Elder Eldred G. Smith, former patriarch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died Thursday, April 4. He was 106. Elder Smith lived longer than any other General Authority and was believed to be the oldest man in Utah when he passed away Thursday night.
The First Presidency of the Church expressed its condolences in the following statement Friday: “The Church lost a valued friend and respected leader with the passing of Patriarch Eldred G. Smith. He was a man who lived a Christ-centered life as he faithfully served as patriarch to the Church. We pray for the Lord’s blessing to be upon his family at this tender time.”
According to Church News, Elder Smith is the last person to have held the position of patriarch to the Church. He was called by President George Albert Smith on April 10, 1947, and continued to serve until Oct. 6, 1979, when he was given emeritus status.
Prior to his ordination, Elder Smith’s father, Hyrum Gibbs Smith, was patriarch to the Church from 1912 until 1932.
Elder Smith gave more than 18,000 patriarchal blessings during the 32 years he served, according to the Associated Press. He also visited every continent.
President Thomas S. Monson visited Elder Smith in his Salt Lake City home on Jan. 9 — the day of his 106th birthday. During their visit, President Monson said, “Eldred Smith is my good friend. We have traveled many miles together. I love and respect this man.”
Elder Smith is a third great-grandson to Joseph Smith Sr., who was called as the first patriarch to the Church in 1833. He is also a second great-grandson to Hyrum Smith, an older brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Patriarchal blessings were restored to the Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith in April 1835, according to LDS scripture (see Doctrine and Covenants Section 107). The scripture says it is the duty of the Twelve Apostles to ordain “evangelical ministers.” Joseph Smith defined evangelical ministers as patriarchs.
“An Evangelist is a Patriarch. … Wherever the Church of Christ is established in the earth, there should be a Patriarch for the benefit of the posterity of the Saints, as it was with Jacob in giving his patriarchal blessing unto his sons,” the Prophet Joseph Smith said, as recorded in “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.”
Elder Smith has five children, 24 grandchildren, 45 great-grandchildren and 19 great-great grandchildren.
To learn more about patriarchal blessings, visit lds.org/topics/patriarchal-blessings.