History of Joseph Smith by His Mother

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Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations
Biographical Sketches title page.jpg
Title page of the first edition in 1853.
Author Lucy Mack Smith
Country England
Language English
Subject Joseph Smith
Genre Biography
Publisher Published for Orson Pratt by S. W. Richards
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 297 pp

History of Joseph Smith by His Mother is a biography of Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, according to his mother, Lucy Mack Smith. It was originally titled Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations and was published by Orson Pratt in Liverpool in 1853.


Shortly following the death of Joseph Smith in 1844, and into 1845, Lucy Mack Smith dictated her recollections and family story to Nauvoo schoolteacher Martha Jane Coray. Coray worked with her husband to compile these books of notes and other sources into a manuscript, which was then copied.

One copy was given to Brigham Young, and the other stayed with Lucy Smith in Nauvoo. Eventually, LDS Apostle Orson Pratt obtained Lucy's copy and published it in 1853, to great controversy.[1]

Brigham Young's opposition[edit]

After its publication, Brigham Young declared the book to be a "tissue of lies" and wanted corrections made.[2] In the Millennial Star in 1855, he said,

There are many mistakes in the work… I have had a written copy of those sketches in my possession for several years, and it contains much of the history of the Prophet Joseph. Should it ever be deemed best to publish these sketches, it will not be done until after they are carefully corrected.[3]

In 1865, Young ordered the church members to have their copies destroyed. There was no "corrected" version until the church published a 1901 serialization and 1902 book, which were done under the direction of Joseph F. Smith, Lucy’s grandson.[1]

Later historians theorized that Young opposed the book because of his own conflicts with its publisher, Orson Pratt,[4] as well as the book's favorable references to William Smith, Young's opponent and Lucy's son.[2] Lucy Smith portrayed the Smith family as the legitimate leaders of the church, which Young may also have seen as a challenge to his leadership.[5]


LDS historian Leonard Arrington saw the book as "informative, basically accurate, and extremely revealing of Joseph Smith's early life and family background," and felt it "perhaps tells more about Mormon origins than any other single source.[4] Richard L. Anderson called it one of "the essential sources for Mormon origins."[5] Non-Mormon historian Jan Shipps identifies this history as being "of central importance in the Mormon historical corpus."[6]


The book has been republished several times, under various publishers, editors and titles. The following is a list of editions with significant changes to the text or title.


  1. ^ a b Anderson, Lavina Fielding (2001). "The Textual History of Lucy's Book". Lucy's Book. Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  2. ^ a b (Shipps 1987, p. 91)
  3. ^ "Preface". Joseph Smith, The Prophet And His Progenitors For Many Generations. Retrieved 2008-07-03. 
  4. ^ a b (Shipps 1987, p. 100)
  5. ^ a b (Shipps 1987, p. 105)
  6. ^ (Shipps 1987, p. 92)


Shipps, Jan (1987). Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-01417-0.