Family history moments: Aloha, Uncle Alma

In 2003, while studying for a work-related project in Hawaii, I stumbled across the name of a great-great-uncle, Alma L. Smith, the 7-year-old boy whose hip was brutally shot away during the Haun's Mill Massacre of 1838. I had grown up hearing of his miraculous healing through the mighty faith of his mother, my ancestor, Amanda Barnes Smith, but I had never heard the rest of his remarkable story.

Further research revealed that in spite of his severe childhood injury, he served not one but four missions, including three to Hawaii. He served first on the island of Maui not long after the legendary Pukuniahi (George Q. Cannon), and at the pioneer settlement on the island of Lanai when the missionaries were called home during the Utah War of 1857-58.

In 1864, he was part of a group — including former missionary to Hawaii Joseph F. Smith — sent by Brigham Young to re-establish the mission. It was at the harbor in Lahaina, Maui, that Alma L. Smith helped William W. Cluff resuscitate apostle Lorenzo Snow when he nearly drowned. Uncle Alma presided briefly over the Hawaiian Mission in 1864 just before the Church purchased 6,000 acres for a new gathering place at Laie. He stayed there several years with his family to help establish the sugar cane plantation.

Alma returned again to Hawaii as mission president in 1874 and wrote of many memorable experiences, including a visit with King Kalakaua at the palace in Honolulu.

Finally, he served a fourth mission in England with his younger brother, my ancestor, Warren B. Smith, who told his family that Alma "could proselyte all day long without a limp."

As I face my own challenges and search for more family records, I am strengthened by the serendipitous discovery of a great uncle whose righteous example inspires me to respond with faith to the adversities of life.

— Liz Thomas, Oak Hills 7th Ward, Provo Utah Oak Hills Stake.

Sources: Britsch, R. Lanier, Moramona: The Mormons in Hawaii (Laie, Hawaii: Institute for Polynesian Studies, 1998), pp. 56-57, 61, 74, 88. Smith, Alma L., "Correspondence from Laie, Oahu, Sandwich Islands," Nov. 11, 1875, published in the Deseret News, Dec. 22, 1875.

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