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Reed Smoot

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Reed Smoot

Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle and U.S. Senator

Reed Owen Smoot (January 10, 1862 – February 9, 1941) was a native-born Utahn who served in the United States Senate. Smoot was also a prominent leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), serving as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1900 until his death in 1941.

Elder Smoot was born in Salt Lake City in what was then Utah Territory. Later, his parents moved the family to Provo. His parents, Abraham O. Smoot and Anne Kristina (Morrison) Smoot, were Mormon pioneers. His father had been the mayor of Salt Lake City. After attending public schools and then the University of Utah, Smoot graduated from Brigham Young Academy in Provo in 1879. He served a mission to England. Professionally, Elder Smoot engaged in banking, mining, livestock raising, and in the manufacture of woolen goods. [1] He was president of both Provo Commercial & Savings Bank and the Smoot Investment Company. He also served as a director of ZCMI and of the Deseret Savings Bank in Salt Lake City.

He married the former Alpha M. Eldredge in 1884 and together they had seven children. (Alpha died on 7 November 1928 and Smoot later married Mrs. Alice Taylor Sheets on 2 July 1930.) Elder Smoot was ordained an apostle of the Church on April 8, 1900.

Smoot received the approval of church president Joseph F. Smith to run for office in 1902. He was elected the same year to the United States Senate (58th Congress) as a Republican Senator, representing the state of Utah. Smoot was introduced to the United States Senate by Utah's other Republican U.S. Senator Thomas Kearns, a catholic who was elected in 1901. [2] However, a controversy arose over Smoot's membership in the Mormon Church, especially because there had been such a hue and cry over the practice of polygamy. Mormon prophet Wilford Woodruff had issued what is known as the Manifesto in 1890, ending the practice of polygamy, after he experienced a vision and directive from the Lord. However, pockets of Latter-day Saints had refused to give up the practice, and the U.S. government, though it had eased some of the sanctions against the Church, still suspected the Mormons of engaging in plural marriage.

Smoot's election sparked a bitter four-year battle in the Senate on whether Smoot was eligible or should be allowed to serve, especially due to his position as a Mormon apostle. (Later, Ezra Taft Benson would serve both as an LDS Apostle and Secretary of Agriculture under Eisenhower). During these four years, the Mormon Church was on trial as much as was Reed Smoot. Many were convinced that his association with the church disqualified him from serving in the United States Senate. Only a few years earlier, another prominent Utah Mormon, B.H. Roberts, had been elected to the House of Representatives but was denied his seat on the basis that he practiced plural marriage (polygamy). Smoot did not practice plural marriage.

The Smoot Hearings began on January 16, 1904. The hearings included exhaustive questioning into the continuation of plural marriage within the state of Utah and the LDS Church, and questions on church teachings, doctrines and history. Although Smoot was not a polygamist, the charge by those opposed to his election to the Senate was that he could not swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States while serving in the highest echelons of an organization that sanctioned law-breaking (Wikipedia). As has always been the case, the questioning included rumors about sacred temple rites, and misperceptions about church doctrine. In 1904, Mormon prophet Joseph F. Smith issued a second manifesto, attaching the punishment of excommunication for any church member found practicing polygamy. This helped to assuage the mistrust on the part of the government.

Although the majority of the committee recommended that Smoot be removed from office, on February 20, 1907, the Senate defeated the proposal and Smoot was allowed to serve in the Senate. Smoot was reelected in 1908 and continued to serve in the Senate until March 1933 (following his 1932 defeat). He served as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee from 1923 to 1933 and served on the Senate Appropriations Committee. His service in the Senate also included the following: chairman, Committee on Patents (Sixtieth Congress); Committee on Printing (Sixty-first and Sixty-second Congresses); Committee on Public Lands (Sixty-second and Sixty-sixth Congresses); Committee on Expenditures in the Interior Department (Sixty-third through Sixty-fifth Congresses); Committee on Public Lands and Surveys (Sixty-seventh Congress); Committee on Finance (Sixty-eighth through Seventy-second Congresses); co-author of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930. He was also active in the leadership of the Republican Party. Senator Smoot was recognized as an expert on government finance and public land issues. He was known for his discipline, hard work, integrity, and thorough preparation. His politics were conservative and pro-business.

After serving five terms, Smoot moved back to Salt Lake City. There he was able to dedicate his time to serving as an apostle of the Church. Elder Smoot died on February 9, 1941, during a visit to St. Petersburg, Florida, and was buried in Provo, Utah. Reed Smoot represented Utah in the United States Senate for thirty years, longer than any other Utah senator past or present. [3] At the time of his death, he was next in line to succeed the president of the Quorum of the Twelve and third in line to succeed the president of the Mormon Church. While serving as an apostle and Senator, Reed Smoot helped to improve the public image of both the state of Utah and the Mormon Church in the eyes of the rest of the nation.


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