When you think of apostles in the beginning of the twentieth century names come to you like Orson F. Whitney, John A. Widtsoe, Melvin J. Ballard, James E. Talmage, and Richard L. Evans. You don't think of Hyrum Mack Smith. The rare person who has ever heard of him usually says he's that guy that wrote that commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants or he's M. Russell Ballard's grandfather. Most members just don't know much about him. He has taught me a lot about commitment to the principles of the gospel. You will see why as I tell you about him.
Let me tell you how I found out about him. His story is fascinating. Thirty-one years ago in 1977 I served on a mission under M. Russell Ballard in the Toronto Canada Mission. M. Russell Ballard was born 8 October 1926 to Melvin Russell Ballard and Geraldine Smith. M. Russell Ballard is the grandson of Melvin J. Ballard, on his father's side and Hyrum Mack Smith, on his mother's side. His grandfather Melvin J. Ballard died when he was young so he has just a few memories. He never met his grandfather Hyrum Mack Smith who died in 1918 eight years before Russ was born but he read all his conference talks.
Russell Ballard recalls going on an outing: "“My grandfather on my father’s side is Melvin J. Ballard. He died when I was ten, so I didn’t really appreciate what it meant for him to be an apostle. However, I do remember that he was very interested in me. On my eighth birthday he picked me up at my home and took me to see a movie. As I recall, he slept through most of it, but it was evident that he cared enough about me to spend some time with me. I am grateful that I have such special memories of Grandfather, and I would encourage children to take advantage of any experience with their grandfathers or grandmothers that can become a happy memory for them.”
Holly Clayton, M. Russell Ballard's daughter in an interview with the Ricks College Scroll, recalls her father telling the following details about why Melvin J. Ballard might have been sleeping : "I remember his sleeping through the Walt Disney movie, and I couldn’t understand that. Now I understand better, because I think most general authorities have a hard time staying awake when the lights go out, because their heavy work load exacts a lot from them.”
Mission presidents generally hold zone conferences every six weeks with their missionaries rotating between the zones. Elder Ballard constantly spoke about his two grandfathers and his noble lineage. He talked about believing blood and how the Lord put some of his special spirits in to certain homes so they could be trained in leadership. I actually believe that philosophy might have some merit as I have studied the lives and relationships of previous general authorities. I don't get too upset when I read some of Mike Quinn's stuff. We aren't some affirmative action organization after all that has a set quota. Our church is more inclusive. Conversely, the Lord can call whoever he wants why preclude someone from holding any calling because they happened to be born the son or daughter to an Apostle or Prophet or Seventy. It would be reverse discrimination to never call them to anything. We could put them in the nursery where few want to ever serve.
He told us on a few occasions about his grandfather's Melvin J. Ballard seeing the savior on the Fort Peck Reservation in Canada. M. Russell Ballard also told us he had seen the savior himself in Great Britain and if we proved ourselves worthy he might one day share his experience. I have been waiting thirty-one years for the details.
In Ricks College Scroll Holly Clayton said that her father loved the mission he served and talked about it frequently in their home and briefly mention his spiritual manifestation to his family. “I came to know for myself the truth of this work and of the Savior’s divinity while serving as a full-time missionary in England 50 years ago. I know it more surely today, through experiences too numerous and too sacred to discuss,” Elder Ballard said.
It motivated me to gain my own personal experience. I even had an interesting conversation about Latter-day visions of the Savior including my own with a man who received his second endowment. The man told me he hadn't seen the savior and that those of us who had but had not received our second anointing had a sure witness but his receiving the ordinance was a more sure witness. He thought maybe one day my experience would be ratified by my receiving the endowment and he would receive a Latter-day vision of the Savior. I talked to the guy because some other man told me about a group of people receiving it and being concerned since I thought they were talking about it reported it to Salt Lake City. The man wanted to make sure even though he couldn't tell "his own children about it" that I didn't reveal who he was since his informant shouldn't have told me in the first place. Receiving the ordinance is a private matter. Ezra Taft Benson told his son Reed that he thought it should be given more often in the Church. When ETB was made an Apostle George F. Richards, President of the Twelve, told him privately "every worthy member should receive it and it would create a backlog in the millennium."
President Ballard told us about his great-grandfather Joseph F. Smith's Vision of the Redemption of the Dead which had just been added to the Pearl of Great Price in 1976 to the LDS scriptures and its significance for all of us missionaries. Russell Ballard encouraged us to seek ourselves to commune with the church of the First Born like his great grandfather Joseph F. Smith and the Prophet Joseph Smith. President Ballard told us missionaries that we could have the same experiences of seeing these righteous Saints and I believed him.
From President Ballard's counsel I sought after those kind of experiences. I received a a waking vision of the second coming while in the LTM and several visitations in my dreams from Joseph F. Smith, Hyrum and Joseph Smith, Ezra Taft Benson, Thomas S. Monson, and Boyd K. Packer. I haven't shared the Monson and Packer dream with was unusual in that the location was in a white institute building with an intensively green landscape. We discussed my involvement with church history. I had the feeling they were going to make the omission of my name on the teachings book right and my desire to teach religion happen. I also had a waking vision in July 1971 before I joined the church when I saw Christ crucified on the cross during a Southern Baptist revival meeting in Boulder City, Nevada that day I came unto Christ. Being saved prepared me to join the Church three years later.
Back when I was on a mission from 1975-1977 there was a quorum in the church called seventies who were stake missionaries. Many returned missionaries were called to be seventies right after their missions. Many of these quorums did a fund raising project and sold missionary related books from a closet in the church. At the Etibicoke Chapel I purchased Janne Sjodahl and Hyrum Mack Smith's The Doctrine and Covenants Commentary. I read it from cover to cover. I was impressed with Sjodahl and Smith's analysis of the various sections. Until recently it was considered the standard commentary on the subject. I wanted to know more about Hyrum Mack Smith but couldn't find anything else beside the blurb on the dust jacket.
After my mission when I went to school at BYU, I wanted to grow up and be an Institute instructor. Several returned missionary aspire to that but few made it. When I took the preparation classes it was like winning a beauty pageant's popularity contest to actually get hired. You never seen such brown nosing in your life. Nice guys usually did finish last in the group. Five aggressive ones got hired only one Dick Lowe a nice guy got a job. He was told no one with as low a score 70 had ever been hired before. I even scored higher and didn't get a job. You can't major in religion at BYU but I still managed to take over 60 hours of religion credits. I didn't care it wouldn't help me get a degree my goal was to take every class offered so I could teach better. It make me a cracker jack researcher in LDS Church history and doctrine which drew me to Elder Ballard's attention again.
I had kept in touch with Elder Ballard since he was forty-five miles away in Salt Lake City serving as a general authority in the Quorum of Seventy and living in the Halliday Stake in the foothills. Russ Ballard is a very generous and kind man. People think of him as being a tough-nosed business man because he projects this kind of an image. He is a fiery kind of speaker. Even as a mission president he would take his index finger and stab it in the sternum of a missionary to make a point while staring you in the eyes. However for the most part he is a very sensitive and caring man that helps people out. He does it privately and selectively and doesn't like others to know about. He accuses you of naming dropping should you tell on him. He doesn't like being the center of attention.
Elder Ballard knew I had an interest in church history so he hired me to do a compilation on his two grandfathers--Hyrum Mack Smith and Melvin J. Ballard. He told me that he loved his grandfathers very much and that they were seasoned men that spoke with knowledge and power so he desired to collect everything written by them and about them in one place. He said he was going to use these writings to reflect their messages in his own public addresses. He paid me $1200 for my work.
I combed the church archives reading through the diaries and journals of all their contemporary apostles. I searched through every church publication from the Instructor to the Improvement Era to the Women's Exponent. I spent weeks on that project. I even pestered him for diaries and photograph. I told him I knew he was holding out on some of Joseph F. Smith and Hyrum Mack Smith's diaries and letters. I told him I couldn't believe Hyrum would write detailed journals for only the four years of his mission then quit. It really goes against his family's pattern as his father and several of his children wrote almost every single day of his life. I went to family members and beg for materials.
BYU in 2007 released Selected Collections from the Archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints(Volumes One and Two) by Brigham Young University Press which includes some of Joseph F. Smith's diaries. "This collection contains about 4,000 pages from the papers of Joseph Smith, founding prophet of the Church; the Revelations collection; 34,000 pages of letters and typescripts of Brigham Young correspondence; as well as thousands of pages from the writings of President Joseph F. Smith."
I ended up with a five volume compilation on Melvin J. Ballard and a four volume compilation on Hyrum Mack Smith published by the M. Russell Ballard Family Foundation. I began to unravel a picture of who Hyrum Mack Smith was.
Hyrum Mack Smith is the eldest son of President Joseph F. Smith and Edna Lambson Smith. He was one of ten children that had five boys and five girls. He was born 21 March 1872 in Salt Lake City. Edna Lambson and her sister Julina Lambson were two of Joseph F. Smith's six wives. Julina Lambson although she was Joseph F. Smith's second wife became his eldest wife when Levira Smith his first wife divorced him. Levira didn't like the loss of companionship since he was away a lot of the time on church assignments and missions and listed that as the reason for the divorce. Joseph F. Smith reserved the naming of his two eldest sons after his father Hyrum Mack Smith and his uncle Joseph Smith Jr. to these two wives and their children. Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr. was the eldest child of Julina Lambson and Joseph F. Smith who had five sons and eight daughters. He was born 19 July 1876. He served as the tenth president of the Church from 1970 until 1972. The two men lived their childhoods around forty-two brothers and sisters.
The family was very affectionate. They were taught to show open affection for one another. President Smith kissed his boys good night or when he would see any of his children around town he greeted them with a kiss. Hyrum had a boyhood like most polygamous kids doing his choirs like milking cows, chopping wood, pulling weeds. He attended the public schools, and later the Latter-day Saints' College, from which he graduated in June, 1894. He also worked at ZCMI when he was a teenager and worked there his early adult life except for three years when he served a mission. Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution was started in 1868 by Brigham Young and was considered the first department store in the United States. Hyrum was a clerk there until his mission.
He married Ida Elizabeth Bowman from Ogden, Utah on 15 November 1895 in the Salt Lake Temple with his father officiating. He spent only one day with his bride before departing the next night for the British Mission for three years from 1895 until 1898. He wrote a series of love letters to Ida while he was on his mission. They were in the possession of Hyrum Mack Smith III (Franklin Covey Planner; son of Hyrum and Ida's son Hyrum Mack), Macksene Smith Rux (now deceased) and M. Russell Ballard. Hyrum Mack also wrote several missionary letters to his father Joseph F. Smith that are included in Hyrum M. Smith III and Scott G. Kenney.: From Prophet to Sons: Advice from Joseph F. Smith to His Missionary Sons. Deseret Book Company.
Joseph F. Smith admonished him in his letters to avoid spending money on frivolous things, to write to his parents weekly, to avoid wasting time writing letters and becoming homesick but write one short letter to everyone, he also encouraged him to be upbeat and not contend with investigators. Joseph F. Smith gave good practical suggestions to Hyrum in ways to be a better missionary.
The LDS Biographical Encyclopedia states "Upon arriving at Liverpool he was appointed to labor in the Leeds conference, where he engaged in regular missionary work. In October, 1896, he was called to preside over the Newcastle conference, which position he held until he was honorably released to return home in February, 1898."
Hyrum served under Anthon H. Lund, a member of the Twelve Apostles, who later became a counselor to Joseph F. Smith in the First Presidency on 17 October 1901. After his return from his mission Hyrum was called as a home missionary serving as secretary of the 24th Quorum of Seventy. He continued working at ZCMI where he became a department manager where he thought he would remain for the rest of his career. He held the Granite Stake Sunday School secretary position.
Hyrum Mack and his wife had one child, Joseph Fielding Smith who was born 30 Jan 1899 in SLC before his call to the Twelve. He had four children after his call: Geraldine Smith born 5 Jan 1904 SLC; Margaret Smith born 15 September 1907 SLC; Macksene Smith born 22 June 1911 SLC. Hyrum Mack Smith II born 18 Sep 1918 SLC was born after his father's death.
Joseph F. Smith was chosen by the Twelve Apostles and set apart on 17 October 1917. Anthon H. Lund in his diary said that when President Joseph F. Smith nominated his son Hyrum in their next meeting with the Twelve in October 1901 that there was talk of nepotism by some of the Twelve. A couple of the Twelve said Hyrum had not served in any major church calling and his qualifications weren't obvious. President Smith told them he didn't know why but the Lord revealed to him that his son was to be the next apostle but that was who the Lord wanted. Elder Lund spoke out in favor of Hyrum's calling saying if that was who the Prophet and the Lord both wanted then the other brethren should support the calling. A vote was called and the brethren voted to call Hyrum Mack Smith as an apostle.
Hyrum was working at ZCMI when a messenger was dispatched to bring him to see President Joseph F. Smith at the Church Administration building. Hyrum was flabbergasted when his father extended the call on 24 October 1901 at the age of 29.He was a young married man with only one child and had no clue the call was coming. In 1901, just one week after being set apart as the new president of the Church, Joseph F. ordained his son, Hyrum Mack Smith, as a new apostle.
President Joseph F. Smith and his son were both sustained, he as President of the Church and his son as an apostle, at a special conference and solemn assembly on Sunday, November 10, 1901 that every stake sent a representative to except the Uintah Stake.
Hyrum Mack was assigned to work with the Young Men's Improvement Association where he enjoyed making suggestions on activities for youth. One address he gave called for more modesty in round dancing. He was involved in the Smoot hearings, helped organize stakes, and was at the dedication of Joseph Smith Monument in Vermont. He was known as a very strict member who had never once violated the word of wisdom, always paid a full and honest tithing and was unswerving in his personal life.
On December 23, 1905, Hyrum Mack Smith accompanied his father, father-in-law, his younger brother Joseph Fielding, and others to Sharon, Vermont, for the dedication of the Joseph Smith Monument on the Prophet's 100 birth anniversary. The dedicatory services were conducted by his father, President Joseph F. Smith, and about 400 persons were in attendance. Pictured in the front row third from the left are George Albert smith, John Henry Smith, and Lorin Farr. In the back row left to right are John Smith, Hyrum Mack Smith, and fifth over is Joseph F. Smith with Joseph Fielding Smith last. They are standing in front of the newly-completed Joseph smith Monument.
Apostle Hyrum Mack Smith General Conference on April 7, 1907 decried the evils of the skating rink: "Skating rinks are a menace, and at the present time the desire to frequent them is a craze. They are being introduced in certain Stakes of Zion, and the young people are going wild over this pastime, which they carry to excess. As a result of enthusiasm in relation to this so-called pleasure we mark the downfall of far too many young men and young women. I disapprove of these and other places of amusement where young people are thrown promiscuously into the society of the wicked, who care neither for God nor man, for virtue or decency."
|Macksene Smith Rux|
Her home was a shrine to her father Hyrum Mack Smith with life size portraits adorning the walls. It was quite impressive. There were dozens of photographs of him, his wife and children all around the house. I spent two hours the first visit with her as she told me her father and mother's story first of their separation on his first mission and then later on his second mission when the whole family moved to Liverpool, England while he served as European Mission President. In September 1915 at the age of four she moved with family to England where she stayed until 15 September 1916 when she was seven. It was amazing the things she could recall and the dramatic way in which she could recount stories.
Hyrum Mack Smith's passport on Ancestry lists him as being 43, 5'9", with a high forehead, hazel eyes, a straight nose, light brown hair, firm chin, and a fair complexion. He was sponsored on his mission by Senator Reed Smoot.
Macksene first memories in life were living for three years in Liverpool, England until she was seven at Durham House, the mission home. She remembers outings and games in the large mission home lawns where she played croquette and lawn darts. It was at Liverpool that Hyrum Mack Smith and his secretary Janne Sjodahl wrote the Doctrine and Covenant commentary. Macksene remembers Sjodahl was a printer by trade and remembers seeing the Millennial Star press which he published. In the weekly issues of the Millennial Star there were accounts of Hyrum's talks and accomplishments as president. Macksene recalls that both of her parents spoke all the time with her mother working with the sisters in the Relief Society. She remembers many parties her mother had at the mission home with ladies from the area. She remembers how distinguished her father looked in his hats. Men and women wore hats back then. Her brother Joseph Fielding was called as a missionary when he was just sixteen. The rest of them were too young to do anything other than go to school and play. She remembers that it was during World War I and that her father had to close down the mission in 1916 and return to Utah. He was caught in Germany in 1914 at about the time war was declared and had a hard time making his way across the continent back to the mission home.
|Hyrum Mack Smith, British Mission President|
Uncle Bill who adapted the Biographical Encyclopedia states: "When World War I broke out he was in Germany on a tour of the missions under his direction, and he experienced considerable difficulty in obtaining passage back to England. He met with signal success and capability every exigency of that trying period, directed the movement of the Elders in every mission under his presidency, called them in and modified their work according to the situation; and the work of the Lord, under his guiding hand, went on with as little interruption as possible. Bravely he faced the ordeal with valor and with a courage unflinching. He instilled into the hearts of the missionaries laboring under him, from presidents of missions to the humble traveling Elder, a love of mankind and a burning eagerness to preach the gospel to a war-torn world. His utterances from the pulpit and in conversation were keen disquisitions on the great war. He had studied the causes of the war and was fearless in his denunciation of unrighteousness as a contributing factor; but he was kind and forbearing in his pity for mankind for the plight into which the world had been plunged."
Richard E. Bennett a BYU religion professor said " In a letter to his son, Hyrum, then a mission president in Liverpool, England, President Smith said: “We still see from the papers that the war in Europe is going on, the whole thing is a sad comment upon the civilization and Christian spirit of the age” (Joseph F. Smith to Hyrum Smith, 7 November 1914, Correspondence Files, Joseph F. Smith Collection, Church Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah; hereafter referred to as Church Archives). It is amazing how Hyrum Mack Smith was able to hold the Church together in the European Mission.
Macksene related to us her own story which was exciting in that she was heavily involved in the Manti Mormon Miracle Pagaent. She had been an actress in the 1950s and 1960s. She had a bit part as a cashier in the TV Show Code 3. She had performed in Salt Lake City plays such as "King Lady, On the Rhine, Thuber's Party Animal, to name a few."
She became the narrator for the Manti Mormon Miracle Pageant in 1969. In December 1969 she was made director and ran it until 1988. She traveled from Salt Lake to Manti and stayed every summer for six weeks at her own expense for twenty years preparing the cast for their performances. During the performance it depicts Pioneers dying on the cold plains. It sends shivers down my spine every time I think of her dramatic voice crying out "Wagon wheels rolling." They still use her narration today. During her tenure the cast didn't mix so as to present a professional appearance now they go through the crowd. She returned her fee the first year for narrating and never accept any fee after that. She told me how she paid all her own expenses.
In 1970 Macksene Rux rewrote the Miracle Pageant script and had it recorded at Bonneville International with music and a sound track. Past brochures tell of her involvement: "Macksene was particularly adapted to revise the pageant. She has done extensive work in drama production in Wisconsin; New York; Los Angeles; Banff, Canada; and in Claremont, California. Formerly a consultant to the U .S. office of Education, she produced and directed the first dramatic presentation to go out over Educational television (channel 28) in Southern California." Macksene who was a veteran of television adapted the current pageant's storyline with a professional soundtrack that is still used today.
She liked to relate how she almost turned down the offer to be involved. She told her husband Vernon at the time: "Did I really say I'd do that?" She told my wife and me should would have called back but she couldn't remember the name of man who had called her. Macksene was a real character. She liked humor and would get a twinkle in her eye as she would launch in to a story about a person or event.
She told me that she had kept her parents love letters for years but she had given them to Hyrum Mack II's whose son Hyrum III, her nephew, since he was the writer in the family and he should complete the task. She said if he didn't finish the project that she wanted me to complete it for her. I have still to locate copies of the letters as none of the living family members will admit they have them. She also told me that her mother died a week after giving birth to Hyrum Mack II. Macksene said the doctors couldn't find much the matter with Ida and that apparently she was depressed and just didn't have the will to live without Hyrum. That's how much she loved him. Macksene said the death of both her parents also affected her grandfather who had taken to his private study and died shortly after on 19 Nov 1918.
She told me that she worked as an actress and as a telephone operator for twenty years before retiring. Her husband Vernon Andrew Rux ran either a printing or plumbing business in Salt Lake City. They met at the University of Utah where both were involved in theater and shared that passion their whole liives. They didn't have any children so they stayed involved in civic events to be socially active.
|Joseph Field Smith, LDS Church Patriarch|
Macksene told me about her brother Joseph F. Smith who had been the presiding patriarch. She implied that many people accused her brother of having sexual problems but it was more complicated than that. She said that he was quite artistic having majored in theater at the U of U. She said he just didn't have the temperament to serve in a Church-wide position and he wasn't good at handling pressure so he had to resign. She said he resigned before he had the other problems that he was accused of and that his wife stuck by him. He died in full fellowship 29 Aug 1964 having served on the stake high council in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Mormon Apologetics site gives this short biographical sketch that is adapted from the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Andrew Jenson, Vol. 4, page 246 and from the Church Almanac. "Joseph Fielding Smith (III), [Patriarch to the Church] and a member of the General Board of Y. M. M. I. A. was born Jan. 30, 1899, in Salt Lake City, Utah, the eldest son of Hyrum Mack Smith and Ida Elizabeth Bowman. He was baptized Jan. 30, 1908, filled a mission to Hawaii in 1920-1922, and acted as professor of speech at the University of Utah. In 1936 he took a leave of absence to study at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, Wisconsin.
Patriarch Smith was ordained a High Priest and Patriarch to the Church October 8, 1942 by President Heber J. Grant. at the age of forty-three. He served but four years before ill health forced him to request to be released which request was granted October 6, 1946. He spent several years in Hawaii in recuperation before before being allowed to return to the contiguous forty-eight. Patriarch Smith died August 29, 1964 in Salt Lake City, Utah."
An interesting thing is that Ida Bowman Smith's sister Rosalyn Bowman Greenwell lived with the family in 1910 with her two children Spencer and Virginia. When she died in 1945 she was buried right next to her sister and Hyrum Mack Smith.
Macksene told me how in her final childhood years she was taken care of after her parents' deaths by her mother's sister Rosalyn who was helped by Heber J. Grant's plural wives who were neighbors with the Smith family on the same block on A Street. Only Joseph Fielding was an adult when her mother died on 24 September 1918.
Vernon Andrew Rux died 23 November 1981 so my wife and I didn't get a chance to meet him. Macksene told me he was buried in the Joseph F. Smith Family Burial Site on Park Street in Salt Lake City, Utah where her father and mother were also buried and that when she died she would be laid near them. When Macksene died on 8 June 1998 she was placed in the cemetery north of them by her husband.
Hyrum Mack Smith's death is quite unusual. When he was serving as mission president he had an attack of appendicitis. He said at the time that he had lived the Word of Wisdom completing and that the Lord would bless him. He received a priesthood blessing and the bout subsided. A few years later he again had an attack of appendicitis.
Anthon H. Lund recorded in his diary that Hyrum Mack maintained again that the Lord would protect him and he would be cured. His father became worried and asked him to reconsider that the family's personal physician could operate on him immediately. It took several hours to convince him but finally he did it for his father's sake. Peritonitis had set in. When the surgeon opened him up he died on the table from the infection on 23 January 1918.
Lund goes on to say that many general authorities expressed the opinion that Hyrum was taken early because he was needed in the Spirit World to work among the youth and that they said that mainly to try to soften the loss for President Smith. Lund rose to his feet and said Hyrum was taken young because he didn't use wisdom and that we need to use wisdom in our lives. President Joseph F. Smith shook his head in agreement.
Grandpa Bill records a tribute published about his after his death in the Deseret News: "A great sorrow comes to this community, the Church as well as the State, in the death of Hyrum M. Smith, eldest son of President Joseph F. Smith, and himself an Apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was known and beloved throughout the length and breadth of the intermountain country, every part of which he has traversed as an earnest, vigorous, sincere and impressive preacher of righteousness, the uncompromising opponent of evil, a stalwart, worthy native son of Utah, and a patriotic citizen through and through. Few men have lived a purer life, few have so stoutly resisted from boyhood up the blandishments of the world that tempt from the path of rectitude, few could go to face their account with so little to regret or wish otherwise. And yet, to those who knew this excellent man, it would seem that few could be so ill-spared at this time, because there are so few to take his place. His loss will be most keenly felt, and he will be truly mourned.
To his revered father, than whom no man ever loved his children more devotedly, this deep bereavement will be especially severe. His mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, his close associates and his host of acquaintances are plunged in a sorrow the measure of which will correspond to the degree of their intimacy with him. The finite mind gropes in vain for a reason why one so good and useful, so valiant and strong, one for whom life seemed to hold so much in store, should thus be torn away in the very prime and vigor of manhood. But though this mystery we may not explain, nor its purport comprehend, to the soul surcharged with grief there comes relief in the assurance that the great Father above will sanctify all sorrow to His children's good, and that He does all things well."
Hyrum Mack Smith II related this experience to a man serving as a patriarch: " In January 1918, the apostle Hyrum Mack Smith, son of Joseph F. Smith, grandson of Hyrum Smith, nephew of Joseph Smith the prophet, and a 16 year veteran of the quorum of 12 apostles, died at the age of 45 of a ruptured appendix. Shortly after his passing, his wife Ida B. Smith visited her sister. She told her sister that she was newly pregnant when Hyrum passed away, and that she would need her to take care of the baby after it arrived. The sister, thinking Ida was just distraught, asked her why. She replied that Hyrum had told her that as soon as he passed to the other side, he’d come to get her since he couldn’t stand to be apart from her. Since she was pregnant, she assumed Hyrum would be coming for her as soon as the baby was born. The sister didn’t think much of it, since she had just undergone such an emotionally devastating experience. The baby was born later that year to much rejoicing. A few days later, the sister’s daughter (Ida’s nephew) came in to the house and told his mom that he had just seen uncle Hyrum walking down the sidewalk. She told him “but Uncle Hyrum has been dead for several months, honey”. Just then, she remembered what Ida had said and she sprinted down the road to her sister’s house where she found her. She had passed away a few minutes earlier.
I was the baby."
The Improvement Era in March 1918 said " With the pulpits of the great Tabernacle covered in beautiful flowers, with every seat in the vast building occupied by representative men and women, not only from in and around Salt Lake City, but from many distant parts of the Church, the funeral services for Elder Hyrum M. Smith, of the Council of Twelve Apostles, were held on Sunday, January 27, 1918, at 1 o'clock p.m.
It was a remarkably memorable occasion in which the outpourings of love and sympathy for the bereaved were freely given, the Holy Spirit was keenly felt and enjoyed, and just praise for the departed freely expressed from every heart. The keen grief of President Joseph F. Smith, and the mother of Hyrum, Mrs. Edna Lambson Smith, and Hyrum's wife and children, must have been sweetly assuaged by the love, sympathy, and homage paid to them, and to their beloved son, husband, and father, by the speakers, the vast congregation, and by letters and telegrams of condolence from all parts of the Church.
Church officials, including presidents of stakes, bishops, and heads of the auxiliary and temple organizations were seated in bodies, in regular order."
It was a grievous blow to President Smith who lost thirteen children to death. He became very despondent and retired to his home. Macksene Rux said that it tough for him to lose Hyrum Mack and his wife who died shortly after giving birth to Hyrum Mack II. After Hyrum's death President Joseph F. Smith began to study the scriptures looking for consolation.
M. Russell Ballard in Counseling with Councils said: "My maternal grandfather, Hyrum Mack Smith, was the eldest son of President Joseph F. Smith, the sixth President of the Church. When my grandfather unexpectedly died in 1918, just two months shy of his forty-sixth birthday, it was a great sadness to all who knew and loved him—including his father, the prophet. As any parent would feel anguish at the passing of a beloved child, President Smith spent a great deal of time in earnest prayer and spiritual contemplation, looking for comfort in the days that followed his son's death. Especially he pondered over God's eternal plan of salvation and its personal implications for each of us in this life and the next.
On October 3, 1918, just a few months after Hyrum's death, President Smith was sitting in his room "pondering over the scriptures" (D&C 138:1) when a marvelous vision was opened to him. President Smith was given the unique opportunity to look beyond the veil and see some of what transpired in the spirit world before this life as well as what will take place in the life that awaits us beyond this one."
Robert Millet in 1985 in Beyond the Veil:Two Latter-day Revelations expanded our knowledge about the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead: "During the last six months of his life, President Joseph F. Smith suffered from the effects of age and spent much time in his personal study in the Beehive House. He did, however, garner enough strength to attend general conference in October 1918. In the opening session, he arose to address the Saints, and with a voice filled with emotion said:
“I will not, I dare not, attempt to enter upon many things that are resting upon my mind this morning, and I shall postpone until some future time, the Lord be willing, my attempt to tell you some of the things that are in my mind, and that dwell in my heart. I have not lived alone these last five months. I have dwelt in the spirit of prayer, of supplication, of faith and of determination; and I have had my communication with the Spirit of the Lord continuously.”
According to his son, Joseph Fielding Smith, the President was here expressing in broad terms the fact that during the past six months he had been the recipient of numerous manifestations, some of which he shared with his son. He had received one of these manifestations, the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead, just the day before, on 3 October 1918, and recorded it immediately following the close of the conference.
Joseph F. Smith’s attention was drawn to the world beyond mortality by his frequent confrontation with death. His parents, Hyrum and Mary Fielding Smith, both died while he was a young man. Among his later trials were the deaths of many of his children. Joseph Fielding Smith has written: “When death invaded his home, as frequently it did, and his little ones were taken from him, he grieved with a broken heart and mourned, not as those mourn who live without hope, but for the loss of his ‘precious jewels’ dearer to him than life itself.”
Just a few months before President Smith received the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead, his oldest son, Hyrum Mack Smith, a member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, died; he was only forty-five years of age. This was a particularly traumatic affliction for the President. Already in a weakened physical condition due to age, he suffered “one of the most severe blows that he was ever called upon to endure.”
However, during much of his life, the veil covering the post-mortal life had been thin. As a young missionary in Hawaii, he had received a dream/vision that strengthened his faith and built his confidence. Through the years that followed, it helped him chart his course and gave him assurance that his labors were acceptable to the Lord and to his predecessors in the presidency of the Church. In the dream, young Joseph encountered his uncle, the Prophet Joseph, and was fortified in his desire to remain free from the taints of the world. In addition, he learned at an early age that the separation between mortality and immortality is subtle and that the Lord frequently permits an intermingling of the inhabitants of the two spheres.
The last thirty months of Joseph F. Smith’s life, April 1916 to October 1918, represent an era of particular spiritual enlightenment. During this time he delivered to the Church some of the most important and inspiring insights of this dispensation.
At the April 1916 general conference President Smith delivered a remarkable address entitled “In the Presence of the Divine.” He spoke of the nearness of the world of spirits, and of the interest and concern the spirits have for us and our labors. He stressed that those who labored so diligently in their mortal estate to establish the cause of Zion would not be denied the privilege of “looking down upon the results of their own labors” from their post-mortal estate. In fact, “they are as deeply interested in our welfare today, if not with greater capacity, with far more interest behind the veil, than they were in the flesh.” Perhaps his keynote statement in this sermon is the following: “Sometimes the Lord expands our vision from this point of view and this side of the veil, that we feel and seem to realize that we can look beyond the thin veil which separates us from that other sphere.”
In June 1916 the First Presidency and the Twelve released a doctrinal exposition in pamphlet form entitled “The Father and the Son,” to alleviate doctrinal misunderstandings concerning the nature of the Godhead, and specifically the role of Jesus Christ as “Father.”
President Joseph F. Smith delivered one of his most significant addresses—“Status of Children in the Resurrection”—at a temple fast meeting in February 1918. From it we gain not only an insight into the power and prophetic stature of one schooled and prepared in doctrine, but we are allowed also a brief glimpse into the heart of a noble father who—having lost little ones to death and having mourned their absence—rejoices in the sure knowledge that (1) children are immortal beings, spirits who continue to live and progress beyond the veil; and (2) as taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith, children will come forth from the grave as they lie down—as children—and such persons will thereafter be nurtured and reared to physical maturity by worthy parents. “O how I have been blessed with these children,” exulted President Smith, “and how happy I shall be to meet them on the other side!”
Months later, on Thursday, 3 October 1918, President Smith, largely confined to his room because of illness, sat reading and meditating about the universal nature of the Atonement and about the Apostle Peter’s allusions to Christ’s post-mortal ministry. The stage was set: preparation of a lifetime and preparation of the moment were recompensed with a heavenly endowment—the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead.
“As I pondered over these things which are written,” the President wrote, “the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great.” (D&C 138:11.)
Joseph F. Smith saw in vision “an innumerable company of the spirits of the just,” the righteous dead from the days of Adam to the meridian of time. They are anxiously awaiting the advent of Christ into their dimension of life, and are exuberant in their anticipation of an imminent resurrection. (See D&C 138:12–17.) Having consummated the atoning sacrifice on Golgotha, the Lord of the living and the dead passes in the twinkling of an eye into the world of the departed. The dead, having “looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage” (see D&C 138:50; see also D&C 45:17), are, in a sense, in prison; even the righteous seek “deliverance” (see D&C 138:15, 18). Thus, the Master comes to declare “liberty to the captives who had been faithful.” (D&C 138:18.) As Peter had said, Christ went beyond the veil to preach “unto the spirits in prison.” (1 Pet. 3:19.) Joseph Smith had taught: “Hades, Shaole, paradise, spirits in prison, are all one; it is a world of spirits.” (History of the Church, 5:425.) And as Elder Bruce R. McConkie has explained, in this vision, “it is clearly set forth that the whole spirit world, and not only that portion designated as hell, is considered to be a spirit prison.” (Ensign, Aug. 1976, p. 11.) However, Christ extends to the righteous spirits “power to come forth, after his resurrection from the dead, to enter into his Father’s kingdom, there to be crowned with immortality and eternal life.” (D&C 138: 51.)
While pondering the question of how the Savior could have taught the gospel to so many in the spirit world in the brief period between his death and resurrection, President Smith receives what is a most significant doctrinal insight. He comes to understand “that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient,” but rather “organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority” (D&C 138:29–30), that such representatives might carry the message of the gospel “unto whom he [the Lord] could not go personally, because of their rebellion and transgression” (D&C 138:37). The chosen messengers carry the gospel message to those who had no opportunity in mortality to accept or reject the truth, and also to those who rejected the prophets on earth. These are taught the first principles and ordinances of the gospel (including the vicarious nature of the ordinances), in order that they might be judged and rewarded by the same divine standards as those who inhabit the world of mortals. (See D&C 138:31–34.)
The insight that Christ did not personally visit the disobedient is a doctrinal matter introduced to the Church for the first time in this vision, broadening our scope of understanding of the work within that sphere. However, this clarification confirmed what had been taught by Joseph Smith: the faithful in this life continue to teach and labor in the world of spirits in behalf of those who know not God. (See D&C 138:57.) As recorded in George Laub’s journal under date of 12 May 1844, the Prophet Joseph declared: “Now all those die in the faith goe to the prison of Spirits to preach to the ded in body, but they are alive in the Spirit & those Spirits preach to the Spirits that they may live according to god “in the Spirit and men do minister for them in the flesh.” 16 Joseph F. Smith had taught this doctrine on a number of occasions 17; here he became an eyewitness of it.
As the vision continues, President Smith perceives the identity of many of the noble and great from the beginning of time, including Adam, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaiah, the Nephite prophets before Christ, and many more. In addition, he recognizes Mother Eve and many of her faithful daughters. President Smith had taught a number of years earlier that women minister to women in the spirit world, even as they do in holy places on earth. 18 Again, through this vision, he became an eyewitness of that fact.
Having laid before us his remarkable vision—“a complete and comprehensive confirmation of the established doctrine of the Church where salvation for the dead is concerned” (Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, Aug. 1976, p. 11)—President Smith climaxes his doctrinal contribution with testimony: “Thus was the vision of the redemption of the dead revealed to me, and I bear record, and I know that this record is true, through the blessing of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, even so. Amen.” (D&C 138:60.)
The vision was presented to the First Presidency, the Twelve, and the Presiding Patriarch in a council meeting on Thursday, 31 October 1918. Because of his weakened condition, the President was not able to be in attendance but asked his son, Joseph Fielding Smith, to read the revelation to the gathered General Authorities.
Elder James Talmage recorded the following in his personal journal: “By united action the Council of the Twelve, with the Counselors in the First Presidency, and the Presiding Patriarch accepted and endorsed the revelation as the word of the Lord.”
President Smith’s physical condition worsened during the first weeks of November 1918, and he died November 19."
An interesting fact about Hyrum Mack Smith was his brother Joseph Fielding Smith wasn't called to be an apostle for nine more years on 7 April 1910. His cousin George Albert Smith wasn't called until 1902 and David O. McKay who served in his mission wasn't called until April 1906. Harold B. Lee wasn't called until 1940. If Hyrum Mack Smith had not died prematurely and lived to a comparable age as his brother into his late nineties he might have served from May 1945 all the way up until Harold B. Lee was prophet. The death of Hyrum Mack Smith was instrumental in our having the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead.
M. Russell Ballard points out this pattern in a BYU-Hawaii devotional "What Price Religious Freedom: "I would like to conclude with a tender thought or two about my relationship to the prophet Joseph F. Smith. My mother's father was Hyrum Mack Smith. Had he lived, he would have been president of the Church right after Heber J. Grant. Joseph F., his father, appointed him to the Twelve when he was 29. He presided over the European missions. My mother was in her teens when she lived with him in Liverpool, England. My grandfather had responsibility for all of Europe. At age 44, he died very unexpectedly, in the spring of 1918. There was great and tremendous heartache in the life of President Joseph F. Smith over the loss of his oldest son.
I've had a chance to read the correspondence between those two mighty men, neither of whom do I know in person, yet. But as I read their writings and see the love that they express to one another, it was no wonder that the death of his oldest son was such a heartbreak to President Smith. And it is no wonder to me that in October of 1918, while Joseph F. Smith was sitting quietly in his room, studying his scriptures, the heavens parted and the great revelation, known as the 138th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, came to that mighty prophet of God, just a few weeks before he, too, passed to the other side of the veil. Great was the price paid by the Smith family, and how special the price paid by Joseph F. Smith for all we enjoy today."
Hyrum Mack Smith was a principled man who lived and died for his convictions. There are lessons to be learned by studying his life and death. He was a man who stood for something. He never did anything half way. Some might see him as fanatical but he never waived from what he thought the Lord wanted him to do. I respect him for how he lived and died. He had courage in his convictions. I hope I will never waver and live my life as devoted to the Lord's kingdom in the latter days.