"Upon the family of Hyrum Smith has rested a great responsibility of the carrying on of this great work." — Elder M. Russell Ballard
In a patriarchal blessing given to Hyrum Smith by his father, he was promised, "The righteous shall rise up, and also thy children after thee, and say thy memory is just, that thou wert a just man and perfect in thy day."
In fulfillment of this prophecy, an estimated 3,200 people gathered on Temple Square in Salt Lake City Sunday, Feb. 13, to observe the 200-year anniversary of the birth Feb. 9, 1800, of this loyal elder brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith who was martyred with him in Carthage, Ill., on June 27, 1844.
Filling the Assembly Hall and spilling into overflow areas elsewhere on the square, the gathering was a family reunion of sorts for the descendants of Hyrum and his six children who, out of a total of eight, survived into adulthood. The public was also invited.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, who had not been scheduled on the program, attended with his wife, Marjorie, and responded to an impromptu invitation to speak. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve, a second-great-grandson of Hyrum through President Joseph F. Smith, delivered an address. Elder Eldred G. Smith, 93, emeritus General Authority and president of the Hyrum Smith Family Association, delivered a charge to Hyrum's posterity. Responses were given by representatives of the posterity of each of the six children: Ronda Thompson for Lovina, E. Gary Smith for John, Pamela Alligood for Jerusha, Cherise Clayton for Sarah, Russell Smith Walker for Joseph F., and Carol King for Martha Ann.
Original music written and performed by descendants of Joseph and Hyrum was presented: "Love Is the Master Key," "I Love Him" and "The Light Will Not Go Out."
Appearing in costume and portraying Hyrum, Matthew D. Maddox, a fourth-great-grandson-in-law, delivered a moving monologue, the script for which was written by Vivian M. Adams and drawn from books and historical records.
President Hinckley said, "I'm not a descendant of Hyrum Smith; I'm not a Smith, but I'm a great admirer and one who loves the name of Hyrum, the martyred brother of the Prophet Joseph."
He recalled having dedicated on June 27, 1989, the renovated visitors complex with the monument to Joseph and Hyrum at Carthage Jail, site of the martyrdom. "What a peaceful and delightful place Carthage has become in contrast to that place of great infamy that it was on the day of June 27, 1844, when both of them were killed by an assassin's bullet from a mob with painted faces to cover their identity," he said.
"It was a great honor, a great obligation that rested with Joseph [to open the Restoration of the gospel] and I think he would have had a more difficult time had he not had the absolute loyalty, the love and respect of his older brother, Hyrum, who, in any circumstance, stood by him, defended him, helped him, spoke up for him and assisted in every way possible as he moved forward the work of the founding of this, the Church and Kingdom of the Father."
To the posterity of Hyrum, he said: "There rests upon you a tremendous and binding responsibility to walk in the ways that Hyrum walked with faith in the divinity of this work of the Lord, with love for this great cause, with respect for those who established it and with resolution to do your part to strengthen it in whatever capacity you may be called to serve."
President Hinckley said it is singular that two of Hyrum's posterity, Joseph F. Smith, a son, and Joseph Fielding Smith, a grandson, served in turn as president of the Church. He said he thinks it is an indication of the love the Lord had for Hyrum.
"What a great recognition given by the Lord to the fidelity and strength and faithfulness of this remarkable brother," he commented.
At the outset of his talk, Elder Ballard reported to President Hinckley that Hyrum Smith has an estimated 31,000 living descendants out of a total of 35,000. By comparison, he said, the Prophet Joseph's descendants number between 800 and 900.
"It is also estimated that approximately 6,000 of Hyrum's descendants have served as full-time missionaries," he added. "So upon the family of Hyrum Smith has rested a great responsibility of the carrying on of this great work."
Elder Ballard quoted a number of comments about the character of Hyrum. From President Heber J. Grant: "There is no better example of an older brother's love than that exhibited in the life of Hyrum Smith for the Prophet Joseph Smith . . . . They were as united and as affectionate and as loving as mortal men could be . . . . There never was one particle of jealously in the heart of Hyrum Smith. No mortal man could have been more loyal, more true, more faithful in life or in death than was Hyrum Smith to the Prophet of the living God."
From John Taylor, regarding the moments after the martyrdom: "I had a full view of our beloved and now murdered brother Hyrum. There he lay as I had left him; he had not moved a limb; he lay placid and calm, a monument of greatness even in death; but his noble spirit had left its tenement and was gone to dwell in the regions more congenial to its exalted nature." (History of the Church 7:107.)
From Hyrum's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, who cried in agony, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken this family?" Elder Ballard recounted: "She reported hearing a voice reply, 'I have taken them unto myself that they might have rest.' Then as she looked upon the mortal remains of her two sons, she said, 'I seemed almost to hear them say, "Mother, weep not for us, we have overcome the world by love; we carried to them the gospel, that their souls might be saved; they slew us for our testimony and thus placed us beyond their power; their ascendancy is for a moment, ours is an eternal triumph." ' "
Elder Ballard concluded: "May the Lord bless us, my beloved brothers and sisters and family members, that we may bear the name of Hyrum Smith as his sons and daughters, that we may carry forward this great work in whatever capacity we may be called to serve, that we may do it with the same dignity, with the same strength and courage, that we may do our part so that when that day comes, as it surely will, that each one of us will pass through the veil and we might be embraced by him and that he might smile upon us because we have carried his name as he deserves us to carry it."
Elder Eldred G. Smith, who served as a successor to his second-great-grandfather Hyrum in the position of Patriarch to the Church, quoted from Hyrum's patriarchal blessing given to him by his father, Joseph Smith Sr., and noted that Hyrum was promised his name would "never be blotted out from among the just." That places a responsibility upon descendants, he said, to preserve the legacy of Hyrum by being faithful to the gospel and by performing work for deceased ancestors in the temple.
Elder Smith for years has been caretaker of some artifacts preserved and brought to the Salt Lake Valley by the family. These include a box that was constructed by Hyrum for Joseph to contain the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. The artifacts were on display at the meeting.
Elder Smith noted that BYU has decided to accept the Joseph Smith Sr. family collection, which includes portraits, records, letters, diaries and artifacts. These will be preserved and displayed in a dedicated and secure location, he said.
In the character of Hyrum Smith, Brother Maddox said: "When we went to Carthage, we well supposed that we would not return. Before leaving, Joseph called together those nearest to him and prayed over all his work. In the jail we placed the pictures of our families on the mantle for the comfort their faces would give us to the last. Joseph asked Willard [Richards] and John [Taylor] to come with him to the jail. That I should go with him was my choice, for I could not leave him. That we were willing to live and die for this work has left our enemies astonished and disappointed."
Concluding the portrayal, he held up the back of his hand and pointed to it, saying: "Now, my dear children, you belong to me. Hold out your hands. Do you see the veins through which your blood flows? This is the blood of the prophets, and the martyrs of God. That you may remember and be true is the prayer of your father, Hyrum Smith."
Among reminiscences from the posterity of Hyrum was this from Russel Smith Walker representing the descendants of Joseph F. Smith: Joseph F. was born in Far West, Mo., to Mary Fielding Smith on Nov. 13, 1838, only two weeks after his father, Hyrum, was imprisoned with Joseph and other Church leaders in the squalid jail at Liberty, Mo. Still bedridden from illness, Mary Fielding was allowed to visit the prisoners in jail along with the prophet's wife, Emma. Mary had to be transported in a makeshift bed and covered wagon. During the visit, Hyrum gave a father's blessing to his then 11-week-old son. He also took the opportunity to bless Mary, and her health improved dramatically thereafter.
In 1906, as president of the Church, Joseph F. Smith returned to Nauvoo, Ill. He identified the exact spot where, as a 5-year-old boy, he had stood "when the brethren came riding up on their way to Carthage. Without getting off his horse, father leaned over in his saddle and picked me up off the ground. He kissed me goodbye and put me down again, and I saw him ride away."
Conducting the meeting in the Assembly Hall was Craig R. Frogley, a fourth-great-grandson of Hyrum. He noted that a wreath was placed by family representatives on the Hyrum Smith pylon in the Salt Lake City Cemetery four days earlier on Wednesday, Feb. 9, the day of Hyrum's 200th birthday anniversary. (The actual graves of Hyrum and Joseph are at the family homestead in Nauvoo, Ill.)