40 years ago today - 40 years ago - Oct 8, 1979-Monday

[Leonard Arrington]
According to a report in the Salt Lake Tribune, some persons connected with Mormon women for ERA [Equal Rights Amendment] had arranged to have a plane flying above Temple Square for about 30 minutes, carrying a banner stating, "Mother in Heaven Loves Mormons for ERA." But I did not see it nor did I see anyone looking at the sky, nor did I hear anyone make any remark about it. ...

[In General Conference] Six regional representatives in other countries were called full time. This represents a departure. ... In between sessions we had interesting conversations. The Latin American brethren have a couple of hangups. One of these is the preoccupation of North Americans with Indians-with an assumption that most of the members of the Church in Latin America are Indians or of Indian ancestry. They assert that the percentage of Indians in Central and South America is perhaps as small as the percentage of Indians in the United States. ... They were especially incensed with the illustrations-on the cover-in the special Latin American edition of the Ensign which had so many pictures of Indians. These were not at all representative and the members of the Church in Latin America didn't like this. The second hangup is the constant emphasis of some General Authorities on aspects of white culture which are really not part of the basic gospel but which are sometimes presented as if they were. Jeff Allred says that an overwhelming proportion of the members of the Church in Central America are people in urban areas who have rebelled against the conservative establishment of North American business, the Roman Catholic Church, and the military. They tend to be leftist in their political orientation, not Communist, but with certain liberal-Marxist leanings. Their vocabulary is anti-establishment and would sound leftist to conservative Americans. We must somehow understand them-and why they are that way-and take means to provide a proper reconciliation between gospel basics and the necessities of our own country. ...

The other important change was the transfer of Patriarch Eldred G. Smith from Patriarch to the Church to Patriarch Emeritus. The only explanation was that since we now have a large number of patriarchs in the various wards and stakes and missions, there is no longer a need for a patriarch to the Church. The position has long ceased to be one which directs and counsels the patriarchs of the Church. I think that changed in the 1870s, but I am not sure. And there have been two or three occasions when the Church has gone without a patriarch to the Church. We are now entering upon another such period, and it remains to be seen whether sometime in the future we will sustain a Patriarch to the Church. Eldred does have a son, [E.] Gary Smith, who is an attorney in Los Angeles and who at one stage might have been in line to succeed his father, but he and his wife were divorced not long ago and that may have been one consideration. He is loyal to the Church and worthy in other respects, but the Brethren may have balked at sustaining a patriarch to the Church at this time who was recently divorced. I do not know any of the details, as to whether the divorce involved any dereliction on his part. A number of persons asked me afterward if I had an explanation for this action-it puzzled people. I simply responded that there was good historical precedent for it and that it did not surprise me. ... [[On the decline of the churchwide office of patriarch, see Bates and Smith, Lost Legacy, 201-20; and Quinn, Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, 128-31.]]

... Another observation: I keep being embarrassed for the sisters. The wives of the General Authorities are back in a kind of balcony to the side of the stand where the Brethren sit. One can hardly see them. They are in a place that in the Southern theaters in the 19th century would have been referred to as "nigger's heaven." I don't see any solution to this, but they must feel something like second-class observers of the conference sessions. In a way the same thing may be said of the women presidencies and board members of auxiliaries. They sit near the front on the farthest right side facing the stand. Why couldn't those sisters be placed in the central behind the regional representatives and in front of stake presidents? Why do they have to be shunted over to the far right? Or why not find a place for the three presidents-Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary-on the stand or front row? Another thing that must seem peculiar to some observers is that all of the special guests on the first two rows all the way across the Tabernacle are men. Don't we ever have any special guests who are women? If not, why not? And why wouldn't it be a nice thing to have at each conference session one or two of the women presidents speak? Among those attending conference (outside of stake presidents and bishops) there are probably more women than men, so that all told women would probably make up at least 30% of the total audience. And of course the TV audience would probably include more women listeners than men. So why not have a couple of women speakers?

I had a chance to talk this afternoon with Michael Quinn about the patriarch's position. Mike says that a crucial date is in 1932 upon the death of [patriarch] Hyrum G. Smith. The General Authorities were not united on whether to have a presiding patriarch-one who presided over the other patriarchs-and who was an active General Authority, or whether they ought to have only a patriarch to the Church. A group of apostles appointed to study the matter recommended to President [Heber J.] Grant that they appoint Eldred G. Smith in the [Joseph Smith's uncle] John Smith line, and that he be appointed patriarch to the Church. He was a young person, only 25 years old, and for that reason they did not believe they ought to make him a presiding patriarch, and he shouldn't visit conferences, speak, set apart people, attend meetings of the Quorum of Twelve and First Presidency in the temple, etc.

President Grant had not been especially impressed with the John Smith family and he thought Eldred Smith was too young and inexperienced. And he had a strong preference for the presiding-patriarch type. With a strong difference of opinion between Pres. Grant and the committee of the Twelve, they simply let it go for ten years.

In 1942 they finally reached a decision to appoint a person from the [President] Joseph F. Smith family, not the John Smith family; namely, [patriarch] Joseph F. Smith, the professor of speech at the University of Utah. They made him a presiding patriarch in the sense that he not only gave blessings but visited quarterly conferences in stakes, set persons apart, attended meetings of the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency in the temple, and voted in those meetings. Then there was the trouble that occurred under Joseph F. Smith and he finally resigned.

After that, in 1946, they sustained Eldred G. Smith. He immediately did something that infuriated some of the brethren of the Twelve, namely in his first talk in conference after being sustained, he made a half-humorous, half-bitter remark that he had thought first of reading the talk he had written back in 1932 when he thought he was going to be sustained and wasn't. They sustained him only as patriarch to the Church, not as presiding patriarch as Joseph F. Smith and most predecessors had been. He was not invited to meetings of the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency, nor to stake conferences, nor allowed to sustain stake officers. After he had been in for several years, members of the Quorum of the Twelve recommended that he be invited to their meetings and he was, for a brief period. Then he was told not to attend any more. For a brief period they also invited him to attend stake conferences and then after a period he was told that they didn't need him to do that any longer. At one point a committee of the Twelve was appointed to look over his patriarchal blessings to see if he had been saying things he shouldn't be saying. Apparently they did things that were very demeaningthey warned him on his grammar, telling him he should not say "each and every one," for example. Mike has no idea why they should have released him now rather than say last year or next year. He is 72 years old. Mike knows the family quite well and thus it is obvious they would never sustain [E.] Gary [Smith] after his having been divorced. Mike says he understands that Gary was the victim or the injured party in the divorce, but thinks they would never sustain as patriarch to the Church or presiding patriarch a person who has been divorced. Mike suggests that they may go some time before they get a new person in that position-and Mike does think they will eventually appoint someone. It is too strongly based on revelation and scripture and historical tradition. He thinks that this opens up a very real question as to whether the person should be sustained as a presiding patriarch or as a patriarch to the Church, whether the person ought to come through the Joseph Smith line or the Joseph F. Smith line, or perhaps through the family of Joseph Smith, Sr.through one of his brothers: the Silas Smith line, the John Smith line, and so on. And whether the person must bear the surname of Smith or whether he might have another name, having come down through one of the daughters. [[The office has remained vacant since Eldred Smith's release.]] Mike says that Eldred has been very open in expressing his own bitterness. To many General Authorities, he has an abrasive personality which has been irritating to them and to ordinary members of the Church as well. This is perhaps one reason why they've had investigation committees. When they were presenting to the General Authorities the two new revelations which were sustained a couple of years ago to be put in the Pearl of Great Price-the revelations of Joseph Smith and Joseph F. Smith-Eldred was sitting next to Sterling Sill, who leaned over and whispered to Eldred a question: "Why don't they put it in the D&C instead of in the Pearl of Great Price?" Eldred replied, "That's something you'll have to ask them; they don't trust me." So Sterling Sill asked President Kimball the question, and he replied he didn't know, and asked Bruce McConkie to explain. Eldred thought that was a dangerous thing for the First Presidency to yield to Bruce on matters of doctrine and scripture like that. [[In 1976 two visions of heaven by Joseph Smith and Joseph F. Smith were added to the Pearl of Great Price, then moved three years later to the Doctrine and Covenants as sections 137 and 138, along with the 1978 statement on race, which was called Official Declaration 2, following the 1890 Manifesto ending polygamy, renamed as Official Declaration 1.]]

I suppose I should have added that there was one jarring note in conference-the talk of Elder Benson, which was to a large extent a political talk. I was told this morning that even Wallace Bennett, who is a loyal Churchman in every respect and a conservative Republican-even he thought the talk was inappropriate. I am told that he was really angry, furious. I also understand that many European and Latin American people found it hard to take. Latinos have always complained above all of the Monroe Doctrine, and Brother Benson placing the color of the gospel on the Monroe Doctrine did not sit well with them.

John Cox, DTA in Birmingham, England, says he has materials on the histories of Ghana and Nigeria, which are within his district. In fact, he had the entire continent of Africa in his district, presumably because English is their official language, and they have had a heritage of British rule.

John says that there are about 3000 baptized members of the Church in those countries, and they are continuing to process and baptize at the rate of about 100 or 200 per month. He thinks membership will run up to 10,000 within 2 or three years. The woman who was the leader of the self-organized branch of the Church in Nigeria and Ghana, Mrs. [Rebecca] Mould, [[Rebecca Mould founded a Mormon-like congregation prior to 1978. When mis- sionaries arrived, she submitted to baptism and male authority, but later left the church. See Russell Stevenson, "The Prophetess: Rebecca Mould and the Origins of Mormonism in Ghana," June 24, 2013, Juvenile Instructor blog, www.juvenileinstructor.org.]] a black woman, called herself a prophetess. She has now switched her allegiance to our Church and is now the president of the Relief Society in the Sekondi Branch in Nigeria. She donated land to the Church and also built a chapel, a rather makeshift affair, in which the branch meets.

[Confessions of a Mormon historian : the diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997, Gary James Bergera, editor, Signature Books, 2018]

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