Jessie Evans Smith

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Jessie Ella Evans Smith was the third wife of Joseph Fielding Smith, tenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She married him when she was thirty-six years old, and he was sixty-two and then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. She also became the stepmother to his eleven children, and they affectionately called her Aunt Jessie at her request: “I’m not going to try to replace your mother. I’m here to love and help you. Call me ‘Aunt Jessie.’”[1]

Jessie was born on December 29, 1902, in Salt Lake City, the only daughter of Jonathan and Janet Buchanan Evans. It was evident early in her life that she was blessed with a musical gift—a beautiful contralto voice. She joined the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in 1918 when she was fifteen years old and associated with the choir for over fifty years.

From 1923 to 1927, she sang leading roles with the American Light Opera Company. At a crossroads, when she considered a career with the Metropolitan Opera Company or serious musical study, she took the decision to the Lord in prayer and fasting. Inspired counsel in her patriarchal blessing, “your voice shall be heard at home and abroad . . . every latent power within thee shall be brought to exercise in the service of the Master” guided her to go back to Utah and work in a business career (Salt Lake County Recorder) and teaching, while sharing her musical talents freely. She often sang at funerals; President Smith’s second wife, Ethel Reynolds Smith, had requested that Jessie sing at her funeral. He started courting Jessie soon after and they married in April 1938.

The promise in her patriarchal blessing bore fruit when she traveled widely with him while he served as an apostle and then president of the Church. She often spoke and sang duets with him, which he called “Do its!” Elaine Cannon described her as “radiant, sunny, colorful, and full of the light of the gospel.”[2] Jessie was known for her spirituality and devotion as well as the warmth, humor, love, and happiness she easily showered on everyone around her. She is known to have said, “Happiness isn’t always doing what you want to do. Sometimes it’s doing what you don’t want to do and being glad you did.”[3]

He became president of the Church on January 23, 1970. She died on August 2, 1971. He died soon after on July 2, 1972.