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Joseph Smith Descendants Conversion Inspires Music
Written by Kaylene Morrill of Mormon TimesCreated: 14 March 2013
As a child, Kimberly Jo Smith did not know she was related to the first modern-day prophet of a church with millions of members. Kimberly Smith, a descendant of the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr., grew up in Tennessee and discovered the path of her family tree as a preteen.
“I grew up without a knowledge of the church or who Joseph was until I was 12 when I went to my grandma’s house and I saw some portraits, and it was Joseph and Emma,” Kimberly Smith said. “I was very drawn to those, and I asked my grandma who it was, and she said that was my great-great-grandparents, and (Joseph) had started a church. She was referring to the Church of Christ (Temple Lot), which was a break-off. “ Kimberly Jo Smith and her son Bryan Davis, descendants of Joseph Smith, use music to talk about their family history.
This newfound knowledge instilled within the young girl a yearning to learn more about her ancestors that later led to a greater involvement in genealogy work. The desire to learn more also led Kimberly Smith to an exposure of her father’s anti-Mormon sentiments, but that did not stop her from developing a huge love for the Osmonds.
“That was kind of when I found out what a Mormon was, and I found out (the Osmonds) were Mormon,” she said.
Her first reaction to the discovery was that she could no longer like the Osmonds because they were Mormon, but then reason told her, “Donny is in it; if he’s in it, that’s good.”
Bizarre rumors about Mormons reached Kimberly Smith’s ears.
“I’ll tell you a funny thing I heard was that if you were a woman and you tried to leave the church, that they would take you to the top of the Salt Lake Temple and push you into the Salt Lake.”
Understandably, Kimberly Smith was a bit surprised when she visited Salt Lake City for the first time and did not see the lake in close proximity to the temple.
One day, years later, her husband won tickets to an Osmond show in Branson, Mo., where both she and Merrill Osmond had felt impressed that they should meet each other.
“I met him after the show, and we got together and became friends, and the friendship grew with the whole family and the desire to know more about the church,” she said.
Kimberly Smith said she trusted Merrill Osmond, who was one of the first Mormons she really let her guard down with. She trusted that he would not deceive her and started taking the missionary discussions. By the third one, she knew she was supposed to be baptized.
After she became a member of the church in 1998, Kimberly Smith had a yearning to do something for her family line because she said it had been filled with a lot of division and contention in the past.
While her oldest son, Bryan Davis, was on his mission in Canada, Kimberly Smith spent some time by a willow tree near the Nauvoo House in Nauvoo, Ill., and she was overcome with emotion and felt that Emma had spent a lot of time around that particular tree.
This confused her, she said, because willow trees do not normally live beyond 100 years.
“Upon investigating it, we found that willow tree in a painting that Joseph and Emma’s son David did in 1860, so we know it was there during the latter part of (Emma’s) life,” she said.
Then one day as she was standing at the kitchen sink, words flowed into Kimberly Smith’s head concerning Emma: “How many tears did she cry as the willow tree swayed?” That was the start of the song “Willow,” and it took her all of 20 minutes to construct the lyrics. Kimberly Jo Smith and her son Bryan Davis, descendants of Joseph Smith, use music to talk about their family history.
Smith came up with the words and melodies of eight songs that same day, but she did not know how to compose music. Once Davis got home, however, he was able to help her arrange the music. He has been involved in music in one fashion or another his whole life, and had taken a music theory class in college the year before he went on his mission.
She and her son started doing firesides in 2000 and have continued for the past 11 years. In their firesides, they sing songs they created about the Smith family and talk about the importance of having the Savior and Holy Ghost as a focal point in life, and of family unity.
Since August 2009, the two have been doing firesides full-time and consequently travel all over the country. They earn some income off of book and CD sales, and non-church-related concerts.
“We always get what we need and never a great deal more and never a great deal less,” Kimberly Smith said of their income.
When asked if he and his mother get tired of giving firesides, Davis said, “You get weary. Physically, you get really weary, but as far as do I ever get tired of doing it, no.”
Davis said one of his favorite parts of giving firesides happens when people come up to him afterward and tell him that one of their ancestors was Joseph’s neighbors, or bodyguards, or his best friend and so on.
“It makes it almost like a family reunion,” he said.
Kimberly Smith and her son’s CD, “The Ties that Bind,” and other products of theirs can be purchased at www.ldsgenerations.com.