Men and Women of Faith Lecture: Joseph F. Smith’s Letters to His Sister

  • October 9, 2014
Date
October 9, 2014
Location
Assembly Hall on Temple Square, 50 North West Temple, Salt Lake City

Joseph F. Smith wrote letters to his sister for decades, sharing his life, insights, dreams, struggles, and work as a missionary, father, and Church leader.

Article Highlights

  • Fifteen-year-old missionary Joseph F. Smith began writing letters to his sister while he was in the Pacific.
  • The free lecture will be given by Dr. Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, a religion professor at BYU.

The Church History Library will host the Men and Women of Faith lecture “My Dear Sister: Joseph F. Smith’s Letters to His Sister, Martha Ann Smith Harris,” on Thursday, October 9, at 7:00 p.m. in the Assembly Hall. The presenter will be Dr. Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, a religion professor at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. This event is free and open to the public.

As a 15-year-old missionary, Joseph F. Smith was thousands of miles away from his home in Utah, on an island in the Pacific, when he began writing letters to family, friends, and Church leaders. During the next six decades, he produced thousands of letters, providing insights into his life, dreams, struggles, and work as a missionary, father, and Church leader.

This presentation will focus on the more than 200 letters Joseph F. Smith wrote to his younger sister, Martha Ann Smith Harris, between 1854 and 1914. In these letters, Joseph not only acts as an older brother but also becomes Martha Ann’s father/mother and adviser. The letters are often tender but sometimes are also frank. At other times, they reveal the challenges of communicating through the written word instead of in person. Although much of the content deals with typical mundane matters common to other contemporary family letters of the period, the letters also contain insights into the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during difficult periods of time and during important periods of President Joseph F. Smith’s life as an Apostle and, eventually, as President of the Church. 

Dr. Holzapfel attended BYU, Hebrew Union College, and the University of California, Irvine (B.A., M.A., and Ph.D.) emphasizing in Middle Eastern studies, Jewish history, ancient history, American history, and 19th-century American religious history. He began his teaching career at BYU as an assistant professor in 1993, teaching in the Church History, Ancient Scripture, and History Departments, including the honors sections of the Doctrine and Covenants and New Testament. He taught at the BYU Jerusalem Center from 1997 through 1998. Dr. Holzapfel currently serves as the publications director of the Religious Educator, a publication of the Religious Studies Center at BYU. In addition to teaching and filling various committee assignments at BYU, Richard continues a heavy research, writing, and publication agenda. He is married to Jeni Broberg and is the father of five children.

This event is part of the 2014 Men and Women of Faith lecture series sponsored by the Church History Library. Lectures are held the second Thursday of every month at 7:00 p.m. in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square, 50 North West Temple. Validated parking is available at the Conference Center. As you enter the Conference Center parking, inform the attendant that you are going to a lecture and ask for a token to use when you exit. 

For more information, please see history.lds.org or call 1-801-240-2272.