Latter-day Saint Life

What happened to Joseph and Emma Smith’s children?


This article originally ran on LDS Living in October 2015.

Of the many hardships Joseph Smith Jr. and his wife Emma endured, one of the most difficult, especially for Emma, was losing so many of her precious children. Only five of her 11 children lived past the age of 2, and her only biological daughter died at birth. After her husband was killed in 1844 and the majority of the Saints moved West, Emma stayed in Nauvoo to raise her surviving children. Find out what happened to each of the Smith children and where the surviving ones ended up in their adult years.

Alvin Smith

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As the first of many tragic deaths, Joseph and Emma's first baby was born and died on June 15, 1828, in Harmony, Pennsylvania, during the time that the 116 pages given to Martin Harris were lost. According to the family Bible, the baby was named Alvin, likely after Joseph Smith’s older brother who died shortly before Joseph received the gold plates. However, the headstone merely states “In Memory of An Infant Son of Joseph and Emma Smith.”

Thadeus and Louisa Smith

These twins, born on April 30, 1831, in Kirtland, Ohio, lived for only three hours and were given the names Thadeus and Louisa in the family Bible.

A set of twins born to Latter-day Saints John and Julia Murdock the same day were adopted by the Smiths shortly after, as Julia Murdock died after giving birth to them.

Joseph Murdock Smith

One of the twins adopted by Emma and Joseph Smith Jr., little Joseph died when he was 11 months old. His death was likely the result of a combination of measles and exposure to the cold air when a mob attacked the Prophet Joseph at the John Johnson farm in Hiram, Ohio.

Julia Murdock Smith

What Happened to Joseph and Emma Smith's Children?
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Julia and her twin brother, Joseph, were adopted by Joseph and Emma when they were nine days old, after their mother died giving birth to them and their father could not care for them. Though her brother did not survive his first year of life, Julia lived to be 49. She was 13 when her adopted father, the Prophet Joseph, was killed in Carthage Jail and she was left with her mother, grandmother (Lucy Mack Smith), and siblings in deserted Nauvoo.

She married Elisha Dixon somewhere between the age of 17 and 18, against the wishes of her family. She soon moved with him to Texas, where he died a few years later in a steamer ship accident. After his death, she returned to live with her mother, Emma, in Nauvoo. It was there she met and married John J. Middleton in 1856. During her marriage to Middleton, she joined the Catholic Church, of which her new husband was a devout member. They eventually moved to St. Louis, Missouri. After 20 years in what came to be a very difficult marriage, Julia officially separated from Middleton and moved back to Nauvoo to live with and take care of her ailing mother.

After her mother’s death in 1879, Julia went to live with her brother, Alexander, for a time and later with some of her friends, the Moffitt family. While living with the Moffitts, she died of breast cancer in September 1880, leaving no posterity.

Joseph Smith III

What Happened to Joseph and Emma Smith's Children?
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The namesake of his father, Joseph Smith III was born on November 6, 1832, in Kirtland. He was baptized at age 11, about seven months before his father was killed. He married Emmeline Griswold on October 22, 1856, and had five children with her during their 13 years of marriage. 

A strong opponent of polygamy, he served as president and prophet of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (now the Community of Christ), from 1860 until 1914. 

After his first wife died, Joseph III married Bertha Madison in 1869. She died in October 1896, leaving him nine more children. He met and married Ada Rachel Clark two years later in January 1898 in Ontario, Canada. They eventually moved back to Missouri and had three children together.

Joseph III died at age 82 on December 10, 1914, and has a large posterity.

Frederick Granger Williams Smith

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Named after Joseph’s close friend and First Counselor in the First Presidency, Frederick G. Williams, the second surviving son of the Joseph Smith Jr. family was born in Ohio on June 20, 1836. He was only 8 years old when his father was killed and his family was forced to flee mob violence yet again. He eventually married Anna Marie Jones in 1857 and had one child with her. He fell ill in his early 20s and died in April 1862. His daughter, Alice Fredericka, never married, leaving no living descendants from this Smith son.

Alexander Hale Smith

What Happened to Joseph and Emma Smith's Children?
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Alexander Hale was born in Far West, Missouri, on June 2, 1838, at the height of the early Saints’ persecution. Believed to have been named after the Church's legal counselor and Joseph's friend, Alexander Doniphan, Alexander Smith was only 6 years old when Joseph and Hyrum were killed, and the boy grew up with little memory of his father.

He married Elizabeth Agnes Kendall in June 1861 and was baptized into the RLDS church by his older brother Joseph Smith III the following year. He served several missions for that church, and occasionally even traveled to Utah. He held many callings within the RLDS church throughout his life and was eventually appointed as a counselor to the RLDS church president and later as the RLDS patriarch before he died in Nauvoo in 1909.

He had nine children with Elizabeth and has a large posterity today.

Don Carlos Smith

This Smith child, named after Joseph Smith Jr.’s youngest brother, lived to be only a little over a year old. He was born on June 13, 1840, and died on August 15, 1841, from an illness that was sweeping through Nauvoo.

Image of Emma Smith with one of her children, most likely David Hyrum Smith.
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Unnamed Son

The last of Joseph and Emma’s children to die in infancy, this little boy was stillborn on February 6, 1842, in Nauvoo, just two years before his father would be killed.

David Hyrum Smith

What Happened to Joseph and Emma Smith's Children?
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Born in November 1844, nearly five months after Joseph and Hyrum’s martyrdom, David never knew his father or the uncle for whom he was named. He was 3 when Emma remarried and 16 when his brother began the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was ordained an elder in the RLDS church in 1863. 

He married Clara Charlotte Hartshorn in May 1870 and had one child, a son, with her. He was called to serve as the second counselor to his brother Joseph Smith III in the RLDS church presidency, but his declining mental health led his family to place him in the Illinois State Hospital for the Insane in 1877. He remained a patient there until he died in August 1904 at age 59.

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