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What We Can Learn from Lucy Mack Smith About Enduring to the End

The following is an excerpt from Stories of Lucy Mack Smith: Mother of the Restoration by Susan Evans McCloud.

After the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, the Saints were, as Lucy Mack Smith says, “in a state of gloomy suspense.” What would the actions of the mob be now? And what were the Saints to do without Joseph to lead them?

But Lucy had yet another personal anguish on her mind. Samuel Smith, riding alone into Carthage on the day of the martyrdom, did not realize that his two older brothers lay dead. But some of the very mobsters who had been part of the deed, realizing who he was, attempted to shoot him on the spot. When that failed, they chased after him on horseback for more than two hours. He escaped them in the end and was able to ride into Nauvoo in time to see his brothers’ bodies brought back to the Mansion House.

Now, hours later, he confided to his mother that he had been suffering a terrible pain in his side ever since the chase; indeed, he had become so weak that he could not sit up without help. He lingered this way, in pain and distress, until the end of July, when he succumbed to death—the last of the Smith brothers to be sacrificed. Lucy had raised six sons. Now only one remained. And that son, William, was on a mission in the Eastern states, with a sick wife who could not be moved.

But Lucy’s many friends were there, eagerly willing to uphold and serve her. She adds, “My daughters, too, were with me, and from their society I derived great comfort.”

The Saints were uneasy when Sidney Rigdon arrived in Nauvoo from Pittsburgh. Lucy, too, was uneasy, even though Sidney’s idea was to set himself as guardian only, building up the Church to Joseph. Or so he said.

Lucy was too deeply founded in gospel principles to have any of that. She says bluntly, “But before he could carry his measures into effect, the Twelve, who had also been absent, arrived and assuming their proper places, all was set to rights.”

When the mantle of Joseph fell on Brigham Young while he was speaking to the Saints, hundreds saw, as it were, the Prophet standing before them, and heard his beloved voice. Lucy watched in wonder, and no one can imagine the sensations of her heart as she saw and heard what Benjamin Johnson and many others described so vividly: “. . . in every possible degree it was Joseph’s voice, and his person, in look, attitude, dress and appearance was Joseph himself, personified; and I knew in a moment the spirit and mantle of Joseph was upon him.”

When the Nauvoo Charter was illegally revoked in January of 1845, Brigham organized the city under the same lines as priesthood organization. Lucy approved of this, and was deeply comforted when he named his government “The City of Joseph.” How natural it was for the people to think of it and speak of it as that.

At the October 1845 conference—the last to be held in Nauvoo—there was much talk of the Saints’ removal to some as-yet-unknown spot in the West, “where white man’s foot has never trod, with no one to molest and make us afraid. . . and I mean to go if the Lord will let me . . . Let us become passive as clay in the hands of the potter,” Brother Brigham said.

The spirit of gathering, the spirit of unity was impossible for Lucy to ignore. She rose to speak to her beloved brothers and sisters, and she spoke a long while, rehearsing the history of her family and the history of the Saints.

“I feel that the Lord will let Brother Brigham take the people away,” she said. “Here, in this city, lay my dead; my husband and children; and if it so be the rest of my children go with you (and would to God they may all go), they will not go without me; and if I go, I want my bones brought back in case I die away, and deposited with my husband and children.”

Murmurs of joy swept through the vast congregation as they heard her words. There was almost a tragic tenderness in Brigham’s response when he said, “Mother Smith proposes a thing which rejoices my heart; she will go with us. . . . We want her and her children . . . and I pledge myself in behalf of the authorities of the church, that while we have anything, they shall share with us. . . . I say in the name of the Latter-day Saints, we will supply her wants; and I want the people to take anything they have for her to her, and let her do with it as she pleases. I have never asked her to go, for she told me she would not; but now she has offered it.”

The City of Joseph was turned into a veritable beehive of activity as homes were transformed into mechanic shops and paint shops for wagons. Wood was sawn and cut to make spokes, teams of horses and oxen were purchased, food was garnered and preserved for storage, rifles were cleaned and made ready, clothing was mended or made from scratch. Above all, men worked day and night on completing the temple, so that the sacred ordinances might be performed for the hundreds who longed for the power and assurance those ordinances would offer before the people walked out into a vast unknown.

Lucy helped and supported. She watched and listened. In the manuscript History of the Church volume VII, Brigham Young records: “Monday, 30 June, 1845, Visited Mother Smith in company with the Twelve and Bishops [Newel K.] Whitney and [George] Miller. Mother Smith expressed herself satisfied with the Twelve and the course they were pursuing.”

This was just days after the one-year anniversary of the martyrdom of her sons. This was Lucy’s burden to bear, and she bore it well, remaining part of the community of the Saints.

As the temple became ready for endowments to be administered, Brigham records under date of December 10, 1845, that the arrangements of the east room were completed, and they could move forward. Lucy was listed as present on this historic occasion. On the following day, Thursday, December 11, Mother Lucy Smith was listed among those to whom the ordinances of endowment were given.

Lucy’s feelings at this time must have contained an overwhelming mixture of exultation and deep sorrow. For bit by bit, she was accepting the reality: Emma would not go with the Saints. She had other ideas in mind, and her heart was set. She had been pregnant when Joseph was killed; she had suffered much. She could not leave this place, especially under Brigham Young’s direction. Nor did any of Lucy’s three daughters have a desire to leave. William, her one remaining son, had been excommunicated and was estranged from the Church.

Lucy’s choices fell away like shadows. It now seemed that her desire to go with the Saints, to be part of the kingdom, had been little more than a dream, fashioned around the deepest longings of her heart. The needs of her family must come first, as they always had. In the quiet darkness of nigh,t she thought back upon the solemn promise she had made to serve and comfort her family. The years slipped away. There was nothing left but her love and her devotion, to her family and to God. He understood. He would atone; He would strengthen her; He would bear her up.

Only one part of Lucy’s family went west: Hyrum’s children. Martha Ann, the daughter of Hyrum and Mary Fielding Smith, described the parting: “I was five years old when we started from Nauvoo. We crossed over the Mississippi in a skiff in the dusk of evening. We bid goodbye to our dear old feeble grandmother [Lucy]. I can never forget the bitter tears she shed when she bid us goodbye for the last time in this life. She knew it would be the last time she would see her son’s family.”

During this period, in 1846, Lucy was living with her youngest daughter, now Lucy Millikin, in a lovely little home built by Joseph Bates Noble at the corner of Hyde and Kimball Streets. Her arthritis by this time was so debilitating that she could not begin to climb the steep narrow staircase to the bedrooms above. So a bed was made for her in a cozy alcove, under the stairs opposite the kitchen fireplace. Here she would sleep, and here she would lie during many daylight hours, listening to the noise and bustle on the streets outside.

She bade good-bye to many dear friends, as well as to Hyrum’s family, and what her thoughts were we can only guess.

Lucy had always stood in the midst of the fray. This was no longer possible, and so much had changed. At length, she moved with Lucy and Arthur Millikin about seventy miles from Nauvoo.

But the City of Joseph called her; all the shadows, all the memories. In 1851 she returned. Emma was now married to Lewis Bidamon, living in the Prophet’s Mansion House. They were good to her. When she was no longer able to walk, Bidamon made a wheelchair for her to use.

Did she and Emma speak much of the days that were past, or did this still cause too much pain? Lucy did not “lose herself,” that much is certain. She was what she was, no ordinary woman, but a woman chosen of God, a woman faithful to God. Visitors were drawn to her, and she pronounced a blessing upon many of them as they passed on their way: a blessing in her own words, brought forth from the fonts of heaven; a mother’s blessing.

On May 14, 1856, at the age of eighty-one, Lucy died. Lucy Mack Smith, mother of the Prophet of the dispensation of the fullness of times, mother of the people who had come to call themselves Latter-day Saints, slipped through the veil. Her earthly work was well done, her soul well satisfied.

Additional references found in Stories of Lucy Mack Smith: Mother of the Restoration

Lead image from Wikimedia Commons

Stories of Lucy Mack Smith: Mother of the Restoration

by Susan Evans McCloud

Through days of both sunshine and shadow, Lucy Mack Smith's life is a testament to her unshakable faith. In these inspirational stories from Lucy's life, readers are invited to discover how Lucy's ability to lead, her tireless strength, and her keen love of the Lord prepared the way for the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This inspirational volume offers moving accounts of Lucy Mack Smith's lifelong dedication to the Lord through an incomparable collection of little-known stories detailing the spiritual experiences of Lucy and her family. With glimpses into the events that defined her life of devotion, these historical renderings demonstrate how one faithful woman's foundation of faith enabled her to raise the Prophet of the Restoration. Available at Deseret Book stores or on deseretbook.com.

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