News Release

President Ballard Honors Joseph Smith’s Ancestry While Ministering in New England

Five generations of Joseph’s forefathers lived in a small town 25 miles north of Boston

President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and a great-great-nephew of Joseph Smith Jr. (the founder of Jesus Christ’s global Church), gathered on a warm and sunny Saturday morning with around 350 others at the Pine Grove Cemetery in Topsfield, Massachusetts, to dedicate a new monument to Joseph’s ancestors.

Topsfield, a village founded some 350 years ago, was home to five of Joseph’s forefathers: Robert Smith (1626–1693), Samuel Smith I (1666–1748), Samuel Smith II (1742–1785), Asael Smith (1744–1830), and Joseph Smith Sr. (1771–1840).

“It’s a very important thing for us to never lose sight of those who laid the groundwork and built the paths that have led to light and truth that has now been available to those who would be willing to seek it and find it, embrace it and join it,” President Ballard said.

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In 1873, apostle George A. Smith erected a monument in the cemetery to mark the burials of Samuel I and Samuel II (both are buried in the cemetery at unknown locations). The new monument was funded by private Latter-day Saint donors and installed in September 2020, but the dedication was delayed due to COVID-19. The monument is fashioned from the same Barre granite as the Joseph Smith Birthplace monument in Vermont. It is wider (five feet) and taller (nine feet, six inches) and heavier (it weighs nearly 14,000 pounds) than its 1873 counterpart (which stands just feet away) and tells a more complete story of the Smith family. Both monuments are enclosed with a fence and gate.

President M. Russell Ballard stands next to a well of what was the homestead of four generations of Smiths in Topsfield, Massachusetts. The well was dug by Asael Smith in the 1700s. A photo was taken of President Ballard’s great-grandfather, Church President Joseph F. Smith, next to this well in 1905.
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In his dedicatory prayer, President Ballard asked the Almighty to bless all who come to this cemetery to feel its spiritual gravitas.

“Bless those of all nations, kindreds, tongues and people of all religious persuasions, that as they come to this cemetery and have the opportunity to see this beautiful new monument, as they read the words and contemplate the meaning, that Thy spirit may touch them, that they may know that this is a very special place honoring Thy prophets of this the dispensation of the fullness of times,” he said.

John Kinhan, a member of the Congregational Church of Topsfield (the same church the generations of Smiths were a part of), said Latter-day Saints will always be welcome in the community.

“We will always be a sanctuary, we will always be a home for any member of the Church of Jesus Christ,” Kinhan said. “Come and visit our church or our community. You’re always welcome.” Kinhan added that “we’re all in the service of the One from whom all blessings flow. … We’re all doing the Lord’s work. And it would be well if we did it together.”

Heidi Swinton, a Latter-day Saint author and member of the Ensign Peak Foundation (the group that worked with Topsfield city leaders to upgrade the monument), said, “all of us in Christianity are working to do what was described of Jesus Christ: He ‘went about doing good … for God was with Him’ (Acts 10:38).”

Topsfield Town Administrator Kevin Hartunian noted the extraordinary experience working with the Church, Ensign Peak Foundation, Topsfield Historical Society, Congregational Church and the township. “It’s been really special to be one of the leaders in this community and to make those connections with others and collaborate. It’s been a very special project,” he said.

The Topsfield monument is reminiscent of the Smith Family Cemetery in Nauvoo, where Joseph Smith Jr. and his brother Hyrum are buried. That cemetery was renovated in 1991.

Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., Church Historian and Recorder, joined President Ballard during his weekend ministry. Elder Curtis said President Ballard has long been a passionate witness of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling.

“[President Ballard’s] teaching of the importance of the work of Joseph Smith and the importance of the work of Hyrum Smith has been a hallmark of his ministry,” Elder Curtis said. “I bear my own testimony that Joseph Smith Jr. was the prophet of God, raised up, coming through the loins of these noble Smiths that we honor today, raised up to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness. We honor the noble forebears of Joseph Smith today.”

Reflecting interfaith unity, the Congregational Church of Topsfield invited President Ballard’s son, Craig, who is a member of the Young Men general board, to speak at their worship services on Sunday morning. He expressed gratitude on behalf of President Ballard “for the warm welcome that [the Smith] family [has] received and continue to receive in Topsfield. This is true Christianity.” Fifty Smith descendants participated in the worship services and were invited to sing with the choir. It was the first time descendants of the Smith family had attended the Congregational Church in more than 200 years.

Ministry to Missionaries and Church Members

Before and after the monument dedication, President Ballard and Elder Curtis ministered to missionaries and Church members in the area.

On Friday, they spoke in a devotional for those serving in the Massachusetts Boston and New Hampshire Manchester missions. President Ballard reminded the missionaries of the privilege that is theirs to represent Jesus Christ.

“Think about that,” President Ballard said. “You represent the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. … You know Him by serving Him. The more we serve, the more we know."

Elder Curtis encouraged missionaries to “squeeze every drop out” of their missionary experience. “Enjoy every day,” he said. “Thank the Lord for the opportunity you have today to be a missionary.”

On Saturday evening, the Church leaders held a devotional for youth. President Ballard invited teenagers to consider the word “desire.”

“If you’ve got the desire to do the right things for the right reasons, you’re going to be OK,” President Ballard said. “You’re going to find yourself being able to stay on the covenant path, which ultimately will lead you back to the presence of the Father and the Son.”

Elder Curtis, who heads the Church’s preservation of its history, told young people that the study of Church history can increase faith.

“You sometimes will hear people say, ‘Well, Joseph Smith this, Brigham Young that,’” Elder Curtis said. “I’ll tell you what — the more I study Church history, the deeper becomes my witness of the truth of this work. … There is a power that accompanied the Prophet Joseph Smith. As one who has been deep into our history, I testify to you of that.”

On Sunday, a special stake conference was held for the Exeter New Hampshire Stake and friends of the Church. Reflecting on the weekend events, President Ballard said, "because we have Joseph [Smith] in our lives we have so much light and so much knowledge by which we live our lives. I don't believe that many of us fully comprehend what a great blessing it is to have Joseph Smith and the restoration of the fullness of the gospel."

He concluded, "God does live. We are His children. He loves us. We are His spirit offspring. Jesus Christ is His firstborn and only begotten Son in the flesh. He is our Savior. He is our Redeemer. He has performed that sacred service that only He could do, not only on the cross, but in Gethsemane. And all of the things that He did in setting us a pattern of how we should live. I love him," he said.

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