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Missionary Moment: Third Great-Granddaughter of Joseph and Emma Smith Joins Church in Australia

Written by Dawn SchmidtCreated: 11 June 2012

Dawn Schmith
Dawn Schmith

I was the first born child of Thomas James Gleeson and Bonnie Irene Waters in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. I have a sister Glenda Mavis and a brother Tomas James (3rd).

My father was the son of Mavis Myra Wright and Thomas James Gleeson Sr. My grandmother was the daughter of Ina Inez Smith, who was the daughter of Alexander Hale Smith, son of Joseph Smith Jr, so, Joseph Smith is my Great, Great, Great Grandfather.

My grandfather, Thomas Gleeson Sr was Catholic so my Grandmother became a Catholic to be able to marry in a Church as Pop would not marry outside his faith, and in those days if both people were not Catholic they could not be married before the alter, they had to marry at the side of the Church. My Father and his brother Sidney were raised Catholics and both raised their children Catholics. I went to a Catholic primary school then graduated to a Girls Catholic College for high school. I am truly grateful for the Catholic education. I was always a religious girl and was faithful to the Catholic Church attending Mass and holy days of obligation. I met my husband Dave and married him at the age of 21 and we raised our 2 girls Shilo & Kim in the Catholic faith.

When I was about 12 years of age I can remember my Mum telling me that I was a descendant of Joseph Smith. My Father would never discuss it, it was like a big secret. I guess that was when I first became interested and wanted to know more. My Grandmother died when I was 12 so never got to talk to her as an adult would have. My cousin Vicki & I both feel that we were robbed of that part of our heritage when Nana died.

I can remember missionaries coming to our door and when I told them I was a descendant they were in disbelief that I wasn’t a member of the LDS Church. One day when I visited Mum & Dad after I was married, Dad gave me a cassette that was given to him by his cousin Nancy Rogers from Toowoomba. It had Mike Kennedy Sr speaking on it from when he had come to Australia one time to try and connect with us Aussies. Listening to the cassette made me curious about my family in America.

I contacted a genealogist “Janet Reakes” in Hervey Bay who was also a member of the LDS Church & she gave me the family organization mail address in America. I wrote to Mike and he wrote back & sent a big book of my ancestry with two missionaries, I finally had something in my hand that I could read and I was thrilled. Dad was upset with me for contacting Mike, I never knew why. Gracia & Ivor Jones also visited me here in Hervey Bay, Australia to put family members on a big scroll.

Joseph Smith Descendants Wall Chart
Descendants of Joseph in Australia viewing the wall chart containing their family names

In 2005, I and my cousin Vicki attended the family reunion in Sydney where they were celebrating Joseph Smith’s 200th Birthday. We went mostly because our Grandmothers name was left off the front of a family book that was sent to everyone before the event. We wanted it corrected. I really enjoyed the reunion and couldn’t get over the generosity of the LDS people; nothing was too much for them. It also became a great learning curb for me. Both Vicki and I enjoyed the reunion very much.

I kept in touch with 2 mature age missionaries that I met in Sydney at the reunion, Steve & Susan Olsen and we still have contact today. They have been a great support to me, they live in Salt Lake City.

In 2007, I gave up trying to save enough money to go to America for the reunion and sent an email to my cousin Gracia to say I couldn’t go due to lack of finance. Gracia sent me an email back and to cut a long story short, my fare was paid for by someone [Mike Jr & Meagan Kennedy] in America. My trip to Nauvoo was the first time I had been out of Australia. I was so grateful for the assistance given to me to have the chance to go over. It was very educational, very overwhelming and left a big impression on me. I came home to Australia and a month later started attending LDS Church.

Before going to America I was a Eucharistic Minister in the Catholic Church, very dedicated & devout. Now I am looking forward to my up and coming Baptism into the LDS Church. [Since this publication, Dawn has been baptized and is now looking forward to attending the temple of the Lord] It is a monstrous step for me and not without some controversy in my little family, but it is the most exciting feeling I have had in a long time.

I am already living the Word of Wisdom. I have not drunk alcohol for over 25 years after becoming a friend of Bill W. I have not smoked tobacco for 22 years and don’t drink coffee or tea. (Tea being my last vice.) Joseph sure knew what he was talking about with those substances.

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.

written by Dawn A Schmith, Urangan, Hervy Bay, QLD,Australia

This story and others have been published in the book, “The Emma Smith We Know” by Darcy Kennedy and Angeline Washburn. Since this publishing, Dawn’s daughter, Kim, was baptized a few weeks ago. Dawn and 9 other members of her family will be attending the Joseph Smith Family Gathering celebrating Emma’s birthday this July in Independence, Missouri.