Eldred Gee Smith is the son of Hyrum Gibbs Smith
and Martha Electa Gee. He was born January 9, 1907 in Lehi, Utah the third
great grandson of Joseph Smith, Senior, the first Patriarch to the Church in
He served in the Swiss-German mission from 1926 to
1929, then in various local leadership positions prior to his call as a
He married Jeanne Ness by whom he fathered five children.
Following her death in 1977, he married Hortense Child.
He was ordained a High Priest May 23, 1938 by President
J. Reuben Clark, Jr. before being set apart as Patriarch to the
Church by President George Albert Smith
Elder Smith was granted Emeritus status October 4,
1979 for reasons of health and age. The position of Patriarch to the Church
was retired and no one has since been so named.
Elder Smith's most recent major public appearance
of which Grampa Bill is aware was on April 6, 2000 when he accompanied
President Gordon B. Hinckley to upstate
New York for the dedication of the Palmyra New York Temple.
On the occasion of his 100th birthday, Elder Eldred G. Smith, patriarch emeritus,
is remarkable not just for being only the second former General Authority in history to attain the
century mark (Elder Joseph Anderson, an emeritus General Authority, died in
1992 at age 102), but because he is a living, breathing and healthy vestige of a chapter in
Elder Smith, who turned 100 on Jan. 9, 2007 is the last person to have held the
position of Patriarch to the Church, one that originated in 1833 with the calling of Joseph Smith Sr.,
the father of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Eldred Smith is the eldest son of Hyrum Gibbs Smith, who
served as Patriarch to the Church from 1912 until his death in 1932. As such, he is a great-great-
grandson of Hyrum Smith.
And so it was that in 1947, when he had just recently returned home from Oak
Ridge, Tenn., where he had been involved with the atomic energy project during World War II, he was
called in to meet with Church President George Albert Smith. The man who
had been serving as Patriarch to the Church, Joseph Fielding Smith (not to
be confused with the Church president of the early 1970s) had been released due to ill health; Eldred
Smith was being called to fill the position.
He immediately went to work.
Elder Smith also had the responsibility of a General Authority to travel to stake
conferences with individual members of the Quorum of the Twelve.
At a Jan. 4, 2007 celebration in Salt Lake City, Elder Smith was honored by the
Salt Lake Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers, of which he is a member and former chapter president.
President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, also an honorary member of the
Sons of Utah Pioneers, was the featured speaker and paid a birthday tribute to Elder Smith.
As Patriarch to the Church, Elder Smith was a frequent speaker at Church general
conferences. Typical of his sermons is this excerpt from a talk he gave in April 1978:
"I have come to believe that the Lord is not so concerned about what we study or
what profession we follow as long as it is an honest living. He is concerned about our immortality and
eternal life or exaltation.
"Everyone has inherent talents. From a study of your genealogy, find the talents
you have inherited by the things you like to do, and do easily, that some of your ancestors have done.
Then become an expert or specialist in some phase of that field. The Lord will bless your efforts in
your studies and in your daily work."
At general conference on Oct. 6, 1979, President N. Eldon Tanner, first counselor
in the First Presidency, read a statement announcing a significant change in Church administration:
"Because of the large increase in the number of stake patriarchs and the
availability of patriarchal service throughout the world, we now designate Elder Eldred G. Smith as a
At the recent reception held in his honor in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building
on the evening of his birthday, his key to longevity was displayed: "Keep breathing."
As a Hyrum Smith descendant, he has inherited several artifacts he displays at
firesides and other occasions.
Elder Smith married Jeanne Audrey Ness in 1932 with whom he had five children.
Following her death, he married Hortense Child in 1977, who was then serving as a counselor in the
Young Women general presidency.
On the occasion of his birthday, Elder and Sister Smith were received at the
Church Administration Building by President Gordon B. Hinckley and his counselors, President Thomas
S. Monson and President James E. Faust. The First Presidency wrote in a letter to him:
"We are sincerely grateful for your long life and dedicated service and devotion
to the Lord's Church and to His children, who have greatly benefited from your sacred ministry. We
acknowledge with deep appreciation your noble heritage and the honor that has been yours to pronounce
patriarchal blessings on thousands of members of the Church. Likewise, it has been your privilege to
be the instrument through whom the Lord has revealed the sacred lineage of the individuals, entitling
them to all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
"Over the years, you have shared your knowledge, testimony and historical
artifacts of the Joseph Smith Sr. family in many settings. These meetings have been faith-promoting
to those who have heard you bear witness of the Restoration."
On a personal note, Grampa Bill recalls meeting Eldred
G. Smith on the occasion of Grampa Bill's parents receiving their patriarchal
blessings from the Patriarch to the Church, they living at that time in
a mission district and not having access to a Stake Patriarch.
Elder Eldred G. Smith, who served for 32 years as Mormonism's
"presiding patriarch," died Thursday, April 4, 2013 in Salt Lake City. At 106, Elder
Smith was the faith's oldest living and longest-serving LDS general authority.