New Harmony: An older brother learns a lesson

Published: Wednesday, April 16 2014 4:04 p.m. MDT

Joseph and his brother Hyrum Smith

Ken Corbett

Once again last Sunday, as is our lot, we Brigham City 5th warders attended two classes. This time Brother Bateman taught us about Joseph and his brothers. And Brother Hennington, well, he taught us about Joseph and his brothers, too.

The first Joseph lived in Egypt, a short trek from Palmyra in the Ancient World.

The second Joseph lived right in Palmyra — in the state of New York.

And at the end of the block I came away with two thoughts:

1. It ain’t easy being an older brother when your younger brother is a "chosen one."

2. It ain’t easy being that younger brother, either.

In the Old World, Joseph’s older brothers didn’t handle things well. They dumped their younger brother in a pit and sold him as a slave. Like Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon, they weren’t about to take guff from a kid brother.

I mean, it’s never easy being Vince DiMaggio when your little brother is Joe.

Every day you get reminded who he is and who you are not.

That’s why Hyrum Smith’s reaction amazes.

According to reports at the time, Hyrum sometimes carried himself more like a prophet than Joseph did. Joseph was often joking and teasing. But Hyrum always carried himself with dignity, grace and goodwill. When people came looking for the Mormon prophet and saw Hyrum, they figured they’d found him.

And yet, Hyrum never once showed resentment or envy. He didn’t complain. Instead, he served his gifted brother.

He became, in both life and death, devoted to Joseph. He was faithful, consistent and supportive.

And I, for one, find that quite a feat.

I’m an older brother myself, and I try to imagine my reaction if my little brother Val came to me and said he had been selected by God to be my leader and my light in the wilderness.

Val would be in a pit before he got to the word “wilderness.”

I’m no Hyrum Smith.

I learned that first-hand one day while visiting Elder Neal A. Maxwell in his office about some newspaper matters. Elder Maxwell didn’t do a lot of interior decorating. He took things that were close to his heart and filled his shelves and walls with them — paintings by his grandchildren, photos of Okinawa.

And on a nearby wall, about eye level, he had framed a professionally hand-lettered paragraph written by Joseph Smith, telling the world what a man among men his brother Hyrum was. It was one of many tributes Joseph gave his brother.

For some reason, up until then, Hyrum had always been “the other Smith brother” in my mind. But watching Elder Maxwell read that quote and say, “Remarkable” changed my thinking.

I stood there and tried to think of how many times Nephi praised his older brothers for being so devoted and true to him.

None came to mind.

I tried to recall a scripture where Joseph, in Egypt, spoke about the lifelong support and good treatment he got from his older brothers.

Nothing.

From that moment on, I became a Hyrum man.

He showed me, and many others, what being an older brother is really about.

He showed me that, like most things in life, it's about others.

Email: jerjohn@deseretnews.com

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