Grampa Bill's General Authority Pages
Joseph Fielding Smith

1876 - 1972

  • Born 1876 Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Baptized as a child; Aaronic Priesthood as a youth; Melchizedek Priesthood as a young man
  • Married Emily Louie Shurtliff 1898; two children
  • Mission to Britain 1899-1901
  • Married Ethel Georgina Reynolds 1908; nine children
  • Ordained Apostle and called to the Quorum of the Twelve 1910
  • Married Jessie Ella Evans 1938; no children
  • Acting President of the Twelve 1950-1951
  • President of the Twelve 1951-1970
  • Counselor in First Presidency 1965-1970
  • Tenth President of the Church 1970-1972
  • Died 1972 Salt Lake City, Utah

    Joseph Fielding Smith was the tenth President of the Church. He was born July 19, 1876, in Salt Lake City, the firstborn son of Joseph F. Smith, an apostle who would become the sixth President of the Church, and Julina Lambson,. Perhaps no General Authority has ever come from a more distinguished lineage, with a father, grandfather, and great grandfather all of whom held the Keys of the Presidency.

    He was called Joseph Fielding to distinguish him from his father who was more generally called Joseph F. He was an inveterate student and scholar, reading and studying insatiably. As a result of this he became known as perhaps the most learned theologian and historian in the Church. One can only imagine hearing a Gospel discussion between Joseph Fielding Smith, James E. Talmadge, John A. Widtsoe, and Charles A. Callis.

    Young Joseph was married on April 26, 1898 to Emily Louie Shurtliff. The couple had two children before Emily's death March 28, 1908. Perhaps concerned about his young children's need for a mother, he remarried within a year of wife's death, this time wedding Ethel Georgina Reynolds on November 2, 1908. Ethel bore him nine children. She died August 26, 1937.

    Joseph Fielding was ordained an Apostle in 1910 and immediately became the object of ridicule by the Salt Lake Tribune which editorialized that his calling was because of family connections. The criticism, of course... typical of the Trtb, ignored the monumental qualifications and intellect he brought to the calling.

    During his apostolic tenure, amid many responsibilities and duties, Joseph Fielding Smith was best known, and is best remembered, as a theologian and gospel scholar. President Heber J. Grant called him "the best posted man on the scriptures of the General Authorities of the Church that we have" (Letter to Joseph Fielding Smith, Dec. 31, 1938, HDC). He published more books and articles than any other man who became President of the Church, though it was never his main intent to become an author. Many of his writings were discourses, answers to questions posed to him, instructions for Church leaders, and efforts to clarify common uncertainties. He was a prolific author with many of his works becoming classics in Church literature while others remain a bit too lofty for the popular market.

Joseph Fielding Smith and wife, Jessie Ella Evans    After the death of his second wife, Elder Smith married a third time, this time wedding Jessie Ella Evans on April 12, 1938. Jessie bore him no children.

    Elder Smith worked in the Church Historian's Office and later as the Church Historian for many years both before and after his call as a General Authority.

    Joseph Fielding Smith became the tenth President of the Church on January 23, 1970, following the death of President David O. McKay. His two-and-one-half-year tenure was marked by steady missionary growth; the dedication of the Ogden and Provo temples; some significant organizational restructuring, including reorganizations in the Church Sunday School system and the Church Department of Social Services; and a revamping of portions of the Church internal communication systems, which led to the consolidation of all general Church magazines into three.

    He died July 2, 1972, in Salt Lake City.

   LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Andrew Jenson, Vol. 3, p.784
   Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.3, SMITH, JOSEPH FIELDING
   Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.4, Appendix 1
   Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation, Lawrence R. Flake, p.95
   2005 Church Almanac, pp.54-55

Selected Discourses
Grampa Bill believes this to be the most complete listing available on the web of Joseph Fielding Smith's talks. Please email the Grampa if you note any busted links, errors, or if you are aware of any Joseph Fielding Smith talks not listed here but available on the web.

You will note that some are available only as text while others are available only in the MP3 Audio format.

Talks marked with an asterisk (*) are not (to my knowledge) available anywhere else on the web. As a service, they have been copied onto this web site.
The Sin of Criticizing *
Note: This is the first address delivered by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith in the General Conference in which he was called as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and sustained to the Council of the Twelve. In it, Elder Smith excoriates those who criticize the Lord's Annointed. Given the criticism of nepotism leveled by the Salt Lake Tribune at his calling, one wonders if this was sending return fire across their bow, given in his own defense and/or that of his father, Joseph F. Smith, then the President of The Church.
General Conference 7 October 1910  
The Whole World Groaneth *
Note: Elder Smith delivered this address just two days after President Woodrow Wilson approved and signed The Congressional Declaration of War which propelled the United States into World War I.
General Conference 8 April 1917  
Changes in Life Must Come *
Note: The occasion was the 89th Annual General Conference, held in June this year because the world-wide influenza epidemic, which killed millions, was rampaging through Utah in April. Joseph Fielding Smith's father, President Joseph F. Smith had died in November of the preceding year and the Solemn Assembly had just sustained his successor, President Heber J. Grant. Elder Smith was overcome by the emotions of the day and demurred at speaking on the first day of Conference, stating only the few words given here as the "First Address." On the Second day of conference, he delivered the second and longer address. By this time, he was sixth in seniority in the Twelve, ahead of such illuminaries as James E. Talmage.
General Conference 1 June 1919  
Reaffirmation of Faith *
Note: This address was delivered to the 100th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This Conference celebrated the 100th anniversary of the restoration of the Church to the earth. It was delivered in the Great Mormon Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah.
General Conference 8 April 1930  
An Opportunity of Salvation *
Note: Although this General Conference talk was Elder Joseph Fielding Smith's first since the bombing of Pearl Harbor and America's entry into World War II, he does not mention the earthly conflict, but rather focuses on the Plan of Salvation with emphases on family relationships, Temple work, and the Three Degrees of Glory.
General Conference April 1942  
The Law of Divine Witnesses BYU Devotional, 18 October 1949 MP3
Divine Witnesses BYU Devotional, 20 June 1951 MP3
Leadership Week: Fulfilment of Prophecy BYU Devotional, 16 June 1952 MP3
The Origin of Man BYU Devotional, 22 April 1953 MP3
The Immutable Laws of God BYU Devotional, 15 June 1953 MP3
What Does It Mean to Know the Gospel? BYU Devotional, 15 June 1953 MP3
The Divine Law of Witnesses BYU Devotional, 8 December 1953 MP3
The Knowledge That Saves BYU Devotional, 23 June 1954 MP3
The Atonement of Jesus Christ BYU Devotional, 25 January 1955 MP3
The Purpose of Mortal Life BYU Devotional, 1 May 1956 MP3
A Knowledge of Countries and of Kingdoms BYU Devotional, 18 June 1956 MP3
How Do We Teach Reverence? BYU Devotional, 18 June 1956 MP3
For Ye Are Bought with a Price BYU Devotional, 14 May 1957 MP3
Summerhays Planetarium Dedication BYU Address, 7 March 1958 MP3
Ye Are the Temple of God BYU Devotional, 6 May 1958 MP3
The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles BYU Devotional, 18 June 1958 MP3
Seeking Salvation in the Kingdom of God BYU Devotional, 22 January 1961 MP3
We Are Here to Be Tried, Tested, Proved BYU Devotional, 25 October 1961 MP3
The Gospel in Asia
In this talk President Smith addresses the issue of the blessings of Abraham and the Asian people.
BYU Devotional, 15 November 1962 MP3
Essentials of Faith BYU Devotional, 24 June 1964 MP3
We Are Here to Be Tried Tested Proved BYU Devotional, 21 October 1965 MP3
My Missionary Experiences BYU Devotional, 29 March 1966 MP3
Predicted Judgments BYU Devotional, 21 March 1967 MP3
Adam’s Role in Bringing Us Mortality General Conference, October 1967  
The Blessings of Eternal Glory BYU Devotional, 23 April 1968 MP3
Reins of Responsibility and Leadership *
Note: Presented here are actually two talks. President David O. McKay had died and President Smith had been called as the President of the Church. The first talk consists of Introductory Remarks and was the first address of the Sunday Morning Session of the Conference in which he was sustained. The second talk, "Reins of Responsibility and Leadership" was the concluding talk of the same session.
General Conference 6 April 1970  
Message from the First Presidency
Note: This is the first "Message from the First Presidency" from the first issue of the then new Church Magazine, The Ensign.
Ensign, January 1971  
Sealing Power and Salvation BYU Devotional, 12 January 1971 MP3
Message from the First Presidency: Salvation Universal Ensign, February 1971  
The Most Important Knowledge Ensign, May 1971  
Our Responsibilities As Priesthood Holders Ensign, June 1971  
Out of the Darkness Ensign, June 1971  
A Witness and a Blessing Ensign, June 1971  
The First Prophet of the Last Dispensation Ensign, August 1971  
To the Saints in Great Britain Ensign, September 1971  
The Plan of Salvation Ensign, November 1971  
Blessings of the Priesthood Ensign, December 1971  
Let the Spirit of Oneness Prevail Ensign, December 1971  
“I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” Ensign, December 1971  
The Coming of Elijah Ensign, January 1972  
Justice for the Dead Ensign, March 1972  
Devotional BYU Devotional, 18 April 1972 MP3
“Seek Ye Earnestly the Best Gifts” Ensign, June 1972  
Eternal Keys and the Right to Preside Ensign, July 1972  
Counsel to the Saints and to the World Ensign, July 1972  
A Prophet’s Blessing
Note: This is the last General Conference address delivered by President Smith prior to his death.
Ensign, July 1972  

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