Asael Smith’s Letter to His Family

Asael Smith’s Letter to His Family February 24, 2024

During their declining years, Grandfather Asael and Grandmother Mary lived with their son (our grandfather) Silas in Stockholm, New York. Just before Asael’s death, Joseph Smith, Sr, and his son, Don Carlos, brought Asael and Mary the Book of Mormon and taught them glad tidings of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They both received the tidings gladly, with Grandfather Asael declaring that his prophecy of a descendant who “God was going to raise up … to be a great benefit to mankind” was fulfilled in Joseph Smith, Jr.

It has been borne in upon my soul that one of my descendants will promulgate a work to revolutionize the world of religious faith.

Grandfather read almost the entire Book of Mormon before his passing at 87 years old on 30 October 1830.

Lucy Mack Smith recorded that

Father Asael Smith . . . on his deathbed declared his full and firm belief in the everlasting gospel . . . and acknowledged that the doctrine of universalism, which he had so long advocated, was not true. For although he had lived by this religion 50 years, yet he now renounced it as insufficient to comfort him in death.

Asael possessed a strong mind and an incredible view of liberty, especially embodied by America. In his 30s, he participated in the Boston Tea Party and fought in the Revolutionary War.

Just after his 56th birthday, Asael composed a letter to his family conveying his advice to Mary and their children.

Asael Smith Letter to his family
The Smith Homestead Home in Topsfield, MA sometime before 1876

Asael Smith’s Letter to His Family

April 10, 1799

A few words of advice which I leave to you, my dear wife and children, whom I expect ere long to leave.

My Dear Selves:

I know not what leisure I shall have at the hour of my death to speak to you, and as you all know that I am not free in speech, especially when sick or sad, and therefore, now to speak my heart to you would wish you to hear me speaking to you as long as you live (when my tongue shall be molded to dust in the silent tomb) in this, my writing, which I divide among you all.

And first to you, my dear wife,

I do with all the strength and power that is in me thank you for your kindness and faithfulness to me, bespeaking god who is the husband of the widow, to take care of you and not to leave you nor forsake you, nor never suffer you to leave nor forsake Him nor His ways. Put your whole trust solely in Him. He never did nor never will forsake any that trust in Him. One thing, however, I would add: If you should marry again, remember what I have undergone by a stepmother, and do not estrange your husband from his own children or kindred, least you draw on him and on yourself a great sin. So I do resign you unto the everlasting arms of the great husband of husbands, the Lord Jesus Christ.

And now, my dear children,

let me pour out my heart to you and speak first to you of immortality in your souls. Trifle not in this point. The soul is immortal. You have to deal with an Infinite Majesty. You go upon life and death; therefore, in this point be serious. Do all to God in a serious manner. When you think of Him, speak of Him pray to Him or in any way make your addresses to His Great Majesty, be in good earnest. Trifle not with His name, nor with His attributes, nor call Him to witness to anything but is absolute truth, nor then but when sound reason or serious consideration requires it. And as to religion, I would not wish to point out any particular form to you; but first I would wish you to search the Scriptures and consult sound reason, and see if they (which I take to be the two witnesses that stand by the God of the whole earth) are not sufficient to evince to you that religion is a necessary theme. Then I would wish you to study the nature of religion, and see whether it consists in outward formalities or in the hidden men of the heart; whether you can by outward forms, rites and ordinances save yourselves, or whether there is a necessity of your having help from any other hand than your own. If you find that you stand in need of a Savior, Christ saith, “Look unto me and be ye saved all ye ends of the earth.” Then look to Him, and if you find from Scripture and sound reason that Christ hath come into the world to save sinners, then examine what it was that caused Him to leave the center of consummate happiness to suffer as He did; whether it was to save mankind because they were sinners and could not save themselves, or whether He came to save mankind because they had repented of their sins, so as to be forgiven on the score of their repentance.

If you find that He came to save sinners merely because they were such, then try if there is any one so great that He cannot save him. But mind that you admit no others as evidences, but the two that God hath appointed, viz., Scripture and sound reason; and if these two witness that you are one whit better by nature than the worst heathen in the darkest corner of the desert of Arabia, then conclude that God hath been partial toward you and hath furnished you with a better nature than others, and that consequently He is not just to all mankind. But if these two witnesses testify to you that God is just to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works, then believe them; and if you can believe that Christ came to save sinners, and not the righteous Pharisees, or self-righteous ones—that sinners must be saved by the righteousness of Christ alone, without mixing any of their own righteousness with His—then you will see that he can as well save all as any, and there is no respect of persons with God, who will have all mankind to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, viz., that there is one God, and one mediator between God and man—the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified to in due time.

And when you believe this, you will enter into His rest; and when you enter into His rest you will know what that rest is and not before. And having gotten this evidence that God is true, be still adding to your evidence and enjoy your present assurance. Do all to God as to your father; for His love is ten thousand times greater towards you than ever any earthly father’s could be to his offspring.

In the next place, strive for those graces most which concern your places and conditions; and strive most against those failings which most threaten you. But above everything avoid a melancholy disposition; that is a humor that admits of any temptation and is capable of any impression and distemper. Shun as death this humor, which will work into all unthankfulness against God, unlovingness to man, and unnaturalness to yourselves and one another.

Do not talk and make a noise to get the name of forward men, but do the thing, and do it in a way that is fair and honest, which you can live and die by, and rise and reign by. Therefore, my children do more than talk of in point of religion. Satisfy your own conscience in what you do. All men you shall never satisfy; nay, some will not be satisfied though they be convinced.

As for your callings, any honest calling will honor you, if you honor that. It is better to be a rich cobbler than a poor merchant, a rich farmer than a poor preacher; and never be discouraged, though sometimes your schemes should not succeed according to your wishes. Persevere in the way of well doing, and you may hope for success. For myself, I (who had never your parts nor helps[?]) never found anything too hard for me in my calling, but discouragement and unbelief. If I was discouraged and didn’t believe I could do a thing, I never could. Therefore, when you think anything is too hard for you, do not undertake it.

As to your company,

abandon all infectious, flattering, self-serving companions. When once you have found them false, trust them no more. Sort with such as are able to do or receive good. Solomon gives you the best counsel for this in many places. Read the Proverbs and remember him in this, “Forsake not an old friend. Be friendly and faithful to your friends. Never trouble nor trust friends unless there be a necessity. And lastly be long in closing with friends, and loth to lose them upon experience of them.”

As to your marriages,

I do not think it worth while to say much about them; for I believe God hath created the person for each other, and that nature will find its own. But for your children, make it your chiefest work to bring them up in the ways of virtue, that they may be useful in their generation. Given them, if possible, a good education. If nature hath made no differences, do you make none in your affections, countenances nor portions. Partiality this way begets envy, hatred, strife and contention.

And as for yourselves within yourselves,

my desires have been to carry an even hand toward you all, and I have labored to reduce you as near as I could (all circumstances considered), to an equality, and, therefore, my last request and charge is, that you will live together in an undivided bond of love. You are many of you, and if you join together as one man you need not want for anything. What counsel, what comfort, what money, what friends may you not help yourselves unto if you will all, as one, contribute your aid? Wherefore, my dear children, I pray, beseech and adjure you by all the relations and dearness that have ever been between us and by the heartrending pangs of a dying father whose soul hath been ever bound in the bundle of life with yours, that you know one another, visit, (as you may) each other, comfort, counsel, relieve, succor, help and admonish one another; and while your mother lives, meet her (if possible) once each year. When she is dead, pitch on some other place, if it may be your older brother’s house; or if you cannot meet, send to and hear from each other yearly, and oftener if you can. And when you have neither father nor mother left, be so many fathers and mothers to each other. So you shall understand the blessings mentioned in the 133d Psalm.

As to your estates,

be not troubled that you are below your kindred. Get more wisdom, humility and virtue, and you are above them. Only do this, first, deal with your hearts to make them less; begin low, join together to help one another, and rest upon the promises, which are many and precious. Love mercy, and have mercy on yourselves, and on one another, and I know, I know, I say, and am confident in it, that if you will trust God in His own way He will make comfortable provision for you. Make no more objections, but trust Him.

For the public:

Bless God that you live in a land of liberty, and bear yourselves dutifully and conscionably toward the authority under which you live. See God’s evidence on the approvement of the federal constitution, and hold union and order as a precious jewel.

And as for the Church of Christ,

neither set her above her husband nor below her children. Give her that honor, obedience and respect that is her due; and if you will be my children and heirs of my comfort in my dying age, be neither another’s nor faction of any party or faction or novelty.

It is true, this is not a rising way, but it is a free, fair, comfortable way for a man to follow his own judgment without wavering to either hand. I make no doubt but you will hear diverse opinions concerning me, both before and after I shall sleep in silence; but do not be troubled at that. I did what in my circumstances seemed best for me for the present. However, the event hath not in some points answered my expectations; yet I have learned to measure things by another rule than events, and satisfy myself in this that I did all for the best, as I thought; and if I had not so much foresight as some others I cannot help it.

Sure I am my Savior Christ is perfect,

and never will fail in one circumstance. To Him I commit your souls, bodies, estates, names, characters, lives, deaths, and all, and myself waiting when He shall change my vile body and make it like His own most glorious body, and wish to leave you everything I have in this world but my faults, and them I take with me to the grave, there to be buried in everlasting oblivion, but leaving my virtues, if ever I had any, to revive and live in you. Amen. So come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.

The above was written April 10, 1799, and left for my dear beloved wife and children to view after my decease. (signed) Asael Smith

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