Like a Fiery Meteor

The Life of Joseph F. Smith

Joseph F. Smith was born in 1838 to Hyrum Smith and Mary Fielding Smith. Six years later both his father and his uncle, Joseph Smith Jr., the founding prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were murdered in Carthage, Illinois. The trauma of that event remained with Joseph F. for the rest of his life, affecting his personal behavior and public tenure in the highest tiers of the LDS Church, including the post of president from 1901 until his death in 1918. Joseph F. Smith laid the theological groundwork for modern Mormonism, especially the emphasis on temple work. This contribution was capped off by his “revelation on the redemption of the dead,” a prophetic glimpse into the afterlife. Taysom’s book traces the roots of this vision, which reach far more deeply into Joseph F. Smith’s life than other scholars have previously identified.
In this first cradle-to-grave biography of Joseph F. Smith, Stephen C. Taysom uses previously unavailable primary source materials to craft a deeply detailed, insightful story of a prominent member of a governing and influential Mormon family. Importantly, Taysom situates Smith within the historical currents of American westward expansion, rapid industrialization, settler colonialism, regional and national politics, changing ideas about family and masculinity, and more. Though some writers tend to view the LDS Church and its leaders through a lens of political and religious separatism, Taysom does the opposite, pushing Joseph F. Smith and the LDS Church closer to the centers of power in Washington, DC, and elsewhere.

Stephen C. Taysom is a professor of philosophy and comparative religion at Cleveland State University. He is the author of Shakers, Mormons, and Religious Worlds and editor of Dimensions of Faith: A Mormon Studies Reader, as well as of numerous articles in academic journals.

Table of Contents:
A Note on Sources
1. Bloodlines
2. From Missouri to Nauvoo
3. The Murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith
4. Pioneer Days
5. Upon the Isles of the Sea
6. Returning to Utah and Finding a Wife
7. Mission to the British Isles
8. Marital Discord, Domestic Violence, and Divorce
9. JFS the Apostle, JFS the Polygamist
10. Mission President in England, Losing the Lion
11. Exile
12. “We were unsettled as a Quorum”
13. An Emerging Gospel Scholar, Iosepa, and the Manifesto
14. The Ever- Tightening Knot of Utah Politics
15. Politics, Economics, and Polygamy Collide
16. Presiding High Priest, 1901–1918
17. The Complexities of Religion in a New Century
18. From Salt Lake to Sharon
19. Dusk

Praise and Reviews:

“This remarkable, path-breaking, sometimes jaw-dropping Joseph F. Smith biography makes an immense contribution to the fields of Mormon history and Mormon studies.”
—John Turner, George Mason University
“Taysom has done a marvelous job of mining the voluminous primary sources available to him, primarily in church archives. He has produced a detailed, textured, and fascinating biography of a major but underappreciated figure in Latter-day Saint history.”
—Patrick Q. Mason, Utah State University