From Mission to Madness

Last Son of the Mormon Prophet
Author: Valeen Tippetts Avery
Paper – $33
Publication Date
Paperback: 01/01/1998
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About the Book

Brilliant and charismatic, David Hyrum Smith was a poet, painter, singer, philosopher, naturalist, and highly effective missionary for the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In this richly detailed biography, Valeen Tippetts Avery chronicles the life of the last son of Joseph Smith and his first wife, Emma.

Avery draws on a large body of correspondence for details of David's life and on his poetry to reveal his personality and emotional struggles. She tells of his mental deterioration, starting with a probable breakdown early in 1870 and ending with his death in 1904 in the Northern Illinois Hospital and Asylum for the Insane in Elgin, where he had been confined for twenty-seven years.

"This is an astonishing accomplishment which not only tells the reader about a neglected historical figure, but about myriad neglected dimensions of both Mormon history and the history of religion in general."
-- Jan Shipps, author of Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition

"This will stand alone as a biography of David H. Smith. . . . But it is also an insightful look at the times and environment from which the Smith family, and its ideas, emerged."
-- Paul M. Edwards, author of Our Legacy of Faith: A Brief History of the Reorganized Church


Winner of the Evans Biography Award administered by the Mountain West Center for Regional Studies at Utah State University, 1998. Winner of the Ella Larsen Turner Award for the Best Biography in Mormon History, 1998. Winner of the John Whitmer Historical Association Best Book Award.