BETA

'A shared commitment' -- Prophet's ancestors are remembered

Family attended church that's now 350 years old

TOPSFIELD, MASS.

Members of the Arlington Ward choir, Cambridge Massachusetts Stake, were invited to help celebrate the 350th anniversary of the in a special service May 19. Five generations of the Prophet Joseph Smith's ancestors, including his grandfather Asael Smith, worshipped at the church in the northeast Massachusetts town from 1628-1791.

Congregational Church of Topsfield
Congregational Church of Topsfield Photo: Photo by Nancy Dredge

Historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich of the Cambridge First Ward spoke about the Smith family's place in the community during the early years of the Congregational Church. She made special mention of Samuel Smith, Joseph's great-grandfather, who was heavily involved in the community as town meeting moderator and as a representative to the state legislature.

A combined choir composed of members from the Arlington Ward and Topsfield Congregational Church, together with the Topsfield Congregationalist handbell choir, performed at a program celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Topsfield church.
A combined choir composed of members from the Arlington Ward and Topsfield Congregational Church, together with the Topsfield Congregationalist handbell choir, performed at a program celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Topsfield church. Photo: Photo by Nancy Dredge

"I loved the spirit of unity and love that was there that day, that we can be committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and we can celebrate together the things that we have in common," Sister Thatcher Ulrich said in an interview about the anniversary celebration. "There was a sense of what we have in common, which I think is a lovely way to approach this. Not an emphasis on difference, but an emphasis on a shared commitment to God and a shared commitment to love and community and family."

Margaret Moore, Arlington Ward choir director, led the combined choirs in "Oh, What Songs of the Heart," and "Oh Lord, I Would Hear Thy Word." In addition, Bart Dahlstrom, music director of the Topsfield church, performed Bach's "Toccata in D Minor" on the organ and the Topsfield Congregationalist Church Hand Bell choir played Pachelbel's "Canon." The congregation, made up of both Congregationalists and Latter-day Saints, joined in for a rousing rendition of "The Spirit of God."

Arlington Ward Choir members who are descendants of Asael Smith (Joseph Smith's grandfather) visit a marker at the site of the Smith homestead in Topsfield, Mass. From left: Reed Jensen; Hazel, Sarah, and Robert Nichol.
Arlington Ward Choir members who are descendants of Asael Smith (Joseph Smith's grandfather) visit a marker at the site of the Smith homestead in Topsfield, Mass. From left: Reed Jensen; Hazel, Sarah, and Robert Nichol. Photo: Photo by Nancy Dredge

"It was friendly and fun," said Bishop Charles Dredge of the Arlington Ward. "The program was beautifully constructed."

Plaque on the grounds of the Congregational Church explains the Smith family's connection to Topsfield.
Plaque on the grounds of the Congregational Church explains the Smith family's connection to Topsfield. Photo: Photo by Nancy Dredge

Mr. Dahlstrom felt similarly.

"We were delighted to collaborate with the Arlington Ward choir," Mr. Dahlstrom said. "This event was a tribute to all the people who have worshipped at our church over the centuries. We were so happy to have a representation of Mormons to connect us with the Smith family and their influence in the church and in the town."

Choir members were enthusiastic about singing together and the Congregational singers requested a future joint concert at the LDS meetinghouse in Arlington.

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