A Man without Guile


What a glorious tribute from his son-in-law, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, and a message to all the world, through the words of the prophets of old and our departed beloved prophet, President Joseph Fielding Smith. I humbly pray, my brethren and sisters, to the Lord that his blessings and Spirit will attend us as it has so far in this meeting.

It is an honor indeed to be asked by the family to speak at the funeral of the venerable patriarch of this esteemed family—President Joseph Fielding Smith, a devoted man of God, one who has served so nobly both God and his fellowmen and who has led by example his family and all over whom he has been called to preside; one of whom it can truthfully be said he was a man without guile and without pride.

It could never be said of him that he “loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43); and, with Tennyson, he would have said, “And may there be no moaning of the bar, When I put out to sea.”

This is not a time of sadness but a time of thanksgiving that we have had the benefit and blessing of his life and association, and the knowledge that he has gone to the great reward for which he was so well prepared.

What he said of President David O. McKay at his funeral services can well be said of President Joseph Fielding Smith:

“He exemplified perfectly the Old Testament standard: ‘… what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?’” (Micah 6:8.) “Wherever his voice was heard, there followed greater kindness among men, greater tolerance, greater love. Wherever his influence was felt, man and God became closer in purpose and in action.”

And as he further said of President McKay, “To my mind two statements made by the prophet Lehi exemplify his life. He was like a great river, ‘continually running into the fountain of all righteousness,’ and he was like a mighty valley, ‘firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord!’ (1 Ne. 2:9–10.)

“I thank God for the life and ministry of this great man. He was a soul set apart, a great spirit who came here to preside in Israel. He did his work well and has returned clean and perfected to the realms of light and joyous reunion.”

Since his passing, tributes have poured in from men in all walks of life and in high position in education, business, and government, including the President of the United States. Radio, television, and the press have been full of tributes and praise which have dealt extensively with stories of his life and accomplishments and his relationship to his family.

They, as we, have recognized his great love for people, particularly children. Typical of his thoughtful consideration and affection for his associates is an experience of last Friday as he left the office building with his secretary, Brother D. Arthur Haycock. He insisted on stopping to shake hands with employees on the basement floor of the building, including the telephone operators who were on duty.

His life-span covered the period from the covered wagon to the jet and space age. He took keen satisfaction in recounting the fact that as a boy he watched the quarrying, stone cutting, and transporting of the huge granite stones used in the building of the temple, and that he watched the construction of that great edifice.

Joseph Fielding Smith was called as an apostle of God and became a member of the Twelve about sixty-two years ago. He served with four Presidents of the Church and was the last of the General Authorities to bridge the gap between the days of Brigham Young and the present generation. Since he became a member of the Twelve, the number of stakes in the Church has increased from 62 to 581; the number of members from 393,000 to 3,090,953; the number of missions from about a dozen to 101. He has attended dedications of eleven of the thirteen temples, including the St. George and Salt Lake.

He passed on this heritage to his large, outstanding family, all of whom have been sealed in the temple of God for time and eternity. President Smith has eleven children (ten of whom are living), fifty-nine grandchildren, ninety-nine great-grandchildren—169 direct descendants.

It is interesting to note that this is more than twice the total population of the whole House of Israel in the day Jacob took his family into Egypt.

He has influenced the lives of hundreds of thousands of people as he lived and taught by word and pen every principle of the gospel. He left no doubt in the minds of anyone that he knew that God is a living God and that we are his spirit children; that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh; that he gave his life for us that we might enjoy immortality; and that by accepting and living the gospel we may enjoy eternal life. There was never any doubt in his mind that all mankind will enjoy a literal resurrection.

He bore testimony that he knew that God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith; that the gospel has been restored in these the latter days; and that there is nothing in this world of as great importance to us as obedience to the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He continued to cry repentance and encourage the people to live according to the teachings of the gospel.

As a young man I remember his series of “Questions and Answers” appearing in the Era, and reading some of his twenty-four books, notable among which are Essentials in Church History, Man—His Origin and Destiny, The Progress of Man, Answers to Gospel Questions, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and The Way to Perfection, from which I taught many priesthood lessons. He has always been a great influence in my life.

It has been a great privilege and blessing for me to be so closely associated with him as President of the Church and prophet of God, and to see how the Lord works through his mouthpiece here upon the earth. I think my relationship with him has been unique and probably more varied than any other. As President of the Council of the Twelve, he welcomed me as an Assistant to that body and showed a great love and willingness to help me. He also welcomed me similarly as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, where he was the senior and I was the junior member.

When I was called to the First Presidency, though he was the senior member of the Twelve and had been in office for over fifty years, he showed great respect for me in that position and gave me full support and confidence. During the two and a half years I have had the honor of being his second counselor in the First Presidency, he has shown every consideration and confidence and love. I thank the Lord for the great privilege and blessing it has been for me to have this opportunity of being so closely associated with him.

All of the members of his family have great love and respect for him, which they have expressed so many times in so many ways. May I read two statements. The first, from his oldest son, Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr.:

“Father was always greatly appreciative of the Brethren, constantly expressing his great love for them and what they had done for him. He looked upon the Brethren with great affection and kindness, grateful for their loyalty, and said so often: ‘I love my brethren.’

“He was one individual who very definitely respected those in authority over him. He himself never criticized the Brethren, and we were taught in our home to love and respect the General Authorities.

“I have never heard him use profane or abusive language. I have never seen him angry or display a temper. When he was disturbed, one could tell it by the expression of pain on his face. Any disobedience brought him great personal sorrow, which was all the punishment we needed.”

The following tribute was written by his wife, Ethel Reynolds Smith, and published in the June 1932 issue of the Improvement Era:

“You ask me to tell you of the man I know,” writes Joseph Fielding Smith’s wife, Ethel. She continues:

“I have often thought when he is gone people will say, ‘He is a very good man, sincere, orthodox, etc.’ They will speak of him as the public knows him; but the man they have in mind is very different from the man I know. The man I know is a kind, loving husband and father whose greatest ambition in life is to make his family happy, entirely forgetful of self in his efforts to do this. He is the man that lulls to sleep the fretful child, who tells bedtime stories to the little ones, who is never too tired or too busy to sit up late at night or to get up early in the morning to help the older children solve perplexing school problems. When illness comes, the man I know watches tenderly over the afflicted one and waits upon him. It is their father for whom they cry, feeling his presence a panacea for all ills. It is his hands that bind up the wounds, his arms that give courage to the sufferer, his voice that remonstrates them gently when they err, until it becomes their happiness to do the thing that will make him happy.

“The man I know is most gentle, and if he feels that he has been unjust to anyone the distance is never too far for him to go and, with loving words or kind deeds, erase the hurt. He welcomes gladly the young people to his home and is never happier than when discussing with them topics of the day—sports or whatever interests them most. He enjoys a good story and is quick to see the humor of a situation, to laugh and to be laughed at, always willing to join in any wholesome activity.

“The man I know is unselfish, uncomplaining, considerate, thoughtful, sympathetic, doing everything within his power to make life a supreme joy for his loved ones. That is the man I know.” (Bryant S. Hinckley, “Joseph Fielding Smith,” Era, June 1932, p. 459.)

In conclusion I should like to refer briefly to two of his talks. In the very first address he gave at general conference following his appointment as a member of the Council of the Twelve in 1910, he said: “… it is a serious thing for any member of this Church to raise his voice against the priesthood, or to hold the priesthood in disrespect; for the Lord will not hold such guiltless; so He has promised, and He will fulfill. …

“I say to you that the Lord blesses this people through the inspiration that comes to His servants, as they direct, and teach, and expound the scriptures. … I say to you that there is revelation in the Church. The Lord not only blesses the men who stand at the head and hold the keys of the kingdom, but He also blesses every faithful individual with the spirit of inspiration. He gives His people revelation for their own guidance, wherein they keep His commandments and serve Him. That is a blessing promised, and within their power to receive. We are blest with revelation; the Church is built upon that foundation.” (Conference Report, October 1910, pp. 39–41.)

Then from his last talk at general conference in April of this year I read the following:

“To the world I say: These are the last days. They are days of trouble and sorrow and desolation. They are days when Satan dwells in the hearts of ungodly men, when iniquity abounds, and when the signs of the times are being shown forth.

“And there is no cure for the ills of the world except the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our hope for peace, for temporal and spiritual prosperity, and for an eventual inheritance in the kingdom of God is found only in and through the restored gospel. There is no work that any of us can engage in that is as important as preaching the gospel and building up the Church and kingdom of God on earth.

“And so we invite all our Father’s children, everywhere, to believe in Christ, to receive him as he is revealed by living prophets, and to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We call upon the world to repent, to worship that God who made them, and to believe the words of those whom he hath sent in this day to proclaim his gospel. …

“To those who have received the gospel we say: Keep the commandments. Walk in the light. Endure to the end. Be true to every covenant and obligation, and the Lord will bless you beyond your fondest dreams. As it was said by one of old: ‘Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.’ (Eccl. 12:13.)

“To the youth of Zion we say: The Lord bless you and keep you, which most assuredly will be so as you learn his laws and live in harmony with them. Be true to every trust. Honor thy father and thy mother. Dwell together in love and conformity. Be modest in your dress. Overcome the world, and do not be led astray by the fashions and practices of those whose interests are centered upon the things of this world.” (Ensign, July 1972, pp. 27–28.)

I pray that the Spirit and blessings of the Lord will attend and comfort the family in this, their hour of bereavement, and may we all, as a result of his life and teachings, be better prepared to meet our Heavenly Father when we are called home I pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

I pray that the Spirit and blessings of the Lord will attend and comfort the family in this, their hour of bereavement, and may we all, as a result of his life and teachings, be better prepared to meet our Heavenly Father when we are called home I pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

[photo] General Authorities file out at funeral’s end