Patriarch: The rest of the story
Peggy Fletcher Stack is usually such a fine reporter I hesitate to make even a small complaint about her Dec. 30 article "Blessing of the Patriarch," which was obviously meant to be a warm fuzzy directed at the current presiding patriarch, Eldred G. Smith. But the article is so full of factual inaccuracies and important omissions I think it is important to see the record straight.
While it is true that LDS Church leaders offered no official reason for failing to appoint Hyrum G. Smith's father to the office of patriarch, the historical reason is clear. He was passed over because he was a user of tobacco and was separated from his wife. Thus, the church found him unworthy of the office.
When Hyrum G. Smith died in 1932, Stack reports that President Heber J. Grant felt that Eldred "was not ready for the position." Wrong. Although the Council of the Twelve unanimously wanted to appoint Eldred to the position immediately, President Grant proposed that his son-in-law, Willard R. Smith, be appointed instead. Further, he personally advised Eldred that he would never appoint anyone in Eldred's lineage to the position, because so many in that lineage failed to live the Word of Wisdom.
From Stack's article, one would have to conclude that the office of patriarch remained vacant from 1932 until 1947, when Eldred was appointed upon the succession of George Albert Smith to the presidency, but in 1942, after a decade of stalemate between the Council of the Twelve and the president of the church, a compromise was reached, and the grandson of former President Joseph F. Smith was set apart for the position. Joseph F. Smith was released from the position in 1946, when he confessed to the Brethren that he was a homosexual.
Finally, it is true that the LDS Church determined by 1979 that it no longer desired to maintain the office of patriarch. Stack says this is because every stake had its own patriarch and the church leaders had "grown uncomfortable with the notion of lineal descent." This is true enough, but the larger reason is that it was never very clear just what the parameters of his authority could be.
I hope Stack will quickly return to what I feel sure has previously been a wholly objective treatment of the issues.
Thomas N. Thompson
Salt Lake City
Thanks for an enlightening piece
Thank you very much for your wonderful article on LDS Presiding Patriarch Eldred Smith. It is rare, indeed, that I learn something new about my own religion from The Salt Lake Tribune. But today I did.
I was well aware of the historical office of church patriarch and its lineal descent through the eldest (surviving) son of Joseph Smith Sr., Hyrum Smith and his descendants. But I thought the office had gone unfilled for many years, even decades. I had no idea the office was currently filled.
Like Smith, I, too, am saddened to now know the position will die with him rather than continuing to be filled by worthy descendants of Hyrum Smith.