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T H E S A I N T S ' H E R A L D

November 6, 1934

The Memoirs of President Joseph Smith


Edited by his daughter, Mary Audentia Smith Anderson


To my mother, Emma Hale, whom my father, Joseph Smith, married on January 18,1827, and who was his only wife, I dedicate these memories.

To her care I was committed after the death of my father, together with my brothers, Frederick Granger Williams, Alexander Hale, and David Hyrum, and my adopted sister, Julia Murdock, who shared her motherly solicitude and untiring energy.

I acknowledge with gratitude to my heavenly Father that to the precept and example of my father's humble wife I owe the love for right and the hatred for wrong which have characterized my life. She early impressed upon my mind the conviction that under Divine Providence only truth and right would live and that error and wrong must perish.

Upon those teachings I have tried to build the foundation and rear the structure of my life's services to God, ever bearing in mind the nobility of that character to which she pointed, by precept and example, as the best and the highest that through effort could be attained by man.


May 22, 1911.



Not having any definite recollection of the place where I may have lived in a pre-existent world nor any definite conception of my surroundings at the time of residence there or of those with whom I may have been there associated, it is not likely that I shall attempt to write in these "Memoirs" anything that does not appertain to this world.

The advocates of the doctrine of pre-existence of man frequently suggest that those transitory glimpses of things apparently seen at some far-off time in the past but which could not have happened in the experiences of the flesh upon earth are almost conclusive evidences that individuals have lived prior to the advent into this life. Such flashes of unrelated memory have come to me as to others, but they have not yet proved of sufficient importance to warrant me in setting down here any of the misty things so classed as recollections of another far-off world.

Notwithstanding what may have been said about spirits having a great desire for embodiment in the flesh and seeking opportunities to accept such tabernacles upon the earth, I have no hesitancy in stating that if I had an existence in a pre-earth period and if I were there consulted as to the time when, place where, and company with whom my earth-life should begin, I have not the faintest recollection of such existence or consultation. I do not care to deny the doctrine, but simply state at the beginning that the memories here set down have reference only to my present sojourn in the flesh.

Whatever may have been the conditions in a pre-existent state and whoever may have been my associates there, superior or otherwise, or whatever may have been their degree of intelligence, is not determined, so far as anything convincing to my judgment is concerned; nor is there, to my knowledge, a sufficient amount of authentic revelation of those matters upon which to base such a conviction. However, I have no hesitancy in saying that whatever and whoever they were I have no reason to find any particular fault with the place or the persons to which I was allotted upon entrance into this world.

My ancestors in the flesh, on the sides of both my parents, were stalwart men and women of sturdy pioneer stock. They were not deficient in powers of brain or body, so far as their struggle for a successful existence was concerned, and I feel I owe to them a greater debt than I can ever repay for the heritage they left of faithful devotion to the spirit of freedom, of integrity and nobility of purpose and character, and of intelligent acceptance of the burdens and responsibilities of this life. For generations back, so far as I have been able to trace them and discover, these characteristics have shone out as qualities of the families involved.

It may be true that my father was not a schooled man when he began his public career, and it is unnecessary to claim that my mother was early a learned woman; but it is safe to assert that excellent common sense and the faculty of acquiring knowledge were possessed by both in more than an ordinary degree.

From one side I inherited an eager desire for information, and if I have not acquired it, the fault cannot be traced to my immediate progenitors. With this desire I also inherited a spirit of independence of thought and action, and a strong opposition to undue influence exerted by those who, I had reason to believe, had only selfish ends in view.

From my mother I inherited an intense hatred of oppression--of any kind, but more especially the kind displayed by the strong against the weak--and a hatred of arrogance, haughtiness, and that peculiar quality which some people exhibit when they appear to say, "Stand aside; I am holier than thou." With this attribute inherited from my mother, I also received a strong and active repugnance to untruthfulness in either man or woman. To me my mother was ever the embodiment of truthfulness, for she hated intensely any lie, whether spoken or acted, and refused steadfastly to submit to any proposition which was opposite to the truth.

The man who, at the expiration of more than three-quarters of a century of life, undertakes to recall the things of his past has a difficult task before him, for it must follow that what he sees through the mists of memory gathered about earlier experiences to a greater or lesser extent will be colored by reflections and knowledges which years have brought into being, and will be set down in the light of that enlarged vision and comprehension. If perchance this light be faulty he may err in the conclusions he has reached as to the meaning of things long ago said or done, by which his life has been more or less affected.

It is with this acknowledgement then, and without desire to deal with the mysterious or to make claim to a life greatly differing from the ordinary, that the following pages of memories are written.

Chapter I—Early Trails


I was born in the early morning of November 6, 1832, in the little town of Kirtland, Geauga (now Lake) County, Ohio. My mother, with her small family, was living in an upper room in the northwest corner of a store occupied by Newell K. Whitney. The comforts were meager and makeshift, but the life which my parents had been compelled to live, constantly harassed by vexatious persecutions and moving about from place to place on what was then the frontier of the westward march of civilization, had inured them to hardships and strengthened their powers of resistance against apparently overwhelming difficulties, and had taught them the value of a constant and consistent reliance upon the all-wise goodness and never-failing power of God.

My earliest recollections of men, things, and events, therefore, begin at Kirtland. I do not remember the erection of the dwelling house which was built for us nor our removal into it from the store building where I was born, but I do remember some people and incidents of a slightly later period. Among the individuals are Samuel Brannan, Ebenezer Robinson, and Vienna Jacques, the latter an eccentric woman probably even then a young "old maid." Brannan and Robinson were young men and were either inmates of Father's house or frequent visitors therein.

I remember I was promised a little wagon, to be built by a wagon-maker living not far from our house, up on the hillside. The name of Alexander Badham is connected in some way with the memory. I remember that I became impatient for the possession of the wagon and one day slipped away from the house and went to the shop. Peering into it through a crack in the upright siding I saw the wagon, nicely painted red and awaiting the finishing touches before it was to be delivered. I must have received the wagon, but, strange to say, I have no recollections of ever having used it.

The house we then occupied stood on the west side of the street which runs from the Temple down to the Chagrin River and was not very far from the ford across this little stream. Memory has a picture of my going down to the creek with a number of other boys who engaged in fishing for the small edible fish the stream afforded. Seeing their success I, too, wanted to fish. My mother, to gratify me, procured a little pole and attached a thread thereto, with a bent pin for a hook, and away I marched to the creek. I threw my hook without bait into the water and the little fishes gathered to it as it fell. By some strange chance one became fastened to it and was drawn to the shore. In great excitement I dropped the pole and gathering the fish in my hands rushed to the house with it, shouting, "I've got one! I've got one!"

Whether or not the fish was cooked for my delectation or whatever became of it, I have not the remotest remembrance. It was of the variety known as horned chub, about six inches long, round and attractive. I have seen such fishes in the same stream in later years, as well as elsewhere.

Of the stirring events which may have taken place at Kirtland I have not a very extended memory. I do remember visiting what was known as the church farm, occupied at that time by a brother named Harvey Strong. Whether or not I visited there with my father more than once I cannot say. Upon one visit a goose was caught, a string tied about its feet, and the fowl suspended from a beam in the barn. The farmer took it by the head and cut its throat with his knife, holding the creature while it bled. I suppose it was taken to the house to furnish a dinner for the family and possibly others, but of this, memory saith nothing further.


My memories of the journey from Kirtland to Missouri in the spring of 1838 are confused. I can remember that across the center of the covered wagon in which we rode there was a division made by fastening up blankets, and that Father and someone else occupied the back part of the wagon by turns. I remember we reached a river, which I now suppose was the Wabash in Indiana, and that the roads running through the low lands were of the kind known as corduroy. Some who had been riding in the wagons walked over these roads, and I also did so, for a ways, stepping carefully over the rigid poles holding to the hand of my mother.

My adopted sister, Julia, was one of the companions of this journey, and my brother, Frederick, born in June, 1836, was another. Who was the driver or who had charge otherwise I do not remember.

While I can remember some things which happened at Far West the fall I was six years old, the incidents of the journey thither and of settlement there seem very obscure. I seem to see a two-story frame building standing broadside to an open space like a square, and some excitement going on outside. I remember Father starting away from the house and our white dog, Major, jumping from an upper window to a platform below to follow him off.

I remember this dog particularly from the fact that upon one occasion (after he had been fighting and had had his ears chewed until they were sore), the baby was set down by him as he lay upon the floor. The baby pulled his ears, which hurt him so that he growled fiercely. Father punished him severely for this, boxing his ears soundly. This treatment resulted in his never afterwards lying quietly when a child was placed near him. He would spring to his feet immediately and go away, evidently never forgetting the punishment he had received for growling at the baby.

I suppose the excitement to which I have referred was attendant upon some of the operations of the mob against the Saints and the Saints' preparations for resistance or flight, just which I cannot say.

I remember vividly the morning my father came to visit his family after the arrest that took place in the fall of 1838. When he was brought to the house by an armed guard I ran out of the gate to greet him, but was roughly pushed away from his side by a sword in the hand of the guard and not allowed to go near him. My mother, also, was not permitted to approach him and had to receive his farewell by word of lip only. The guard did not permit him to pass into the house nor her to pass out, either because he feared an attempt would be made to rescue his prisoner or because of some brutal instinct in his own breast. Who shall say?

I remember that later I visited the jail at Liberty when my father and others whose names have passed into history were confined in that period of imprisonment which followed Doniphan's refusal to execute the order of Generals Lucas and Clark to "march the prisoners to the public square and there shoot them to death!" There were present in that prison several men, among them Uncle Hyrum Smith, Caleb Baldwin, Lyman Wight, Alexander MacRae, Sidney Rigdon, and a singer whom memory seems to indicate was Erastus Snow. He sang two ditties or ballads characteristic of the times, which made an impression upon me. One was called "The Massacre at the River Raisin,," and referred to the butchering of Americans by Indians in Michigan in 1813, during the war upon the northwest borders. The other was a parody called "Mobbers of Missouri," sung to the tune of "Hunters of Kentucky." I am of the opinion the man was only a visitor in the jail at the time. He was quite a singer and I very fond of music, so I well remember this circumstance of his singing to entertain those in the jail, the time I was left by my mother to spend the night there with my father.

There is a memory of accompanying my mother on another visit to the jail, and it was upon the occasion of one or the other of these visits that my father with another, laid hands upon my head and blessed me, as his eldest son, to the blessings which had come down to him through the blessings of his progenitors. It could not be expected that I, a child of but six years, should remember the phraseology used by Father upon that occasion but the circumstance itself was indelibly fastened upon my memory. While I was not entitled to any claim of being extraordinarily bright and intelligent as a child, yet I was by no means extremely dull. What I saw I usually understood, and what I heard, if it made an impression upon me at all, I remembered fairly well, together with the circumstances attending. Dates my memory has never held tenaciously, however, except some which have been singled out by circumstances which made them more or less remarkable to me.

Who accompanied my mother in the carriage ride to the jail I do not fully recollect, but seem to remember that one of them was an officer. What office he may have held I do not know, but presume it was sheriff or deputy sheriff. At all events, my mother carried a permit to visit her husband in the jail.

My memory of thus visiting the jail in which Father and others were confined is confirmed by the statements of history wherein it appears that my father and his companions were placed in Liberty jail December 1, 1838; that on the 8th of that month the wives of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon visited the jail and remained overnight, and that on the 20th of December Joseph Smith's wife again visited him. In a list of the visitors to the jail in the month of January following, the names of Mrs. Emma Smith and one John Daley appear as having been there on the 21st of the month. On two of these occasions I was with my mother, according to my memory. The history states that on one occasion Emma Smith remained in the jail two days and that the wives of Caleb Baldwin and Reynolds Cahoon were with her at that time.

There comes to mind a circumstance which occurred about this time which was attended by some degree of mystery. It was my habit to take a nap in the afternoons upon a bed or couch in the bedroom. The house had two rooms, one the living or "keeping" room and the other a bedroom. Into this latter the door leading from the keeping room opened inwardly, opposite a window in the end of the building. My mother was washing in the larger room and I, lying upon the bed in the chamber, was awakened by someone coming through the door and across the room past me. It was a man apparently from thirty-five to forty-five years of age, sparely built, wearing dark clothing somewhat shabby, and having on his head a rather tall-crowned hat, napless, as was the custom of the time. He passed to the window and turned to come back toward the door, saying as he did so, "We will all have to go to the land of Voree."

Reaching the door he turned again and came back toward the window. As he turned at the window the second time to again pass by the bed he repeated what he had said before, "We will all have to go to the land of Voree."

Whatever construction may be put upon these words by those who might wish to localize them in support of the claim made by James J. Strang who established himself years later near Burlington, Wisconsin, at a place called Voree (where he died in 1856), I have never held it as anything more than a statement meant to cover the entire region of country north of Missouri.

When the man returned to the door the second time he passed out, as I supposed, into the room where my mother was. I called to her and asked her who the man was. She wanted to know to what man I referred. I told her about the man I had seen in the room and repeated what he had said. She had not seen him, nor did either of us see him after, though we went at once to the door to look for him. He was fairly tall, being a little over medium height, and had a clean-shaven face. I relate the circumstance because it impressed me at the time and because it is a mystery that has never since been solved.

Another little incident clings to memory. Times were hard and we had little to eat except that which was raised directly from the soil or gathered from the hunt. One day all we had to eat for dinner was corn bread made from meal with only the addition of salt and water, and seasoned as we ate with New Orleans molasses. There was with us that day a man of whom I remember little more than his appearance but whom I have sometimes thought was Lyman Wight. The conversation which took place between my mother and this man, evidently an elder in the church, was cheerful in spite of the circumstances, and I remember his gay remark, "Why, with a chunk of corn bread like that in my hand I could go out of doors and stand at the corner of the house in the northwest wind and eat myself into a sweat!" However, we all did eat of it, and I cannot now recollect that we were any the worse for such meager fare, although I still can remember the taste of the New Orleans molasses.

There is another memory of an evening after dark, when there came to the house a youth, hardly more than a boy, who had been hurt in some way. He was taken upstairs very quietly and a charge given that if any inquiry were made about such a person nothing should be said to indicate he was in the house. He had been wounded in one of the skirmishes which occurred between the Saints and their oppressors, and was to be kept in safety until his wound healed; it was feared if the mobbers followed and discovered him they would demand that he be turned over to them.

I did not know at the time who this young man was, but some years afterwards I heard something about my Uncle Arthur Milliken (husband of Grandmother Smith's youngest daughter, Lucy,) having been in one of those fights. I questioned him about it and he told me the story of his being wounded and escaping to our house. He was a drummer, beating a snare drum, and in one of the encounters, possibly the one at Shoal Creek, a bullet had passed through both his legs above the knees, one in front and the other back of the thigh bone.

There is a faint memory, too, of hearing about the wounding of David Patten. I remember going with someone to the house where he lay. While not permitted to enter the house, I looked in at the door and saw him lying on his bed, and heard some talk about his wound, as if it were in the body, and of its being cleansed with a silk handkerchief, either by drawing through the wound or being used in some other manner.

One day while playing in front of the house in Far West I saw a strange cavalcade approaching. I waited until it came pretty near and then ran into the yard for safety. Soon the whole procession stopped in front of the house. It really was one of the most singular teams I have ever seen hitched together. It was what is known as a "spike" or three-horse team, only in this case there were not three horses. The animal in the lead, regularly harnessed, was a flea-bitten gray mare, hitched to the tongue of the wagon by a singletree. The animal upon the off side of the tongue was an ox called a stag, harnessed with an ordinary harness only the collar was turned with the big end up and the bridle was without a bit. The animal on the near side was a small brown mule, also harnessed with a regular harness but bearing in addition a saddle, astride of which was a Negro fully six feet tall and broad in proportion. He wore a tattered hat on his kinky head, was without coat or vest, but had on shirt and pants of the conventional pattern common to the locality, made, evidently, of homespun stuff and very well worn.

The Negro was singing as he rode, the whites of his eyes and his white teeth shining prominently in the light. The team was hitched to an old-fashioned Pennsylvania-made wagon, the box of which, called a stick box, was high in front and high at the back but swept down curvingly toward the center. It was loaded with watermelons which the Negro driver was bringing to town to sell. When he stopped his team in front of the house and descended from his mule I could see from his good-natured face and rollicking manner that he would not hurt me, so I went out and curiously examined his outfit. He was very jolly as he tried to sell his wares and it was not long until his wagon was surrounded and the melons disappearing in ready sales, the prices being cheap.

I have never forgotten the looks of that team. I saw it at intervals during the season, coming into town with melons and other produce for sale. I have seen other quaint teams and old-fashioned wagons but never anything so picturesque as that one. It was in striking contrast to one I saw in 1876 in Jack's Valley, a few miles east of Carson City, Nevada, freighting mining machinery to Silver City, eighty miles up the valley. The outfit consisted of a huge wagon, the hind wheels of which were so large that, standing on the ground beside them, I was barely able to reach the tops with my fingers. Two ordinary two-horse wagons were used as trailers--that is, the tongues had been shortened and fastened by a clevis each to the hind axle of the wagon before it.

The team which drew this outfit of wagons was composed of eighteen mules, large and small, driven by a man riding the near wheeler. He had a long line stretched over the heads of the intervening teams with which to guide and govern the lead team. The team next in front of the wheelers was a pair of small mules. They were called a swing team--that is, their heads were free and they formed a kind of fulcrum to prevent the whole group from sweeping around corners too quickly. It was quite amusing and instructive to watch this team swinging the corners as they went through the little town of Mottsville, near the home of Brother Slayton with whom I was sojourning. I think the driver told me that he had twenty tons of freight on the three wagons. I know that at the time this seemed to me a tremendous load. That was in the good old times when freighting by team was the custom of the country.

The pictures of these strange teams in contrast remain with me still.


Of the exodus from Missouri before reaching the Mississippi at Quincy I have one recollection which is definite and clear. That is of our arrival at a log farmhouse at the side of the road, along in the afternoon. As the team stopped it was assailed by a pack of dogs, but the farmer, coming to the door, told us not to fear for they would not hurt anyone. In answer to our inquiry as to whether he could keep us overnight he said, "Certainly," and bade us enter.

Mother and we children went in, leaving someone, whom I seem to remember as Jonathan Holman, to care for the team. This team was composed of two large black horses, one called Charlie and the other Jim. Jim must have perished somewhere on the road or soon after our arrival at Nauvoo, but Charlie survived and was used by Father as a riding horse.

The farmhouse was what was called a double log house--that is, it had two large rooms built separately but connected by a large open space closed up on one side and roofed over like the house. In this space were stored grain, produce, different kinds of harness, saddles, implements, and other things pertaining to farm life in Missouri.

The farmer was a sturdy man and gave us a hearty welcome. The weather was cold, but there was a great fire in one end of the living room and we were soon very comfortable. We had supper and afterwards beds were made, some on the bedstead and some on the floor, which we were permitted to occupy. We slept cozily in the warmth of that big fire as it gradually waned to a bed of coals.

We had an early start next morning, but of other incidents connected with the long journey of crossing the State I have little memory until we reached the river. The weather had become extremely cold and the river was frozen over, so that we crossed upon the ice. Charlie, the more intelligent animal of the team, was hitched to the tongue of the wagon and the driver, walking behind him, held the end of the tongue in his hand, guiding the horse across. This was considered the safest way to make the crossing for it was feared the ice might not be strong enough to bear the weight of the double team and the loaded wagon.

Carrying in her arms my brothers, Frederick and Alexander (the latter born the preceding June), with my sister, Julia, and myself holding onto her dress at either side, my mother walked across the frozen river and reached the Illinois shore in safety. This, then, was the manner of our passing out of the jurisdiction of a hostile State into the friendlier shelter of the State of Illinois, early in 1839.

From the history called "Recollections of the Pioneers of Lee County (Illinois)" is taken the following extract concerning that hazardous journey of my mother from Far West to Quincy:

"After making such arrangements for the safety of herself and children as she could, Mrs. Smith left the home from which she had been driven and turned her steps toward Illinois. The winter shut in early and when the fleeing pilgrims reached the Mississippi River it was frozen over, and Mrs. Smith, weary, sad, and heart-broken, crossed the mighty river to Quincy, Illinois, on foot, carrying her two youngest children, with the oldest boy and little girl clinging to her dress.

"She found a hospitable welcome at the home of a family by the name of Cleveland, where she remained during the long winter, sad, but trusting, and in faithful expectancy waiting for her husband's relief and delivery from bonds. When at last he was free, she welcomed him with a wife's rapture, and was ready to begin again the life of devotion to his happiness as she had ever been."


My first recollection concerned with events after we crossed the Mississippi River begins at the home of the man, George Cleveland, some three or four miles out from Quincy--in a northeasterly direction I believe, though of that I cannot be certain. My mother and her children and a part or all of the family of Elder Sidney Rigdon made up a part of the household there.

Elder Rigdon had two sons, Sidney and John Wickliffe, and a daughter by the name of Lucy. Whether he and the boys were there or not I cannot now call to recollection from any incident connecting them with events at the time; but a circumstance in which Lucy and my adopted sister figured leaves the clear impression that Mrs. Rigdon and the daughter were there. One day Julia came in and began teasing for something which Mother did not think proper to grant just then; I think it was for something to eat. Mother told her to wait; but the child, too impatient to do so, threw herself down upon her back on the floor and with a very good imitation of weeping began pounding her heels and bumping her head on the floor, accompanying the tattoo with a series of screams.

Mother stepped quickly to her, caught the young miss by the shoulder and straightened her to her feet with the sharp command, "Stop that! If you want anything, ask for it, but don't try any of that nonsense if you can't have it right away. You just can't come Lucy Rigdon on me!"

The childish tactics my sister attempted at that time were indeed almost a daily occurrence with Mrs. Rigdon's Lucy, who ruled her mother through inspiring a fear that she would injure herself by bumping her head on the floor in that fashion. Mother's Julia, however, never tried the experiment on Mother again; it did not work.

Mr. Cleveland's farm was an excellent play place for us boys. Leading out from the pasture was a railroad cut and part of the grade of one of the projected but abandoned roads through the State--remains of the railway excitement that had raged to some extent in 1837. There were no rails, ties, or other material occupying the grade and it was smooth and level, making an excellent play ground. A fence ran across, with a pair of bars in the center over the roadbed, from which point of vantage we could see quite a long ways over the grade toward the city. It was quite a bit of fun to steal away from the house into the pasture, go down to the bars, and passing them race along the level grade toward the town until we could see into it. We did not dare to go into the settlement, for while it was not forbidden we seemed instinctively to fear we would not be permitted to return if the people there should see us.

One of the homes nearest to the Cleveland residence was a small one on the top of a gently rising hill. It was occupied by Dimick Huntington, his wife, and children--Allen, Lot, and Fannie. Mrs. Huntington was a tall, spare woman, bright-eyed, shrewd, and withal good-natured. I think Fannie was the oldest of the children and Allen next in age. He must have been two or three years older than I, for he was allowed to take his father's rifle and go out into the pasture and brush to look for rabbits. Mr. Cleveland had a son about my age and with the Huntington children we used to form quite a little band of players, ranging the farm at will.

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