On July 19, President Joseph Fielding Smith turns ninety-six years of age. If this birthday is observed as have been many others, it will be, first of all, a day of work at the office, followed by a family gathering and enjoyment with loved ones, a day of peace and love.
It will also surely be a day on which members throughout the Church will turn their thoughts and hearts toward the prophet of God on earth. For as he begins his ninety-seventh year, President Joseph Fielding Smith will continue to lead with the same dignity, strength, and inspiration that he has manifested in the councils of the Church for sixty-two years.
At a time when most men his age would have been retired thirty years or more, President Smith is still enthusiastically involved in the labors of his calling.
What is an average day for the President of the Church? There is probably no average day—each day differs from the previous, yet each day finds the President actively engaged in the responsibilities of the office of the President and the First Presidency.
But if an average day did exist, it could well be represented by the following report, gathered, in the interest of variety, over a two-day period.
There are numerous stories about the President’s love for children and youth. Recently as he descended the steps of the Church Office Building, a young boy of apparently eight or nine years, quite emaciated and handicapped, saw him and hobbled over and threw his arms around him and began to sob. The President held the boy close, put his head down, and consoled the boy for some time, completely oblivious to what any passing stranger might have thought. “It was a tremendous lesson in love and compassion,” said a secretary.
His thoroughly genuine kindness and unstinted love have made him a legend, even among his associates the General Authorities. Said one, “If I ever had to be judged, I’d want it to be by Joseph Fielding Smith.” The President’s great sense of fairness and justice tempered with mercy have been a lifelong trademark. Early in life he attempted to pattern his behavior after the Savior’s—to look upon sin without even the least degree of allowance, but to love to the depth of his soul the sinner. His gentleness and concern for people are as much a part of him as is his full head of beautiful white hair.
In this sample day in the life of President Joseph Fielding Smith, as is typical of so many others, the President’s day ended (as also many begin) by turning to the scriptures, drawing from them the strength and inspiration sufficient for the needs of the day.
At ninety-six, President Joseph Fielding Smith’s very lifestyle is the source of numerous lessons for all of us.