Experiences of His Youth
Joseph F. Smith was ordained an Apostle by Brigham Young in 1866, at age 27, in a private ceremony. Brigham and some of the apostles had met in a council and prayer meeting, with young Joseph F. serving as secretary. At the close of the meeting, Pres. Young was suddenly impressed that the young scribe should be ordained to the apostleship, even though there was no vacancy in the Quorum of Twelve; those present sustained the action, and he was promptly ordained and set apart as a counselor in the First Presidency. Brigham explained to those present that this was not the normal method for such an action, and asked that those present not discuss the action with anyone for the time being.
No public announcement of the action was made at that time; in fact, a few days after the ordination, Joseph F. encountered Heber C. Kimball, who had not been present at the ordination. Pres. Kimball told young Joseph that he had been impressed that the day would come when the young man would be called to the Apostleship; Joseph was embarrassed, since he "was not at liberty to inform President Kimball, who was a Counselor in the First Presidency, that such action had already taken place."
In October 1867, the ordination was made public when Elder Smith was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, replacing Amasa M. Lyman. George A. Smith was asked about this time to give his impression of the young apostle. He responded: "Yes, I think he will be all right. His father [Hyrum Smith, martyred with the Prophet Joseph] and mother [Mary Fielding Smith, who died in 1852 when Joseph F. was 14] left him when he was a child, and we have been looking after him to try and help him along. We first sent him to school, but it was not long before he licked the schoolmaster, and could not go to school. Then we sent him on a mission, and he did pretty well at that. I think he will make good as an Apostle."
The incident with the schoolmaster is interesting. When Joseph F. was 15 years old, he attended a school with a very strict schoolmaster who often used a leather strap to "chastise" the children. On one occasion, Joseph's younger sister Martha was called to the front of the class to be punished for some offense. The schoolmaster told the girl to hold out her hands, and prepared his leather strap. Joseph F., who was in the same class, called out for him to not touch the girl; the schoolmaster, instead, "came at me and was going to whip me, and instead of whipping me, I licked him good and plenty" - much to the delight of the other students for a "justly deserved" retribution.
As a result of Joseph F.'s "righteous indignation," the schoolmaster apparently did not continue teaching in that area as he was "unable henceforth to face his class." But Joseph F., though only 15 years of age, was also not able to continue to attend school, and was promptly called on a mission to the Hawaiian Islands for his further "education."
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