Samuel H. Smith honored by family
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There were no crowds to greet Samuel H. Smith upon his departure to his missions in 1830 or to greet him upon his return. But journeys made 175 years ago in general obscurity by the first ordained missionary of this dispensation were not forgotten by a plentiful posterity assembled in his honor in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on June 13.
During special family services, a bronze statue matching the 6-foot 5-inch height of the Prophet Joseph Smith's younger brother was unveiled.
With a knapsack of copies of the Book of Mormon slung over one shoulder, and a Book of Mormon in the other hand, the statue depicts the first missionary embarking on a mission that would eventually lead to baptisms of whole neighborhoods including the families of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball.
"It will be placed in the main corridor of the Provo Missionary Training Center," said Elder M. Russell Ballard in speaking of the statue, "where missionaries going about the campus will be able to see and remember the faith of those missionaries gone before."
The date of the unveiling was carefully chosen to coincide with the day Samuel was called and ordained a missionary by his Prophet brother in 1830. It was about two weeks later, on June 30, that Samuel set off to share his testimony in the countryside around Palmyra.
Five generations of Samuel H. Smith descendants were represented during the hourlong ceremony the largest gathering of Samuel Smith descendants to ever assemble, noted Robert A. Smith, executive director of the Samuel H. Smith Foundation organized in 2002.
"This was a remarkable family," said Elder Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve and a descendant of Hyrum Smith, who, accompanied by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve, presided at the service.
"Think of what the Lord has done to weave together the tapestry of the Restoration," he continued. "It is no small thing that the Lord moved the Smith family to Palmyra where they needed to be, so young Joseph who was prepared for his assignment before the foundation of the world could enter the grove and usher in the Restoration of the gospel."
Elder Ballard described one particularly sorrowful moment when Lucy Mack Smith, the Prophet's mother, stood viewing the lifeless bodies of Joseph and Hyrum as they were lying in state in the Mansion Home in Nauvoo.
Stricken with grief, she pleads, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken us?"
"She hears a voice say, 'I've taken them to myself,' " said Elder Ballard.
About a month later, Samuel died a martyr, possibly from injuries suffered while riding to help Joseph and Hyrum in Carthage Jail.
"These were hard days," Elder Ballard continued. "As martyrs, they witnessed to the world the truthfulness of the gospel with their blood.
"We should never lose sight of the marvel of the Smith family, of which Samuel was such a noble son. Whatever challenges we have, we will meet them some day, face to face. We want to say we did the best we knew how with no excuses.
"I don't think Mother Smith will accept any excuses, anyway," he mused.
In his remarks, Elder Wirthlin said, "History is filled with righteous examples to guide us. The more we learn of them, the more we are certain to reach our eternal destination."
About three years ago, the Samuel H. Smith Foundation approached Dee Jay Bawden, famed sculptor of many Church statues, with the prospects of creating statue.
Brother Bawden already had an image in mind, an image that, though fleeting, had engraved a lasting impression on his mind 25 years earlier.
An article in the September 2002 Ensign by Elder Wirthlin describing Samuel Smith with a Book of Mormon in hand confirmed the idea.
There were no historic pictures or drawings of Samuel Smith to guide Brother Bawden in shaping a face. But archived photos of Samuel's son, Samuel H. B. Smith, who was said to be identical to his father, provided direction.
Brother Bawden said he made numerous attempts to shape the face, but never felt the peace that it was right until he carved the current countenance one that exudes determination and happiness and confidence.
Samuel Smith was the third to be baptized, after Joseph and Oliver Cowdery. He was one of the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon. He assisted in laying the foundation stones for the Kirtland Temple and labored many days in its construction, sometimes working by day and guarding it by night. He served on the high council, and was among the first to arrive in Carthage after the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum, saving their bodies from possible mutilation.
"Samuel Smith was a great man who quietly did great things," said Colin Smith, a descendant, during his tribute.
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