MACK, Lucy - I35

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Lucy Mack SMITH

Mother Lucy Mack Smth
Mother Lucy Mack SMITH stands as a heroine ancestress to a multitude of descendants. There is perhaps no mother in America more deserving of honor than this woman, whom one biographer has called, “A woman for all seasons.” Young Lucy came into the world in turbulent times, just one year before the Declaration of Independence. She was the product of freedom loving parents whose heritage was rooted firmly in New England. Her, father, Solomon Mack, was a veteran of the French and Indian War as well as the American Revolutionary War. He was a farmer, sea captain, a builder of roads and bridges. Born in Gilsum, New Hampshire, July 8, 1875, Lucy was the youngest of eight children born to Solomon and Lydia Gates MACK.[1].

The Mack family lived in various communities, in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont, moving from place to place as work and other circumstances dictated. Solomon was gone to sea from 1784 to 1788. In his absence, the family became impoverished due to unscrupulous dealings of “unjust creditors,” who turned Solomon’s family out of doors. When he returned and found all was gone he later said, “I did not care whether I lived or died.”[2].

Lucy, who was about thirteen at the time, must have learned at this early age how to meet life’s challenges with forbearance and determination. These characteristic which she exhibited over her long and turbulent life, have passed to her posterity through example and tradition. Perhaps she drew upon the example of her father who overcame his depression, pulled himself together, and later wrote, “I went to work and shifted from plan to plan till at length I moved to Turnbridge in Vermont.”[3] Finding whatever he could do to make a living, Solomon eventually moved back to Gilsum, where he lived from about 1792 to 1797. During this time, Lucy’s older sisters, Lovisa, and Lovina, both died in same year, 1894. Her other sister, Lydia married that same year. The tragic loss of the two sisters deeply affected the entire family, but Lucy, at nineteen, found it difficult to deal with her grief. Her brother, Stephen, while visiting the family, observed her distress and took her with him to his home at Turnbridge, Vermont. She stayed there a year, then returned to Gilsum for a short visit with her relatives before going back to Turnbridge, where she was married, January 24, 1796, to Joseph Smith.

Cultural Heritage

We will talk more of Joseph and Lucy’s courtship and marriage later. But for now, we will examine the cultural heritage of Lucy Mack. In the credible life history written by Solomon, we learn many valuable insights regarding her background. Lucy’s mother, according to Solomon’s account, was “an amiable and accomplished young woman, a school teacher.” She was also a devout Christian, being a member of the Congregationalist Church. Solomon noted that his wife was of an “excellent disposition,” patiently enduring the hardships of their early life in the wilderness at Marlow, New Hampshire, where they began their early years. He said,

“[A]s our children were deprived of schools, she assumed the charge of their education, and performed the duties of an instructress as none save a mother is capable of. Precepts accompanied with examples such as hers were calculated to make impressions on the minds of the young never to be forgotten... “She, besides instructing them in the various branches of an ordinary education, was in the habit of calling them together both morning and evening and teaching them to pray, meanwhile urging upon the necessity of love towards each other as well as devotional feelings towards him who made them. In this manner my first children became confirmed in habits of piety, gentleness, and reflection, which afforded great assistance in guiding those who came after them into the same happy channel.[4]

It was later remembered of her, “she dealt out her substance to the needy with a liberal hand to the end of her days.”[5]. Solomon admits that during most of his life he was not religious. In fact he was prone to ridicule religion, disregarding his wife’s continual efforts to encourage him otherwise. Lydia Gates Mack’s faithful prayers and admonitions eventually touched the heart of her husband, and in his eightieth year, Solomon experienced a conversion to Christ. From 1811 on, until his death in 1820, he spent his time and energy not only living after the pattern of Christ’s example, but actively encouraging his family and all he met to do the same. Lucy’s brothers, Jason and Stephen enlisted from Montague, Massachusetts, in 1779, and are veterans of the Revolutionary War. Solomon Jr., also served in that war. Her sister, Lovisa, married Joseph Tuttle there in 1780.

Lucy’s oldest brother, Jason, had at the young age of nineteen, become a minister holding to the persuasion that “no church in existence . . .contained the pure principles of the gospel enjoyed by the ancient disciples of Christ, and he labored incessantly to convince the people that, by an exercise of prayer, the blessings and privileges of the ancient disciples of Jesus might be and eventually would be obtained.”[6]. He fell in love with a lovely young woman whose family disdained her marrying him. When Jason was at sea with his father, they were detained beyond the expected time of return. His letters to the young woman were intercepted by a man, who knew of Jason’s feelings for the girl, but wanted her for himself. He convinced her Jason would never return. After a while he wore her down, and she married him. When Jason returned he was shocked to discover she was married to the other man. When she discovered Jason was alive she fainted at the sight of him. Thereafter, she wasted away and died about two years later. Jason, deeply wounded in his soul by this event, returned to the sea. He remained single the rest of his life.

Brothers, Daniel, Solomon Jr., and Stephen, all hearty New Englanders, each deserve their own biography. Lucy was close to each of her siblings and was equally dear to them. Each took an active roll in watching out for their baby sister. Daniel, “was a man of the world” according to Lucy. He was extremely brave. He risked his life to save several drowning companions. He later lived in Roylaton, Vermont. Lydia Mack passed away in his home there, about 1817.[7]. Solomon Jr., who, because of his service in the Revolutionary War was called Captain Solomon Mack, lived in Gilsum. He was the longest lived of Lucy’s siblings, and she outlived him. He died October 12, 1851, at the age of seventy-eight.[8]

Engagement of Joseph Smith and Family

Lucy was living with her parent in Gilsum, when shortly after the death of Lovina, her brother Stephen came from Turnbridge to visit. Her decision to go to Turnbridge with Stephen’s family would be a landmark decision for her life.
Joseph Smith Sr.
It was there she became acquainted with the family of Asael Smith. Asael and his wife, Mary Duty Smith, had eleven children. Lucy wrote, “Their names were Jesse, Joseph, Asael, John, Samuel, Silas, Stephen, Pricilla, Mary, Susan, and Sarah–a worthy, respectable, amiable, and intelligent family.” Joseph must have attracted special attention from Lucy during her year long stay at Turnbridge. In 1895, she returned to Gilsum for a brief visit with her family, but within a short time Stephen urged her to return with him to Turnbridge. Before the end of 1995 she went back to Turnbridge where she married Joseph Smith, on January 24, 1796.[9].

The joining in marriage of these two young people was to found a family dynasty, out of which would spring a religious revolution. Lucy, her husband, sons and daughters, would not only join, but lead the crusade for a new religious denomination. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was established by her son, Joseph Smith Jr., in 1830. In its own way, this movement would prove to be as dynamic in changing the world, as was the breaking away of the American Colonies from old England. Lucy and Joseph, both of stern New England heritage, were also both from devoutly Christian upbringing. They were equally yoked in disposition, each having a core belief in God, however, lacking conviction regarding the organized religions of the day.

As a young mother, Lucy suffered a serious bout of illness and was miraculously healed through her faith and prayers. Her sudden recovery caused her to focus on the search for a religion as she became concerned about the need to be baptized. The search left her frustrated as she could find no denomination she felt comfortable to embrace entirely. Finally, she prevailed upon a minister she knew to baptize her, leaving her unencumbered as to any official church membership.[10] For six years the couple lived on their farm at Turnbridge, Vermont. Turnbridge town records list three of their children born there: Alvin, Hyrum, and Sophronia. In Lucy’s listing of her children, she too begins with Alvin. However, at some point in record keeping on this family, someone who knew Lucy had a firstborn, who died in infancy, concluded it was a girl. For many years records stated this was a baby daughter. However, further research has disclosed that this baby was in fact, a son. In 1834, Joseph Smith Sr., addressing the subject of his own family in the recording of Patriarchal Blessings, speaks of “three seats” vacated by death among his children: “the Lord in his just providence has taken from me at an untimely birth a son. . . .My next son, Alvin. . .was taken. . . . .” [Alvin died in 1823] The third son being referred to would be Ephraim, born March 13, 1810. He died March 24, the same year.[11]. Lucy Mack Smith, mother of this family, outlived her husband and all but one of her sons. Not only did she live to see their tragic, untimely demise, she lived to record her eye witness account of their labors, and she details, in a remarkable manner, all their family’s sufferings for their religious convictions. From Lucy’s incredible writings about her family, we are able to follow their migration and activities.

Pioneering

After bad weather destroyed their crops for several years in a row they left Vermont, moving in 1816, to the community of Palmyra, in up state New York. Joseph Sr., Alvin and Hyrum preceded the rest of the family in order to locate a place for them. It fell upon Lucy to move her household goods and younger children, by wagon and team, to Palmyra. When the hired driver proved untrustworthy, Lucy took charge herself. She managed to take her family safely through. Her husband and sons built a log cabin in which they settled down to make a new life.

In this new home, the entire family worked to clear land for farming, and make a place for themselves in the community. Lucy added to the cash income by selling her painted oil cloth booklets and cloths. Taking her family from Vermont through the rugged Green Mountains, to New York, was just the first of several incredible journeys, for Lucy. Her independence of spirit, strong leadership capacity, and indomitable faith in God, placed her in the position of accomplishing what in her day would have been unheard of for a woman. Lucy chronicles the dismay and disappointment of the entire family when persecution was heaped upon them subsequent to public recognition that one of her sons, Joseph Jr., claimed to have seen a vision, in 1820. Lucy was the first person to whom this young lad of fourteen confided his experience. Her faith in her son was expressed by her statement, “Joseph was always a truthful boy.” None of his immediate family ever doubted his veracity concerning his vision. All stood by him, even unto death.

Lucy Mack crossing the Great Lakes, painting by Julie Rogers
In 1831, Lucy was at the head of a group of members of the Church migrating from New York to Ohio, where the church had relocated, at Kirtland. Traveling in the winter, westward on the Erie Canal to Buffalo, then on the Great Lakes, by boat, to Fairport Harbor, Ohio, by sheer faith and the power of her convictions, she overcame opposition from within the group, and gained respect from outsiders. Many antidotes can be rehearsed of her experiences; her chiding of youngsters and her sharp reminder to their mothers of their obligation to keep their children under control during the dangerous passage on the boat; her strong faith in God, to whom she fervently prayed for a miracle to open the ice so they could leave Boston Harbor. This prayer was answered with the bursting of the ice jam which opened just enough to let their boat pass safely on its way. She turned again to solemn prayer when she was overcome by anxiety for the safety of her sons who were far away. She had visionary gifts giving her to know they were in dire need of her strength and prayers of faith. Later, Joseph and Hyrum, compared times, rehearsing to her how they had seen her in vision, kneeling under the apple tree, pleading their cause before the Lord God. They reassured her that her prayers were answered with their miraculously being healed of debilitating illness.

For a few short years, at Kirtland, the family enjoyed some peace and freedom to pursue their religious rights, before trouble once again ejected them into the westward wilderness. With gracious enthusiasm she welcomed her daughters-in-law, and sons-in-law, as they married into her family, always receiving and giving service as the family remained close together through the years. She rejoiced in her grandchildren. She mourned when members of the family died, noting each one in her written record. For more than a quarter of a century, though constantly driven by persecution, Lucy proved her firm conviction of the truth of the religion founded by her son, always moving with the church wherever it went. The family moved in great hardship from Kirtland, Ohio, to Far West, Missouri, then from there to Illinois. She endured loss of her husband and two grown sons to illness and two of her sons to martyrdom. With compassion born of her own suffering she comforted to her widowed daughters-in-law and bore her own grief with forbearance.

Remaining in Illinois with her daughters, Sophronia, Katharine and Lucy, who also did not follow Brigham Young in the exodus to the west. She maintained friendly feelings toward the LDS Church leaders in Utah, who supplied her with a house and financial subsistence. She survived to the age of eighty. She spent her last three or four years with her daughter-in-law, Emma Hale Smith BIDAMON, in Nauvoo, Illinois. During this time she wrote her memoirs which supply the backbone of all we know of her. She died at Emma’s home on May 14, 1856.

Born on the eve of the Revolution, all of her life all of her life was steeped in tribulation and controversy. Left a widow, bereft of all but one of her sons,
Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith represented by Karen Foster
[William] she was revered by thousands, acknowledged as a Mother in Israel, even considered a “prophetess”; known as a kind and tender friend of all the Latter-day Saints. Today, she is revered by millions who honor her as the mother of latter-day prophets. Regardless of religious preferences any current readers might have, all who take the time to examine Lucy Mack Smith’s written record come away in awe. This woman’s own words bring the family and the country into focus. Her command of the language her skillful description of places, people, and events, spans a considerable period of American pioneering. She personalizes a significant portion of dramatic social, religious, and cultural American History. It may be predicted that when the full extent of her service to mankind is recognized, Mother Smith, looking down from her heavenly abode, will surely be smiling upon her posterity. It was ever her conviction, as was her mother’s example, that it is a mother’s duty to call her children together and teach them of their heritage and their responsibility.

In her old age, Lucy addressed a congregation of women of the Church saying, “We must cherish one another and gain instruction that we may all sit down in heaven together.”

 SOURCE:  Gracia Jones- October 1998

Footnotes

  1. [proof of her birth date not being in May, see Gilsom town records, quoted by Richard L. Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage, p. 179 Pub. Deseret Book Co., SLC, Utah, 1971 hereafter sited as Heritage]
  2. (Heritage, p. 18)
  3. (Ibid)
  4. ( Heritage, p. 27)
  5. (Ibid, p. 29)
  6. (Lucy Mack Smith, Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother Lucy Mack Smith, edited by Scott and Maurine Jensen Proctor, p. 14)
  7. (Ibid, p. 33)
  8. (Ibid p. 34-35)
  9. (Ibid, p. 42-43)
  10. (Ibid, p. 50 )
  11. (Ibid p. 473)