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Joseph Smith Sr.

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Joseph Smith Sr.
1st Presiding Patriarch
December 18, 1833 (1833-12-18) – September 14, 1840 (1840-09-14)
Called byJoseph Smith Jr.
SuccessorHyrum Smith
Assistant Counselor in the First Presidency
September 3, 1837 (1837-09-03) – September 14, 1840 (1840-09-14)
Called byJoseph Smith Jr.
Personal details
Born(1771-07-12)July 12, 1771
Topsfield, Province of Massachusetts Bay
DiedSeptember 14, 1840(1840-09-14) (aged 69)
Nauvoo, Illinois, United States
Resting placeSmith Family Cemetery
40°32′25.98″N 91°23′31.06″W / 40.5405500°N 91.3919611°W / 40.5405500; -91.3919611 (Smith Family Cemetery)
Spouse(s)Lucy Mack
Children11, including:
Alvin Smith
Hyrum Smith
Joseph Smith Jr.
Samuel H. Smith
William Smith
Katharine Smith
Don Carlos Smith

Joseph Smith Sr. (July 12, 1771 – September 14, 1840) was the father of Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement. Joseph Sr. was also one of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, which Mormons believe was translated by Smith Jr. from golden plates. In 1833, Smith Sr. was named the first patriarch of the Church of Christ (which was renamed to the Church of the Latter Day Saints[1] in 1834 and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints[2][3] in 1838). Joseph Sr. was also a member of the First Presidency of the church.

Early life[edit]

Smith was born on July 12, 1771, in Topsfield, Massachusetts, to Asael Smith and Mary Duty. He married Lucy Mack in Tunbridge, Vermont, on January 26, 1796, and had 11 children with her.[4] Details of Smith’s paternal line go back to his 3rd great-grandfather Robert Smith from Lincolnshire, England who settled in Massachusetts colony during the Puritan migration.[5] Some previous DNA testing on Smith’s descendants had revealed some Irish roots.[6]

Smith tried his hands at several occupations, including farmer, teacher, and shop-keeper, none of which proved very successful.[4] He moved his family to Palmyra, New York, in 1816 and began to make payments on a farm located on the edge of neighboring Manchester Township. He was raised to the degree of Master Mason on May 7, 1818, in Ontario Lodge No. 23 of Canandaigua, New York.[citation needed] In the Palmyra–Manchester area, Smith and his sons were involved in a number of treasure digging excavations in the 1820s.[7]

Work on a frame house at the farm was halted by the unexpected death of Smith's eldest son, Alvin, in 1823. Smith subsequently failed to make payments on the farm.[4] Lemuel Durfee purchased it as a favor to the family and allowed the Smiths to continue there as renters until 1830.

Though a spiritual man, Smith showed little interest in organized religion prior to his son Joseph reporting his visions to the family. He was content to allow his wife control over the religious upbringing of their children. This indifference bothered Lucy very much. After much prayer, she said she had received a divine witness that her husband would some day accept "the pure and undefiled Gospel of the Son of God."[8]

Smith professed that he had visionary dreams with highly symbolic content, perhaps related to his ambivalence about religious faith and sometimes presaging events to come. These dreams continued after the family's move to Palmyra until he had had seven in all; Lucy remembered five well enough to quote in detail.[9]

Book of Mormon[edit]

Bell used by Smith when he was a school teacher. Located at the Church History Museum

In the late 1820s, Smith's son, Joseph Jr., began to tell the family about golden plates, which he said contained a record of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. In September 1827, Joseph Jr. said he obtained the plates. In the following years, Joseph Jr. said he translated the plates into English through the use of a seer stone, which he found previously during a treasure digging expedition, as well as the Urim and Thummim, a device given to him by the angel Moroni. When the work was near completion, at the end of June 1829, Joseph Sr. and seven other men signed a joint statement, testifying that they had both lifted the plates and seen the engravings on the plates. Known as the "Testimony of the Eight Witnesses", this statement was published with the first edition of the Book of Mormon and has been a part of nearly all subsequent editions.

Smith was baptized when the Church of Christ was formally organized on April 6, 1830. When Joseph Jr. saw Joseph Sr. come up out of the water, he is reported to have cried, "Oh! My God I have lived to see my own father baptized into the true church of Jesus Christ!"[10]

Presiding Patriarch[edit]

In January 1831, Smith and his family moved to the church's new headquarters in Kirtland, Ohio. He was ordained to be the church's first Presiding Patriarch on December 18, 1833.

In reference to his father's role as patriarch of the church, Joseph Jr. likened his father to Adam, the first biblical patriarch: "So shall it be with my father; he shall be called a prince over his posterity, holding the keys of the patriarchal priesthood over the kingdom of God on earth, even the Church of the Latter Day Saints".[11]

As part of his new role, Smith presided in council meetings and administered patriarchal blessings.

On September 3, 1837, Smith was also made an Assistant Counselor to his son in the First Presidency of the church.

Deathbed blessings[edit]

Grave of Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith

Smith moved with his family to Far West, Missouri, in 1838 and from there to the church's new headquarters at Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1839. Old age and illnesses had taken their toll and by the end of summer 1840, Smith realized he was dying. He called his family around him to administer patriarchal blessings.

He blessed his wife: "Mother, do you not know that you are the mother of as great a family as ever lived upon the earth. ... They are raised up to do the Lord's work".[12] He blessed and ordained his eldest surviving son, Hyrum to succeed to the office of Presiding Patriarch by right of lineage.

Smith died in Nauvoo on September 14, 1840.



  1. ^ "Minutes of a Conference", Evening and Morning Star, vol. 2, no. 20, p. 160.
  2. ^ Manuscript History of the Church, LDS Church Archives, book A-1, p. 37; reproduced in Dean C. Jessee (comp.) (1989). The Papers of Joseph Smith: Autobiographical and Historical Writings (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book) 1:302–03.
  3. ^ H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters (1994). Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books) p. 160. ISBN 1-56085-108-2
  4. ^ a b c Anderson, A. Gary (1992). Encyclopedia of Mormonism: Smith, Joseph Sr (1 ed.). Macmillan Publishing Company; 1st edition (1992). ISBN 978-0028796055. Archived from the original on October 22, 2016. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  5. ^ Mays, Kenneth (July 17, 2019). "Picturing history: Robert Smith and Kirton, Lincolnshire, England". deseret. Retrieved September 24, 2022.
  6. ^ Mays, Kenneth (July 17, 2019). "Picturing history: Robert Smith and Kirton, Lincolnshire, England". deseret. Retrieved September 25, 2022.
  7. ^ Dan Vogel, "The Location of Joseph Smith's Early Treasure Quests", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 27(3) (1994): 197–231.
  8. ^ Smith, 56.
  9. ^ Smith
  10. ^ Bushman, 110.
  11. ^ Bates and Smith, p. 34.
  12. ^ Smith, chap. 52


Also known as
Church of the Latter Day Saints and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
First Presiding Patriarch
December 18, 1833 (1833-12-18) - September 14, 1840 (1840-09-14)
Succeeded by
Assistant Counselor in the First Presidency
September 3, 1837 (1837-09-03) – September 14, 1840 (1840-09-14)
Served alongside: Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, and John Smith
Succeeded by