President Joseph F. Smith, sixth president of the Church, was 8 years old when he left Nauvoo with his widowed mother, Mary Fielding Smith, and a group of other exiled saints.
In Andrew Jenson's Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, an interesting story is recorded about this future prophet's commitment to responsibility. The incident also hints that this child was being saved for a noble calling.Joseph's job on the westward trek was a herd boy, a responsibility he took very seriously, feeling that his mother's cattle were the only means by which they would be able to make their exodus across the great plains. During the saints' stay at Winter Quarters, he was tending the cattle when some Indians suddenly came upon him and his friends with the purpose of driving off the cattle.
"In the exciting chase, two Indians rode up to Joseph F., one on either side of him, and taking hold of his arms lifted him from the saddle. They would probably have scalped him, but for the unexpected appearance of a number of men who were going to the hay field. The Indians suddenly dropped him to the ground, and thus by the aid of Providence his life was saved; his bravery and fidelity to trust saved the cattle."
His mother died shortly after reaching Utah and, at age 14, Joseph was left an orphan. But many years later he recorded: "I have learned that there are a great many things which are far worse than death. With my present feelings and views and the understanding that I have of life and death, I would far rather follow every child I have to the grave in their innocence and purity, than to see them grow up to man and womanhood and degrade themselves by the pernicious practices of the world, forget the gospel, forget God and the plan of life and salvation, and turn away from the only hope of eternal reward and exaltation in the world to come."
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Information compiled by Kellene Ricks.
Sources: LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, by Andrew Jenson; Profiles of the Presidents, by Emerson R. West; The Presidents of the Church, by Preston Nibley; Essentials in Church History, by Joseph Fielding Smith; and Deseret News 1989-1990 Church Almanac.