Sylvester Smith was born March 25, 1806 in Berkshire County, Massachussetts, the son of Chileab Smith and wife Nancy Marshall. By trade, he became a farmer, but also is known to have carpentered and taught school. The 1830 Census lists him as a resident of Amherst, Lorain County, Ohio with a wife and a daughter under five. Ancestry,com shows him married to a Betsy Frank, but does not give a date. He first affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal sect but was taught the true Gospel and became an
early convert to the Church, being baptized and ordained an Elder before
June 1831. Within four months, he was ordained a High Priest on 25 October
1831 by Oliver Cowdery.
Sylvester was appointed by revelation to preach the
Gospel with Gideon Carter on 25 January 1832. (See D&C 75:34.) They
traveled together from Ohio to Vermont, preaching along way, leaving the
Kirtland area 5 April 1832. Sylvester returned August 1832, having baptized
Elder Smith assisted in laying the foundation stones
for the Kirtland Temple on 23 July 1833. Within a year he had answered
the call to succor the oppressed saints of Zion by enlisting in Zion's
Camp. However it was while on the trail with Zion's Camp that several
difficulties arose as he manifested a rebellious spirit toward the Prophet.
One involved some bread which Smith unrighteously tried to withhold from
the common store. For this he was rebuked by Joseph
Smith. The other incident is less clear but involved a dog which was
with the camp and was generally making a nuisance of itself. While Joseph
was preaching a sermon in which he used the dog to make a certain theological
point, Sylvester loudly and repeatedly made comments injurious to the point
Joseph was making, openly rebuking Joseph for his verbal kindness to the
Sometime later, after the Camp's return to Kirtland.
one of the brethren brought charges against Sylvester for unchristianlike
conduct toward the Prophet. The case was dismissed upon Sylvester's confession
and promise to do better in the future.
Sylvester was appointed a member of the Kirtland
High Council on February 17, 1835. Then a scant eleven days later he was
ordained a seventy and called to the First Quorum of Seventy and to the
Presidency thereof. Notwithstanding his callings with the Seventy, he served
as clerk for the High Council in August and September of 1835. He was released
from the Kirtland high council on 13 January 1836. And notwithstanding
the difficulties between Joseph and Sylvester, he served as an acting
scribe for Joseph Smith beginning on 25 January 1836.
At a solemn meeting held at Kirtland Jan. 22, 1836,
"the heavens were opened upon Elder Sylvester Smith, and he, leaping up,
exclaimed, 'The horsemen of Israel and the chariots thereof.'" During that
winter Sylvester Smith studied Hebrew, together with Joseph the Prophet
and others, in a class taught by Professor Seixas. Even as he had assisted
in the laying of its foundation, Sylvester attended the dedication of the
Kirtland Temple in March of 1836.
Because he had previously been ordained a High Priest,
Elder Smith was released from all association with the Seventy and invited
to take his place with the High Priests on 6 April 1837. John
Gaylord was chosen to fill the vacancy caused thereby in the First
Council of Seventy.
Elder Smith became a charter member of Kirtland Safety
Society in January of 1837. As financial losses mounted, Sylvester
became vocally critical of the Prophet and other Church leadership. He
left the Church by 1838 though we have not found records of his actual
At a later date, President Jedediah M. Grant spoke during General Conference of Sylvester Smith: "… I recollect in the upper room of the Temple in Kirtland, Ohio, when we were assembled there, a very noted man, by the name of Sylvester Smith, bore testimony of what he had seen of the Prophet of God, of angels, &c. He said he wanted to bear testimony, and continued to say, 'I have spoken by what you call the Holy Ghost; the eyes of my understanding have been touched, and I have seen convoy after convoy of angels; I have laid hands on the lame, and they have leaped like an hart; I have spoken with tongues and had the interpretation thereof; I have seen the sick healed time after time;—but let me tell you, everything I have seen and everything you have seen is the height of idiotism.' This was Sylvester Smith, after he apostatized."
We have not discovered the details of his later life