Monday, December 30, 2013

My Grandfather, Joseph Fielding Smith

Two years ago when we met with Elder Oaks to be set apart for our mission, he told us that the curriculum for 2014 would be teachings from the Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith. We were told, however, to keep that a secret until the church released the information publicly. 
Now that it is public, I wanted to take a minute and share some of my memories of this man, who is also my grandfather. 

I come from his second wife, Ethel Georgina Reynolds. His first wive had 2 little girls and then passed away due to complications with her third pregnancy. He then married my grandmother. She had 9 children and my dad was the 9th--so the baby of 11 children. He and his next older brother, Doug, are the only ones still living. Ethel passed away when my dad was only 10 years old.  After her death, he married Jessie Evans and she did not have any children. Although she was much younger than he was (26 years) he still outlived her by one year. 

My grandfather died when I was just a young girl so I don't have a lot of memories of him, but I do have a few. 

First off--I didn't really realize he was the prophet until I was older. I knew it, but it didn't hold a lot of meaning for me. He was just like any other grandfather to us. He came to visit, we sat on his lap and he told us stories. All of his grandchildren called him "Granddaddy" and knew him as a very kind and loving man. 

The one thing that always bothered me is that when he came to church with us, he always had to sit on the stand. He never just walked up there--even though he was the prophet. He would just come in with us and the bishop would run down and invite him to sit with him.  As a child, I always wished the bishop would not invite him because I wanted to sit with him. As an adult, however, I realized that as the prophet he was presiding at the meeting and had to sit on the stand. I also appreciated his humility in not going up there until he was invited, even though it was his right to be there. 

As I have aged, I have also come to appreciate his patience with us. He had a long hall in his house and the family room was at the end of it. There he would often sit in his favorite chair while we visited with him. For some reason my sisters and I thought it was great fun to shuffle our feet up and down the hallway to build up static electricity and then touch his arm to give him an electric shock. I asked my dad recently why he didn't stop us from doing that and he said, "Because your grandfather didn't mind." 

Also, when I was little I called him "Oh Ho". I would get all excited to go to "Oh Ho's" house. My parents thought that was a little odd and didn't know where I got that name until one day when we arrived and my grandfather walked out to the street to greet us. When he saw me he said, "Oh ho ho ho! Who do we have here?" Then they understood. 

My other memory of him is just that it always felt so nice to be next to him. I remember when he broke his ankle on the steps of the church office building and had to wear a cast. I would sit at his side and scratch his ankle with a hanger (not really a very good idea) when it started to heal and would itch. I was glad to be of help but mostly I was glad for the opportunity to be able to sit next to him and feel his spirit. It was always so calm and peaceful to be there. 

There was a time later in my life when I was on my first mission and going through a very difficult time. I prayed and prayed for comfort and had felt the Spirit but still longed for more. Then I felt a very familiar spirit standing next to me and instantly knew my Grandfather was there at my side. I didn't see him but I did feel him there and was very much comforted by it. 

I am so glad to be able to study his words this year! I really hope everyone will read the historical chapter at the front of the book about his life to get to know him better. But more importantly I hope we all can diligently study and apply his words to our lives.

Lori Smith Wagner


  1. Very neat! Thanks for sharing! I love the "Oh ho" story! I had forgotten about that! :) How cool it is to hear these stories before we study his words this year!

  2. I have been excited to study his teaching for a long time. So many times he is quoted as we want to know more about so many subjects. I have to add that I have always felt that you had a special insight into gospel subjects and know that you were well taught in your youth. Such an honor it has been for you to have this heritage.

  3. LOVED that you "shocked" the prophet when you were a girl! Too funny! I read the article on him in the Jan 2014 Ensign and had forgotten that he was your grandfather until I saw your post. Cool beans! Very excited to learn more of him and his teachings throughout this year. I always enjoy reading your blogs.

  4. Thanks for sharing! He plays a special role in my family even though we aren't related. My parents were engaged and the plan was to get married in a church building then go be sealed in the Oakland temple because my mom was her parent's only daughter and they were not members- nor happy that she had joined the church. Your grandfather was called to be the prophet just a few weeks after their engagement. When the bishop wrote to get permission, the prophet responded with a letter suggesting they get married in the temple instead and gave permission for my mom to do so early since she'd only been a member for 9 months. It raised all kinds of cain and there are some other stories to tell, but my parents decided to obey the prophet and get married in the temple. They set an example for me from day one that I will always be grateful for. When I was released from Primary two weeks ago and asked to teach the 2nd week RS lesson I was excited and doubly so as I think about the prophet we get to study! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Do you mind if I use some of your memories in my lesson on Sunday? It's lesson #4 on Strengthening the Family and your memories would fit in perfectly.