News Story

First Latter-day Saint Missionary Born 200 Years Ago Today

Samuel Smith, the first missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and brother of the Church's first president Joseph Smith, was born on this day 200 years ago.

Elder M. Russell Ballard, a Church apostle as well as a descendant of Hyrum Smith, a brother of Samuel and Joseph, spoke Sunday evening in the Salt Lake Tabernacle about the first Mormon missionary’s legacy.

“Since Samuel’s first missionary service,” said Elder Ballard, “the Church has called over one million missionaries to serve in 348 missions, now teaching the gospel in 176 nations and in 164 languages and dialects.”

“His missionary journeys between 1830 and 1833 covered over 4,000 miles.”

Elder Ballard said that while Samuel Smith did not bring any new members into the Church during his first mission, in New England, his giving copies of the Book of Mormon to those he met led to the subsequent conversion of Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and their families.

Samuel Smith introduced Oliver Cowdery to his brother Joseph. Cowdery became a close friend, scribe and fellow leader alongside the Church’s first president. After Joseph Smith and Cowdery were baptized in 1829, Samuel Smith was the third person baptized into the Church.

For a time Smith also served as scribe during the translation process of the Book of Mormon. He was one of the original six members of the Church when it was formally organized on 6 April 1830.

Smith was one of the Eight Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, all of whom stated that they saw and handled the golden plates.

While several others did missionary work before Samuel Smith's missions, such as Thomas B. Marsh, Solomon Chamberlain and members of Smith's family, he was the first to undertake a formal missionary assignmentafter the Church was organized.

Of Samuel Smith, another brother, Don Carlos Smith, said, “Samuel is as faithful as the sun.” 

Smith died in Nauvoo, Illinois, 33 days after his brothers Joseph and Hyrum were killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois.

“His death was caused by an illness contracted in his exertion to escape the mob while trying to go to the aid of Joseph and Hyrum,” Elder Ballard said. “So in many ways, Samuel was also a martyr.”

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