Church History
Joseph F. Smith

“Joseph F. Smith,” Church History Topics

“Joseph F. Smith”

Joseph F. Smith

Joseph F. Smith was the sixth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph was 5 years old when his father, Hyrum Smith, was martyred and 13 when his mother, Mary Fielding Smith, died. At age 15, Joseph F. Smith served a mission to the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii), the first of several missions he served to Hawaii and Britain. In 1866 he was ordained an Apostle and called to the First Presidency as a counselor to Brigham Young; it was not until the next year that he was set apart as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.1 Smith married 5 women and had 48 children, 5 of whom were adopted. His family was characterized by close, supportive relationships. After serving as a counselor to four Church Presidents, Smith was sustained as President of the Church in 1901.

Joseph F. Smith

Photograph of Joseph F. Smith.

In the 17 years he led the Church, Joseph F. Smith had a significant influence on the experience of Church members in their wards or branches. Under his direction, major reforms in priesthood quorum organization were introduced, including standardizing meeting frequencies and curriculum materials, setting ordination ages for different priesthood offices, and emphasizing channels of priesthood authority.2

During his years as Church President, Smith also worked to improve the relationship between the Church and the broader public. In 1904 he appeared before the United States Congress as part of hearings conducted over whether to seat Reed Smoot, an Apostle who had been elected to the Senate.3 As he continued efforts to reach out to the broader public, Smith ultimately witnessed a marked reduction in hostility toward the Church.

Smith launched the family home evening (now referred to as home evening) and seminary programs and helped the Church establish a presence at its historic sites in the eastern United States. In 1918 Smith received a vision of the spirit world, which was later added to the scriptures as Doctrine and Covenants 138.

For more information about the life of Joseph F. Smith, see the Prophets of the Restoration videos on and in the Gospel Library app.