Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
by Susan L. Fales
Hyrum Smith was born 9 February 1800 in Tunbridge, Orange County, Vermont, to Joseph Smith, Senior and Lucky Mack. He was the second oldest of their ten children, which included Joseph Smith, Junior, who became the Prophet and first president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Hyrum’s father struggled to support his family as a storekeeper, schoolteacher, and farmer. The family moved eight times during their Vermont years, with their homes primarily clustered around the Connecticut River Valley.1 During the years 1811–1815 Hyrum was able to sporadically attend Moor’s Charity School in Hanover, New Hampshire, and gain some basic education. After three crop failures in a row, Joseph Smith, Senior, removed to New York in the summer of 1816, and Lucy and the children followed later.
The two oldest children, Alvin and Hyrum, helped support the family by hiring out as masons, farm laborers, and coopers while at the same time clearing land for the Smith family farm. Joseph Senior and Lucy relied heavily on their oldest sons, and with Alvin’s death in 1823, Hyrum became the main family financial support, along with his father, Joseph Senior. Lucy Mack Smith recalled that on the day of Alvin’s death he called his brother, Hyrum, to his bed and spoke to him, “Hyrum, I must die… . I wish to have you remember. I have done all I could to make our dear parents comfortable. I want you to go on and finish the house and take care of them in their old age.”2
At the age of 26, on 2 November 1826 Hyrum married Jerusha Barden in Manchester, Ontario County, New York; they become the parents of six children, four daughters and two sons. Hyrum experienced much sorrow and loss in his life and this sorrow is poignantly recorded with the death of his daughter, Mary, who was just short of her third birthday. “The 29th of May then I was cald to view a scene which brought unto me sorrow and mourning. Mary was cald from time to a ternity on the 29th Day of May. She expired in mine arms. Such a day I never before expeirance and o may god grant that we may meet her again at the greate day of redemption to part no more.”3 He was later to lose his wife Jerusha on 13 October 1837, eleven days after the birth of their youngest child, Sarah, and his seven year old son and namesake, Hyrum, in 1841. With five small children to raise, he married Mary Fielding in late December 1837, and two children were born to this union.
The Church was to be a constant companion to Hyrum throughout his life. In May 1829, while he was visiting his brother, Joseph in Harmony, Pennsylvania, he received a revelation through his brother which became Section 11 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In that revelation he was directed to “seek not for riches but for wisdom,” and he was commanded to wait for a time to preach the Gospel. “Behold, I command you that you need not suppose that you are called to preach until you are called. Wait a little longer, until you shall have my word, my rock, my church, and my gospel, that you may know of a surety my doctrine.”4
Shortly after this revelation, Hyrum was baptized in June 1829 in Seneca Lake, New York. He was to be one of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, along with his father and his younger brother, Samuel. He was privileged to be at the log home of Peter Whitmer when the Church was organized on 6 April 1830, and signed as one of the six charter members.
In March 1831 he moved with his family and most Church members to Kirtland, Ohio. From Kirtland he served six missions as follows: 14 June, 1831-18 October, 1831 to Jackson County, Missouri; October-November 1831 he travels west with Orson Hyde for preaching and baptizing; 13 December 1831 he traveled eastward with Reynolds Cahoon on a brief mission; 14-27 January 1832 he journeyed westward again with Orson Hyde; 20 November-16 December 1832 he served a mission with his brother, William; and on 26 March 1833 he began a two-week mission to the East, part of it with Orson Hyde.
After moving to Commerce, Illinois, later named Nauvoo, Hyrum was to serve two more missions, one to the east in the summer of 1841 with William Law and again he returned to the east in October-November 1842 with William Law.5 The missions from Kirtland were all taken prior to the establishment of named missions by the Church and formal mission calls, which missionaries later began to receive. There were three formally established missions prior to Hyrum’s death in 1844, with the British Mission, established 20 July 1837; the Eastern States Mission, established 6 May 1839; and the Society Islands Mission (present day Tahiti), established 30 April 1844.
His missions were short, and sometimes with a companion and sometimes without. In his diary entry for 1 November 1831, at the end of his second mission and the beginning of his third mission, Hyrum records his vision of missionary work. “I Hyrum Smith and runnels Cahoon [Reynolds Cahoon] the Decipels [sic] of Jesus Christ being called and chosen of God in these last days in the year of our Lord 1831 to proclaim his everlasting gospel to all nations before the end shall come.”6
He comments on the difficulties of preaching the Gospel and the opposition that he and his companion, Reynolds Cahoon, experienced. As they traveled eastward, they met up with a priest in LeRoy, Lake County, Ohio, and Hyrum had this to say: “traveled til knight in the town of laroy stopt and labored with a Sactorian priest. But his hart was hard and un penetrable and mocked the truths of God. But we bore testimony against him to his own distruction if he deid not repent.”7 This entry also reflects Hyrum’s fluid and phonetic spelling.
In 1838, he shared a jail cell with his brother, Joseph, and five others, in Liberty, Missouri, but after five months they were able to escape. By May 1839 Hyrum had moved his family to Commerce, Illinois, later to be named Nauvoo. Continuing his important Church service, in late 1840 Joseph named Hyrum to be the Presiding Patriarch of the Church in place of their father, who died in September 1840.8
Hyrum was to share another jail cell with his brother, Joseph, this time in Carthage, Illinois, and it proved to be their last. On 27 June 1844, Hyrum, at the age of forty-four, along with his brother, the Prophet Joseph, age thirty-eight, were mobbed and shot. Hyrum was shot first and apparently died instantly.9
Hyrum Smith left a lasting legacy both to his family and his Church. His son from his second marriage to Mary Fielding, Joseph F. Smith, became the sixth president of the Church and his grandson, Joseph fielding Smith, became the tenth president of the Church.
1 Bruce Van Orden, “Hyrum Smith,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992): 4:1329.
2 Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and his Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool: Published for O. Pratt, by S. W. Richards, 1853), 88.
3 Hyrum Smith, “Diaries, 1831–1833, May 29, 1832, Vault MSS 774, vol. 1, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
4 Doctrine and Covenants, Section 11:7, 15-16.
5 Jeffrey S. O’Driscoll, Hyrum Smith: A Life of Integrity (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 396-401.
6 Hyrum Smith, “Diaries,” November 1, 1831, LTPSC.
7 Ibid., December 19, 1831, LTPSC.
8 Doctrine and Covenants, Section 124: 91-91-96.
9 Joseph I. Bentley, “Martyrdrom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1:860-862.
Bentley, Joseph I. “Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.” Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan, 1992, 3:860-862.
Corbett, Pearson H. Hyrum Smith: Patriarch. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1963.
O’Driscoll, Jeffrey S. Hyrum Smith: A Life of Integrity. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003.
Smith, Hyrum. “Diaries, 1831–1833.” Vault MSS 774, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
“Smith, Hyrum.” Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia. Reprint ed. Salt Lake City: Western Epics, 1971, 1:52.
Smith, Lucy Mack. Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and his Progenitors for Many Generations. Liverpool: Published O. Pratt, by S. W. Richards, 1853.
Van Orden, Bruce. “Smith, Hyrum.” Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan, 1992, 4:1329-1331.