John Smith, the fourth Patriarch to the Church, was born July 16, 1781, in Derryfield (now Manchester), Rockingham county, New Hampshire. He was a son of Asahel Smith and his wife Mary Duty, and an uncle to the Prophet Joseph Smith. In 1815 he married Clarissa Lyman. The Ancestral File lists seven children of this union but since three of them are unnamed girls, the possibility of duplications is large. Another source lists only one unnamed girl and three named children,
George Albert, Caroline, and John Lyman.
It was Joseph Smith, Sr., John's brother and the Prophet's father, who broached the subject of young Joseph's prophetic calling. The conversation resulted in John's baptism on January 9, 1832, at a time of sickness near
to death, and when the ice had to be cut to reach the water; but from that
time he gained health and strength, although he had been given up by the
doctors to die of consumption. He was baptized and confirmed by his brother
Joseph Smith, Sen., and at the same time ordained an Elder.
In 1833, he moved to Kirtland, Ohio, where he, on
June 3, 1833, was ordained a High Priest by Lyman
Wight. In 1836 he served a Mission to the Eastern States. On September 3, 1837 Elder Smith was sustained as Assistant Counselor to the First Presidency. Although he held numerous other callings over the suceeding years, he retained his position in the First Presidency until the death of the Prophet in 1844.
In 1838 he moved his family to Far West, Caldwell county, Missouri, and thence to Adam-Ondi-Ahman, in Daviess county, where he presided over that branch of the Church until expelled by the mob in 1839.
He arrived in Illinois on the 28th of February of that year. He located at Green Plains, six miles from Warsaw, where he put in a crop of corn, split rails, and performed much hard labor unsuited to his health and years, but obliged to be done for the support of his family.
In June John moved to Commerce (later named Nauvoo),
and on October 5th was appointed to preside over the Saints in Iowa. On
the 12th he moved to Lee county to fulfill that mission. In October, 1843,
he moved to Macedonia, Hancock county, Illinois, having been appointed
to preside over the Saints in that place.
John was ordained a Patriarch Jan.
10, 1844, by Joseph the prophet, and in November, of that year, was driven
by mobbers from Macedonia to Nauvoo, where he continued to administer patriarchal
blessings, to the joy of thousands, until Feb. 9, 1846, when he was compelled
by the mob violence of the free and sovereign State of Illinois to again
leave his home and cross the Mississippi river, with his family, in search
of a peaceful location, far off amid savages and deserts, in the valleys
of the mountains. He was appointed a member of the Council of Fifty by
May 3, 1844.
After passing a dreary winter on the right bank of
the Missouri, at Winter Quarters, he again took up the weary ox train march
on the 9th of June, 1847, and reached Great Salt Lake valley Sept. 23rd
Although he had been ordained a Patriarch on January
10, 1844 by his nephew, Joseph Smith, Jr., it was not until January 1,
1849 that he was set apart as the Patriarch to the Church, under
the hands of President Brigham Young and
Heber C. Kimball. This ushered in a hitherto unknown period of stability in Elder Smith's life. He moved out of the
Fort on to his city lot in February, 1849, and this was the only spot on
which he had been privileged to cultivate a garden two years in succession
during the previous twenty-three years of his life. Elder Smith was known for his generosity in providing succor to the needy. In addition to a vast amount
of varied and efficient aid to thousands in the way of temporal salvation during
his long and faithful ministry, he administered 5,560 patriarchal blessings,
which were recorded in seven large and closely written books, which are
now at the Historian's office.
Elder Smith died in Salt Lake City May 23, 1854. "He closed
the arduous duties of a well occupied probation," wrote the editor of
the "Deseret News, "and passed to a position of rest, where his works
will nobly follow and honor him and where he will continue his able counsels
for the prosperity and welfare of Zion."
In addition to his first wife, Clarissa Lyman, Elder Smith embraced the principle of plural marriage and was sealed to several others.