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Emily W. Jensen: Sunstone: Alexander Hale Smith shares LDS, RLDS history

  • An LDS historian and an RLDS historian shared perspectives of a man who shares an LDS and RLDS history: Alexander Hale Smith. Born in Far West, Mo., he is the son of Joseph and Emma Smith, historians at the Sunstone Symposium shared Friday, Aug. 14.Rene Romig stood in for her father Ron Romig, a historian and archivist for the Community of Christ (formally known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints Church or RLDS) to present a short biography of Alexander Hale Smith, who Rene Romig described as an "heir to a significant religious tradition." A few biographical notes about Alexander's early life:Born June 2, 1838 in Far West, Missouri. Alexander was the fifth son and sixth child of Joseph and Emma Smith.
  • Named after Alexander W. Doniphan; Emma's family name served as his middle name.
  • Joseph Smith was incarcerated at Liberty Jail while Alexander was an infant.
  • In February 1839, Emma crossed the Mississippi River "on foot, with Fredrick and baby Alexander in her arms, Joseph III and adopted daughter Julia clinging to her dress."
  • Alexander was six when his father and uncle were killed in Carthage, Ill.

Romig explained that after Joseph's death, "a profound and unfortunate animosity developed between Emma Smith and Brigham Young." Emma Smith stayed in the Midwest, and by 1847 was in Nauvoo, Ill., where the family alternately lived in the homestead, Mansion House or on the family farm. Alexander enjoyed a "positive relationship with his mother and stepfather (Lewis C. Bidamon)" and a "close kinship with his brothers and stepsister Julia." Alexander looked like Joseph Smith in many ways, "he inherited his 'blue eyes and ruddy complexion'" and "in later years, old timer saints testified that Alexander inherited the 'striking resemblance to his father in voice, gesture and manner of presentation.'" Alexander Smith married Elizabeth Agness Kendall in 1861 and they had nine children. Alexander served in many capacities in the RLDS church. He served numerous missions, including a mission to the South Seas, Hawaii and Australia. He was called as an RLDS apostle, a counselor in the RLDS presidency as well as the "patriarch and evangelist" for the RLDS Church.Romig related one of her favorite stories from Smith's life, explaining that on one of his RLDS missions to the West, he joined an LDS pioneer train. He decided to keep his last name a secret and went only as Alexander Hale. But when he traveled out of camp once and heard the members singing "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet," he knew then they knew he was Joseph Smith's son.Gracia N. Jones, great-great granddaughter of Joseph and Emma Smith and historian for the Joseph Smith Jr. and Emma Hale Smith Historical Society, was the first direct descendant to be baptized into the LDS Church. She explained in her presentation that her grandmother "occasionally spoke to her about her father (Alexander)...though I never heard the name Smith mentioned. In our family there was no discussion regarding religion, factions or doctrine." Jones explained that she "had to grow up and become a historian to research the lives and times of my Smith ancestors. I feel deeply about the subject, the testimony and the truth established by the Prophet Joseph Smith."Jones explained that Alexander Hale Smith, as an RLDS member and leader, "spent his entire life in the labor he loved, preaching and testifying the truths he understood." He died almost exactly one hundred years ago, passing away in the Mansion House at Nauvoo while visiting there on August 12, 1909.To conclude, Jones outlined the similarities between her and her great grandfather: "He had an unequivocal testimony of his father was a true prophet of God. I do too. He also had absolute faith in the divine origin of the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine of Covenants and the Bible, and that the Savior Jesus Christ was the son of God the Father, I do too."