|Name||Joseph Smith, III|
, Illinois , United States
|| November 06, 1832
|Died||December 10, 1914
|Last Modifed||Thomas Walker|
Apr 07, 2005 01:40pm
|Info||Joseph Smith III (1860-1914) |
Joseph Smith III was only eleven years old when his father was murdered. After that experience, he had nothing to do with any of the splinter groups that left Nauvoo, nor did he have any interest initially in joining with the New Organization. When Briggs and Samuel Gurley came to visit him in 1856 to invite him to become church president, he was not flattered. His initial reaction was to reject their invitation strongly. After further reflection, he told them that before he could accept their invitation, he would have to have a testimony of his own.
During the next four years, he struggled with this decision, finally receiving his testimony of the rightness of the call in the fall of 1859. He and his mother attended the 1860 conference in Amboy, Illinois, where he shared a statement about his struggle. Then he was presented to the people and unanimously accepted as their "prophet, seer, and revelator."
Early in his administration, Joseph faced pressures from those who had differing viewpoints about the need and desire to gather together in community. He remembered problems from previous years, when adequate preparations had not been made, and encouraged members to be wise in their decisions. Rather than seeing the building of Zion as a short-term enterprise, Joseph sensed that building the kingdom of God would be a difficult and long-term activity. Helping members understand this became a high priority.
Another problem Joseph faced dealt with the church’s economic needs. There were several significant factors—but a primary one was that there was no clearly defined and accepted structure for gathering and administering funds. The Presiding Bishopric took over that role, and tithing began to be understood as the giving of one-tenth of what was left after necessary needs were met.
Since members of the New Organization had come from many different splinter groups, they obviously brought with them varying beliefs. They were not shy about expressing them either in their preaching or in the church’s publications, and this resulted in major conflict. Briggs and Gurley, who had been instrumental in putting together the new organization, eventually were brought before the church on charges, and they ultimately resigned their membership in 1886.
Joseph encouraged the development of several church publications. The True Latter Day Saints' Herald was the official church magazine, and it was supported by various tracts and pamphlets focused on missionary outreach. There were also other publications in countries where the church was established—Wales, England, Australia, and Tahiti. Materials were developed for children and youth, including Zion's Hope, begun in 1869, with Marietta Walker as managing editor. Autumn Leaves was begun in 1888 and was designed for young men and women.
As education had been important in the early church, it continued to be so under Joseph’s leadership. After much discussion about its purpose, a proposal for a liberal arts college in Lamoni, Iowa, was adopted in 1888. Opening in 1895, Graceland College (now University) was designed to be a place open to members of all denominations as both students and instructors, a place for students to hear differing viewpoints. Although Graceland had financial difficulties for many of its early years, it continued to operate, graduating its first class (of one) in 1898.
Joseph Smith Jr. had begun a "New Translation" of the Bible early in the church’s history, but it was never published during his lifetime. His wife, Emma Smith Bidamon, held on to the manuscript after her husband’s death and gave it to the church after her son, Joseph Smith III, took leadership. Editing work began in 1866, and it was published in 1867.