A Fireside With Joseph Smith’s Great-Great-Great-Grandson

Last week Michael Kennedy spoke to members of  the Las Vegas Stake.  My in-laws are in that stake, and invited my wife and me to attend.  It was a wonderful event.

I knew that Joseph Smith’s wife and children had not gone west with Brigham Young and the pioneers, and that his son Joseph Smith III had been the first president of the Reorganized LDS Church (now the Community of Christ), but I had also assumed that that meant that all of Joseph’s descendants were RLDS. 

Wrong.  Not that he has that many descendants, anyway.  The highlight of the fireside for me was a seventeen foot long chart he and his wife displayed that showed the family tree of Joseph and Emma, including every single member of his posterity, including those still alive.  The most surprising thing about it was how bare it was.  Of the five children he had with Emma who survived to adulthood, only two have lines that would be considered normal for population growth from one generation to the next.  Various reasons exist for this, but one example is particularly striking: one granddaughter joined the LDS Church and was so hounded by other relatives that she refused to have children, not wanting them to have to bear the stress she went through.  Many of the lines of Smith’s descendants have died out. 

(Incidentally, as I’m sure you’re thinking, Kennedy shared an important bit of trivia that bears on the number of descendants as well as a common criticism of the Prophet: though he was sealed to many other women, he doesn’t appear to have had children with any of them.  DNA testing continues, but has ruled out every candidate tested so far.  Though skeptics like to point out that some of the women he was sealed to were still teenagers, some of those “wives” were nearly twice his age.  Strange, if he was abusing his hold over people just to “sow his oats,” don’t you think?) 

The first half of Brother Kennedy’s presentation was his conversion story, which was just as entertaining as it was inspiring.  He grew up in rural Nevada, unaware of his famous ancestor until the early ’70’s when he had to do a report for a history class about an important American in his family tree.  Just as his father was showing him some family heirlooms about Joseph Smith, two missionaries knocked on his door.  Continue reading