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Reed Smoot

Reed Smoot
Black and white portrait of Reed Smoot
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 8, 1900 (1900-04-08) – February 9, 1941 (1941-02-09)
Called by Lorenzo Snow
Predecessor Rudger Clawson
Successor Hyrum M. Smith
LDS Church Apostle
April 8, 1900 (1900-04-08) – February 9, 1941 (1941-02-09)
Called by Lorenzo Snow
Reason Death of Franklin D. Richards
at end of term
Harold B. Lee ordained
United States Senator from Utah
In office
March 4, 1903 – March 4, 1933
Predecessor Joseph L. Rawlins
Successor Elbert D. Thomas
Political party Republican
Personal details
Born Reed Smoot
(1862-01-10)January 10, 1862
Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, United States
Died February 9, 1941(1941-02-09) (aged 79)
St. Petersburg, Florida, United States
Resting place Provo City Cemetery
Alma mater Brigham Young Academy
Spouse(s) Alpha M. Eldredge
Alice Taylor Sheets
Children 7
Parents Abraham O. and Anne K. Smoot

Reed Smoot[1] (January 10, 1862 – February 9, 1941) was a native-born Utahn who was first elected to the United States Senate from Utah in 1903, and served as a Republican Senator until 1933. Smoot is primarily remembered as the co-sponsor of the 1930 Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act, which raised U.S. import tariffs on over 20,000 dutiable items to record levels and is widely regarded as having exacerbated the Great Depression. Smoot was a prominent leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), serving as an apostle in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Smoot's role in the LDS Church (together with rumors of a secret LDS policy favoring multiple marriage and a secret oath) led to lengthy controversy, when he was first elected to the Senate, over his eligibility to serve, eventually settled in Smoot's favor. At the time of his death, Smoot was third in the line of succession to lead the LDS Church.


  • Early life, family, and religious activity 1
  • United States Senate 2
    • Controversy over religious affiliation 2.1
    • Career 2.2
  • Further reading 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • External links 6

Early life, family, and religious activity

Born in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, Smoot was the son of Mormon pioneer and former mayor of Salt Lake City, Abraham O. Smoot and Anne Kristina (Morrison) Smoot. Reed Smoot attended public schools and the University of Utah, and graduated from Brigham Young Academy (now Brigham Young University) in Provo, Utah in 1879. After graduation, he served as a Mormon missionary in England. He married Alpha M. Eldredge of Salt Lake City on September 17, 1884. They were the parents of seven children. Smoot was a successful businessman and from 1895 became increasingly important in the hierarchy of the LDS Church. On April 8, 1900, Smoot was ordained an LDS Church apostle and member of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Smoot (right) with Heber J. Grant, president of the LDS Church, ca 1918-1920.

As a U.S. Senator in the early 1920s, Smoot toured Europe with an official U.S. government passport, and he was able to convince several governments to allow Mormon missionaries to enter.

United States Senate

After becoming an apostle in 1900, Smoot received the approval of LDS Church president Joseph F. Smith to run for office in 1902. He was elected to the United States Senate (58th Congress) on January 20, 1903 as a Republican Senator, representing the state of Utah.[2] Smoot was introduced to the United States Senate by Utah's Senior U.S. Senator, Republican Thomas Kearns, a Catholic who was elected in 1901. Kearns, a prominent mining magnate, newspaper owner, banker, and railroad owner had denied Smoot this Senate seat two years before, with the blessing of LDS Church president Lorenzo Snow.

Controversy over religious affiliation

His election sparked a bitter four-year battle in the Senate on whether Smoot was eligible or should be allowed to serve, due to his position as a Mormon apostle. Many were convinced that his association with the church disqualified him from serving in the United States Senate. Only a few years earlier, another prominent Utah Mormon, B. H. Roberts, had been elected to the House of Representatives, but was denied his seat on the basis that he practiced plural marriage (polygamy).

Smoot did not practice plural marriage, and the LDS Church had officially renounced future plural marriages in an 1890 Manifesto before Utah became a state. However, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that church leaders continued to secretly approve of new, post-Manifesto plural marriages.[3] As a result, the Senate began an investigation into Smoot's eligibility.[4] The Smoot Hearings began on January 16, 1904. The hearings included exhaustive questioning into the continuation of plural marriage within the state of Utah and the LDS Church, and questions on church teachings, doctrines and history. Although Smoot was not a polygamist, the charge by those opposed to his election to the Senate was that he could not swear to uphold the United States Constitution while serving in the highest echelons of an organization that sanctioned law breaking.

Willis C. Hawley (left) and Smoot in April 1929, shortly before the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act passed the House.

There were claims that temple-attending Latter-day Saints took an "oath of vengeance" against America for past grievances. As a leader of the LDS Church, Smoot was accused of taking this oath, which he denied. Five of the U.S. Senators who participated in the investigation agreed, writing, "As to the 'endowment oath,' it is sufficient in this summary to say that the testimony is collated and analyzed in the annexed statement, and thereby shown to be limited in amount, vague, and indefinite in character, and utterly unreliable because of the disreputable and untrustworthy character of the witnesses."[5] Although the majority of the committee recommended that Smoot be removed from office, on February 20, 1907 the Senate defeated the proposal and Smoot was allowed to serve in the Senate. Smoot was reelected in 1908 and continued to serve in the Senate until March 1933 (following his 1932 electoral defeat).


Senator Smoot (Republican, Ut.)
Is planning a ban on smut.
Oh rooti-ti-toot for Smoot of Ut.
And his reverend occiput.
Smite, Smoot, smite for Ut.,
Grit your molars and do your dut.,
Gird up your l__ns,
Smite h_p and th_gh,
We'll all be Kansas
By and by....


In 1916, William Kent was the lead sponsor of the legislation in the House of Representatives that created the National Park Service. The similar Senate bill was sponsored by Smoot. The legislation passed the House of Representatives on July 1, 1916, passed the Senate on August 5, and was signed by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916.[6]

Smoot was Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee from 1923 to 1933 and served on the Senate Appropriations Committee. He became active in the national Republican Party and served as a delegate to the Republican national convention every four years between 1908 and 1924. He was Chairman of the 1928 Resolutions Committee at the 1928 Republican National Convention and chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Smoot was a co-sponsor of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in 1930, which raised U.S. import tariffs on over 20,000 dutiable items to record levels and arguably exacerbated the Great Depression. U.S. President Herbert Hoover signed the act into law on June 17, 1930.

Smoot served five terms before being defeated in the 1932 election by Democrat Elbert D. Thomas. After his unsuccessful reelection campaign, Smoot moved back to Salt Lake City. He retired from active business and political pursuits to dedicate his remaining years as an apostle for the LDS Church. Smoot died on February 9, 1941 during a visit to St. Petersburg, Florida, and was buried in Provo, Utah.

Further reading

  • Flake, Kathleen. The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle. The University of North Carolina Press, 2003. excerpt and text search
  • Paulos, Michael Harold. The Mormon Church on Trial: Transcripts of the Reed Smoot Hearings. Signature Books, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2008.
  • Heath, Harvard S. In the World: The Diaries of Reed Smoot. Signature Books, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1997.
  • Merrill, Milton R. Reed Smoot: Apostle in Politics. Utah State University Press, 1990.
  • Smith, Konden R., “The Reed Smoot Hearings and the Theology of Politics: Perceiving an ‘American’ Identity,” Journal of Mormon History, 35 (Summer 2009), pp. 118–62.

See also


  1. ^ Several sources indicate that Smoot's middle name was "Owen", but this is disputed by his descendants, who claim he had no middle name.
  2. ^ "Business of the House: Proceedings Before That Branch Late Yesterday Afternoon.". Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah). January 21, 1903. Retrieved November 29, 2013. 
  3. ^ B. Carmon Hardy, Solemn Covenant: The Mormon Polygamous Passage (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994) extensively documents Mormon-sanctioned post-Manifesto polygamy.
  4. ^ Kathleen Flake, The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004).
  5. ^ Senate Resolution 205, Fifty-seventh Congress, second session.
  6. ^ Swain, Donald C. (September 1969). "The Founding of the National Park Service". The American West (Palo Alto, CA: American West Publishing Company) VI (5): 6–9. 

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
Preceded by
Rudger Clawson
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 8, 1900 – February 9, 1941
Succeeded by
Hyrum M. Smith
United States Senate
Preceded by
Joseph L. Rawlins
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Utah
March 4, 1903 – March 4, 1933
Served alongside: William H. King
Succeeded by
Elbert D. Thomas
Political offices
Preceded by
Porter J. McCumber
North Dakota
Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee
Succeeded by
Pat Harrison
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Furnifold M. Simmons
North Carolina
Dean of the United States Senate
March 4, 1931 – March 4, 1933
Succeeded by
William E. Borah
Most Senior Living U.S. Senator
(Sitting or Former)

April 30, 1940 – February 9, 1941
Succeeded by
Charles Dick
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