solomon Mack, the Father of Lucy Mack
II. History of Jason Mack
III. Lovisa and Lovina Mack
IV. Life of Stephen Mack
V. Lydia Mack, Third Daughter of Solomon Mack
VI. Daniel Mack
VII. Solomon Mack
VIII. Early Life of Lucy Mack
IX. Seven Generations of the Smith Family

X. A Present of One Thousand Dollars
XI. Sickness in Randolph
XII. Joseph Smith, Senior, Loses His Property and Becomes Poor
XIII. The Author’s Dream
XIV. First Vision of Joseph Smith, Senior
XV. Sickness at Lebanon
XVI. The Sufferings of Joseph Smith, Junior, with a Fever Sore
XVII. Joseph Smith, Senior, Removes to Norwich, Thence to Palmyra

XVIII. History of Joseph the Prophet Commences
XIX. The Angel Visits Joseph Again
XX. Alvinxs Sickness and Death
XXI. Religious Excitement
XXII. Joseph Smith, Sen., Loses His Farm
XXIII. Joseph Obtains the Plates
XXIV. Joseph Brings Home the Breast-Plate
XXV. Martin Harris Is Permitted to Take the Manuscript Home with Him
XXVI. Martin Harrisxs Perfidy
XXVII. The Urim and Thummim Are Taken from Joseph
XXVIII. Oliver Cowdery Commences Writing for Joseph
XXIX. Mrs. Harris Prosecutes Joseph
XXX. Joseph and Oliver Remove to Waterloo
XXXI. The Plates Are Shown to Twelve Witnesses
XXXII. The Printing Is Begun
XXXIII. Esquire Colexs Dogberry Paper
XXXIV. The Church Organized
XXXV. Joseph Smith, Senior, and Don Carlos, Visit Stockholm
XXXVI. Joseph Smith, Senior, Imprisoned
XXXVII. The Family of Joseph Smith, Senior, Remove to Waterloo
XXXVIII. The First Western Mission

XXXIX. The Different Branches of the Church Remove to Kirtland
XL. Samuel Smithxs First Mission to Missouri
XLI. Lucy Smith Visits Detroit
XLII. An Extract from the History of Joseph the Prophet
XLIII. Lucy Smith Builds a School-house
XLIV. The Lordxs House at Kirtland Commenced
XLV. The House of the Lord Completed
XLVI. Joseph Smith, Senior, and His Brother John, Go on a Mission to the East
XLVII. The Persecution Revives

XLVIII. Joseph Smith, Senior, Moves with His Family to Missouri
XLIX. Testimony of Hyrum Smith
L. Removal of the Smith Family to Illinois

LI. Joseph and Hyrum Escape from Their Persecutors, and Return to Their Families
LII. A Purchase Made in the Town of Commerce
LIII. Joseph Arrested at Quincy
LIV. Joseph and Hyrum Assassinated

Epilogue: Lucy’s Last Years
Biographical Summaries of Named Individuals


[p.1]As a lover of history and self-trained historian, I would be remiss in not acknowledging how much I have learned from unconscious mentors, while absolving them from the responsibility, which I alone bear, for this work’s limitations and failings. I salute and honor Leonard J. Arrington, whose love for Mormon history extended to everyone, of whatever degree of training, who also loved it. He welcomed to his historical table all who wanted to be there with him, and his faith that more knowledge would produce greater love is one of Mormonism’s shining testaments.

I have been inspired by Dean Jessee’s state-of-the-art editing standards, by the painstaking work in Mormonism’s New England period by many scholars such as D. Michael Quinn, Richard L. Anderson, Larry Porter, Dan Vogel, H. Michael Marquardt, and others, and by the insightful analyses and creative insights of interpreters like Jan Shipps, Richard Bushman, D. Michael Quinn, Richard S. Van Wagoner, Linda King Newell, and Valeen Tippetts Avery. I am particularly indebted to Quinn and Vogel, whose encyclopedic scope has made their books a ready compendium of earlier research. Generously sharing source material and skills were H. Michael Marquardt, Larry E. Morris, Susan Staker, and William Shepard. I express sincere thanks to David J. Whittaker, curator of Brigham Young University’s Western and Mormon manuscripts, who loaned me his personal copy of the Lucy Mack Smith manuscript, a photocopy of the 1844-45 rough draft, which he had purchased in 1986 from Deseret Book. Working with this manuscript greatly facilitated the process of producing a typescript.

I express appreciation to Ronald E. Romig and Sue McDonald at the Community of Christ Library-Archives for responding to research inquiries, to the consistently energetic staff at the LDS Historical Department Archives, to the staff of Signature Books, especially designer Connie Disney and proofreader Jani Fleet, for encouraging and materially aiding this project, to typositor Brent Corcoran for creating so technically challenging a work, to George D. Smith whose steady fascination with the Nauvoo period excludes no Smith, and to Irene M. Bates for loving Lucy too and for combining that love with an intelligent and diligent analysis of the documents.

I have learned much from my son Christian, who willingly lent his computer skills to this project while encouraging me to acquire them for my own but especially for understanding the importance of “getting it right.” My greatest appreciation goes to my own partner and companion, Paul, who has been supportive in a thousand ways.


Lucy Mack Smith—First Mormon Mother
by Irene M. Bates

[p.2]Lucy Mack Smith, mother of the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, was a remarkable woman. We have three reasons to be grateful for her story, which she wrote following the deaths of sons Joseph and Hyrum Smith in June 1844: first, because we are given a picture of Lucy’s early life as well as a description of her own crucial role in the Mormon restoration. Without her account I’m sure we would have known little about her. (How much do we know about the mothers or wives of our leaders?) Second, we are able to see through Lucy’s own words how beautifully she matches the ideal of the “republican mother” described by several historians of post-revolutionary America. Third, she gives us a firsthand account of the whole family’s involvement in the restoration of the LDS church and in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Our official histories are enriched because of her efforts.

Although the full title of the 1853 publication of Lucy Mack Smith’s story is Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations, there were three previous titles. As noted by Jan Shipps, the copyright description of Lucy’s book reads, in part, “The History of Lucy Smith, wife of Joseph Smith, the first Patriarch of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who was the father of Joseph Smith, Prophet, Seer and Revelator; containing an account of the many persecutions, trials and afflictions which I and my family have endured in bringing forth the Book of Mormon and establishing the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints . . .” (Mormonism, 104). The 1845 fair copy made by Howard and Martha Jane Coray is titled “History of Lucy Smith, Mother of the Prophet,” while “History of Mother Smith, by Herself,” also graced a secondary title page for the 1853 edition. Revised editions of the book in 1901-03 by the Improvement Era and many editions by Preston Nibley, beginning in 1945, however, were published under the title History of the Prophet Joseph Smith. These title changes signal that the book’s worth to the institutional church is primarily as a record of Joseph Smith, not as a record of Lucy, even though reading the book itself shows that Lucy’s book is certainly her story. It illuminates her own background, her preparation for the part she [p.3]played in the restoration, and the kind of woman she was, as she recounts the activities of her family during the early days of the church.

Lucy’s reminiscences reveal a great deal about her early religious conditioning and broader patterns of post-revolutionary American culture. The proliferation of evangelical religious sects in early nineteenth-century America and the pre-Victorian emphasis on the family as a moral force shine through Lucy’s narrative. In the rural areas of northern New England where the Smiths lived, these patterns were especially significant. Migrants to this area had taken with them the revolutionary spirit of political independence. They had also encouraged the breakdown of the old order of religious domination. “The grip of colonial religious culture was broken and a new American style of religious diversity came into being.” Such a setting became fertile ground for religious experimentation and the birth of indigenous religious sects, some of which “undertook to redefine social and economic order through the model of the extended family.” Without stable institutional structures, the family thus became the “crucible” for forming “primary identity, socialization, and cultural norms for rural life” (Marini, 7, 56, 31). Lucy was a product of this environment.

Lucy Mack was born on 8 July 1775, in Gilsum, New Hampshire, during an era of political, economic, and social change. The second half of the eighteenth century had seen a slowly evolving shift of responsibilities within the American family. Even though the Revolutionary War would accelerate that shift, the initial impetus came from the changing economic scene. According to women’s historian Linda Kerber, the growing market economy and “industrial technology reshaped the contours of domestic labor” (7). This shift toward commercialism pushed the father’s work farther away from the home, with the result that the mother now took over the father’s former role of final responsibility for the children’s education and for their moral and religious training (Bloch, 113). Magazines and educational publications heralded mothers as “the chief transmitters of religious and moral values” (Bloch, 101). William Buchan’s 1804 Advice to Mothers, one of many such publications, described the importance of this new emphasis on mothers:

Everything great or good in future life, must be the effect of early impressions; and by whom are those impressions to be made but by mothers, who are most interested in the consequences? Their instructions and example will have a lasting influence and of course, will go farther to form the morals, than all the eloquence of the pulpit, the efforts of the schoolmasters, or the corrective power of the civil magistrate, who may, indeed, punish crimes, but cannot implant the seeds of virtue. (Bloch, 112)

Kerber maintains that “Republican Motherhood . . . guaranteed the steady infusion of virtues into the Republic. . . . The mother, and not the masses came [p.4]to be seen as the custodian of civic morality” (11). “Challenging the traditionally vaunted moral, and often even intellectual, superiority of men, authors increasingly celebrated examples of female piety, learning, courage, and benevolence” (Bloch, 116). Churches, too, played their part. “Even New England clergymen regarded ‘the superior sensibility of females,’ their ‘better qualities’ of tenderness, compassion, patience, and fortitude, as inclining them more naturally toward Christianity than men” (Bloch, 116, see also n60). Since the majority of their parishioners were women, New England clergymen also “helped to formulate a new definition of female character . . . endorsing female moral superiority in exchange for women’s support and activism” (Wolloch, 120). Mothers could “generate those moral tendencies which cover the whole of existence,” wrote one minister in the Ladies Magazine (Wolloch, 118). Historians Nancy Cott and Elizabeth Pleck point out that “evangelical works of the 1790s, claimed that female piety and sincerity would bring ‘effectual reformation . . . in every department of society’ because ‘all virtues, all vices, and all characters, are intimately connected with the manners, principles and dispositions of our women.’” In fact, “the collective influence of women was an agency of moral reform” (166). As Bloch suggests, “Women came to be perceived as, essentially, ‘moral mothers,’ not only in relation to their children, but also in their other major supportive and didactive roles as teachers, charity workers, and sentimental writers” (120).

Despite these accolades, Kerber tells us that educator Benjamin Rush “was careful not to include a claim to political power,” when he pointed out that “our ladies should be qualified to a certain degree, by a peculiar and suitable education, to concur in instructing their sons in the principles of liberty and government” (229). Educator Sarah Pierce, in an 1818 address, stressed “mothers’ responsibility for maintaining republican virtue and morality,” and Joseph Emerson, at the dedication of his seminary in 1822, said, “Let the female character be raised, that she may elevate her sons.” Educational reformer Thomas Gallaudet believed that a mother’s influence on her child was “inferior only to God; and she is the instrument He employs” (Cott, 120). In her study of sixty-five New England sermons delivered during 1792-1837, Nancy F. Cott found that the churches’ “portrayal of women’s roles grew in persuasive power because it overlapped with republican commonplaces about the need for virtuous citizens for a successful republic.” According to “prevailing conceptions of republican virtue, this was a task having political impact” (147-48). The rhetoric of post-revolutionary New England constantly combined Christian piety and patriotism.

This dynamic becomes evident in Lucy’s own story. She speaks with pride of her father’s involvement in the Revolutionary War. Even though Solomon [p.5]Mack was not committed to any religious belief system, he certainly appreciated the diligence of his wife in attending to the spiritual and educational needs of their children. “All the flowery eloquence of the pulpit,” he said, could not match the influence of his wife on their children (chap. 1). Lucy’s mother, Lydia Gates Mack, was an example of the kind of “moral mother” increasingly celebrated during the last decades of the eighteenth century. Lucy’s older brother Jason became a “seeker” and eventually formed his own religious community; her two older sisters each had a visionary confirmation that their sins were forgiven and that God called them to “witness” to others of the need for repentance. Such gestures of piety were expected in the highly charged revivalist climate of the day. As historians have noted, clergymen “encouraged people to induce ‘visions’” (Buel, 11). Lucy’s father, after a period of acute suffering in body and mind, underwent his own religious conversion in 1810.

When Lucy married Joseph Smith Sr. in January 1796, she brought not only the housewifely skills learned from her mother, plus a wedding gift of $1,000 from her brother Stephen and his business partner, John Mudget, but also the ideal of a strong, responsible, pious mother. Lydia Gates Mack was a model whom Lucy would emulate and even enlarge in her own family life. As a true republican mother, Lucy assumed the responsibility for the moral and religious guidance of her children as well as for their secular education. As a result, she emerges as a major influence in preparing them for their involvement in the charismatic movement which early Mormonism represents.

Lucy tells of her own epiphany and her consequent allegiance to the cultural ideals of her day. After six years of marriage, Lucy became very ill, was diagnosed with “confirmed consumption,” the disease from which her sisters Lovisa and Lovina had died, and was given up by the doctors (chap. 11). Lucy did not feel prepared for death and judgement: “I knew not the ways of Christ, besides there appeared to be a dark and lonesome chasm between myself and the Saviour, which I dared not attempt to pass.” By making a gigantic effort, she perceived “a faint glimmer of light.” She spent the night pleading with the Lord to spare her life so she could bring up her children (Alvin and Hyrum) and “be a comfort” to her husband. She vowed that, if her life was spared, she would serve God with all her heart, whereupon she heard a voice advising her, “Seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. Let your heart be comforted; ye believe in God, believe also in me.” From that point on, Lucy began a long search for a religion that would teach her the way of salvation. In so doing, she was following the precepts of her culture. During this post-revolutionary period, religious speakers constantly emphasized the “cultivation” of female piety so that women might more ably fulfil their role as a “moral mother” (Bloch, 118).

[p.6]Lucy also continued to educate her children in secular as well as spiritual matters. Dr. John Stafford of Palmyra, interviewed in 1880, remembered that Lucy “had a great deal of faith that their children were going to do something great” and also recalled that Lucy taught her eight children from the Bible. Stafford did not comment on the spiritual precepts they thus garnered but rather on the children’s educational achievements. Joseph Jr. had been “quite illiterate,” he said, but “after they began to have school at their house, he improved greatly” (Vogel 2:122). Were Lucy’s ambitions for and faith in her children’s abilities unusual for a mother of that period? Linda Kerber tells how the republican mother was to “encourage in her sons civic interest and participation. She was to educate her children and guide them in the paths of morality and virtue” (283). Nancy Wolloch, notes that ministers, after “discarding predestination as an axiom, now suggested that mothers not God, were responsible for their children’s souls” (121). Lucy certainly seems to have taken such responsibilities very seriously in her own family. William Smith later affirmed that Lucy was

a very pious woman and much interested in the welfare of her children, both here and hereafter, [who] made use of every means which her parental love could suggest, to get us engaged in seeking for our souls’ salvation, or (as the term then was) “in getting religion.” She prevailed on us to attend the meetings [the Methodist revival being preached by George Lane], and almost the whole family became interested in the matter, and seekers after truth … My mother continued her importunities and exertions to interest us in the importance of seeking for the salvation of our immortal souls, until almost all of the family became either converted or seriously inclined. (Vogel 1:494-95)

It is quite clear that Lucy’s piety and high principles were the major moral influence in her children’s lives, but she also was concerned about her husband’s spiritual well-being. New England ministers declared that a wife’s conversion could also help her perform “her great task of bringing men back to God” (Welter, 162). Various publications of the early nineteenth century pointed out:

Religion or piety was the core of women’s virtue, the source of her strength … Religion belonged to woman by divine right, a gift of God and nature. This “peculiar susceptibility” to religion was given her for a reason: “the vestal flame of piety, lighted up by Heaven in the breast of woman” would throw its beams into the naughty world of men. (Welter, 152)

According to Nancy Wolloch, “Female converts outnumbered male converts three to two in the Second Great Awakening in New England … By 1814, for instance, women outnumbered men in the churches and religious societies in [p.7]Utica, and they could be relied upon to urge the conversion of family members” (121).

It was Lucy who took the initiative in trying to involve her family in seeking the “true church.” In light of Joseph Sr.’s indifference, she sought consolation in earnest prayer that the gospel would be brought to her husband and was reassured by a dream that her husband would be given “the pure and undefiled Gospel of the Son of God” (56). About this time Joseph Sr. began having visionary dreams with highly symbolic content, obviously related to his ambivalence about religious faith and sometimes presaging events to come. These dreams continued after the family’s move to Palmyra, New York, until he had had seven in all; Lucy remembers five well enough to quote in detail.

Lucy’s efforts to find the true religion did not slacken in Palmyra. She went from sect to sect; and shortly afterwards, she and three of her children, Hyrum, Samuel, and Sophronia, attended the Presbyterian church, the only church with a meetinghouse in Palmyra. Although Lucy longed for her family to be united in their religious faith, she could not persuade her husband to join them. Thus, when young Joseph had his theophany, followed by the coming forth of the Book of Mormon attended by other heavenly messengers, it was the means of making Lucy’s dream of a family united in religious harmony come true, a dream that was part of prevailing cultural expectations.

Throughout the turmoil of the revivals, Lucy had revealed her anxiety and her determination that her family would “get religion,” so she shares her joy in the eventual unity of faith which young Joseph brings to the Smith family with his vision of a “restoration.” Lucy tells the story very movingly. Three years after the first vision of young Joseph, she observes, “I presume our family presented an aspect as singular as any ever lived upon the face of the earth—all seated in a circle, father, mother, sons and daughters, and giving the most profound attention to a boy, eighteen years of age, who had never read the Bible through in his life” (chap. 19). She relates how Alvin, on his deathbed, counseled Joseph to “be faithful in receiving instruction and in keeping every commandment” (chap. 20).

While Lucy still continued attending meetings at the local Presbyterian church, young Joseph refused to attend; and when he finally obtained the promised gold plates which told of the history of the early inhabitants of the American continent, Lucy stopped going to meetings herself. She said, “We were now confirmed in the opinion that God was about to bring to light something upon which we could stay our minds, or that he would give us a more perfect knowledge of the plan of salvation and the redemption of the human family. This caused us greatly to rejoice, the sweetest union and happiness pervaded our house, and tranquillity reigned in our midst” (chap. 19). Much of [p.8]Lucy’s consciousness during this period was that her family was to be the instrument in bringing salvation to the whole human family. It was clearly a Smith family enterprise. As Jan Shipps has pointed out, Lucy employs the pronouns we, ours, and us rather than simply referring to Joseph’s particular role (Mormonism, 107).

When converts were baptized into the new church, Lucy expanded her motherly consciousness to include them as well. En route to Kirtland, Ohio, when the women in the group—and even the men—behaved like improvident, sulky children, Lucy used a combination of parental firmness and encouragement, took over the charge of feeding those who had come without supplies, disciplined and watched over the children of the negligent, and found housing for them as well. During a moment of grumbling, she reminded them, “Have any of you lacked? Have not I set food before you every day, and made you, who had not provided for yourselves, as welcome as my own children?” (chap. 39). It was a telling comparison, outlining as it did the role she played in the church at a time when the institution provided nothing similar. In Kirtland, Lucy shared her home with newly arrived immigrants, sometimes sleeping on the floor herself when the house was full. She also continued in her missionary work, even daring to stand up to a Presbyterian minister in defense of her faith.

When Joseph Jr. called his father as the church’s first patriarch in December 1833, he emphasized the familial nature of the early Mormon movement. Likening his father to Adam, the prophet said, “So shall it be with my father; he shall be called a prince over his posterity, holding the keys of the patriarchal priesthood over the kingdom of God on earth, even the Church of the Latter Day Saints” (qtd. in Bates and Smith, 34). In this calling Father Smith was to give patriarchal blessings to the Saints; and when he attended the blessing meetings, he insisted that Lucy accompany him (chap. 44). On at least one occasion, Lucy added her blessing or confirmed what had already been received (Crosby).

During the Missouri period when Joseph and Hyrum were imprisoned in Liberty Jail, Lucy was a tower of strength to her husband and other church members. Only in Nauvoo, Illinois, with floods of converts rising like a tide over the New York stalwarts who were left and with Lucy largely isolated in caring for her dying husband did her sense of her role falter. She still felt like a mother but was less often recognized as such by her “children” in the church. Perhaps the most important meaning in Joseph Sr.’s dying blessing on Lucy was to reaffirm her role and status: “Mother, do you not know that you are the mother of as great a family as ever lived upon the earth … They are raised up to do the Lord’s work” (chap. 52). He was telling her that her influence, fo-[p.9]cused on her biological children, was the seedbed for a larger spiritual family. A century later, sociologist Max Weber would name the phenomenon of family charisma.

Ironically, it was Joseph Jr.’s experiments with expanded family models through polygamy that sent rifts shivering through that foundation. Even as Lucy bravely held on to her vision of the family as instruments in the hands of God, her prophet and patriarch sons were killed on 27 June 1844. When Lucy saw the bodies of her martyred sons, she cried “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken this family?” (chap. 54)

For Lucy as a republican mother, her family had been the instrument in the hands of God in restoring Jesus Christ’s true gospel to the earth in the latter days. The Second Great Awakening had seen an emphasis on restoring the primitive church of Christ; and Lucy, it appears, truly thought that her family was performing that service. Republican motherhood had bestowed on women the responsibility of teaching Jesus’ pure gospel to their children and of leading their husbands back to the fold. Lucy had been successful in meeting that challenge. Joseph Smith Jr. had become the prophet and president of Christ’s church and Hyrum had been the patriarch and associate president. Lucy’s whole family, including her late husband as the first patriarch, had been faithful in sustaining the church through times of persecution and great hardship. They had also served as missionaries. Lucy herself had received revelations from the Lord and had played an important role in the entire process. And now this. Lucy recalls, “I was left desolate in my distress. I had reared six sons to manhood, and of them all, one only remained, and he too far distant to speak one consoling word to me in this trying hour” (chap. 54). William, the surviving son, was on a mission in New York.

It was perhaps inevitable that there would be a crisis of leadership in Nauvoo in 1844. Although it is generally assumed that the church carried on in the tradition of its founder, in reality its basic organization shifted during this period of transition. Leonard Arrington has noted that “the conditions under which Brigham Young and the Twelve Apostles assumed leadership assured a hierarchical structure designed along authoritarian lines … The theophanous works of Joseph Smith were canonized into doctrine, and the doctrine and organizational structure became more dogmatic and inflexible” (“Intellectual,” 18).

Lucy Mack Smith, it appears, was a tenuous link between these two phases of the church’s history. She became a symbol of continuity, assuming greater importance at that time because of the strained relationship between Brigham Young and Joseph’s widow, Emma. Hosea Stout noted in his diary on 23 February 1845 that Lucy spoke at a church meeting. All present were deeply moved [p.10]as she spoke “with the most feeling and heartbroken manner” of “the trials and troubles she had passed through in establishing the Church of Christ and the persecutions and afflictions which her sons & husband had passed through” (1:23). Lucy also asked permission to speak at the October 1845 general conference. After she had recited the sufferings of her family on behalf of the church, she asked if they considered her a mother in Israel. Brigham Young made it the formal conferring of a title by saying: “All who consider Mother Smith as a mother in Israel, signify by saying ‘yes’. One universal ‘yes’ rang throughout” (HC 7:470-471).

Lucy’s History contains no comment about the difficulties she encountered with church leaders during the transitional period—troubles which, without doubt, were exacerbated by her son William—but they are suggested in the few letters and second-hand accounts that have survived (Quaife, 246-48). Lucy’s story ends following her sons’ martyrdom with these words: “Here ends the history of my life, as well as that of my family …” (chap. 54). What Lucy’s History provides is a very clear picture of the role that the whole Smith family played in the Mormon restoration—a family centered around a mother who prepared the way for such a restoration and who displayed an unshakable faith in her mission.

Lucy is a model of the early nineteenth-century republican mother, a “moral mother” who displayed piety, dispensed values, shaped character at the domestic hearth, and brought up her sons in the paths of civic virtue. She had done her part, yet the Republic, as guarantor of religious freedom, had failed to do its part. In the new call to domesticity issued to Mormon women in the closing days of the twentieth century, Lucy’s story speaks to a new generation of her spiritual granddaughters.

Editor’s Introduction

[p.11]The Domestic Spirituality of Lucy Mack Smith

When New England’s first poet, Anne Bradstreet, sought words to express her sorrow at the death of her mother, Dorothy Dudley, in 1643, she created this moving epitaph:

 Here lies

A worthy matron of unspotted life,
A loving mother, and obedient wife,
A friendly neighbor, pitiful to poor,
Whom oft she fed, and clothed with her store;
To servants wisely awful, but yet kind,
And as they did so they reward did find;
A true instructor of her family,
The which she ordered with dexterity;
She public meetings ever did frequent,
And in her closet constant hours she spent;
Religious in all her words and ways,
Preparing still for death, till end of days:
Of all her children, children lived to see,
Then dying, left a blessed memory. (Bradstreet, 147)

Every syllable of this tribute—with the possible exception of the reference to servants—fits like skin over the life of New England’s granddaughter, Lucy Mack Smith, Mormonism’s “First Mother,” in Irene M. Bates’s telling phrase. Lucy’s life centered in her family; and because God had called her sons to greatness, Lucy carried her own religious fervor seamlessly into supporting her husband as first patriarch and her sons as prophets, patriarchs, and missionaries. The evidence lies in the book that she wrote, partly as a vindication of their missions, partly as a defense of her family’s life, and almost incidentally as Mormonism’s first family history and Mormonism’s first female autobiography.

Although Lucy’s book has long been used as a sourcebook for early Mormon history, that is not its main usefulness. A quick comparison of the outline history of the church that Mormon children learn in Sunday school and that missionaries repeat to converts establishes a long list of missing items—and underscores the surprising extent to which her story is a family memoir. She omits [p.12]her son’s “first vision,” the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood by John the Baptist, the restoration of the Melchizedek priesthood by New Testament apostles Peter, James, and John, the fact and date of her own baptism, the Word of Wisdom, the School of the Prophets, the dedication of the Kirtland temple, the appearance of Moses, Elias, and Elijah, the “second vision” in which Jesus Christ accepted the temple, the importance of Zion’s Camp as priesthood training, the selection of the Quorum of the Twelve, the organization of the Seventies, Danite activity in Missouri, the establishment of bishops, the law of consecration, the crucially important missions of the Twelve to Great Britain (1837-38, 1840-41), the creation of wards, the organization of the Relief Society, the practice of polygamy, and Joseph’s U.S. presidential campaign. Beyond the publication of the Book of Mormon, she does not mention the publication of Emma’s hymnal, the Book of Commandments, the Doctrine and Covenants, or any of the early Mormon periodicals with the exception of Don Carlos’s involvement with the Messenger and Advocate.

Although Lucy was endowed, sealed, and had received her second anointing, she does not allude to any of these events nor to the major Mormon doctrines of premortal existence, marital and parent/child sealings, the three degrees of glory, the preexistence, or the nature of God as a glorified man. Nor does she mention vicarious temple ordinances (although she records Joseph Sr.’s pleasure at hearing that Alvin can be baptized by proxy). Although she expresses support for Brigham Young, she does not report the miracle of the “mantle of Joseph” that reportedly transformed Young momentarily into her son and certainly would have sealed her loyalty irrevocably to him.

What Lucy does tell, in poignant and gripping detail, are the sacrifices and sufferings of her family to bring forth the Book of Mormon and restore the gospel, the vitality of continuing revelation, the rejection and persecution inflicted on true followers of Christ as the Second Coming approaches, and the realities of faith, the gifts of the Spirit, and the enmity of the “world.”

Meriting much more study is the extent to which Lucy’s narrative reveals a tribal feeling, not only about her family, but also about the church. The line between the two is, in fact, quite thin.1 Speaking to the assembled [p.13]Saints in October 1845, most of whom, she acknowledges, are converts too recent to know the early history of the church, she not only recounts the better-known sufferings and martyrs’ deaths of her sons but also focuses briefly on her three daughters who are among the most invisible members in the pre-1844 church. She describes their poverty—“I have 3 daughters at home they have never had anything”—and their commitment—“but have worked for the Church” (Lucy Smith, Minutes, Bolton version, p. 10).2 Her rough draft also contains ample evidence of the equation she made between family and church:

The people were anxious to have us the elders preach again …

Father Johnson offered him a horse for he was a kind old man and would do anything in his power for Joseph or any of our family. (chap. 42)

… persecutors of the church my family who are the enemies of the church … (chap. 54)

Another examination yet to be made is a rhetorical and literary analysis of Lucy’s narrative technique. Some elements are:

• Suspense: “We were expecting him [Martin Harris] every moment. We waited till nine, and he came not—till ten, and he was not there—till eleven, still he did not make his appearance” (chap. 25).

• Colloquial expressions: When Thomas Marsh warns her not to sing or pray en route to Kirtland or “we should be mobbed before the next morning,” Lucy reports her retort with a slangy relish: “‘Mob it is, then,’ said I, ‘we shall attend to prayer before sunset, mob or no mob’” (chap. 39).

• A well-developed sense of dialogue, as in this exchange with their hostess for an evening outside Buffalo:

“What be you?” said she. “Be you Baptists?”
I told her that we were “Mormons.”
“Mormons!” ejaculated she, in a quick, good-natured tone. “What be they? I never heard of them before.”
“I told you that we were ‘Mormons,’” I replied, “because that is what the world call us, but the only name we acknowledge is Latter-Day Saints.”
[p.14]“Latter-Day Saints!” rejoined she, “I never heard of them either.” (chap. 39)

• Regionalisms: “Here we found an own sister . . .” (Lucy is quoting but also paraphrasing John Smith, her brother- in-law.)

• An earthy and sarcastic humor: She obviously enjoys the irony of the prosecuting attorney becoming ill and “vomit[ing] at the feet of the Judge,” stressing the Missouri nickname of “pukes.” Darker is her comment after the martyrdom that “the mob had the kindness to allow us the privilege of bringing them home” (53, 54).

• A spontaneous use of King James English at moments of heightened emotion for formal effect. Although these pastiches of scriptural allusions and what Northrup Fry calls “high demotic” are almost invariably edited down or out of the rough draft, they suggest that Lucy had an impressive gift for spontaneous sermonizing. For example, she reproaches the three men who have purchased their farm by fraudulent means of thrusting the family “straightway into the common air like the beasts of the field or the fowls of Heaven with naught but <the> earth for a resting place and the canopy of He the skies for a covering.” Compare Daniel 2:38 (“the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven”), Numbers 10:33 (“a resting place”), Proverbs 20:14 (“it is naught . . . but”), and Psalms 105:39 (“a cloud for a covering”). Lucy also quotes or alludes directly to many other scriptures; I have referenced some (see text notes) that constitute direct quotations from the Bible, but surely she was also familiar with them through the King James language of the Book of Mormon and secondarily as filtered through hundreds of scripture-based sermons that she had heard in her life.

• Exhortation: The economy of structure and effect of her spontaneous sermon to her light-minded Fayette company en route to Kirtland deserves detailed attention which it cannot receive here; but she moves with greatest skill within a few paragraphs from rebuke through a series of rhetorical questions to reminders of God’s goodness, a stirring testimony of the Book of Mormon, and a focusing of the company’s faith on a miracle—the literal parting of the ice before them (chap. 39).

• Exposition: On four separate occasions, Lucy explains the Book of Mormon to a listener, including some quotations from herself: (1) to Deacon Beckwith, when he and a delegation from the Presbyterian church try to persuade her, Samuel, and Hyrum to renounce the Book of Mormon; (2) to the old Quaker who arrests Joseph Sr. for debt because he will not agree to burn the books; (3) to a curious inquirer on the shore as their [p.15]canal boat passes by en route to Kirtland; and (4) to Reverend Ruggles at Pontiac, Michigan, when he patronizes Joseph as a “poor, foolish, silly boy” (chaps. 32, 34, 39, 40). In each case, Lucy’s defense is not only well-organized exposition but is also stirringly eloquent: “‘Deacon Beckwith,’ said I, ‘if you should stick my flesh full of fagots, and even burn me at the stake, I would declare, as long as God should give me breath, that Joseph has got that Record, and that I know it to be true’” (chap. 32).

• Polarization. The undeniable vigor of Lucy’s devotion to her family and, by extension, to the church has a shadow side of sharply polarized thinking. With the exception of a few kindly Gentiles, whom she holds in grateful remembrance, she sees the world in terms of “the members” and “the mob,” with an uneasily shifting border between the two occupied by “the apostates.” Obviously one purpose of her book is to take a vicarious revenge on the enemies against whom she is physically helpless—by recording their names for the obloquy of posterity. In fact, in one revealing passage, she regrets not recalling the name of one persecutor so that it can be recorded.

Lucy’s narrative has a complicated history of composition and printing. It also bears the dubious distinction of being the first—and so far only—work published under an apostle’s direction to be publicly denounced and censored by one president of the church and authorized for revised reprinting by another. (See “The Textual History of Lucy’s Book,” which follows.) The relevant documents include the resulting two major manuscript sources, the first published version, and numerous variant printings from various sources by individuals who, because of the official censorship, felt a certain amount of liberty in making textual emendations of their own.

I remember picking my way through Preston Nibley’s 1945 History of Joseph Smith by His Mother when I was six or seven in Idaho’s Lost River Valley. Our small family library was housed in a simple two-shelf glass-fronted bookcase. I would not see a public library until I was thirteen, but I had been reading since I was four, and I was desperate for anything containing words. Because this volume was with my parents’ religious books, I assumed it was somehow scriptural. I never remember hearing it quoted from in lessons or talks at church. In the mid-1970s while I was employed as an editor for the LDS church’s magazine for adults, the Ensign, I learned about the troubled history surrounding the book’s 1853 publication and first looked at the slim black volume in the Historical Department Library. On my first trip to Independence, Missouri, as part of the Mormon History Association annual meeting, I eagerly purchased a copy of the 1969 reprint of the 1912 RLDS edition in the Auditorium’s bookstore. Occasionally during the [p.16]1970s, I talked with Richard L. Anderson,3 my former BYU New Testament teacher, while I was at the Ensign and he was at Brigham Young University, about his upcoming projects. They always included an edition of Joseph’s and Emma’s letters and the publication of what he called Lucy’s “preliminary manuscript.” Many projects interrupted these plans including, I confess, articles that he wrote by invitation for the Ensign. The last time we talked, in 1989, Lucy’s manuscript was still on Richard’s list.

However, by 1988, I had begun a serious search, not just for Lucy’s record, but for her authentic voice. I had, in a sense, lived with Lucy all of my literate life; but only as I began researching and reading in the period, and particularly as Dean Jessee’s stunning series of Brigham Young and Joseph Smith papers began to appear, did I realize how many other voices overlay Lucy’s. Lucy’s Book is the first one-volume history4 to arrange the earliest known manuscript source of the text Lucy dictated in 1844-45 with the version printed in England in 1853 by Apostle Orson Pratt.

The notes draw on a second important manuscript which has never been published, a “final” or fair copy, carefully handwritten by Martha Jane and Howard Coray with chapter divisions in a bound volume of lined paper. This manuscript, the duplicate of the one from which Pratt printed the 1853 book in England, is in the LDS Church Archives. Other textual emendations, described in the notes, come from the energetic fist of George A. Smith, who annotated and corrected both the fair copy and the printed version. His first cousin Elias Smith also made marginal corrections on the 1853 volume. (See “Textual History.”) Other textual changes appear in other editions and printings by the RLDS church, the LDS church, and various private and commercial publishers. Considering the book’s stormy history, however, the sum total of “corrections” is surprisingly small, a tacit concession to the accuracy of Lucy’s memory and the worth of her memoir.

Although the reality of the Smith family’s lived experience is almost certainly more complicated than that captured by Lucy’s book, even the most casual reader cannot fail to be caught up by the passion of Lucy’s convictions and engaged by her marked gifts as a story-teller.

Long an icon, Lucy has received ritual regard for her success in Mormonism’s most revered role for women: that of mother. She is praised for her fertility as the mother of many children, her tenderheartedness, her willingness to follow her husband to new locales, her eagerness to accept the gospel preached by her son, and for her faithful life. She is seen, in other words, primarily as she has pictured herself: in relation to her most famous son. Secondarily, she exists as half of the Joseph-and-Lucy couple—a more successful image of marital harmony than Joseph and Emma.5Then she typically drops out of sight in Mormon accounts. Her failure—and it is seen as a failure—to come west with Brigham Young, the fact that her history ends in 1845, and the comparative seclusion and illness of her last decade are erased from Utah Mormon consciousness.

Almost universally overlooked is the perhaps unconscious way that Lucy Mack Smith has functioned as a model of domestic spirituality, a model drawn directly from her New England culture about proper behavior for pious women, but one that extends unbroken to the present day. In fact, it is possible to argue that Lucy’s model is currently, though unconsciously, being urged on Mormon women through authoritative discourse with an insistence that is new since the modest steps toward equality made during the 1970s and 1980s. In a way, it is surprising that Lucy’s life has not been mined more deeply and more consistently as a manual for today’s Mormon women, given the intense role anxiety generated by recent church pronouncements on “the family.” As one who has long desired an expanded role for women in Mormonism, I make this observation with a certain irony: Lucy, as she presents herself in her family history, represents the ideal Mormon woman in five ways: (1) She is a “good” citizen, devoted to patriotic ideals of republican virtue and civic responsibility. (2) She has remarkable executive and managerial skills but defers consistently to male authority. (3) She is focused on her husband and household, expressing ill-concealed contempt for women who are not. (4) She has impressive spiritual gifts and is a woman of intense piety, but these qualities are manifest only [p.18]in relation to her family. (5) And crowningly, her self-identification is overwhelming that of a Christian mother.


Irene Bates’s biographical essay sets Lucy illuminatingly in the context of republican motherhood, an important ideal of the time. It goes far toward explaining why Lucy included such extensive accounts of her father’s and brothers’ martial exploits. But it is also important to recognize the message she was communicating by introducing herself as the daughter and sister of unquestioned patriots. Lucy’s insistence on beginning with nine chapters of material on her family and Joseph Smith Sr.’s genealogy has mystified readers who expect to plunge directly into Joseph Smith Jr.’s life. As a child and teenager, I regularly skipped these chapters to begin with Lucy’s marriage to Joseph Sr.

But Lucy’s use of her father’s autobiography6 is instructive. Solomon’s own point in writing his autobiography concentrates on his religious awakening, an inspirational story in its own right. His spiritual reflections began in the winter of 1810-11 when he was “confined with rheumatism.” He began to study the Bible and eagerly conversed with his wife, Lydia Gates Mack, whose piety he had always praised. His anxious and fervent prayers were rewarded: He saw “a bright light … heard a voice calling to me again” and “passages of scripture” came “to my mind” (Richard L. Anderson, New England, 51). He particularly drew comfort from the scriptural promises: “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burthen is light” (Matt. 11:28-29). He ruefully confessed that he was “so stupid” he had to ask Lydia if this passage was in the Bible. He prayed sincerely for mercy and received a sign: All of his rheumatic pain disappeared for a blessed night (55). He rejoiced in his conversion: “Everything appeared new and beautiful. Oh how I loved my neighbors. How I loved my enemies—I could pray for them. Everything appeared delightful. The love of Christ is beautiful … Oh, come, come; how sweet is the love of Jesus—how beautiful is the love of God” (56-57).

Given the religious focus of her memoir, it is remarkable that Lucy does not quote from this affecting spiritual biography. Rather, she selects only those [p.19]portions that show her father’s patriotism, recounting his activities as a combatant during the French and Indian War and later during the Revolutionary War. Similarly, she stresses the Revolutionary War service of her teenage brother, Stephen. She was not laying a groundwork to show that her family had a prophetic heritage into which her son’s later visions, creations of scripture, and founding of a church would fit—although such a purpose would have been thoroughly comprehensible. Rather, she was painting a picture of her family as impeccably loyal to the institutions and values of the young American Republic. This stance explains her repeated shock, indignation, and outrage that her family’s legal and political rights were violated, that they were deprived of their rights as American citizens, and that the pledged faith of the state of Illinois to keep her sons safe was false.

This stance also reveals that Lucy Mack Smith envisioned a shape and organization to her narrative from the very beginning. That shape is a prophetic lament for the corruption of her country as shown by its rejection of the prophets and patriarchs—her husband and sons. She starts with the godly ideal of patriotic sacrifice and virtue and ends with its betrayal. In a lengthy and somewhat disjointed letter that she dictated on 23 January 1845 to William Smith, then in the East, she lamented:

By What By Whom am I deprived of my children and made a Widow my health destroyed and my peace of mind blasted for, [sic] ever on Earth and Angels Patriotic men and Gods declare that it was by malicious persecution & the dagger of the dark assassin where is my last remaining son the solace of my age. [Alas?] he is a pilgrim in a strange land traversing the Earth to preach salvation to those who if they do not rize up as advocates of equal & constitutional rights will hold up their hands to Heaven in the day of judgemen<t> dyed like crimson with your brothers blood …

And in a final peroration that Coray (and therefore Pratt) severely condensed, she denounces the United States for tyranny:

You suffered my husband & children to [be] robbed imprisoned and murdered until f the cries of 5 widows and 24 orphan children were lifted to <you> in vain and we are still chased before our a law less banditti of from one kingdom to another people although I am now 70 years of [age] and a Native of the united states and although My Father and my brothers Fought hard and struggled manfully for to establish a government of liberty and eaqual rights upon this the home of my birth and notwithstanding I have violated no law yet I in common with many thousand qually equally innocent with me am commanded <by a mob> to leave the country at or stop here at the [peril?] of our lives and last of all and most to be deplored the rulers of those who are chosen to enforce and execute the Law declare that the proceedings are outrageous but that we must of [p.20]necessity submit to them for our countryman [sic] have all become so corrupt that there are none to defend and maintain the sacredness of the Law …

Oh, for a lodge in some vast Wilderness some boundless contiguity of shade where rumor of oppression and […] might never reach me more let me leave the […] of bones of my fathers and brothers who and the bones of my martyrd children and go to a land where never man dwelt fare well my country. Thou that killest the prophets and hath exiled them that were sent unto thee once thou were fair once thou wert lovely … nothing can cleanse it but judgements of <him> who is a consuming fire

This approach is the same strategy that the Mormons had used earlier in failed attempts to claim their legal rights. As Clark V. Johnson summarizes the contributions of the 773 Missouri redress petitioners, they “tell the story of a people wrongfully deprived of their rights as free men and women under both the constitution of the state of Missouri and the Constitution of the United States of America” (xxxiv). Repeatedly these petitions assert their right to redress for “loss of property & health & Sitizen Ship,” as William Batson wrote (Johnson, 133; see also 131, 147, 157, 331, 360). Truce Brace who, with his wife and six children, had been driven first from Jackson County, then from Clay, and then from Caldwell, catalogued his losses and beatings, then penned a passionate postscript: “in the revalutionary war my father Was ingaged fiting for liberty which is all that i clame according to the constitucion & that I am determid … i am redust so that my tax is small but i am sure to havet to pay & little or much it goes to suport you Judges & law givers you miletary forces from which i demand protection so i remane a well wisher to my country” (145). Eliza R. Snow picks up the same theme of the “blood stained flag” and God’s inevitable and infallible judgement upon the “guilty land” in her commemorative poems about the assassinations of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. (See Appendix.)

Furthermore, when the Council of Fifty was organized on 11 March 1844, it was charged to consider the “best policy for this people to adopt to obtain their rights from the nation and insure protection for themselves and children; and to secure a resting place in the mountains, or some uninhabited region, where we can enjoy the liberty of conscience guaranteed to us by the Constitution of our country, rendered doubly sacred by the precious blood of our fathers, and denied to us by the present authorities, who have smuggled themselves into power in the States and Nation” (HC 6:260-61). Clearly, in writing this appeal against tyranny, Lucy was drawing on conventions well-known to her American audience.


Colonial historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich sees the role of “deputy husband” as one of the socially defined and socially acceptable ways for women in [p.21]the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to exercise executive, entrepreneurial, and managerial talents:

A woman became a wife by virtue of her dependence, her solemnly vowed commitment to her husband …

One can be dependent, however, without being either servile or helpless. To use an imperfect but nonetheless suggestive analogy, colonial wives were dependent upon patriarchal families in somewhat the same way seventeenth-century ministers were dependent upon their congregations. . . . They owned neither their place of employment nor even the tools of their trade. No matter how diligently they worked, they did not expect to inherit the land upon which they lived … Skilled service was their major contribution, secure support their primary compensation … They could not resign their position, but then neither could they be fired. Upon the death of a husband they were entitled to maintenance for life … Almost any task was suitable for a woman as long as it furthered the good of her family and was acceptable to her husband. This approach was both fluid and fixed. It allowed for varied behavior without really challenging the patriarchal order of society … Because wives remained close to the house, they were often at the communication center … given responsibility for conveying directions, pacifying creditors, and perhaps even making some decisions about the disposition of labor. (37-39)

Lucy, with suitable expressions of modest demurral, shows herself capable, resourceful, and even charismatic in her forays into the public sphere. When Joseph Sr. goes ahead of the family to Palmyra, she competently prepares for the departure, pays off last-minute debtors who claim they were not paid by Joseph Sr., refuses the offer of a subscription, fires their incompetent teamster, forestalls his attempt to take their team and wagon, assists through cookery and handicrafts in reestablishing the family finances, represents her husband in negotiating to try and save the farm, goes to Martin Harris at Joseph Jr.’s request to inform him about the Book of Mormon plates, tries to get Solomon Humphrey and Thomas B. Marsh to lead the New York converts’ migration to Ohio but takes over without confusion or self-deprecation when they refuse, arranges for the construction of a schoolhouse/meeting house in Kirtland that Reynolds Cahoon had failed to carry out, and at her own request addresses a congregation of 5,000 in Nauvoo to promote her book, among other causes. (See “Lucy as Mother” below.)

In all of these activities, she defers to male authority. In her lengthy quest for a church, she goes to male ministers and preachers. She acts only as a representative of her husband and son in the financial negotiations on the farm. She asks her husband’s permission before launching the project of completing the meetinghouse/schoolhouse. She prophesies only in private and only about members of her own family. She gives the names and birth dates of her seven [p.22]named sons but does not mention the births of her three daughters and frequently omits the mention of her daughters on occasions when they are present. Often, even when addressing or describing a mixed group, she uses only the term “brethren.”

Although the Relief Society was an institutional form in which Mormon women could expand their participation in church life, Lucy does not mention it in her history even though she attended several meetings, spoke occasionally, and bore her testimony at least once. She was received by vote as a member of the society on 24 March 1842, the first meeting after its organization on 17 March.7 She spoke twice during that meeting. The first time, “Mother Lucy Smith arose and said she rejoiced in view of what was doing—as she came in and look’d upon the sisters it gave her feelings of deep interest—Wept—said she was advanc’d in years and could not stay long—hop’d the Lord would bless and aid the Society in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked—that her work was nearly done—felt to pray that the blessings of heaven might rest upon the Society.” The second time, she returned to the theme of sisterly love: “This Institution is a good one—we must watch over ourselves—that she came into the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to do good—to get good, and to get into the celestial kingdom. She said we must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another and gain instruction, that we may all sit down in heaven together” (“Record”).

At the third meeting, on 30 March 1842, as Emma dealt decisively with innuendos of Joseph Smith’s sexual impropriety, Lucy

rose and said she was glad the time had come that iniquity could be detected and reproach thrown off from the heads of the church—We come into the Church to be sav’d that we may live in peace and sit down in the kingdom of heaven—If we listen to, and circulate every evil report we shall idly spend the time which should be appropriated to the reading the Scriptures, the Book of Mormon—we must remember the words of Alma—pray much at morning, noon and night—feed the poor &c.—She said she was old—could not meet with the Society but few times more—and wish’d to leave her testimony that the Book of Mormon is the book of God—that Joseph is a man of God, a prophet of the Lord set apart to lead the people—If we observe his words it will be well with us; if we live righteously on earth, it will be well with us in Eternity.

Sarah Cleveland, Emma’s counselor, responded by thanking her “for her [p.23]testimony and counsel—express’d many good wishes, that she might receive much comfort and consolation in this Society—that the Lord would lengthen her days—that she may cheer the Society with her presence, aid it by her counsels and prayrs long before she shall take her departure to sit down by the side of her beloved Partner.”

At the opening of the fourth meeting on 19 April 1842, Emma asked the women “to occupy the time” while she and the other officers “were examining petitions of various persons who applied for membership.” Nothing loathe, they did so, “much to the edification of those present, by Mother Smith and others, by way of exhortation, admonition, encouragement &c. &c.” Later during that same meeting, Sarah Cleveland blessed the sisters in tongues. Patty Sessions, who gave the interpretation, mentioned Lucy by name, “saying that the prayers of father Smith were now answered upon the members of the Society, that the days of Mother S. should be prolonged and she should meet many times with the Society, should enjoy much in the society of the sisters & shall hereafter be crown’d a mother of those that shall prove faithful &c.” The testimonies continued for some time, “and the spirit of the Lord like a purifying stream, refreshed every heart,” wrote Eliza R. Snow, the secretary. Lucy gave the closing prayer at this meeting. At this point, Lucy had been a widow for eighteen months and, despite the misgivings about her health expressed a month earlier, was obviously well enough to attend meetings regularly, as the minutes show.

On 16 June 1843, Lucy had been among “several” who had called on a Sister Mills, apparently in need, earlier that day. One of the other women in the group bore witness of the “glorious manifestation” that Sister Mills had received (“Record”).

A month later on 21 July 1843, “the case of Mother Smith was then mentioned that she was in the decline of life and that she requested the prayers of the Society that she might yet be enabled to prove a Blessing to those who may enquire of the things of the Kingdom,” but it is not clear whether she was present. There is no record of Lucy’s participation or attendance at any other meetings before its suspension after its last meeting on 17 March 1844. Mary Bailey Smith “said her husband had given her the privilege of donating weekly one bushel of corn meal for the poor—wish’d to know where it should be deposited (30 March 1842). Lucy Millikin contributed a quarter on 19 April 1842. However, there is no record that Lucy Mack Smith ever made a contribution. Given her generous heart, this inability, which seems to point to diminished financial standing, must have pinched her as much as the poverty itself.


[p.24]Lucy’s Relationship with Joseph Sr.Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s analysis of the role of “Consort” (106-25) in her magisterial analysis of the roles of New England colonial women explains: “As consorts, women balanced the often contradictory demands of chastity and affability, modesty and desirability, spirituality and sexuality” (238).

The quality of Lucy’s and Joseph’s marriage is an important issue. Psychiatrist Robert D. Anderson has argued, in a provocative extended analysis, that the Book of Mormon can best be explained as Joseph Jr.’s attempts to deal with his family’s dysfunction and his own childhood trauma—the unanesthetized triple operations on his leg at about age seven.8 An important part of Robert Anderson’s argument about the family’s dysfunction rests on his assumption that Joseph Smith Sr. was an alcoholic and that Lucy was subject to chronic depression. How convincing are these arguments?

Robert Anderson is not breaking totally new ground in his evaluation. As early as 1988, C. Jess Groesbeck had hypothesized that both Lucy and Joseph Sr. may have suffered from clinical depression and also identified alcohol abuse as “both a manifestation and source of Joseph Sr.’s depression” (Groesbeck, qtd. in Quinn, Early, 108, 440). He has continued this interpretation of the Smith family. In the summer of 1999, he asserted that Joseph Sr. was “very, very dysfunctional,” had a “serious alcohol problem,” and may have been involved with other women. Lucy was an “overfunctioning mother,” and Alvin became the “real father” by his economic contributions. This reinforces his earlier hypothesis that “one of the most important and remarkable tasks Joseph, Jr., performed in his early years, including the time when he had his earliest and most significant visions, was to mediate what were, at times, irreconcilable conflicts within the marriage of Joseph Smith, Sr., and Lucy Mack Smith” (“The Smiths,” 1988, 22). Dan Vogel, using a family systems approach, comes to similar conclusions (“Joseph Smith’s Family Dynamics”).

In 1998 William D. Morain, a plastic surgeon with a specialty in children’s surgery, published a study with the American Psychiatric Press that analyzes Joseph Jr.’s traumatic surgery, complicated by family dysfunction and Alvin’s death, as the sources of posttraumatic stress disorder and dissociation. He, like Anderson, sees these traumatic events being reworked psychically to emerge as [p.25]major themes in the Book of Mormon. While both Anderson and Groesbeck are trained psychiatrists (Anderson is a Freudian, Groesbeck a Jungian), I still hesitate to agree that the evidence of family dysfunction is conclusive. (The extended manifestations of Joseph Jr.’s trauma in the Book of Mormon, while fascinating, are beyond the scope of my analysis.)

There is considerable, though uneven, evidence that Joseph Sr. and other male members of the Smith family drank. Was Joseph Sr. an alcoholic? Although the disease can take many forms, there are considerable dangers in diagnosing the dead (to borrow Steven Harper’s phrase) and considerable frustrations in attempting to prove a negative (that Joseph Sr. was not an alcoholic). Joseph Sr. is repeatedly described in the Palmyra affidavits as drinking to excess (Vogel 1:470). Can we assume that they were all telling the truth? Probably not. Can we assume that they were all lying? Probably not.

Palmyra grocer Lemuel Durfee’s account book records “the sale of numerous barrels of ‘cider liquor’ to Joseph, Hyrum, and Samuel Smith during the years 1827-29” (Rodger Anderson, 108). Robert Anderson makes the telling point that the simplest explanation for seven-year-old Joseph Jr.’s adamant refusal to take any kind of wine or spirits as an anesthetic is that he had internalized an intense and ongoing contest between his parents involving alcohol—although, as a teenager and adult, if other reports can be believed, including the History of the Church, Joseph Jr.’s aversion had diminished considerably.

The most conclusive piece of evidence about Joseph Sr.’s drinking is his single direct admission of overindulgence. At a family blessing meeting on 9 December 1834, he first lamented: “I have not always set that example before my family that I ought,” but praised them: “Notwithstanding all this my folly, which has been a cause of grief to my family, the Lord has often visited me in visions and in dreams.” By “folly,” was he referring to intemperance? Perhaps, but the context suggests rather a lack of religious seriousness: “I have not been diligent in teaching them the commandments of the Lord, but have rather manifested a light and trifling mind.” Dan Vogel hypothesizes that he may be expressing regret about his Universalist philosophy. (Vogel 1:468). As the meeting continues and he gives Hyrum the first blessing, Joseph Sr. said: “Though he [meaning himself] has been out of the way through wine, thou hast never forsaken him nor laughed him to scorn.”9 Joseph Jr.’s entry on 23 August 1842 in “The Book of the Law of the Lord” contains an entry of reflec-[p.26]tion about his dead father. One partial sentence which he has marked out reads: “Let the faults and the follies[.]” Was he referring to Joseph Sr. here? It is not clear since the sentence immediately afterward is about himself: “Let his soul, or the spirit my follies forgive.” What is clear is the reverence and affection that breathes through the rest of the entry for his father: “He was a great and a good man. The envy of knaves and fools was heaped upon him, … all the days of his life. He was of noble stature, and possessed a high, and holy, and exalted, and a virtuous mind … He never did a mean act that might be said was ungenerous, in his life, to my knowledge. I loved my father and his memory; and the memory of his noble deeds, rest with ponderous weight upon my mind; and many of his kind and parental words to me, are written on the tablet of my heart” (Vogel 1:174-75).

Since the evidence is shaky that Joseph Sr. regularly and repeatedly drank to intoxication, I find even less persuasive the assertions that he was an alcoholic. Marquardt and Walters point out that Hyrum and Joseph Sr. as coopers and as day laborers “took their wages in credits toward their purchases.” Furthermore, while most of these purchases were barrels of cider, the account book also includes other provisions (122-23). LaMar Petersen, compiler of Hearts Made Glad, a light-hearted, uncritical, but quite thorough compendium of reports about alcohol and the Smith family, takes a reasonable position about his own anecdotes:

The traducers of Baurak Ale (one of Joseph’s spiritual names in the Doctrine and Covenants 103:21, 22, 35; 105:16, 27) were not satisfied with less than his complete immersion in the ale barrel; his defenders with less than his complete hostility to such refreshment … There is not a vice with which his critics did not load his name, and not a virtue which his friends failed to ascribe to him. (27)

Rodger Anderson, while conceding the drinking, separates the two issues: “The fact that his father had a drinking problem is unfortunate but ultimately irrelevant to the religious claims of Joseph Smith [Jr.], just as Smith’s own occasional indulgences do not prove his visions mere subjective fantasies” (110).

The evidence seems persuasive that the Word of Wisdom did not advance beyond the status of “counsel” to the male members of the family. Some of the numerous anecdotes—but certainly not all—may have been prompted by malice. Furthermore, from my own abstemious values and family experience, I am probably over-prepared to agree that any kind of indulgence in any kind of recreational alcohol or drug use can cause social, familial, and personal strain. However, Lucy mentions drinking in connection with her family only in two examples, both of them negative. In the first, Stevens of Royalton babbled the facts about cheating Joseph Sr. over the ginseng deal because he was so drunk that he could not resist bragging to Joseph’s brother-in-law. In the second, [p.27]Lucy compares the exemplary behavior of her menfolk with that of the sons of a Palmyra minister’s wife who frequented the “grog-shop” (chaps. 12, 17). Is her silence about drinking episodes that can be documented by others caused by embarrassment (and was this, in fact, the reason for omitting the Palmyra tea-party from the Coray fair copy during the revision stage?) or does she simply omit drinking on the part of her husband, sons, and sons-in-law from the record because it was neither unusual nor a “trial”? A third possibility—that she was both an enabler and in denial about it—assumes his alcoholism, which returns us to the already mentioned problems of diagnosing the dead.

As for Lucy’s two episodes of what Robert Anderson and Jess Groesbeck describe as clinical depression, I am equally hesitant to declare myself persuaded by the evidence. The first episode occurred after the lingering deaths of two sisters; Lucy had taken nearly full responsibility for the care of the second and attended her deathbed. Lucy describes herself as stricken by “grief,” “pensive and melancholy,” often thinking “that life was not worth possessing” (chap. 3). It seems to me that depression at such a time would be altogether normal, not clinical. The second depressive episode occurred in Randolph, about 1802 or 1803. Since Sophronia was born in May 1803, Lucy could have been pregnant or have given birth in connection with this episode. Her symptoms were a “severe cough” with “hectic fever,” which was diagnosed as “confirmed consumption.” After watching two sisters die of consumption, it does not seem unreasonable that Lucy, especially if dealing with the hormonal changes of pregnancy and/or birth, would have feared her own death from the same cause (chaps. 8-9). Furthermore, this episode was the last “depression” that I can identify from her record, which covers the next forty-two years. Although after Alvin’s death “it seemed impossible for us to interest ourselves at all about the concerns of life,” Lucy nowhere differentiates herself from the family, using first person plural pronouns throughout this period and noting in the next chapter, “The shock occasioned by Alvin’s death, in a short time passed off, and we resumed our usual avocations with considerable interest” (chaps. 20, 21). Grief and ill health can certainly contribute to episodes of depression; but do they provide evidence that Lucy was chronically or clinically depressed? And from two episodes that may or may not have been clinical depression, is it safe or responsible to hypothesize a continuing condition? It seems decidedly circular to assume that Lucy’s silence on the subject is a manifestation of repression and denial (although both are possible) and not quite good history to require those who do not accept the assumption of depression to prove a negative when the absence of evidence is read as confirming the presence of depression.

In fact, Lucy’s book provides countering evidence that she did not find depression a familiar state. Lucy herself had been so “weak” (her term) during her illness in Randolph that the family was required to walk in stocking feet and [p.28]speak in whispers in her room and the loud knock of the Methodist exhorter “so agitated” her that it took “a considerable length of time before my nerves became altogether quieted again” (chap. 11). Would not this experience make her sympathetic and understanding toward other women afflicted by the same ailment? On the contrary, she expresses brisk impatience with her niece, Lovisa Mack Cooper, and her sister-in-law, Temperance Bond Mack (widow of her brother Stephen), for withdrawing from social life and family conversation because of “nerves,” lectures both women vigorously about their self-indulgence, cuts through social niceties by all but accusing them of taking this form of avoiding discussing matters of their souls’ salvation, and challenges them to drive away the “bad spirit” by strengthening the good (chaps. 11, 41).

Is the term “nervous” a nineteenth-century equivalent for “depressed”? In April 1829, seeing a vision of Joseph and Hyrum, who have just escaped from a Missouri jail, sleeping on the prairie without food or blankets, she paces the floor with the vision still before her, longing to provide food for them. Joseph Sr. attempts to soothe her, “saying that I was nervous; but it was impossible for me to rest—they were still before my eyes” (chap. 51). Is her agitation a sign of depression? She had been quite happy the previous day, having been assured by the Spirit that she would see her sons within twenty-four hours, and she spent the next day in calm and happy preparations for their arrival. If they had not come, she might have been precipitated into depression (though would it have been clinical depression?), but they arrived as her vision promised.

After the murders of Joseph and Hyrum, she describes herself as shocked, agonized, horrified, suffering, and grief-stricken but not as prostrated, crushed, or overwhelmed. To my mind, this does not sound like someone who is subject to clinical depression. John Stafford, interviewed by William H. and Edmund L. Kelley in 1881, remembered that the parents and children “were peaceable among themselves,” which does not fit a picture of alcoholism and chronic depression (Vogel 2:122). While leaving the door open for other interpretations pending new information, I do not see in Lucy’s memoir persuasive evidence to support these pyschiatric arguments that the Smith family was dysfunctional because of an alcoholic father and a depressed mother.10

On the contrary, I see the marriage of Lucy and Joseph Sr. as a healthy and [p.27]affectionate companionship. The passages in Lucy’s history describing her relationship with Joseph Sr. almost certainly omit the jars and disagreements that are inevitable in any marriage. She acknowledges that she could read nuances in Joseph Jr.’s behavior to which Joseph Sr. seemed oblivious, and she twice acknowledges having information that she did not share with him: once when he desires Joseph’s presence with him and Father Knight at breakfast when Lucy knows that Joseph Jr. and Emma are not yet back from the midnight errand of receiving the gold plates, and again in Kirtland when she calls Jared Carter to account for engaging in apostate activities, bewildering her husband, who did not know what Jared had been up to.

Except for these few incidents, her history expresses affection, trust, and companionable interdependence with her husband. Edward Stevenson characterized Joseph Smith Sr. as “not a man of many words, but sober-minded, firm, mild and impressive” (qtd. in Richard L. Anderson, Investigating, 142). Lucy presents no examples of quarrelsomeness, household dictatorialness, or husbandly harshness. Certainly the fact that she is recollecting her husband after four years of widowhood would encourage a focus on the positive and affirming portions of that relationship. Still, from her history, Joseph Sr. emerges as hard-working and strongly attached to his children, though subject to bad luck economically. In recounting their repeated financial failures, she blames others for deceiving them, not Joseph for poor management. Probably both factors were involved, but the exact balance cannot be determined without more documentation. She laments the loss of the “comfortable” old age for which she had been planning since age forty, but she does not express bitterness over her circumstances from Palmyra on. She explains, with appropriate pride, that her efforts at painting oilcloth “furnished all the provisions for the family” and replenished “our household furniture,” then immediately adds that Joseph Sr., with the assistance of nineteen-year-old Alvin and seventeen-year-old Hyrum, was clearing thirty acres, building a log house, and earning enough cash to pay the first year’s contract.11

When the family, after moving to Palmyra without Joseph Sr., is reunited, Lucy describes the emotional, affectionate greeting: “The joy I felt in seeing throwing myself and My children upon the care and affection of a tender Husband and Father doubly paid me for all I had suffered The children surrounded their Father clinging to his neck an covering his face with tears and kisses that were heartily reciprocated by him—” For herself, she says, without money, a home, or household goods, she was “perfectly happy in the society of my family” [p.30](chap. 27). In another place, she characterizes Joseph Sr. as “an affectionate companion and tender father, as ever blessed the confidence of a family” (chap. 36) and recalls in sorrow: “I seem again to press the warm hand that I then held within my own and rest my weary head upon that affectionate breast that supports it now no more” (chap. 39). When Joseph Sr. is arrested and, though sick, is forced to sit in the sun, in a cart, while the official eats Joseph’s breakfast, Lucy exclaims: “Wives! who love your husbands and would sacrafice your lives for their’s, how think I felt at that moment I will leave you to imagine” (chap. 36).

Lucy’s grief at Joseph Sr.’s death, even expressed four years afterward, is still deep:

and I returned to my desolate home; and I then thought, that the greatest grief which it was possible for me to feel, had fallen upon me in the death of my beloved husband. Although that portion of my life, which lay before me, seemed to be a lonesome, trackless waste, yet I did not think that I could possibly find, in travelling over it, a sorrow more searching, or a calamity more dreadful, than the present. But, as I hasten to the end of my story, the reader will be able to form an opinion with regard to the correctness of my conclusion. (chap. 52)

Other textual evidence of Lucy’s standards as a wife come in her appraisals of other women. (Her standards of motherhood are discussed below.) Her dominant feeling for Martin Harris’s hostile and officious wife is irritation. Lucy H. Harris “kept a private purse,” meddled in her husband’s affairs, suspiciously assumed, when her deafness made it impossible to hear a conversation, that people were speaking against her, and “was a woman who piqued herself upon her superiority to her husband.” Lucy describes all of these traits with obvious disapproval. Mrs. Harris denies her husband access to her bedroom and uses her own daughter as a bargaining chip to manifest her hostility to Joseph Jr. When Joseph refuses to show the importunate Mrs. Harris the gold plates, he tells her frankly, “and as to assistance I always prefer dealing with men rather than their wives,” a statement that is at best tactless and possibly downright rude. Lucy quotes it with no sign of disapprobation. When Martin Harris leaves for Pennsylvania without telling his wife, to avoid her importunity, Mrs. Harris makes Lucy the object of her wrath; Lucy, in defending herself, not only denies the charge but counters by telling Mrs. Harris “that the buisness of the House which were the natural cares of a woman were all that I atempted to dictate or interfere with unless by my Husbands or sons request.” Mrs. Harris launches a legal inquiry against Joseph, during which Lucy does not scruple to describe her as a witch: “[she] flew though the neighborhood like a dark spirit” (chaps. 24-25; see also James). Lucy would not have been kindly disposed toward anyone who hindered the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, but she seems particularly offended by Mrs. Harris’s lack of womanly qualities.

[p.31]There are more examples. In describing the activity of Kirtland apostates, inspired by revelations received through a “black stone” by a young woman, Lucy describes her in demeaning terms: “she would jump out of her chair and dance over the floor, boasting of her power, until she was perfectly exhausted” (chap. 45). Obviously, in addition to apostasy, Lucy is offended by the girl’s unbecoming conduct. When Lucy expresses dismay at Sidney Rigdon’s lack of steadfastness, she calls him “always as faint hearted as any woman and far more so than his <own> wife for had his faith patience and courage been as genuine as Sister Rigdons he would not have been where he is now” (chap. 47).

The Question of PolygamyIn the context of marriage, an important question for Mormon history is how the question of polygamy impacted Lucy and her husband. Polygamy, the restoration of an Old Testament patriarchal marriage form, was practiced by Joseph Jr. as early as 1833 and was secretly preached and expanded to a circle of intimates in Nauvoo until his death in 1844 (see Compton; Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy).

In the summer of 1839 when the Smith family reached Nauvoo, Lucy was sixty-four and Joseph Sr. was sixty-eight and in failing health. He died in September 1840. It is perhaps significant that Martha Jane Coray took hasty notes on a sermon Joseph Sr. preached in Nauvoo, date unknown. In it occur these sentiments about the sanctity of companionate marriage:

I wonder how men find forgiveness for making light of the things of God or women you must be careful the sealings are the sacred women are the jewels of God. Does a man love a woman less because she has a wrinkle or gray hair now or turn to a fair face although she has borne children—no be to her faults a little blind12—cherish love and take care of her.13

It is well known that Joseph Jr. was posthumously sealed to an unknown but very large number of women. I am aware of only one such sealing for Joseph Sr., his father, perhaps an indication of a popular perception that Joseph and Lucy were a self-contained unit as a couple. Elias Smith, son of Joseph Sr.’s brother Asael, recorded in his diary on 1 January 1855 that Brigham Young summoned him to his office in the morning and told him that

[p.32]my uncle Joseph Smith had no legal heir of sufficient age to represent him in the ordinance of marriage, that is of his own descendants, that his grandson John Smith [son of John and Clarissa Smith] the legal Patriarch was too young, and that he he [sic] had avised a woman named Clark whose miden name was Ann Elizabeth Shaffer about 70 years of age to be seald to my uncle Joseph. and that I, as as [sic] the oldest of his kindred in the Church ought to act as the representative of his heir in the matter. I told the President that I would not refuse to do any thing that was required of me by the laws of the Kingdom of God and the ceremony was attended to before my return to the office.

Lucy knew women who were her son’s plural wives and/or knew their relatives. She names in her history Edward Partridge, the father of Emily Dow Partridge and Eliza Maria Partridge; Mrs. Lawrence, the mother of Sarah and Maria Lawrence; Alvah Beaman, the father of Louisa Beaman; both Heber C. Kimball and Vilate Murray Kimball, the parents of Helen Mar Kimball; Joseph Knight, the father-in-law of Martha McBride Knight; Eliza Roxcy Snow, whom Lucy identifies as “Miss Snow, the poetess”; and Agnes Coolbrith, wife of Don Carlos, who was married after his death to Joseph Smith and to George A. Smith successively (Compton, 145-71).

Certainly Lucy could have been acquainted with other women married to Joseph Smith without giving them a place in her book; but it also seems likely that she did not mention them because they literally did not fit in her history. She was fully occupied in Nauvoo nursing her dying husband, then in dealing with her grief at the loss of her companion of forty-four years plus the deaths of three grandchildren and Don Carlos, even before the closely spaced deaths of Joseph, Hyrum, and Samuel. Lucy probably saw some of these women at public gatherings, including meetings of the Relief Society; but there would have been no social reason for her to mingle with these younger women, even when she was living in the city. And there would have been absolutely no family reason for these girls to have sought out their unwitting mother-in-law, given the secrecy in which polygamy was held.

Would Emma have confided in her? Almost certainly not for two reasons: First, Emma’s intense sense of privacy has been well documented. How could she have confided this cruel paradox to her husband’s mother—that either Joseph was committing adultery or that she was withstanding the commandments of God—without presenting Lucy with exactly the same paradox to resolve for herself? Second, if Emma hoped, as she certainly seems to have, that Joseph would abandon the principle, then she would have thrown Lucy into turmoil for nothing. Martha Jane Coray had known about polygamy since the summer of 1843; did she also refrain from asking Lucy for an opinion or from passing on that portion of the city’s news during 1844-45?

[p.33]In the RLDS edition of the 1853 Pratt Biographical Sketches, an unsigned footnote reads: “The course that Brigham Young and the Twelve with him took after the death of her sons Joseph and Hyrum, was not approved by Grandmother Smith. She always spoke in kindly terms of the men, but steadily and persistently refused to give credence to the doctrine and policy adopted by them. In this she did not waver to the end of her life” (chap. 37). Lucy’s grandson, Joseph Smith III, was one of the three men who prepared this work for the press and therefore either wrote or approved this note. Its content is no surprise, given Joseph III’s intense antipathy to any suggested link between plural marriage and his father; but there is also no evidence of which I am aware documenting that he or anyone else ever discussed the topic with Lucy before her death in 1856.

When Joseph III or another RLDS official invited Katharine Smith Salisbury, Joseph Jr.’s only surviving sister, to give her views in April 1893 on Nauvoo polygamy, she testified: “I was at his house in Nauvoo a great many times, and I conversed with him about many subjects, but I never heard him at any time mention such a thing as the plural-wife system or order. And I heard nothing of such a doctrine existing until a year after his death” (RLDS 5:207). In light of the existing evidence for the pre-1844 practice of plural marriage, Katharine’s testimony simply means that the secrecy in which the practice was shrouded actually worked in her case. It is, therefore, not impossible that it also worked in Lucy’s situation. An alternative explanation is offered by the case of William Smith who, when he was writing his memoirs in 1882, received counsel from Joseph III that he would be “wise” if he “fail[ed to] remember anything contrary to the lofty standard of character at which we esteem these good men” (Launius, Pragmatic, 208-09). William, who had been married to ten women, five of them plurally, included nothing about pre-1844 polygamy in his published recollections.

Yet Lucy’s knowledge seems to have been curiously selective, raising the question about whether she was consciously censoring her history. She knew that M. G. Eaton had reported on a meeting of conspirators against Joseph Smith; but the History of the Church account (6:279-80) makes it clear that the meeting was about spiritual wifery. How could she know about one item and not the other? She recounts that John C. Bennett “left the city” but does not mention its cause—the rumors of sexual misbehavior swirling in his wake, or the sexually explicit exposé he later published.

Bearing her testimony at a Relief Society meeting on 18 April 1842, when Joseph had married at least eight plural wives, Lucy said
… she was glad the time had come that iniquity could be detected & reproach thrown off from the heads of the church. We come into the church to be saved [p.34]that we may live in peace & sit down in the Kingdom of heaven. If we listen to, & circulate every evil report, we shall idly spend the time which should be appropriated to the reading of the scriptures, the Book of Mormon … Wished to leave her testimony that the book of mormon is the book of God. That Joseph Smith is a man of God, a prophet of the Lord set apart to lead the people. If we observe his words it will be well with us; if we live righteously on earth, it will be well with us in Eternity. (Woodruff 2:203)
The Relief Society was only four weeks old at this point and already it had investigated at least two complaints against the morals of prospective members whose names had been linked sexually to Joseph Smith. Joseph had spoken at the previous meeting, warning the women against “excessive zeal.” In the very meeting at which Lucy was speaking, he had agreed that the sisters must “put down iniquity” but adjured the women to “concentrate their faith and prayers for, & place confidence in those whom God … has placed at the head to lead” and, even more pointedly, for wives to treat husbands “with mildness & affection” (Woodruff 2:199). Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippets Avery, in their biography of Emma Smith, analyze this series of Relief Society meetings as a coded contest between Joseph and Emma, with Emma subtly using her office and moral authority to fight against plural marriage while Joseph used his public statements to counter her resistance. Was Lucy’s testimony of support wholly unconscious of these undercurrents? Or did its two halves—repudiation of iniquity and unqualified support for her son—stem from conflicted feelings. Was she trying to warn Joseph even as she lined up solidly with him?

Furthermore, on 17 August 1845, William Smith made a public discourse in Nauvoo entitled, “The First Chapter of the Gospel by St. William,” wherein he made a “full declaration of his belief in the doctrine of a plurality of wives &c.” William later said that, in fear for his life, he preached this controversial sermon “to allay the feeling” that he intended to cause a division in the church and to placate Brigham Young (W. Smith, “A Proclamation,” 1). If his effort was sincere, it was singularly ineffective. This announcement was not only shocking to his listeners but was a breach of fellowship with the other apostles, since the official position up to that point had been denial and secrecy. Fellow council member and apostle John Taylor, who was present during Smith’s address, “felt pained and distressed when Wm. was speaking, as did a great many of the congregation, and many of the people left, being disgusted at the remarks he made” (qtd. in Bates and Smith, 91). Was Lucy not present at this meeting? Did none of the scandalized reports reach her?

The question of what Lucy knew about polygamy, though an intriguing one, must remain unresolved.


[p.35]Carrying on the tradition from the Mack family, Lucy Mack Smith presents herself in her history as a woman of faith, piety, and remarkable spiritual gifts. Although her narrative has been mined for inspirational stories, it has not been specifically studied for the insights it brings about her personal spirituality.

Beyond piety and faithfulness in the performance of religious duty lies a category of intense and charismatic spiritual manifestations that are called “gifts” because they cannot be produced by diligent effort alone. The Bible specifies such gifts as faith, the “gifts” of healing (presumably both to heal and to be healed), “the word of wisdom,” “the word of knowledge” (both presumably the ability to present scriptural argument and testimony to bolster faith or to answer attacks on faith), “miracles,” “prophecy,” the “discerning of spirits,” and tongues and their interpretation (1 Cor. 12:8-10). To these the Book of Mormon adds being “visited by the Spirit of God,” conversing “with angels, and having been spoken unto by the voice of the Lord,” “the gift of preaching,” the Holy Ghost, translation, and teaching (Alma 9:21; Moro. 10:9-17). Doctrine and Covenants 46:11-25 repeats many of the items on this list and adds other gifts: the knowledge “that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” faith in those who have such knowledge, “differences of administration,” and “diversities of operations.”

Significantly, she is known only once to have exercised the gift of tongues, perhaps the most common public manifestation of spirituality by Mormon women (Newell). Published in the January 1834 issue of The Evening and the Morning Star is a Book of Mormon dirge that, according to William Smith, she sang in an unknown tongue. Levi Hancock provided the interpretation, although it is not clear who recast it as regularly scanning iambic quatrameter couplets:

Moroni’s Lamentation

I have no home, where shall I go?
While here I’m left to weep below
My heart is pained, my friends are gone,
And here I’m left on earth to mourn.
I see my people lying round,
All lifeless here upon the ground;
Young men and maidens in their gore,
Which does increase my sorrows more.
My father looked upon this scene
And in his writings made it plain,
How every Nephite’s heart did fear,
[p.36]When he beheld his foes draw near.
With ax and bow they fell upon
Our men and women, sparing none;
And left them prostrate on the ground,—
Lo here they now are bleeding round.
Ten thousand that were led by me
Lie round this hill called Cumorah;
Their spirits from their bodies fled,
And they are numbered with the dead.
Well might my father in despair
Cry, “O, ye fair ones, once how fair,
How is it that you have fallen? O,
My soul is filled with pain for you.
My life is sought, where shall I flee?
Lord, take me home to dwell with thee;
Where all my sorrow will be o’er,
And I shall sigh and weep no more.”
Thus sung the son of Mormon, when
He gazed upon his Nephite men;
And women, too, which had been slain,
And left to moulder on the plain.14

An overview of Lucy Mack Smith’s personal spiritual experiences and the circumstances in which they were received demonstrates clearly the domestic nature of her exercise of such gifts. Here is a partial list:

1. Preparation for death. The New England Congregational “covenant” required each seeker to feel “convicted” of personal sin, to seek redemption through the mercy of Jesus Christ, and to be able to testify about the circumstances of that receipt of salvation—often but not always a personal epiphany, vision, or voice. A remarkable share of Lucy’s history relating to her family of origin deals with this Christian duty to prepare to meet God as maker and judge. Chapter 3 deals almost exclusively with the spiritual experiences, visions, inspired hymns, and Christian resignation of her two sisters, Lovisa and Lovina, during their protracted deaths from consumption. Lucy expresses concern that her brother Stephen died almost before anyone realized that his ill-[p.37]ness was fatal, suggesting that he had “barely a moment’s warning” before being “called away” (chap. 4).

Lucy, as a young mother fearing death when she does not recover from a disease diagnosed as terminal, is filled with anxiety for the state of her soul and dreads the visit of a Methodist exhorter because she knows she cannot answer his questions about her spiritual preparation for death (chap. 9). When Lucy’s mother bids her a final farewell as the family departs for Palmyra, her parting words, spoken through bitter tears, are a loving reminder that Lydia herself will not live long but must “exchange the things of this world for those which pertain to another state of existence, where I hope to enjoy the society of the blessed; and now, as my last admonition, I beseech you to continue faithful in the service of God to the end of your days, that I may have the pleasure of embracing you in another and fairer world above” (chap. 17).

Lucy’s narrative lingers over Alvin’s dying farewells to each member of the family, even to baby Lucy who was only two years and four months old. The older children also received his admonitions to be kind to each other and to take care of their aging parents (chap. 20). Although these statements were not religious in nature, they were strongly ethical. The death scene of Joseph Sr. is devoted to his blessings upon and admonitions to each child, as well as to his son-in-law Arthur Millikin. His benison on Lucy herself, twice repeated, as “one of the most singular women in the world” for her success as a mother, is a valediction spoken, as it were, from beyond the veil and reinforced by the fact that his last view is of the dead Alvin (chap. 52).

2. Conversion. Although Lucy had begun seriously praying and reading the scriptures in a search for the “change of heart” that would betoken conversion soon after Lovina’s death (chap. 8), she did not receive the experience she sought until after marriage and the births of two children, when she believed herself to be dying. Thinking of her husband and children, she

made a solemn covenant with God, that, if he would let me live, I would endeavour to serve him according to the best of my abilities. Shortly after this, I heard a voice say to me, “Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Let your heart be comforted; ye believe in God, believe also in me.” (chap. 9)

Although she had been too weak to speak, this experience had such an immediate effect on her that the change was apparent to her mother and Lucy was able to have a conversation with her.

The visible signs of such grace were considered to be a godly walk and conversation—personal piety, attention to prayers, Bible reading, adherence to the Ten Commandments, kindliness to one’s neighbors, and a willingness to perform one’s Christian duties. Lucy seems to have fulfilled these require-[p.38]ments. She often mentions reading the Bible and other scriptures. Like her own mother, Lydia, she taught her children to read using the Bible. According to John Stafford, interviewed by William H. and Edmund L. Kelley in 1881, young Joseph had been “quite illiterate” but “improved greatly in this homeschooling program” (Vogel 2:122).

The family daily held the “usual services” of reading the scriptures, singing hymns, and kneeling in prayer (chap. 31), both in the mornings and the evenings. About 1875 William Smith wrote a series of notes on a copy of Chambers’ Miscellany, taking exception to some of his statements about the rise of Mormonism. They included his memory of family devotionals, which he dates only as “in my younger days.” He was sixteen when Joseph Jr. brought home the plates, and says “we always had family prayer since I can remember.” He recalls that seeing Joseph Sr. groping in his vest pocket for his spectacles was the well-understood signal to prepare for prayer (Vogel 1:512):

My Fathers religious Customs often become eark some or tiresome to me … I was Called upon to listen to Prayrs boath night and morning. My Fathers favourit <evening> hymn runs thus The day is past and gone / The evening shades appear / And may we all / Remember well / The night of death draws near[.] Again and again was this hymn sung while upon the bending knees[.] My … Father and Mother pourd out their Souls to God the doner of all Blessings, to keep and gard their children & keep them <from> Sin and from all evil works … My Mother was a Preying woman. (Vogel 1:487)

In his forty-one-page autobiographical booklet, William’s recollection of this period hinges on Lucy’s determination to seek out the truth:

My mother, who was a very pious woman and much interested in the welfare of her children, both here and hereafter, made use of every means which her parental love could suggest, to get us engaged in seeking for our souls’ salvation, or (as the term then was) “in getting religion.” She prevailed on us to attend the meetings, and almost the whole family became interested in the matter, and seekers after truth. I attended the meetings with the rest, but being quite young and inconsiderate, did not take so much interest in the matter as the older ones did. This extraordinary excitement prevailed not only in our neighborhood but throughout the whole country. Great numbers were converted. It extended from the Methodists to the Baptists, from them to the Presbyterians; and so on until finally, almost all the sects became engaged in it; and it became quite a fashion to “get religion.” My mother continued her importunities and exertions to interest us in the importance of seeking for the salvation of our immortal souls, until almost all of the family became either converted or seriously inclined. (Mormonism, 6-7)

Lucy’s devoutness and religious zeal became negative characteristics in the writings of some who decried Mormonism. Orsamus Turner, a printer, Mason, and regional historian in western New York who knew the Smiths personally, [p.39]attributed Mormonism’s rise to Lucy. In a crudely satiric sketch, he characterizes her as “a woman of strong uncultivated intellect; artful and cunning; imbued with an illy regulated religious enthusiasm. The incipient hints, the first givings out that a Prophet was to spring from her humble household, came from her; and when matters were maturing for denouement, she gave out that such and such ones—always fixing upon those who had both money and credulity—were to be instruments in some great work of new revelation. The old man was rather her faithful co-worker, or executive exponent” (Vogel 3:48). Picking up and elaborating the same theme, Ann Ruth Webster Eaton of Palmyra, New York, whose husband was Palmyra’s Presbyterian pastor from 1849 to at least 1877, borrowed heavily from Orsamus Turner and Pomeroy Tucker in an 1881 lecture on Mormonism. Like Turner she attributes the idea of Mormonism to Joseph Jr.’s “ignorant, deceitful mother,” whose dominant characteristic, which Joseph Jr. inherited, was a “vivid … imagination” that enabled them to “look a listener full in the eye, and without confusion or blanching, … fluently improvise startling statements and exciting stories … Was an inconsistency alluded to, nothing daunted, a subterfuge was always at hand.” Eaton accused Lucy of being a washerwoman who pilfered from the laundry lines of her clients, of being “superstitious to the last degree,” of reading palms, and of training Joseph from babyhood in “the profound dignity of his allotted vocation. His mother inspired and aided him in every scheme of duplicity and cunning. All acquainted with the facts agree in saying that the evil spirit of Mormonism dwelt first in Joe Smith’s mother” (Vogel 3:147-48). Although these assertions are rather breath-taking in their self-assured scope, they recognize, if negatively, the centrality of faith in Lucy’s values.

In a small house with a large family, it was hard to find privacy in which to pray, but the Smith family had a “place,” apparently a nearby grove, “where the family were in the habit of offering up their secret devotions to God” (chap. 31). At Waterloo during the winter of 1830-31, while waiting to depart for Kirtland, Lucy, Samuel, and the younger children regularly held evening services consisting of “singing and praying,” attended regularly by “some dozen or twenty persons.” Even the “little boys” of the neighborhood eagerly attended (chap. 37).

The Smiths seem also to have done their Christian duty as neighbors, even according to individuals who were highly skeptical of Joseph Jr.’s claims or who found the men lazy and overfond of drinking. Orlando Saunders called the Smiths “the best family in the neighborhood in case of sickness. One was at my house nearly all the time when my father died.” Hyrum Jackway corroborates: “The old lady Smith was kind in sickness.” Lorenzo Saunders remembers her less positively as “a poor simple thing, about 1/2 wittd—could not tell a straight [p.40]story … The old lady was industrious but nasty. Used to paint chairs. Would take an old rag and rub them with lamp black, &c.” It is not clear what he means by “nasty” unless it is in the Victorian sense of being physically unclean, which would certainly be the immediate, though temporary, result of staining with lampblack. He added, “I gave them credit for everything except Mormonism; they were good neighbors; They were kind neighbors in sickness; & Hiram Smith in particular when my father died he was at our house all the time … A brother died [Orson Saunders in 1825] and he was as attentive then. They were always ready to bestow anything.” Lorenzo’s brother Benjamin noted approvingly that Lucy “was a pretty good old lady. No one could go back on her I dont think who knew her.” She was “not the neatest house keeper but … she was a good fair house keeper.” He offered as an explanation, “There was a big family of them and they all lived to home.” He remembered particularly that “she made bread and was a good cook” (Vogel 2:85, 86, 126-27, 137-38, 156).

Given Lucy’s concern with spiritual matters, a relevant question in this context is why she does not relate the quite dramatic spiritual conversion of her father late in life, which, like her own, came after a season of illness and through the medium of a voice in his mind quoting a scripture that assured him of grace. For that matter, why does she fail to relate the epiphany of her son Joseph, assuring him that his sins were forgiven? Michael Quinn points out: “Smith’s vision of Deity was not remarkable in America of the 1820s” and that it became a “missionary tool for his followers only after Americans grew to regard modern visions of God as unusual.” He cogently argues that the Smith family’s Palmyra neighbors, while finding the object (a treasure-seeking boy) but not the content of Joseph Smith’s first vision objectionable, lost their tolerance only at the point when the Book of Mormon entered the picture. They found such a claim blasphemous, as it challenged the supremacy of the Bible. One Presbyterian neighbor recalls hearing her father characterize the first vision as “only the sweet dream of a pure-minded boy” but being so alienated by accounts of the Book of Mormon as to “cut off ” relations with the family and to characterize Joseph Smith from that point on as corrupted by “superstition” (Quinn, Early, 176-77). Similarly, Lucy apparently reports Samuel’s conversion experience only because it coincided with Joseph Jr.’s and Oliver Cowdery’s receiving “authority to baptize”—his engagement in secret but vocal prayer being “sufficient testimony of his being a fit subject for Baptism” (chap. 28).

3. Faith to be healed. Lucy quotes letters from her brother Jason describing his reception of and exercise of the gift of healing and from her youngest son, Don Carlos, who also possessed and exercised this gift (chap. 13; Appendix, 15 July 1839). She does not claim that she possessed the gift of healing, but she [p.41]does relate experiences involving faith to be healed. The first example, as already noted, is her covenant when terminally ill.

The second experience occurred at Lebanon when Sophronia, then about nine years old, became deathly ill with typhoid fever. When, after eighty-nine days of treatment, the physician announced that he could do nothing more and Sophronia herself gave every sign of expiring, Joseph and Lucy clasped hands, knelt beside her bed, “and poured out our grief to God, in prayer and supplication, beseeching him to spare our child yet a little longer … Before we rose to our feet, he gave us a testimony that she should recover” (chap. 15). Although Sophronia had apparently stopped breathing by the time they finished the prayer, Lucy wrapped her in a blanket and paced the floor with her, all her faith focused on claiming the promise they had just received, until her daughter caught her breath and began to breathe normally.

A third experience occurred during Zion’s Camp in the summer of 1834. Lucy becomes somehow aware that cholera has afflicted the men in Missouri and that her sons, Joseph and Hyrum, are in direst danger. She does not tell her experience but reports it as articulated by her sons. Twice they pray for themselves without receiving any kind of physical relief or assurance that they will escape death. The third time they kneel, resolved not to rise without some kind of assurance. First, the cramp eased, then:

Hyrum sprang to his feet and exclaimed, “Joseph, we shall return to our families. I have had an open vision, in which I saw mother kneeling under an apple tree; and she is even now asking God, in tears, to spare our lives, that she may again behold us in the flesh. The Spirit testifies, that her prayers, united with ours, will be answered.”

“Oh, my mother!” said Joseph, “how often have your prayers been the means of assisting us when the shadows of death encompassed us.” (chap. 43)

In a fourth experience, Lucy exercised faith on her own behalf coupled with an administration by Melchizedek priesthood holders when a fall, a head injury, and an inflammation of the eyes left her temporarily blinded and in great pain. In an extraordinary manifestation of faith, she specified that the elders bless her “that I might … read without even wearing spectacles. They did so, and when they took their hands off my head, I read two lines in the Book of Mormon; and although I am now seventy [actually seventy-one] years old, I have never worn glasses since” (chap. 44).

The fifth occurrence of Lucy’s faith to be healed came when she caught either a serious cold or a form of pneumonia as the family traveled to Missouri during the summer of 1838. Finally she was so ill that the company split in two so that she could be transported ahead to receive care. The morning after their arrival, Lucy seized upon a moment of privacy to take a cane in each hand and [p.42]work her way to a thicket far enough from the house that she could pray without interruption. After recovering from the strain of walking this far,

I commenced calling upon the Lord, beseeching him to restore me to health, as well as my daughter Catharine [who had just given birth]. I urged every claim which is afforded us by the Scriptures, and continued praying faithfully for three hours, at the end of which time, I was relieved from every kind of pain, my cough left me, and I was well.

She spent the evening nursing Katharine and the next day “wash[ing] a quantity of clothes” (chap. 48). They reached their destination without any further relapse on her part.

The many passages Lucy devotes to descriptions of nursing ill members of the household are ample evidence that healing was not an automatic result from the prayer of faith. For instance, she is not healed from a siege of cholera in Quincy, Illinois, involving agonizing cramps and what feels like the rupture of her bone marrow, until a botanic physician administers doses of “herbal tea” (51).

4. Prophecy and visions. In addition to the five of seven prophetic visions by Joseph Sr. that Lucy records (chaps. 14, 17-18) and her reprinting of Joseph Jr.’s first vision and visitations from Moroni as published in the Times and Seasons (chaps. 18-19), Lucy also records as her first vision a prophetic dream of her husband as a beautiful tree girdled with light that responded with the utmost “joy and gratitude” to a gentle breeze while her religiously hostile brother-in-law Jesse, though represented by an equally beautiful tree, remained rigid and “obstinately stiff ” under the same breeze. The meaning of this vision came with it: that “Jesse would always resist” the gospel, but that Joseph would later “hear and receive [the gospel] with his whole heart, and rejoice therein; and unto him would be added intelligence, happiness, glory, and everlasting life” (chap. 13). This vision must have been a source of great comfort to the religiously inclined Lucy and probably eliminated a great deal of otherwise stressful anxiety and marital nagging that she might have otherwise felt duty-bound to inflict on her less interested husband.

In another example, when Lucy is visiting a niece in Michigan who introduces her to their Presbyterian minister, Rev. Ruggles patronizes her and insults Joseph by calling him a “poor, foolish, silly boy.” Lucy boldly testifies that the Book of Mormon “contains the everlasting Gospel, and it was written for the salvation of your soul, by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost.” When the minister literally pooh-poohs her witness, she reacts strongly: “‘Now, Mr. Ruggles,’ said I, and I spoke with emphasis, for the Spirit of God was upon me, ‘mark my words—as true as God lives, before three years we will have more [p.43]than one third of your Church; and, sir, whether you believe it or not, we will take the very deacon, too’” (chap. 41). Both parts of this prediction are literally fulfilled, as she records.

In a third example, as Joseph and Hyrum escape with considerable assistance from their captors during a transfer after spending the winter of 1838-39 in Liberty Jail, Lucy has two prophetic experiences. In the first, she is conversing in the afternoon with Edward Partridge, who is beside himself with frustration that a messenger has come back from Missouri without any word of Joseph’s and Hyrum’s whereabouts or health. He is sure that they are dead. Lucy listens to him for some time. Then:

the Spirit, which had so often comforted my heart, again spoke peace to my soul, and gave me an assurance that I should see my sons before the night should again close over my head. “Brother Partridge,” I exclaimed, in tears of joy, “I shall see Joseph and Hyrum before to-morrow night.” “No, mother Smith,” said he … “I have always believed you before, but I cannot see any prospect of this prophecy being fulfilled, but, if it is so, I will never dispute your word again.”

In the second linked experience, after she retires for the evening, she is kept awake by a vision of Joseph and Hyrum:

They were upon the prairie travelling, and seemed very tired and hungry. They had but one horse. I saw them stop and tie him to the stump of a burnt sapling, then lie down upon the ground to rest themselves; and they looked so pale and faint that it distressed me. I sprang up, and said to my husband, “Oh, Mr. Smith, I can see Joseph and Hyrum, and they are so weak they can hardly stand. Now they are lying asleep on the cold ground! Oh, how I wish that I could give them something to eat!”

Mr. Smith begged me to be quiet, saying that I was nervous; but it was impossible for me to rest—they were still before my eyes—I saw them lie there full two hours; then one of them went away to get something to eat, but not succeeding, they travelled on. This time Hyrum rode and Joseph walked by his side, holding himself up by the stirrup leather. I saw him reel with weakness, but could render him no assistance. My soul was grieved, I rose from my bed, and spent the remainder of the night in walking the floor.

Joseph and Hyrum reach Nauvoo the next afternoon, and Lucy has the pleasure of asking them to confirm her vision before a group of guests that includes Edward Partridge, which they do in every particular (chap. 51).

An even more impressive prophecy is the supernal “consolation” she found, while the Missouri militia at Far West was announcing the execution of her sons, as the “Spirit of God” told her “by the gift of prophecy” that Joseph and Hyrum would not be harmed, that “in less than four years Joseph shall speak before … great men of the land, … And in five years [p.44]from this time he will have power over all his enemies” (chap. 50). Lucy faithfully reports that this two-part prophecy was literally fulfilled, first when Joseph unsuccessfully pled the Mormon cause before the U.S. president, and next when Lucy realized through the ministrations of a consoling voice that Joseph’s and Hyrum’s enemies, by killing them, “thus placed us beyond their power.” She specifically links this realization with the earlier five-year prophecy (chap. 54).

A final prophecy is her assurance to Joseph Sr., then on his deathbed, that he would die with his “children around him.” She is able to offer this comfort to him because “it was impressed upon my mind” (chap. 52). Or perhaps Lucy’s final prophecy is yet to be fulfilled: that “Lilburn W. Boggs, Thomas Carlin, Martin Van Buren, and Thomas Ford” may expect her testimony against them “when I shall meet them … before angels, and the spirits of the just made perfect, before Archangels and seraphims, cherubims and Gods; where the brief authority of the unjust man will shrink to nothingness before him who is the Lord of lords and God of gods” (chap. 54).

5. A spirit of peace and consolation. This category overlaps with several of those above, since Lucy was visited by a spirit of peace and consolation in response to her covenant when faced with death, in several of the miracles of healing, and certainly accompanying her visions. Perhaps her Magnificat experience (chap. 32; discussed below) should also be included here. However, there are also three additional examples.

In the first, Lucy is much distraught when Lucy Harris accuses Joseph before a magistrate of trying to defraud Martin. No one in Lucy’s family, she says, has ever been sued in court before (she omits Joseph’s 1826 preliminary hearing at South Bainbridge brought by Josiah Stowell’s nephew, Peter G. Bridgeman), and she is beside herself until Hyrum reminds her that “we can do nothing, except to look to the Lord; … he can deliver from every trouble.” Lucy immediately

retired to a secluded place, and poured out my whole soul in entreaties to God, for the safety of my son, and continued my supplication for some time; at length the spirit fell upon me so powerfully, that every foreboding of ill was entirely removed from my mind, and a voice spoke to me, saying, “not one hair of his head shall be harmed.” I was satisfied. I arose, and repaired to the house. I had never before in my life experienced such happy moments. I sat down and began to read, but my feelings were too intense to allow me to do so. My daughter-in-law, Jerusha, came into the room soon after this, and when she turned her eyes upon me, she stopped short and exclaimed, “why! mother! what is the matter? I never saw you look so strangely in my life.”

I told her, that I had never felt so happy before in my life; that my heart was so light, and my mind so completely at rest, that it did not appear possible to me [p.45]that I should ever have any more trouble while I should exist. I then informed her in relation to the witness which I had received from the Lord. (chap. 29)

In the second instance, Joseph and Hyrum are arrested at Far West and sentenced to death within her hearing:

Our house was filled with mourning, lamentation, and woe; but, in the midst of my grief, I found consolation that surpassed all earthly comfort. I was filled with the Spirit of God, and received the following by the gift of prophecy:—“Let your heart be comforted concerning your children; they shall not be harmed by their enemies; and, in less than four years, Joseph shall speak before the judges and great men of the land, for his voice shall be heard in their councils. And in five years from this time he will have power over all his enemies.” This relieved my mind, and I was prepared to comfort my children. I told them what had been revealed to me, which greatly consoled them. (chap. 50)

This experience returns powerfully to her mind when she sees the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum brought back from Carthage:

I had for a long time braced every nerve, roused every energy of my soul, and called upon God to strengthen me; but when I entered the room, and saw my murdered sons extended both at once before my eyes … it was too much. I sank back, crying to the Lord, in the agony of my soul, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken this family!” A voice replied, “I have taken them to myself, that they might have rest.” … Oh! at that moment how my mind flew through every scene of sorrow and distress which we had passed together, in which they had shown the innocence and sympathy which filled their guileless hearts. As I looked upon their peaceful, smiling countenances, I seemed almost to hear them say,—“Mother, weep not for us, we have overcome the world by love; we carried to them the Gospel, that their souls might be saved; they slew us for our testimony, and thus placed us beyond their power; their ascendancy is for a moment, ours is an eternal triumph.”

I then thought upon the promise which I had received in Missouri, that in five years Joseph should have power over all his enemies. The time had elapsed, and the promise was fulfilled. (chap. 54)

She does not say that this manifestation consoled her, but it did help her to bear her loss.

6. The word of knowledge. At several points in her narrative, Lucy forthrightly bears testimony of her son’s mission, the divinity of the Book of Mormon, and the restoration of the gospel in the church. She is not only vigorous and energetic, but also seems to display a grasp of Mormonism as a theological system, whether narrative, logical, or both, that increases the effectiveness of her presentation. In some cases, she has no time for anything but a bold statement of testimony, but in others, she obviously has time to develop her argu-[p.46]ment. The fact that she quoted Joseph Jr.’s lengthy letter to his uncle Silas, which develops a scriptural basis about the need for continuing revelation, indicates that she admires and appreciates such an approach.

Examples of her testimony to unbelievers include her statement to Rev. Ruggles in Michigan and her description of the contents of the Book of Mormon to Deacon Beckwith in Palmyra. She talks religion all night to the Fayette Saints’ landlady at Buffalo and to her sister-in-law, Temperance Bond Mack, after prompting her to request such a conversation (chaps. 40, 41). From the canal boat before reaching Buffalo when a man on shore shouts, “Is the Book of Mormon true?” Lucy responds without a moment’s hesitation:

“That book,” replied I, “was brought forth by the power of God, and translated by the gift of the Holy Ghost; and, if I could make my voice sound as loud as the trumpet of Michael, the Archangel, I would declare the truth from land to land, and from sea to sea, and the echo should reach to every isle, until every member of the family of Adam should be left without excuse. For I do testify that God has revealed himself to man again in these last days, and set his hand to gather his people upon a goodly land, and, if they obey his commandments, it shall be unto them for an inheritance; whereas, if they rebel against his law, his hand will be against them to scatter them abroad, and cut them off from the face of the earth; and that he has commenced a work which will prove a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death, to every one that stands here this day—of life unto life, if you will receive it, or of death unto death, if you reject the counsel of God, for every man shall have the desires of his heart; if he desires the truth, he may hear and live, but if he tramples upon the simplicity of the word of God, he will shut the gate of heaven against himself.” (chap. 40)

A very important document comes from Lucy’s brief stay in Waterloo, when she wrote a lengthy letter on 6 January 1831 to her brother Solomon Mack and his wife, an earnest and eloquent proselyting document. It explains the framework in which she understood the message of restoration and shows her as an articulate and intelligent preacher. She begins by expressing concern for “the welfare of your souls” in preparation for Christ’s second coming. She cites Isaiah 11:11 as evidence that “God will set his hand the second time to recover his people” and announces that the Book of Mormon is the commencement of this work. Her summary and description of the Book of Mormon are important in comparison with the other two recorded testimonies she bore of this book, one to the hostile Deacon Beckwith and his delegation from the Presbyterian church in Palmyra, and the second to the inquisitive man standing on the shore by the canal boat. “It contains the fullness of the Gospel to the Gentiles,” she says, virtually quoting the book’s preface, “to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things God hath done for their fathers; that they may know [p.47]of the covenants of the Lord & that they are not cast off forever, and also of the convincing of both Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the <Christ the> Eternal God and manifests himself unto all nations.” She briefly summarizes Lehi’s prophetic call to leave Jerusalem “six hundred years before the coming of Christ in the flesh,” their recruitment of Ishmael and his family, their arrival “on to this continent,” their great civilization marred by “contentions” and “rebellion” led by Laman, until God “sent a curse upon them and caused a dark skin to come over them and from Laman our Indians have descended” while “the more righteous part … were led by another of the sons of Lehi named Nephi he being a prophet of the Lord.”

She warns them not to reject the Book of Mormon when they encounter it, “for God has pronounced a curse upon all they who have a chance to receive it and will not for by it they will be judged at the last day” [D&C 20:15-16]. She refutes those who say the Bible suffices: First, the Bible itself testifies of the Book of Mormon; second, God, by saying he will give “line upon line,” commits himself to continuous revelation; and third, “if God would not reveal himself alike unto all nations he would be a partial [God].”

She briefly describes the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, “Moro[damaged] one of the Nephites” buried “plates which have the appearance of gold” 1,400 years ago to preserve them when his wicked people are destroyed. Thus they would be preserved to

come forth in his own due time unto the world; and I feel to thank my God that he hath spared my life to see this day. Joseph after repenting of his sins and humbling himself before God was visited by an holy Angel whose countenance was as lightning and whose garments were white above all whiteness and gave unto him commandments which inspired him from on high. And gave unto him by the means of which was before prepared that he should translate this book, and by <reading> this our eyes are opened that we can see the situation in which the world now stands.

Because “the churches have all become corrupted” with ministers who preach “for gain” and churches that prefer “fine sanctuaries” to care of “the poor and needy,” a restoration was necessary, and God has “now established his church upon the earth as it was in the days of the Apostles” and entered into a “new and everlasting covenant” with the obedient.

To this point, Lucy’s message uncannily resembles that repeated every day by the church’s 60,000-plus missionaries; but she now introduces a theme no longer part of the Mormon message. Christ’s millennial reign is imminent; the righteous must “be gathered together into a land of promise,” the missionaries are going forth “to prune his vineyard for the last time and wo be unto them that will not hear them.” Mormon missionaries fulfill the “signs” of the believers: “in my name [p.48]the[y] shalt do many wonderful works they shall cast out devils they shall take up serpents and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.”15 She quotes Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, that candidates for salvation must repent, accept baptism, and receive the Holy Ghost. She adds an interesting exigetical gloss: “Peter did not tell them to go away and mourn over their sins weeks and months, and receive a remission of them and then come and be baptized, but he told them first to repent and be baptized and the promise was they should receive a remission of their sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost; and this is the Gospel of Christ.” She reports that the church in Ohio has added 300 “within a few weeks” and concludes: “I want you to think seriously of these things for they are the truths of the living God” (Lucy Smith to Solomon Mack).

Sally Parker, a convert near Kirtland writing in August 1838 to relatives who had requested “something to strengthen their faith after the difficult financial troubles and apostasy in Kirtland,” focused on Lucy:

I lived by his [Joseph’s] mother, and [she] was one of the finest of women—always helping them that stood in need. She told me the whole story. The plates was in the house and sometimes in the woods for eight months [Richard Anderson corrects this to eight weeks—October and November, 1827] on account of people trying to get them. They had to hide them. Once they hid them under the hearth. They took up the brick and put them in and put the bricks back. The old lady told me this herself with tears in her eyes, and they ran down her cheeks too. She put her hand upon her stomach and said she [ha]s the peace of God that rested upon us, all that time. she said it was a heaven below. I asked her if she saw the plates. She said no, it was not for her to see them, but she hefted and handled them, and I believe all she said, for I lived by her eight months, and she was one of the best of women. (Investigating, 25-26)

Perhaps the best example of Lucy’s family-centered spirituality—though an extremely problematic one—involved William, the most troublesome of her sons. William, writing from Bordentown, New Jersey, on 10 November 1844 to W. W. Phelps and publishing the letter in The Prophet, which he was then editing in New York City, cautiously felt out his welcome. After a lengthy and spirited but somewhat irrelevant defense of Book of Mormon geography through Mesoamerican antiquities, he appealed to the memory of “an aged and martyred father, … and four brothers, two of whom in my vision appear with mangled bodies, and garments red … Their blood is still unavenged, and the [p.49]cruel murderers are lounging about seeking for more; what have others to expect? … My poor old mother, almost worn out with years and trouble, and three sisters that remain, with myself, are all of that family, who were the founders of Mormonism.” He asked Phelps to “see my mother, and give her a word of consolation from me” as well as his sisters “and the martyrs’ widows … Will you pray for us, dear brethren at Nauvoo?” (W. Smith to Phelps). There is no indication that he attempted to write to any of his relatives directly.

Phelps responded warmly, publishing his own response, written on Christmas Day 1844, in the Times and Seasons. He vows that he and William “have been one in faith, one in love, and one in friendship” and praises the Twelve as “good men; the best the Lord can find; they do the will of God, and the saints know it” (761), an assertion that would become a sore point with William as soon as he returned to Nauvoo. Phelps had visited Lucy, “and she cried for joy over your letter. Though in her 69th year, her heart was big with hope for her ‘darling son, William:’—and she blessed you in the name of the Lord” (759). Encouraged by this warm greeting, William made preparations to return to Nauvoo.

Lucy followed up Phelps’s assurances with a letter of her own in January 1845: “The 12 are very anxious to see you and the church are all waiting to receive you with open arms”—that both Heber C. Kimball and W. W. Phelps had brought her a letter that William had published in The Prophet wondering about his reception, and that Kimball had been “delighted” with her immediate response that William should return. No doubt her urging and her assurances of the welcome he would find influenced his return on 4 May 1845; his wife Caroline barely managed the trip, dying on 22 May.

Exactly a month later on 22 June, William remarried. At this point, Lucy’s manuscript was either finished or within a few days of being completed. On 27 June 1845, the anniversary of the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum, Lucy summoned her family and a few friends to tell them about a vision she had had the night before. According to William, Lucy’s vision resulted from John Taylor’s “libelous article” redefining patriarchal authority as secondary to that of the apostles. This editorial “occasioned her so much mental trouble, and loss of rest” that, coupled with her vision, she could not sleep until she had seen William personally to assure herself that he was alive (W. Smith, “Proclamation,” 1). Lucy was living with daughter Lucy and husband Arthur Millikin; into their home also came William, daughter Katharine and her husband Wilkins Jenkins Salisbury, daughter Sophronia and her husband William McCleary, nephew Elias Smith, and eight more individuals, including John Taylor’s wife, Leonora. That evening, when Taylor returned home, Leonora told him that Lucy had had a vision in which [p.50]she saw William at the head of the church but that William’s life was in danger.

The revelation itself, recorded by Thomas Bullock in some unspecified way and included in John Taylor’s diary, is actually more complex and involved three visions; but all of them are centered on the role of Lucy’s family. It links her family’s sacrifices very closely to the rise of the church and includes a role, although a vague one, for her usually invisible daughters:

Brothers and Children, I was much troubled and felt as if I had the sins of the whole world to bear, and the burthen of the Church; and I felt that there was something wrong. I called on the Lord to show me what was wrong, and if it was me. I called upon him until I slept. I then heard a voice calling on me saying awake, wake, awake, for thy only son that thou hast living, they for his life have laid a snare. My aged servant Joseph who was the first patriarch of this Church, and my servant Hyrum who was the second patriarch, my servant Joseph who was Prophet and Seer, and my servants Samuel, William, and Don Carlos they were the first founders, fathers, and heads of this Church, raised up in these last days, and thou art the mother, and thy daughters have helped, and they are the daughters in Israel, and have helped raise up this Church. Arise, Arise, Arise, and take thy place you know not what has been in the hearts of some; but he said thou shalt know. He told me what it was; but I shall not tell. (I saw William in a room full of armed men and he having no weapons. They would have crushed him down, if it had not been for the power of God; and many of the family would have been cut off, the Lord having softened their hearts. Two amongst them had blacker hearts than the rest, and I know who they were, and I will tell them if they will come to me. Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball know it is so, and dare not deny it.) Call upon the Twelve, let all things be set in order, and keep their hearts pure from this time henceforth, the voice saith be merciful, and then Zion shall arise and flourish as a rose. What I was told I cannot tell. Thou art the mother in Israel, and tell thy children all to walk uprightly. Thy son William he shall have power over the Churches, he is father in Israel over the patriarchs and the whole of the Church, he is the last of the lineage that is raised up in these last days. He is patriarch to regulate the affairs of the Church. He is President over all the Church, they cannot take his apostleship away from him. The Presidency of the Church belongs to William, he being the last of the heads of the Church, according to the lineage, he having inherited it from the family from before the foundation of the world. Thou art a mother in Israel. Thy spirit arose and said in eternity, that it would take a body to be a mother to [the] Prophet who should be raised up to save the last dispensation. And the spirit said unto me be faithful (and that I had been faithful.) And tell the Church to be faithful. And the spirit said I should live until I was satisfied with life.

Brothers and Children, I want you to take notice [that] the burthen of the Church [rests on William.] [Brackets Bullock’s]

2nd Vision. Joseph came to me and said “that day is coming when I shall wave the sceptre of power over my enemies. Be patient my brothers and sisters, the day is coming when you shall have eternal life and be rewarded for all your troubles.”

[p.51]3rd Vision. Father [Joseph Sr.] came to me and I said Father have you come. And he said “Yes.” I said tell me where you have been? And he said “I have been all around here. I have come to you again to tell you one thing certain, which I have told you many times before. It is my prayers and the prayers of our sons that you live to take care of William and my daughters, and see that they have their rights and standing where they ought to have it. He turned to go away, and I said I will go with you. He said you must stay. (Jessee, John Taylor, 73-75)

It is significant that Lucy’s “authority,” identified in this revelation, is that of a mother instructing “all” of the children, an identification affirmed twice. Her “whispered” disclosure of the blackest-hearted apostles obviously set the stage for further conflict. But the most significant point in her first revelation is that William owned the presidency of the Church by right of “lineage,” having “inherited it from the family.” Lucy almost compares herself to Mary, the mother of Jesus, in offering her body by premortal covenant as the vessel through which the chosen prophet would come, thus reaching back into the past. The visit from Joseph Sr., coming as he does from the post-mortal world, reaches into the future, but he reinforces the same message: his family must have its “rights and standing.”

Needless to say, this revelation caused a ripple in the community. The next day, Saturday, Bishop George Miller made arrangements for Lucy to meet with Brigham Young and other general authorities on Sunday and to have her revelation read in the Sunday meeting. However, before the meeting, Lucy requested that the revelation not be read because it “‘was only for her own children and not for the Priesthood or Church.’” Besides, she said, “‘it was not written down correctly.’” Brigham Young, during the preaching service, “discussed the vision but did not read the text” (ibid., 77n225). According to William’s indignant and admittedly self-serving account, Young “had the refinement of feeling and consideration to ridicule on the stand the whole matter, and marvelled that the church could entertain for a moment the crazy manifestations of an old woman” (W. Smith, “Proclamation,” 1).16

On Monday, 30 June, a delegation called on Lucy at her home. Katharine, Lucy, and Arthur were present, but William was not. He had been in a belligerent mood the day before when his Uncle John Smith and cousin George A. Smith had called on him to persuade him to deny any claim to the presidency. However, he sent a letter expressing complete willingness to acknowledge Brigham Young as president as long as Brigham Young acknowledged his (William’s) right to the patriarchy.

Seven apostles (Young, Kimball, Orson Pratt, John E. Page, Willard [p.52]Richards, George A. Smith, and Taylor), both of Nauvoo’s bishops (Newell K. Whitney and George Miller), and Reynolds Cahoon of the Council of Fifty crowded into the Millikin home. According to Clayton, Lucy thought they did not have “a correct copy of her vision; however, we know that it is;17 but supposed that the old lady was feeble and excited, and perhaps might not fully recollect what she had said.” In any case, Brigham Young tackled the main point without hesitation: William “was aiming at power, and authority, and priesthood that did not belong to him; … that he would sustain William in his office and calling [as patriarch]; but would not allow him to tread upon his neck or any other man’s.”

Lucy capitulated on Young’s main point: “he [William] did not want [the presidency],” but then retreated to an unassailable position: “she did not profess to be a revelator only for herself and family, that she wanted peace, union, and harmony. The twelve all expressed the same feeling and manifested the greatest kindness to Mother Smith together with the Bishops.”18

Before the meeting broke up, the group read William’s letter and answered it on the spot, affirming his position subject only to the Twelve and adding that “Mother Smith, Catherine, Lucy, and Arthur … express their satisfaction with it.” Obviously no one would remain satisfied for very long, but this dramatic confrontation shows the importance to Lucy of her family and also her genuine unwillingness to exercise her spiritual gifts outside the family circle.


As previously noted, Irene Bates positions Lucy squarely in the noble tradition of “republican motherhood,” in which her values, self-identification as a mother, and religious yearnings link her to an exalted cultural role for women in eighteenth-century America that survived virtually unchanged through the Victorian era. When matched to the concepts in the church’s current “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” (1992), this tradition still sounds remarkably contemporary. It is as a mother that Lucy finds the fullest expression of her identity. According to Preston Nibley, one of her editors:

[p.53]Mrs. Smith experienced supreme pride and joy in the knowledge and realization that she was the mother of the Prophet of God. It was her pleasure to declare on numerous occasions, “I am the mother of the Prophet.” No one except herself could have known the satisfaction she derived from this knowledge. And yet, she was called upon to pay the full price for this glorious privilege; poverty, persecution, trials, troubles and sorrows of the bitterest kind were to be her lot in this world. (Nibley, ix)

Lucy seems to have had a close relationship with her own mother and records in loving detail her final parting from Lydia Gates Mack:

I had a task to perform which was a severe trial to my feellings one to which I shall ever look back with peculiar sensations that can never be obliterated I was here to take leave of that pious and affectionate parent to whom I was a indebted for all the religious instructions as well as most of the educational priviledges which I had ever received The parting hour came my Mother wept over me long and heartily <bitterly> She told me that it was not probable she should ever behold my face again but my Dear Child said she I have lived long my days are nearly numbered I must soon exchange the things of Earth for another state of existence where I hope to enjoy the society of the Blessed and now as my last admonition I beseech <you> to continue faithful in the exercise of every religious duty to the end of your days that I may have the pleasure of embracing you in another fairer World above— (chap. 17)

When Joseph Sr. on his deathbed praises Lucy, it is not because she was an exemplary housewife but because she was an exceptional mother, praise that Lucy obviously cherished. In two separate statements, he singled out her ability in this area: “Mother, do you not know, that you are the mother of as great a family as ever lived upon the earth? The world loves its own, but it does not love us. It hates us because we are not of the world.” This blessing is also an explanation of why, despite their fondest desires as parents, they had not been able to provide physical comfort and security for their children. It thus serves as exoneration of any doubts Lucy may have had about her parenting. In a second blessing, pronounced after he has blessed all of the children, Joseph Sr. says: “Mother, do you not know, that you are one of the most singular women in the world? … You have brought up my children for me by the fireside, and … could always comfort them when I could not. We have often wished that we might both die at the same time, but you must not desire to die when I do, for you must stay to comfort the children when I am gone” (chap. 52).

Lucy identifies herself proudly and publicly as the “mother of the Prophet”—to a minister who calls Joseph a “poor deluded boy,” to a woman from whom she was seeking shelter for the women and children she was leading to Kirtland, and to the crowd of rough, armed Missourians who are taking [p.54]Joseph and Hyrum away with every intention of shooting them and who encourage the teamster to run over her.

During a tender passage when little Sophronia is dying of typhoid (chap. 15), the agonized Lucy catches up the child in her arms and paces the floor with her, then addresses the reader:

Now my reader are you a parent, place yourself in the same situation are you a Mother that has ever been in like circumstances feel for your heart strings can you tell me how I felt with my expiring child strained to my heart <bosom> with all which thrilled with all a mothers love a mothers tender yearnings. for her own offspring. (chap. 15)

Speaking to the Saints at the October 1845 general conference, Lucy delivered a homily on child-rearing practices that gives an appealing little vignette of her own hearthside:

I raised them in the fear of God When they were two or three years old I told them I wanted them to love God with all their hearts I told them to do good I want all you to do the same—God gives us our children & we are accountable—In the fear of God I warn you—I want you to take your little children & teach them in the fear of God—I want you to teach them about Joseph in Egypt & such things—when they are four years old they will love to read their bible—I presume there never was a family more obedient than mine—I did not have to speak to them only once Set your children to work & try to bring them up to your comfort Don’t let them play out of doors. (Lucy Smith, Minutes, Bolton version, pp. 7-8)

In contrast, she is harshly critical of mothers who do not take their responsibility seriously. Leading a party of fifty from New York to Ohio, she expresses consistent disgust at the general improvidence, passivity, and dependence of both men and women but is particularly irritated by the slovenly, whining, and careless women who make no effort to safeguard their children, even in life-threatening situations:

I soon discovered a carlessness among the Mothers who were in our company which gave me great anxiety for many of them did neglect their children even when thier especial care was necessary to the preservation of their lives. As for instance at a time when passing under a bridge if children were on deck they woud be thrown over board or bruised in such a maner as was terrible to think of I Called the sisters together an talked with and tried to make them realize their childrens danger and their own responsibility.

Sisters said I God has given you children to be a blessing to you and it is your duty to take care of them to keep them out of every possible danger and in such a place as this especially to have them always by your side and I warn you now to attend better to your duty in this respect or your children will by some unforeseen [p.55]accident be taken from you—Then after this we received news by another boat of the death of a small child which occurred the day before and was occasioned on the same river it was killed by a bridge being on deck when the boat was passing under the child I thought that what I had said and this accident together would rouse the sisters to greater attention but in this I was mistaken for they took not thought of either and their excuse for their neglecting their children was that they could not make them mind I told them that I could make them mind me easy enough and as they would not controll them I should[.]

And she does. The children, including teenagers, are so obedient to her throughout the voyage that Orrin Porter Rockwell’s mother implores her to intervene because “he won’t mind any body but you” (chap. 39).

Another revelation of Lucy as mother comes in a lengthy passage in the 1844-45 rough draft, much condensed in the Coray and Pratt versions. Lucy conceals the printer’s manuscript under her bed. Then pillowing her head above the spot where it lies, she embarks on an all-night reminiscence that combines a worshipful Magnificat with a recapitulation of her spiritual quest for religious certainty. These moments are all, without fail, set in a domestic scene:

As for myself soon after I laid down upon my bed I fell into a train of reflections which occupied my mind untill the day appeared I called to my recolection the pasted history of my life and every interesting scene which I had witnessed from my earliest remmembrance <up> to the present moment [damaged] king scene which I had witnesse during [damaged] se of my life seemed to rise in succ before me from the time the early principles of early piety which were taught me when My Mother called me with my brothers and sisters around her knee and instructed to feel our constant dependance upon God. our liability to transgression and the necessity of prayer and also discoursed to of our accountability to our father in Heaven—of death and a judgement to come—Then again I seemed to hear the voice of My brother Jason declaring to the people that true religion and the faith of the Church of Jesus Christ which he established on the earth was not now among the christian denominations of the day and with tears streaming beseeching them by the love of God to seek to obtain that faith which was once delivered to the saints.—again I seemed to stand by <at> the bedside of my sister Lovisa and see <her> exemplify the power of God in answer to the prayer of faith by an almost entire resusitation:—while her livid lips a moved but to express one sentiment which was the knowledge of the power of God over that of disease and death—The next Moment I was conveyed to the Scene the coseing scene of My sister Lovin’s life and heard her last admonition to her mates and myself reiterated in my ear and then my soul thrilled to <the high> clear and beatiful <plaintive> strains of some favorite notes of some <the> favorite hym which she repeated <in> the last moments of her existence on earth Oh! how often I had listened to the beautiful music of my siste the voices of those to<wo> sisters and drank in thier tones <as> if I might hear again.—and After <that> I seemed live over again the season of gloominess and of prayers and tears that succeeded my sisters [p.56]death and <when> my heart was burdened with anxiety and distress and fear least I shoul by any means fail of that preparation which was needful in order meet again my sisters in that world for which they had taken their departure.

From this domestic circle of her home of origin, Lucy passes to her husband’s home; but because he was a Universalist and nonaffiliated with any religion, she presents herself as a lone seeker:

Then I first began to feel most sensibly the want of a living instructor in matters of salvation. but how much intensely I felt this deficiency when a few years afterwards I found myself at <on> the very verge of the ternal world and although I had an intense desire for salvation yet I was totally devoid of any satisfactory Knowledge or understanding of the Laws or requrements of that being to before whom I expected shortly to appear but I labored faithfully in prayer to God struggling to be freed from the power of death.—when I recovered I sought unceasingly for some one to who could impart to my my some deffinite Idea of the requrements of Heaven with regard to mankind but like Esaw seeking his blessing I found them not though I saught the same with tears—In this for years for days and months and years I continued asking God continually to reveal to me the hidden treasures of his will—but although I was always strenghtened from time still I did not receive a direct to my prayers for the space 20 years I had always believed confidently that God would a some time raise up some one who would be able to effect a reconciliation among those who desired to do his will at the expense of all things else—

From this solitary twenty years’ passage of isolated faithfulness, she passes again into a domestic circle in which her desire for religious assurance is fully met. This time the circle is the setting of her own home and family, even though she conflates the first vision with Moroni’s first visitation in 1823:

But what was my joy and astonishment to hear my own son though a boy of <14 years of age> declare that he had been visited by an angel from Heaven and even nor at that time as I took a retrospective glance at former years when my mind rested upon the hours of deep delight with I had sat in the midst my children my oldest one Alvin by my side which I had spent <in> listening to the instructions and which Joseph had received and <which he faithfully> committed to us a <which> we received with infinite delight but none were more engaged than the one whom we were doomed part with for Alvin was never so happy as when he was contemplating the final success of his brother in obtaining the record—And now I fancied I could hear him with his parting breath conjureing his brother to continue faithful that he might obtain the prize which the Lord had promised him ever The But when I cast in my mind on the disapointment and trouble which we had suffered while the work was in progress the My heart beat quick and my pulse rose high <and> in spite of my best efforts to the contrary my mind was aggitated and I felt every nervous sensation which I experienced at the time it the circumstances took place & at last as if led by an invisable spirit I came to the time [p.57]in the mesenger from Waterloo informed me that the translation actualy completed

Her meditation ends with a paean of religious joy and spiritual rapture that, tellingly, finds its final expression in the words of Mary’s Magnificat:

my Soul swelled with joy that could scarcly heightened except by the reflection that the record which had cost so much labor and sufferring and anxiety were now <in reality> lieing beneath my own head that the identicle work had not only been the object which we as a family had pursued so eagerly but that Prophets of ancient days and angels even the Great God had <had> his eye upon it. and said I to myself Shall I fear what man can do will not the angels watch over the precious relict of the worthy dead and the hope of the living and am I indeed the mother of a prophet of the God of Heaven—the honored instrument in performing so great work—I felt th I was in the purview of angels and my bounded at the thought of the great condescension of the Amighty—thus I spent the night surrounded by enemies and yet in an extacy of happiness and truly I can say that “My soul did magnify and my spirit rejoiced in God my savior”— (chap. 32)

Lucy’s public persona as mother was a complex one. Oliver Cowdery called her “mother” in 1828-29, and the company of Fayette travelers en route to Kirtland in early 1830 insisted that “everything should be done just as Mother smith said” (chaps. 28, 39). On 18 December 1833, when Joseph Smith bestowed upon his father “the keys of the patriarchal Priesthood over the kingdom of God on earth, even the Church of the Latter-day Saints,” he obviously saw a parallel role for Lucy in the blessing he pronounced on her: “She is a mother in Israel, and shall be a partaker with my father in all his patriarchal blessings … Blessed is my mother, for her soul is ever filled with benevolence and philanthropy; and notwithstanding her age, she shall yet receive strength and be comforted in the midst of her house: and thus saith the Lord. She shall have eternal life” (Joseph Fielding Smith, 39). Lucy was not only the biological mother of the prophet, but also the literal mother of other martyrs whose blood nourished the church. Even more broadly, she defined herself as the mother of the church and the mother of the faithful who joined that church. “Mother” was, to her, a sacred title, but it was also a political one and she used it both to establish a relationship of affection and mutually shared belief with other members—and especially with the leaders who succeeded Joseph—and also as a reminder of the support that children owed their mothers.

She had a number of encounters with Brigham Young and the Twelve in the months following the martyrdom, most of them warmly positive and almost certainly sincere, although the Twelve also had strong political motives in appearing to [p.58]be solicitous, and Lucy had an equally strong motive in appearing to be compliant. These encounters included blessings, private meetings between individual apostles and Lucy, meetings of Lucy with the quorum itself, honors, temple ordinances, and addresses. (See epilogue.) The most complex interactions were Lucy’s announcement of her vision about William—a manifestation of her private motherhood—and a public assertion of her identity as the church’s mother at the three-day October 1845 general conference during the morning session on the third day (8 October). It was the first time a Mormon woman spoke at general conference—and the last until 1988—and may also be the first time a Mormon woman spoke at a regular preaching service.19

She was not a planned part of the program, but had “expressed a wish to say a few words” and was “invited upon the Stand” where she “spoke at considerable length, and in an audible manner.” This speech, delivered extemporaneously like all Mormon sermons then, is her only known address at a formal church service. It is remarkable, both for its content, its form, and its context.

That context directly challenged her role as mother. Two days earlier on 6 October, Parley P. Pratt, who tellingly had also given the opening prayer, had protested against sustaining William Smith as an apostle for two reasons: He claimed to have proof that William was “an aspiring man” who wanted to “uproot and undermine” the presidency in favor of himself and that his “doctrine and conduct” in the East had “produced death and destruction wherever he went.”20 William was dropped from the quorum. In the same session when Isaac Morley presented William’s name as patriarch, the vote against him was “unanimous” (Clayton and Bullock, 1009). It was in this context, plus the vote of the church to leave Nauvoo and go West, that Lucy rose to speak.

Much time in the earlier sessions had been devoted to instructions about preparing to leave for the west, and she complimented Brigham Young for having “fixed it completely.” Then she launched into her main topic:

She was the mother of eleven children, seven of whom were boys. [See chap. [p.59]9 notes.] She raised them in the fear and love of God, and never was there a more obedient family. She warned parents that they were accountable for their children’s conduct; advised them to give them books and work to keep them from idleness; warned all to be full of love, goodness and kindness, and never to do in secret, what they would not do in the presence of millions. She wished to know of the congregation, whether they considered her a mother in Israel—(upon which President B. Young said; all who consider Mother Smith as a mother in Israel, signify it by saying yes!—One universal “yes” rang throughout.)21

In this context of public validation for the motherly identity she claimed, a validation in which Brigham Young participated, Lucy then launched into her family history:

She remarked, that it was just eighteen years since Joseph Smith the prophet had become acquainted with the contents of the plates; and then, in a concise manner, related over the most prominent points in the early history of her family; their hardships, trials, privations, persecutions, sufferings, &c; some parts of which melted those who heard her to tears, more especially the part relating to a scene in Missouri, when her beloved son Joseph was condemned to be shot in fifteen minutes, and she by prodigious efforts was enabled to press through the crowd to where he was, and to give him her hand; but could not see his face; he took her hand and kissed it; she said, let me hear your voice once more my son; he said God bless you my dear mother!

She gave notice that she had written her history, and wished it printed before we leave this place. (Clayton and Bullock, 1013-14)22

[p.60]This comment is a landmark event, constituting, as it does, the first public announcement of Lucy’s book. Furthermore, for a woman so totally committed to exercising her spiritual gifts within the family circle, this episode shows her as competent, lucid, and unquestionably skillful, both in communicating with great emotional impact to a large audience and also in positioning herself relative to Brigham Young. If she was acting unconsciously, then it is easy to see where Joseph Smith’s considerable gifts of charm and charisma came from; and if she was acting strategically and consciously, then we can only wonder what the results might have been had she chosen to exercise her gifts in a circle larger than that of her own family.

By her opening compliment, she had defused any lingering hostilities from the summer, her June revelation about William as president, and any personal hard feelings that might naturally result from William’s being dropped from the Twelve. By her request for a voice vote on whether she was a “Mother in Israel,” she had both reminded the congregation of her family and put them in a position of formally acknowledging it. Brigham Young’s alert rising to call for the vote shows his own skill at reminding both Lucy and the Saints that his will imposed order on the proceedings. Lucy gave what amounted to an alluring summary of her book, punctuated by moving highlights, a tactic designed to arouse interest in the finished product. Then she returned to her opening position vis-à-vis Brigham Young by affirming that “the Lord will let Brother Brigham take the people away.” At that point, she played a major card: the possibility of going west with them, an event that would be a vote of legitimation for the Quorum of the Twelve.23 After cataloging her dead, she added: “And if so be the rest of my children go with you, (and I would to God they may all go,) they will not go without me.”

Her voice apparently became weaker at this point, so much so that Clayton and Bullock, who should have been on the stand or near it, said it was “inaudible to the reporters.” Brigham Young, however, arose, repeated what she had just said,24 expressed joy at her sentiments, pledged the aid of the church [p.61]in her removal, and announced that the church had already given Lucy the “best carriage in the city.” In her address, Lucy had made two references to William, first when she said that her sons were dead (“They are all gone but poor William & he is gone I don’t know where”), and second when she said William saw in vision in Missouri the arrival of the mob that would dispossess them and threaten their lives (Lucy Smith, Minutes, Bolton version, p. 10).

Pointedly Brigham added that the church had also furnished William with “a span of horses, and a carriage and a house … He has run away in a time of trouble; but I suppose will come back when it is peace, and we mean to have him with us yet.” At this slur on William’s courage, Lucy “interrupted President Young, but [was] inaudible to the reporters.”25 Young hastily continued, renewing his pledge of support and promising, as she had asked, to return her bones to lie beside those of her husband if she died away from Nauvoo and adding that he would do his best to persuade Emma to let them take Joseph’s and Hyrum’s bodies west with them as well.26 The conference closed, an undoubted triumph for Lucy that Brigham Young had, with equal skill, managed to contain and co-opt.

But Young’s mention of the carriage is significant and so is the flurry over William. Although Young obviously cites the example of the carriage [p.62]to show the Saints the generosity of the Twelve toward Lucy in particular and toward the Smith family in general, privately he had very different feelings about it. On 2 August 1845, Young says he “rode out in the new church carriage” with Brother Kimball and the bishops (Whitney and Miller) to inspect two lots that Emma was selling to the church, then brought Lucy to choose one for herself and her daughters. Striking while the iron was hot, she not only selected one of the lots but also asked for a house like Heber’s large two-story brick home, “for the carriage we rode in, a horse and a double carriage harness. We gave her the use of the carriage during her lifetime” (HC 7:434). There is no record of what happened to the carriage or whether Lucy was using it after October 1845.

William Clayton, writing at the time, fussily imposed his/Young’s interpretation on this event:

She asked for the new carriage saying that President Young and the Trustees promised it to her … Neither the Trustees nor President Young ever promised the carriage to Mother Smith, but they told her that when it was built they would ride her round in it. There is no doubt but Arthur Millikin, Lucys husband, or else William has prompted her to do this out of ill feelings and jealousy lest Brother Brigham should ride in it. Arthur idles his time away. He will do nothing either for himself or any one else, but out of respect for Mother Smith the brethren would rather indulge the whole family than to hurt her feelings. She is [old] and childish and the brethren strive to do all they can to comfort her. They have lent her the carriage while she lives but it is church property and when she dies it falls into the hands of the Trustees. (George D. Smith, Intimate, 176)

Twelve years later when Brigham Young was fulminating to Wilford Woodruff about his bête noire William Smith, he exclaimed, “Wm. Smith is the most wicked man I ever saw in my life. He has been filled with all manner of wickedness.” The example that he cites of wickedness is of the carriage: “When I was in Nauvoo I Commenced to build me a Carriage. William got up a rumor that I was Finishing a Carriage for my own use which Joseph had Commenced for his mother. Then Mother Smith soon reported that I was building her a Carriage and the first time she got me in Company she asked me for that Carriage. I did not care much about the carriage but I was sorry to have her take that Course.” When Woodruff excused Lucy because she “was under the influence of Wm Smith and the spirit of Aposticy which was in Nauvoo,” Young was willing to accept the excuse: “Yes I do not think the Lord would impute Evil to her and I shall meet with her in Eternity and I am sure I shall not bring an Accusation against her” (Woodruff, 5:287-88).

Nor was that the end of it. The carriage rankled sufficiently that Young returned to it on another public occasion: “I recollect very well that I had a nice [p.63]carriage built in 1845,” he told an audience in the tabernacle. “About the time it was done, Mother Smith said, ‘How rejoiced I am that that carriage which Joseph promised to me is done.’ I sent her the carriage, and I do not know but that I would have taken off my shirt and given it to any of the Smith family and run the risk of getting another” (Essential, 191). Significantly, at this point, the carriage which had been church property in Nauvoo had now become his personal property.

In short, at the 1845 conference, Brigham Young’s mention of the carriage must be seen as a short outburst on his part because he had been outmaneuvered by Lucy, resenting it privately but positioning himself to benefit publicly from it. Perhaps because it rankled, he passed immediately on to William, a more serious concern. That exchange in the conference, over which the scribes’ minutes pass with barely a mention, suggests that Lucy’s and Brigham’s uneasy accord, constructed out of good will on the spot, did not survive the meeting. William, who had been disfellowshiped as apostle and patriarch on 6 October, nine days before the conference, would be excommunicated on 12 or 19 October, only a few days later.

It would have taken nimbleness indeed to keep up with the changes in William Smith’s fortunes and his own state of mind since his return to Nauvoo in May. Although confirmed as patriarch, he had alienated Young by preaching a public sermon on the secret doctrine of spiritual wifery, claiming priesthood rights and veering from day to day between placating the Twelve and rousing their ire.27

Irvine Hodge was murdered on the same day that John Taylor wrote his editorial for the Nauvoo Neighbor redefining the patriarchal office to exclude William from presidential claims (Quinn, Origins, 216-17; see discussion 427-28 attributing the murder to Hosea and/or Allen Stout). Caroline’s death and [p.64]William’s remarriage a month later no doubt factored into his emotional instability, while the intensity, fear, exhaustion, and uncertainty about the future that everyone in Nauvoo was experiencing exacerbated every encounter.28

The next spring, in March 1846, Almon Babbitt and Joseph Heywood refused to surrender the deed to Joseph Noble’s house, which Young had promised Lucy, unless one of two conditions was met: either William must support the Twelve or Lucy must forbid him entrance into the house. She responded with an outraged and highly emotional outpouring that returned again and again to her identity and claims as a mother. After reminding them that the house was a promise of her son Joseph, which Brigham Young had, in turn, promised to fulfill, she attacked. She not only appealed to the sentiments natural to all mothers for their children, but also to the special claims that her family had on the church, and, more, her special claims as the mother to the church:

You restrict my conscience, put limits to my affections, threaten me with poverty, if I do not drive my children from my door because they resent insult and abuse … No, although my children have been the Fathers and Founders of the Church, and spent their all in its service, yea have not withheld their lives, but have been sacrificed on the altar of Mobocracy and at the feet of wicked men, have been torn from their widowed Mother. This is not enough but I am called upon to banish from my home the few of my family who are left as my only solace … Thank kind Heaven that has implanted in my bosom affection which gold cannot buy, and which bribes cannot break[—]the cords of affection that binds me to the children of my bosom even eternity itself cannot break, they are interwoven with the finest arteries of my heart, and the love that flows through them is the only principle that enlivens and cheers me in this vale of tears. You would have me forsake my children in order that you may give me a living, but let it not be said that in the Church … a mother has to forfeit all natures ties, to cut asunder the cords of affection that bind her to her children, or she shall not have a subsistence … As to the head of the Church I am Mother and ask obedience to the Law of God, and all will be right and none that feel as Joseph did will wrong his Mother, his Brother, or his Sisters … Let this be a sufficient rebuke from your Mother in Israel, Amen.

She repeated this title in her signature: “Lucy Smith Mother in Israel” (Shepard and Hajicek, 7-9; L. Smith to Mssrs.).29

[p.65]After Lucy’s death, Brigham Young would excoriate her as so “old and forgetful” that she “could scarcely recollect anything correctly” and dismiss her book as “a tissue of falsehoods” (“Remarks”). His reaction, discussed in the next chapter, does not show him in the best light where Lucy was concerned. But there is no reason to question his sincere affection for and interest in Lucy, even though the larger interests of the church had to be preeminent, and even though he was clearly exasperated by her unwillingness to sacrifice what she saw as family interests to those of the kingdom.

Against his harshness should be balanced a moment of generosity and affection that came on 4 April 1847 when he signed a touching letter to Lucy, literally on the eve of the vanguard company’s departure. Speaking for the Council of the Twelve to “beloved mother in Israel,” this man, whose own childhood had been motherless, wrote tenderly:

… We are constantly reminded of their [the martyrs’] aged mother, whom we feel free to call our mother, knowing the many privations, hardships, toils, fatigues, weariness, which she has been called to endure, in connection with her beloved Joseph and other children in establishing the Kingdom of God on the earth.

… We felt we could not take our leave without addressing a line to mother Smith, to let her know that her children in the Gospel have not forgotten her. Your memory, and that of your dear husband, our Father in Israel, is sweet unto us, and ever will be, and that of all your household, whom the Lord has given unto you, for He has given you a family to increase without number, … the household of faith …

If our dear Mother Smith should at any time wish to come where the Saints are located, and she will make it manifest to us, there is no sacrifice we will count too great … and if she chooses not to be with us, and we could know where she is, we would gladly administer to her wants …

He closed with a blessing: “Peace be to Mother Smith, may her last days be her best days, may her heart be satisfied, may she be upheld in all her trials, may all her wants be supplied, and go home like a shock of corn fully ripe … and may the choicest blessing of Heaven and earth abide with you forever, is the prayer of your beloved children … ” (Clark 1:319-21)30


1. D. Michael Quinn begins his magisterial two-volume work on the Mormon hierarchy with the observation: “Before it was an organization, Mormonism was a private religious awakening in a single family” (Origins, 1). Richard L. Bushman stresses the “family” component of early Mormonism. “It … began with one family … Three of the six original organizers were Smiths, just as previously three of the eight witnesses to the golden plates were family members … As a boy and youth, Joseph was almost entirely under the influence of his family and a small circle of acquaintances … [His] culture was predominantly family culture … The Smith family as a whole more than any single individual stood at the center of the story—its hardships, triumphs, sorrows, and happiness. Lucy’s pride was the pride of family” (Joseph, 3-4, 10).

2. Willard Richards, writing Joseph Jr.’s diary on 9 January 1843, records his visit to Samuel’s and Katharine’s families in Plymouth, Illinois. Richards describes Katharine’s impoverishment: “My heart was pained to witness a lovely wife and sister of Joseph almost barefoot and four lovely children entirely so in the middle of winter. Ah! thought I, what has not Joseph and his father’s family suffered to bring forth the work of the Lord?” (Faulring, 291).

3. A confusing number of Andersons is involved in early Mormon research. I join Richard Lloyd Anderson, attorney, New Testament scholar, and Mormon historian; his brother, Karl Ricks Anderson, whose life in Kirtland has led him into Mormon research; Rodger I. Anderson, who prepared an important edition of documents on Joseph Smith’s New York reputation; and psychiatrist Robert D. Anderson, who reads the Book of Mormon as Joseph Smith’s psychological attempts to deal with his childhood and youth. With the exception of Richard and Karl, none of these Andersons is related.

4. Dan Vogel has published a fine and carefully researched parallel-column arrangement as part of his larger project, but the Lucy Mack Smith material ends with the move to Kirtland, Ohio (chap. 39 of the Pratt printing). See Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 1 (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996), 227-450. This book builds on his work.

5. Shortly before breaking ground for the Nauvoo, Illinois, temple on 24 October 1999, LDS and RLDS descendants of Joseph Sr. and Lucy Smith (along with “a group of members”) dedicated the “Nauvoo Legacy Gardens” as “a place of beauty and culture to display special memorials to events and personalities that played a significant role in the history of Nauvoo,” according to Hortense Child Smith, wife of Eldred G. Smith, LDS Patriarch Emeritus and, at ninety-two, the oldest living descendant of Joseph Sr. and Lucy. The garden includes a bronze statue of Joseph Jr. (in shirtsleeves with an axe) called “Pioneer Prophet,” by Dee Jay Bawden, and a three-ton Vermont granite stone with a memorial plaque featuring the faces of Joseph Sr. and Lucy. (Greg Hill, “Rebuilding of the Magnificent Temple,” Church News, 30 October 1999, 6-7; Genelle Pugmire, “Gardens Dedicated in Honor of Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith,” ibid., 12.)

6. A Narraitve [sic] of the Life of Solomon Mack, Containing An Account of the Many severe Accidents He Met with During a Long Series of Years, Together with the Extraordinary Manner in which he was Converted to the Christian Faith (Windsor, VT: Solomon Mack, [dated at 1811 by Richard Lloyd Anderson], reprinted with modernized spelling and punctuation in his Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1971), 30-58.

7. Other relatives who joined the association at this meeting were Agnes Smith (Don Carlos’s wife), Lucy Millican (sic), and Mary Bailey Smith (Samuel’s wife), plus several women who were or would become plural wives of Joseph and Hyrum. Temperance Mack and Almira Covey, widow and daughter of her brother Stephen, joined on 19 April 1842.

8. Robert D. Anderson, Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith: Psychobiography and the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999); see especially chap. 2 for his discussion of family dysfunction. The discussion that follows summarizes arguments I made to Anderson during the process of editing his interesting and provocative book for publication in 1997-98. I repeat them here in the interest of a healthy and vigorous dialogue.

9. Bushman, Joseph Smith, 208n55, suggests: “Since there is no evidence of intemperance after the organization of the church, Joseph Sr. likely referred to a time before 1826 when Hyrum married and left home.” Although of highly uneven reliability, LaMar Petersen’s compendium includes anecdotes about drinking by most of the Smith men, including Hyrum and Joseph Sr., after 1826.

10. Robert Anderson also postulates that the family’s extreme poverty and the large number of children meant that Lucy resented Joseph Sr. for causing such frequent pregnancies and that the children were in competition, not only for parental affection and attention, but also for enough food (chap. 2). While Lucy’s record and affidavits left by Palmyra neighbors of mixed motives amply attest to the family’s poverty, I see no evidence that the children went hungry or that they were neglected. (For a general analysis of the reliability of the Hurlbut/Howe affidavits, see Richard L. Anderson, “Reliability.”)

11. Other records indicate, however, that the family did not contract for the land until July 1820 (Vogel 1:277n75; 3:424-25).

12. This quotation is a fragment from a popular eighteenth-century poem, An English Padlock (1707), by Matthew Prior (1664-1721). The poem itself is satiric in tone, though Joseph Smith Sr. communicates no such intent here. The quatrain in which these lines appear reads: “Be to her virtues very kind / Be to her faults a little blind. / Let all her ways be unconfined, / And clap your padlock on her mind.”

13. Martha Jane Knowlton Coray, “Joseph Sen.,” Notebook (Nauvoo), 1840s, Coray Family Collection.

14. W. Smith, Mormonism, 34-35. For singing in tongues, see Hicks, 35-38, 50n9, including his comment on the “jangling rhymes” of “Moroni’s Lamentation” (36). Levi Hancock and his brother Solomon frequently sang for the Prophet Joseph at his request (38).

15. This scripture is a slight paraphrase of Mark 16:17-18: “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

16. My thanks to William Shepard for calling this source to my attention.

17. This point might be questioned. According to William Clayton, Lucy’s revelation had been “corrected and altered by William Smith so as to suit his wishes by representing him as the legal successor of Joseph in the presidency.” Although Taylor does not list Clayton among those present, he attended the meeting and asked Lucy for “permission to copy it but she was unwilling.” When questioned on the identity of the “blacker-hearted” apostles, she said “it was not any one who was then present” (G. Smith, Intimate, 169-71).

18. Jesse, John Taylor, 77. The History of the Church (7:433) says only, “Visited Mother Smith in company with the Twelve and Bishops Whitney and Miller. William Smith was invited but did not attend. Mother Smith expressed herself satisfied with the Twelve and the course they were pursuing.”

19. While general conference sessions were being held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, women leaders, as well as general authorities, addressed the overflow crowds in the visitors bureau or on the grounds in the early twentieth century before public address systems were available. General auxiliary presidents who were being released or sustained usually spoke for a few minutes before 1988 but did not give gospel addresses comparable to those of the general authorities.

20. Clayton and Bullock, 1008. HC 7:458-59 mistakenly attributes the protest to Orson Pratt, but he was then in the East. Both Willard Richards’s and Orson’s diaries attribute the protest to Parley. As for the charges, Bates argues persuasively that William’s reputation for “licentiousness” seems to have been created mostly by LDS officers after his excommunication and that his not undeserved reputation for violence must be taken in the frontier context of the times. Joseph Smith, for instance, insulted by a note-collector while riding in a carriage with Ira Spaulding, wordlessly handed the reins to Spaulding, stepped out of the carriage, “knocked him down as flat as a beef,” climbed back in the carriage, and drove off, still without speaking (15).

21. Clayton and Bullock, 1013. See also History of the Church 7:470-73. According to the minutes, she said: “I call you brothers & sisters & children if you consider me a Mother in Israel I want you to say so—<Prest. B. Young arose & said—all who consider Mother Smith a Mother as a Mother in Israel signify it by saying yes> (loud shouts of yes) My feelings have been hurt by hearing them say Old mother Smith—there goes Old mother Smith—I have had my feelings hurt a great deal” (Lucy Smith, Minutes, Bolton version, p. 8). There is an unconscious and painful irony in Lucy’s claiming of the title and in the congregation’s conferring it upon her by vote under Brigham Young’s direction. Carol Cornwall Madsen (179-201) explains the title’s Old Testament and Puritan antecedents, then its applicability to some Mormon women, including Lucy, Mercy Fielding Thompson, Bathsheba B. Smith, and Eliza R. Snow, who received this title at her funeral from John Taylor. In addition to its usual meanings, “mother in Israel” was also the title used specifically for such women as Patty Sessions and Elizabeth Davis Goldsmith Brackenbury Durfee Smith Lott in Nauvoo who were polyandrous wives of Joseph Smith and who helped him “communicate and meet with prospective plural wives” (Compton, 254-71).

22. This printed version obscures the fact that Lucy made a direct plea for assistance with publishing: “I have got it all in a history & I want this people to be so good & so kind as to get it printed befor [sic] you go to California <West>” (Lucy Smith, Minutes, Bolton version, p. 9). Norton Jacob recorded in his reminiscence, “Mother Smith, Joseph’s mother, addressed the congregation about an hour, speaking of the history of herself and family in bringing forth the Book of Mormon. She said it was eighteen years ago last Monday since she commenced preaching the gospel being called upon by Joseph to go and tell Martin Harris and family that he had got the plates and he wanted him to take an alphabet of the characters and carry them to the learned men to decipher” (16).

23. The Millennial Star obviously interpreted it in just this way in a one-paragraph summary of the conference. After reporting the unanimous vote of the Saints to leave Nauvoo, it added: “Our old mother in Israel—mother Smith arose and said she wanted to go with the Saints, and wanted her children to go too. Elder Young replied that she should go.” Only Lucy and Brigham are named in this conference report (“From a Private”).

24. According to the minutes, Brigham Young’s version was considerably more positive and more explicit than Lucy’s actual words: “Mother Smith proposes a thing that rejoices my heart—she will go with us—I can answer for the Authorities of the Church we want her & her children to go with us & I pledge myself in behalf of the Authorities of the Church that while we have any thing they shall share with us— … Pres<t> Young said Mother Smith has been relating over the circumstances of her pecuniary life of late—She is perfectly satisfied and all is right—He could have wished that the Bishops would have gone & seen her oftener than they have—I will say in the name of the latter day Saints we will supply her wants & I want the Poeple [sic] to take it <anything they have to her> & let her do with it what she pleases—I have never asked her to go—because she told me she would not but now she has offered to go—Mother Smith proposes that she will go with us if we will promise to bring back her bones in case of her death & deposit them with her husbands & I propose that we as a people shall pledge ourselves that if she do go with us and die we will bring her bones back & lay them by the side of her husband according to her wishes (unanimous vote)” (Lucy Smith, Minutes, Bolton version, pp. 14-15). According to the same minutes, Lucy had said: “I feel that the Lord will let Brother Brigham take the people away—I don’t know as I shall go—but if the rest of my family go I will go … Here lays my dead my husband & children I want to lay my bones here so that in the resurrection I can raise with my husband & children—if so be that my children go—And I would to God that all my children would go—they will not go without me & if I go I want to have my bones fetched back to be laid with my husband & children” (p. 13).

25. The rough draft of this portion (probably in William Clayton’s handwriting) notes the interruption but does not say she was inaudible. However, it does not report what she said (Lucy Smith, Minutes, fd. 4, Clayton version).

26. Clayton and Bullock, 1014. Nauvoo resident Wandle Mace recorded Lucy as saying: “‘Here, in this city, lay my dead; my husband, and children; and if so be the rest of my children go with you,—and I would to God they may all go—they will not go without me; and if I go, I want my bones brought back in case I die away, and deposited with my husband and children.’ The closing remarks of mother Smith was not heard by all but President Young arose and related them to the congregation and then said, ‘Mother Smith proposes a thing which rejoices my heart: she will go with us. I can answer for the authorities of the church; we want her and her children to go with us; and I pledge myself in behalf of the authorities of the church, that while we have anything, they shall share with us’” (192-93).

27. For a careful, almost daily, reconstruction of this important period, see Bates and Smith, chap. 8, esp. pp. 78-95; and Bates, 20-22, and Gary Smith, 23-35. In October, he laid the blame for “Arvine” [Irvine] Hodge’s murder (on 23 June 1845) on Nauvoo policemen, acting on Brigham Young’s orders, recorded two or three statements that he interpreted as unsubtle threats, and described a meeting with the Twelve and bishops within a day or two of Hodge’s murder, held at his request when he wrote Young a letter saying “that I did not feel myself safe in the hands of his police.” To his surprise, the meeting was also attended by “fifty or sixty police-men all armed with their Bowie knives, pistols, and hickory clubs.” After a defiant speech, concluding that he would leave if the Twelve didn’t want him in Nauvoo but threatening, “‘where I go, there also the Smith family go, and with them also goes the Priesthood,’” Young responded so wrathfully that William, fearing for his life, agreed to “make himself one with them” (W. Smith, “A Proclamation,” 1). According to William, Lucy, overwrought by her vision two or three days later on 27 June, “sent to find me, and when I entered her room, she exclaimed, ‘My son, my son, you are alive yet! In a vision I saw you in a room, under the guard of enemies, an[d] I awoke fearful of some sad result.’ A singular coincidence with the very situation in which I had been placed, but which had been kept entirely secret from her” (W. Smith, “A Proclamation,” 1).

28. Furthermore, William apparently immediately launched on his new calling as Church Patriarch. The day after his second marriage, 23 June 1845, he gave Martha Jane Coray a blessing which is microfilmed with the holograph and fragments of Lucy’s rough draft. In it he reassures her in a passage that might more properly fit either himself or Lucy: “Thine heart shall be comforted in days to come, for thy past life has been a life of sorrow, and thou hast been acquainted with grief … ”

29. See also Epilogue.

30. Brigham Young’s manuscript history (47) notes: “The Twelve wrote a lengthy letter to Mrs. Lucy Smith … inquiring after her whereabouts and circumstances, and offering to convey her westward if she desired to join the body of the church.” This phrasing suggests that Young saw this letter as an official, not a personal, communication.