Evidence #370 | September 19, 2022

Samuel Smith

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Samuel Smith traveled extensively to share his testimony of the Book of Mormon and the reality of the plates.

Samuel Harrison Smith, one of Joseph Smith’s younger brothers, was born on March 13, 1808. As a son of Joseph Smith, Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, he was actively involved in efforts to provide for their needs including the arduous work of farming. Samuel was an early supporter of his brother’s prophetic calling and was one of the first members of the Church of Christ when it was officially organized on April 6, 1830.1 The previous year, in June 1829, he was chosen to be one of Eight Witnesses who were permitted to see and handle the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated (The Testimony of Eight Witnesses).

The sincerity of Samuel Smith’s testimony can be seen in his persistent willingness to share the message of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration. In fact, he was the very first missionary called in this dispensation. During the spring of 1830, Samuel travelled through communities in western New York to preach the gospel with copies of the recently published Book of Mormon.2

While the fruits of this early mission were not immediately apparent, they would eventually result in significant conversions. Samuel left one copy with John P. Greene, a Methodist preacher who lived in Bloomington. Greene was not at first interested in the book, but his wife Rhoda read it and became convinced that it was true, eventually persuading her husband to read it also. Both were baptized.3

Phineas Young remembered his first introduction to the Book of Mormon in April 1830. Having stopped for dinner on his way home from Lima to his home in Mendon, he was approached by a young man who entered the house and said:

“There is a book, sir, I wish you to read”; the thing appeared so novel to me that for a moment I hesitated, saying “Pray, sir, what book have you?” “The Book of Mormon, or as it is called by some, the Golden Bible.” “Ah, sir, then it purports to be a revelation.” “Yes,” said he, “it is a revelation from God.” I took the book, and by his request looked at the testimony of the witnesses. Said he, “If you will read this book with a prayerful heart, and ask God to give you a witness, you will know the truth of this work.” I told him I would do so, and then asked him his name. He said his name was Samuel H. Smith. “Ah,” said I, “you are one of the witnesses.” “Yes,” said he, “I know the book to be a revelation from God, translated by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, and that my brother Joseph Smith, jun., is a Prophet, Seer and Revelator.”4

Young took the book determined to read and expose its errors, but rather became convinced that it was true.5 He shared the book with his brothers, including Brigham Young, resulting in their eventual conversion and baptism.

All of the Young Brothers were blessed by Samuel’s mission. L-R: Lorenzo, Brigham, Phineas, Joseph and John Young. Image and caption via latterdaysaintmag.com. 

Samuel Smith’s missionary activity was significant. Historians Dean Jarman and Kyle Walker note, “He devoted nearly constant missionary service during the early 1830s. In the years 1831–1832 alone, Samuel traveled thousands of miles to serve four missions, which placed him at the forefront of the Church’s missionary efforts.”6 As concluded by Richard L. Anderson, “It is doubtful whether anyone exceeded Samuel Smith’s record of active missionary service during the earliest years of the latter-day Church.”7

Samuel attended a Church conference at Orange, Cuyahoga County Ohio on October 25, 1831.8 Luke Johnson was present at this meeting and recalled, “At this conference the eleven witnesses to the Book of Mormon, with uplifted hands, bore their solemn testimony to the truth of that book, as did also the Prophet Joseph Smith.”9

In December 1831, Samuel and William McLellin preached in Ohio. McLellin recorded on December 11 that “Brother Saml arose and bore testimony to the truth of what had been said and of the book of Mormon.”10 Samuel, in his own record of this brief mission, recorded, “I spoke of the testimony which the Lord had given to the people of this generation of his work, the fulness of the gospel, his everlasting covenant, and bore testimony of these things.”11

When McLellin became sick and was unable to continue, Samuel was called on another mission to the Eastern States with future apostle Orson Hyde. Daniel Tyler, an early convert from western Pennsylvania, remembered the visit of the two missionaries to his neighborhood in Springfield, Erie County, where several of his neighbors were baptized.12 According to Tyler,

Elder Smith read the 29th chapter of Isaiah at the first meeting and delineated the circumstances of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, of which he said he was a witness. He knew his brother Joseph had the plates, for the prophet had shown them to him, and he had handled them and seen the engravings thereon. His speech was more like a narrative than a sermon.13

Both missionaries kept a daily journal of this eleven-month mission which took them through the Eastern States, including Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticutt, and Massachusetts.14 They frequently preached to large congregations about the restoration of the gospel and the need to gather to Zion. The Book of Mormon was at the center of this message, as selections from Samuel’s journal show.

  • We stopped in Mill Creek, and stopped at the house of one Dodds, and we told him of the work that the Lord was doing and told him how the Book was obtained and translated, and he appeared to believe, but we began to preach repentance unto him and he became unbelieving.15
  • Appointed a meeting again in the evening at Mr. Clarke’s and he said he had not read the Book of Mormon and that he had not cared anything about reading it. But we told him that these things were of great importance and that he had ought to investigate them. The next morning he appeared to be penitent and prayed that if this Work was true, that the Lord would make it known to him.16
  • The baser sort made considerable noise in the meeting and there was so much noise and confusion that it was hard to preach unto them. And after declaring unto them the way and manner of the coming forth of the Record, and a sketch of the history of the Nephites and Lamanites and some of the testimony of the work and the purpose, or some of the intent of the Book, exhorting them to repentance and telling them what the Lord required of them, and dismissed the meeting.17
  • A considerable number of the inhabitants came together. Bro. Orson preached to them and he had the Spirit and preached powerfully and then I exhorted them some and bore testimony of the things that they had heard. Sold one of the books of Mormon. The people gathered around us and asked a great many questions about the plates, etc. and many of them used much lightness.18
  • We spake that we would like to preach to the people the next evening if we could get the meeting house to preach in and told them that we were believers in a record that had been found containing the Word of the Lord that had been delivered to the people that anciently inhabited this continent. They would not let us preach and there was a great confusion among them. The Devil stirred them up to say they have got a Bible and they needed no more Bible. Thus they would not hear.19
  • Brother Orson spake of the Gathering of the people and also of the testimony of the Book and of the building up of Zion and I spake some to them of the testimony upon which the Lord designed they should receive this work.20

Orson Hyde, Samuel’s missionary companion during his 1832 mission, described him as “a man slow of speech and unlearned, yet a man of good faith and extreme integrity.”21 Samuel recorded in his journal that while traveling with Orson Hyde, who was an experienced preacher, that he sometimes felt weak and even “faint-hearted.” This was not, however, due to his testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration. “Never at any time did I doubt the work, for how could I doubt anything that I knew to be true.”22 He confessed, rather, that he often “let Brother Orson take the lead, but I felt that I must be more faithful and stand in my lot,” a challenge which he worked to overcome.23

On August 5, during their stay in Boston, the two missionaries preached in Julien Hall, a gathering of local “infidels” or atheists. After preaching there in the morning, the group invited them back in the evening to answer questions about what they had spoken about earlier. The leader “asked us some questions concerning this work, the way and manner the record was found and translated and we answered them before the public congregation.”24 A week later the questions with the answers given were published in the Boston Investigator which included the following:

Q.—When were the plates seen by the eight who saw them, and who have testified to that fact; before they were translated, or since?

A.—They were seen at different times while they were in the hands of Joseph Smith and during the time of their translation.25

The information about the Eight Witnesses is noteworthy since Samuel was one of these and was in the position of being able to provide this information.

Although he never became a prominent leader of the Church, Samuel did serve on the High Council in Kirtland in 1834, and in that same year he married Mary Bailey with whom he had four children. He and his family shared in the persecutions in Missouri 1838 during which they were forced to flee the state. Mary passed away in January 1841.26 In that same year, Samuel served another mission in Illinois and married Levira Clark, with whom he would have three daughters. Samuel settled in the town of Plymouth (about 40 miles from Nauvoo). A local history described him as “a good and respectable citizen.”27

Drawing of Samuel Smith from prior to 1844. Artist unknown. Image via Wikimedia Commons. 

In June 1844, hearing that his brothers Hyrum and Joseph were in danger at Carthage, Samuel hurried to the town, but was unable to arrive until after the murders had occurred. As he hurried to Carthage, he was chased by several men who tried to kill him but was able to escape. With the assistance of Willard Richards, Samuel transported the bodies to Nauvoo where he shortly thereafter moved with his family. He died on July 30, 1844, only 34 days after the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum.28 Samuel’s obituary mentions

his labors in the Church from first to last carrying glad tidings to the eastern cities; and finally his steadfastness as one of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, and many saintly traits of virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity, shall be given of him hereafter, as a man of God.29


Samuel Smith consistently maintained and freely shared his unique testimony of the Book of Mormon throughout his life. Between 1829, when he offered his name as a witness to the reality of the plates, until the time of his death in 1844, he traveled thousands of miles throughout the United States, at great sacrifice, to preach the Gospel and testify of the truthfulness of the record of the plates, which he himself had once seen and carefully examined. His witness lends credibility to Joseph Smith’s account of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

Larry E. Morris, A Documentary History of the Book of Mormon (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2019), 415–455.

Dean L. Jarman and Kyle R. Walker, “Samuel Harrison Smith,” in United By Faith: The Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family, ed. Kyle R. Walker (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2005), 205–245.

LaRene Porter Gaunt and Robert A. Smith, “Samuel H. Smith,” Ensign 38, no. 8 (August 2008): 44–51.

Richard Lloyd Anderson, “Attempts to Redefine the Experiences of the Eight Witnesses,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14, no. 1 (2005): 18–31, 125–127.

Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1981), 137–149.

BibleDeuteronomy 19:152 Corinthians 13:1Book of MormonThe Testimony of Eight Witnesses2 Nephi 27:12–13Ether 5:2


Deuteronomy 19:15

2 Corinthians 13:1

Book of Mormon

The Testimony of Eight Witnesses

2 Nephi 27:12–13

Ether 5:2

  • 1 Dean L. Jarman and Kyle R. Walker, “Samuel Harrison Smith,” in United By Faith: The Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family, ed. Kyle R. Walker (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2005), 206–209.
  • 2 Lavina Fielding Anderson, ed., Lucy’s Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s Family Memoir (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 2001), 478–480.
  • 3 Fielding Anderson, ed., Lucy’s Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s Family Memoir, 479–480, 497–499.
  • 4 “History of Brigham Young,” Deseret News, February 3, 1858.
  • 5 “History of Brigham Young,” Deseret News, February 3, 1858.
  • 6 Jarman and Walker, “Samuel Harrison Smith,” 212.
  • 7 Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1981), 39.
  • 8 Donald Q. Cannon and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., Far West Record: Minutes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1830–1844 (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1983), 19.
  • 9 “History of Luke Johnson [By Himself],” Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 26, no. 53 (December 31, 1864): 835.
  • 10 William McLellin Journal, December 11, 1831, in The Journals of William E. McLellin 1831–1836, ed. Jan Shipps and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah, Urbana and Chicago, ILL: BYU Studies and University of Illinois Press, 1994), 65.
  • 11 Samuel H. Smith Report, circa December 1831, MS 6104, Church History Library.
  • 12 Tyler remembered that the missionaries baptized three converts at this time, including Erastus Rudd. Daniel Tyler, “A Reminiscence,” Juvenile Instructor 11, N. 10 (May 15, 1876): 118; Daniel Tyler, “The Spaldin Story,” Deseret Evening News, January 16, 1878. Smith, who kept a daily journal during this mission, recorded on February 21 that they baptized three, namely Joseph Hartshorn, Erastus Rudd, and Horace Simons. Samuel H. Smith Journal, February 21, 1832.
  • 13 Daniel Tyler, “Incidents of Experience,” in Scraps of Biography: Faith Promoting Series (Salt Lake City, UT: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1883), 23.
  • 14 Samuel Harrison Smith Diary, 1832 February–1833 May, MS  4213, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, hereafter Samuel Harrison Smith Journal; Orson Hyde Journal, 1832 February–December, MS 1386, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.
  • 15 Samuel Harrison Smith Journal, March 3, 1832.
  • 16 Samuel Harrison Smith Journal, May 4, 1832.
  • 17 Samuel Harrison Smith Journal, July 16, 1832.
  • 18 Samuel Harrison Smith Journal, September 15, 1832.
  • 19 Samuel Harrison Smith Journal, September 28, 1832.
  • 20 Samuel Harrison Smith Journal, October 26, 1832.
  • 21 “Autobiography of Orson Hyde,” Deseret News, May 5, 1858.
  • 22 Samuel Harrison Smith Journal, October 25, 1832, MS 4213, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.
  • 23 Samuel Harrison Smith Journal, October 28, 1832, MS 4213, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.
  • 24 Samuel Harrison Smith Journal, August 5, 1832; Orson Hyde Journal, August 5, 1832.
  • 25 “Questions proposed to the Mormonite Preachers and their answers obtained before the whole assembly at Julien Hall, Sunday Evening, August 5, 1832,” Boston Investigator, August 10, 1832. Poulson reports John Whitmer as saying, “At the time Joseph showed the plates to us, we were four persons present in the room, and at another time he showed them to four persons more.” John Whitmer Interview with P. Wilfred Poulson, 1878, Deseret Evening News, August 6, 1878. References to the Eight Witnesses seeing the plates “during the time of their translation, if accurately reported, may refer to their seeing the plates covered during that time, as Emma Smith is reported to have encountered them.
  • 26 See LaRene Porter Gaunt and Robert A. Smith, “Samuel H. Smith,” Ensign 38, no. 8 (August 2008): 49.
  • 27 E. H. Young, History of Round Prairie and Plymouth, 1831–1875 (Chicago, ILL: Geo. J. Titus, 1876), 87.
  • 28 See Gaunt and Smith, “Samuel H. Smith,” 51.
  • 29 Times and Seasons 5, no. 14 (August 1, 1844): 606–607.
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