In the World


In the World: The Diaries of Reed Smoot

An apostle, ambassador for the LDS Church, senator, and close friend of two U.S. Presidents, Reed Smoot’s diaries reveal his candid insights on both the spiritual and political.

Significant Mormon Diaries Series No. 7

June, 1997

SKU: 1-56085-051-5 Categories: , Tags: , Author: Harvard S. HeathProduct ID: 1378


No one was more surprised than Reed Smoot when he was called to the LDS apostleship at age thirty-eight. He had not held a previous church office of significance. Yet, as the son of one of Utah’s wealthiest men and the husband of a ranking church leader’s daughter, he was destined for prominence of some kind. His role would come to be that of an ambassador for the church in Washington, D.C., rather than a strictly spiritual counselor.
When he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1902, and during the ensuing hearings to challenge a Mormon’s right to hold office, Smoot was ineffective in swaying public opinion. But over the next thirty years as he increasingly socialized with corporate leaders and heads of state; in consulting with other senators, and they with him; and in spending long hours at the White House–even vacationing with two U.S. presidents–he emerged as one of the country’s most influential men.

It was because of Smoot’s political clout that Mormon immigrants were allowed to leave Ellis Island; that LDS colonists in Chihuahua were provided safe passage out of Mexico; and that missionaries were allowed back into Australia, Europe, New Zealand, and South Africa after World War I. On the other hand, his protection of Mormon sugar interests in Idaho and Hawaii caused instability in Cuba, his insistence on punitive reparations following World War I contributed to the outbreak of the Second World War, and his infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930 hastened–some say caused–the Great Depression. In addition, beyond such well-intentioned, if short-sighted attempts to safeguard church and country, Smoot legislated federal subsidies that benefitted his own businesses.

A proponent of compromise, he repeatedly locked horns with Utah political and church leaders who thought he sold out too easily on moral issues. His opponents included Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, B. H. Roberts, Jessie Knight, and James Henry Moyle.

Within his own family, he was indulgent, yet often absent. When his wife was unavailable to attend White House dinners, he often took a female escort, as was the custom, and sent flowers home to his wife. After he argued for compulsory military induction on the senate floor, he immediately arranged for his own sons’ deferments and special appointments. He constantly came to his children’s aid, even though one was alcoholic, another mentally unstable, one fiscally profligate, and so on.

In his diaries, Smoot discloses something about every aspect of his life, whether personal or professional. He tells what went on behind closed doors in church and government circles, and he outlines the toll his government service took on his family. His candor and breadth make In the World an essential resource for United States and Latter-day Saint history.

Harvard S. Heath is curator of the Utah and American West Archives, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University; was a key research and writing assistant behind Ernest L. Wilkinson’s four-volume Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years; is the editor of In the World: The Diaries of Reed Smoot; and a contributor to The House of the Lord: A Study of Holy Sanctuaries Ancient and Modern. He has delivered papers at professional meetings of the Western History Association and elsewhere and published in the Journal of Mormon History, and he serves on the board of editors of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.

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1 review for In the World

  1. Susan Curtis, Church History

    The diary entries made by Reed Smoot between 1909 and 1932 reveal a public servant, a Mormon leader, and a hectored family man, and reflect important developments in early-twentieth-century American life. As a tough-minded senator and successful businessman from Utah, Smoot epitomized the protectionist impulse in the early years of this century and the business acumen upon which an expanding corporate America depended. Between these political and financial worlds, Smoot the family man and Mormon apostle sought a private life in keeping with the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Smoot emerges from the pages of this diary as a man of contradictions—a no-nonsense politician and an indulgent father, a fiscally responsible public figure and one who repeatedly rescued his fiscally irresponsible adult children.

    Excellent editorial work and insightful introductory essay by Harvard S. Heath have resulted in a volume that will prove especially useful to historians of American religion. Interwoven in Smoot’s daily notes about his active political and business life one finds Smoot’s involvement in Mormon activities, ceremonies, and official meetings. Although clearly “in the world,” as Heath aptly titled this volume, Smoot never abandoned his devotion to Mormonism by excising it from his regular routine. Scholars seeking a fuller understanding of the practice of religion in the modern era will benefit from these diary entries, which demonstrate the intersection of family obligation, religious conviction, public service, and politics.

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