Question: What relation was Asahel Smith Jr. to Joseph Smith Sr.?
Answer: Asahel Smith Jr. was born May 21, 1773, in Windham, Rockingham County, New Hampshire. His parents were Asahel Smith Sr. and Mary Duty. Asahel was the fourth of eleven children, and his older brother, Joseph Smith (Sr.), was the father of the prophet Joseph Smith.
Elizabeth Schellinger (Betsy) was born December 1, 1785, in Chatham, Middlesex County, Connecticut, the daughter of Abraham Schellinger and Jane Johnson. Betsy married Asahel Smith on March 21, 1802, in Vermont, when she was 16 and he was 28. They first lived in Royalton, where their oldest son Elias was born, and then they moved to nearby Tunbridge, where they lived close to five of Asahel’s brothers and their families.
In 1809, the Smith brothers became restless and talked of moving to the wild, unsettled lands of St. Lawrence County, New York, about 150 miles to the north. Asahel was the first to pack up his family and make the move, but the rest of the brothers soon followed–except for Joseph. (He moved to Palmyra, New York, near the Hill Cumorah, where his son Joseph Smith Jr. would eventually be led to find the golden plates.) Asahel’s parents, the aged Asahel and Mary Duty Smith, also moved to St. Lawrence County, to be near their children and grandchildren.
Asahel and Betsy settled in the town of Stockholm, about 15 miles from the St. Lawrence River. The assessment records from that period give us some interesting information about Asahel: In 1816, he owned 84 acres of wild land, 16 acres of improved land, and a barn worth $50. By 1833, he owned 340 acres with a total value of real estate being $555. On April 15, 1833, he was assessed to work 6 3/4 days on the highways, and during that same period he was listed as one of the trustees of school district number nine.
In the fall of 1828, the family received a letter from Asahel’s brother Joseph in Palmyra, stating that his young son, Joseph Smith Jr., had received some remarkable visions. In August, 1830, Joseph Sr. and another of his sons, Don Carlos, came to Saint Lawrence County, bringing copies of the newly-printed Book of Mormon and the message of the restored gospel. All the Smith brothers except for Jesse, the oldest, were converted.
In August, 1830, Asahel received his testimony. He became a warm advocate of the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the everlasting gospel. He was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Lyman E. Johnson, June 29, 1835, in Stockholm, St. Lawrence, New York, and removed with his family to Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836. Soon after his arrival there, he was ordained a High Priest by Don Carlos Smith. His mother, Mary Duty Smith, passed away in Kirtland in May 1836, at the age of ninety-two.
In 1837, Asahel became a member of the High Council at Kirtland. He was chosen to fill a similar position in Lee county, Iowa, when a Stake of Zion was organized there on Oct. 5, 1839. He served in that capacity until Jan. 6, 1842, when the Stake organization in Iowa was discontinued. During this time he resided at Nashville, Iowa.
Asahel was ordained a Patriarch (the fourth presiding Patriarch of the Church) by the Twelve Apostles in Nauvoo, Oct. 7, 1844. The patriarchal office, according to the hereditary order, belonged to Asahel Smith; but as his health was poor and he is not known to have taken any active part in the office of presiding Patriarch. He was seventy-one years of age at the time.
He died July 20, 1848, at Iowaville, Wapello County, Iowa, en route to the West. His wife, Elizabeth, had died on October 14, 1846. They were both buried in the Iowaville Cemetery, Selma, Van Buren County, Iowa. Asahel and Betsy had eight children. One son, Jessie J., was a member of Zion’s Camp and died on that expedition in Missouri in 1834, but the other children all made it to Utah.
The following is recorded about Asahel Smith in Church history: “His principles, precepts and examples were worthy of imitation, and shed a lustre that does honor to his high and holy calling.’ (LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Andrew Jenson, Vol. 1, p.182)