John Henry Smith was born September 18, 1848 in
Carbunca (now Council Bluffs), Iowa, a son of President George
A. Smith and Sarah Ann Libby. He was a railroad businessman, legislator;
and mission president.
As a thirteen year old pioneer youth, life was strenuous, even for the son of an Apostle. Working forty miles south of Salt Lake City John and two companions were attempting to cross the flood-swolen Provo River. The small boat in which they were riding capsized and the three were thrown into the torrent. His two companions were able to escape to safety but John was trapped under some driftwood and dragged to the bottom. His companions watched in horror as the final seconds of John's life ticked away.
Meanwhile, in Salt Lake, the Spirit whispered an urgent warning to John's father. The Apostle stopped his task and dropped to his knees in fervent agonized prayer that his son might be saved from whatever danger had befallen him.
The prayer was answered. John's companions watched in amazement as unseen hands plucked John from a watery grave and placed him safely on the bank of the river. A life had been saved. A future Apostle had a mission to perform. And the fervent prayer of a worthy parent had been fulfilled.
John married first Sarah Farr and afterward practiced
plural marriage. He fathered nineteen children of record, one of whom,
George Albert Smith, grew up to become
President of the Church.
John Henry was ordained an Apostle by President
Wilford Woodruff and assumed his position on the Quorum of the Twelve on Oct.
John Henry Smith was noted for his love of life and
good humor. His colleague and fellow Apostle, Elder Matthias
F Cowley wrote of him: "He is loving and genial to all around him,
frank and open in his character, easy to understand, a worthy example for
all to follow. To know him is to love him. His disposition is a happy one,
his character and record without blemish. He is generous in his feelings
for others, is not jealous or envious, but quick to recognize and appreciate
the good qualities and talents of others; he is broadminded in his ideas,
just, merciful and kind in all his administrations."
F. Smith called him as Second Counselor in the First Presidency on
April 7, 1910 in which position he served until his death Oct. 13, 1911
in Salt Lake City;