Question: Don Carlos Smith is mentioned in D&C 124:133. Who was Don Carlos Smith, and what part did he play in the early days of the Church?
Answer: Don Carlos Smith was born 25 March 1816 in Vermont. He was the youngest son of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack. His older brother, the Prophet Joseph, wrote of him, “He was one of the first to receive my testimony.” He was baptized in June 1830 in Seneca Lake, New York, by David Whitmer.
Don Carlos soon migrated to Kirtland with his family. At age nineteen, Don Carlos was ordained a high priest and appointed president of the high priests quorum in Kirtland. In 1837 he became editor of the Elders’ Journal, until a fire destroyed the printing office. When mobocracy flared in Ohio, he fled with his family to the small town of Portage.
In the spring of 1838 Don Carlos journeyed to Virginia and Pennsylvania, soliciting needed funds to help move families to Missouri. Don Carlos served a four-month mission in 1838 to Tennessee and Kentucky with his cousin George A. Smith and others, for the purpose of collecting funds to buy land claims of non-Mormons in Davies County.
When they heard of the increasing persecution of the Saints in Missouri, they returned to Far West. Don Carlos’ wife, Agnes Moulton Coolbrith, and two children were compelled to walk several miles through the snow and wade through water waist deep, during inclement weather. They made their way to Illinois, where Don Carlos joined them.
In July 1839, in Nauvoo, the Prophet Joseph asked Don Carlos and George A. Smith to visit the many Saints who had fallen ill and administer to them in the name of Jesus Christ that they might be made well again. They administered to over sixty people who were healed.
During his Nauvoo years, Don Carlos edited thirty-one issues of the Times and Seasons from 1839 to 1841. He was appointed president of the high priests quorum of Nauvoo. His responsibilities heightened within the first week of February 1841 when he was elected to the Nauvoo City Council, selected as brigadier-general in the second cohort of the Nauvoo Legion, and appointed as a regent of the University of Nauvoo.
The Prophet Joseph wrote of his brother, “He was six feet four inches high, was very straight and well made, had light hair, and was very strong and active. His usual weight when in health was two hundred pounds. He was universally beloved by the Saints.”
One of his choice experiences in Nauvoo was receiving a blessing from his father shortly before his father’s death. In the blessing he was told: “You shall be great in the sight of the Lord, for he sees and knows the integrity of your heart, and you shall be blessed…”
In August 1841, Don Carlos became ill. On the morning of 7 August 1841 at 2:20 a.m. he died at the age of twenty-five. The cause of his death was presumed to be either tuberculosis, pneumonia, or “quick consumption.” He was buried with military honors. The Prophet Joseph named his seventh child Don Carlos after his brother. He wrote, “…where his soul goes, let mine go also.”
Don Carlos was the father of Ina Coolbrith, who became the first poet laureate of California. His only other child, a daughter named Sophronia Coolbrith Smith, died in Nauvoo. Don Carlos, and his daughter, are buried in the Smith Family Cemetery.
- Who’s Who in the Doctrine & Covenants by Susan Easton Black