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Thursday, August 28, 2014

273: DAVID, THE SON OF JOSEPH SMITH JR.

There are always two sides to every story.  However, usually only one side gets told and recorded as history. History is always written by the winners and not the losers. "When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe." Dan Brown.
 
After the death of Joseph Smith Jr. and his brother Hyrum, the well known stories and early history of the Restored Gospel were written primarily through the voice, lens and perspective of Brigham Young and the Saints that traveled west into Salt Lake. Little is known about what happened to the Saints who stayed behind in Nauvoo. We don't often talk about or the hear stories of Emma and her children and the rest of Joseph Smith's family after the prophet died. 
 
On my recent trip back to Nauvoo, I learned that Emma was over 4 months pregnant with a son when her husband, the Prophet Joseph Smith was killed at Carthage Jail. Emma gave birth to a son on November 14, 1844, about five months after the death of the Prophet. She named him David. Below is a picture of Emma and her baby son. Tragic to think that Emma not only was mourning the death of her husband, but as a widow, she would be giving birth to a son who would be fatherless.
 
 
 

 
 
David was the youngest of the nine children born to Emma and Joseph.  However, there were only four surviving siblings at the time of his birth:  Julia (adopted), Joseph III, Frederick, and Alexander.

Joseph and Emma's first child was Alvin who died at child birth having undescribed birth defects. Emma then conceived twins, Thaddeus and Louisa, but both died a few hours after birth. On that same day, John and Julia Murdock, friends of Joseph and Emma, also gave birth to twins. John Murdock, who upon his wife's death in childbirth, gave the infants to the Smiths for adoption. The twins were named Julia (named after her birth mother) and Joseph. Joseph, the adopted infant, died a year later from exposure (many accounts say pneumonia) following a mob attack on the Smith home on the night of March 24, 1832. Joseph and Emma then had six sons. Joseph Smith III, Frederick, Alexander, Don Carlos (died at age 14 months), a stillborn male child, and then David.

David was three years old when his mother married Louis C. Bidamon.  Below are a few photographs of David. The photo on the left is David at age 16, and the photo on the right is when he was in his twenties.

 
In his youth, David became an accomplished poet and musician. He was around sixteen years old when his brother Joseph III took leadership of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1860. Like his father he never knew, David became devoted to God and the cause of the Restoration.  He touched the hearts of the Saints with his wonderful hymns of faith. Never having known his father, he penned a sad ballad entitled, “The Unknown Grave” which tells of the death of his father, his uncle Hyrum, and their sacrifice for the cause of the gospel.

In addition to his writing, David also was a artist. Below is his painting of Lehi's Dream. Probably one of the first illustrations of the Tree of Life illustrating the vision that Lehi and his son Nephi describe in the beginning chapters of the Book of Mormon.

  


David fell in love and married Clara Charlotte Hartshorn. They had one son, Elbert.  There is a sacred spot, located about a mile south of Nauvoo, that is known as David's Chamber.  David would often come here to meditate, pray, write poetry, and paint pictures. David’s son, Elbert A. Smith, described this beautiful and tranquil location:

"A little way down the river from the Mansion House, and back in the hills, there was a waterfall and above the fall among the rocks and trees there was an amphitheater which I have been told by numerous people was a favorite resort to which father went as a lad to read and write and paint."  (Elbert A. Smith, On Memory’s Beam, p. 37)


photos of David's Chamber taken from our recent trip to Nauvoo in June 2014
  
 Throughout his life, David had health problems. He was diabetic and also suffered from depression. After hearing the stories and beginning to believe that his father Joseph Smith had indeed practiced polygamy started to have problems of doubt and instability. Later in life, David was hospitalized until he eventually passed away at age 60.
 
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I share this information because most of us, if not all, in this life encounter times of doubt, insecurity and sadness.  What did Joseph Smith do in the times of his life when he has doubt and sadness? 
 
He cried unto the Lord.