Joseph Fielding Smith and Adoption
Smith was born the son of Hyrum and Mary Smith in Missouri. His uncle was Joseph Smith, the prophet and founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). His father and uncle had been arrested only days before he was born, his mother became very ill soon afterwards, and he was nearly suffocated when a mob ransacked the family house.
His father and uncle escaped from jail and rejoined the family, who had fled to Illinois, but when young Joseph was only five, they were murdered. The family again fled, eventually reaching the LDS settlement at Salt Lake City, but in 1852 his mother died. At 15 Smith became a missionary in Hawai'i, returning to Utah in 1858, when he became a member of the Nauvoo Legion, the LDS militia. The next year he married his first wife, and eventually he had six wives and more than 40 children (this was during the period when the LDS church permitted polygamy). At 27 he was ordained an apostle, and other high offices in the church followed. He spent much of 1883-87 in hiding, due to government persecution of the Mormons over the doctrine of plural marriage. In 1901 he was chosen to succeed Wilford Woodruff as president of the church. His tenure as president was marked by improved relations between the Mormons and the US government and non-Mormon people, careful financial management, purchasing and developing LDS historical sites and the expansion of the church's missionary and educational activities. He was an authority on church doctrine.
Gibbons, Francis M. Joseph F. Smith: Patriarch and Preacher, Prophet of God. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1984) Encyclopedia of Mormonism. (1992). [Includes portraits]. Also available at: www.mormons.org/daily/history/people/smith_joseph_f_eom.htm