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Joseph Fielding Smith

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Title: Joseph Fielding Smith  
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Subject: List of members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (LDS Church), David O. McKay, Joseph F. Smith, Harold B. Lee, Bruce R. McConkie
Collection: 1876 Births, 1972 Deaths, 19Th-Century Mormon Missionaries, 20Th-Century Mormon Missionaries, American Genealogists, American General Authorities (Lds Church), American Historians of Religion, American Latter Day Saint Hymnwriters, American Latter Day Saint Writers, American Male Writers, American Mormon Missionaries in the United Kingdom, Apostles (Lds Church), Burials at Salt Lake City Cemetery, Christian Creationists, Counselors in the First Presidency (Lds Church), Genealogy and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Lds Business College Alumni, Official Historians of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Presidents of the Church (Lds Church), Presidents of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (Lds Church), Smith Family (Latter Day Saints), Temple Presidents and Matrons (Lds Church)
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Joseph Fielding Smith

Joseph Fielding Smith
10th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
January 23, 1970 (1970-01-23) – July 2, 1972 (1972-07-02)
Predecessor David O. McKay
Successor Harold B. Lee
Counselor in the First Presidency
October 29, 1965 (1965-10-29) – January 18, 1970 (1970-01-18)
Called by David O. McKay
End reason Dissolution of First Presidency upon the death of David O. McKay
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 9, 1951 (1951-04-09) – January 23, 1970 (1970-01-23)
Successor Harold B. Lee
End reason Became President of the Church
Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
August 8, 1950 (1950-08-08) – April 4, 1951 (1951-04-04)
End reason Became President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 7, 1910 (1910-04-07) – January 23, 1970 (1970-01-23)
Called by Joseph F. Smith
End reason Became President of the Church
LDS Church Apostle
April 7, 1910 (1910-04-07) – July 2, 1972 (1972-07-02T1876)
Called by Joseph F. Smith
Reason John Henry Smith added to First Presidency
at end of term
Bruce R. McConkie ordained
Personal details
Born Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr.
(1876-07-19)July 19, 1876
Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, United States
Died July 2, 1972(1972-07-02) (aged 95)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Resting place Salt Lake City Cemetery
Spouse(s) Louie Emily Shurtliff
(1898-1908)(her death)
Ethel Georgina Reynolds
(1908-1937)(her death)
Jessie Ella Evans
(1938-1971)(her death)
Children 11
Parents Joseph F. Smith
Julina Lambson Smith
Signature of Joseph Fielding Smith

Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr. (July 19, 1876 – July 2, 1972) was the tenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1970 until his death in 1972. He was the son of Joseph F. Smith, who was the sixth president of the LDS Church, and grandson of Hyrum Smith, brother of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith.

Smith was named to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1910, when his father was the church's president. When he became president of the LDS Church, he was the oldest person to hold that office until Gordon B. Hinckley reached Smith's equivalent age in June 2006 (Hinckley continued as president for another 19 months). Smith's tenure as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1951 to 1970 is the third-longest in church history;[1] he served in that capacity during the entire presidency of David O. McKay.

Smith spent some of his years among the Twelve Apostles as the Church Historian and Recorder. He was a religious scholar and a prolific writer. Many of his works are used as references for church members.


  • Early life 1
  • Family and personal life 2
  • Church service 3
    • Service abroad 3.1
  • Writings 4
  • Administration as President of the Church 5
  • Death 6
  • Works 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Early life

Smith was born in Salt Lake City on July 18, 1876, as the first son of Julina Lambson Smith, the second wife and first plural wife of Joseph F. Smith, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. By agreement between his parents, Smith was given his father's name, even though Joseph F. Smith's third and fourth wives had previously had sons.[2] Growing up, Smith lived in his father's large family home at 333 West 100 North in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory.[3] The house was opposite the original campus of the University of Deseret (name changed in 1892 to the University of Utah),[3] on a site now occupied by the LDS Business College. He also often worked on the family farm in Taylorsville, Utah, as a child.[4]

In January 1879, when Smith was two years old, the U.S. Supreme Court in Reynolds v. United States upheld the constitutionality of the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862, which had criminalized the Latter-day Saint practice of plural marriage.[5] Due to aggressive federal enforcement of this ruling, the Edmunds Act of 1882, and the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887, many LDS Church leaders, including Smith's father, were either imprisoned or forced into hiding and exile during most of the 1880s. Smith's father, as the keeper of the records of the Endowment House, felt a special need to avoid capture since the records could allow the federal authorities to easily prove polygamy charges against certain Latter-day Saint men.[6] In January 1885, Smith's parents and his younger sister, Julina, left for the Sandwich Islands (modern Hawaii), where Smith's father had served a mission as a teenager in the 1850s.[6] In their absence, Smith continued to live in the family home with his brothers and sisters and his father's other wives, whom he "lovingly called 'aunties'".[7] Smith's mother returned to Salt Lake City in 1887, followed later by his father.[6] Even after his return, Joseph F. Smith was unable to openly visit and care for his wives and children until receiving a presidential pardon from U.S. President Benjamin Harrison in September 1891.[8]

Smith's mother worked as a midwife to help provide for the family; she delivered nearly 1000 babies in her career without ever having a mother or infant die in childbirth.[9] As a boy, Smith often drove his mother by wagon to the various deliveries that she attended in Salt Lake City. Smith's primary schooling took place in "ward schools", which in the 19th century were semi-formal schools run by members of each ward which taught the traditional "three R's": reading, writing, and arithmetic.[10] As a teenager Smith completed two years of study at the Latter-day Saint College, an institution equivalent to the modern U.S. high school, which provided courses in the basic areas of mathematics, geography, history, basic science, and penmanship.[11] After leaving the college, Smith began working as a stock clerk doing manual labor at ZCMI to supplement the family's income.[11] Smith was present in the large assembly room of the Salt Lake Temple for its dedication on April 6, 1893, by church president Wilford Woodruff.[12]

Family and personal life

Smith married his first wife, Louie Emily "Emyla" Shurtliff (born June 16, 1876) on April 26, 1898. In March 1899, church president Lorenzo Snow called him on a mission to Great Britain, which he completed (May 1899 - July 1901), leaving Louie in Salt Lake City. On May 12, 1899, Smith was set apart as a missionary and ordained a seventy by his father. A small group of missionaries, including Smith and his older brother, Joseph Richards Smith, left the next day for England. After his return from the British mission, Smith and his wife had two daughters, Josephine and Julina. Louie died of complications of a third pregnancy on March 28, 1908.[13]

Smith married Ethel Georgina Reynolds (born October 23, 1889), the daughter of prominent LDS Church leader Bruce R. McConkie, who was named to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shortly after Smith's death. Ethel died of a cerebral hemorrhage on August 26, 1937, at age 47.[14]

Ethel had specifically requested that Jessie Ella Evans (December 29, 1902 – August 2, 1971) sing at her funeral. Evans, born to Jonathan Evans and Janet Buchanan Evans, had joined the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in 1918,[15] was a member of the American Light Opera Company (1923–27), and was the Salt Lake County Recorder.[16] In November 1937, Evans and Smith were engaged to be married.[17]

In April 1938, Smith married Evans in the Salt Lake Temple. The marriage was performed by Heber J. Grant.[18] The couple had no children and Jessie died on August 2, 1971.[19]

Church service

Smith while a member of the Quorum of the Twelve (Ca. 1942)

After completing his mission in 1901, Smith began working in the office of the general conference when he was called as an apostle. Prior to his call as a general authority, Smith served as the secretary and treasurer of the Genealogical Society of Utah.[21] In 1921, Smith assumed the office of Church Historian and Recorder, which he held until 1970.

Before 1910, Smith was a member of a stake high council and a home missionary (somewhat similar to a modern ward missionary). He also served on the Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association General Board.[22]

Early in his apostleship, his creationist[23][24][25] views on the dispute between Mormonism's Biblical teachings and the theory of evolution brought him attention. (See Mormonism and evolution.)

Smith lived most of his time as an apostle in Salt Lake City. He also was president of the Salt Lake Temple from 1945 to 1949. During this time, Smith was sent on a tour of the church's Spanish-American Mission. Before his return to Salt Lake City, he informed the president of the Arizona Temple that he would recommend to the First Presidency that the temple ceremonies be translated into Spanish.[26]

Smith served as president of the Genealogical Society of Utah and its successor the Genealogical Society of the LDS Church from 1934 to 1961. At the time of his release from this position, he had been President of the Quorum of the Twelve for over a decade. During the late 1950s, Smith attempted to reduce staff turnover at the Society by trying to convince the First Presidency that women should be permitted to stay on as employees after they married. However, Smith was only able to get a change to allow them to work six months past marriage.[27]

In early 1961, Smith preached to a stake conference congregation in Hawaii:

We will never get a man into space. This earth is man's sphere and it was never intended that he should get away from it. The moon is a superior planet to the earth and it was never intended that man should go there. You can write it down in your books that this will never happen.[28]

Earlier, Smith had written that "it is doubtful that man will ever be permitted to make any instrument or ship to travel through space and visit the moon or any distant planet".[29] At the 1970 press conference where Smith was introduced as President of the LDS Church, he was asked about these statements; Smith reportedly responded, "Well, I was wrong, wasn't I?"[30][31]

Service abroad

Smith did at times take church assignments abroad. In 1939 he toured the missions in Europe and supervised the withdrawal of missionaries as World War II began. In 1950 Smith toured the church's Mexican Mission.[32] In July and August 1955 he made an extensive tour of Asia, during which he dedicated Korea and the Philippines for the preaching of the gospel. In 1957 he went to Europe for the dedication of the London Temple and also presided over the excommunication of several missionaries in the French mission who had apostatized. From October 1960 to January 1961 he and Jessie toured the church missions in Central and South America.[33]


The first book Smith published was Asael Smith of Topsfield, Massachusetts, with some Account of the Smith Family (1902). In all, Smith published 25 books.[34]

Administration as President of the Church

Smith became President of the Church on January 23, 1970, following the death of Sunday School system and the Church Department of Social Services; and the church magazines were consolidated into the Ensign, New Era and Friend in English, with centralized planning for all publications. His tenure was also marked by steady growth in the number of missionaries, and the dedication of temples in Ogden and Provo, Utah.


Smith died at Salt Lake City shortly before his 96th birthday. He was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.


  • Smith, Joseph Fielding (1957–1966). Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols.  
  • —— (1946). Church History and Modern Revelation: Being a course of study for the Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums for the Year 1947. The Council of the Twelve Apostles. 
  • —— (1954–1956). Doctrines of Salvation: Sermons and Writings of Joseph Fielding Smith. compiled by  
  • —— (1922). Essentials in Church History: A History of the Church From the Birth of Joseph Smith Until the Present Time.  
  • —— (1971).  
  • —— (1954). Man, His Origin and Destiny.  
  • —— (1909). Origin of the "Reorganized" Church. 
  • —— (1936). The Progress of Man.  
  • —— (1945). The Restoration of All Things: A Series of Radio Talks...On Fundamental Principles of the Gospel.  
  • —— (1970). Seek Ye Earnestly.  
  • —— (1942). The Signs of the Times: A Series of Discussions Sponsored by the Sisters of the Lion House Social Center.  
  • —— (1966). Take Heed to Yourselves. Salt Lake City:  
  • —— (1938). Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  
  • —— (1931). The Way to Perfection: Short Discourses on Gospel Themes. Salt Lake City:  

Smith wrote the text of the hymn "Does the Journey Seem Long?", which appears as hymn number 127 in the current English-language edition of the LDS Church hymnal.

See also


  1. ^ Orson Hyde's tenure was from 1847 to 1875 and Rudger Clawson's tenure was from 1921 to 1943.
  2. ^ Gibbons (1992): 1.
  3. ^ a b Gibbons (1992): 3.
  4. ^ Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, 2013) p. 3.
  5. ^ Gibbons (1992): 13.
  6. ^ a b c Gibbons (1992): 14.
  7. ^ Gibbons (1992): 15.
  8. ^ Gibbons (1992): 42.
  9. ^ Gibbons (1992): 17.
  10. ^ Gibbons (1992): 19.
  11. ^ a b Gibbons (1992): 44.
  12. ^ Gibbons (1992): 47.
  13. ^ Smith & Stewart 1972, p. 162
  14. ^ Smith & Stewart 1972, pp. 216, 249
  15. ^ "Jessie Evans Smith 1902–1971", Ensign, September 1971, p. 23.
  16. ^ Card, Orson Scott. "Songs affirm our heritage," Mormon Times, 29 January 2009.
  17. ^ Smith & Stewart 1972, p. 255
  18. ^ Smith & Stewart 1972, p. 254
  19. ^ Smith & Stewart 1972, p. 373
  20. ^ Origin of the Reorganized Church and the question of succession (Open Library)
  21. ^ Allen, Embry & Mehr 1995, pp. 71–74
  22. ^ Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, 2013), p. ix.
  23. ^ Richard Sherlock, "'We Can See No Advantage to a Continuation of the Discussion': The Roberts/Smith/Talmage Affair," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 13(3):63–78 (Fall 1980)
  24. ^ William E. Evenson and Duane E. Jeffrey (2005). Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements (Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books) ISBN 1-58958-093-1
  25. ^ Joseph Fielding Smith (1954). Man, His Origin and Destiny (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book)
  26. ^ Balderas, Eduardo. "Northward to Mesa", Ensign, September 1972, p. 30.
  27. ^ Allen, Embry & Mehr 1995, pp. 72, 150
  28. ^ D. Michael Quinn, Elder statesman: A Biography of J. Reuben Clark (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2002) p. 498.
  29. ^ Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1957) 2:191.
  30. ^ "Mormonism and science/Joseph Fielding Smith claimed that man would never walk on the Moon", FAIR Mormon, Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research.
  31. ^ Adam Kotter, "When Doubts and Questions Arise", Liahona, March 2015.
  32. ^ Church News Index Archived January 12, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  33. ^ Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, 2013) p. xi.
  34. ^ Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, 2013), p. x.


  • Gibbons, Francis M. (1992), Joseph Fielding Smith: Gospel Scholar, Prophet of God, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book,  
  • Smith, Joseph Fielding, Jr.; Stewart, John J. (1972), The Life of Joseph Fielding Smith, Tenth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City:  

External links

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
Preceded by
David O. McKay
President of the Church
January 23, 1970–July 2, 1972
Succeeded by
Harold B. Lee
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 9, 1951–January 23, 1970
Preceded by
Anthony W. Ivins
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 7, 1910–January 23, 1970
Succeeded by
James E. Talmage
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