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Book review: ‘Joseph F. Smith: Reflections on the Man and His Times’ reveals the man behind the prophet

By Elizabeth Reid

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Jan. 12 2014 5:00 a.m. MST

"JOSEPH F. SMITH: Reflections on the Man and His Times," edited by Craig K. Manscill, Brian D. Reeves, Guy L. Dorius and J.B. Haws, Brigham Young University's Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book, $31.99, 500 pages (nf)

LDS Church President Joseph F. Smith was more than an elderly man with a long white beard. During a symposium last year, more than 30 academics presented lectures relating to President Smith, and 26 of those lectures were compiled to create, “Joseph F. Smith: Reflections on the Man and His Times.”

Each chapter brings to life the man with strong opinions and a gentle love for children, proving there was more to President Smith than a long beard.

The book begins with a keynote address by Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His insights come from family remembrances of direct descendents of, or personal friends to, President Smith. Each shared intimate detail helps bring the sixth LDS Church president to life and shows the warmth of his personality.

The book continues chronologically, touching on President Smith losing both parents by the time he was 13; being called on a mission two years later, and his travels through Hawaii and England.

President Smith’s tenderness and love are shown with numerous examples of how he treated children, from his own to those of strangers. When a son sent a profanity-laced card to a bully, President Smith’s gentle remonstrations taught more than any severe punishment would have. He believed that, in families, love could conquer all and his life showcased that conviction.

“Joseph F. Smith: Reflections on the Man and his Times” is a clean book that can marvelously add to any personal LDS library.

Editors Craig K. Manscill, Brian D. Reeves, Guy L. Dorius and J.B. Haws are Mormon historians and affiliated with Brigham Young University and its Religious Studies Center.

Elizabeth Reid has bachelor degrees in economics and history. She has worked in retail, medical billing, catering, education and business fields. Her favorite occupation is that of wife and mother. She can be reached at bizziereid@gmail.com.

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