Grampa Bill's General Authority Pages
Joseph F. Smith

1838 - 1918

  • Born 1838 Far West, Missouri
  • Baptized, 1852
  • Ordained Elder, 1854
  • Mission to Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), 1854-57
  • Mission to Great Britain, 1860-63
  • Special Mission to Hawaii 1864
  • Member of Territorial Legislature, 1865-66, 1867-70, 1872, 1874, 1880, 1882
  • Ordained Apostle, 1866
  • Counselor to First Presidency, 1866
  • Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, 1867-1880
  • President of the European Mission, 1874-75, 1877
  • Second Counselor to President John Taylor, 1880-1887
  • Second Counselor to President Wilford Woodruff, 1889-1898
  • Second Counselor to President Lorenzo Snow, 1898-1901
  • Sixth President of the Church, 1901-1918
  • Died 1918 Salt Lake City, Utah

    A prophet, the son of a prophet, the grandson of a prophet and the father of a prophet. Few men have enjoyed a more illustrious lineage than Joseph Fielding Smith (Sr.) (his full name). He was the last President of the Church to have known the Prophet Joseph Smith in mortality, playing on the Prophet's knee as a young child in Nauvoo.

    Joseph F. Smith was the son of Hyrum Smith and Mary Fielding Smith and the nephew of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He was born November 13, 1838 in Far West, Missouri while his father was falsely imprisoned in the dungeon beneath Liberty Jail house. His mother was gravely ill at his birth and unable to tend him but his aunt Mercy Fielding Thompson had recently given birth and was able to nurse both her own child and the young infant. Scant months later, Joseph F. and his mother were driven through the snows of Missouri as she fled, still on her sick bed, to escape the flames of persecution and the edict of Governor Lilburn W. Bogg's infamous "Extermination Order." The family settled in what became Nauvoo and some months later were joined by Hyrum.

    Joseph F. Smith was only five when mobs, this time from Illinois, murdered his father and famous uncle. If his father was made of gold, then surely his mother, Mary Fielding Smith, was made of steel. Caring not only for her own two children but five others from Hyrum's deceased first wife, Jerusha, she worked with her sister, Mercy Fielding Thompson to raise the two widow's families and instill in them the principals of the Gospel.

    Young Joseph F. was only seven when he drove a team of oxen across Iowa in the exodus from Nauvoo. The family spent a year and a half suffering the deprivations of  Winter Quarters before pushing on to Salt Lake, young Joseph F. driving a wagon the whole way. Those were hard years and arrival in the Great Basin did little to east the family's need. He tended cattle and sheep, cut wood, and hired out at harvest time. In 1852 at the age of thirteen, Joseph F. Smith lost his mother to overwork and malnutrition. He was devastated and he says in danger for some time. Nevertheless, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and others watched to the needs of the young man.

    At the age of fifteen, Joseph was called to serve a Mission in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). Apostle Parley P. Pratt who led the mission and set him apart promised him that he would learn the language with success. The Apostle's prophecy was fulfilled and Joseph enjoyed great success laboring under inspired men of God. The mission lasted four years and Joseph returned to find Utah preparing for "Johnston's War."

    Joseph joined the "Nauvoo Legion", the territory's militia with a thousand others and spent the next several moths patrolling the east wall of the Rockies. When the hostilities ended, Joseph assisted his relative in resettling their lands from southern Utah whence they had fled.

    In April 1859 twenty-one year old Joseph married his sixteen year-old cousin Levira, daughter of Samuel Harrison Smith. With Levira's permission Joseph then married Julina Lambson in plural marriage. Later, he also married Sarah Ellen Richards, Edna Lambson, Alice Ann Kimball, and Mary Taylor Schwartz. He eventually was the father of forty-three children, thirteen of whom preceded him in death. Joseph was a kind and loving husband and father.

Joseph F. Smith and family (c. 1901). He and his wives had forty-eight children. His wives were Levira Annett Clark (m. 1859; no children; died 1888); Juliana Lambson, on his right (m. 1866; 13 children, including Joseph Fielding Smith top row center); Sarah Ellen Richards, on his left (m. 1868; 11 children); Edna Lambson, second on his right (m. 1871; 10 children); Alice Ann Kimball, second on his left (m. 1883; 7 children); and Mary Taylor Schwartz, third on his right (m. 1884; 7 children)."

    He was ordained an Apostle July 1, 1866 by Brigham Young and sustained as a Counselor to the First Presidency which office he held until President Young's death. He was not sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve until the October Conference of 1867. He served as Second Counselor to Presidents John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Lorenzo Snow, and was sustained as first counselor to President Snow on the death of George Q. Cannon, the previous First Counselor, but never served as President Snow himself died only four days later.

    Joseph F. Smith was sustained as President of the Church 17 October 1901 which position he would hold for seventeen years until his death on November 19, 1918. Joseph F. Smith's administration was marked by gradual improvements in the Chuch's perception, its treatment by the federal government and in the Church's financial position. He also oversaw a continued growth in the Church. He left a legacy of inspired writings which continue to illuminate the honest in heart to this very day.

   Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.3, SMITH, JOSEPH F
   Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.4, Appendix 1
   Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.306
   Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p.66
   Lawrence R. Flake, Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation, p. 57
   2005 Church Almanac, p.53

Selected Discourses and Writings
O Father, We Are Thine
Note: This is the earliest discourse I have found delivered by Elder Joseph F. Smith. It was given some nine moths before his call to the Twelve, although he was already an ordained Apostle. Grampa has not determined the occasion. It was not (presumably) a General Conference talk since it was not delivered in either April or October. It is found in Volume 11, pp. 305-314 of the Journal of Discourses. The location is described as "The Tabernacle," but since the Great Mormon Tabernacle we know and love had not yet been completed, it was undoubtedly delivered in the "Old Adobe Tabernacle."
Old Adobe Tabernacle, 17 February 1867
Plural Marriage For the Righteous Only
Note: Here are Elder Joseph F. Smith's comments on Plural Marriage in 1878. When this talk was delivered, Elder Smith had four wives. He would later take two more. He is noted as a kind, devoted, and gentle husband and father. The occasion of the talk is unclear, but it was not during General Conference, possibly a Stake Conference. This talk seems to have been delivered on a Sunday Morning in the Old Adobe Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, which was still in use even though the newer Great Mormon Tabernacle with its wonderful acoustics had already been built. From the Journal of Discourses Volume 20, pp. 24-31.
Old Adobe Tabernacle, 7 July 1878
A Christmas Message
Note: The Deseret News requested in 1901 a Christmas message from the First Presidency. President Joseph F. Smith responded with these reminiscences of days long gone. The News thought they would "be of deep interest to the Latter-day Saints, and will furnish valuable information to the general readers of this Christmas edition."
Deseret News, 21 December 1901
Spurious Revelations
Note: This address was delivered Saturday 5 October 1918 to the 89th Semi-annual General Conference of the Church. It addresses rumors of spurious revelations that were (and are) circulating about the Church. President Joseph F. Smith specifically debunks three and gives us a key for determining the validity of a reported revelation. As he died the following month, this would be the last time he spoke to the Saints save some minor housekeeping announcements in conducting the closing sessions of Conference.
General Conference 5 October 1918

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