By Laura Andersen Callister, Staff Writer
A large collection of historical documents and artifacts – including manuscripts from Hyrum Smith, the brother of Joseph Smith Jr., the first prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – were presented Monday to Brigham Young University.
The collection also includes manuscripts from Hyrum Smith’s son, John Smith.The documents contain a rich history of the origin of the LDS Church. Hyrum Smith was shot and killed with Joseph Smith Jr. while incarcerated at Carthage Jail in Illinois in 1844. John Smith later traveled to Utah with Brigham Young and the rest of the Mormon pioneers.
The core of the collection consists of diaries and letters from Hyrum Smith between 1832 and 1844 and diaries by John Smith and his correspondence with others from 1848 to 1909. The first known painting of Hyrum Smith is also included.
The collection was presented to BYU by Elder Eldred G. Smith, LDS Church patriarch emeritus, on the 222nd anniversary of the birth of his great-great-great-grandfather, Joseph Smith Sr.
“We hope this will open the door to any Smith descendants who have diaries, photographs or other artifacts so we can document the rich tradition and history of the Smith family,” said David J. Whittaker, curator of the Archives of Mormon Experience at BYU.
Because of the donation, BYU established the Joseph Smith Sr. Family Collection, which is to be placed in the Harold B. Lee Library’s Department of Special Collections and Manuscripts.
“One of the major purposes in establishing the Smith Family Collection is to continue documenting this rich heritage and to thereby make this history available to others through the archives at BYU,” Whittaker said.
The collection also includes a letter from Joseph Smith Jr.’s son Joseph Smith III to his cousin John Smith explaining why he didn’t move west with Brigham Young and his opposition to polygamy. Joseph Smith III later became the first leader of the Reorganized LDS Church.
Elder Smith said he has used the documents of his ancestors as visual aids while presenting LDS Church history firesides in many places around the world.
Elder Smith’s sister, Cleone Smith Isom, also donated correspondence, legal documents and family photograph albums as part of the collection.
The manuscripts will be available for study after the professional organizing and cataloging are complete, probably in September, Whittaker said.