Church patriarch marks 105th birthday

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 10 2012 12:43 a.m. MST

President Thomas S. Monson and Eldred G. Smith talk after President Monson stopped by for a visit to Eldred G. Smith on his 105th birthday at the Smith's home Monday, Jan. 9, 2012.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Elder Eldred G. Smith, who served as patriarch to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1947 to 1979, turned 105 on Monday. Among those calling upon him at this home to extend greetings was church President Thomas S. Monson.

Sitting shoulder to shoulder on a sofa in the living room of Elder Smith's home in Salt Lake City, they reminisced about their long years of service in the church. They spoke of their travels together to such places as Australia, Samoa and Italy.

"We had a good time together," President Monson said.

They still enjoy a close association. On the first Thursday of each month, Elder Smith, who retains the priesthood office of patriarch and is an emeritus general authority, attends a meeting with all the church's general authorities who are in Salt Lake City. President Monson said he often calls upon Elder Smith to speak. "We always enjoy hearing from him," President Monson said.

In addition to sharing memories of their church service together, they spoke of their shared interest in the outdoors. While President Monson said he enjoyed hunting pheasants, Elder Smith said he hunted deer. "But once you pull the trigger, the fun is over," he said in reference to the work involved in dressing out the deer and preparing it for the table. He said his mother had an excellent method of cooking venison. "One time, she cooked venison along with some beef. No one could tell the difference," he said.

As the two talked, they learned that each once had a dog named Freckles.

Elder Smith is the last person to have held the position of patriarch to the church. The office originated in 1833 with the calling of Joseph Smith Sr., father of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Elder Eldred Smith is the great-great-grandson of the Prophet's brother Hyrum. Elder Smith's father, Hyrum Gibbs Smith, was patriarch to the church from 1912 until his death in 1932. Eldred G. Smith was called as patriarch to the church on April 10, 1947, by George Albert Smith.

As a general authority, Elder Smith traveled to stake conferences with individual members of the Quorum of the Twelve and was a frequent speaker at general conferences.

As a descendant of Hyrum Smith, Elder Smith has inherited several artifacts that he has displayed on various occasions.

He married Jeanne Audrey Ness in 1932; they had five children. Following her death, he married Hortense Child in 1977; she was then serving as a counselor in the Young Women general presidency.

Five years ago, when he turned 100, a reporter asked to what Elder Smith attributed his long life. Reminded of that interview, Elder Smith laughed gave the same answer: "Keep breathing."

Email: gerry@desnews.com

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