John Henry Smith (1848 - 1911)

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Birthplace: Council Bluffs, IA, USA
Death: Died in Salt Lake City, UT, USA
Managed by: Sean Feeney
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About John Henry Smith


The Diaries of John Henry Smith, Edited by Jean Bickmore White

When John Henry Smith died on October 13, 1911, the Salt Lake Tribune described him as “prominent in all matters that concerned development of the West” and at “front rank in Utah affairs.” Second counselor to his cousin Joseph F. Smith in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, president of the Utah Constitutional Convention in 1895, co-founder of the Utah Republican Party, and an active participant in a dozen business enterprises, John Henry Smith had played an important role in church, state, and politics for nearly forty years.

The Tribune, which during this period had little good to say about any Mormon church leader, captured best the essence of John Henry’s contribution to his church and his state in a front-page obituary the day of his death:

   By nature and training he was admirably equipped for public duties. He had a thorough knowledge of human nature and an extensive acquaintance with prominent men not only in Utah but in the whole country as well. These qualifications, together with his faculty for making and holding friends, fitted him admirably for the positions and labors that fell to him to perform.
   His easy, natural and unassuming manner were the outward signs of his straightforward character, and bespoke the possession of courage of the highest type.
   As a public speaker, Apostle Smith was convincing, forceful and eloquent, with the eloquence that comes from sincere earnestness. In his private conversation he exhibited the same force and was always an interesting and entertaining talker.
   When the history of the rise and development of Utah shall be written, his name will stand high in the ranks of the men who have accomplished great deeds and who have built up a commonwealth from a desert.

In an editorial on October 14, 1911, the Tribune again paid tribute to John Henry Smith, while continuing its condemnation of his ecclesiastical colleagues: “In general it may be said that Apostle Smith belonged to that branch of the church which reached out for a new departure, a turning away from the bigotries, the intolerances, and the exclusiveness of the past, and for getting in touch with American life and American institutions.”

According to the Tribune editorial, it was unfortunate for the people of Utah to lose such a man as John Henry Smith: “There are too few with his way of thinking left in the church; and his influence in modifying the hard-line combativeness of the old order had been much needed. “The Salt Lake Herald-Republican, reporting on his funeral on October 18, 1911, observed: “Not in the history of Salt Lake, perhaps never in the West before, has there been such a gathering of people of all creeds and classes as that which filled the great Mormon Tabernacle to pay last tribute and honor to President John Henry Smith yesterday noon.”

In its report of the funeral on October 18 the Tribune noted the presence of many non-Mormons at the service. This proved, it stated, “that John Henry Smith was held in highest esteem outside of his church as well as in it.” The inclusion of Rabbi Charles J. Freund as a speaker also helped to make the point that John Henry was unique for his time in his ability to reach across religious lines to the entire community.

Throughout his adult life John Henry was deeply involved in church and community affairs. In 1872, at the age of twenty-four, he began his public service as an assistant clerk in the territorial legislature. He would later serve as a member of the legislature and as a Salt Lake City Council member. In 1874 he went to England as a Mormon missionary, beginning an active career in the LDS church that he would continue as European Mission president, apostle, and finally counselor in the First Presidency.

He loved politics and brought to the political arena a magnetic personality, unusual oratorical skills, considerable organizing ability, and a talent for making peace among factions. The latter was put to the test in 1891. In anticipation of statehood he helped to bring non-Mormons from the Liberal Party and Mormons from the church-dominated People’s Party together in the new Utah Republican Party. In the Republican cause he tirelessly campaigned throughout the western states and built strong ties to national Republican leaders, who could help Utah gain statehood. Because of his ability to make friends among national leaders, he was sent to Washington, D.C., on several trips when state or church interests were threatened.

His business interests were many and varied. Over the years he served as a director or officer of Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution; Home Furniture Company; Mexican Colonization and Agricultural Company; Heber J. Grant and Company; Cooperative (later Consolidated); Wagon and Machine Company; Lehi, Utah, and Idaho Sugar companies; Kanab Cattle Company; Groesbeck Company; Utah National Bank; Ogden Standard newspaper; Utah Mexican Rubber Company; Salt Lake Theatre Company; Salt Lake and Garfield Railway; Saltair Company; Nevada Land and Cattle Company; Intermountain Cement and Brick Company; Beneficial Life; and Emigration Canyon Railroad Company. He was also active for many years in the Trans-Mississippi Commmercial Congress, serving as president of that regional promotion and development organization.

John Henry was born to Apostle George A. Smith and Sarah Libbey Smith on September 18, 1848, at Carbunca (later Council Bluffs), Iowa. His grandfather, Patriarch John Smith, was a brother to Joseph Smith, Sr., father of the founder of the LDS church. With his family John Henry moved to Salt Lake City as an infant but was taken to Provo after the death of his mother in 1851. There he was cared for by two of his father’s wives, Hannah Libbey Smith (generally referred to in his diaries as “mother”) and Lucy Messerye Smith (Aunt Lucy). As a young man John Henry was employed in building railroads and as a telegraph operator before being called on a church mission in 1874.

He was married twice, first to Sarah Farr, daughter of Ogden pioneer Lorin Farr, in 1866. In 1877 he married Josephine Groesbeck, daughter of prominent businessman Nicholas Groesbeck. Sarah gave birth to eleven children, three of whom died in infancy. Josephine had eight children. A devoted husband and father, John Henry kept up a brisk correspondence with his wives and children wherever he traveled. Never well-to-do, he found that obligations to two families and to church duties often left him in difficult financial circumstances.

Fortunately, there is a large amount of written material on the life of John Henry Smith. He left thirty-six volumes of holographic personal diaries, as well as a small diary written in 1874 as he prepared for a mission and traveled to England. The originals of these materials were deposited for safekeeping with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Photocopies of the thirty-six volumes were donated to the Manuscripts Division of the Special Collections Department, University of Utah Marriott Library. It is these photocopies that were used in preparing this volume. The 1874 diary is in the historical department of the LDS church and is used with permission. The diaries cover the periods 1874-75 and October 1880 until John Henry’s death in 1911.

In addition to photocopies of the original diaries, the John Henry Smith Papers in the Marriott Library include five boxes of correspondence and five volumes of letterpress books (two on microfilm only), documenting his political activities on the regional and national level as well as his interest in the lives of his children. There are also scrapbooks and miscellaneous personal papers, which augment the diaries. Fortunately, these were saved by a granddaughter, Emily Smith Stewart. Unfortunately, only a fraction of this material could be used in this volume; the diaries have been abridged to fit the restraints of a one-volume compilation, and only a small amount of explanatory material from the letters and papers could be used.

Wikipedia Biographical Summary:

"...John Henry Smith (September 18, 1848 – October 13, 1911) was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). He was a prominent politician in Utah and played an important role in the process whereby Utah made the transition from a territory to a state of the United States..."

"...Born in Carbunca, Iowa, Smith was the son of Latter-day Saint Apostle and member of the First Presidency George A. Smith and Sarah Ann Libby..."

"...Smith practiced plural marriage, and was the father of 19 children, one of whom was George Albert Smith, who also became an LDS Apostle and went on to serve as the 8th President of the Church..."

SOURCE: Wikipedia contributors, 'John Henry Smith', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 19 January 2011, 22:43 UTC, <> [accessed 20 January 2011]

John Henry Smith

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Henry Smith (September 18, 1848 – October 13, 1911) was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). He was a prominent politician in Utah and played an important role in the process whereby Utah made the transition from a territory to a state of the United States.

Church service

In 1874 and 1875 Smith served as a missionary in Europe. He spent most of this mission in England, particularly in and around the city of Birmingham.

From 1875 to 1880 Smith was the bishop of the Salt Lake 17th Ward, which included the Salt Lake Temple within its boundaries.

In October 1880, LDS Church President John Taylor called Smith to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. On October 27 of that year, he was ordained an apostle by Wilford Woodruff, who at that time was President of the Twelve. Smith served in that capacity until the death of First Presidency member John R. Winder in 1910; he was then asked by Church President Joseph F. Smith to take Winder's place as a member of the First Presidency. John Henry Smith served in this capacity until his death the next year.

Political contributions

In 1882 Smith was elected a member of the Utah Territorial Legislature.

John Henry Smith was also a prominent Republican in Utah politics. Smith was unanimously elected by the 107 delegates to be the Chair of the Utah Constitutional Convention that was held between 4 March and 8 May 1895. The result of the Convention was a draft Constitution for the proposed State of Utah, which was accepted by the United States Congress in 1896 when Utah officially became a State of the United States.

Marriage and family

Born in Carbunca, Iowa, Smith was the son of Latter-day Saint Apostle and member of the First Presidency George A. Smith and Sarah Ann Libby.

Smith practiced plural marriage, and was the father of 19 children, one of whom was George Albert Smith, who also became an LDS Apostle and went on to serve as the 8th President of the Church. John Henry Smith and George Albert Smith are the only father and son pair to have been members of the Quorum of the Twelve at the same time, having served in the Quorum together between 1903 and 1910. John Henry Smith was also the father of Nicholas G. Smith.

Smith died of a pulmonary hemorrhage[2] at and was buried at Salt Lake City, Utah.


Smith and Francis M. Lyman were ordained apostles on the same date. After their ordinations, there were still only 11 members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

State of Utah Death Certificate


Andrew Jenson. LDS Biographical Dictionary.

John Henry Smith, Sex: M

Individual Information

Birth: Sep 18, 1848 - Carbunca, Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie, IA


Death: Oct 13, 1911 - Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, UT

Burial: Oct 17, 1911 - Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah


Father: George Albert Smith

Mother: Sarah Ann Libby

Spouses and Children

1. *Sarah Farr

      Marriage: Oct 20, 1866 - Salt Lake, S.L., UT
               1. John Henry Smith
               2. George Albert Smith
               3. Lorin Farr Smith
               4. Don Carlos Smith
               5. Ezra Chase Smith
               6. Charles Warren Smith
               7. Winslow Farr Smith
               8. Nathaniel Libby Smith
               9. Nancy Clarabell Smith
               10. Tirzah Priscille Smith
               11. Elsie Louise Smith

Josephine Groesbeck 1857-1948

4 April, 1877, They were married in the St. George Temple, Salt Lake City, UT

Sarah Ann [Pond] (1878-1938)

Nicholas G. (1881-1945)

Joseph Harmon (1885-1942)

Lucy (1887-1900)

Elizabeth [Rex] (1890-1973)

Glenn G. (1893-1970)

Arzella (1895-1969)

Josephine (1898-1973)

view all 28

John H. Smith, Apostle, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints's Timeline

September 18, 1848
Council Bluffs, IA, USA
September 18, 1856
Age 8
January 16, 1864
Age 15
October 20, 1866
Age 18
Salt Lake City, Utah
February 22, 1868
Age 19
Provo, Utah
April 4, 1870
Age 21
Salt Lake City, Utah
April 22, 1872
Age 23
Salt Lake City, Utah
March 18, 1874
Age 25
Salt Lake City, Utah
September 21, 1876
Age 28
Salt Lake City, Utah
April 4, 1877
Age 28
St. George, Washington, UT