At the Sons of Utah Pioneers monthly dinner meeting on Nov. 19, winners of the Favorite Pioneer Ancestor contest were announced and recognized along with their parents.
Eighth-grade Morgan Middle School students were asked to submit a paper on their favorite pioneer ancestor. Once the 125 submissions were collected, English teacher Gwen Romero picked the top 10 and then Dave Corpany selected the winners. First place winner, Macady Drennan read her winning entry and Shealee Calder and Regan McGreer received their second and third place awards.
Following the presentation of awards, Robert Poll was introduced by Richard Poll as the guest speaker. Poll’s subject was “The Joseph Smith Family and Kansas City Temple Open House and Dedication.” Poll served as a bishop, then the first president of the Morgan North Stake. The stake had 1,900 members when it was first organized.
Poll then served as the Detroit, Mich., mission president. A couple years later he was called to serve as the director of the Independence, Mo. visitors’ center.
Bob was very competitive as a youth. As a scoutmaster, his troop earned the distinction of being the number three troop in the LDS church. His family is fourth generation now living in Mountain Green, Ut.
Poll started his presentation telling how thankful he is for his family. He missed working with the people of Morgan when the stake was divided in 1981. He reported that he is a member of the Joseph Smith Historical Society, where his duty is to organize a Joseph Smith reunion every other year.
The first member of the Joseph Smith family to join the church was Gracia Jones, who joined in 1956 while living in Mont. Mike Kennedy joined in 1976 and became the first descendant to receive the Melchezedek priesthood. In 1984, Kennedy was charged by President Gordon B. Hinckley to provide a missionary experience opportunity for all of Joseph Smith’s descendants.
In 2005, President Boyd K. Packer initiated the first Joseph Smith family reunion. They now have 1,390 people in the family. 325 are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In contrast, Hyrum’s family has over 30,000 members of the LDS church. We were told the reason for the stark contrast in the number in Joseph’s family when compared to Hyrum’s. This is partly due to the fact that three out of five of Joseph’s posterity had very few children.
One- third of Joseph’s descendants now live in Australia. In May, 2000, the church certified that 87 percent of his descendants’ temple work had been completed. Poll was able to seal one of these descendants to their spouse in the Ogden temple before it closed in 2011.
In 2006, Poll was called to be the director of the visitors’ center in Independence, Mo. During his time as mission president, he and his wife Judy, have had many grand experiences involving the Joseph Smith family.
We were told that as a parent, Joseph would be very concerned about his family. The visitors’ center will help take care of some of that concern. There is a painting centered around Joseph’s family that will hang in the Kansas City temple when completed. A very interesting DVD will be released shortly covering Emma and her reason for remaining in Nauvoo when the church moved west.
In 2007, there were still feelings between Joseph’s family and Brigham Young’s family. A “Healing Letter” was written which is helping to mend the feelings between these two families. To show the value the Church places on Emma, the new administration building at the Heber Valley Girls Camp has been named the Emma Smith Administration Building. So Emma is finally coming west.
The Joseph Smith family reunion theme in 2009 was “Mother, we are Here.” The theme for the 2011 reunion was “Eternal Families Through Temples.” At this reunion, all 225 descendants who were there wanted to go through the temple. During the 2012 open house, 115 who were there went through. During this reunion, Sandy Johansen sang the hymn “Do You Still Believe” which melted the hearts of all present.
Following the open house, 13 family members are now having the discussions. Elder M. Russell Ballard was present at the open house, and was asked by some of the family if he would baptize them. His response was that “That can be arranged.” Each female family member was given a necklace with rings on the necklace symbolizing eternal families.
In 2013 there will be two reunions. One will be in Salt Lake City, and the other will take place in Australia. Recently the LDS church has purchased the Haun’s Mill site and several other historical home sites as well as 6,000 acres in northern Missouri.
Poll has been humbled in being able to have this assignment. He requested that in our prayers we pray for Joseph’s descendants. In addition, missionary packets are to be delivered to these family members. The results will then be reported back to Elder Ballard, who is himself, a Smith descendant.
This was a very enlightening presentation and all who were there felt their time was well spent. We learned much that we didn’t know previously.