A Christian Heritage

Born of Goodly Parents


Joseph Smith Jr. was born December 23, 1805, the fifth of 11 children of Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith. “I was born . . . of goodly parents,” said Joseph, “who spared no pains to instruct me in the Christian religion.”1 His parents stressed personal religion and encouraged Joseph to seek his “soul's salvation” in Jesus Christ.2

Joseph Smith’s parents loved the Lord. Lucy eventually joined one of the local churches but continued to search for something more. “I therefore determined,” said Lucy, “to examine my Bible, and, taking Jesus and his disciples for my guide, to endeavor to obtain from God which man could neither give nor take away.”3

Joseph’s father, Joseph Smith Sr., found peace in Bible study and seeking God in prayer. Under his leadership, the family met morning and evening for prayer, hymns, and scripture reading. At times Joseph Sr. taught his children “in his own home school and used the Bible as a text.”4

The devotion to God that Joseph saw in his parents strengthened his confidence and faith to seek divine truth.


Joseph Smith Quotes

“When we reflect with what care, and with what unremitting diligence our parents have striven to watch over us, and how many hours of sorrow and anxiety they have spent, over our cradles and bed-sides, in times of sickness, how careful we ought to be of their feelings in their old age! It cannot be a source of sweet reflection to us, to say or do anything that will bring their gray hairs down with sorrow to the grave” (History of the Church, 2:342).

“We ought always to be aware of those prejudices which sometimes so strangely present themselves, and are so congenial to human nature, against our friends, neighbors, and brethren of the world, who choose to differ from us in opinion and in matters of faith. Our religion is between us and our God. Their religion is between them and their God. There is a love from God that should be exercised toward those of our faith, who walk uprightly, which is peculiar to itself, but it is without prejudice; it also gives scope to the mind, which enables us to conduct ourselves with greater liberality towards all that are not of our faith, than what they exercise towards one another” (History of the Church, 3:303–4; paragraph divisions altered).


Asael Smith, Grandfather of the Prophet Joseph Smith

“My grandfather,” recalled Joseph’s cousin George A. Smith, “said that he always knew that God was going to raise up some branch of his family to be a great benefit to mankind” (“Sketch of the Auto-biography of George Albert Smith,” Millennial Star, June 24, 1865, 407). According to Joseph, after his grandfather Asael had read most of the Book of Mormon, “he declared that I [Joseph] was the very Prophet that he had long known would come in his family” (History of the Church, 2:443).

Lucy Mack Smith, Mother of the Prophet Joseph Smith

The Smith family gave serious attention to Joseph’s revelations and, according to his mother, often spent their evenings listening to him teach. “I presume our family presented an aspect as singular as any that ever lived upon the face of the earth—all seated in a circle, father, mother, sons and daughters, and giving the most profound attention to a boy, eighteen years of age. . . . The sweetest union and happiness pervaded our house, and tranquility reigned in our midst” (Lucy Smith, History of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. George A. Smith and Elias Smith [1902], 84).


Did the youthful Joseph Smith join a church?

Unlike some of his family members, Joseph did not join a church as a child. He wrote, “During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong” (Joseph Smith—History 1:8).

Who were Joseph Smith’s siblings?

Joseph never knew his oldest brother, who died at birth in 1797. His other siblings, in order of age, are Alvin (born 1798), Hyrum (born 1800), Sophronia (born 1803), Samuel Harrison (born 1808), Ephraim (born 1810), William (born 1811), Katherine (born 1813), Don Carlos (born 1816), and Lucy (born 1821). Ephraim lived only 11 days. Illness took Alvin in 1823 and Don Carlos in 1841. Hyrum was martyred with Joseph in Carthage, Illinois. Samuel Harrison died a few weeks later from the stress and fatigue of evading the Carthage mob after they murdered his brothers.

How did Joseph’s family feel about his prophetic calling?

Joseph’s parents were constant and encouraging. Older brother Alvin also encouraged Joseph and delighted in the contemplation of his success. Samuel embraced the truth and was the first to be baptized after Joseph and Oliver Cowdery. Hyrum sought baptism soon thereafter, and, like Samuel and their father, Hyrum became a witness of the Book of Mormon and saw the plates. Hyrum later said, “There were prophets before, but Joseph has the spirit and power of all the prophets” (Lucy Smith, History of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. George A. Smith and Elias Smith [1902], 346).


Online Resources at ChurchofJesusChrist.org

Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage”Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (Church Educational System Manual, 2003), 15–27

Joseph Smith Was a Boy of Courage and Resolve”—in "Chapter 1: Joseph Smith: First President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (Church Educational System Manual, 2003), 3–4

The Courage of Young Joseph Smith”—in “The First Vision,” Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1996), 1–2

Online Resources at BYU

Lucy Mack Smith Speaks to the Nauvoo Saints”—Ronald W. Walker, BYU Studies, vol. 32, no. 1–2 (1992): 276–84

Includes a reprint of an 1845 Nauvoo general conference talk by Mother Smith addressing various subjects, including the early origins of the Church.