Joseph Fielding Smith

Associated Locations:

  • Salt Lake City, Utah

Associated Dates:

  • July 19, 1876 – Born
  • January 23, 1970 – Became 10th President of the Church

Character Traits

“Joseph Fielding Smith is the leading gospel scholar and the greatest doctrinal teacher of this generation. Few men in this dispensation have approached him in gospel knowledge or surpassed him in spiritual insight. His is the faith and the knowledge of his father, President Joseph F. Smith, and his grandfather, the Patriarch Hyrum Smith.” 1

Letter from Heber J. Grant to Joseph Fielding Smith

My dear Joseph:

I was delighted last night to listen to you and your good wife sing. I am thankful to think you are going to take a little bit of time to sing and to visit with your loved ones, instead of working, working, working. I am sure that the singing will prolong your life.

I don’t want to flatter you, Joseph, but I want you to known that I consider you the best posted man on the scriptures of the General Authorities of the church that we have. I want you to prolong your life, I want you to make a business of trying to take care of yourself.

Now I am not overworking so long as I can get my quota of good sleep. I am not the least bit alarmed if I go on singing and traveling around releasing myself from the steady grind of work. I want you to do the same to the best of your ability. Your father worked altogether too hard. If he had taken a little more exercise, moving around, traveling away from home, and getting away from the cares and troubles of other people, it would have been better for him. He took a greater interest in the welfare of other people than almost any man who ever lived. He was my ideal of all the brethren from my childhood up to the day of his death. I am very grateful indeed for the fine letters I have from him, my dear cousin.

May the blessing of the Lord be and abide with you perpetually, and may you be enabled to work less and accomplish more, is the prayer of my heart. I am,

Your affectionate relative,


Ezra Taft Benson

More recently, one of our Church educators published what he purports to be a history of the Church’s stand on the question of organic evolution. His thesis challenges the integrity of a prophet of God. He suggests that Joseph Fielding Smith published his work, Man: His Origin and Destiny, against the counsel of the First Presidency and his own Brethren. This writer’s interpretation is not only inaccurate, but it also runs counter to the testimony of Elder Mark E. Petersen, who wrote this foreword to Elder Smith’s book, a book I would encourage all to read. Elder Petersen said:

Some of us [members of the Council of the Twelve] urged [Elder Joseph Fielding Smith] to write a book on the creation of the world and the origin of man. . . . The present volume is the result. It is a most remarkable presentation of material from both sources [science and religion] under discussion. It will fill a great need in the Church and will be particularly invaluable to students who have become confused by the misapplication of information derived from scientific experimentation.

When one understands that the author to whom I alluded is an exponent of the theory of organic evolution, his motive in disparaging President Joseph Fielding Smith becomes apparent. To hold to a private opinion on such matters is one thing, but when one undertakes to publish his views to discredit the work of a prophet, it is a very serious matter.

It is also apparent to all who have the Spirit of God in them that Joseph Fielding Smith’s writings will stand the test of time.3

  1. Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, preface
  2. Letter to Joseph Fielding Smith, Dec. 31, 1938, HDC. Also in Heber J. Grant, in Francis M. Gibbons, Joseph Fielding Smith: Gospel Scholar, Prophet of God (1992), 290.
  3. President Ezra Taft Benson, “God’s Hand in Our Nation’s History,” March 28, 1977. Emphasis added.
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