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‘Iosepa’ began mission at age 15

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The hardships and challenges of the early years of the Church in the Salt Lake Valley did not preclude the continuance of missionary work. It extended even to 15-year-old Joseph F. Smith, an orphan since his mother's death two years previous. His father, Hyrum, brother to the Prophet Joseph, had now been gone 10 years, and the young man was struggling to build a life in the Rocky Mountains and care for his little sister, Martha Ann.

Then, during the April 1854 general conference, he must have sat stunned as President Brigham Young read his name among others called to serve in the Pacific Isles, as described in Joseph F. Smith: Patriarch and Preacher, Prophet of God by Francis M. Gibbons. He and other elders commenced their journey May 27, 1854. In Joseph F. Smith, the author wrote: "Orphaned, and separated from his brothers and sisters for the first time, Joseph F. doubtless felt occasional pangs of loneliness as he contemplated several years of labor among an unfamiliar people in a strange environment."

Having to work in California for his ship fare to what were then called the Sandwich Islands, young Joseph first made shingles and then gained employment as a farmhand until he and his companions embarked aboard the Vaquero on Sept. 8, 1854. After a 19-day voyage, they finally arrived in Pearl Harbor. Author Francis Gibbons wrote: "One can imagine the excitement and relief with which Joseph F. and his land-bred companions saw Diamond Head loom up out of the Pacific. Overcrowded conditions aboard the clipper had made it necessary for the missionaries to be billeted in the forecastle with the crew. There they were treated to the bucking gyrations and nausea that only the forecastle of a ship can provide during a storm at sea. And they were also treated to the crew's profanities, which they found degrading and incompatible with their callings as representatives of the Savior.

"The young missionary was enthralled by the distinctive sights, sounds, and smells of Polynesia as he alighted on the dock on Oahu. The exuberant friendliness of the natives appealed to him instantly."

The loving bond that developed between the Hawaiians and the one called "Iosepa" is now history.

"The young missionary was enthralled by the distinctive sights, sounds, and smells of Polynesia."