Patriarch John Smith papers
L. Tom Perry Special Collections is pleased to announce the availability of a new digitized collection: Patriarch John Smith papers (Vault MSS 803). The collection contains papers related to Smith’s mission to Denmark, life in Utah with family, and his position as Presiding Patriarch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1855 to his death in 1901. Includes diaries, letters, articles containing references to John, his personal patriarchal blessing, sheep accounts, family history notes, and copies of patriarchal blessings pronounced by himself. Some of the letters are to and from members of the Smith family, including Emma Smith Bidamon, Alvin Smith, Alexander Hale Smith, and Joseph Smith III. Dated 1848-1962.
John Smith, son of Hyrum and Jerusha Barden Smith, was born 22 September 1832, in Kirtland, Ohio. His mother died when he was five, while his father was in Missouri. Three months later, on 24 December 1837, his father married Mary Fielding. In June 1844 John’s father, Hyrum Smith, was murdered. Nineteen months later, the Mormon exodus from Nauvoo began. In February 1847, John joined Heber C. Kimball’s family on their westward journey. On the westward journey, near Council Bluffs, Iowa, John assisted Col. Thomas L. Kane, who was extremely ill. He helped his family travel to Winter Quarters after arriving there himself. He and his family remained there for the winter. On his sixteenth birthday, 22 September 1848, John Smith drove five wagons into the Salt Lake Valley.
In 1853 his stepmother, Mary Fielding Smith, died, leaving John to support a family of eight. He was married on 25 December 1853, to Hellen Maria Fisher, and the couple had nine children. In 1855 he was sustained as the sixth Presiding Patriarch of the Church, replacing his deceased grand-uncle. In 1862 John was called to set aside his duties as Patriarch and go to Scandinavia as a missionary. He served there until 1864. John, was strongly supported in his position as Patriarch by his half brother, Joseph F. Smith. When Joseph F. Smith became President of the Church in 1901, he requested that “strictly in accordance with the pattern the Lord has established,” John, as Patriarch, should do the ordaining. As Patriarch of the Church, John pronounced over 20,000 blessings.
He died at his residence in Salt Lake on 6 November 1911.