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John Smith papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: Vault MSS 803

Scope and Contents

Collection contains papers related to Smith's mission to Denmark, life in Utah with family, and his position as Presiding Patriarch of the LDS Church. Includes diaries, letters, articles containing references to John, his personal patriarchal blessing, sheep accounts, family history notes, and copies of patriarchal blessings pronounced by himself. Dated 1848-1962.


  • 1848-1962


Conditions Governing Access

Originals restricted. Photocopies and typescripts of the originals available for public use.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from John Smith papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Coordinating Committee.

Biographical / Historical

John Smith (1832-1911) was the son of Hyrum and Jerusha Barden Smith, a missionary to Denmark, and a Presiding Patriarch of the LDS Church.

John Smith, son of Hyrum and Jerusha Barden Smith, was born 22 September 1832, in Kirtland, Ohio. His mother died when he was five, while his father was in Missouri. Three months later, on 24 December 1837, his father married Mary Fielding. In June 1844 John's father, Hyrum Smith, was murdered. Nineteen months later, the Mormon exodus from Nauvoo began. In February 1847, John joined Heber C. Kimball's family on their westward journey. On the westward journey, near Council Bluffs, Iowa, John assisted Col. Thomas L. Kane, who was extremely ill. He helped his family travel to Winter Quarters after arriving there himself. He and his family remained there for the winter. On his sixteenth birthday, 22 September 1848, John Smith drove five wagons into the Salt Lake Valley.

In 1853 his stepmother, Mary Fielding Smith, died, leaving John to support a family of eight. He was married on 25 December 1853, to Hellen Maria Fisher, and the couple had nine children. In 1855 he was sustained as the sixth Presiding Patriarch of the Church, replacing his deceased grand-uncle. In 1862 John was called to set aside his duties as Patriarch and go to Scandinavia as a missionary. He served there until 1864. John, was strongly supported in his position as Patriarch by his half brother, Joseph F. Smith. When Joseph F. Smith became President of the Church in 1901, he requested that "strictly in accordance with the pattern the Lord has established," John, as Patriarch, should do the ordaining. As Patriarch of the Church, John pronounced over 20,000 blessings.

He died at his residence in Salt Lake on 6 November 1911.


4 boxes (2 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



Arranged in three series: 1. John Smith mission papers, 1862-1864. 2. John Smith correspondence, 1848-1911. 3. John Smith personal papers, 1852-1962.

Other Finding Aids

Item-level inventory available online.

Custodial History

This collection was donated March 8, 1991 by Patriarch Emeritus Eldred G. Smith, and his sister Cleone Smith Isom. All materials have remained in the possession of the descendants of Hyrum and John Smith until their donation to the BYU Library.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; Patriarch Emeritus Eldred G. Smith and Cleone Smith Isom; March 1991.


LDS and Utah and the American West cultural, social, and religious history (19th Century Mormon and Western Manuscripts collection development policy IV.a.i.1 and 4, November 2013).

Existence and Location of Originals

Originals are located in Box 1 and 2.

Existence and Location of Copies

Photocopies and typescripts of originals are available in Box 3 and 4.

Related Materials

This collection was originally part of the Joseph Smith Sr. family collection (Vault MSS 775), an umbrella title for the Hyrum Smith, John Smith, Hyrum Fisher Smith, and Hyrum G. Smith collections. It was separated into its own collection in December 2001.

Processing Information

Additions and updates to collection; Ryan K. Lee; 2017.

Register of John Smith papers
Leslie Evens
2011 November 17
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States