Monday, March 5, 2012

Amanda Barnes Smith

Amanda Barnes Smith was a woman you can't keep down. She followed Sidney Rigdon into Campbellism, then Mormonism. She and her husband Warren moved to Ohio and did their best to support the saints there, but lost everything when the Kirtland Bank fell.

The Smith family scrapped together what they could and headed to Missouri. Unfortunately, they stopped at Haun's Mill on their way, two days before the massacre there. The mob killed Warren and her son Sardis, and had shot her son Alma in the hip. She'd passed hacked and shot up corpses on the way to find her family, and allowed herself a scream of anguish at the sight of her losses. But when she knew Alma was still alive, she said “I could not weep then.” She knew her son could only be saved through God's healing, and that God's healing wouldn't come if she didn't get to work. She examined the wound and discovered the entire ball and socket of his left hip had been shot away. She asked if Alma believed God could give him a new hip, and he said if she believed it, so did he. She gathered her remaining three children around her and prayed. They asked for faith and guidance. She asked God to make him well and strong, but if not, to “take him in his innocence.”

Guidance came. She received inspiration to take ashes from a fireplace, make lye, bathe the heck out of it, and remove remaining fragments of bone. She received revelation to make an elm poultice and fill the wound with it, and for him to stay put while it grew. This was easier said than done, as the mob was continually nearby, and repeatedly threatened to kill any Mormons that remained. But she knew she was carrying out God's work, and she wouldn't allow herself to be intimidated. After giving her an ultimatum for leaving by a certain date or being killed, they came to carry out their sentence. Amanda met them at the door and took them to see the body of her recovering son. They brought her meat and left her in peace. After five weeks of lying still, Alma had healed, and suffered from no pain or mobility issues for the remainder of his life.

Some of us are familiar with that part of the story, but it is only the start of Amanda's bravery. After Alma healed, the mob demanded that they leave, but had prevented their means of her doing so by having previously stolen their horses. Amanda went to them and demanded her horses back. The captain said they could have one if she paid him five dollars. She replied that she couldn't because the mob had already taken all her money. When he still refused, she took the horse anyways. He let her go. She went to join the Saints in Illinois.

Poor Amanda was not lucky in love. Her first marriage was amicable, but she was well aware of the fact her husband had never stopped loving the woman he had been engaged to before her; in fact, he told Amanda that although he loved her, he’d always love the previous woman’s little finger more than her. But he was a martyr for their faith, so her attachment lingered.

In Quincy, she married a second Warren Smith, but it was not a happy relationship. After the sealing power was restored, he pushed hard for her to be sealed to him, rather than her first husband. She struggled with this decision, as she felt it disrespectful to the first Warren's memory. She went ahead with it, but shortly thereafter, she discovered he had impregnated their hired girl, whom he would later plurally marry and have two sons with. He was abusive and cruel, and after arriving in Salt Lake City, she petitioned Brigham Young for a divorce and got it. After her divorce, and through a convoluted series of revelations and interactions with Brigham Young, she was sealed by proxy to Joseph Smith, and the first Warren was sealed to the woman he'd never stopped loving.

Amanda inspires me on so many levels. I love her ability to receive revelation while staring down horror. I love her courage to fight for her son, while staying on the site and surrounded by the men who killed her husband. But most of all, I love her determined faith. She lost everything when the Kirtland bank fell, but stayed faithful. She lost her husband and son and witnessed the consequences of a massacre, but stayed faithful. She struggled with a bad polygamous marriage, but stayed faithful. Despite all God took from her, she knew what he could give her was more important. And that takes a whole different kind of bravery and insight than staring down a mob.

O My Children and Grandchildren: An account of the sealing of Amanda Barnes to Joseph Smith, by Hulda Cordelia Thurston Smith, November 8, 1921.

A Rare Account of the Haun’s Mill Massacre: The Reminiscence of Willard Gilbert Smith, by Alexander L. Baugh. Mormon Historical Studies,

 Some Highlights in the Life of Amanda Barnes Smith, by Gertrude Smith Rawlins (granddaughter of Amanda Barnes Smith), May 1958.


RoeH said...

I love this blog!!

Anonymous said...

It's Warren Smith, not William. Please correct your blog.

Erin said...

That's an embarrassing typo (especially when I later say she married a second Warren Smith). I've made the fix. Thanks, anonymous.

Unknown said...

I just found out I'm related to this person. I feel so proud!

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am the Great Great Great Grand son of Alma Smith. I have a question for you?

Valerie said...


Emily Marker said...

shes related to me my great great grand mother