Joseph F. Smith and the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead

Anne R. Berryhill, Church History Consultant
1 November 2018

In this post Anne Berryhill describes library collections relating to the Prophet Joseph F. Smith and his vision of the redemption of the dead.

October 3, 2018, marked 100 years since the Prophet Joseph F. Smith received the “vision of the redemption of the dead” (later canonized as Doctrine and Covenants Section 138). This revelation, which came to the prophet at a time of great loss of life throughout the world, reassured Church members that departed loved ones were not forgotten to God. Below are some materials housed at the Church History Library related to the life of Joseph F. Smith and the revelation. If you have questions about any of the collections listed, please use our online Ask Us form.

Joseph F. Smith circa 1914

Typescript Revelation (MS 1325)

Part of the Joseph F. Smith papers collection, this typescript copy of the revelation is one of the earliest known. It was dictated to the prophet’s son, Joseph Fielding Smith, shortly after October 1918 general conference.

Joseph F. Smith papers, 1854-1918 (MS 1325)

The Joseph F. Smith papers collection contains personal writings, correspondence, and miscellaneous documents related to the life of President Smith. Portions of this collection, including the above revelation, are available online.

Joseph F. Smith portrait collection (PH 512)

This collection of photographs of President Smith shows him at different ages and in various settings. Included in the collection are multiple images of family members and other associates.

Voices of the Prophets (116207)

This compilation, originally distributed through the New Era magazine, contains the voices and testimonies of the following: Wilford Woodruff, Joseph F. Smith, Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith, David O. McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, and Spencer W. Kimball. To hear the full recording of Voices of the Prophets, visit the Church History Library. In the near future, you will be able to listen to and watch audiovisual files in the improved Church History Catalog.

General Authorities and scenes in Salt Lake City and Utah, circa 1911-1928, 1934 (AV 1056)

This collection contains footage of General Authorities, parades, celebrations, buildings, and monuments in Salt Lake City. To view this footage and other content in the collection, visit the Church History Library. In the near future, you will be able to listen to and watch audiovisual files in the improved Church History Catalog.

Deseret News (M205.1 D454 v. 1- 1867-)

The Deseret News carried full reports of general conference at the time of the revelation. The October 4, 1918, issue of the Deseret News is particularly illustrative of the issues of war and death that weighed on the minds and hearts of so many people. The left-hand column details Joseph F. Smith’s appearance at general conference that day. The column to the right addresses the Spanish Flu pandemic, while the next column to the right provides an update on the World War. To view this and other issues of the Deseret News, visit or use the microfilm copies at the Church History Library.

Improvement Era (M205.1 I34 v. 1-73 1897-1970)

The revelation appeared in print, along with a tribute to Joseph F. Smith, in the December 1918 Improvement Era. You can access all past issues of the Improvement Era online through the Church History Catalog.

Young Woman’s Journal (M205.1 Y81 v. 1-40 1889-1929)

In 1910 and 1911, the Young Woman’s Journal published several statements from President Smith about the spirit world. These statements predate the 1918 revelation by several years but provide insight into President Smith’s understanding on the topic. They also indicate President Smith was thinking about the topic long before the revelation was received.

Hyrum Mack Smith

Hyrum Mack Smith portrait collection, circa 1872-1910 (PH 5097)

Hyrum Mack Smith, son of Joseph F. Smith, died in early 1918 due to a ruptured appendix. Hyrum’s death, along with the deaths of both a son-in-law and a daughter-in-law, contributed to a period of pain and loss for President Smith and for Church members worldwide. Portraits of Hyrum Mack Smith can be viewed online.

For other collections related to the life of Hyrum Mack Smith, you may wish to search our online catalog. As you search the catalog, you will find diaries, correspondence, scrapbooks, published works, and more.

Susa Young Gates papers, circa 1870-1933 (MS 7692)

Susa Gates and her husband, Jacob, were close friends and associates with Joseph F. Smith and his wife Julina. President Smith and Susa had known each other from childhood, and the two couples later served together as missionaries in Hawaii. Susa Gates recorded her reactions to the revelation, which she and her husband saw before it was released to general Church membership, in her journal.

President M. Russell Ballard spoke about the revelation in October 2018 general conference.