Written by Gracia Jones Originally Published: 10 December 2009
Alexander Hale Smith was born 2 June 1838, at Far West, Caldwell, Missouri, about six weeks after his parents made the January to March trek from Kirtland, Ohio, to the new county set up for the Mormons through the influence of Joseph’s friend, Alexander Doniphan. A day before his birth, Joseph Smith Jr., was surveying a new town. He returned just in time for the birth of this son whom they named Alexander, after Mr. Doniphan, and Hale, after his mother’s maiden name.
In February 1839, as an infant in his mother’s arms he crossed the Mississippi River to Quincy, Illinois. He was only six when his father and Uncle Hyrum were murdered by the mob at Carthage, and he was eight when he watched the departure for the west of thousands of the Saints, including many of his friends and cousins. Although he was too young to have any memory of the mobs, or the driving of his family, and their many associates, out of the State of Missouri, as an adult he developed a strong hatred for oppression of any sort; and would, as a courageous pioneer, return to Missouri, before any of the rest of his family.
Alexander grew to maturity in Nauvoo; He loved sports, especially hunting and fishing, and boating. The woman who would become Alexander’s wife, Elizabeth Agnes Kendall, born in England, May 7, 1843, (affectionately known as Lizzie) was a spunky little woman who had been orphaned at the age of eight. Emma was a friend of her mother, and welcomed the child into the Mansion House in about 1851. It’s unlikely that Alexander paid much attention to young Lizzie in those early years; but when romance struck, it stuck. He married his Lizzie on 23 June 1861. They made their home at the Smith farm in Sonora Township where, in January 1862, their firstborn was born; they him named Frederick Alexander. The birth was difficult and Lizzie nearly died. Alexander took her to Emma where she was nursed back to health. Frederick went to the farm to take care of things.
Alexander did not get involved when Joseph III accepted leadership in the Reorganization, in 1860. It was not until Frederick died, unexpectedly, in April 1862, that Alex began to think about religion. He anguished that his brother died without being baptized; he prayed and received a comforting message of the Spirit that Frederick’s condition was pleasant and the time would come when baptism could be secured to him. Then he gladly allowed his brother Joseph to baptize him in the Mississippi River, in May 1862. From the time of his baptism, until his death in 1909, he spent the rest of his life in the service of the RLDS Church, traveling across the country to the west six times; twice by wagon train or horseback, and four times by railroad. He was assigned the Western Slope, which included the entire area from Colorado west to California, north to Canada and South to Mexico; he established many congregations in California, Nevada, Idaho, and Utah, as well as traveling to the South Seas. He also traveled to New York City, and Boston. He labored in Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, the Dakotas, and Kansas, preaching and overseeing priesthood leadership, and giving patriarchal blessings.
Alexander and Elizabeth lived in Nauvoo, Amboy, Nauvoo, and then Andover, Missouri, Stewartsville, Missouri, Independence, Missouri, and Lamoni, Iowa. They had nine children, all of whom lived to maturity. Alex and Lizzie were married 37 years. They adored one another. In commenting about her father’s ministry, his daughter, Emma Belle Smith Kennedy said in more than 25 years of marriage, he had not been home with his family more than ten of those years. As she lamented the lonesome situation it was for her mother, herself, and her siblings, she also felt pride in her father, though she felt it had been wrong for him to be gone so much from his family.
Like his brother Joseph, he detested the principle of polygamy and spoke out against Brigham Young while in Utah, an act which he felt brought danger to his life. His animosity to all that he perceived the Utah Mormon church to stand for was never resolved in this life.
His good works included serving on the Board of Directors of Graceland College; he was an apostle, the patriarch to the RLDS church, and served as a counselor in the presidency. His entire heart and soul was committed to service to God, His church, and His kingdom. His testimony of the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and the Doctrine and Covenants, resonated across the nations in sermons of faith, and the expectation of Christ’s Second Coming. He died while visiting in Nauvoo on 12 August 1909. He is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, at Lamoni, Iowa. Alexander’s extensive posterity (he had 48 grandchildren, all lived to maturity but three) can be found in almost every state in America, and Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, and Europe.
(Source: History of Alexander Hale Smith, by Vida Elizabeth Smith; Emma Belle Smith Kennedy Journal in possession of Michael A. Kennedy, Alpine, UT. Our Data Base records.)