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Friday, April 5, 2013

162: THE LOSS OF THE PRESIDING PATRIARCH TO THE CHURCH

Eldred G. Smith, who served for 32 years as Mormonism’s "presiding patriarch," died Thursday evening in Salt Lake City. At 106, Smith was the oldest living and longest-serving LDS general authority.  He is the great great grandson of Hyrum Smith, Joseph Smith's brother.  LINK

The Church as undergone tremendous changes since Joseph Smith, including the gradual dissolving of the office of Patriarch of the Church. The Patriarch of the Church was used to ordain the President of the Church using the hereditary priesthood line running back to Joseph and Hyrum. Last year on February 7, 2012.  I had a chance to meet with him for a few hours. I feel that it is appropriate now to share some of my thoughts and notes from our conversation.

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His office is in the Joseph Smith Building. (no longer in the Church Office Building). The plaque says Church Patriarch. (He was first called the Presiding Patriarch to the Church,  then called Patriarch to the Church.. to now just Church Patriarch). 

Walked into Patriarch Smith’s office. I was impressed with how good he looked. More like in his 80’s, not 105. He was eating chocolate and reading the current month’s Ensign.

One of the first things Eldred brought up was the fact that when he arrived this afternoon, his secretary’s desk, printer, and file cabinet were gone.  Neither Eldred  or his secretary were informed.  “They just took it away.” he said.  Neither of them knew who took it or why.  He seemed frustrated about it.

Kind of reminded me of ongoing saga of the character Milton in the  movie “Office Space.”. Little by little things are being taken away from him. I thought the event was symbolic that it happened just hours before we met.

I was very impressed with him.. Still very alert and looks healthy. Speaks clearly and still remembers a lot.

Here are some things he shared.

Question:
Most people have concerns and/or fears with the situation we find ourselves in today’s world and with the church…

His response was “Why do you have fear? Just don’t. If your spouse is living the gospel and your children are living the gospel.. why would you fear?


Question:
 What is your current position you hold as Church Patriarch? 

Eldred said that “they” told him he was just a stake officer, but that is “NOT TRUE.”  There is a difference between the office he holds and a Stake Patriarch. He is “still a presiding patriarch” and should preside over them.

Question asked about priesthood passed through lineage from father to son. (Patriarchal Order)

Eldred cited examples from Bible where that is so…. and said that the Lord doesn’t change.


Question:
Why did the patriarchal line for the office of Presiding Patriarch of the Church skip a generation (John Smith to Hyrum G Smith) skipping Hyrum F. Smith,?

Answer: “Tobacco.”  Said that the President at the time  (Heber J Grant) was unfavorable to tobacco and was trying to instill the Word of Wisdom in the members.   Heber J Grant was very strong about the Word of Wisdom. It was one of the main reason why he appointed Joseph F Smith II instead.


Question: 
What about the reported accuracy of Heber J Grant’s sustaining of Joseph Fielding Smith’s II … and then his subsequent release from the office?

Answer:
 Eldred never said homosexuality, but he did skim over the issue when we got to that part of the succession and said that Joseph was “not living to church standards” or something to that effect.  It seemed a confirmation of that report).

Eldred Said the Quorum of the 12 “runs the church.”  They have to agree on items 100 percent.  It used to be that there was a majority vote, but not anymore.  They all have to agree.

When speaking of the Q12, said, “We all make mistakes, even Presidents of the Church.” 

Eldred . said that Heber J. Grant wanted to name J. Reuban Clark as his successor.  He wanted to make him acting president of the church.  “David McKay was in the way.” “He wanted to put him (Clark) ahead of George A. Smith and then release him (Smith). 

Why?

Grant did not approve of the father to son succession.  “Neither did some of the past Presidents.  He didn’t believe in the Doctrine and Covenants either.  He wanted to change it, but you can’t change the Doctrine and Covenants, can you?”

When the final decision for the office of the Presiding Patriarch to be dissolved.. no reason was given to him… and it seems like it was not up for vote with the Brethren to have a unanimous decision. However, from what I understood, that today.. most if not all the power lies in the Quorum of the 12 and not necessarily with the President of the Church.


Question:
There is a common belief in the church that the Brethren meet each week in the upper room in the Temple and the Lord guides and directs them in the affairs of the church.

Answer: The Brethren’s Thursday meetings in the Temple. The reason why is that Thursday used to be the day that the church would fast..  It was the fast day in the church.  Not on first Sunday of every month like we have now. They meet for Testimony meeting in the Temple. Tradition carried over from when it used to be used for Fast and Testimony Meeting with the General Authorities.


Question:
Could you share any spiritual experiences from those meetings.
 E. said, “No, its just a testimony meeting like you would have in your ward.”  I asked if wives come – “NO wives.  They aren’t General Authorities.”


I asked how the G.A.s treated him.  His response, “They accepted me until change were made.”  He felt he would eventually not have his job anymore.”  This came true.

His release was never discussed among the Q of 12, it was just announced in Conference. 


Reiterated that we all make mistakes and the church has also.  “You need a testimony to get through it.   I wish the Lord would come tomorrow and fix things in the church.”
E – We’re all mortals.
D- We need to forgive them.
E – Yes.

Question:
 Do you think the office of Patriarch will ever be restored?
E – It’s still here!  I’m alive aren’t I?
D- rephrases question….
E- Depends on what the next President will do.

Question:
Does he anticipates any continuation of the Office of the Presiding Patriarch to the Church at any point in the future.. NO
E. then discussed how the Q12 changed the name from Presiding Patriarch to Patriarch to the Church.    He believes that name doesn’t explain what his calling is.

Told about a trip he made to Mt. Etna and had a picnic with sister missionaries on the slopes.

Discussion of succession of President:
The patriarch would ordain the President.  D. said that those with less priesthood should not ordain those who have more priesthood.  E. seemed a bit defensive to this comment.  He asked if the General Authorities have less priesthood than him?  No.  There is no more or less.  D. explained that he meant authority, not more or less priesthood.

Packer’s health is “so bad.”  He in in wheelchair.  L. Tom Perry is next in line. 
D. – pointed out that the current way they do succession is not how the Lord intended.

E. “They had a hard time with decisions in the early days.”  He then got out the Deseret News Almanac and started to look up Apostles.

E. made the comment “Brigham Young made himself President.”
Then “they” changed and omitted the patriarch “in a hurry.” 
When the announcement was made for his emeritus status, he was “relieved, but not released.”  There was no discussion.  He called the First Presidency’s office because he wanted “to know where (he) stood.”  E. said, “Of course, they wouldn’t let me through.”  I got a call back from the secretary to the First Presidency.  (Hancock?)  “I’m calling you on behalf of the First Presidency to inform you that they never wanted you to stop giving blessings.  They want you to continue giving blessings.”

The Twelve control everything.  Monson is a good man, patient, and kind, but “he is not strong enough to control the twelve.”
D. asked who were the strongest of the apostles then.  E. answered, “I don’t know.”

 
HIS ORDAINING:
E. said that his father wanted to ordain him in the middle of the night one night.  E’s mother discouraged him from doing so because she thought that E.’s father would live through the next day and that the approval of the 12 was needed as well as a witness.  However, E’s father did not live through the night.. Instead it would be years later that George Albert Smith would ordain him.
 

Question:
What does he anticipate the church becoming in the future, given its current trends toward less of what it was at first.
Answer:
Still build temples and continuing to expand around the world. I wanted to ask him his thoughts about the changes made to the temple ordinances, but I was restrained in doing so.



D. asked if E. thought that compared to the beginnings of the Church if we have more or less light – i.e. knowledge and revelation.  E said, “Well, I’m not making any decisions, so the Lord is not giving me any revelations.”

Then, E. went on to explain that he does have angels on his shoulders and watching out for him.  He told a story of how he ran out of gas in the middle of the intersection on 7th East and 4 men in a tow truck pulled him over and helped him out.  They then got in the car and left.  He also mentioned that in the Depression he never missed a meal.  He was married in 1932 with no job, but he and his wife were blessed.

Advice to his great-great-grandchildren?
He has 19 great great grandchildren.
Keep the commandments
Live the way the Lord said to.

Question:
Do you have a goal on how long you want to live?
Hopes to live to 110.

Favorite Scripture?  E. said that he doesn’t have any.  They all have their place.

However, his favorite and most accurate Church History book is The History of the Prophet by His Mother.  He has an original copy.  Brigham Young tried to destroy all the books.  “Brigham Young wanted to destroy it because it didn’t mention him.”   When he left on his mission, his Dad brought him the book.  He had had it under lock and key.  He told him to read it, but hide it and don’t show it to anyone.    The original is different than later versions.

What is different, for example?

Lucy gives a thorough description of the Urim and Thummim.  He read the newer version and went to Charles Nibley (He said Hugh, but it was Charles who was the historian) and said, “Why did you omit the description of the Urim and Thummim?”  E. said the response was, “We thought it wasn’t accurate.”  E. responded, “But she handled it!  Who better to give an accurate description that someone who had held it and looked at it.”

BLESSINGS:
asked if he would give blessings to anyone.  He said that he would refer the person to the local leader, home teacher, etc.

DISCUSSION OF FLAG OF MORMON BATTALION:

Took pictures with him and of some of the artwork in his office. He has in his possession the original flag used in the Mormon Battalion. It is nine feet long. He has a photo replica of it in his office. The flag has the stars and stripes like the American flag.. but used to have the  beehive painted in the blue square with 13 stars surrounding the hive (representative of bees) However, an eagle was painted over the hive to best show the allegiance to the United States.  John Smith was the standard bearer.  He has a photo of him holding the flag while sitting on a horse.  Flag was within one foot of the ground.  The flag has no sewing on it.  It is painted on one piece of linen.  It was the flag of Deseret and they painted over it to become a military flag.  An eagle was painted over the beehive.  The California bear was painted on the center.  The words LIFE GUARDS were painted on it. The battalion carried it to California and back.  E. said the 13 stars were symbols of bees around the beehive.

Final Question: "What is the FUTURE OF CHURCH?"
Eldred's response: “Who knows.”
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15 comments:

  1. Excellent post! Interesting interview, he seems very candid about the GAs.

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  2. Thanks for this.

    Was going to say that I feel sorry for him. Actually I feel sorry for us.

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  3. Amigo,
    That was a great post. I wish I could have been in the interview with him. What a fascinating conversation from someone who has been around for a LONG time!

    RS

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  4. Loved this. Thanks for posting.

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  5. This was extremely interesting. I am wondering if you or anyone that reads this blog knows if there is anything on the internet of this original version of the History of the Prophet by His Mother. I would love to read it.

    Karen

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    1. I second this. I would love to read this, also.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. Very interesting interview. In how you record this interview, Eldred comes off as both traditionally minded as well as untraditionally minded. He clearly has untraditional feelings towards the brethren, realizes problems and inconsistencies in the hierarchy; he's almost heretical in stating the Q12 are too powerful for the 1st presidency to control and pretty much states that the 12 do their own thing separate from the 1st presidency. He give great insight to how some of the power structure operates when stating the 12 must be unanimous (this could hint of the political expediency of stating the quorum is 100% united) but that they may individually hold strong differing opinions. He pretty much hinted the church doesn't have much revelation (by what he said and didn't say) Yet Edred still reacted by answering some questions very traditional, "If you spouse and children are living the commandment, why worry" This is a pretty traditional coverall for everything when you really don't have any wisdom to impart. In some ways it it a true saying, but it seems to me so lacking in power and understanding. Anyway, great interview, I really liked this.

    John

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    1. Excellent comment, John.

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  8. I'm sad to see Brother Smith leave us. Thank you for sharing this interview.

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  9. I guess what I wrote was not meant to be posted--

    I received my patriarchal blessing from this man--

    it was a very unique experience; he was unusual to me; he didn't act like a 'general authority' he didn't have that patina of professional gentleness that other apostles had had. He was very outspoken, and the things he said to me have been very valuable to me since I met with him. I only saw him once, and I never saw him again. He was neither condescending to me (or patronizing) or familiar with me. He was what I would call a 'straight shooter'--

    I have been curious about what has happened to him, and I appreciate what you have written and that you interviewed him. Thank you for sharing this--
    He talked to me for hours, by the way, and he gave me a lot of counsel that was really invaluable to me, besides my blessing--

    some very unusual things were said in the blessing, some of which never saw 'copy'--
    but those things have been as valuable to me as the things that got printed in the final copy--

    a unique man--

    Thank you--

    I want my family to read what you have written--

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    1. this is anonymous 8:03--

      I had written out a much longer post with more detail; I realized that it was too much information, but it wouldn't post anyway--
      what I did write was written very quickly and has lots of typos in it--
      Eldred G. Smith was not artificial; that would describe him better than what I said--
      Thank you again--

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  10. I didn't watch conference last weekend. Did anyone mention Patriarch Smiths' death?

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    1. It was mentioned briefly at the very beginning of the Saturday night Priesthood Session.
      David

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  11. Great post! Now, your personalized Priesthood Line of Authority is beautifully laminated featuring the classic portrait of Jesus Christ by the renowned artist Greg Olsen.

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