President Joseph F. Smith

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, (2001), 255–57


Introduction

“Just one month before his sixty-third birthday, Joseph F. Smith, who had been a counselor to four Church presidents, was ordained to succeed Lorenzo Snow, who died 10 October 1901. He was a son of the martyred Hyrum Smith and a nephew of Joseph Smith, for whom he was named. His widowed mother, Mary Fielding Smith, was a woman of great faith, who taught him the gospel by example as well as by precept” (Church History in the Fulness of Times, 467).

“President Joseph F. Smith served for 52 years as a General Authority of the Church—as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, as a Counselor to four Church Presidents, and for 17 years as the President of the Church. He taught the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with eloquence, tenderness, and conviction, calling for the people to ‘live in harmony with the designs of our Heavenly Father’ [Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, Feb. 6, 1893, 2]. His ministry was marked by his powerful witness of Jesus Christ: ‘I have received the witness of the Spirit in my own heart, and I testify before God, angels and men … that I know that my Redeemer lives’ [Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 447]” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith [Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society course of study, 1998], v).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

  • The Lord prepares the men who become His prophets (see “President Joseph F. Smith,” Student Study Guide, pp. 186–87, par. 1–8; see also Abraham 3:22–23).

  • We are children of a Heavenly Father who loves us. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can one day return to the Father’s presence (see “President Joseph F. Smith,” Student Study Guide, pp. 187–89, par. 9–21, 37; see also Romans 8:16–17; 2 Nephi 31:20–21).

  • Parents are responsible to teach their children to obey the Lord, avoid sin, and gain testimonies of the gospel (see “President Joseph F. Smith,” Student Study Guide, p. 189, par. 23–30; see also D&C 68:25–28).

Additional Resources

  • Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, pp. 465–94.

Suggestions for Teaching

“President Joseph F. Smith,” Student Study Guide, pp. 186–87, par. 1–8. The Lord prepares the men who become His prophets.

(15–20 minutes)

Invite students to imagine the following situations. Pause after each sentence and ask students what a young man who faced these experiences might feel and do.

  • Your father is murdered when you are 5 years old.

  • At age 7 you must take on major responsibilities in caring for your family.

  • Your mother dies when you are 13.

  • You are called on a mission at age 15 and must learn a new language.

  • A second mission call comes to you at age 21.

  • You are ordained an Apostle when you are 27.

Have students guess which prophet had these experiences (President Joseph F. Smith). Have students read paragraphs 1–3 of “President Joseph F. Smith” in the student study guide (pp. 186–87) and look for how he handled these challenges. Ask:

  • What evidence is there that President Smith’s testimony stayed strong during these difficult times?

  • How can his example help us?

Read paragraphs 4–8 and ask: How did President Smith’s early life experiences help prepare him for his work as a prophet?

Testify that President Joseph F. Smith, like every other prophet, was foreordained and that he was prepared through his early life experiences for his sacred calling. Share the following statements. President Joseph F. Smith’s son, President Joseph Fielding Smith, wrote:

“During the ages in which we dwelt in the pre-mortal state we not only developed our various characteristics and showed our worthiness and ability, or the lack of it, but we were also where such progress could be observed. It is reasonable to believe that there was a Church organization there. The heavenly beings were living in a perfectly arranged society. Every person knew his place. Priesthood, without any question, had been conferred and the leaders were chosen to officiate. Ordinances pertaining to that pre-existence were required and the love of God prevailed. Under such conditions it was natural for our Father to discern and choose those who were most worthy and evaluate the talents of each individual. He knew not only what each of us could do, but also what each of us would do when put to the test and when responsibility was given us. Then, when the time came for our habitation on mortal earth, all things were prepared and the servants of the Lord chosen and ordained to their respective missions” (The Way to Perfection [1970], 50–51; see also Jeremiah 1:5; Abraham 3:22–23).

President Ezra Taft Benson, who was then President of the Quorum of the Twelve, said, “Each President has been uniquely selected for the time and situation which the world and Church needed” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 142).

“President Joseph F. Smith,” Student Study Guide, pp. 187–89, par. 9–21, 37. We are children of a Heavenly Father who loves us. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can one day return to the Father’s presence.

(15–20 minutes)

Read the following titles for God, one at a time, and ask students whether each refers to Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ:

  • Savior

  • Son

  • Creator

  • Redeemer

  • Father

Have students read paragraphs 9–15 of “President Joseph F. Smith” in the student study guide (pp. 187–88). Discuss why both Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ can be called Father. Ask:

  • Who can be called the Father of our spirituality? (Jesus Christ.) Why? (Because of the Atonement.)

  • What blessings come to those who accept Jesus Christ as their spiritual Father?

  • Who is the Father of our spirit bodies? (Heavenly Father.)

Share the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“In addition to worshiping the Father, our great and eternal Head, by whose word men are, there is a sense in which we worship the Son. We pay divine honor, reverence, and homage to him because of his atoning sacrifice, because immortality and eternal life come through him. He does not replace the Father in receiving reverence, honor, and respect, but he is worthy to receive all the praise and glory that our whole souls have power to possess” (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [1978], 566).

Read paragraphs 16–21 and ask:

  • How could President Smith’s statement help those who wonder how science relates to the gospel? (Note: Do not debate evolution with your students. Limit yourself to the principles in President Smith’s statement.)

  • How could President Smith’s statement help those who do not believe in God, or who do not believe He cares about us?

  • How can we come to know that Heavenly Father is truly our Father?

Testify of the reality of Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Read President Smith’s testimony in paragraph 37, and have students sing “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns, no. 301).

“President Joseph F. Smith,” Student Study Guide, p. 189, par. 23–35. Parents are responsible to teach their children to obey the Lord, avoid sin, and gain testimonies of the gospel.

(10–15 minutes)

Ask students to share what they like about the way their families hold family home evening. Discuss the following questions:

  • What do you enjoy most about family home evening?

  • What was your most memorable family home evening?

  • How do you think your life is different because of family home evening?

  • What could you do if your family didn’t hold family home evening?

  • What would you like to do for family home evenings when you start a family?

Read paragraphs 23–26 of “President Joseph F. Smith” in the student study guide (p. 189). Ask:

  • What promises did President Smith make to those who hold family home evening?

  • Which of these promises have you seen in your family?

  • Which promise would you most like to receive?

  • What part does family home evening play in helping us remain faithful while we are young?

  • Read Proverbs 22:6; Alma 37:35, Doctrine and Covenants 68:25–28. How do these verses relate to these teachings?

Have students read paragraphs 27–35 and choose which of these two stories they would most like to use in a family home evening lesson. Ask:

  • How could this story help your family?

  • What impresses you about President Smith’s example?

  • Why do you think it is important that we remain clean and true to the faith throughout our lives?

Tell students of your love for your family. Encourage students to participate in a positive way in their family home evenings each week.