Abraham O. Smoot

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Abraham O. Smoot was a pioneer, businessman, politician, and early leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He was born on February 17, 1815, in Owenton, Kentucky. His father died when he was young, and his mother remarried. She joined the Church in 1833 and Abraham was baptized on March 22, 1835, by Warren Parrish. When David W. Patten confirmed him, he promised Abraham that he would be able to overcome the health problems that had plagued him since boyhood.

One of his first Church responsibilities was to lead a small group of Church members where he was living in Tennessee. At this time he met Wilford Woodruff and the pair served a nine-month mission to Tennessee and Kentucky. Then they attended school in Kirtland, Ohio, together. This short two months of schooling was Abraham’s first formal education. In Kirtland, he met Joseph Smith. He was also given a priesthood blessing from Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, and Hyrum Smith]] for his typhoid fever and pleurisy. He also received a patriarchal blessing from Joseph Smith Sr.

The Prophet Joseph issued an assignment to Abraham to gather a group of people from his home state of Tennessee to move to Far West, Missouri. His family and others totally about 200 people settled in Daviess County. Afterward, he served a five-month mission to southern Missouri and Arkansas. After he returned, he was taken prisoner during the 1838 Mormon War. After his release, he moved to Montrose, Iowa, and served in the high council in the new settlement of Zarahemla. He continued his missionary work in Charleston, South Carolina, returned to Nauvoo, Illinois, led a branch of the Church in Keokuk, Iowa, and then traveled to Tennessee to oversee both missionary work and Joseph Smith’s presidential campaign efforts there. He returned to Nauvoo after the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. He served a mission to Alabama as called by Brigham Young. He served a total of nine missions.

Abraham served another mission in 1851, this time to England. He brought converts back to the U.S. through the Perpetual Emigration Fund. On the trek to Utah Territory, he contracted cholera but recovered. He was named the leader of the fourth hundred, which consisted of 120 wagons and 317 people. His company arrived in September 1847, the second group of pioneers to arrive in the Salt Lake Valley. He led other pioneer companies in 1852 and 1856. His business venture, called the Great Salt Lake Valley Carrying Company, transported goods and people across the Great Plains during the California Gold Rush.

In Utah, Smoot briefly owned slaves, however, they were given freedom after two years.

Smoot served as mayor of Salt Lake City from 1857 to 1866. He then served for twelve years in the Utah legislature. Brigham Young called Abraham to serve as president of the Utah Stake in Provo. The family tradition recalls that Young said , “There are three places, all on a par, one is as good as the other. They are Provo, Hell, or Texas. you can take your choice.”[1] Smoot is said to have responded, “I would sooner go to Hell than to Provo.” Although he protested the move, Smoot went to Provo, was elected mayor (served from 1868 to 1881) and was the first president of the board of trustees of Brigham Young Academy. Under his leadership, the Utah Southern Railroad, the Provo Tabernacle, and multiple streets were built. He invested in the Provo Woolen Mills and co-founded the First National Bank of Provo. At one point he mortgaged his property in order to keep the Brigham Young Academy running.

Smoot married a widow named Margaret Thompson McMeans Adkinson in 1838. In January 1846, he began practicing plural marriage. He eventually had six wives and was the father to twenty-seven children, including three he adopted. One of his sons was Reed Smoot. Orson F. Whitney was one of Smoot’s sons-in-law.

Abraham Owen Smoot died on March 6, 1895, two years after being hit by a falling tree. The BYU administration building is named in his honor.

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