Samuel Harrison Smith

Samuel Smith First Missionary

Samuel Harrison Smith

June 1830.  Mendon, New York.  It was in the evening when Phineas, a circuit preacher was on his way home. He stopped at the Tomlinson Inn there in Mendon for dinner. While he was eating and talking with the family, a roughly dressed stranger, a young man, came up to him holding out a book. “There is a book, sir, I wish you to read.”

Phineas hesitated a moment and then said, “Pray, sir, what book have you?”

“The Book of Mormon,” said the young man, “or, as it is called by some, the Golden Bible.”

“Ah, then it purports to be a revelation,” Phineas replied.

“Yes,” said he, “It is a revelation from God.”

Phineas then took the book. It was new, and at the young man’s direction turned to the back of it and read the testimony of the witnesses. When he finished reading and looked up, the young man said, “If you will read this book with a prayerful heart and ask God to give you a witness you will know of the truth of this work.”

“What is your name,” Phineas asked.

“My name is Samuel Harrison Smith.”

“Ah,” said Phineas, “you are one of the witnesses.” “Yes,” said he, “I know the book to be a revelation from God, translated by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, and that my brother, Joseph Smith, Jun., is a Prophet, Seer and Revelator.”

Skeptical at first, Phineas agreed to read the book, considering it his duty to prove all things and hold fast that which is good. He read it twice over the next two weeks. Not only did he not find errors, he was converted. He then lent it to his father who read it and declared it to be “the greatest work… he had ever seen.”  Phineas then gave it to his sister, who read it and declared it to be “a revelation.” And so it went down through the family, each in turn believing it to be a new revelation from God. From that one book came Phineas his father, his sister, and all his brothers, including Brigham Young—the second President of the Church, and the family of Heber C. Kimball. That small group of believers soon numbered 60 people and formed the Mendon Branch.

Samuel was called and set apart as a missionary just days after the Church was organized. With no training and armed with only a sure testimony and a knapsack full of books he went out and though he endured much and baptized no one, he changed the world forever. By small and simple things are great things still brought to pass.