Apostle Heman C. Smith
Heman C. Smith
I was born September 27, 1850, in the town of Zodiac, now extinct, near Fredericksburg, Texas. I am the third son and fourth child of Spencer and Anna C. Wight Smith.
My early childhood was spent in Texas, moving from place to place, or sojourning in different places with my parents as they followed the fortunes of the colony under Lyman Wight, my grandfather. In 1858 we left Texas, and the summer of the same year stopped in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, where my father followed farming and milling until the autumn of 1860, when we removed to Jasper County, Missouri, near Galesburg, and wintered there. During that winter there was much excitement of a political character, and hostilities were threatened. Not desiring to be upon the borders at this time, my father decided to go further north; and as soon in the spring as it was possible to start by team, we were on our way for a more congenial clime, leaving the neighborhood where we had sojourned, but a few weeks before a clash of arms occurred at Carthage, the county-seat of Jasper County. We proceeded northward until we reached Gallands Grove, Shelby County, Iowa.
In Shelby and Crawford Counties we resided the remaining part of my childhood and youth.
During our residence there, the representatives of the Reorganization in the persons of W. W. Blair and Edmund C. Briggs, visited us. My father for a time stood aloof from the Reorganization; but after a few years accepted its claims. I was baptized on the 7th day of October, 1862, by Elder William H. Kelley. I was prompted to this action by my own convictions, and not by solicitation on the part of my parents or any one else. On the following day I was confirmed by Elders William W. Blair and James Blakeslee. In the confirmation when Elder Blair said, “If faithful your voice shall be heard in the mountains to the salvation of many souls, and thousands shall yet rejoice that they have heard your voice.” It had a familiar sound to me; for I had been told that when a child I was blessed under the hands of my grandfather, these same words were used by him. In after years, however, this prediction served rather to retard my spiritual growth than to encourage me; for I had no desire, but rather felt a repugnance towards a missionary life, and hence fear that if I complied with the conditions I might be required to occupy, kept me from being as faithful as I might otherwise have been.
In 1870 my parents and younger brothers and sisters removed to Nebraska, I remaining in Iowa, laboring from place to place as opportunity offered and interest demanded. In the winter of 1873 and 1874 I became more deeply impressed with a desire for a more complete consecration of my life to the service of God; and with this came the impression and testimony that I was called to the ministry. I kept this to myself for months sometimes struggling against it, and sometimes having a desire to occupy in that position; yet feeling that I was inadequate. I devoted myself to the study of the text-books more than I had ever done before. While attending preaching services at Gallands Grove one Sunday in that winter, Elder John A. McIntosh delivered the discourse and remarked, “There is one in this congregation who is called of God to preach his gospel, and he feels it now like fire in his bones, but is trying to get rid of it but he never will.” I felt sure that this was intended for me, and was afterwards informed by Elder McIntosh that such was the case. On the 14th of the March following I accepted the office of elder at the Gallands Grove District conference, held at Harlan, Iowa, on recommendation of the Gallands Grove Branch, being ordained by Elder John Hawley and others. I immediately entered into the ministerial field as an appointee of the district conference, not thinking at that time that I would ever labor in any other capacity; but in the autumn of 1874 when Joseph R. Lambert of the Twelve came into our district, he stated at the conference that he was impressed to select me as a colaborer. To this the conference agreed, and I traveled with him in Iowa during the autumn of that year and in the winter went with him to Kansas, where I labored in Atchison and vicinity for some weeks, and visited Independence, Missouri, in connection with Bro. C. F. Stiles, and did some preaching in that vicinity.
At the annual conference of 1875, Bro. Lambert was assigned to Southern Illinois and Southern Indiana and Kentucky; and, I suppose, in accordance with his recommendation I was appointed to labor under his direction. I accompanied him to Southern Indiana, laboring a part of the time with him, and all the time under his direction. I was associated in labor with Elders Columbus Scott, M. T. Short, and others. At the annual conference of 1876, 1 was appointed to labor in Nebraska, and after concluding my labors in Indiana, I repaired to that field. At the semiannual conference held near Council Bluffs, Iowa, I was ordained to the office of seventy under the hands of Apostle James Caffall and others. I labored in Nebraska and Kansas until the semiannual conference of 1877, at Gallands Grove, Iowa, when I was appointed to the Southeastern Mission. I immediately started for that field. I first labored with Elder John H. Hansen in Kentucky and Tennessee, thence went further south into Alabama and Florida; first laboring in old fields where the work had been established, then extending the work westward into Southern Mississippi, where it has been permanently established ever since. Here I was assisted by Elder L. F. West, and Priest James Faulk. Later I extended the work into Eastern Florida where it had not before been presented. In this mission I was accompanied by Priest David Donaldson. The work there, though we were to some extent successful, and a branch at Gainesville was organized, has not since been kept up. I remained in that field without returning home until the spring of 1880, when I attended the annual conference at Plano, Illinois, and was appointed to labor under William H. Kelley in Michigan, Indiana, and Canada; and during that summer labored in Michigan and Indiana, returning to the West for the semiannual conference of that year, where I was appointed in charge of the Southwestern Mission, and was continued in this capacity until the annual conference of 1886. For a part of the time I was the sole appointee in that large field, comprising Texas, Western Louisiana, Arkansas, and Indian Territory.
At the annual conference of 1885 I was ordained the sixth president of Seventy at Independence, Missouri, and continued to occupy in this office until 1887. At the same time of my ordination to the presidency of the Quorum, I was appointed secretary of the Presidency, and also secretary of the Quorum; and served in these positions as long as I was connected with the Quorum.
At the annual conference of 1886 I was appointed in charge of the Pacific Slope Mission. Prior to starting for my new field of labor, on June 2, 1886, at Independence, Missouri, I was united in marriage to Vida E., oldest daughter of Alexander H. Smith. This has proven to be a wise selection, and the experiences consequent upon this relation have been to me entirely satisfactory.
My wife accompanied me to California; and after a year of travel together, we located at San Bernardino, California. At that place our four children were born, namely, Heman Hale, Vida Inez, Anna Earlita, and Lois Elizabeth. I remained in charge of that field until 1892. Elder T. W. Smith was associated with me in charge one year.
During my missionary work in this field, by the revelation of 1887, I was called to the position of apostle in the Quorum of Twelve; but not being present did not receive ordination for nearly a year. I was ordained at Independence, Missouri, March 30, 1888, by President Joseph Smith and others. Shortly afterwards I was made assistant secretary of the Quorum, in which capacity I served until the disability of Elder T. W. Smith, when I was appointed secretary, which position I still hold.
At the annual conference of 1892, in connection with T. W. Smith, C. R. Duncan, and John Kaler, I was appointed to the Australasian Mission; but for reasons set forth elsewhere we were prevented from going.
At the annual conference of 1893 I was assigned in charge of the entire Southern field, including the Southeastern and Southwestern Missions. I remained in this field during the years 1893 and 1894. In 1895 and 1896 I was in charge of the Rocky Mountain Mission; but in the latter year was not permitted to enter into my field, as I had been appointed, in connection with President Joseph Smith, to write the history of the Church. These volumes are the result of this appointment. For five years, from 1895 to 1900, I acted on the editorial staff of the Herald as corresponding editor.
At the annual conference of 1897 I was appointed Church Historian, which position I still occupy. And at this same conference I was appointed in charge of the European Mission in connection with Elder F. G. Pitt. I spent one year in England and Wales, returning home in August, 1898, leaving my colaborer in charge by appointment of the General Conference. The remaining part of that year and the next year I was associated with J. R. Lambert in Iowa.
At the annual conference of 1900 I was placed in charge of Northern Illinois and Wisconsin, which charge I still retain, the states of Michigan and Indiana having been added at the annual conference of 1902.
Retrospectively viewing my life and life-work, I do not discover that there has been anything very extraordinary for good or evil. Conditions and environments have probably had much more influence upon me than I have had upon them.
In 1893 I removed my family to Lamoni, Iowa, where we now reside an unbroken family, death not having invaded our circle. My aged mother, who has been a widow since 1879, and whose experience with the church dates from the first year of its existence, now occupies our home with us.
(RLDS History of the Church 4:707–712)