“There is no measure to the joy and gladness Sister Smith brought to the lives of those who knew her. Blessed with a beautiful voice and a magnetic personality, she radiated warmth wherever she went.” These words, paid in tribute to Jessie Evans Smith by President Richard M. Nixon, echo the thoughts of millions of persons—those who knew her personally as well as the myriads whose lives she touched through music.
Sister Smith, beloved wife of President Joseph Fielding Smith, was gifted with an exceptional musical talent and an unusually fine sense of humor, and these gifts she shared generously all her life, endearing her to persons of all ages and walks of life.
Born in Salt Lake City, December 29, 1902, she was the seventh child and only daughter of Jonathan and Janet Buchanan Evans. Her unusual contralto voice was evident early, for she was only fifteen when she joined the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in 1918, beginning an association that was to span more than half a century.
For four years—1923–27—she sang leading roles with the American Light Opera Company. But when she had to decide whether or not to continue with serious music study and perhaps a career with the Metropolitan Opera Company, she turned to the Lord in fasting and prayer. And, guided by promises in her patriarchal blessing (“Your voice shall be heard at home and abroad. … every latent power within thee shall be brought into exercise in the service of the Master”), she returned to home to a business career and to share her talents freely, without remuneration.
Life took on a new dimension for Jessie Evans when, in 1938, she became the wife of Joseph Fielding Smith, then a member of the Council of the Twelve and the widowed father of eleven children. Together they served the Lord, with Sister Smith always at her husband’s side, sustaining and supporting him. Her voice was heard at home and abroad as she and President Smith traveled throughout the world, visiting congregations of the Saints and often inspiring them with beautiful duets.
Many honors came to Jessie Evans Smith—awards from leading universities, the honorary Golden Gleaner award, plaques and citations—all paid in recognition of her rare humor, deep humility and spirituality, warmth and love, magnificent talent, and devotion to her husband, the Church, and the Lord.
When death came to Sister Smith on August 3, countless friends and admirers, both within and outside the Church, joined in expressing their love and prayers for President Smith and his family. The Church and indeed the world are more blessed for having known her.