Elder Eldred G. Smith, the oldest general authority for the Mormon Church and one of the oldest known Utah residents died Thursday night. He was 106 years old.
Smith served as Patriarch to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1947 to 1979 and was the last person to hold the position. Smith said he’s given more than 18,000 blessings and has traveled to all the continents, the Daily Herald reports.
"Though I didn’t know him personally, Eldred Smith embodied the Mormon patriarchal ideal — that we are connected in our families going back through time — and brought it into the 20th century," American historian Richard Bushman, told the Salt Lake Tribune. "No one spoke as long and as effectively about Joseph Smith as Patriarch Smith. His passing will be a loss."
Smith is the great-great-grandson of Hyrum Smith – the older brother of the movement’s founder, Joseph Smith. He inherited artifacts from his great-great-grandfather such as a trunk that is believed to have been used to hide the golden plates that were later translated into the Book of Mormon.
As a direct descendant, Smith’s calling to the position of church patriarch was hereditary. The post originated in 1833 and was first occupied by Joseph Smith’s father. Elder Smith’s father also held the position for 20 years.
Smith left the post in 1979, after LDS leaders abolished the position of church patriarch saying that every stake (a group of congregations like a diocese) had its own, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Smith became an emeritus general authority and continued to give blessings.
Elder Smith married Jeanne Audrey Ness in 1932. The couple had five children. Following her death in 1977, Smith married Hortense Child, who died in May 2012.
Smith had 24 grandchildren, 45 great-grandchildren and 19 great-great grandchildren.
“The Church lost a valued friend and respected leader,” the LDS said in a statement. “He was a man who lived a Christ-centered life as he faithfully served as Patriarch to the Church.”