Was Joseph F. Smith Blessed by His Father Hyrum Smith in Liberty Jail?


Joseph F. Smith, Hyrum Smith, Liberty Jail


In discussions associated with some of the significant Liberty Jail events, the statement is sometimes made that Joseph F. Smith, eldest son of Hyrum and Mary Fielding Smith, was blessed by his father during his 1838–39 incarceration. Is there historical evidence to support this conclusion? Significantly, neither Hyrum nor Mary is known to have left any statements regarding such a blessing. Likewise, it appears from the existing sources associated with this episode that none of the other prisoners—Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Lyman Wight, Alexander McRae, or Caleb Baldwin—made any mention of it. During their confinement, the Mormon leaders were also visited by a number of Latter-day Saints, yet from those known to have visited the jail, no accounts about the blessing can be found. Even in the biography of Joseph F. Smith, written by his son Joseph Fielding Smith (one who would have been privy to many undocumented or unwritten incidents in his father’s life), the narrative is silent, suggesting that perhaps neither Joseph F. nor Joseph Fielding may have even been aware of the incident—if it indeed occurred.1 Significantly, the only known statement by a contemporary of the period to indicate that Hyrum blessed his infant son in the jail comes from Edward Stevenson. In his reminiscences, Stevenson recorded, “Joseph F. Smith, with his mother, visited his father in this same jail, and although but an infant, received a blessing under his hands.”2 Besides this statement, what other evidence is there to suggest that the blessing may have taken place?

Original Publication Citation

“Was Joseph F. Smith Blessed by His Father Hyrum Smith in Liberty Jail?” Mormon Historical Studies 4, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 101–05.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Mormon Historical Studies




Religious Education


Church History and Doctrine

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor