Join the Hyrum Smith Family Association


Becoming a member is completely free, with no obligations. You need to provide your name, how you are related to Hyrum Smith, and a request to become a member of this organization. Thereafter you will participate in the periodic election of the Board of Trustees, and will also vote on projects to be considered by the Association / Corporation. You will be kept current, by email, on the activities of the Association.

To become a member, click on the Join the Family Association link and fill out the registration profile.

Please encourage other family members to join.

Thank you,

E. Gary Smith

Lorin and Lovina, A Match Made in Nauvoo


This new book by author, Don H. Lee tells the story of Lovina Smith and Lorin Walker as they move through the events of the restoration.  It tells of how their paths crossed in Far West, how they eventually married in Nauvoo, and how they eventually made it to the valley several years after most of the other family members.  It is a love story, of two people in love, of family members supporting each other and of their dedication to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is available from

‘My dear sister': Joseph F. Smith’s letters to Martha Ann Smith subject of lecture

By , Church News staff writer

Carole Call King may not have realized the treasure she inherited when her father, Anson B. Call Jr. died in 1993, but some time later, when she opened a box bearing the words “letters to mother,” she found a historian’s bonanza.

Inside, were “nearly a hundred original letters written by Joseph F. Smith, the sixth president of the Church,” said Richard Neitzel Holzapfel Oct. 9 in the latest offering of the Men and Women of Faith Lecture Series sponsored by the Church History Library and held in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

“The letters had been addressed and sent to his younger sister, Martha Ann Smith Harris,” said Brother Holzapfel, professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University.

He said he contacted her, and “she gave me permission to copy, transcribe and publish this important collection of personal texts.”

Additional letters written by President Smith to his sister were located at the Church History Library, and the collection now consists of 236 letters, 188 written by Joseph F. Smith to Martha Ann, and 48 that she wrote to him.

Brother Holzapfel sketched the early life of President Smith, who was born in Missouri during the period mobs were persecuting Church members. His father was Hyrum Smith, the patriarch to the Church and the brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

“His father had been incarcerated in a jail in Liberty, Missouri [along with the Prophet and others], and apparently that was the first time he saw his father. Of course, as a newborn infant, he wouldn’t have remembered that.”

Later, Joseph and Hyrum were martyred at Carthage Jail in 1844. Hyrum’s widow, Mary Fielding Smith, made her way west to settle with the Latter-day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley, where she would die in 1852.

“Martha Ann and Joseph F. would become orphans at a very young tender age,” Brother Holzapfel said.

Troubled and, by his own account, “out of control” due to the difficult circumstances, Joseph F. was expelled from school after he beat up a teacher who was about to inflict corporal punishment on Martha.

Church leaders solved the problem of what to do with this young man by sending him on a mission at the age of 15 to the Sandwich Islands, today known as the Hawaiian Islands. Martha was left at home without the support of her older brother.

Beginning in 1854, he began a habit of writing letters to her that would last six decades.

Brother Holzapfel showed an image of the first letter he wrote to her, including a lock of hair he enclosed in the envelope.

“By the time he comes back to Utah, five years later, he has changed, and now he has a direction in life,” Brother Holzapfel said. “He will continue writing his sister nearly through his life, until 1916.” He died in 1918.

What aided the preservation of the letters was a new product and process introduced in the late 19th century called a letterpress book. A newly written or typed letter would be pressed into a book with thin paper that would take a reverse impression of the text from the letter, which could then be read by reading the letter from the opposite side of the paper.

“As a result of these two combinations — the original letters being preserved by Martha Ann’s descendants and the letterpress books — we now have access to a large series of letters,” Brother Holzapfel explained.

The letters “are records containing cultural, historical, linguistic and social information,” he said. They are “full of shared life experiences” and include “references to historically significant events” such as the Utah War in 1857.

The letters become more sporadic between 1900 and 1916, evidently due to the coming of other communications means: the telegraph and the telephone, Brother Holzapfel said, and the fact that travel improved between Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah, where Martha lived.

A lifelong commitment and loyalty to each other are reflected in the letters, he said.

“Throughout the letters, Joseph F. Smith is acutely aware that his life had often provided him opportunities that his sister did not enjoy and could not even dream of. … As they grew older his feelings became even more tender-hearted as he considered Martha Ann’s deteriorating health and seemingly never-ending financial challenges. Despite Joseph F. Smith’s own pressing financial concerns as his family grew in size, he nevertheless was mindful of Martha Ann’s situation.”

The collection stands to be a boon to historical research in a way that only letters can do — particularly when both sides of the correspondence are available.

“The Joseph F. Smith and Martha Ann Harris letter collection provides a rare look into the personal lives of a young man and a young woman whose circumstances prematurely thrust them into great responsibilities of adulthood,” Brother Holzapfel said. “It highlights Joseph F. Smith’s experiences as a young missionary, maturing Church leader, father of a large family living in multiple households [due to plural marriage]. The collection also provides insights into Martha’s experience, growing up and growing old in two closely connected settlements and rural mountains in the west where daily toil and survival were often the foremost concerns.”

He remarked that the letter collection “informs the modern reader much about a period of transition in LDS history, as both Joseph F. and Martha Ann not only witnessed but participated in events that brought the exiled Latter-day Saints to the Great Basin seeking refuge from persecution to a period in the early decades of the 20th century, when the Church was becoming a somewhat respected American religious institution. There are many additional insights to be gained from a careful analysis of these letters. Certainly future studies on a variety of topics will benefit from this remarkably rich collection of personal letters now made available to a larger audience than would have been originally intended when they were first written as personal, private conversations between a brother and a sister.”

Richard Neitzel Holzapfel Lecture

October 9, 2014

“My Dear Sister”: Joseph F. Smith’s Letters to His Sister, Martha Ann Smith Harris, 1854–1916
by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel

As a 15-year-old missionary on an island in the Pacific, thousands of miles away from his home in Utah, Joseph F. Smith began writing letters to his sister, Martha Ann Smith Harris. During the next six decades, he wrote to her often, sharing insights into his life, dreams, struggles, and work as a missionary, father, and Church leader.

The lectures are held in the Assembly Hall at 7:00 p.m. Validated parking is available at the Conference Center. As you enter the Conference Center parking, inform the attendant that you are going to a lecture and ask for a parking token to use when you exit.

170th anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith

By Ben Tullis
For the Deseret News

On June 27, 1844, a mob of between 100 and 200 armed men, their faces painted black to hide their identities, marched to the Carthage city jail.

A few minutes after 5 p.m. in an upstairs room in the jail, the Prophet Joseph Smith, his brother Hyrum, John Taylor and Willard Richards heard shots outside and footsteps scrambling up the stairs. The men rushed to the door to keep the assailants from entering the room.

One of the attackers shot a bullet through the door, which struck Hyrum in the face. Hyrum fell to the ground, crying, “I am a dead man!” (see “Church History in the Fulness of Times,” Chapter 22).

John Taylor said that he would always remember the distraught look on Joseph’s face as he saw his brother lying dead on the floor, according to “Church History in the Fulness of Times.”

John Taylor rushed to the window and was shot as he attempted to leave the room. Another bullet hit his pocket watch, knocking him back inside. He was shot three more times before rolling under the bed in the room. Taylor would survive his wounds and eventually become the third president of the church.

Joseph rushed to the window and was shot as he fell from the window, crying, “Oh Lord, my God.”

Willard Richards, who had been standing behind the door trying to knock the muskets away with his cane, was grazed on the ear by a bullet but was otherwise unharmed, fulfilling a prophecy by Joseph Smith (see “Church History in the Fulness of Times,” Chapter 22).

The entire tragedy occurred within minutes.

Several members of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, most of them scattered throughout the United States, stated that at the exact time of the martyrdom, they felt depressed and mournful without knowing why.

Elder Heber C. Kimball wrote that he suddenly felt mournful, as though he had just lost a friend, and Elder Orson Hyde became sorrowful and tears ran down his cheeks (see “Church History in the Fulness of Times,”Chapter 23).

Elder Parley P. Pratt recorded that as he stood on a canal boat, “A strange and solemn awe came over me, as if the powers of hell were let loose. I was so overwhelmed with sorrow I could hardly speak. … This is a dark day, and the hour of triumph for the powers of darkness” (see “Church History in the Fulness of Times,” Chapter 23).

Later, passengers boarded the boat and spread the news that Joseph and Hyrum had been killed. There was excitement onboard and many of the passengers taunted Elder Pratt, according to “Church History in the Fulness of Times.”

Enemies of the church celebrated the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum and predicted that the church would now fail. Thomas Ford, the governor of Illinois at the time of the martyrdom, wrote, “Thus fell Joe Smith, the most successful impostor in modern times; a man who … never could succeed in establishing a system of policy which looked to permanent success in the future” (see “Joseph the Seer” by President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, September 1994). Later events would prove Ford wrong.

In Nauvoo, the Saints mourned the loss of their beloved leaders. On June 28, the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum were placed in wagons and covered with tree branches to shade them from the sun. Many of the Saints lined the road as the wagons approached Nauvoo. The next day, thousands of people filed past the coffins and said their goodbyes. The city remained in a state of grief for weeks, according to “Church History in the Fulness of Times.”

Following the martyrdom, John Taylor wrote, “(Joseph Smith) … lived great and died great in the eyes of God and his people … and so has his brother, Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated” (see Doctrine and Covenants 135:3).

In 1903, the church bought Carthage Jail and later restored it to look as it did on that fateful day. The jail celebrates the lives of Joseph and Hyrum, and visitors can view a life-size statue that pays tribute to the martyrs.

“The martyrdom has always been an inspiration to the people of the Lord … and must ever be held in sacred memory by the Latter-day Saints who have learned the great truths that God revealed through his servant, Joseph Smith,” wrote President Joseph F. Smith, sixth president of the church and son of Hyrum (see “Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith,” Chapter 46).

In a meeting in 1994, on the 150th anniversary of the Martyrdom, President Gordon B. Hinckley, then the first counselor in the First Presidency, visited Carthage and said, “Joseph Smith died here at Carthage Jail … but his work has grown in magnitude, strength and power, and will continue to do so … The testimonies which were sealed here in these very precincts … now nurture the faith of people around the world. God bless the memory of Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith who died here” (see “Joseph the Seer,” Ensign, September 1994).

Ben Tullis is a Deseret News intern and a freelance writer and copy editor. He graduated from Utah Valley University in April 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in English. He lives in Pleasant Grove with his wife and 2-year-old son.