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First Missionary Journey of Samuel Smith

Samuel Harrison Smith (1808-1844) was the faithful younger brother of LDS Church Founder, Joseph Smith (1805-1844). He performed much valuable service for his brother and the restored church in its early days. He also became its first missionary.

In late spring 1830, was the First Missionary Journey of Samuel Smith to the nearby town of Mendon, NY. At the time it was thought this mission was failure since he could only hand out just one Book of Mormon and was otherwise met with much rejection and discouragement. But in just two years time, that one book would come into the hands of the Young and Kimball families which would be the source by which many thousands would join the new church and also the source of many future prominent church leaders.

Soon after the baptism of Joseph and his scribe, Oliver Cowdery (1806-1850) at the hands of the angel, John the Baptist on 15 May 1829, Samuel went out to the woods to pray about the veracity of his brother's teachings and received a divine confirmation of its truth. On 25 May 1829 he went to be baptized by Oliver, becoming the third person to be baptized in the restoration.



When Samuel asked how he could best serve in the newly organized church, his answer came in a revelation: “Thy calling is to exhortation, and to strengthen the church; and thou are not as yet called to preach before the world” (D&C 23:4). Two months later (June 1830) the Prophet called his younger brother to serve as a missionary to neighboring villages.

What if you had to go on a mission alone—no companion, no training at the Missionary Training Center, no missionary lessons to teach from, and only your testimony, the Spirit, and the Book of Mormon to help you? How would you do?


Samuel Smith—the first official missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—did just that. Samuel, the Prophet Joseph’s younger brother, was 22 at the time of his first mission. As he walked alone into towns near Palmyra, New York, he carried only a knapsack full of copies of the recently printed Book of Mormon.


On his first day out (01 July 1830), Samuel traveled twenty miles to the southwest of Palmyra to the farm villages of Bloomington, New York and Mendon, New York in attempt to distribute copies of the Book of Mormon and to share the message about the organization of a new church called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known today as both the LDS Church or Mormon Church).

While Samuel traveled all day he could find no to accept one of his books or to listen to his message. He did meet with one burly innkeeper who asked where did the book come from and Samuel replied that it had been translated from golden plates that his brother Joseph had found buried in the earth. To this he called him "You liar! Get out of my house; you won't stay one minute with your books." and rudely turn him out. He stopped at a nearby brook and washed his feet as a testimony against that man. He slept that night under an apple tree on the cold, damp ground. When he passed by the same place two weeks later he saw their a sign that smallbox had been there. Samuel learned that it had taken the abusive man and two other members of his family.

During this first visit to Bloomington, Samuel stopped at the house of the Greene's, (John Portineus Greene (1793-1844) and Rhoda Young (1789-1841)). Rhoda listened intently to Samuel's message, but John, a licensed minister, listed disinterestedly and called the work a "nonsensical fable." John refused to buy a book from Samuel but did accept to take a subscription copy, promising to return to Samuel of list of names if he found any interested buyers during his next preaching circuit.

Samuel returned in two weeks time but was disappointed that Reverence Greene had found no potential buyers. He still left the loaned book with the Greene's and challenged them to read and pray sincerely about its truthfulness. Samuel returned a third (now in late July 1830) and record his visit as thus:

"When I arrived at Mr. Greene's, Mrs Greene informed me that her husband was absent from home, that there was no prospect of selling my books, and even the one which I had left with them she expected I would have to take away, as Mr. Greene had no disposition to purchase it, although she had read it herself and was much pleased with it. I then talked with her a short time, and binding my knapsack upon my shoulders, arose to depart, but as I bade her farewell it was impressed upon my mind to leave the book with her. I made her a present of it, and told her that the Spirit forebade me taking it away. She burst into tears and requested me to pray with her. I did so and afterwards explained to her the most profitable manner of reading the book which I had left with her; which was, to ask God, when she read it, for a testimony of the truth of what she had read and she would receive the Spirit of God, which would enable her to discern the things of God. I then left her and returned home."

Later, when Reverend Greene returned home, his wife implored him to read the book and pray about its truthfulness. At first he refused but then relented and started reading, probably mostly to placate his wife. But in very short time his interest was aroused and he received a very powerful manifestation of its truth. John and Rhode soon began sharing the Book of Mormon, a book now treasured, with their relatives. They would both join the Mormon Church and followed Joseph Smith to Ohio, Missouri and then Nauvoo, where both would die from hardships suffered in Missouri.


Samuel also sold a copy of the Book of Mormon to Rhoda's brother: Phinehas (or Phineas) Young, a Methodist preacher. When he first met Samuel, Phinehas was returning home on horseback from his preaching circuit. He had stopped at a farm for dinner.

As he and the family were visiting, a young man, dressed in rough clothes, entered the room. Book in hand, the young man said to Phinehas, “There’s a book, sir, I wish you to read.”


“Pray, sir, what book have you?” Phinehas asked.

“The Book of Mormon, or, as it is called by some, the Golden Bible.”

“Ah, so then it purports to be a revelation?” Phinehas asked.

The young man opened the book to the testimonies of the Three and Eight Witnesses and said, “Here is the testimony of the witnesses to the truth of the book.”

Phinehas read their testimonies. When Phinehas looked up from his reading, the young man said, “If you will read this book with a prayerful heart and ask God to give you a witness, you will know the truth of the work.”

Phinehas promised to read the book. Then he asked the young man’s name. “My name is Samuel H. Smith.” Phinehas had seen that name! “Then you are one of the witnesses.”

Yes,” Samuel said. “I know the book is a revelation from God, translated by the power of the Holy Ghost, and that my brother, Joseph Smith, Jr., is a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator.”

After arriving home Phinehas told his wife, “I have got a book here called the Book of Mormon, and it is said to be a revelation, and I wish to read it and make myself acquainted with its errors, so I can expose them to the world.”

True to his promise, he read the Book of Mormon—twice in two weeks. Rather than finding any errors, he became convinced the book was true. On Sunday, when his congregation asked for his opinion of the book, “he defended it for ten minutes, when suddenly the Spirit of God came on him with such force that in a marvelous manner he spoke at great length on the importance of it. … He closed by telling the people that he believed the book.”



Phineas would believe and joined the church, serving missions to Upper Canada and Cincinatti. He followed the church to Utah and served in the Salt Lake Stake presidency and later as bishop for a long time of the LDS Salt Lake 2nd Ward.

Phineas shared this book with his brother, Brigham Young (1801-1877), who would eventually become the 2nd President of the Church, succeeding Joseph Smith. After he read the book he passed it on to another sister, Fanny Young (1787-1859). She accepted its message and passed the book on to her step-daughter and her husband (Vilate Murray (1806-1867) and Heber Chase Kimball (1801-1868)). They both accepted its message and Heber would later become a very influential missionary Apostle for the church and become Brigham's counselor.

Brigham and his brother-in-law, John P Greene, went to visit another of Brigham's brothers, Joseph Young (1797-1881), who was then on a preaching circuit in Canada to share their new convictions with him. The three of them returned together in April 1832 to Bloomfield, New York and were baptized by Eleazer Miller.

On April 5, 1832, Young and his brother John were baptized into the Latter Day Saint Church of Christ. His brother Joseph was baptized the next day and Brigham Young was baptized approximately one week later. Phineas' wife Clarissa was also baptized about this same time. Shortly after their baptisms, Phineas Young and Joseph Young became ordained elders in the church began preaching as missionaries in New York and Upper Canada.

By then of that month, all of the Young family were baptized members of the church, a process that took about two years from Samuel first dropped off that one lone copy of the Book of Mormon.

In the next six months, they found an additional 20-30 neighbors to join the Bloomfield Branch, with John P Greene organizing and leading a branch in Warsaw, New York.

In October 1832, the Greenes, Youngs and Kimballs all moved to Kirtland, Ohio to meet Joseph Smith and to join with the main body of the church.

The first official latter-day missionary baptized no one and shared only a few copies of the Book of Mormon. Samuel didn’t know then that two of those copies would bring into the Church many faithful members, including Brigham Young, who presided over the Church from 1844 to 1877, and Heber C. Kimball, an Apostle from 1835 to 1868.

References[]

  1. Samuel H Smith Foundation - dedicated to the preservation and sharing of strong and valued legacies. We work to capture and preserve meaningful life stories for the benefit of future generations, in the quest to share positive values and persuade people to do good and to live happier, more fulfilling lives.
  2. Samuel Smith: Faithful Brother - LDS Ensign Magazine (Aug 2008)
  3. Samuel Smith: First Missionary - LDS New Era Magazine - (Sept 2004)
  4. Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley (1958), 82.
  5. History of the Church, 1:44.
  6. The description of Samuel Smith’s first mission comes from History of Joseph Smith, 168–71, 187–88.
  7. History of Joseph Smith, 187.
  8. The description of Phinehas Young’s experience comes from S. Dilworth Young, “Here Is Brigham …” (1964), 50–52.
  9. Little Known Stories About the Doctrine and Covenants - Section 23 - Samuel H Smith (Free on Google Books)
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