Many descendants of Joseph and Emma Smith have been unaware of the significance of their ancestry for a good part of their lives. Dawn Schmith is a third-great granddaughter of Joseph and Emma who recently joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the church that Joseph organized and for which he gave his life as a testimony of its truthfulness.
Dawn Schmith was born and raised in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. Though her paternal grandmother was the granddaughter of Joseph Smith, Jr., by his son Alexander Hale Smith, Dawn was raised in the Catholic faith because her paternal grandfather was an active Catholic. Dawn actively participated in the religion her whole life and raised her two daughters in the faith. The first time Dawn heard about her ancestry was when she was 12 years old, but it was not discussed. Immediately, she wanted to learn more, but her paternal grandmother died around the same time, and she was never able to ask her any questions regarding that history.
Dawn had experiences with the LDS missionaries, but remained active in her Catholic faith. As her curiosity and desire to know more about her family history increased, she contacted LDS genealogist Janet Reakes, who put Dawn in touch with the Smith family organization in America. The organization sent Dawn a large book full of her ancestry, which she was thrilled to have. It was the first written information she had about her family history. Though Dawn’s father was upset at her contacting the Smith family organization, Dawn continued to meet with other Smith family descendants, including Gracia Jones and her husband, who came to visit her in Hervey Bay, Australia.
Finally, in 2005, Dawn and her cousin Vicki attended a family reunion in Sydney celebrating Joseph Smith’s 200th birthday. Their intent was to correct an oversight in a family book which had omitted their grandmother’s name. They both enjoyed their interactions with the people of the LDS faith, and Dawn kept in touch with two senior missionaries, and thus kept in contact with the LDS Church.
Two years later, Dawn had a great desire to go to the United States, to Nauvoo, Illinois, for a larger Smith family reunion, but she could not scrape enough money together to cover the costs. She told her cousin Gracia she couldn’t afford to come, but other relatives generously covered the cost for Dawn to make the trip. This was Dawn’s first trip out of Australia, and it really changed her life. She learned so much about her family, and when she returned home, she began attending The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Dawn was baptized soon thereafter; a choice which was not without sacrifice. Dawn had been a Eucharistic Minister in the Catholic Church and was very dedicated to her faith. Though it caused some controversy in her family, Dawn stated her excitement about the LDS Church was greater than any she had felt in her life for a long time.
Before her baptism, Dawn had already decided to live the Word of Wisdom, or the Mormon health law. She had not consumed alcohol for more than 25 years previous to her baptism and had not smoked tobacco for 22 years. She also gave up coffee and tea. In giving up the use of these harmful and addictive substances, she gained a personal testimony of Joseph’s prophetic insight into the effects of these things.
Dawn said: “I believe Joseph is a true Prophet of God, I believe he was given messages from God and that he translated the Book of Mormon from the gold plates. I believe Emma is one of the pioneers of America and Christian fellowship. The life she lived was hard with losing children, pulling up stumps and having to go further and further away from her parents. She had no family support from her side of the family. She gave so much up to follow Joseph and help him in his mission. The saying goes, ‘Behind every great man is a great woman,’ I believe she is the great woman.”
One of Dawn’s daughters, Kim, was also recently baptized. Dawn and her daughter are now both looking forward to attending the Mormon temple.
This story taken from “Missionary Moment: Third great-granddaughter of Joseph and Emma Smith Joins Church“, Meridian Magazine, June 16, 2011.
Doris White is a native of Oregon and graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and a minor in Editing. She loves to talk with others about the gospel of Jesus Christ.