Question: Samuel Harrison Smith is mentioned in D& 23:4; 52:30; 6l:35; 66:8; 75:13; 102:3; 124:141. Who was Samuel Harrison Smith, and was he a martyr along with his two brothers? Was he traditionally recognized as the first missionary of the Church?
Answer: Samuel Harrison Smith was born 13 March 1808 in Orange County, Vermont, the son of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack. Samuel was eight years of age when the Smith family moved to Palmyra in 1816.
When his brother Joseph, just two years older than him, told him about the visions he had, Samuel believed him and became a strong support for his brother. Samuel was six feet in height and athletic in nature.
Samuel H. Smith Statue at the MTC in Provo, Utah
Samuel was baptized on 25 May 1829 by Oliver Cowdery, becoming the third person baptized in this dispensation. He was one of the six original members of the Church, and he was chosen to be one of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon.
Samuel was ordained an elder and is traditionally recognized as the first missionary of the Church. His missionary efforts in the distribution of the Book of Mormon lead to the baptisms of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball.
In August 1831, the Lord said of Samuel, “…my servant Samuel H. Smith, with whom I am well pleased.” Samuel preached from Maine to Missouri, journeying over four thousand miles, mostly on foot. He served his most challenging mission with Orson Hyde. This eastern mission lasted eleven months, covering two thousands miles on foot, and included meetings and baptisms from Ohio to Maine.
From 1832 to 1836 Samuel resided in the Kirtland vicinity, laboring with his hands as a farmer. In Kirtland he was appointed an agent for the Church’s Literary Firm, which was established to print Church publications, and he also served as a member of the Kirtland high council. Samuel received his patriarchal blessing from his father in December 1834, and was promised, “…The testimony which thou hast borne and shall bear, shall be received by thousands…”
In January 1836 Samuel moved his wife and baby daughter to Missouri where they were subjected to mob violence. The mob carried his wife and baby daughter out of the house on their feather bed, into the sleet and rain and placed the feather bed on the ground. Then they burned their house to the ground. His wife never regained her health from this incidence. He would flee with his family to Macomb, Illinois, and eventually to Nauvoo.
His wife gave birth to two more children, but she died 25 January 1841 in Nauvoo, along with her fourth child.
Samuel H. Smith home site archeological dig, Nauvoo, 2016
In Nauvoo, Samuel became an alderman chairman of the committee of improvement, formed to contract and repair roads; associate justice of the municipal court; captain in the Nauvoo Legion; and a regent of the University of Nauvoo. In January 1841 he was called to be a counselor to Vinson Knight, President Bishop of the Church. He was later called as Bishop of the Nauvoo Ward. Samuel married again, Lavira Clark, and some of his descendants later made it to Utah.
When Samuel learned of the imprisonment of his brothers in Carthage, he attempted to go to them. He was met by a mob who intercepted him and prevented his traveling to Carthage. He returned home and purchased a horse noted for its speed, and rode toward Carthage again. As he neared the town the second time, he learned that his brothers were dead. The mob gave chase, but Samuel managed to stay out of the range of their bullets and arrived in Carthage. The next day he escorted the bodies of his brothers back to Nauvoo. Samuel became ill due to being chased by the mob, and died 30 July 1844, just a month after his brothers.
He is buried in the Smith Family Cemetery with his wife and baby.