“A Message to the General Conference and the Church” by Presiding Evangelist Elbert A. Smith

This message was given to the church after the passing of the president of the church, Fred M., and was intended to counsel and comfort the church.

It can be found in “Official Minutes of General Conference, 1946,” Saints’ Herald 93, no. 17 (27 April 1946): Pages 472-473

By the Presiding Patriarch Wednesday forenoon, March 27, a committee of three Apostles from the Quorum of Twelve waited upon me to inform me that the quorum had by unanimous action decided to request me to seek divine guidance to present to the General Conference in regard to the choice of successor in the office of president. Came also a letter signed by the president and secretary containing this statement, “Our council, severally and as a group, assure you of our support and sincere prayers.” The letter also gave the text of the resolution adopted by the quorum:

Whereas, in the death of the late Frederick Madison Smith the church has sustained the loss of its president, president of the high priesthood, prophet, seer and revelator, be it resolved, it is the sense of this council that Presiding Evangelist Elbert A. Smith be requested to seek the will of God in the matter of a successor in this office.

Obviously it is the right of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles as the “second presidency” in the church to concern itself with this matter in the present emergency, and their unsolicited and unanimous action encouraged me to undertake a task that already weighed upon my mind by day and night.

The forenoon of March 6, Brother Israel A. Smith and I visited President Frederick M. Smith at his home and found him very ill; but he made no complaint, as was his habit, and the physician had not yet arrived, so we did not know just how serious the situation might be. However, after we had returned to the Auditorium and while I was alone in my office in prayer, a most profound conviction of the Spirit came upon me that the time had fully come for the end of the ministry of President Smith. Thereafter I was not under liberty at any time or place to pray for his recovery. It was not to be.

Subsequently at different times there was a recurrence of spiritual light, particularly the forenoon of March 20. This was during the hours immediately preceding the passing of the president. I was again in my office and was conscious of the presence and power of the Spirit of the Lord, and was directed presently to formulate a message to the Conference and the church, not as commandment or law, but by way of testimony, counsel, and comfort. This I have done and now submit the following:

I was strengthened by the assurance that the spirit of prophecy does not die with the prophet but is eternal with the Father and the Son, and through the ministry of the Holy Ghost, it is brought to the church and to individuals.

The testimony was again renewed with great clearness that Jesus is the Son of God and that his gospel is the power of God unto salvation. It is the responsibility of men of the priesthood to witness for him. They are to preach the principles of his doctrine. They are to officiate in the ordinances and sacraments of his church and to administer its affairs, both temporal and spiritual, in his spirit. They are counseled to teach his way of life and themselves to walk in it as leaders and exemplars.

The arm of the Lord our God has not been shortened. The havoc of war on earth has not shaken the foundations of his throne nor altered his plans for the reign of peace on earth, in his own due time, and under the rule of his Son. The Saints should not become impatient nor feel frustration when their dreams are not all realized upon the date that they themselves have marked on the calendar.

The Lord has not changed regarding the great work of the Restoration Neither has he turned from his people, though some of them have turned from him. Some have been lulled to sleep and inactivity by the spirit of indiffer. ence and carelessness. Some have turned away because of trivial offenses. Some have fallen away and been overcome by the grosser sins of the world: the spirit of revelry and wanton living. of drinking and fornication and adultery. All such are counseled to repent with heaviness of spirit while there is yet time, and to renew their covenant that they may again be clean men and women and find peace.

Those who have been devout and faithful and have rendered a sacrificial service, according to their ability and opportunity, may take new courage and press forward in the work entrusted to us all. There is no one of that spirit so humble or in so obscure a place that he or she shall be forgotten of our Lord.

The men of the ministry are counseled to cry repentance to this generation; to give themselves as men under a divine commitment to the task of warning the world through evangelical and missionary work and to the pastoral task to nurture the Saints in the spirit of love; to feed the sheep as commanded and forget not the lambs of the fold. They are admonished to work together in unity with that charity which suffercth long and is kind. Let the ministers of the Lord in every grade and station stand before the people in a demonstration that the law of reconciliation is observed among them, that their admonitions to the Saints to dwell together in peace may have weight.

This counsel is of great importance, because there remain other times of change and a time of crisis difficult to meet, and the men of the ministry should be prepared to meet such a time with wisdom, patience, faith, and under divine guidance which will be given to a united people—united in righteousness.

Let the people be comforted. The prayers of the Saints for the recovery of President Frederick M. Smith went not unheeded; but the time of his de parture was at hand. He was spent and weary in body and mind-but there remaineth a rest and consolation.

According to historic precedents of the church, based on law, and always observed hitherto, the president and prophet of the church, when inspired so to do, may indicate his successor, There is evidence that the late president did will so to function. At a joint council meeting of the Presidency, Twelve, and Presiding Bishopric, October 20, 1938, there was under consideration the appointment of Israel A. Smith and L. F. P. Curry to act as counselors in the presidency, subject to action of the next General Conference, At the time President Frederick M. Smith made a statement to the council which is referred to in the official minutes of the meeting as follows:

Citing the letter of instructions issued by his father, be called attention to the fact that in the event of his passing Israel would be in line for the office of president and would have the advantage of the additional experience which this appointment would give.

Subsequently the late president assured the church that at that time he was moving under “inspirational impulsions”; this assurance was embodied in a revelation given to the church at the Conference of 1940 which was approved by the church and published in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants as section 138.

The Conference is counseled to consider as valid and basic and in accord with our historic precedents the statements referred to and to give them due consideration in reaching a decision Time has demonstrated the foresight expressed therein: years of experience in the presidency have been advantageous to Israel A. Smith, and in them he has gained in the confidence and esteem of his brethren.

To this matter I have given earnest prayer and thought, with an increasing conviction that it is in harmony with the spirit of wisdom and revelation that the choice indicated by the late president should be approved, and that without unnecessary delay Israel A. Smith should be ordained president of the high priesthood and the church and prophet, seer, and revelator to the church. I am persuaded that this also will find confirming witness of the Spirit in the minds of numerous people.

If it be the will of the church that he should thus be ordained, he is counseled to enter upon that work in quiet strength, with firmness in decisions, yet with that spirit of kindness and justice that was with his father in that high office before him.

There are hazards and uncertainties of life and health involved in the putting of such a burden upon one well past the meridian of life that may cause apprehension. I have sought earnestly for light on the questions, Will this man’s ministry be for a considerable time, as we pray may be the case? Or will it be very brief? No assurance has been given. But the needs of the immediate hour are great and we must ofttimes move by faith as did the fathers and founders of the church.

May peace and blessing abide with the church, and the men of the priesthood be reminded again that the Lord has said to his ministry: “Let nothing separate you from each other and the work whereunto you have been called; and I will be with you by my Spirit and presence of power unto the end.”

Respectfully submitted,

April 6, 1946.