The Church Historian's Press


This Gospel of Glad Tidings to All People

General Conference

Temple Grounds, Nauvoo, Illinois

October 8, 1845

Several months after the deaths of her sons Joseph, Hyrum, and Samuel Smith, Lucy Mack Smith (1775–1856) began writing her history.1 At age sixty-nine, she was in poor health and felt “it a privilege as well as my duty … to give (as my last testimony to a world from whence I must soon take my departure) an account.”2 Impaired by fading memory and fueled by indignation and grief, at times she presented a “confused chronology and incomplete information”; nevertheless, Smith’s account gives insight into her personality, attitude, emotions, beliefs, and understanding of Joseph Smith’s role as prophet.3 Smith devoted the summer of 1845 to final revisions, and her manuscript was completed by October, when she first publicly announced the project at general conference.4 Her narrative informed the larger institutional history of the Latter-day Saints.5

Smith felt a pressing need to witness, and she spoke often in public, giving a firsthand account of many events in church history. “I have told over many things pertaining to these matters to different persons to gratify their curiosity—indeed, have almost destroyed my lungs giving these recitals to those who felt anxious to hear them,” she wrote to her son William.6 At a Relief Society meeting on March 31, 1842, she “wished to leave her testimony that the Book of Mormon is the book of God, that Joseph is a man of God, a prophet of the Lord set apart to lead the people. If we observe his words it will be well with us; if we live righteously on earth, it will be well with us in Eternity.”7 She spoke at another public meeting on February 23, 1845, describing the “trials and troubles she had passed through in establishing the Church of Christ and the persecutions and afflictions” she had experienced with the murders of her sons Joseph and Hyrum the previous year. Hosea Stout recorded that those who heard her speak “were deeply affected with the remarks of this ‘Mother’ of the ‘mothers in Israel,’ for she spoke with the most feeling and heartbroken manner of the troubles she had passed through.”8

Smith’s age and increasing physical ailments prevented her from the activity she had previously enjoyed. At the Relief Society’s second meeting in March 1842, she wept and told the women “she was advanced in years and could not stay long.” A few weeks later, she “spoke very pathetically of her lonely situation,” but she also repeatedly shared her testimony, mingled with her history.9 The Saints cared for the widow. Following the mob murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in June 1844, Relief Society member Sarah M. Kimball visited Mother Smith to offer comfort, allowing Smith to testify of the innocence of her sons.10 Wilford Woodruff gave Lucy Mack Smith a blessing on August 23, 1844, calling her “the greatest Mother in Israel.” He continued, “Thou hast lived and stood to see the fall of thy sons by the rage of gentile hands, and like an impenetrable rock in the midst of the mighty deep thou hast remained unmoved until God has given thee [the] desires of thy heart in seeing the keys of the kingdom of God held in the hands of thy posterity.”11 On July 9, 1845, Bishops Newel K. Whitney and George Miller provided a public dinner for members of the Smith family, including Lucy and Emma Hale Smith.12 Brigham Young promised to care for Lucy Mack Smith as the Saints prepared to leave Nauvoo, Illinois, for the West, but she remained in Nauvoo with her three daughters and her daughter-in-law Emma.13

Mother Smith was seventy years old when she delivered this address at a general conference held at the Nauvoo temple.14 The conference took place amid violence against Latter-day Saints in areas outside of Nauvoo during the previous month; Brigham Young had publicly agreed that the Saints would leave Nauvoo in the coming spring.15 At the conference, Young and other leaders spoke of the upcoming exodus. On October 8, 1845, the last day of the three-day conference, Smith requested the podium to respond to the discussion about moving west. According to the church newspaper Times and Seasons, “She spoke at considerable length, and in an audible manner, so as to be heard by a large portion of the vast assembly.”16 Smith expressed her religious beliefs and shared her testimony while recounting events from the church’s early history. This is the first account of a woman speaking in general conference.17

Well, Brothers and Sisters, I have been looking around upon this congregation. I have long been waiting for the time when the Lord would give me strength to look upon you and my children.18 I feel solemn. I want everyone to look into their hearts to see what they have come to this place for, whether they have come to follow Christ through evil and good report or for any other cause. I want to give you my advice. I want to have time to talk about my husband and Hyrum and Joseph. I want to give you all my advice. Brigham Young has done the errand, he has fixed it completely. For a long time I have been wanting to ask whether you would be willing to receive stolen goods or not.19 I want to know if you believe in such things. There is one thing I want to speak of, there is maybe 2,000 people here that never were acquainted with Mr. Smith or my family. I raised up 11 children, 7 boys.20 I raised them in the fear of God. When they were two or three years old I told them I wanted them to love God with all their hearts. I told them to do good.

I want all you to do the same. God gives us our children and we are accountable. In the fear of God I warn you. I want you to take your little children and teach them in the fear of God. I want you to teach them about Joseph in Egypt and such things, and when they are four years old they will love to read their Bible. I presume there never was a family more obedient than mine. I did not have to speak to them, only once. Set your children to work and try to bring them up to your comfort. Don’t let them play out of doors.21 If I can’t talk to a few thousands here, how can I meet millions and talk in the celestial glory? I want the young men to remember that I love children, young folks, and everybody. I want them to be obedient to their parents. Be good and kind and do in secret as you would do in the presence of millions. I call you brothers and sisters and children. If you consider me a Mother in Israel I want you to say so. (President B. Young arose and said, “All who consider Mother Smith as a Mother in Israel signify it by saying yes.” Loud shouts of “Yes!”)22

My feelings have been hurt by hearing them say “Old Mother Smith”—“There goes Old Mother Smith.” I have had my feelings hurt a great deal.

I want to speak about the dead. It was eighteen years ago last 22nd of September that Joseph took the plates out of the earth, and it was 18 years last Monday23 since Joseph Smith the prophet of the Lord—

It was in a morning my son came to me and told me he had taken those plates out of the ground, and he said, “Go and tell all three of them (the Harrises) that I have taken the plates out of the ground,24 and I want Martin should assist me. I want to take off some of the characters and send them to New York.”25

I am now in my 70th year. It is 18 years since I began to receive this gospel of glad tidings to all people.26 I have got it all in a history, and I want this people to be so good and so kind as to get it printed before you go west.27 Martin Harris was the first person that helped Joseph about this work to get the Book of Mormon printed,28 for the gospel could not be preached until this was done. Here was only my family and Martin Harris to do anything about it. Just as soon as they commenced, the Devil began to roar and attempt to destroy them. But a little while before we were turned out of house and home, Joseph went to Pennsylvania.29 Hyrum and Samuel had to go and work in the woods all day and then at night had to go haul the wood and get means to help Joseph to publish the book. Two of them guarded the house.30

This was the way it commenced, and now see what a congregation is here who talk about going to the west, how easy this can be done. My family could go to work and get means to print the Book of Mormon. Do not be discouraged and say that you can’t get wagons and things; as Brigham says you must be all honest or you will not get there.31 If you feel cross you will have trouble.

My family made out to get the book printed. The angel of the Lord told them what to do. They began 18 years ago last Monday.

Thousands have come into the church since then and have not known Joseph, Hyrum, [Don] Carlos, or William, and they are all gone but poor William, and he is gone, I don’t know where.32

I have 3 daughters at home; they have never had anything but have worked for the church.33 After the book was printed, Samuel took some of them to sell and was turned out of doors three times.34 He went into Brother Green’s, a Methodist preacher.35 Samuel said, “Don’t you want to buy a book?” She asked, “What is it?” Samuel said, “It is a Book of Mormon that my Brother Joseph has translated from plates out of the ground.” She asked her husband but he would not buy. Samuel left one till he returned. He had to sell them to buy us victuals. I want to speak of this that you may not complain of hard times. He went into a house and asked to have a breakfast and he would give a book for it.36 He again went to Sister Green. She said he must take the book again. Samuel took the book and looked and looked.37 She afterwards told me she never saw a man look so; she knew that he had the Spirit of God. He said, “The Spirit forbids me taking this book.” She knelt and asked him to pray with her. She read the book and became a Mormon.38 And thus the work began, and then it spread like a mustard seed.39

After the church began to grow we were driven from one place to another, to Kirtland then to Missouri.40 William was taken sick, Samuel’s wife and others;41 and I had twenty or thirty sick to take care of during the mobbing.42 I felt strong in health. I could take care of thirty sick then better than sit on my chair now.

While William lay sick he had a vision and saw the mob come in. He said he saw them come in thousands and thousands, and he said, “Mother, you will be driven,” and, says he, “If I die I want you to take care of my wife. I want you to carry my corpse wherever you go.” The first day William was able to walk as far as the door, the mob came. Ten of them came into my room after they had taken Joseph and Hyrum into their camp.43 There were thousands of them hallooing and screeching in my ears. How do you think I felt? Have you any feelings for me?

While they were in the camp I could not go to see them, and now my children are in the grave. Ten men came in and said, “We have come in to kill the heads of the family.” Says I, “Do you want to kill me?” They said yes. I said, “I want you to do your work quick, for I would then be happy.”44 They then said, “God damn it, these Mormons had as lief die as live.” They then tried Joseph and Hyrum and sentenced them to be shot in 15 minutes. A man came in and said, “Mother Smith, if you ever want to see Joseph again you must go now, for he is going to be shot in Jackson County.”45 He took me by the hand, and it was as much as we could do to get through the crowd to the wagon.

The men lifted up their swords and swore I should not see them. I finally got to the wagon and put up my hand. He took hold of my hand and kissed it. I said, “Joseph, let me hear your voice once more.” Said he, “God bless you, my poor Mother.” They were taken away. They were in bands and irons.46 All this time my son William and his wife were sick.47 Samuel’s wife was sick and some others, and I had them all to take care of.48 After that we had to move.

Joseph then went to the city of Washington.49 It rained three days as hard as it could rain, but we had to travel and nothing to shelter us. I walked 6 miles in the bottom. My clothes were wet so high up I could scarcely walk, and when we got to the Quincy River it snowed, it rained, it hailed.50 We lay our bed on the cold snow and a blanket over us and took off our wet stockings and did the best we could. In the morning the cover was frozen stiff. We could not make a fire for the snow.51 Joseph then went to the city of Washington, as he had a revelation to importune at the governor’s feet and the president’s feet, and the Lord said if they would not heed him he would vex the nation.52 When he got home he preached down between Mr. Durfee’s and the Mansion House. He told the brethren and sisters that he had done all he could for them. Says he, “They are determined we shall not have justice while we stay in Nauvoo.”53 But, says he, “Keep good courage. You shall never suffer for bread as you have done before.” Said he, “All these cases are recorded on earth, and what is recorded here is recorded in heaven.54 Now,” says he, “I am going to lay this case of their taking away our property, etc. I am going to take it up before the highest court in heaven.” He repeated it 3 times. Little did I think he was going to leave us so soon to take this case to heaven. We never could get justice till he took it there.

The Lord has got even the marshal there.55 They know all our sufferings and don’t you think our case is being tried? I think they will do more for us there than they could if they were here. I feel that if every soul would stay at home they would be blessed. I feel as though God is vexing the nation a little here and there, and I feel that the Lord will let Brother Brigham take the people away. I don’t know as I shall go, but if the rest of my family go I will go, and I pray that the Lord may bless the heads of the church, Brother Brigham and all of you, and when I go to another world I want to meet you all. Here lays my dead, my husband and children.56 I want to lay my bones here so that in the resurrection I can raise with my husband and children, if so be that my children go. And I would to God that all my children would go. They will not go without me, and if I go I want to have my bones fetched back to be laid with my husband and children.57

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This Gospel of Glad Tidings to All People, At the Pulpit, accessed July 16, 2024