William Smith, the Prophet Joseph’s younger brother, gave his last interview in November 1893, less than two weeks before he died at age 82. (It was published in the Deseret Weekly News on Jan. 27, 1894.)
“Did you not doubt Joseph's testimony sometimes?” his interviewer asked.
“No,” he replied. “We all had the most implicit confidence in what he said. He was a truthful boy. Father and mother believed him, why should not the children? I suppose if he had told crooked stories about other things we might have doubted his word about the plates, but Joseph was a truthful boy. That father and mother believed his report and suffered persecution for that belief shows that he was truthful. No, sir, we never doubted his word for one minute.”
The devotion of his family to Mormonism, and the price they paid for it, constitutes powerful indirect evidence for Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling. Joseph was the founder and first president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It’s easy, for example, given the loyally supportive role that Hyrum Smith played, to forget that Hyrum was Joseph’s older brother. However, that fact is deeply significant. He had known Joseph literally his entire life and was as well positioned to judge his little brother’s character as anybody has ever been.
When typhus fever struck Joseph in 1812, the 7-year-old boy’s leg began to swell, and he was in agony for weeks. Lucy Mack Smith later wrote in her biography of Joseph (titled "The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother") that Hyrum, “who was rather remarkable for his tenderness and sympathy,” sat beside the suffering child “almost day and night for some considerable length of time, holding the affected part of his leg in his hands and pressing it between them, so that his afflicted brother might be enabled to endure the pain.”
At Alvin Smith’s death in 1823, Hyrum became, at 23, the oldest of the Smith brothers. "When Joseph received the golden plates, it was Hyrum who provided the wooden box" to hold them, Ronald K. Esplin wrote in "Hyrum Smith: The Mildness of a Lamb, the Integrity of Job" (Ensign, February 2002). And, in 1829, he became one of the Eight Witnesses to the Book of Mormon (see this previous column “Hyrum Smith is an impressive witness,” Sept. 29, 2016). During the book’s publication, it was to Hyrum that Joseph entrusted the printer’s copy of the manuscript, and it was Hyrum, typically accompanied by Oliver Cowdery, who delivered pages to the typesetter every morning and retrieved them every evening (see "Hyrum Smith: The Mildness of a Lamb, the Integrity of Job").
Writing in 1880 to J.T. Cobb, the bitterly apostate William McLellin declared, “I have no faith in Mormonism, as an ism.” But McLellin then proceeded to defend the Book of Mormon, partially because of his interactions with Hyrum Smith. “When I first joined the church in 1831,” he told Cobb, “soon I became acquainted with all the Smith family and the Whitmer family, heard all their testimonies, which agreed in the main points; and I believed them then and I believe them yet.”
Hyrum served as Joseph’s chief aide during the grueling march of Zion’s Camp in 1834 and, upon his return, became foreman of the stone quarry for the new Kirtland Temple (see the Encyclopedia of Mormonism at eom.byu.edu). He cleared the temple site with his scythe. With Reynolds Cahoon he began the digging of the foundation. He served as a vital member of the committee overseeing its construction, according to "Hyrum Smith: The Mildness of a Lamb, the Integrity of Job."
During winter 1838-1839, Hyrum spent four months in Liberty Jail under appalling conditions. As in Zion’s Camp, he watched as his brother’s sincerity passed rigorous tests.
In Doctrine and Covenants 6:18, revealed in April 1829, Oliver Cowdery had been commanded to “stand by my servant Joseph, faithfully, in whatsoever difficult circumstances he may be for the word’s sake.” Then, in verses 29-30, the Lord made a somewhat ominous promise to Cowdery:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, if they reject my words, and this part of my gospel and ministry, blessed are ye, for they can do no more unto you than unto me. And even if they do unto you even as they have done unto me, blessed are ye, for you shall dwell with me in glory.”
Meanwhile, Hyrum was essentially told to wait (see Doctrine and Covenants 11:15-26).
Cowdery was named “assistant president” of the LDS Church at the end of 1834, but he lost that office at his excommunication in 1838. In January 1841, the office was again filled, this time by Hyrum Smith. And so it was Hyrum who, in 1844, willingly went with his brother to Carthage and "sealed his testimony with his blood," according to "Hyrum Smith: The Mildness of a Lamb, the Integrity of Job."