The Smith Family Legacy of Prayer

Daniel R. Winder, “The Smith Family Legacy of Prayer,” Selections from the Religious Education Student Symposium 2007 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2007), 18–34.

The Smith Family Legacy of Prayer

Daniel R. Winder


“And they [parents] . . . shall also teach their children to pray” (D&C 68:28).


The Lord’s hand can be seen as He performed the precursor to His marvelous work and wonder by nurturing doctrines of divine communication within the Smith family ancestry. Many of the Prophet Joseph’s ancestral teachings on the subject of divine communication, particularly prayer, were passed on through oral traditions and stories. Most of these teachings would have been handed down in family conversations and day-to-day devotionals. However, some of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s ancestral legacies of prayer were written down in letters, wills, and personal biographies. Although many of Joseph Smith’s ancestors did not associate with an established religious tradition, they left a legacy of prayer that ran deep. While not uncommon for the day, these prayerful experiences fostered a family tradition where sacred visionary experiences could be invoked through the power of prayer and were acceptable vernacular to be shared within family circles.

Solomon Mack and Lydia Gates Mack

The Prophet Joseph Smith’s maternal grandfather, Solomon Mack, converted to the Church late in his life. In the winter of 1810–11, at the age of seventy-nine, he began to search the Bible for the first time. Although he had lived a principled life, his writings express deep regret at not developing a relationship with God through prayer nor following his counsels as he felt he ought to: “I was in distress, that sleep departed from my eyes; and I literally watered my pillow with tears, that I prayed eagerly that God would have mercy on me, that he would relieve me and open the eyes of my understanding and enable me to call on him as I ought.”[1]

During this time of awakening in his life, Solomon prayed that the Lord would remove his pain of rheumatism, if only for one night. He was miraculously healed of the intense physical pain and testified that Christ’s promises regarding prayer are true: “And I rejoiced in the God of my salvation—and found Christ’s promises verified that what things soever ye ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. . . . Christ would fulfil all his promises, and not one jot or tittle would fail.”[2] Even more miraculous was his “personal deliverance” from the guilt of former years and his new disposition in life. “Everything appeared new and beautiful. Oh how I loved my neighbors. How I loved my enemies—I could pray for them. Everything appeared delightful. The love of Christ is beautiful.”[3]

Solomon continued to pray during this winter conversion period of his life and had many spiritual manifestations including seeing bright lights, hearing the voice of God, and being freed from the guilt of his former years. He became an avid preacher of the gospel in his remaining nine years of life before passing away in 1820. In the History of the Town of Gilsum, he is remembered as one who “experienced a very remarkable religious conversion, and became very zealous, often visiting the schools and talking to the young on the subject of religion.”[4] Solomon certainly would have been an advocate for the idea that prayer opens the windows of divine communication. His feelings and teachings on prayer can best be summarized from one line of his autobiography: “We aged parents have a Father to go to and to guide us if we will but obey and hearken to his calls.”[5]

From this marvelous conversion one can see that Solomon would have passed on one of the most important beliefs for young Joseph Smith to know—whatsoever things you ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive (see Matthew 7:7–11). Solomon could have testified that he asked and received the following things in his final decade of life: mercy, understanding, relief from affliction, health, love for his enemies, and relief from personal regrets.

Although one source indicates that Solomon was known for his preaching late in life,[6] Solomon attributed his children’s secular and religious education to his wife, Lydia Gates Mack. She was the daughter of Congregationalist deacon Daniel Gates and was a very accomplished schoolteacher. In fact, Solomon referred to her as the only religious instructor in his life. In contrast to her husband, Lydia lived a life full of religious devotion. She would call the family together both morning and evening, “teaching them to pray, meanwhile urging upon them the necessity of love towards each other as well as devotional feelings towards him who made them.”[7] The Gates children’s religious habits and happiness were attributed to their mother’s teachings. “Solomon added that all the flowery eloquence of the pulpit” could not have been as effective as his wife’s influence, which included prayers that “came up daily before that all-seeing eye that rests upon all his works.”[8] Solomon treasured her and referred to her as “truly a pearl of great price.”[9]

Surely Solomon and Lydia Smith’s teachings on prayer and religious devotion influenced their children. Lucy’s oldest brother, Jason, became a Seeker at the young age of fifteen. Although he did not believe that Christ’s true church was then on the earth, he developed a religious conviction that the ancient gifts of the gospel (such as divine healing) could be tapped into by the power of prayer and faith. Jason became so gifted that his healing talents were requested by persons hundreds of miles away. Several years later he wrote in a letter to his brother Solomon Jr.: “I have seen the almost lifeless clay slowly but surely resuscitated, and revive, till the pallid monster fled so far that the patient was left in the full bloom of vigorous health. But it is God that hath done it, and to him let all the praise be given.”[10]

Joseph Smith Jr.’s uncle Jason was not the only Mack who reported a strong faith in the power of prayer and divine healing. When Lucy was a young child, her older sister Lovisa was miraculously healed from near death by the faith and prayers of herself and family. After her recovery, Lovisa testified that she had seen the world of spirits and even the Savior through a thin veil. The Savior told her that she needed to return and warn the people of her day to be watchful, prayerful, and to know of “the certainty of their being called to stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”[11] Lovisa died three years later.

The Mack family also viewed prayer as a tool for a change of heart. Lovina, another older sister, died of consumption, the same illness as Lovisa. Just before her death, she testified how a prayer at a young age had invoked a forgiveness of her sins and influenced her change of heart. “I do not know when I received any material change of heart,” she declared, “unless it was when I was ten years old. God at that time heard my prayers, and forgave my sins; and ever since then I have endeavored to serve him according to the best of my abilities.”[12] The Mack family legacy of prayer also included the doctrine that prayer can invoke divine protection. Lucy’s older brother Stephen fought in many battles of the Revolutionary War. He attributed his safety, deliverance, and dependence to the hand of God during this phase of his life.[13]

Surely this legacy of prayer was also passed on to their youngest daughter, Lucy. Lucy Mack Smith may have used her siblings’ examples to illustrate that prayer, among other things, can initiate divine healings. Many fervent mothers will refer to the experiences of righteous uncles, aunts, and grandparents to teach the gospel to their children. The Mack legacy of prayer could have been used to teach the doctrines that they should pray regularly for mercy, for understanding, for forgiveness, for health and healing, for their enemies, for divine protection, and for a change of heart. In addition, prayer could have been emphasized as a tool to open divine communications, visions, and even personal visits from the Savior Himself. This legacy also would have emphasized that when a miracle happens through prayer, we should give God the glory.

Although the Prophet Joseph Smith might have heard some of this family legacy from other people, it should also be noted that Joseph Sr. and Lucy lived near her parents for quite some time during the early years of Joseph Jr.’s life. In fact, the place where Joseph Smith Jr. was born was originally owned by Solomon Mack. Joseph Jr. even recalls in his writings that his grandfathers diffused certain values into his soul as “they dandled me on their knees.”[14] It doesn’t require a keen imagination to view Grandfather Mack holding his six-year-old grandson on his knee and asking, “Joseph, did I ever tell you about the time God answered my prayers?” After all, it was reported that Solomon enthusiastically shared his remarkable conversion with grandchildren.[15]

Asael and Mary Duty Smith

Asael Smith taught his children the importance of a personal relationship with the Lord. Although he did not attend church avidly, a few lines of his teachings on prayer were preserved in a letter that he intended to be read to his posterity upon his death. In these writings we can see what was important to Asael and thus what he would have undoubtedly taught his children, including his third son, Joseph Smith Sr.

Although Asael was somewhat jovial in nature, the letter included an admonition that when a person prays or makes any sort of address to God that he “be in good earnest.”[16] Webster’s 1828 dictionary definition of to be in earnest is “to be really urging or stretching towards an object; intent on a pursuit.”[17] Thus, Asael would have emphasized to his children that when a person speaks with God he or she ought to be in “earnest” pursuit of Him, or, to use a familiar phrase, to pray with “real intent” (Moroni 10:4). The point is further emphasized in his letter a few lines later as he admonishes his posterity not to “trifle” with the Lord (see D&C 6:12; 8:10; 32:5).[18] Although Asael had a keen sense of humor, his counsel seems to illustrate a deep respect for deity and a steadfast belief that when one talks with God he or she is on holy ground (see Exodus 3:5).

The closest example of an actual prayer from Asael’s writings comes from a letter in which he mentions “beseeching God”[19] on behalf of his wife, Mary, that the Almighty might keep her in His ways. He counseled her: “Put your whole trust solely [in him. He neve]r did nor never will forsake any that trusted in him.”[20] Such words reveal a faithful, loving husband who beseeched God in behalf of his wife and family. Undoubtedly Asael would have taught the importance of praying for one’s family.

An additional doctrine of prayer that Asael’s writings emphasize is the importance of God’s loving parental relationship with His children—a doctrine Jesus emphasized when teaching about prayer (see Matthew 7:9–11). According to Asael, “‘His love is ten thousand times greater towards you than ever any earthly father’s could [be] to his offspring.’”[21]

In addition to understanding the love of God for His children, Asael also wrote of the importance of Jesus’s role as the only “mediator between God and man”[22] as if he were quoting 1 Timothy 2:5–6. In fact, much of Asael’s writings to his children focus on the doctrine of grace—an important principle of prayer. His writings also focus on mankind’s duty to “search the scriptures and consult sound [reas]on,” which God has given them for evidence when seeking truth.[23]

Asael’s wife, Mary Duty Smith, sustained her husband in his efforts to teach the importance of prayer. The only written account of her praying was recorded at the end of her life when she petitioned the Lord for her final desire, “‘that she might live to see her children and grandchildren once more.’”[24] From this we can glean that she taught her children to pray for what they most desired, if it were a righteous desire. Mary was able to see all but one of them as she made the five-hundred-mile trip to Kirtland in May of 1836. Poor health prevented her anticipated baptism, and less than two weeks after her arrival, she left mortality, seeing a multitude of heavenly beings right before she died.[25]

There is no doubt that these faithful parents certainly influenced their son Joseph Smith Sr. Their doctrinal teachings on prayer derived from their life and writings can be summarized as follows: God is our Father with whom we can commune. Jesus is our mediator with the Father. We should pray with real intent. We should pray with solemnity of mind. It is appropriate to pray in behalf of family, ask for blessings, and ask for our righteous desires to be fulfilled. We should use the scriptures and faculties of reasoning to find solutions to religious matters. Prayer should always be done in a respectful manner. Perhaps the most important doctrine of divine communication that Asael passed on to his posterity was that one can approach God in prayer independent of any organized religion. Surely this ideology was ingrained deep into the soul of Joseph Smith Jr. and prefaced the ability for him to believe that he could seek God and find truth for himself.

Joseph Smith Sr.

The Smiths’ and Macks’ doctrinal teachings on prayer were based on experience rather than on a religious dogma. This is especially evident in Joseph Smith Sr. His biblical readings and his own life experiences served to solidify a rejection of the false creeds and philosophies of the day.

Joseph Smith Sr. inherited much of his father’s philosophy about religion and morality. Formal religious practice was not encouraged, but the Golden Rule and philanthropist philosophy were practiced. He did not seek formal worship as much as his wife did, although he did provide religious leadership in his home.

Joseph Sr. led his family in daily devotions, and Lucy actively supported him. Father Smith’s son William recalled, “[We] always had family prayer since I can remember.”[26] When Joseph Sr. would reach for his glasses it was a signal for family prayer. “And if we did not notice it, mother would say, ‘William,’ or whoever was the negligent one, ‘get ready for prayer.’”[27] William also reports that daily devotionals involved singing a hymn—a form of prayer (see D&C 25:12)—usually while kneeling. “My parents, father and mother, poured out their souls to God, the donor of all blessings, to keep and guard their children, and keep them from sin and from all evil works.”[28]

Even though Joseph Sr. was somewhat skeptical of the churches of his day, he possessed a gift of spirituality. In fact, he experienced seven inspired dreams prior to his son’s First Vision. From these visions we learn that Father Smith knew that the kingdom of God was not to be found on the earth at that time,[29] that he desired his family to partake of salvation, that he had heavenly messengers declare him to be “strictly honest in all [his] dealings,”[30] and that he only lacked one thing—”to secure [his] salvation.” [31]

His sixth dream tells the most of Father Smith’s prayerful habits prior to the First Vision. In this dream he found his flesh wasting away at the Day of Judgment. He was praying earnestly for admittance into a shut door of the building where he was to be judged. He was asked if he had done all that was necessary to obtain admission. He replied that he did all that he knew how to do. The porter then told him that justice must be satisfied before mercy could have her claim. “It then occurred to me to call upon God, in the name of his Son Jesus; and I cried out, in the agony of my soul, ‘Oh, Lord God, I beseech thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, to forgive my sins.’ After which I felt considerably strengthened and I began to mend. The porter or angel then remarked that it was necessary to plead the merits of Jesus, for he was the advocate with the Father, and a Mediator between God and man.”[32] This dream reflects the most of Father Smith’s pre–First Vision teachings on prayer. He would have taught his children to pray earnestly, to pray for forgiveness and for help in applying the Atonement of Christ, and to believe that Jesus was the only mediator between God and man.

Joseph Smith Sr. “believed in a personal God who would answer prayers”[33] and who would reveal His will through visions and dreams.[34] The fact that Father Smith shared these visions shows that he taught his children to believe that God can communicate with man. This fostered an identity where the Smiths could declare themselves to be a visionary family. Hyrum told Solomon Chamberlain, “Yes, we are a visionary house.”[35] Further, by sharing his visions he created a safe environment in the home where sacred things could be shared. It is not surprising that the first person Moroni commanded the young Joseph Smith Jr. to share his vision with was his father. Lucy reported that Moroni promised Joseph Jr. that his father would “believe every word” of the vision.[36] Upon hearing Joseph’s account of the vision, Father Smith declared that the vision “was of God” (JS—H 1:50)—evidence that God had prepared both father and son for divine communication.

Most of what we know about Joseph Smith Sr.’s prayerful habits comes after the Restoration. For example, Robert B. Thompson reports that Joseph Sr. spent a lot of solitary time in the Kirtland Temple praying in the early morning, which led to visions.[37] Eliza Snow wrote that he would conduct Thursday prayer meetings at the temple in the evenings as well. During one of these prayer meetings, he “prayed that the Spirit of God might be poured out as on the day of pentecost,” which he was granted.[38] It was during one of these meetings that Father Smith counseled the unconverted Lorenzo Snow: “Well, . . . do not worry, but pray to the Lord and satisfy yourself; study the matter over, compare the scriptures with what we are teaching; talk with the brethren that you are acquainted with, and after a time you will be convinced that ‘Mormonism’ is of God, and you will be baptized.”[39] Lorenzo Snow later reported that Father Smith was the most influential person in his conversion.

To hear Father Smith pray “was to hear honest, simple faith clothed with words.”[40] Mosiah Hancock wrote of a prayer he heard from Father Smith. The words describe a man of gratitude, but what is more telling is Father Smith’s emotional reaction as he prayed over a simple meal of corn. As he prayed “tears streamed down the cheeks of the grateful Patriarch.”[41] Truly, Father Smith taught his children to express gratitude in their prayers.

In addition to expressing gratitude, Father Smith recognized the need to pray for help in his calling as patriarch of the Church. It was a common thing for Father Smith to ask the Lord to put thoughts into his head as he began a patriarchal blessing. “‘I lay my hands upon thy head in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, not knowing at this time what I shall say unto thee,’ but praying that the Lord will ‘inspire my heart and give me knowledge of those things which shall befall thee in time, and also of those blessings which he has determined to bestow upon thee, if thou art faithful.’” [42]

Father Smith was also known to solve family differences by bringing the offending siblings together and beginning the healing process by offering a prayer. In 1835, Joseph Jr. and a jealous brother, William, were the subjects of Father Smith’s mediation. Joseph wrote of the prayer offered up by his father: “Father Smith expressed himself on the occasion in a very feeling and pathetic manner, even with all the sympathy of a father, whose feelings were deeply wounded on account of the difficulty that was existing in the family.”[43] In consequence of the prayer and the counsel that followed, hearts “were melted,” the problem was solved, and promises were made between the offending parties and their hopeful father.

When Father Smith prayed, God listened and responded to his requests. During the persecutions of Missouri, Father Smith left his home and possessions (upon the Prophet Joseph’s request). He was in his sixties, he was sick at the time, and he had to travel on foot. On the third day of traveling, cold rain, then sleet, then snow enshrouded his small band. He approached the owner of a farm to plead with him to let the group camp there for the night and buy feed for their animals. The man angrily threatened to drive the travelers away, cursing them. The small band gathered in the road, snow falling all about them. Father Smith removed his hat and prayed that the Lord would curse the man for his blatant mistreatment of those in desperate need. The following house received them kindly, and Father Smith left a blessing with them. Brother Sessions was in attendance then, and he passed by those same farms two years later. The farm that Father Smith blessed was flourishing, while the other’s fields were desolate. The orchards had been broken down, and the farmhouse burned to the ground. He learned that the man’s family had been in the home when it was burned, and everyone in it had died. In addition, the uncompassionate farmer who lived there had gone insane. When Father Smith prayed, God listened. However, it should be noted that God was the enforcer of the blessing and cursing.[44]

Father Smith concluded his life by saying, “I have never denied the Lord. . . . The Lord has often visited me in visions and dreams, and has brought me, with my family, through many afflictions, and I this day thank his holy name.”[45] Such was the gratitude and legacy of prayer and divine communications that Father Smith passed on to his children.

Lucy Mack Smith

Lucy’s writings tell the most of the legacy of prayer that was practiced in the Smith home prior to the Restoration. Her own experiences reflect one who was truly converted to the power of prayer. As far as we know, she was the first person Joseph spoke to after he spoke with God.

As noted, Lucy grew up in a home of prayer. Her remarkable experiences with prayer began after the death of her sister Lovina, and she felt herself in a state of serious depression. She moved and sought “a change of heart” through prayer and Bible study and seeking Christ’s church as spoken of in the New Testament.[46] During this searching period of her life, she met, fell in love with, and married Joseph Smith Sr.

Six years after marrying Joseph Smith Sr., Lucy became seriously ill with consumption (tuberculosis), the same illness that had previously taken the lives of her older sisters. Her husband wept at her bedside as he told her that all the doctors had reported that she could not live. Calling on the power of prayer, Lucy pleaded with the Lord to spare her life so she could raise her family (consisting of three children): “I made a solemn covenant with God that if He would let me live I would endeavor to serve him according to the best of my abilities. Shortly after this I heard a voice say to me, ‘Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Let your heart be comforted; ye believe in God, believe also in me.’”[47]

Her prayers were immediately answered, and she was miraculously healed. The Lord told her that she would live so as “to be a comfort to” her mother, husband, and children.[48] The Mack family line had experienced yet another miraculous healing invoked by the power of faith and prayer.

Her own miraculous recovery only increased her desire to find Christ’s true Church. She referred to her “anxiety of mind” as she searched for a church that matched what she read in the Bible.[49] She found, however, that all the churches of her day were unlike “the Church of Christ in former days.”[50] She also mentions that she herself spent much of her time praying “‘to obtain from God that which man could neither give nor take away.’”[51] In her biblical quest for the true church, she reported, “I will endeavor to obtain if it is to be had by diligence in prayer.”[52] During this time of searching, she gave birth to her fifth child, Joseph Smith Jr. While she herself was searching, Lucy made every endeavor to teach her children the importance of seeking for their “souls’ salvation.”[53]

During this time Asael Smith and his son Jesse became angry because Joseph Sr. and Lucy attended Methodist meetings. Realizing that neither he nor Lucy were truly converted to Methodism, Father Smith thought it better to stop going to the Methodist meetings than to raise family quarrels. Lucy was disappointed at this and went out in a grove of trees and prayed. This practice of praying in nature was often practiced by the Smith family; for they had “designated a special spot in the neighboring groves where the family would retire for ‘offering up their secret devotions to God.’”[54] As Lucy prayed for her husband, she had a remarkable vision where she was shown that her husband would one day believe and join the true church, while her unbelieving brother-in-law would not. Jesse was the only of Asael’s children who bitterly condemned Joseph Jr.’s visions and revelations.

In addition to the gift of visions, the gift of healing was also known in the Smith family line. It is no surprise that Lucy invoked the powers of prayer when her daughter Sophronia had typhoid fever in 1811. This fever “swept the upper Connecticut valley leaving six thousand people dead.”[55] As with today, the aged and the young are most susceptible to disease, so the Smith children soon fell ill. Joseph’s next oldest sibling, his sister Sophronia, contracted this sickness for three months and nearly died. After all the physicians could do, it appeared that the child would pass away. Lucy recalls seeing the hue of death on her daughter’s motionless body and the “last shade of life.” Father and Mother Smith “fell upon our knees by the bedside and poured our grief and supplications into his ears who hath numbered the hair upon our heads. Did the Lord hear our petition? He did hear us. And I felt assured that he would answer our prayers.”[56] As they arose, their daughter ceased to breathe. Lucy held her child close and paced the floor, ignoring the comments of lost hope, lost sanity, and lost life. “Notwithstanding, I would not, for a moment, relinquish the hope of again seeing her breathe and live. My reader, are you a parent? Place yourself in the same situation. Are you a mother who has ever been in like circumstances? Feel for your heartstrings. Can you tell me how I felt with my expiring child strained to my bosom, which thrilled with all a mother’s love, a mother’s tender yearnings for her own offspring? Would you then feel to deny that God had power to save to the uttermost all who call on him? I did not then and I do not now.”[57]

Miraculously, Sophronia began to breathe again. Lucy reported that her strength was gone, her soul was satisfied, and she was “overpowered by a swell of feeling.” [58] Twenty years later, Father Smith gave Sophronia a priesthood blessing that again healed her while on the verge of death.[59] She lived to be seventy-three.

The Smiths’ legacy of prayer strengthened as Joseph was infected with the same fever as Sophronia. A complication known as osteomyelitis, a bone disease, settled in Joseph’s leg and later led to four surgeries. The most notable one was performed by Dr. Nathan Smith of Dartmouth Medical College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Joseph refused to drink brandy wine, which would have numbed his pain, and asked that only his father hold him. This surgery would determine whether the young boy’s leg would have to be amputated. As Joseph underwent this painful surgery, “his mother walked and prayed among the trees of the farm.”[60] The power of prayer was experienced again in the Smith home as Joseph Jr. miraculously recovered, once again showing the healing effects of prayer and the power of a mother’s faith.

The Smith family attributed their recovery to the hand of God. Lucy wrote, “After one whole year of affliction, we were able once more to look upon our children and each other in health, and I assure you, my gentle reader, we realized the blessing, for I believe we felt more to acknowledge the hand of God in preserving our lives through such a desperate siege of disease, pain, and trouble than if we had enjoyed health and prosperity during the interim.”[61]

Mother Smith often prayed for her children’s protection and comfort and their lives were blessed because of it. The most notable instance of this was when Joseph and Hyrum were struck with cholera during Zion’s Camp. Hyrum had a vision where he saw Mother Smith praying for them. He arose to his feet and told Joseph that they would be healed because their mother was praying for them.[62]

Mother Smith remained a woman of prayer throughout her life. She once said to a party of women, “‘I have never prayed for the riches of this world.’”[63] However, she considered herself a rich woman in terms of spiritual blessings. Her husband paid his final tribute to her in the following manner: “Mother, do you not know . . . that you are the mother of as great a family as ever lived upon the earth?”[64] He counseled his children, then continued, “‘Mother, do you not know, that you are one of the most singular women in the world?’ Lucy replied that she did not, so Father Smith reaffirmed his conviction: ‘Well I do,’ he said, and then summarized the spirit of her calling: ‘you have brought up my children for me by the fireside, and when I was gone from home, you comforted them. You have brought up all my children, and could always comfort them when I could not.’” [65] A mother’s influence over her children’s religious habits is tremendous.


Joseph Smith Jr. grew up hearing of his family’s legacy of faith and prayer. Undoubtedly, he would have listened to his grandparents’ and parents’ specific experiences with God through prayer. In addition, a religious excitement spread throughout the community, and well-intentioned church leaders would have influenced him. The biblical teachings of a loving Heavenly Father who answers His children’s prayers would have sunk deep into the young boy’s soul. In essence, the Lord nurtured the true doctrines of prayer which, by necessity, preceded the Restoration of the gospel in its fullness. The Smith family legacy of prayer was based upon these doctrines of divine communication. Truly, the Lord had prepared this singular family for generations as a precursor to the Restoration of the gospel in its fullness.

In God’s eyes, the making of a prophet is not a fourteen-year quest. God foreordained Joseph Smith in heaven, prepared him in life, sustained him through illness, and powerfully revealed Himself to Joseph, not coincidentally, during prayer. Joseph’s first audible prayer in the Sacred Grove followed a tradition of prayer—a legacy—that made possible the Restoration of God’s Church to the earth again. The legacy of prayer passed on to him was carefully molded by God Himself through generations of experiences. President Brigham Young illustrated this point: “It was decreed in the counsels of eternity, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, that he [Joseph Smith] should be the man, in the last dispensation of this world, to bring forth the word of God to the people, and receive the fulness of the keys and power of the Priesthood of the Son of God. The Lord had his eye upon him, and upon his father, and upon his father’s father, and upon their progenitors clear back to Abraham, and from Abraham to the flood, from the flood to Enoch, and from Enoch to Adam. He has watched that family and that blood as it has circulated from its fountain to the birth of that man.”[66] God molded this family’s prayerful experiences to bring about His purposes in the Restoration of the gospel through His servant, the Prophet Joseph Smith. Thus, in essence, the greatest influence on Joseph Smith Jr.’s prayerful attitudes was God Himself.


[1] Richard Lloyd Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage: Influences of Grandfathers Solomon Mack and Asael Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1971), 51.

[2] Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, 55.

[3] Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, 55–56.

[4] Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, 26.

[5] Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, 56.

[6] Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, 26.

[7] Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, 27.

[8] Solomon Mack, as quoted in Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, 27–28.

[9] Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, 27.

[10] Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958), 42.

[11] Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, 14–15.

[12] Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, 16.

[13] Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, 21.

[14] Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1980), 5:498

[15] Richard Lloyd Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, rev. ed., (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003), 32–33

[16] Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, 124–26.

[17] Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, 1928 (San Francisco: Foundation for American Christian Education, 1987), s.v. “earnest.”

[18] Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, 124–26.

[19] Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, 124.

[20] Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, 124.

[21] Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, 107.

[22] Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, 126.

[23] Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, 124–26.

[24] Mary Duty Smith, as quoted in Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, rev. ed., 149.

[25] Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, rev. ed., 151–52.

[26] Richard Lloyd Anderson, “Joseph Smith’s Home Environment,” Ensign, July 1971, 59.

[27] Richard Lloyd Anderson, “Of Goodly Parents: Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith,” New Era, 39.

[28] Anderson, “Joseph Smith’s Home Environment,” 59.

[29] Church History in the Fulness of Times, Student Manual for Religion 341–43 (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2000), 22.

[30] Joseph Smith Sr., as quoted in Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, 68.

[31] Church History in the Fulness of Times, 22.

[32] Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, 66.

[33] Mark L. McConkie, The Father of the Prophet: Stories and Insights from the Life of Joseph Smith, Sr. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1993), 33.

[34] McConkie, The Father of the Prophet, 55.

[35] Richard Lyman Bushman, “The Visionary World of Joseph Smith,” BYU Studies 37, no. 1 (1997–98): 184.

[36] B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:75.

[37] McConkie, The Father of the Prophet, 13.

[38] McConkie, The Father of the Prophet, 44–45.

[39] LeRoi C. Snow, “How Lorenzo Snow Found God,” Improvement Era, February 1937, 84.

[40] McConkie, The Father of the Prophet, 10.

[41] McConkie, The Father of the Prophet, 10.

[42] McConkie, The Father of the Prophet, 91.

[43] McConkie, The Father of the Prophet, 71.

[44] McConkie, The Father of the Prophet, 46.

[45] McConkie, The Father of the Prophet, 55.

[46] Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, 31.

[47] Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, 34.

[48] Lucy Mack Smith, The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, ed. Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), 48

[49] Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, 35.

[50] Lucy Mack Smith, Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith, 42.

[51] Church History in the Fulness of Times, 20.

[52] Lucy Mack Smith, Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith, 50.

[53] Church History in the Fulness of Times, 22.

[54] McConkie, The Father of the Prophet, 66.

[55] Church History in the Fulness of Times, 23.

[56] Lucy Mack Smith, Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith, 69.

[57] Lucy Mack Smith, Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith, 69.

[58] Lucy Mack Smith, Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith, 71.

[59] Richard Lloyd Anderson, “I have a question: what were Joseph Smith’s sisters like, and what happened to them after the martyrdom?” Ensign, March 1979, 42.

[60] Gordon B. Hinckley, Faith: The Essence of True Religion (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989), 95.

[61] Lucy Mack Smith, Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith, 76.

[62] Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, 229.

[63] Lucy Mack Smith, Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith, 88.

[64] McConkie, The Father of the Prophet, 79.

[65] McConkie, The Father of the Prophet, 80.

[66] Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854–86), 7:290.