Joseph F. Smith

Joseph F. Smith

English name=Joseph F. Smith

birth_name=Joseph Fielding Smith
birth_date=birth date|1838|11|13|mf=y
birthplace=Far West, Missouri
death_date=death date and age|1918|11|19|1838|11|13|mf=y
deathplace=Salt Lake City, Utah
prophet_date=death date and age|1901|10|17|1838|11|13
predecessor=Lorenzo Snow
successor=Heber J. Grant
president_who_called=Brigham Young
apostledate=death date and age|1866|07|01|1838|11|13
ordination_reason=Brigham Young's discretion [Smith was ordained an apostle and added to the First Presidency as a counselor. At the time of his call, there was not vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles or the First Presidency.]
end_date=death date and age|1918|11|19|1838|11|13|mf=y
reorganization=Melvin J. Ballard ordained

Joseph Fielding Smith, Sr. (November 13, 1838 – November 19, 1918) was the sixth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). He was the last president of the LDS Church to have personally known the founder of the Mormon faith, Joseph Smith, Jr., who was the brother of his father Hyrum Smith.


Smith was the son of Patriarch Hyrum Smith and his second wife Mary Fielding, a British convert to the Church who married Hyrum after the death of his first wife, Jerusha Barden Smith. In addition to her two children, Mary Fielding Smith raised the five children from the union of Hyrum and Jerusha.


Smith was born in Far West, Missouri on November 13, 1838. Just a few days before he was born, his father Hyrum had been taken prisoner under the auspices of the Mormon Extermination Order. At point of bayonet, Hyrum was marched to his home in Far West and ordered to say farewell to his wife. He was told that his "doom was sealed" and that he would never see her again. Hyrum was still in custody in Liberty Jail, Missouri when his son Joseph Fielding was born. He was named after his uncle, Joseph Smith, Jr. and his mother's brother Joseph Fielding. His mother and maternal aunt Mercy Fielding Thompson fled with their children to Quincy, Illinois early in 1839, and later they moved to Nauvoo, Illinois when the majority of the members of the Church settled there. Joseph F. Smith stated as an adult that he had memories of Nauvoo, and can recall his uncle, the prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. and events that occurred at his uncle's home; he would have been no more than five and a half when on June 27, 1844, Joseph's uncle and father were murdered in Carthage, Illinois.

Winter Quarters

Smith's family remained in Nauvoo until September 1844, at which time his mother took their family and fled the city, camping on the West side of the Mississippi river among the trees on its banks, without wagon or tent, while the city was bombarded by mobs. His mother was later able to exchange their property in Illinois for a wagon and team of oxen. Joseph and his family, along with many other Mormons, fled the American Midwest. The seven year old Smith drove the team of oxen, with his family, to the Church encampment at Winter Quarters, Nebraska. While at Winter Quarters, Joseph and another boy named Thomas Burdick were out on horseback some distance from the settlement, watching the cattle graze. They saw a band of twenty or thirty Indians ride into the valley on the other side of the cattle. Thomas rode back to camp to get help while Joseph rode toward the Indians and got between the Indians and the herd before the Indians reached the cattle. Joseph was able to turn the herd to head back toward the settlement, and coupled with the noise and arrival of the Indians, started a stampede (saving the herd from the Indians). He was still riding with the herd at full speed when two Indians picked him up off of his horse from either side and dropped him to the ground. A company of men from the encampment then arrived and were able to chase away the fleeing Indians and recover the herd, but Joseph's horse was stolen.

Joseph and his family remained at Winter Quarters until the spring of 1848 when Smith drove his mother's wagon across the plains to Utah.

Utah childhood

While in Utah, Joseph's mother Mary Fielding Smith worked with her sister and brother to raise the two widow's families, as well as continuing to care for Hyrum and Jerusha's younger children. Mary Fielding Smith died in 1852, apparently of pneumonia, leaving Joseph an orphan at the age of 13. Smith reported that he was devastated by his mother's death, and relied upon the emotional support and help of Brigham Young and his stepfather Heber C. Kimball among others. Even with the support of his older half brother John Smith, Joseph assumed primary responsibility for his young sister, Martha Ann, and subsequently left school in 1854.

Missions and military service

At the age of fifteen, Smith was called to go on his first LDS mission to the Sandwich Islands (designated the Hawaiian Islands after acquisition as a territory of the United States) under the direction of Apostle Parley P. Pratt. He successfully learned the language of the Hawaiian people and reported great success in four years of missionary work on the islands. He completed his service and returned to Utah to find it in the midst of serious conflict with the federal government (see Utah War). In 1858, Smith joined the territory's militia, named the "Nauvoo Legion" after a similar unit in Illinois, and spent several months patrolling the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. Later in his tour of duty, he served as chaplain of Colonel Heber C. Kimball's regiment, with the rank of Captain. After tensions between the church and the federal government abated, Smith assisted his relatives in their return to northern Utah from areas in southern Utah, where they had taken their families for safety. In 1860, at 22 years of age, he was sent on a mission to Great Britain. He and his cousin Samuel H. B. Smith drove mule teams over the plains to Winter Quarters to help pay their way. Joseph served for 3 years, under mission president George Q. Cannon, returning in the summer of 1863.

Smith had only been home for a short while when he was called to accompany Ezra T. Benson and Lorenzo Snow on a second mission to the Sandwich Islands to correct the problems caused by Walter M. Gibson. He acted as principal interpreter for the apostles, and after Gibson was excommunicated, Joseph was left in charge of the mission. Joseph returned home in the winter of 1864-1865.

Joseph had a notable experience during this mission. The group anchored their boat in a rough channel in order to go ashore, proposing that the party should land using the freight boat. Joseph was strongly opposed to this, saying that the boat was unfit for the rough waters and that there was a great danger of capsizing. He offered to go ashore alone to obtain a boat fit to transport the party, to which they refused. They were persistent however, chiding him for his waywardness, with one leader even saying, "Young man, you would better obey counsel." He then reiterated his impression of danger, imploring them not to go, but they insisted, so he asked that they leave their satchels, clothes, and valuables and permit him to stay. They reluctantly consented and set out for land. Partway there, the freight boat was overturned by the rough water about 20 or 30 feet deep, and President Lorenzo Snow nearly drowned in the ocean. Fortunately, President Snow's unconscious body was recovered, and on shore they were able to resuscitate him. Due to Joseph's actions, all of their belongings were saved.

Later life

Upon his return home, Smith was employed in the Church historian's office for a number of years, then as a clerk in the Endowment House, being in charge after the death of President Young, until it was closed. Smith served seven terms in the Utah territorial House of Representatives, as well as terms on the Salt Lake City Council and in the territorial Senate; he also served in the presidency of a state constitutional convention in 1882. Smith also served as a Church representative on boards of many Utah businesses.

Marriages and family

In 1859, Smith married his sixteen year-old cousin Levira, daughter of Samuel Harrison Smith. Under the direction of President Brigham Young and with the consent of Levira, Smith took Julina Lambson as a plural wife in 1866. Levira, "due to interference on the part of relatives, and because of the continued absence of her husband in mission fields and in ecclesiastical duties", obtained a divorce (cite book | first=Joseph Fielding | last=Smith | authorlink=Joseph Fielding Smith | year=1938 | title=Life of Joseph F. Smith ). Later, Smith married Sarah Ellen Richards (March 1, 1868), Edna Lambson (May 5, 1871), Alice Ann Kimball (December 6, 1883 - Endowment House), and Mary Taylor Schwartz (January 13th, 1884), daughter of Agnes Taylor and niece of President John Taylor. Smith served yet another mission to Hawaii in 1884-1887, in part, to evade federal anti-polygamy prosecution.

Smith was the father of forty-three children, thirteen of whom preceded him in death. His first-born son, by wife Edna Lambson, was Hyrum Mack Smith. Elder Hyrum Mack Smith served as an Apostle from 1901 until his death in 1918. His first-born son by Julina Lambson, Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., later served as the President of the Church. Between 1890 and 1900, Smith fathered more children, including six (of seven total) with Mary Taylor Schwartz and four with wife Alice Ann Kimball (September 6, 1858 - December 19, 1946), the daughter of Heber C. Kimball & Ann Alice Gheen. Alice Anne's twin brother was Andrew Kimball, father of 12th President, Spencer W. Kimball. The children's names were; Lucy Mack Smith, Andrew Kimball Smith, Jesse Kimball Smith & Fielding Kimball Smith.

One of Smith's granddaughters, Amelia Smith, married Bruce R. McConkie, a later member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Church service

After Smith's first mission to Hawaii at age fifteen, he served in the Salt Lake Stake High Council in 1859, and in 1864 began working in the Church Historian's Office as a "recorder" for the Endowment House, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the First Presidency. By the time he was called to the apostleship in 1866 at the age of 27, he had served three separate missions for the church. (Hawaii 1854–57; Great Britain 1860–63; Hawaii 1864)

On July 1, 1866, Smith was ordained an apostle by Brigham Young and sustained as a counselor to the First Presidency, where he served until Young's death. However, he was not sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles until the church's October conference of 1867. On February 28, 1874, he left for his second mission to England, serving as President of the European Mission from 1874 to 1875, returning home upon the death of First Presidency member George A. Smith. He was then called to preside over the Davis Stake until he left again in the spring of 1877 for his third mission to England. When news arrived of the death of Young, Smith was released and sent home. The following year he served an Eastern States Mission with Orson Pratt, visiting noteworthy places in the history of the church in Missouri, Ohio, New York and Illinois. During this trip they met with and interviewed David Whitmer.

After Young's death, Smith was named second counselor in the First Presidency to church president John Taylor in October 1880, serving from 1880 to 1887. He later served as second counselor to president Wilford Woodruff (1889–1898), and as second counselor to president Lorenzo Snow (1898–1901). Smith was sustained as first counselor to Snow on the death of first counselor George Q. Cannon, but, as President Snow himself died only four days later, Smith never served in this position. He succeeded Snow as president of the Salt Lake Temple and served in this capacity until 1911, when he transferred this responsibility to Anthon H. Lund.

Smith also served as editor of the "Improvement Era" and "Juvenile Instructor", and general superintendent of the Sunday School and Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association.

Smith felt it was important for Utah to become a state, and thereby eliminate the ongoing federal supervision of the Utah Territory. Following the official discontinuance of new plural marriages by Wilford Woodruff in 1890, and the dissolution of the Mormon People's Party in 1891, Smith championed the anti-polygamy Republican party in Utah.

Church President

Smith was chosen by the twelve apostles and set apart as President of the Church on October 17, 1901. This was ratified by a special conference and solemn assembly of the priesthood on November 10, 1901. He chose as his counselors John R. Winder, a native of the United Kingdom, and Anthon H. Lund, a native of Denmark. After Winder died, Lund became the First Counselor and Smith's second cousin John Henry Smith became the Second Counselor.

Joseph F. Smith gave more influence to the Presiding Patriarch of the church than had any president since Joseph Smith, Jr. The church's presiding patriarch, John Smith, was his elder half-brother.

Joseph F. Smith was the first church president to travel outside of North America while president of the church. In 1906 he went on a tour to Europe.

One of the first issues he faced was the ongoing difficulties for the Church due to the practice of plural marriage. As Church President, Smith supported Mormon Apostle Reed Smoot's candidacy for the U.S. Senate. But Smoot's election was contested on the grounds that he was an officer in the Church. The Senate investigation again focused national attention on Mormon marriages and political influence. Following his appearance before a Senate panel in 1904, Smith took steps to prevent any surreptitious continuation of church plural marriages. On April 6, 1904, Smith issued the "Second Manifesto." He also declared that any church officer who performed a plural marriage, as well as the offending couple, would be excommunicated. He clarified that the policy applied world-wide, and not just in North America. Two members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, John W. Taylor and Matthias F. Cowley, resigned in 1905 following the second manifesto. Smith, however, continued to live with his plural wives after the 1890 and the 1905 manifestos. In 1906, Smith was brought to trial on a charge of unlawful cohabitation with four women in addition to his lawful wife; he pleaded guilty and was fined $300, the maximum penalty then permitted under the law. ["Deseret Evening News", November 23, 1906; "Salt Lake Tribune", November 24, 1906.]

Smith's seventeen year administration made efforts toward improving the Church's damaged relationships with the federal government and related issues dealing with the Church's financial situation. The administration acquired historic sites, constructed numerous meetinghouses, and expanded the church system of educational academies and universities. He also oversaw a continued growth in Church membership.

Smith died of pneumonia on November 19, 1918, and was succeeded by President Heber J. Grant. Due to the widespread influenza pandemic of 1918–1920, a graveside service, rather than a public funeral, was held. Smith was interred in the Salt Lake City cemetery on November 22, 1918.

Smith is often remembered as church president for the construction and dedication of Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in South Royalton, Vermont on December 23, 1905 and the Seagull Monument at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah on October 1, 1913. In 1913, Boy Scouting became the official youth activity program for the church's young men. During much of his presidential tenure, Smith oversaw the planning and construction of the Laie Hawaii Temple in Lā'ie, Hawai'i, one of his part-time residences. Smith died on November 19, 1918, a year before the Hawaii Temple was to be dedicated. He left a body of religious writings often used in discussing church doctrine and religious conduct.

Doctrinal contributions

During his administration as President of the Church, President Smith issued two significant additions to Latter-day Saint doctrine:

*"The Father and the Son": On June 20, 1916, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued a statement examining the LDS use of the term "Father" in scripture, clarifying times when the word referred to God the Father and when the word referred to Jesus Christ. The statement identified four different uses of the word "Father." God the Father is the literal parent of the spirits of mankind and the earthly father of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is referred to as "the Father" when discussing his role as creator of the earth, when he acts as "the Father" of those who abide in his gospel, and when he acts with the authority of his Heavenly Father while on earth. After 1921, to lessen confusion on the nature of the Godhead, portions of Joseph Smith, Jr.'s "Lectures on Faith" dealing with the Holy Ghost were removed from the Doctrine and Covenants, a modern LDS scripture.

*"Vision of the Redemption of the Dead": On October 3, 1918, Smith received a revelation on the nature of the spirit world and on Jesus Christ's role in ensuring that the gospel is taught to all men, living and dead. A written account of the revelation was submitted to the general authorities of the church on October 31, 1918 and was unanimously accepted. The revelation was initially published in December 1918, and was added to the Pearl of Great Price, an LDS scripture, in April 1976; it has since been removed from the Pearl of Great Price and added to the Doctrine and Covenants as Section 138. This revelation complemented an 1894 statement on the eternal nature of the family and appropriate work for the dead issued by Wilford Woodruff. Genealogy work by members of the LDS Church increased after both of these statements.

Funded by Lorenzo N. Stohl, the sermons and writings of Joseph F. Smith were compiled by John A. Widtsoe, Osborne J.P. Widtsoe, Albert E. Bowen, F.S. Harris and Joseph Quinney. In 1919, the "Committee on Study for the Priesthood Quorums of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" had this work published as the book "Gospel Doctrine", for use as instruction for Melchizedek priesthood quorums of the church.


*cite book|author=Smith, Joseph F.|title=From Prophet to Sons: Advice from Joseph F. Smith to His Missionary Sons|date=1981|publisher=Deseret Book Company|editor=Hyrum M. Smith III and Scott G. Kenney.
*cite book|author=Smith, Joseph F.|title=Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith|date=1919|publisher=Deseret News Press
*cite book|author=Smith, Joseph F.|title=Origin of the "Reorganized" Church|date=1909
*cite book|author=Smith, Joseph F.|title=Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith|date=1998|publisher=The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints LDS Church [ publication number 35744] .



*Allen, James B. and Leonard, Glen M. "The Story of the Latter-day Saints." Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, UT, 1976. ISBN 0-87747-594-6.
*Ludlow, Daniel H., Editor. "Church History, Selections from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism." Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, UT, 1992. ISBN 0-87579-924-8.
*Nibley, Preston. "The Presidents of the Church" Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, UT, 1974. ISBN 0-87747-414-1.
*Smith, Joseph F. "Gospel Doctrine" Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, UT, 1977. ISBN 0-87747-663-2.

External links

* [ Grampa Bill's G.A. Pages: Joseph F. Smith]
* [ Joseph F. Smith passport application from 1860]

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