Son of Joe Condemns Brigham Young
Sunday Advertiser – October 13, 1907
THE CHAMPION POLYGAMY FIGHTER
President Smith Talks on Traducers of His Father
"This man is
the world's champion against polygamy," said Elder F. M. Sheehy, of the
Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, introducing a
representative of the Advertiser to President Joseph Smith, the ecclestical
leader of the church and the eldest son of Joseph Smith, the Prophet. "President
Smith has written, preached and lectured more against that crime than any man
And in the lengthy interview which followed with the president the main topic was the question of polygamy as taught today and formerly practiced by the Mormon church of Utah, a church with which the Reorganized church is frequently confused by the public.
President Smith is seventy-five years old, but carries his years well, being a man of magnificent physique, straight, tall and broad shouldered. He has a strong but kindly face and is most affable and pleasant in his manner. In some respects he resembles his cousin, Joseph F. Smith, the Prophet, Seer and Revelator of the Utah Mormons, but his features are less stern than his cousin's.
"And why shouldn't they be less stern?" he asked, when the fact was mentioned. "He has six wives to look after and I have only one. And I find that looking after one is quite a task."
The president summarized his long life last night by saying that he had been born a Buckeye, raised a sucker and was now a Puke. He was birn in Ohio, at the time his father, Joseph Smith, was just beginning to be noticed by the world at large; he went from one state to another as the Mormons were driven from one locality to another, the members of the new sect finally building their city of Nauvoo in Illinois, where his father met his death at the hands of a masked mob. At that time the present president was a lad in his twelfth year and his remembrance of that tragedy is as vivid today as it was during those days when the death of their leader threw the Mormons into confusion, resulting in the split in the church, when the majority followed Brigham Young across the plains to found the city of Salt Lake and reclaim the arid lands of Utah. In Nauvoo, except for the year following the death of his father, the president lived with his mother and immediate family for many years, finally moving back to Missouri, where the first temple of the church had been built.
In 1860 he took his present position as head of the church, succeeding his father, having received the authority to do so from his father prior to his death. His life's work has been to combat the claims of the leaders of that section of the Mormons who located in Utah, founding their church upon the doctrine of ploygamy and claiming as authority a revelation supposed to have been received by Joseph Smith. That such a revelation was ever received by his father or that his father was ever a polygamist is denied emphatically by his son. The alleged revelation was not promulgated by Brigham Young until some years after the death of the Prophet and, according to the assertions made by President Smith last night, was never proven in any way nor properly submitted to the church membership as was done with any other of the numerous revelations which go to make up the bulk of the Mormon theology. The revelation was not included among the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, the official Mormon publication, until 1876, and then on the arbitrary dictation of Young.
The legal status of the Reorganized church as the successors of the Nauvoo organization has been established in several lawsuits and is a constant source of dispute between the two branches. President Smith and his son Frederick M. Smith, who will be the next president, have issued numerous challenges to the leaders in Utah to meet them in debate on the many questions at issue between the church, but their challenges have passed unanswered.
"I was only twelve years old at the time that Brigham Young claimed the leadership of the church. I was only a lad but my memory of the circumstances is clear. It is altogether too good for those fellows and they know it. I have visited Utah many times, however, and I have many friends among the people there, but none of our challenges have ever been accepted. I make the same challenge now to President Woolley. I knew either his father or his grandfather when I was a boy, but I know that he won't accept the challenge. We are the successors of the church founded by my father and are ready to prove it either in a polemic discussion or in the courts. I have never diverged from the faith that my father announced and died for. When they say that I am an apostate I challenge proof and none is forthcoming. When they say that my father was a polygamist I challenge proof and can get none. My father was an active, athletic man, standing six feet in his socks, weighing two hundred and ten pounds and in the prime of his youth, being between twenty-eight and thirty years old at the time they claim he was practising polygamy, but not one child was ever born to him except by my mother, his legally wedded wife. If he were a polygamist would there not be some children born?"
President Smith is a charter member of the Republican party, casting his first vote for President Lincoln when the party emerged from the Anti-Slavery part[y] into the Republican party. In his state he has listened to the political speeches of Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, during the famous contest between the two. Of the present day politicians he is a close friend of Colonel Hepburn, of Iowa, and of Senator Allison and Dolliver. At the time of the assassination of Lincoln he was chosen by the people of Plano, Illinois, to preach the funeral sermon. The same people chose him to preach the funeral sermon following the assassination of Garfield, while at Lamoni, Iowa, he was the speaker at the joint service held after the death of McKinley.
The church over which he presides numbers sixty thousand members, only about a fifth of the claimed membership of the Utah church, but what is the main point with the eastern church is that not one member of the immediate family of the Prophet, his wife, children or brothers or sisters ever migrated with Brigham Young to Utah. His nephew, the present head of the Mormons, made the migration, however.
President Smith arrived in Honolulu yesterday to dedicate the new church of the Reorganized L. D. S., on King street. The dedicatory sermon will be preached by him this morning at 11 o'clock, and the dedicatory prayer will be offered up by Elder Sheehy, one of the quorum of apostles of the church, who accompanied the president to Honolulu. Tonight Elder Sheehy will conduct the services, while there will be services in the church every night during the week with the exception of Wednesday and Saturday.
Note: This same report was printed in the Honolulu Hawaiian Gazette of Oct. 15, 1907.
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