When Lucy Mack Smith stood before a congregation of the Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois, in October 1845 at the invitation of Brigham Young, she presented three related messages, all of them centered around family—especially her own. Mother Smith, as she was lovingly known, counseled parents to raise their children in love and kindness, reflected on her own children and her extended family, and talked to the attentive congregation about the life of her prophet son, including a recitation of her family's "hardships, trials, privations, persecutions, sufferings, etc.; some parts of which melted those who heard her to tears."
Though the aging Lucy Smith stayed behind in the removal from Nauvoo, her family story remained of great interest to the Saints. Many times before that final public commentary, Lucy had responded to invitations to speak of her son Joseph's early religious experiences. To save her lungs, she said, and at the invitation of the Twelve, she invited Martha Jane Knowlton Coray to record her memoirs. Lucy's dictations during the winter of 1844–45 resulted what is now called the preliminary manuscript of her history. From this 214-page manuscript, Coray and her husband, Howard, one of the Prophet's former scribes, trimmed perhaps 10 percent and added material from Joseph's own history, published not long before in the Times and Seasons. The product was a revised manuscript, "History of Mother Smith, by Herself." In securing a copyright on the work, Lucy identified it as "The History of Lucy Smith. . . ."