Previous chapter Previous chapter Table of Contents Table of Contents Next chapter Next chapter



IN consequence of its being impracticable to insert biographies in the body of the work, because it would often break into the historical narrative, it is thought best to place short biographical sketches in separate chapters, which we do in the following pages.


We think it unnecessary to write of Joseph Smith the Prophet, as the history of his early life is given in the body of the work, and the remainder of his life work is interwoven in the history of the church.


Joseph Smith, the Patriarch, was the first Presiding Patriarch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the father of Joseph Smith the Prophet.

He was born in Topsfield, Essex County, Massachusetts, July 12,1771, and was the third child and second son of Asael and Mary (Duty) Smith.

He had six brothers; namely: Jesse, Asael, Samuel, Silas, John, and Stephen; and four sisters; namely: Priscilla, Mary, Susanna, and Sarah.

In 1791 he removed with his father to Tunbridge, Orange County, Vermont.

On January 24, 1796, he married Lucy, daughter of Solomon and Lydia (Gates) Mack, by whom he had ten children; namely:-

Alvin; born February 11, 1799.

Hyrum; " " 9, 1800.

Sophronia; " May 18,1803.

(page 629)


Joseph; born December 23, 1805.

Samuel Harrison; " March 13, 1808.

Ephraim; " 13, 1810.

William B. " 13, 1811.

Catharine; 1 " July 28, 1812.

Don Carlos; " March 25, 1816.

Lucy; " July 18, 1821.

At the time of his marriage he owned a farm at Tunbridge, upon this he resided about six years after marriage. In 1802 he rented his farm and moved into the town of Randolph and engaged in merchandising, and soon after invested all he had in buying and shipping ginseng to China. He was swindled out of the entire proceeds by an agent, and consequently had to sell his farm to pay his debts.

After selling the farm he removed to Royalton, Vermont, thence to Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont, where he rented a farm of his father-in-law, which he cultivated in summer, and taught school in winter. After remaining here a few years he returned to Tunbridge, thence to Royalton again.

In 1811 he removed to Lebanon, New Hampshire. Here he was prospered for a time, but again lost what he had accumulated, through sickness and failure of crops.

About 1815 he removed to Palmyra, Wayne County, New York, where he bought a farm and by the assistance of his boys succeeded by hard struggles in partially paying for it, and making comfortable improvements; but they finally lost the farm through unscrupulous, designing swindlers.

He afterwards removed to Manchester, Ontario County, New York, where he procured a small but comfortable home and resided there until he removed to Ohio in 1831.

He was the first to receive the message of his son Joseph after the angel appeared to him, and was closely associated with every important movement of the church until the time of his death. Joseph, his son, wrote of him at the time of his death, as follows:-

"He was the first person who received my testimony after I had seen the angel, and exhorted me to be faithful and diligent

1 Catharine is still living at Fountain Green, Illinois.

(page 630)


to the message I had received. He was baptized April 6, 1830.

"In August, 1830, in company with my brother Don Carlos he took a mission to St. Lawrence County, New York, touching on his route at several of the Canadian ports, where he distributed a few copies of the Book of Mormon, visited his father, brothers, and sister, residing in St. Lawrence County, bore testimony to the truth, which resulted eventually in all the family coming into the church, excepting his brother Jesse and sister Susan.

"He removed with his family to Kirtland in 1831: was ordained Patriarch and President of the High Priesthood, under the hands of Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, Frederick G. Williams, and myself, on the 18th of December, 1833; was a member of the First High Council, organized on the 17th of February, 1834, (when he conferred on me and my brother Samuel H., a father's blessing.)

"In 1836 he traveled in company with his brother John two thousand four hundred miles in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and New Hampshire, visiting the branches of the church in those states, and bestowing patriarchal blessings on several hundred persons, preaching the gospel to all who would hear, and baptizing many. They arrived at Kirtland on the second of October, 1836.

"During the persecutions in Kirtland in 1837, he was made a prisoner, but fortunately obtained his liberty, and after a very tedious journey in the spring and summer of 1838, he arrived at Far West, Missouri. After I and my brother Hyrum were thrown into the Missouri jails by the mob, he fled from under the exterminating order of Governor Lilburn W. Boggs, and made his escape in midwinter to Quincy, Illinois, from whence he removed to Commerce in the spring of 1839.

"The exposures he suffered brought on consumption, of which he died on this 14th day of September, 1840, aged sixty-nine years, two months, and two days. He was six feet two inches high, was very straight, and remarkably well proportioned. His ordinary weight was about two hundred pounds, and he was very strong and active. In his young

(page 631)


days he was famed as a wrestler, and, Jacob-like, he never wrestled with but one man whom he could not throw. He was one of the most benevolent of men, opening his house to all who were destitute. While at Quincy, Illinois, he fed hundreds of the poor saints who were flying from the Missouri persecutions, although he had arrived there penniless himself."-Millennial Star, vol. 18, p. 134.

His funeral took place where he died, at Commerce, afterwards called Nauvoo, Illinois, on September 15, 1840, when the following address was delivered by Elder R. B. Thompson:-

"The occasion which has brought us together this day is one of no ordinary importance, for not only has a single family to mourn and sorrow on account of the death of the individual, whose funeral obsequies we this day celebrate; but a whole society, yes, thousands, will this day have to say, 'A Father in Israel is gone.' The man whom we have been accustomed to look up to as a 'Patriarch,' a father, and a counselor, is no more an inhabitant of mortality; he has dropped his clay tenement, bidden adieu to terrestrial scenes, and his spirit, now free and unencumbered, roams and expatiates in that world where the spirits of just men made perfect dwell, and where pain and sickness, tribulation and death, cannot come.

"The friends we have lost prior to our late venerable and lamented father were such as rendered life sweet, and in whose society we took great pleasure, and who shed a luster in the several walks of life in which they moved, and to whom we feel endeared by friendship's sacred ties. Their virtues and kindnesses will long be remembered by the sorrowing widow, the disconsolate husband, the weeping children, the almost distracted and heartbroken parent, and by a large circle of acquaintances and friends. These like the stars in yonder firmament shone in their several spheres and filled that station in which they had been called by the providence of God with honor to themselves and to the church; and we feel to mingle our tears with their surviving relatives. But on this occasion we realize that we have suffered more than an ordinary bereavement, and consequently

(page 632)


we feel the more interested. If ever there was a man who had claims on the affections of community it was our beloved but now deceased Patriarch, if ever there was an event calculated to raise the feelings of sorrow in the human breast and cause us to drop the sympathetic tear it certainly is the present; for truly we can say with the king of Israel, 'A Prince and a great man has fallen in Israel;' a man endeared to us by every feeling calculated to entwine around and adhere to the human heart by almost indissoluble bonds; a man faithful to his God and to the church in every situation, and under all circumstances through which he was called to pass. Whether in prosperity, surrounded by the comforts of life, a smiling progeny, and all the enjoyments of the domestic circle; or when called upon like the patriarchs of old to leave the land of his nativity, to journey in strange lands, and become subject to all the trials and persecutions which have been heaped upon the saints with a liberal hand, by characters destitute of every principle of morality or religion, alike regardless of the tender offspring and the aged sire whose silvery locks and furrowed cheeks ought to have been a sufficient shield from their cruelty. But like the Apostle Paul he could exclaim, (and his life and conduct have fully borne out the sentiment,) 'None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear, so that I may finish my course with joy.' The principles of the gospel were too well established in that breast and had got too sure a footing there ever to be torn down or prostrated by the fierce winds of persecution, the blasts of poverty, or the swollen waves of distress and tribulation. No, thank God, his house was built upon a rock, consequently it stood amid the contending elements, firm and unshaken.

"The life of our departed father has indeed been an eventual one, having to take a conspicuous part in the great work of the last days; being designated by the ancient prophets, who once dwelt on this continent, as the father of him whom the Lord had promised to raise up in the last days to lead his people Israel; and by a uniform consistent, and virtuous course for a long series of years, he has proved himself worthy of such a son, and such a family, by whom he had

(page 633)


the happiness of being surrounded in his dying moments; most of whom had the satisfaction of receiving his dying benediction.

"He was already in the wane of life when the light of truth broke in upon the world, and with pleasure he hailed its benign and enlightening rays, and was chosen by the Almighty to be one of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. From that time his only aim was the promotion of truth; his soul was taken up with the things of the kingdom, his bowels yearned over the children of men, and it was more than his 'meat and drink' to do the will of his Father which was in heaven.

"By unceasing industry, of himself and family, he had secured a home in the State of New York, where he no doubt expected, with every honest and industrious citizen, to enjoy the blessings of peace and liberty. But when the principles of truth were introduced, and the gospel of Jesus Christ was promulgated by himself and family, friends forsook, enemies raged, and persecution was resorted to by wicked and ungodly men, insomuch so that he was obliged to flee from that place and seek a home in a more hospitable land.

"In Ohio he met with many kind and generous friends and was kindly welcomed by the saints; many of whom continue to this day, and can call to mind the various scenes which there transpired; many of which were of such a nature not to be easily obliterated.

"While the house of the Lord was building he took great interest in its erection, and daily watched its progress, and had the pleasure of taking a part at the opening and seeing it crowded by hundreds of pious worshipers. As the king of Israel longed for and desired to see the completion of the house of the Lord, so did he; and with him he could exclaim, 'O Lord, I love the habitation of thine house, and the place where thine honor dwelleth:' To dwell in the House of the Lord and to inquire in his Temple was his daily delight; and in it he enjoyed many blessings, and spent many hours in sweet communion with his heavenly Father.

"He has trod its secret alleys, solitary and alone from mankind, long before the king of day has guilded the eastern

(page 634)


horizon; and he has uttered his aspirations within its walls, when nature's has been asleep. In its holy inclosures [enclosures] have the visions of heaven been opened to his mind, and his soul has feasted on the riches of eternity; and there under his teachings have the meek and humble been instructed, while the widow and the orphan have received his patriarchal blessing.

"There he saw the work spreading far and wide, saw the elders of Israel go forth under his blessing, bore them up by the prayer of faith, and hailed them welcome when they again returned bringing their sheaves with them. There with his aged partner he spent many happy days, in the bosom of his family, whom he loved with all the tenderness of parental affection. Here I might enlarge and expatiate on the 'scenes of joy, and scenes of gladness' which were enjoyed by our beloved patriarch, but shall pass on to an event which was truly painful and trying. The delightful scene soon vanished, the calm was succeeded by a storm, and the frail bark was driven by the tempest and foaming ocean; for many who had once been proud to acknowledge him a father and friend, and who sought counsel at his hands, joined with the enemies of truth, and sought his destruction, and would have rejoiced to see his aged and venerable form immured in a dungeon; but, thank God, this they were not suffered to do; he providentially made his escape, and after evading his enemies for some time, he undertook, and accomplished a journey of a thousand miles, and bore up under the fatigue and suffering necessarily attendant on such a journey, with patient resignation. After a journey of several weeks he arrived in safety at Far West, in the bosom of the church, and was cordially welcomed by the saints; who had found an asylum in the rich and fertile county of Caldwell. There he in common with the rest of the saints hoped to enjoy the privileges and blessings of peace. There, from the fertile soil and flowery meads which well repaid the labor of the husbandman and poured forth abundance for the support of the numerous herds which decked those lovely and widespread prairies he hoped to enjoy uninterrupted the comforts of domestic life. But he

(page 635)


had not long indulged these pleasing anticipations before the delightful prospect again vanished; the cup of blessing which he began again to enjoy was dashed from his aged lips, and the cup of sorrow filled to overflowing was given him instead; and surely he drank it to the very dregs; for not only did he see the saints in bondage, treated with cruelty, and some of them murdered; but the kind and affectionate parent saw, and ah! how painful was the sight, two of his sons, to whom he looked up for protection, torn away from their domestic circles, from their weeping and distracted families, by monsters in the shape of men, who swore and threatened to kill them, and who had every disposition to embrew their hands in their blood! This circumstance was too much for his agitated and now sinking frame to bear up under; and although his confidence in his God was great, and his conduct was that of a Christian and a saint; yet he felt like a man and a parent. At that time his constitution received a shock from which it never recovered. Ah! yes; there were feelings agitated in the bosom of our deceased friend at that time of no ordinary kind; feelings of painful anxiety and emotion too great for his earthly tabernacle to contain without suffering a great and a sensible injury, and which from that time began to manifest itself.

"It would be unnecessary to trace him and his aged partner (who shared in all his sorrows and affections) from such a scene, as many of the saints are knowing to the privations and sufferings which they in common with the church suffered while moving from that land of oppression. Suffice it to say he arrived in safety in Illinois, broken down in constitution and in health, and since then he has labored under severe affliction and pain, while disease has been slowly but surely undermining his system.

"Whenever he had a short respite from pain he felt a pleasure in attending to his patriarchal duties, and with cheerfulness he performed them; and frequently his labors have been more than his strength would admit of; but having great zeal for the cause of truth, he felt willing to be spent in the service of his God.

"For some time past he has been confined to his bed, and

(page 636)


the time of his departure was near at hand. On Saturday evening last an eruption of a blood vessel took place, when he vomited a large portion of blood. His family were summoned to his bedside, it being now evident that he could not long survive. On Sunday he called his children and grandchildren around him, and like the ancient patriarchs, gave them his final benediction. Although his strength was far gone, and he was obliged to rest at intervals, yet his mind was clear, perfectly collected, and calm as the gentle zephyrs. The love of God was in his heart, the peace of God rested upon him, and his soul was full of compassion and blessing. All the circumstances connected with his death were calculated to lead the mind back to the time when an Abraham, an Isaac, and a Jacob bade adieu to mortality and entered into rest. His death like theirs was sweet, and it certainly was a privilege indeed to witness such a scene; and I was forcibly reminded of the sentiment of the Poet:-

"'The chamber where the good man meets his fate,

Is privileged beyond the common walk of virtuous life.'

"There were no reflections of a misspent life-no fearful forebodings of a gloomy nature in relation to the future, the realities of eternity were dawning, the shades of time were lowering; but there was nothing to terrify, to alarm, or disturb his mind. No, the principles of the gospel, which 'bring life and immortality to light,' nobly triumphed in nature's final hour. Those principles so long taught and cherished by our lamented friend were honorably maintained to the last; which is not only a consolation to the immediate relatives; but to the church at large.

"The instructions imparted by him will long be remembered by his numerous progeny, who will undoubtedly profit by the same and strive to render themselves worthy of such a sire; and that the whole church will copy his examples, walk in his footsteps, and emulate his faith and virtuous actions, and commend themselves to his God and to their God.

"Notwithstanding his enemies frequently 'shot at him, yet his bow abode in its strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob;' and his courage and resolution never forsook him. His

(page 637)


anxiety for the spread of truth was great, and he lived to see great and important things accomplished. He saw the commencement of the work, small as a mustard seed, and with attention and deep interest he watched its progress; and he had the satisfaction of beholding thousands on this continent rejoicing in its truths, and heard the glorious tidings that other lands were becoming heirs to its richest blessings. Under these circumstances he could exclaim, like pious Simeon of old, 'Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.'

"Although his spirit has taken its flight and his remains will soon mingle with their mother earth, yet his memory will long be cherished by all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance, and will be fresh and blooming when those of his enemies shall be blotted out from under heaven.

"May we, beloved friends, who survive our venerable Patriarch, study to prosecute those things which were so dear to his aged heart, and pray that a double portion of his spirit may be bestowed on us, that we may be the humble instruments in aiding the consummation of the great work which he saw so happily begun; that when we have to stand before the bar of Christ we may with our departed friend, hear the welcome plaudit, 'Come up hither ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Amen."-Times and Seasons, vol. 1, pp. 170-173.


An account of the early life of Sidney Rigdon up to the time of his uniting with the church in 1830 is quite fully given in this volume, on pages 129-142, and it would be unprofitable to repeat it. He entered zealously into the work, and was the means of leading many of his former associates and others to the church. A revelation given in December foreshadowed this by informing him that he had been preparing the way but he knew it not. He was then given a greater commission and promised that he would do a great work.

Having received an ordination to the office of elder under the hands of the missionaries going west, he began to preach the new faith with zeal and convincing power.

(page 638)


After December, 1830, he acted as scribe for Joseph Smith in the translation of the Holy Scriptures, and was a participant in the glorious vision recorded in Doctrine and Covenants, section 76.

It was while engaged in this work that he with Joseph was so severely maltreated by a mob at Hiram, Ohio, on March 25, 1832.

Soon after he visited Missouri, and assisted in dedicating the land of Zion and the Temple Lot.

On March 18, 1833, at the organization of the First Presidency he was ordained First Counselor to President Joseph Smith, the first man occupying that position in this dispensation. Soon afterward he took a mission to Canada in connection with Joseph Smith.

In 1834 he with others took an active part in raising volunteers for Zion's Camp, and when the Camp went to Missouri he remained at Kirtland, taking the active oversight of the church in the absence of President Smith, encouraging and aiding in the erection of the Temple. It is said that he often went upon the unfinished walls by night and plead with God to open the way for the completion of the building while he wet the walls with his tears.

He was an active participant in the scenes through which the church passed in Kirtland. He took part in the dedication of the Temple, and in the General Assembly, and was one of the committee on compiling the Doctrine and Covenants.

In the spring of 1838 he removed to Missouri, locating at Far West, in Caldwell County, and was a participant in the scenes enacted there. He stood faithfully by Joseph Smith and the church when many others wavered and fell.

In October, 1838, he with others was taken prisoner at Far West, by General Lucas, and was one of those sentenced to be shot, and saved by the gallant and heroic conduct of General Doniphan. With others he was then taken to Independence, thence to Richmond, where he was again under sentence of death, but was finally turned over to the civil authorities and had an exparte examination before Judge King and committed to Liberty Jail to answer in Caldwell County to a charge of treason, and other counts. He afterwards

(page 639)


obtained a release on a writ of habeas corpus in the court of Judge Turnham, and went to Illinois.

After the release of his companions in bonds, which occurred some weeks after, he was appointed with Joseph Smith and Elias Higbee to go to Washington City and present the grievances of the saints before the President and Congress. With his associates he started on this mission, but was delayed and finally prevented from participation in the duties of the committee, by sickness.

For a time he was inactive on account of which there was much dissatisfaction. At the October conference of 1843 President Smith expressed his unwillingness to sustain Elder Rigdon because of his "unprofitableness to him as a counselor." Some other charges were brought against him at the time, but on these he was fully vindicated. Upon his promise of renewal of faithfulness and diligence he was sustained in his position and retained his standing until the death of Joseph Smith in 1844.

At the State convention held at Nauvoo in May, 1844, Sidney Rigdon, then a resident of Pennsylvania, was nominated for Vice President of the United States on an independent ticket, on which Joseph Smith was nominated for President.

The head of the ticket being removed by death pending the campaign, his candidacy of course came to an end.

After the death of Joseph Smith he differed from the Twelve on the question of presiding authority, he claiming the superiority by virtue of his being a member of the First Presidency, and the only one living.

His claims were rejected in a meeting held at Nauvoo, August 8, 1844.

He was afterwards cited before the High Council and after what, from accounts, seems to have been a very unfair and partial examination, was expelled from communion with the body under the presidency of the Twelve.

He subsequently formed an organization of which he was himself the president, and Samuel James and Ebenezer Robinson were his counselors. He had a considerable following in 1845 and unto the time of his death and afterwards some adhered to his claims.

(page 640)


After leaving Nauvoo he commenced on October 15,1844, the publication of a periodical at Pittsburg [Pittsburgh], Pennsylvania, called The Latter Day Saints Messenger and Advocate. This publication continued for a year or more, and in its columns he and others advocated his claims to the Presidency and denounced the plural wife doctrine taught in Nauvoo. In a letter written to J. Gregg, October 15, 1844, by Elder Rigdon, and published in the first issue of his paper, he makes some very damaging charges against the Twelve, which if true, or the half of them true, will account for some of the conflicting testimony regarding polygamy. He died at Friendship, New York, July 14, 1876.


Of the early life of Dr. F. G. Williams we have but little information. When the missionaries (Oliver Cowdery, P. P. Pratt, Peter Whitmer, and Ziba Peterson) visited Western Ohio in 1830, they found him there engaged in the practice of medicine. Dr. Williams was among the first to receive the message, and when the elders moved on westward he accompanied them to Western Missouri and into the Indian country.

Returning to Kirtland he took an active and prominent part in the work incident to the establishment of the church.

On March 18, 1833, he was ordained Second Counselor to Joseph Smith, and for some years at least was faithful to his trust.

In November, 1833, Joseph Smith wrote of him as follows: "Brother Frederick G. Williams is one of those men in whom I place the greatest confidence and trust, for I have found him ever full of love and brotherly kindness. He is not a man of many words, but is ever winning, because of his constant mind. He shall ever have place in my heart, and is ever entitled to my confidence. He is perfectly honest and upright, and seeks with all his heart to magnify his presidency in the Church of Christ, but fails in many instances, in consequence of a want of confidence in himself. God grant that he may overcome all evil."-Times and Seasons, vol. 6, p. 899.

(page 641)


He went to Missouri with Zion's Camp in 1834.

In the trouble which occurred at Kirtland in 1837, when many became estranged, President Williams was disaffected, and some difference arose between him and Joseph Smith. Notwithstanding this it seems that Joseph was still willing to sustain him, for at a conference held at Kirtland, Ohio, September 3,1837, Joseph presented him as his counselor. The conference however refused to sustain him. Joseph persisted, however, and at a conference held at Far West, Missouri, November 7, 1837, he again presented Elder Williams as his counselor, but he was again rejected by vote of the conference.

He was expelled from the church at Kirtland, but in 1838 came to Missouri and was rebaptized.

After this he practically dropped out of active life. He was mixed up some way with difficulties in Missouri, but there has been but little recorded concerning him, and so we will not venture to give particulars.

(page 642)

Previous chapter Previous chapter Table of Contents Table of Contents Next chapter Next chapter