“My Dear Sister”

Joseph F. Smith’s Letters to Martha Ann Smith Harris


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About the Lecture

As a 15-year-old missionary, Joseph F. Smith was on an island in the Pacific, thousands of miles from his home in Utah, when he began writing letters to family, friends, and Church leaders. During the next six decades, he produced thousands of letters, providing insights into his life, dreams, struggles, and work as a missionary, father, and Church leader.

This presentation focuses on the more than two hundred letters Joseph F. Smith wrote to his younger sister, Martha Ann Smith Harris, between 1854 and 1914. In these letters, Joseph not only acts as an older brother but also becomes Martha Ann’s father, mother, and adviser. The letters are often tender but are also sometimes frank. At other times, they reveal the challenges of communicating through the written word instead of in person. Although much of the content deals with typical mundane matters common to other contemporary family letters of the period, they also contain insights into the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during difficult periods of time and during important periods of President Joseph F. Smith’s life as an Apostle and eventually as President of the Church. 

Dr. Holzapfel attended BYU, Hebrew Union College, and the University of California, Irvine (BA, MA, and PhD), emphasizing in Middle Eastern studies, Jewish history, ancient history, American history, and 19th-century American religious history. He began his teaching career at BYU as an assistant professor in 1993, teaching in the Church History, Ancient Scripture, and History Departments, including the honors sections of the Doctrine and Covenants and New Testament courses. He taught at the BYU Jerusalem Center from 1997 to 1998. Dr. Holzapfel currently serves as the publications director of the Religious Educator, a publication of the Religious Studies Center at BYU. In addition to teaching and filling various committee assignments at BYU, Dr. Holzapfel maintains a heavy research, writing, and publication agenda. He is married to Jeni Broberg, and they are the parents of five children.

This event was part of the 2014 Men and Women of Faith lecture series sponsored by the Church History Library. Lectures are held the second Thursday of every month at 7:00 p.m. in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square, 50 North West Temple Street.

For more information, please visit the 2014 Lecture Series web page, or call 1-801-240-2272.

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