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John Henry Smith

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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.

Early Life

John Henry Smith was born in Carbunca, Iowa. This was one of the Latter-day Saint settlements established during the migration westward and is now within the boundaries of Council Bluffs, Iowa.

John Henry Smith was the son of George A. Smith, at the time of Elder Smith's birth a member of the quorum of the twelve. His mother was Sarah Ann Libey Smith. John Henry Smith arrived in Utah with his parents on October 27th, 1849. His mother died in 1851. He was raised after this by Hannah Maria Libey Smith, who was a sister of his mother and a wife of George A. Smith.

John Henry Smith moved to Provo in 1852 and largely grew up in that city. He was baptized by his father in 1856.

Church service

In the summer of 1867 John Henry Smith was called as a counselor in the bishopric of the Provo Fourth Ward. At the time the Provo Fourth Ward included all of Provo and the surrding area north of Center Street and East of a line drawn down 1st East as far north as the Provo River and as far east as the Wasatch Mountains.[1] Elder Smith served as a counselor in the bishopric for two years, until in 1869 he moved away from Provo to work on the transcontinental railroad.

In 1874 Elder Smith was called to serve a mission in Europe. He was set apart as a missionary by John Taylor. He initially served as a missionary in Birmingham, England. He also accopanied Joseph F. Smith on a tour of the missions in Denmark, Germany, France and Switzerland. Elder Smith returned home in July of 1875 because his father was near death and managed to spend about a fortnight with his father before he passed away.

In September of 1875 John Henry Smith was ordained a high priest and set apart as the bishop of the 17th Ward in Salt Lake City, which covered the area of Salt Lake City north of South Temple Street to 3rd North and West from Main Street to 3rd West. Thus his ward included in its boundaries Temple Square as well as such current buildings as the Family History Library, although at that time there were more houses in those boundaries than there are today.[2]

In October, 1880, President of the Church 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 Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

From the fall of 1882 until the spring of 1885 Elder Smith served as president of the European Mission with headquarters at Liverpool. In 1899 Elder Smith toured the Southern States mission.

Smith served in the quorum of the tewleve 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.

From 1898-1911 Elder Smith served as a member of the general board of the Young Men Mutual Improvement Association in addition to being a member of the quorum of the twelve and then the First Presidency.[3]

Political contributions

John Henry Smith in 1872 served as an assitant clerk to both the Utah Territorial House of Representatives and the Utah State Constitutional Convention that wrote a constitution that year. The 1872 attempt by Utah to gain statehood was turned down by congress, as had many previous attempts.

In 1876 Elder Smith was elected a member of the Salt Lake City council.

In 1882 Elder Smith was elected to the Utah Territorial Legislature. In that year he also went to Washington, D.C. to work with George Q. Cannon in attempting to disuade congress from passing the Edmunds Act which was designed to send church members to jail for living according to covenants made in the temple.

John Henry Smith was also a prominent involved 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. This was the state constitution that was put into effect when Utah became a state.

Marriage and family

In 1866 John Henry Smith married Sarah Farr. She was the daughter of Lorin Farr the first president of the Ogden Stake. In 1877 Elder Smith married Josephine Groesbeck.

One of John Henry Smith's 19 children 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.

Another son of Elder Smith's was Nicholas G. Smith who was one of the original five Assistants to the twelve called in April of 1941.

John Henry Smith died of a pulmonary hemorrhage.[4] He was buried at Salt Lake City, Utah.


  1. Andrew Jenson. Encyclopedic History. p. 686
  2. Andrew Jenson. Encyclopedic History p. 751. Even by 1930 the area of the seventeenth Ward had been altered both by the creation of the Capital Hill Ward and by expansion westward. The later was necessitated because many of the old hourse in the ward boundaries had been knocked down to make way for business and industrial uses as Salt Lake City grew.
  3. Andrew Jenson. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia Vol. 4, p. 246
  4. State of Utah Death Certificate


  • Andrew Jenson. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. Vol. 1, p. 141; Vol 3, p. 781.
  • LDS Church Almanac, 2008 Edition, p. 85

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