Among early Church leaders, no one stands
higher than Hyrum Smith save it be The Prophet himself. Hyrum was Joseph
Smith's closest confidante and advisor, the Second Elder in the Church
and Patriarch to the Church. He was an Apostle. He held every right, key,
power, and authority which Joseph held, and had it been the will of the
Lord that Hyrum should have survived Joseph, Hyrum would have become the
Presiding High Priest in the Church.
Hyrum was born February 9, 1800 in Tunbridge, Vermont
to Joseph Smith, Sr. and his wife Lucy
Mack Smith. Financial woes forced the family to move to eight separate
locations during Hyrum's early childhood.
At the age of eleven Hyrum was sent to Moor's Charity
School for two years. He returned home when a typhoid fever epidemic swept
the school, only to find several family members ill of the disease.
His younger brother Joseph was among those who fell ill and in Joseph's
case it settled into his leg and developed into osteomyelitis. Hyrum
nursed his younger brother during the excruciating treatments and a bond
developed between the brothers that death itself could not break. "In life
they were not divided, and in death they were not separated" (D&C 135:3).
After the family moved to New York, Hyrum and the
other Smith brothers helped the family finances by hiring out as farm
laborers, coopers, and masons, in addition to clearing their own land
for farming. On November 2, 1826, Hyrum married Jerusha Barden (1805-1837).
When Joseph received the First Vision, Hyrum found
it easy to believe his brother's reports and as his labors progressed quickly
received a testimony of his work. He was called to the work himself to
"assist to bring forth my work" and to preach "nothing but repentance"
(D&C 11:9, 22). Even before the formal organization of the Church,
he was baptized in Seneca Lake. He was one of the eight official witnesses
to whom Joseph showed the Golden Plates and was privileged to touch them
and hold them.
Hyrum was one of the six men who signed their names
as charter members of the new religious organization. He became the presiding
officer of the Colesville Branch when missionary efforts proved fruitful
in that area. In 1831 the Branch moved en masse to Kirtland, Ohio.
Meanwhile, Joseph had received revelations concerning
the establishment of Zion in Jackson County, Missouri and numbers of the
Saints relocated to that area. As persecution grew, and the Saints fell
under the oppression that was Missouri, a military expedition to relieve
them was planned. Hyrum helped recruit members for Zion's Camp and served
as Joseph Smith's chief aide in that mission.
Back in Kirtland, building the new temple, the first
erected to the glory of God in almost two millennia, was under way.
Hyrum became the foreman of the stone quarry. In recognition of his honor
and faithfulness, he was ordained an Assistant President of the Church
in December 1834. In 1837 he became Second Counselor in the First Presidency
with Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, and with Oliver Cowdery as Associate
President. In 1841, he was released as Second Counslor, being replaced
by William Law, but retained the Patriarcal
Office and his position as Second Elder of the Church.
He was in Missouri in 1838 with Joseph and several
others who were arrested and following a preliminary hearing in a kangaroo
court were imprisoned in a dungeon beneath Liberty Jail while the politicians
and mobocrats deliberated their fate. On April 16, 1839, during a change
of venue, they were allowed to escape.
They joined the residue of the Missouri Saints who
had been driven from the state and had settled on a broad curve of the
Mississippi River as it ran between Iowa and Illinois. Originally called
Commerce, their new home was renamed Nauvoo. Here Hyrum was ordained Patriarch
to the church, replacing his father who had died. This office was known
by revelation to belong to the birthright line. It would remain among his
descendants as long as the office remained functional.
Hyrum and his first wife, Jerusha, had four daughters
and two sons. After Jerusha's death, he married Mary Fielding in 1837,
and she bore him a son and a daughter. When Joseph Smith introduced plural
marriage to him, Hyrum at first opposed the idea, but when converted to
the principle, he became one of its staunchest advocates.
Hyrum was also ordained Associate President and Second
Elder of the Church, replacing Oliver Cowdery who had fallen into apostasy
and had been excommunicated. In this latter ordination, he received every
key, every power, and every authority held by his brother Joseph.
Indeed, had he survived Joseph, Hyrum would have unquestionably succeeded
Such was not to be. Hyrum the faithful, remained
at Joseph's side as the winds of persecution and mobocracy swirled anew.
He accompanied Joseph on the fateful ride into Carthage and spilled his
blood in testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel.