Included in this issue of the New Era is a pliable plastic tear-out record on which are recorded the actual voices of six presidents of the Church.
This might not seem remarkable until you realize that two of the voices are those of Wilford Woodruff and Joseph F. Smith, both of whom lived in the infancy of recording technology.
These are the only known recordings of these two men. The voices of the four other presidents included are recorded on numerous other tapes and records.
The story behind the production of this priceless record is both interesting and complex. Several years ago, workers in the Church Historian’s Office found four clay cylinders from an Edison-type gramaphone on which was recorded the testimony of President Woodruff. Also, a recording of President Joseph F. Smith’s voice was found on a cylinder on which he had dictated two letters.
The discovery was stunning!
But there were many problems ahead. The cylinders of both presidents’ voices were scratched. Furthermore, the cylinders had not weathered the years very well, and they contained a great deal of static.
And so the electronic wizardry began: (1) President Woodruff’s recording was transferred to tape by BYU’s Electronic Media Department—one-third intelligibility resulted; (2) another tape with more intelligibility was made; (3) the Archives Media Department at New York’s Syracuse University produced a tape with 60 percent intelligibility; (4) the best parts of all three tapes were then combined by the BYU into one master tape; (5) this master tape of President Woodruff’s testimony and the tapes of the five other presidents were taken to BYU’s Motion Picture Studio where remaining unintelligible portions on President Woodruff’s and President Joseph F. Smith’s testimonies and the voices of the other four presidents were treated through an octave filter, a noise-reduction device, frequency and volume control technology; and then (6) the New Era edited the tapes into a 13-minute master tape from which this present record was made.
Even with all of this highly modern technology, there are portions of President Woodruff’s and President Joseph F. Smith’s testimonies that are difficult to understand. Therefore, a transcription of the record is printed. You will probably want to read the transcription as you listen the first time to Presidents Woodruff and Joseph F. Smith.
We hope you enjoy this priceless opportunity of being able to hear the voices of six prophets of God and to feel their spirit. We hope that you will use this record throughout your life, that it will help you love and want to follow the inspired counsel of these great prophets, and that your children and friends in years to come will treasure this rich gift.—JMT
President Wilford Woodruff, speaking on March 19, 1897:
I bear my testimony that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, ordained of God to lay the foundation of his church and kingdom in the last dispensation and fulness of times. I bear my testimony that in the early spring of 1844 in Nauvoo, the Prophet Joseph Smith called the Twelve Apostles together, and he delivered unto them the ordinances of the Church and kingdom of God; and all of the keys and powers that God had bestowed upon him, he sealed upon our heads. He told us we must round up our shoulders and bear off this kingdom or we would be damned. I am the only man now living in the flesh who heard that testimony from his mouth, and I know it is true by the power of God manifest through him. At that meeting he began to speak about three hours upon the subject of the kingdom. His face was as clear as amber, and he was covered with a power that I had never seen in the flesh before. In all his testimony to us, the power of God was visibly manifest in the Prophet Joseph.
This is my testimony, spoken by myself into a talking machine on this the nineteenth day of March, 1897, in the ninety-first year of my age. Wilford Woodruff.
President Joseph F. Smith, excerpts from two letters dictated about 1917, one to a stake president, the other to one of his sons:
My dear brother,
I cannot but feel most grateful for the kind expression of my friends in my behalf. Please remember me kindly to all your people and assure them that I am still firm in the faith, and there is nothing in the world as evident than the performance of my duties as a servant in the cause of truth. May the Lord bless you and your family and all who cooperate with you for the truth’s sake. I am most sincerely your brother.
My dear son Calvin,
I have received this morning your most welcome favor and have read its contents with a great deal of interest. Your mother was here this morning while the letter was being read to me and was extremely pleased to hear from you. I hope you will continue to enjoy your labors, and we will send our kindest love to you. May the Lord bless you, my boy, and keep you from all harm and prosper you in your labors is the earnest desire of your affectionate father.
President Heber J. Grant, speaking at general conference, October 8, 1939:
I’ve met hundreds of men who say “If it wasn’t for Joseph Smith, I could accept your religion.” Any man that doesn’t believe in Joseph Smith as a prophet of the true and the living God has no right to be in this Church. The foundation stone! If he did not have that interview with God and Jesus Christ, the whole Mormon fabric is a failure; it’s a fraud; it isn’t worth anything on earth. But God did come; God did introduce his Son; God did inspire that man to organize the Church of Jesus Christ; and all the opposition of the world is not able to withstand the truth; it is flourishing, it is growing, and it will grow more. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt of the divinity of this work in which we are engaged. It is one of the joys of my life at home and abroad, in private and in public, to testify that I know as well as I know that I live that God lives, that he hears and answers our prayers. He’s heard and answered mine from childhood until the present day. He heard and answered the prayers of that beloved mother of mine. Under the inspiration of the living God, she planted in my heart a love of truth, a love of God, a love of the Prophet Joseph.
I pray God for you, one and all, to love this gospel, to think of it as of more value than anything else in all the world, and that’s what it is. I pray God to bless each and every one of us, and I ask it in the name of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen.
President George Albert Smith, speaking at general conference, April 4, 1948:
I don’t know of any man in all the world that has more reason to be grateful than I, because people have been kind and helpful to me, members of the Church and nonmembers. Wherever I have gone, I have found noble men and women. And so, on my birthday, after having traveled approximately a million miles in the world in the interests of the gospel of Jesus Christ, one of the frailest of my mother’s eleven children, the Lord has preserved my life. And I have had joy beyond expression; and I have enjoyed the results of loving my neighbor as myself, and I want to say that always brings happiness.
I know today, better than I ever knew before, that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the living God, and that the church that he organized under the direction of our Heavenly Father, the church that received divine authority, is still operating under the guidance of the same priesthood that was conferred by Peter, James, and John upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. I know that, as I know that I live, and I bear that witness in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
President David O. McKay, speaking on April 9, 1951, on the occasion of his being sustained ninth president of the Church:
When the Savior was about to leave his apostles, he gave them a great example of service. You remember he gird himself with a towel and washed his disciples’ feet. Peter, feeling it was a menial work for a servant, said, “Dost thou wash my feet? Thou shalt not wash my feet.”
The Savior answered, “If I wash not thy feet, thou hast neither lot nor part with me.”
“Nay then,” said the chief apostle, “not my feet only but my hands and my head.”
“No, those who were washed are clean already. What I doest now, thou dost not fully comprehend.”
And then he washed his feet, and the others. Returning the basin to the side of the door, ungirding himself with a towel, putting on his robe, he returned to his position with the Twelve and said, “Ye call me Lord and Master and so I am. What thou hast seen me do, do ye also to one another.”
What an example of service to those great servants, followers of the Christ. “He that is greatest among you, let him be least.”
God bless you, brethren and sisters. I bear you my testimony that the head of this Church is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I know the reality of his existence, of his willingness to guide and direct the servants who serve him. May we have increased power to be true to the responsibilities he and you have placed upon us, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
President Joseph Fielding Smith, speaking on April 6, 1970, on the occasion of his being sustained tenth president of the Church:
I desire to say that no man of himself can lead this church. It is the Church of Jesus Christ; he is at the head. The Church bears his name. It has his priesthood, ministers his gospel, preaches his doctrine, and accomplishes his work. He chooses men and calls them to be instruments in his hands to accomplish these purposes, and he guides and directs them in their labors. But men are only instruments in the Lord’s hands, and the honor and glory for all that his servants accomplish is, and should be, ascribed unto him forever. If this were the work of man, it would fail; but it is the work of the Lord, and he does not fail. Our faith is centered in the Lord Jesus Christ, and through him, in the Father.
Let us be faithful and humble. Let us live the religion of Jesus Christ, put away the weaknesses of the flesh, and cleave to the Lord and his truth with undivided hearts is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.