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William R. Smith (Mormon)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William R. Smith
Photo of William R. Smith
Personal details
BornWilliam Reed[1] Smith
(1826-08-11)August 11, 1826
Yonge Township, Leeds County, Upper Canada
DiedJanuary 15, 1894(1894-01-15) (aged 67)
Centerville, Utah Territory, United States
Cause of death"Stricture of the bowels"[2]
Resting placeCenterville City Cemetery
40°54′47″N 111°52′05″W / 40.913°N 111.868°W / 40.913; -111.868 (Centerville City Cemetery)

William Reed[1] Smith (11 August 1826 – 15 January 1894)[3] was a Utah territorial politician and a leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in Utah

Early life

Smith was born in Yonge Township, Leeds County, Upper Canada, as the youngest of nine children born to Peter Smyth[4] and Mary Read.[5] Both of his parents died when he was very young, so at the age of two years and ten months he was taken in by neighbours, Samuel and Fanny Parrish, who raised him to adulthood. The Parrishes raised Smith in the Quaker religion.

In 1837, the Parrishes and Smith moved to Stark County, Illinois. In the late 1830s, as Latter Day Saints began gathering in nearby Nauvoo, the Parishes and Smith became interested in Mormonism. Smith was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1841, on his 15th birthday.

LDS Church leadership in Utah

In 1849, Smith traveled to the Salt Lake Valley as a Mormon pioneer. In Utah Territory, Smith settled in Centerville. In 1855, Smith was appointed as the bishop of the LDS Church's Centerville Ward, and served in this position until 1877. During his time as bishop, Smith was involved in the Mormon Reformation, and accompanied Jedediah M. Grant in a tour of Utah in which the merits of rebaptism were presented. Smith himself was rebaptized on 29 September 1856.

Political career

In 1859, Smith was elected to represent Centerville in the House of Representatives of Utah Territory. He was elected to finish the unexpired term of Charles C. Rich, who had resigned so that he could travel to Europe as a missionary for the LDS Church. Smith was subsequently elected to full terms in the House of Representatives in 1860, 1862, and 1864. From 1874 to 1883, Smith was an elected probate judge in Davis County, Utah.

Later LDS Church leadership

From 1865 to 1867, Smith was a missionary for the LDS Church in England, Ireland, and Scotland. While traveling to and from Europe, he visited relatives in Ontario.

In 1874, Smith was appointed the president of the Centerville branch of the United Order. In 1877, Smith became the first president of the newly organized Davis Stake of the LDS Church, and he served in this position until his death. During his tenure, the first Primary of the LDS Church was organized in his stake boundaries by Aurelia Spencer Rogers.

In 1880, Smith became a member of the LDS Church's Council of Fifty, a body which advised the church on political, economic, and social issues affecting Latter-day Saints.

In 1885, Smith and two other men traveled to western Canada to examine the possibility of establishing Mormon colonies in the area. On this trip, the men investigated a number of potential settlement locations in Alberta south of Lethbridge. Smith purchased a tract of land, which was later settled as Spring Coulee, Alberta. Smith's investigations led to the establishment of Cardston by Charles Ora Card in 1887.

Bigamy conviction and pardon

Like many 19th-century members of the LDS Church, Smith practiced plural marriage, and had five wives simultaneously. In July 1887, Smith was arrested for violating the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act. He pleaded guilty, and on 31 March 1888 was sentenced to six months' imprisonment and a $300 fine. Smith was imprisoned until 20 July 1888, when he was pardoned by U.S. President Grover Cleveland.


Smith died in Centerville of "stricture of the bowels"—which today would probably have been identified as colorectal cancer. He was survived by three wives and 19 children. Eleven additional children died at birth or pre-deceased him during childhood.


  1. ^ a b Smith's middle name is also spelled "Read" and "Reid" in some sources.
  2. ^ Today would probably have been identified as colorectal cancer
  3. ^ Jenson, Andrew (1901). Latter-day Saint biographical encyclopedia: A compilation of biographical sketches of prominent men and women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 1. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Andrew Jenson History Company (Printed by The Deseret News Press). pp. 802-803.
  4. ^ William R. Smith's father spelled his surname with a y. However, William R. Smith always spelled his surname with an i.
  5. ^ Smith's mother's spelled her maiden name Read. However, Smith usually spelled his middle name Reed.


External links

This page was last edited on 25 November 2020, at 18:24
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