"The Last of the Old School" : Joseph F. Smith and Latter-day Saint Liturgy
Joseph F. Smith : Reflections on the Man and His Times
Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, BYU; Deseret Book
As a member of the Smith family with a childhood in Nauvoo, and due to his extensive experience associating in the highest quorums of the Church, Joseph F. Smith occupied an important and unparalleled position during the first decades of the twentieth century. He was a living receptacle of liturgical history when no written liturgical histories or instructions existed. And as leaders modernized Church bureaucracy and liturgy, he wielded tremendous influence over the patterns, forms, and rituals of Church life.
After discussing several examples which highlight features of this liturgical authority within nineteenth-century Mormonism, I will review Joseph F. Smith’s interactions with three ritual systems: female healing, baptism for health, and baby blessing. Though limited in scope, this chapter will show how Smith held on to practices that were confusing to younger Church leaders who lacked his historical memory. In other cases Smith was also innovative, changing worship and ritual, and leaving an imprint on the Church to this day. However, the cases described in this chapter elucidate the evolution in Mormon liturgy by focusing on Joseph F. Smith’s deeply conservative approach to aspects of it. [From the text]