In Lucy Mack Smith’s biography of her son Joseph Smith, she tells a poignant—and nearly tragic love story. If you were to write it up as a novel, a publisher might say, “This is too contrived. Surely this would never happen. Can two people be that much in love, that shattered because of love?” But in this case it did happen and they were. The story is about Lucy’s brother Jason Mack. She said:
My oldest brother, Jason, was a studious and manly boy. Before he attained his sixteenth year, he became what is termed a seeker, a believer in the power of God manifest through the medium of prayer and faith. He held that there was no church in existence which contained the pure principles of the gospel enjoyed by the ancient disciples of Christ, and he labored incessantly to convince the people that, by an exercise of prayer, the blessings and privileges of the ancient disciples of Jesus might be and eventually would be obtained.
At the age of twenty he became a minister of the gospel. Shortly after this, he became enamored with a beautiful and wealthy young woman by the name of Esther Bruce of the state of New Hampshire. She was the pride of the place in which she resided, not so much on account of her splendid appearance as the soundness of her mind and her stately deportment, joined with an unaffected mildness of disposition and a condescension of manners which were admirably suited to the taste and principles of my brother. He was passionately fond of her, and she seemed also to have the most fervent attachment for him. It would have been as easy to have convinced Jason that he could exist without his head as that he could live and enjoy life without being united with her in marriage.
They were engaged to be married and every preparation was being made for their approaching nuptials, when my father received a letter from Liverpool stating that a heavy debt that had been due him for a long time was collected and ready for him. Thus, it was agreed that the marriage of Jason should be deferred, and he should accompany my father to Liverpool. He left his betrothed with a heavy heart but with this arrangement-that he was to write to her and his sisters conjointly once every three months. In due time, according to their agreement, a letter arrived which Esther received most joyfully, but it was never followed by another from him. A young man who kept the office where she received her letters formed in his heart a design to thwart my brother in his intentions and obtain the hand of Esther Bruce himself. He used every art to dissuade her from marrying Jason, meantime detaining his letters in order that she might not hear from him, and he might the more easily accomplish his fiendish purposes.
Unforeseen circumstances detained my father and Jason beyond the time appointed for their return. Meanwhile, the postmaster continued to importune Miss Bruce upon the subject of my brother’s neglect, until at last she received two or three epistles stating that Jason Mack was dead, that she and his relatives might cease to look for his return. This was two years after Jason had left the shores of America. Esther gave no credence to the first message, till the tale was so confirmed that she could no longer doubt; but still she rejected the young man from the post office until within four months of Jason’s arrival at home, three years and ten months from the time they had embarked for Liverpool.
Jason went immediately to her father’s house. She was absent with her husband. He seated himself in the same room where he had wooed her and obtained her consent to be his. He waited for her arrival with a beating heart, not knowing the perfidious game his rival had played him, until she entered. She was attired in a complete suit of mourning, as she had lost a brother recently by death, and beyond this there was a bitter disappointment preying like a cankerworm upon her very vitals, occasioned by the supposed death of him who now stood before her.
She bowed in gloomy silence as she entered the splendid apartment where he sat, fitted up as it had been in earlier, happier days to please the man now doomed to drink the bitter cup of sorrow to the dregs. She walked to the other side of the room and thrust aside her bonnet and shawl, but as she turned again to the stranger and beheld his distracted and inquiring look, she recognized to her amazement this person. She clasped her hands in agony and, with a piercing shriek, fell lifeless to the floor. My brother took the motionless form of her that should have been his own and, placing her on a sofa, resigned her into the hands of her cowering, conscience-smitten husband and left her with those pungent feelings which some few are fated to experience but none can tell nor imagine correctly.
By the active exertions of those who attended her, she at last revived to realize her lamentable situation more fully. Jason returned home, and hearing an explanation of the whole matter, which simply was that the man detained his letters and gave the intelligence of his death, he went immediately to sea. Jason lived single to his fiftieth year.
From this time forward, Esther never recovered her health but, lingering for two years, died the victim of disappointment.
We call this story nearly tragic because, when we were working on The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph by His Mother, we checked with great interest Jason Mack’s dates and ordinances. To our joy, we found that he had been sealed to Esther Bruce. How is this possible? We are not sure, as this is certainly not a common protocol, but somehow, at some time, this permission must have been granted. So on a day we celebrate love, we tip our hats to Esther and Jason. With God, nothing is impossible.
Update: Vivian McConkie Adams has solved the mystery for us of how Esther Bruce and Jason Mack were sealed. She wrote: “This sealing was taken care of by my grandfather, Joseph Fielding Smith, at the direction of his father, Joseph F. Smith.”
Scot ProctorFebruary 17, 2022
The article has been updated to reflect the answer to your question.
Robert SpeakmanFebruary 15, 2022
Looked him up on FamilySearch. There are 2 Jason Macks in FamilySearch which appear to be the same person. Neither is sealed to a spouse and both indicate that SS is unavailable. Where did you get your sealing information?