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Biographical overview – Joseph Fielding Smith (biosjfs2 ** )

A biographical overview of the life of Joseph Fielding Smith,
the tenth President and Prophet of the
Church of Jesus Christ

Following is a brief summary of some major events in the life of Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

  • Joseph Fielding Smith was born on July 19, 1876 in Salt Lake City, Utah to Joseph F. Smith and Julina Lambson. He was the 5th of 13 children born to this couple, and he was the 2nd son.
  • As a nine-month old baby, Joseph Fielding Smith was taken to the dedication of the St. George Temple by his parents. This was in 1877.
  • Joseph was essentially fatherless from age 8 to 13 due to the fact that his father was in hiding from federal deputies intent on arresting him on grounds of cohabitation.
  • As a youth, Joseph Fielding was an avid reader, and he worked as a stock clerk, cash boy at ZCMI, a farm hand, and as a secretary.
  • With regards to his schooling, Joseph completed elementary and middle school and then completed 2 years at LDS College, which provided high-school level training.
  • Joseph had the privilege of attending the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple in 1893. He was 17 years old at that time.
  • Joseph received his patriarchal blessing in 1896 from his uncle and Church patriarch, John Smith. His blessing included this promise: “It shall be thy duty to sit in counsel with thy brethren and to preside among the people.”
  • He married his first wife, Louie Shurtliff, in April of 1898. He was 22 years old.
  • He served a mission to England from May 1899 to July 1901. He spent almost one-half of his mission as the Mission Secretary in Nottingham, England.
  • In 1901, at age 25, he accepted a job as Clerk in the Church Historian’s Office. He worked closely with Anthon H. Lund, B.H. Roberts, Orson F. Whitney, and Andrew Jenson in this assignment.
  • In 1906, at age 30, he was appointed as Assistant Church Historian.
  • In 1907, he was appointed to serve on a committee whose purpose was to prepare data for a defense of the Church against assaults made upon it by its enemies. Others on this committee were Orson F. Whitney, David O. McKay, B. H. Roberts, and James E. Talmage.
  • His wife, Louie, died on March 30, 1908 due to “pernicious vomiting” associated with her third pregnancy.
  • He married Ethel Georgina Reynolds, daughter of George F. Reynolds (a member of the First Council of Seventy), on November 2, 1908.  Joseph was 32 at this time, and Ethel was 14 years younger than Joseph.
  • In 1909, he was appointed as Librarian and Treasurer of the Genealogical Society of Utah.
  • On April 6, 1910, he was ordained an apostle and member of the Quorum of the Twelve. Upon his ordination, there were 5 brethren with the last name of “Smith” in the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. The Church Patriarch and 2nd Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric were also Smiths.
  • In January of 1918, Hyrum Mack Smith (Joseph’s half-brother and apostle) died from complications associated with a ruptured appendix.
  • In 1930, Joseph Fielding had a much-publicized controversy with Elder B.H. Roberts over the existence of men or other life forms on this earth before the time of Adam.
  • During his adult years, Joseph greatly enjoyed tending flowers, shrubs, and plants.
  • On August 27, 1937, Joseph’s second wife, Ethel, died.
  • On April 12, 1938, he married his third wife, Jessie Ella Evans. Their age difference was 26 years, and they honeymooned in Hawaii.
  • During the summer of 1939, Joseph and Jessie toured the British and European missions. They considered this their second honeymoon.
  • In 1940, Elder Smith was called upon to assist in the evacuation of missionaries from Europe and England.
  • At April Conference of 1941, the new position of “Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve” was announced. Several brethren were called to this position, and Elder Joseph Fielding Smith assisted in the training of these new brethren.
  • His beloved son, Lewis, was killed in 1942 as he served in World War II.
  • Early in 1944, he had the unpleasant task of corroborating the facts that led to the excommunication of Elder Richard R. Lyman of the Quorum of the Twelve.
  • In June of 1945 he was set-apart as the President of the Salt Lake Temple.  He served in this position for four years.
  • He was sustained as the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve on September 30, 1950 (age 74).
  • He was sustained as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve on April 9, 1951 (age 74).
  • Doctrine of Salvation, a three-volume set which contained the writings and sermons of Joseph Fielding Smith, was published from 1954 to 1956. It was compiled by Bruce R. McConkie, President Smith’s son-in-law.
  • In August of 1955, he dedicated both Korea and the Philippines for the preaching of the gospel.
  • During the late 1950’s, President Smith took several flights in fighter jet aircraft with Colonel Alma G. Winn, an LDS fighter pilot. President J. Reuben Clark, who had an aversion for flying, tried unsuccessfully to dissuade Elder Smith from taking these flights.
  • On October 29, 1965, he was set-apart as a third counselor to President McKay. He continued in his assignment as President of the Quorum of the Twelve.
  • On January 23, 1970, he was ordained and set apart as the President of the Church. He chose as his counselors Harold B. Lee and N. Eldon Tanner.
  • His beloved companion, Jessie Evans Smith, died on August 3, 1971.
  • He dedicated the Ogden Temple on January 18, 1972, and the Provo Temple on February 9, 1972.
  • President Smith passed away peacefully on July 21, 1972.
  • On the occasion of his 80th birthday in July 1956, the Church News printed this tribute to Elder Smith: “…behind a seeming brusqueness and severity of manner is a kind, sympathetic friendliness and understanding that wins the love and admiration of all who know him.”
  • A tribute written by the members of the Quorum of the Twelve stated: “President Smith has inherited in rich measure the dauntless courage and the unswerving devotion to duty which have characterized the lives of his noble ancestors.  We who labor under his leadership have occasion to glimpse the true nobility of his character.”
  • Without exception, all of his eleven children grew to maturity, faithful and obedient to the teachings of their father. All five of the sons filled missions for the Church, as did the husbands of the six daughters. All the children were sealed in the temple to worthy companions, except Lewis, who was killed before he could marry. No achievement Joseph Fielding attained in life and no honor bestowed upon him could impart the sense of joy and achievement he experienced in seeing his children faithfully follow
    his teachings and emulate his life.” — Joseph Fielding Smith, by Francis M. Gibbons, page 190.

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