Who was Joseph F. Smith ? Information on the sixth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints biography and life story.
Joseph Fielding Smith; (1839-1918), president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and nephew of Joseph Smith (1805-1844), founder of that church, commonly known as Mormon. Joseph Fielding Smith was born in Far West, Mo., on Nov. 13, 1839. At the time of his birth, amid a period of great turmoil in the young Mormon movement, his father, Hyrum Smith, and his famed uncle were in prison. After their martyrdom in 1844, his mother took him West with Brigham Young and the majority of Mormons, reaching Utah in 1848.
Smith’s career was active and varied. Early missionary assignments to Hawaii and Britain were followed by work in Utah for the church, of which he became an apostle in 1866. Entering politics, he sat on the Salt Lake City municipal council and served seven consecutive terms (1865-1874) in the lower house of the territory. After further assignments in England (1874-1875 and 1877) as president of the church’s European mission, he returned to Utah, serving twice (1880 and 1882) in the territorial upper house, the second time as president. His activities in Utah politics, however, were embarrassed and hampered by his defense of Mormon polygamous policies. He himself had six wives. On one occasion (1884-1887) he was sent to Hawaii, partly to avoid controversy over his stand on plural marriage in the United States. On his return, he worked in Washington for Utah statehood.
Rising rapidly in the church’s oligarchy, Smith served as counselor to two of the church’s presidents, and on Oct. 17, 1901, he became president himself, the first born Mormon to hold the post. During his tenure he championed labor’s right to organize. He was prominent in the controversy over polygamy that continued even after the practice had been officially renounced by the church in 1890. His reaffirmations in the early 1900’s that Mormonism no longer sanctioned plural marriage contributed to the decline of the controversy. Toward the end of his life he continued his interest in missionary work with visits to Britain, Hawaii, and Canada. He died in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Nov. 19, 1918.