In the news
Joseph Smith Descendant has a Story to Tell
Written by Michael De GrooteCreated: 21 March 2018
Article submitted by Julie Weber
I am writing to tell you what it has been like to be raised a descendant of Joseph Smith Jr. and Emma Hale Smith.
We were not allowed to talk to Mormons (or anyone) about our lineage. We were raised to believe that Mormons would either try to kill us or recruit us (and as children, we didn’t know which would be worse). We were encouraged to run from anyone with a Book of Mormon. We were sent to Baptist and Methodist churches and told to stay away from any other religion.
We were taught that the “Mormons in Utah” wanted to kill our great-great grandfather (though I didn’t know it then, I now think they were speaking of Joseph Jr. and Emma’s son, Alexander) and we were in danger around “them” (the “Utah Mormons”).
The ironic part is that when my mother became very ill (when I was about 10 years old) it was a Mormon family (LDS) that took care of my two sisters, my brother and me for weeks. When we were welcomed in the LDS Church, we were surprised (and relieved).
Still, we were not encouraged to speak of, or even really learn about, our lineage.
Our lineage wasn’t even really explained to us. We were only told that we were great-great-grandchildren of a “Joseph Smith” who was part of the beginning of the Mormon church. If we asked any more questions than that we were told to drop the subject because it was dangerous.
As time went on these messages became even more confusing and conflicting. When I was in my early 20s, it was an LDS family who saved the lives of my daughter and me when we were kidnapped by some very bad men.
And it was a Mormon family who rented me my first apartment and made sure I was safe.
And it was a Mormon family whose day care I took my own children to when they were little.
Still, my fear of talking to Mormons about religion or family lineage continued until I met Gracia Jones (my second cousin) only about 10 years ago.
Since then I have also met Michael and Darcy Kennedy and other members of our family who are Mormons (LDS) and have also met members of our family who are part of the Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints).
What I’ve found, both in our family and in the Mormons and also the Community of Christ in general, is a very loving bunch of people. People who are very family-oriented, very reasonable and very wonderful.
It’s been quite an experience learning these truths.
I wasn’t (at the Joseph Smith Jr. Family Organization meeting in Nauvoo in 2007) when the “healing document” letter of apology from Brigham Young’s family was first read, but I have since read it. Tears sprung into my eyes and my heart was filled.
I didn’t grow up knowing where the fear of Mormons started. I only know it was the reality of my childhood — and that fear had something to do, especially, with the “Mormons of Utah” who were led by a man named “Brigham Young” (whom I thought was an enemy of my great-great grandfather).
Things were whispered but never really explained or defined. They were like shadows in the corners you are taught to fear but you aren’t sure why. And they kept me from being able to reach out and become a part of the organization that realistically seemed to be filled with wonderful people with exceptionally good values and beliefs (and who seemed to keep coming up as protectors of me and my children rather than enemies).
It was quite a surprise to me to go to Nauvoo and see the statue of Joseph Smith Jr. and Brigham Young together looking out over the Mississippi standing as two friends excited at new prospects. Before that day I did not know they were friends who adored one another.
I have to admit it was difficult to readjust my old beliefs with the new information, but it was wonderful.
I cannot tell you how glad it makes me to know that our two families are working things out and that a light has been shined on the shadows I grew up learning to fear. I am glad that members of my family are (more and more) becoming Mormons. More than that, I am glad that my children will not be raised to fear Mormons, nor will my grandchildren or their children. This truly is a time of healing and blessings for our whole family.
Julie A. Weber-Baker lis a fifth-generation descendant of Joseph Smith Jr. and Emma Hale Smith.