Joseph Fielding Smith was born in Salt Lake City on 19 July 1876, the son of Joseph F. Smith, sixth president of the Mormon Church, and grandson of Hyrum Smith, brother to Joseph Smith, the church's founder. He grew up on the family farm in Taylorsville in Salt Lake County. He was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and ordained by his father in April 1910. Their combined years in the apostleship spanned in unbroken chain more than one hundred years.
Joseph Fielding Smith married Louise Shurtliff on 16 April 1898 and they had two daughters. She died on 30 March 1908. He then married Ethel A. Reynolds on 2 November 1908 and they had nine children. After her death in 1937, he married Jessie Ella Evans on 12 April 1938.
As a young man, Joseph Fielding Smith labored as a missionary in England from 1899 to 1901. Upon his return, he was employed by the church as a historian, becoming Assistant Church Historian in 1909 and Church Historian in 1921. He continued to hold this position until he became the president of the church. His most significant historical work was Essentials in Church History. First published in 1922, this volume passed through twenty-four printings and numerous foreign translations. He also compiled and edited what is perhaps the most often cited volume in Mormon literature--The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (1938), a book that has also seen many reprintings.
Joseph Fielding Smith served in the leading quorums of the church for over sixty-two years. He was sustained as president of the Quorum of the Twelve in 1951, and was ordained president of the church with the death of David O. McKay in January 1970.
Joseph Fielding Smith was popularly regarded as the LDS Church's chief theologian and spokesman on doctrinal matters. Heber J. Grant referred to him as the most knowledgeable man in the church on the scriptures. He wrote a regular article in the church magazine, the Improvement Era, entitled, "Answers to Gospel Questions" from 1953 to 1967. These articles have been gathered into five volumes. He wrote more than two dozen books. Smith was also an avid genealogist, and served as an officer in the Utah Genealogical Society for more than thirty years, as well as in the presidency of the Salt Lake Temple for two decades. He died in Salt Lake City on 2 July 1972.
Joseph F. McConkie