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A Brief History of Joseph and Emma Smith’s Children

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Joseph Smith, Prophet of the Restoration and first prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had eleven children with his beloved wife, Emma. While much is known about this faithful couple, as well as some of the tragic losses in their family, the lives of their children aren’t as well known. We took a brief look at the children of Joseph and Emma to glean the good from their lives and to better appreciate the Smith’s family sacrifice for the cause of Jesus Christ.


Alvin Smith grave, Harmony, Pennsylvania - Religious Education - Digital Collections

Born & Died June 15, 1828

Joseph and Emma’s first son lived for only a few hours and suffered from un-described birth defects. He was buried in what is now the McKune Cemetery near Harmony, Pennsylvania. His headstone has been preserved within a larger marker. While his name is recorded in the family Bible as Alvin, after Joseph’s beloved eldest brother, the information was added by a family member long after the event. In the Joseph Smith Papers, he is listed as unnamed.

Photo courtesy of Kenneth Mays


Thadeus and Louisa

Thadeus Smith (1831-1831) - Find A Grave Memorial

Born & Died April 30, 1831

Twins Thadeus and Louisa only survived for a few hours. They were believed to be buried in unmarked graves on the Morley Farm in Kirtland, Ohio. A memorial marker has been placed in the cemetery near the Kirtland Temple. They are likewise listed as unnamed in the Joseph Smith Papers but given names in the family Bible. 

Joseph Murdock Smith

The Prophet Joseph comforts the sick infant Joseph. By Liz Lemon Swindle.

Born April 30, 1831
Died March 29, 1832

After the deaths of Thadeus and Louisa, Joseph and Emma adopted twins born the same day, but whose mother died in childbirth. On March 24, 1832, a mob attacked Joseph, and little Joseph, already struggling with the measles, became deathly ill from exposure to the elements. He died a few days later on March 29, 1832. He was ten months old.

Julia Murdock Smith Dixon Middleton

Julia was the surviving Murdock twin and the first of the Smith children to live to adulthood. She was thirteen when Joseph was martyred and remained with Emma in Nauvoo after the Saints traveled west. Evidence suggests she eloped at the age of seventeen to a much older man, who died shortly thereafter in a steamboat accident. She returned to Nauvoo and married John Middleton, an Irish Catholic who requested she convert to Catholicism. The marriage proved difficult and John abandoned Julia. She once again came home to Nauvoo and was with her mother when she died in 1879. A little over a year later, Julia died of breast cancer on September 12, 1880. She was 49 years old.

A portion of her obituary reads:

Mrs. Middleton was a woman of the most exemplary character—an advocate of all the graces and virtues and had a strong loving disposition for her friends which firmly endeared her to them. She was considerably above the medium of intelligence and of an indomitable spirit which fully manifested itself in the trying ordeal of sickness through which she passed before the severance of the link which bound her to this earthly sphere. Although she knew that death was fast approaching she remained cheerful and resigned. She leaves many friends who deeply regret her death.

Joseph Smith III

Joseph Smith III on the Calling of the Seventy | Saints Herald

Born November 6, 1832
Died December 10, 1914

Joseph Smith III was the eldest surviving son of the Smith family and the first leader of the Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). At a young age, Joseph had been purportedly blessed by his prophet-father to one day succeed him as leader of the Church if he lived righteously. Joseph was eleven when his father died and a succession crisis occurred.

Joseph remained in Nauvoo, studied law, and married. When his first wife Emmeline died, Joseph married their housekeeper, Bertha. Together, they had seven children. When Bertha died in a carriage accident, he married Ada Clark and had three more sons.

The scattered Saints in the midwest repeatedly called on Joseph to reorganize the church and become its leader. In 1860, Joseph received inspiration to do so and was sustained on April 6, 1860, as president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Known for his moderate nature and beliefs about peace after such tragic circumstances in his youth, he was known as a “pragmatic prophet.”

Joseph died on December 10, 1914, at the age of 82.

Frederick Granger Williams Smith

Born June 20, 1836
Died April 13, 1862

Frederick was born shortly after the dedication of the Kirtland temple in Ohio and was carried as a young toddler across the frozen landscape to Missouri. He didn’t have many recollections of the tumultuous times but later spoke of nightmares about Missourians attacking. He was eight when his father was martyred. He was likely named after Frederick Granger Williams, who served as the second counselor in the First Presidency to the prophet Joseph.

Not much is left from Frederick’s own hand and what we know of his life comes from his brothers. He was said to have a sweet nature and didn’t have any interest in conflicts other members of his family had over religion. He married Anna Jones and had a daughter named Alice.

In the winter of 1861, Frederick was abandoned by his wife when he became extremely ill. Near the Christmas season, Joseph Smith III rode out to visit Frederick and the family at his farm. He found Frederick nearly incapacitated in bed with no food, no water, and no fire. The Smith family brought Frederick home to be nursed by Emma. However, his health never recovered and he died on April 13, 1862, at the age of 26.

Alexander Hale Smith

A young Alexander Hale (left) and David Hyrum Smith (right).

Born June 2, 1838
Died August 12, 1909

Alexander was named after Alexander Doniphan, an attorney who refused the command the execute Joseph Smith when he was brought to Liberty Jail. He was six when his father died and only eight when the Saints left Nauvoo. Some historians believe Alexander is the son who most resembles Joseph.

Alexander was an athletic type and enjoyed being in the outdoors. He also loved hunting and fishing. He married Elizabeth Kendall and had nine children. When his brother Joseph reorganized the Saints in the midwest into a church, he didn’t pay much heed. Then, Frederick died and the subject of religion began to weigh on his mind. Joseph baptized Alexander in 1862. He would go on to serve as an apostle and patriarch for the Reorganized Church.

Alexander Hale Smith - Wikipedia

He died while visiting Nauvoo on August 12, 1909, at the age of 71.

Don Carlos Smith

Born June 13, 1840
Died September 15, 1841

Named after Joseph’s youngest brother, Don Carlos was only a little over a year old when he died. The uncle for which he was named had died of the same sickness, which was sweeping through Nauvoo.

Stillborn Son

Born & Died February 6, 1842

This little son was the last of Joseph and Emma’s children to die in infancy and was not given a name that we know of. He was buried at the Old Homestead along with many other members of the Smith family.

David Hyrum Smith

Born November 17, 1844
Died August 29, 1904

When Joseph was martyred at Carthage Jail, Emma was pregnant with David Hyrum. He was born five months after the terrible incident and was cherished by his family.

David was a creative soul and was often called the “Sweet Singer of Israel” for his voice and love of hymns. He was an avid reader and liked to write poetry. He was an eager participant in the Reorganized Church and met with Brigham Young in Utah on a missionary trip there.

David married Clara Hartshorn and had a son, Elbert. He worked productively and was considered a brilliant and gifted young man. However, during a mission trip to Utah in 1872, David suffered a complete physical and emotional breakdown. It is unclear what condition he suffered from, but many hypotheses have been given. From that time until 1876, his family worked hard to care for him and David experienced brief periods of recovery. He eventually became violent and was placed into an asylum for the mentally ill on January 19, 1877. He was 32 and would remain there until his death on August 29, 1904, at the age of 60.

David Hyrum Smith - Wikipedia

His family mourned the downturn; his wife remained faithful to David all her life.

We hope that by learning more about the children of Joseph and Emma, you can gain a greater appreciation for their family and the realities they faced. What facts did you find most interesting? 

Joseph and Emma’s four living sons with their step-father, Louis Bidamon (seated far left).
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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 marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.

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