Reader Voices: Singing at the prophet's request in 1918

By Barbara Preece Worthington

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Sept. 25 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

My mother knew President Joseph F. Smith personally. He was a great friend to her family. Her father, Joseph E. Robinson, was mission president in the California Mission for 19 years. President Smith and President Robinson visited in each others homes through the years. President Robinson was invited quite often to come to conference and speak in the Tabernacle about the progress being made in the mission field.

My mother had a beautiful alto singing voice and so her father often invited her to travel with him to his various speaking engagements. He would speak and she would sing.

Just before the October 1918 conference President Robinson was staying at the Beehive house where the prophet lived. My mother, Inez Robinson, was staying at the Preece home. The Preeces and family had been missionaries in the California mission. President Smith asked President Robinson if Inez were here and asked that she sing in the morning session of conference. She was here and her beau had taken her to the Saturday night frat dance. Sister Preece did not tell her when they got home as it was late but early the next morning Inez was told to call her father at the Beehive House because President Smith had asked her to sing a solo in the Tabernacle. She told her Papa that she could not sing. She didn't have any of her music here. President Robinson said, "Well, you are going to sing, for the prophet of the Lord has requested it and you don't refuse the prophet."

President Robinson offered her his music, "My Faith In Thee." She argued that she didn't know it but he said, "You have heard me sing it many times and you can do it. I will write the words out for you." She continued to protest that he was a tenor and she was an alto but again he calmed her fears and said, "Brother John McClellan will be able to play it in any key you wish. Just say your prayers and you will be fine."

Inez went and McClellan heeded her request to not go above E flat. She sat between Emma Ramsey Morris and Tracy Y. Cannon and they both told her to sing out to the clock and she would be fine. She didn't have to refer to the words but sang out with all her heart and did well. Her prayers had been answered. She had been blessed.

President Smith stood and walked over to her. He put his arm around her and looked her in the eyes and said, "Inez, this has been music to my soul." He leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek before that vast audience. It was a wonderful honor for her to have been invited by the prophet to sing a solo in the Tabernacle, maybe the greatest honor in her life.

The Preeces had been standing at the back of the hall and told her they had heard every word. There were no amplifiers in those days. Many people on the street stopped her and told her how beautiful it was.

President Smith was not well and was taken out of the meeting early by his son, Wesley Smith.

It was the last meeting he ever attended because of the flu. All public meetings were canceled. President Smith died on Nov. 19, 1918 and there wasn't a public funeral. Mother always felt that her solo in the tabernacle that day was singing for his funeral.

President Smith was her family's great friend and they loved him dearly as the prophet.

Barbara Preece Worthington is from Salt Lake City.

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