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Remembering Joseph Smith

“Millions Shall Know Brother Joseph Again” – Recollections of the Prophet From Those Who Knew Him

On December 23, 1805, Joseph Smith Jr. was born to Joseph and Lucy Smith. He died as a martyr on June 27, 1844.

In the time between, Joseph did “more,save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!”

As we celebrate the Prophet Joseph’s 211th birthday, we remember that “sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.” To honor his memory, we’ve gathered a list of accounts from those who walked and talked with Joseph during his short sojourn on earth. We invite you to add your experiences and witness in the comments below.


Parley P. Pratt

President Joseph Smith was in person tall and well built, strong and active; of a light complexion, light hair, blue eyes, very little beard, and of an expression peculiar to himself. … His countenance was ever mild, affable, beaming with intelligence and benevolence; mingled with a look of interest and an unconscious smile, or cheerfulness, and entirely free from all restraint or affectation of gravity; and there was something connected with the serene and steady penetrating glance of his eye, as if he would penetrate the deepest abyss of the human heart, gaze into eternity, penetrate the heavens, and comprehend all worlds. He possessed a noble boldness and independence of character; his manner was easy and familiar; his rebuke terrible as the lion; his benevolence unbounded as the ocean; his intelligence universal.

(Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt Jr. (1938), pp. 45–46; paragraph divisions altered.)

Brigham Young

From the first time I saw the Prophet Joseph I never lost a word that came from him concerning the kingdom. And this is the key of knowledge that I have to-day, that I did hearken to the words of Joseph, and treasured them up in my heart, laid them away, asking my Father in the name of his Son Jesus to bring them to my mind when needed. I treasured up the things of God, and this is the key that I hold to-day. I was anxious to learn from Joseph and the Spirit of God.

(Deseret News, June 6, 1877, p. 274; capitalization modernized)

Mary Alice Cannon Lambert

I first saw Joseph Smith in the Spring of 1843. When the boat in which we came up the Mississippi River reached the landing at Nauvoo, several of the leading brethren were there to meet the company of saints that had come on it. Among those brethren was the Prophet Joseph Smith. I knew him the instant my eyes rested upon him, and at that moment I received my testimony that he was a Prophet of God. … He was not pointed out to me. I knew him from all the other men, and, child that I was (I was only fourteen) I knew that I saw a Prophet of God.

(“Joseph Smith, the Prophet,” Young Woman’s Journal, Dec. 1905, p. 554.)

Henry W. Bigler

The first Sunday after I reached Far West, I went to meeting with the hopes of hearing the Prophet. How disappointed I was when he called to the stand a beardless boy (Erastus Snow). But I soon found there was preach in him. When he finished, the Prophet got up and compliment the young man, but said: “I will correct the idea in regard to the little stone rolling forth as foretold in Daniel, chapter 2. This is not so. It is stationary, like a grind stone, and revolves. (He made a motion with his hands showing how it turned.) When the Elders go abroad to preach the gospel, and the people become believers in the Book of Mormon and are baptized, they are added to the little stone. Thus, they are gathered around it so that it grows larger and larger until it begins to pinch the toes of the images, and finally breaks it into pieces to be carried away like the chaff of a summer’s threshing, while the stone will keep growing until it fills the whole earth.

I believe he was a man of God, had seen angels and conversed with the them, yea, more; he had seen the Father and the Son, and was told there was not a truth church on earth; and my testimony today is, Joseph Smith was a true Prophet of God, and died a martyr, as also his brother Hyrum.

(“Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor 27, no. 5 (1 March 1892): 151-52)

Mary Frost Adams

While he was acting as mayor of the city, a colored man called Anthony was arrested for selling liquor on Sunday, contrary to the law. He pleaded that the reason he had done so was that he might raise the money to purchase the freedom of a dear child held as a slave in a southern state. He had been able to purchase the liberty of himself and wife and now wished to bring his little child to their new home. Joseph said,

“I am sorry, Anthony, but the law must be observed, and we will have to impose a fine.”

The next day Brother Joseph presented Anthony with a fine horse, directing him to sell it, and use the money obtained for the purchase of the child.

Sister Adamas says how well she remembers the feel of sorrow that pervaded the city, when the two brothers were lying dead in the Mansion House. She with the rest of the children, were not permitted to go into the streets owing to the crowd of people who thronged the city, coming and going by steamboat and carriages, and all with grieving hearts for the departed loved ones.

(“Joseph Smith, the Prophet,” Young Woman’s Journal 17, no. 12 (December 1906): 538)

Elder Wiley Payne Allred

On first sight I thought he was the most noble man I ever saw in my life. I know that he was a prophet, seer and revelator of God.

I heard Joseph Smith say that there was enough revelation given for the present time; but the question was asked, “Why was not more revealed?” He replied that if all was revealed many would seek his blood. He said that he had laid the foundation of the greatest work that ever was inaugurated and had qualified men to carry it on. He added also: “And I roll the responsibility upon the Twelve Apostles. I am going to rest.'”

(“Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” The Juvenile Instructor 27 (1892))

Alvah Alexander

I came to Nauvoo in the fall of 1842. At this time I met the Prophet Joseph Smith, and knew him from then till the time of his death. I was only a boy of eleven when I first knew him, but I always loved him, and no amusements or games were as interesting to me as to hear him talk.

I remember one day I was at his home playing with his children, when he came home and brought two men. These men had been arrested for abusing Joseph. He brought them in a treated them as he would one who had never done him a wrong; gave them their dinner before he would allow them to depart.

(“Joseph Smith, the Prophet,” Young Woman’s Journal 17. no 12 (December 1906): 541)

Bishop Calvin W. Moore

When I was a small boy my impression of him was that he was a great man and a Prophet of God, and when I grew up and became older I got a testimony for myself, and I can say that I know he was a prophet of the living God.

[Some incidents he remembers of the Prophet are related in the following:]

One time in [the] Kirtland Temple, at a fast meeting, Charles Hyde, got up to talk, and the devil took hold of him and stopped him. Joseph laid his hands on him and rebuked the evil one, and Brother Hyde went on talking. On another occasion, at a Sunday meeting, Joseph was speaking when a large, tall man came into the temple and walked up and down the aisles whittling and whistling. Joseph requested Bishop Knight, who was a smaller man, to put him out, and he took hold of the disturber and put him out just as the Prophet told him to do.

There is one thing more, which I witnessed, I will relate: It was at the time Porter Rockwell was in jail, in Missouri. His mother went to see him at the jail, and the Missourians told her that if she would raise a certain amount of money and give them they would let her son go. Joseph started out to get the money. He came to a large crowd of young men who were wrestling, that being the popular sport in those days. Among the boys there was a bully from La Harpe, I believe. He had thrown down everyone on the ground who took hold of him. When Joseph came to the crowd he told them what he wanted, passed around the hat, raised what money he could and then went into the ring to take part with the young men and boys in their games. So he was invited to wrestle with this bully. The man was eager to have a tussle with the Prophet, so Joseph stepped forward and took hold of the man. The first pass he made Joseph whirled him around and took him by the collar and seat of his trowsers and walked out to a ditch and threw him in it. Then, taking him by the arm, he helped him up and patted him on the back and said. “You must not mind this. When I am with the boys I make all the fun I can for them.”

(“Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” The Juvenile Instructor 27 (1892))

Lydia Ann Alley

In Nauvoo we had the privilege of seeing the Prophet Joseph and of listening to the words of inspiration which fell from his lips. I shall never forget them; they are as vivid to my mind now as if they had been uttered only yesterday. I can testify of the Divine mission of the Prophet Joseph and I know for a surety that he was a servant of the Most High God. I was in Nauvoo at the time of his martyrdom and shared in the great sorrow which befell the saints on that occasion.

(LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City, Utah: Western Epics, 1971), 2:511)

Amasa Potter

“When [the Prophet] had spoken about thirty minutes there came up a heavy wind and storm. The dust was so dense that we could not see each other any distance, and some of the people were leaving when Joseph called out to them to stop and let their prayers ascend to Almighty God that the winds may cease blowing and the rain stop falling, and it should be so. In a very few minutes the winds and rain ceased and the elements became calm as a summer’s morning. The storm divided and went on the north and south of the city, and we could see in the distance the trees and shrubs waving in the wind, while where we were it was quiet for one hour, and during that time one of the greatest sermons that ever fell from the Prophet’s lips was preached on the great subject of the dead.”

(“A Reminiscence of the Prophet Joseph Smith,”Juvenile Instructor, Feb. 15, 1894, p. 132.)

Sister Lucy M. Smith

I was born February 9th, 1817, at Bethel, Oxford County, Maine, and I was baptized August 12th, 1837. I first met the Prophet Joseph Smith on a steamboat, when I landed at the ferry in Nauvoo. The first words he said to our company were: “I guess you are all Latter-day Saints here, by the singing I heard when the boat landed.” He then shook hands with each one in the company, and then took his sister, Lucy Millican’s seven months’ old boy in his arms and sat down and wept for joy, as his sister was thought to be in a decline when she left home the year before with her husband. She was indeed the picture of health when she returned, which gave the Prophet double joy on meeting her with her son.

President Joseph Smith, the Prophet, looked the same to me when I met him as I saw him in a dream before I left home. I can bear testimony that many of his prophecies have come to pass; not only his alone, but others who have been ordained under his administration, have uttered prophecies that have been fulfilled, to the letter. One I will mention in particular.

Apostle George A. Smith prophesied in the Kirtland Temple that the wild beasts should pick the bones of the mobocrat, Dr. Dodds. When we were crossing the plains on our way to the valley, a grave was observed on our right by Apostle George A. Smith and Brother Elijah Cheeny. They went to the grave and beheld Dr. Dodds’ name was on the board, and his bones strewn about, having been dug up and picked by wild beasts. Brother Cheeny testified that he heard Brother George A. Smith’s prophecy in the temple, also saw that the wild beasts had picked the old mobocrat’s bones. I heard this from their own mouths right there on the plains.

I heard the Prophet preach twice. Once at his mansion and once at the bowery. He spoke on the plurality of gods. He said, “There are lords many and gods many, but to us there is but one God;” but, said he, “there are gods to other planets. We read in the Bible,” he continued, “Father, Son and Holy Ghost, these three are one.” He said that was not the right rendering of that scripture. It should read “these three are agreed.” He remarked that he would like to speak to the people two hours, but the rain made such a noise on the umbrellas (it was raining at the time) it would be useless. “But,” said he, “I have brought the Laws and Fosters’ prophecy to the ground, as they predicted I should never speak from this stand again; but I have.” He then said, “Brethren and sisters, love one another; love one another and be merciful to your enemies.” He repeated these words in a very emphatic tone of voice with a loud amen.

The next day he went to Carthage; and on the evening of the 27th of June such a barking and howling of dogs and bellowing of cattle all over the city of Nauvoo I never heard before nor since. I was at Brother David Smith’s house. I knelt down and tried to pray for the Prophet, but I was struck speechless, and knew not the cause till the next morning. Of course the awful deed was already accomplished, when the spirit refused to give me utterance to prayer the evening before. The next day the bodies were brought and conveyed to the mansion. There I witnessed the awful scene–the Prophet and Patriarch lying in their gore, and thousands of men, women and children weeping all around.

The little children were very much attached to the Prophet, as he used to play with them as one of their equals. Indeed he was loved best by those who were the most acquainted with him. His daughter, Julia, told me that her papa talked to her before he left, and told her to be a good girl; and he particularly enjoined it upon her to never mistreat any of her playmates, and then he should be happy to meet her again. “Oh,” said she, “how bad I should feel if I thought I should not be prepared to meet my dear papa!”

(“Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” The Juvenile Instructor 27 (1892))

 

We invite you to add your experiences and witness in the comments below.

 

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About Aleah Ingram

Aleah Ingram
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a social media manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and is addicted to organic milk, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.
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