Archives West Finding Aid
Table of Contents
- Overview of the Collection
- Content Description
- Use of the Collection
- Administrative Information
- Detailed Description of the Collection
- Names and Subjects
Joseph F. Smith family papers, 1860-1944
Overview of the Collection
- Smith, Joseph F., 1838-1918
- Joseph F. Smith family papers
- 1860-1944 (inclusive)18601944
- 3.50 linear feet
- Collection Number
- MS 0288
- The Joseph F. Smith family papers (1860-1944) contain correspondence, diaries, a letter book, and general materials pertaining to the life of Joseph F. Smith, his wives, and family. Smith was the sixth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). He was the last President of the Church to have personally known the founder of the Mormon faith, the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., who was also his uncle.
University of Utah Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library
University of Utah
295 South 1500 East
Salt Lake City, UT
- Access Restrictions
Twenty-four hour advanced notice encouraged. Materials must be used on-site. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.
Historical NoteReturn to Top
Joseph F. Smith (1838-1918) was the sixth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was the last President of the LDS Church to have personally known the founder of the Mormon faith, the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., who was also his uncle.
Smith was the son of Patriarch Hyrum Smith and his wife Mary Fielding, a British convert to the Church who married Hyrum after the death of his first wife, Jerusha Barden Smith. In addition to her two children, Mary Fielding Smith raised the five children from the union of Hyrum and Jerusha.
Smith was born in Far West, Missouri on 13 November 1838. Just a few days before he was born, his father Hyrum had been taken prisoner under the auspices of the Mormon Extermination Order. Hyrum was still in custody in Liberty Jail, Missouri when his son Joseph Fielding was born. He was named after his uncle, Joseph Smith, Jr. and his mother's brother Joseph Fielding. His mother and maternal aunt Mercy Fielding Thompson fled with their children to Quincy, Illinois early in 1839, and later they moved to Nauvoo, Illinois when the majority of the members of the Church settled there. Joseph F. Smith stated as an adult that he had memories of Nauvoo, and can recall his uncle, the prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. and events that occurred at his uncle's home; he would have been no more than five and a half when on 27 June 1844 Joseph's uncle and father were murdered in Carthage, Illinois.
Smith's family remained in Nauvoo until September 1844, at which time his mother took their family and fled the city, camping on the West side of the Mississippi river among the trees on its banks, without wagon or tent, while the city was bombarded by mobs. His mother was later able to exchange their property in Illinois for a wagon and team of oxen. Joseph and his family, along with many other Mormons, fled the American Midwest. The seven year old Smith drove the team of oxen, with his family, to the Church encampment at Winter Quarters, Nebraska. Joseph and his family remained at Winter Quarters until the spring of 1848 when Smith drove his mother's wagon across the plains to Utah.
While in Utah, Joseph's mother Mary Fielding Smith worked with her sister and brother to raise the two widow's families, as well as continuing to care for Hyrum and Jerusha's younger children. Mary Fielding Smith died in 1852, apparently of pneumonia, leaving Joseph an orphan at the age of 13. Smith reported that he was devastated by his mother's death, and relied upon the emotional support and help of Brigham Young and his step-father Heber C. Kimball among others. Even with the support of his older half brother John Smith, Joseph, then thirteen, assumed primary responsibility for his young sister, Martha Ann, and subsequently left school in 1854.
At the age of fifteen, Smith was called to go on his first LDS mission to Hawaii. He successfully learned the language of the Hawaiian people and reported great success in four years of missionary work on the islands. He completed his service and returned to Utah to find it in the midst of serious conflict with the federal government. In 1858, Smith joined the territory's militia, named the "Nauvoo Legion" after a similar unit in Illinois, and spent several months patrolling the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. Later in his tour of duty, he served as chaplain of Colonel Heber C. Kimball's regiment, with the rank of Captain. After tensions between the church and the federal government abated, Smith assisted his relatives in their return to northern Utah from areas in southern Utah, where they had taken their families for safety. In 1860, at 22 years of age, he was sent on a mission to Great Britain. He and his cousin Samuel H. B. Smith drove mule teams over the plains to Winter Quarters to help pay their way. Joseph served for 3 years, under mission president George Q. Cannon, returning in the summer of 1863.
Smith had only been home for a short while when he was called to accompany Ezra T. Benson and Lorenzo Snow on a second mission to Hawaii, to correct the problems caused by Walter M. Gibson. He acted as principal interpreter for the apostles, and after Gibson was excommunicated, Joseph was left in charge of the mission. Joseph returned home in the winter of 1864-1865.
Upon his return home, Smith was employed in the Church historian's office for a number of years, then as a clerk in the endowment house, being in charge after the death of President Young, until it was closed. Smith served seven terms in the Utah territorial House of Representatives, as well as terms on the Salt Lake City Council and in the territorial Senate; he also served in the presidency of a state constitutional convention in 1882. Smith also served as a Church representative on boards of many Utah businesses.
In 1859, Smith married his sixteen year-old cousin Levira, daughter of Samuel Harrison Smith. Under the direction of President Brigham Young and with the consent of Levira, Smith took Julina Lambson as a plural wife in 1866. Levira, "due to interference on the part of relatives, and because of the continued absence of her husband in mission fields and in ecclesiastical duties", she obtained a divorce. Later, Smith married Sarah Ellen Richards on 1 March 1869, Edna Lambson on 5 May 1871, Alice Ann Kimball on 6 December 1883, and Mary Taylor Schwartz on 13 January 1884. From 1884-1887 Smith served yet another mission to Hawaii to evade federal anti-polygamy prosecution.
Smith was the father of forty-three children, thirteen of whom preceded him in death. His first-born son, by wife Edna Lambson, was Hyrum Mack Smith. Elder Hyrum Mack Smith served as an Apostle from 1901 until his death in 1918. His first-born son by Julina Lambson, Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., later served as the President of the Church.
On 1 July 1866, Smith was ordained an Apostle by Brigham Young and sustained as a Counselor to the First Presidency, where he served until Young's death. However, he was not sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles until the Church's October conference of 1867. On 28 February 1874, he left for his second mission to England, serving as President of the European Mission from 1874 to 1875, returning home upon the death of President George A. Smith. He was then called to preside over the Davis Stake until he left again in the spring of 1877 for his third mission to England. When news arrived of the death of president Young, he was released and sent home. The following year he served an Eastern States mission with Orson Pratt, visiting noteworthy places in the history of the church in Missouri, Ohio, New York and Illinois. During this trip they met with and interviewed David Whitmer.
After Young's death, Smith was named Second Counselor to President John Taylor in October 1880, serving from 1880 to 1887. He later served as Second Counselor to President Wilford Woodruff (1889-1898) and as Second Counselor to President Lorenzo Snow (1898-1901). Smith was sustained as first counselor to President Snow on the death of First Counselor George Q. Cannon, but, as President Snow died only four days later, never served in this position.
Smith also served as editor of the Improvement Era and Juvenile Instructor, and general superintendent of the Sunday School and Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association.
Smith felt it was important for Utah to become a state, and thereby eliminate the ongoing federal supervision of the Utah Territory. Following the official discontinuance of new plural marriages by Wilford Woodruff in 1890, and the dissolution of the Mormon People's Party in 1891, Smith championed the anti-polygamy Republican Party in Utah.
Smith was chosen by the twelve apostles and set apart as President of the Church on 17 October 1901. This was ratified by a special conference and solemn assembly of the priesthood on Sunday 10 November 1901.
In 1906, Smith was brought to trial on a charge of unlawful cohabitation with four women in addition to his lawful wife; he pleaded guilty and was fined $300, the maximum penalty then permitted under the law.
Smith's seventeen year administration made efforts toward improving the Church's damaged relationships with the federal government and related issues dealing with the Church's financial situation. The administration acquired historic sites, constructed numerous meetinghouses, and expanded the church system of educational academies and universities. He also oversaw a continued growth in Church membership. Smith died of pneumonia on 19 November 1918, and was succeeded by President Heber J. Grant. Due to the widespread influenza pandemic of 1918-1920, a graveside service, rather than a public funeral, was held. Smith was interred in the Salt Lake City cemetery on 22 November 1918.
Content DescriptionReturn to Top
The Joseph F. Smith family papers (1860-1944) contain correspondence, diaries, a letter book, and general materials pertaining to the life of Joseph F. Smith, his wives, and family. The majority of the collection is correspondence from Smith written to his wives and family during the times he was away on missions for the LDS Church in the Eastern States, Northern States, Southwestern States, British Isles, Hawaii, and in exile in a southwestern state. The majority of the correspondence is between Joseph F. Smith and his wives Sarah Ellen Richards and Julina Lambson. These letters reflect their faith in the gospel, the love and concern for each other, the spiritual as well as physical well being of the family unit, and the education or training of the children. They also record their feelings concerning polygamous raids and persecutions and the deprivations of being in exile. Other correspondence deals with letters among family members, mostly regarding their family activities. Other items in the collection are the diaries of Sarah Ellen Richards Smith and Matthew A. Miller, Joseph F. Smith's Letter book and general materials.
Use of the CollectionReturn to Top
Restrictions on Use
The library does not claim to control copyright for all materials in the collection. An individual depicted in a reproduction has privacy rights as outlined in Title 45 CFR, part 46 (Protection of Human Subjects). For further information, please review the J. Willard Marriott Library’s Use Agreement and Reproduction Request forms.
Collection Name, Collection Number, Box Number, Folder Number. Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.
Administrative InformationReturn to Top
Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top
Correspondence: Joseph F. Smith to and from wives, children, familyReturn to Top
Letters to and from wives
These folders contain correspondence primarily from Sarah E. Richards, Julina Lambson, and Edna Lambson.
Joseph F. Smith correspondence with his children Albio, David, George, Donnie
Joseph F. Smith correspondence with his son Joseph R.
Joseph F. Smith correspondence with his children Leonora, Mamie, Minerva, and Willard
Joseph F. Smith correspondence with his daughter Nonie
Letters to and from W. W. Riter, (Sister) Martha Ann
Letter from Joseph F. Smith to Joseph and Willard Richards
Family correspondenceReturn to Top
This series contains photocopies of the original letters.
Juliana Lambson Smith and Sarah E. Richards Smith and daughter correspondence
Sarah E. Richards Smith and Joseph F. Smith correspondence
Aseneth ("Seney") Grover and (sister) Sarah E. Richards Smith correspondence
Rhoda Knowlton and Sarah E. Richards Smith correspondence
Alice and Sarah E. Richards Smith correspondence
Nancy L. Richards and Aneneth ("Seney") correspondence
Minerva Richards and (sister) Sarah E. Richards Smith correspondence
Donetta Smith and (Aunt) Sarah E. Richards Smith correspondence
Family correspondence and general materialsReturn to Top
Sarah E. Richards Smith diary
This folder contains a photocopy of the original diary.
Sarah E. Richards Smith, house specifications
Descendants of Joseph F. Smith
Matthew A. Miller diary
This folder contains a photocopy of the original diary.
Joseph F. Smith's letterbook
This folder contains a photocopy of the original letterbook.
Correspondence from Joseph F. Smith to Sarah E. Richards and family
Correspondence from Joseph F. Smith to and from wives, children, and familyReturn to Top
Julina Lambson Smith correspondence
Edna Lambson Smith correspondence
His children Albio, David, George, Donnie correspondence
Correspondence with his son Joseph R.
Correspondence with his children Leonora, Mamie, Minerva, and Willard
Correspondence with his daughter Nonie
Correspondence of W. W. Riter and (sister) Martha Ann
General materialsReturn to Top
Correspondence from Joseph F. Smith to Donnette Smith Kesler
The book in this folder was a gift to President Joseph F. Smith from the Salt Lake Stake Presidency. It contains about fifty birthday wishes from various relatives and friends.
Photograph of the Joseph F. Smith family
This folder contains a photocopy of the photograph and a listing of the individuals shown on the photograph.
Tributes to the memory of Hyrum M. Smith
A Compendium of the Doctrines of the Gospel
The inside cover of this book bears the inscription, "Julina L. Smith 264 University Street" and Jos. F. Smith Dec. 6, 1891." The front flyleaf repeats the inside cover and adds "Donnette S. Kesler" which provides an indication that the book passed from Joseph F. Smith to Julina L. Smith to Donnette S. Kesler. The inside of the book contains written notations.
Doctrine and Covenants
The inside cover of this book bears the inscription, "Donnette Smith From Papa Jan. 1st 1888" and contains written notations.
The Pearl of Great Price
The inside cover of this book bears the inscription, "Donnette Smith From Papa Nov. 13th 1887" and contains written notations.
Compilation of articles and lectures
This folder contains the following articles and lectures:
Ephemeral materials from books
The first checker set in the box belonged to Joseph F. Smith. The notation "From Grandmother" is a later reference by Mack S. Kesler who received the set from his grandmother, Julina L. Smith. The second set is contained in a box that was originally used to mail something from Abraham Hernandez to President Joseph F. Smith. The printing on the end of the box indicates it is from H.F. Wichman & Co., Ltd., Jewelers and Opticians, P.O. Box 342, Honolulu, T.H. (territory of Hawaii).
This box does not contain the original letterpress book but consists of copied printouts from a microfilm reel titled, "Letterpress Book." The reel is located in the Manuscripts Division and is available for use by researchers.
Names and SubjectsReturn to Top
- Mormon Church--Missions--Hawaii
- Miller, Matthew A.--Diaries (contributor)
- Smith, Julina Lambson--Correspondence (contributor)
- Smith, Sarah Ellen Richards--Correspondence (contributor)
- Smith, Sarah Ellen Richards--Diaries (contributor)
Form or Genre Terms