On this Day in Church History the mother of the Prophet Joseph Smith died at the age of 81 (May 14, 1856)
After a windy and rainy Mother’s Day morning, the sun finally came out in time for us to be able to visit the historic sites of the famous and beloved mother of the prophet, Lucy Mack Smith.
As we visited Lucy’s grave and one of her homes, I thought about my memories of my mom and grandma. On the one hand, the memories make me happy. On the other, they make me sad. I miss them so much.
That got me to thinking about what it means to be a mother. What I’ve realized is that to be a mother or father isn’t circumstantial. Any human on the planet can fulfill this role. What is the role? To love someone so deep that you are willing to put their needs before your own on a consistent basis. Love like that—that leaves a mark. A mark that cannot be forgotten and cannot be erased.
That all sounds well and good, but to do that, to fulfill that role—it ain’t easy. Not only that, it’s also terrifying.
I’ve been reading about the life of Lucy Mack Smith and something that struck me about her is her conviction. The thing about Lucy is that she is just not afraid. Her faith is iron-clad. So much so that she need not fear. She didn’t let anything get in her way.
Here are some highlights about Lucy:
- When she was 27 she became very ill and the doctors declared her impending death. Lucy pleaded with the Lord to spare her life so that she could fulfill her role as a wife and mother. After that she regained her strength and recovered.1
- In 1838 she faced off with a group of armed men who had come “to kill the Prophet and all who believed in him.” She told the men, without hesitation, that if they wanted to kill her they had better do it quick. The men were then introduced to the prophet. They were so impressed with him that they departed in peace and even offered to escort him home.2
- At the age of 70, Lucy was the first woman to speak in a general conference. Her address can be read here.
- In her later years she authored the book, “Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith” (1853) which has been an invaluable resource for study of Joseph Smith and the early church.3
One of my favorite stories of Lucy comes from 1831 when she was leading a group of Saints on a boat to Kirtland. Ice was blocking their path, so Lucy told the Saints:
“Where is your faith? Where is your confidence in God? Do you know that all things are in his hands?” “How easy would it be for God to cause the ice to break away, and in a moment’s time we could be off on our journey; but how can you expect the Lord to prosper you when you are continually murmuring against him?” “And now, brethren and sisters, if you will, all of you, raise your desires to heaven that the ice may give way before us and we be set at liberty to go on our way, as sure as the Lord lives it shall be done.” “Just as she finished speaking, she recounted, “a noise was heard like bursting thunder, and the captain cried out, ‘Every man to his post!’ and the ice parted, leaving barely a pathway for the boat.” They crossed safely and quickly to Fairport Harbor in Ohio, about twelve miles northeast of Kirtland, and arrived around May 11, 1831.”4
When we face our daily battles in our various roles as mothers and fathers and we feel like we can’t take another step, I hope we can think of Lucy’s fearless faith. Neither sickness nor an armed mob nor a frozen river could faze this woman. Whatever it was, she found a way through her faith.
In all that we face, we can choose to decide: will we let our faith wither? Or will we let our faith blaze our path?
2. Lucy Mack Smith, “History of the Prophet Joseph by his Mother: As Revised By George A. Smith and Elias Smith,” Salt Lake City, Utah, 1902. See “CHAPTER XLVIII: Joseph Smith, Senior, Moves with his Family to Missouri—Commencement of the Persecution in Caldwell.”