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PROVO — The events that transpired in the last days of World War I were still vivid in Calvin S. Smith’s memory 17 years later.
Smith, the son of then-President Joseph F. Smith and one of three Latter-day Saint chaplains that served in The Great War, recalled what he saw and heard on Nov. 11, 1918, in an article for the Deseret News published Nov. 11, 1935.
In the article, Calvin Smith wrote about being with the 3rd Battalion of the 362nd Infantry in a town called Oudenaarde, Belgium. He and other soldiers were walking through the town when they met a French soldier mounted on a horse.
“He was unsteady in the saddle as though he had been drinking,” Smith wrote. “As he passed us he waved his hand and called out to us ‘Le guerre est finie!’ (‘The war is over!’) and rushed on.”
A few minutes later, a group of officers wearing “service hats” instructed the soldiers to do the same. “You can wear your service cap now. The war is over,” a Maj. Stephens told the group.
While absorbing the news, Smith was assigned to see to the burial of an American soldier recently killed in action, which he did.
“In this manner we learned of the armistice,” Smith wrote. “Men were skeptical about an armistice. Rumor and hearsay had been so bounteous that men could not believe. The news was too good to be true.”
Smith’s wartime service is one of many interesting Latter-day Saint connections to World War I that people can learn more about while attending the Saints at War Conference at Brigham Young University on Saturday, Nov. 10, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Robert C. Freeman, director of the Saints at War project and a professor at BYU, said this conference is for everyone, especially veterans and their families.
“We want those who are interested in military history and service to God and country to come,” Freeman said. “I never served in the military, but I have such great admiration for those who have. It’s just a way for us all to show we haven’t forgotten them or the price they paid. It’s a way to express gratitude for freedom and to honor the sacrifice of those who have gone before us and who guard our liberties today.”
The conference will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Great War and honor the military service of all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Elder Bruce A. Carlson, an emeritus general authority and retired four-star general in the Air Force, will be the keynote speaker at the event, which will be held in the BYU Conference Center. Other speakers include Kenneth Alford, Sherman Fleek and Andrew Skinner.
After a lunch break, a final session will feature a premiere screening of a new documentary, “Saints at War: World War I.”
In timing with the conference, a new book titled, “Saints at War: World War I,” co-authored by Freeman and Skinner, was released this fall. The volume documents the accounts of Latter-day Saint soldiers who served in the war and included some never-before-published photos.
Freeman and Skinner worked together on the book for seven years. One motivating factor was knowing Skinner’s father served in World War I, a reminder that the Great War was not that long ago, Freeman said.
“Any competent historian will tell you that some of the current world struggles of today have roots in that period. So it’s important to understand the conflict and the times that those soldiers and civilians lived through. It’s still relevant today,” Freeman said. “I sometimes picture in my mind some veteran who has long since passed from mortality and from whatever war whispering from beyond the veil ‘thanks for remembering us.’ That’s what we do.”
The book gives many facts about the church and its connections to the war.
Approximately 25,000 Latter-day Saints served in the American forces during World War I, and of that number, about 700 perished.
Among those who served were several future general authorities, including Hugh B. Brown, William J. Critchlow, Delbert L. Stapley and S. Dilworth Young.
The book has a chapter featuring glimpses of the home front and the journal of James E. Talmage, who served in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
In addition to Calvin Smith, B.H. Roberts, another general authority, and Herbert B. Maw served as chaplains.
Another Latter-day Saint, Pvt. Thomas C. Neibaur, of Sugar City, Idaho, became the first church member to be awarded the Medal of Honor. His unit, the Rainbow Division, faced some of the most brutal fighting of the war in France.
It’s estimated that several hundred German Saints served their country in the war and about 75 died. Other countries, including Canada, New Zealand and Australia, also had Latter-day Saints in their ranks.
“World War I was a terrible conflict. Those who fought abroad and their families who endured it on the home front experienced hard things,” Freeman said. “They fought for freedom and they deserve to be remembered. They have an amazing legacy — they were in fact another ‘Greatest Generation.’ That’s who we are honoring.”
To learn more or register for the conference, visit saintsatwar.com or call 801-422-8925.
If you go …
What: Saints at War Conference — the Great War: World War I
When: Saturday, Nov. 10, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where: Brigham Young University, Conference Center, Provo
Note: To register, saintsatwar.com or call 801-422-8925
We have a wonderful opportunity this year to learn a little more about our wonderful ancestor, Joseph F. Smith. This year marks One Hundred Years since he received the revelation which became D&C 138. In addition, it has been One Hundred Years since he passed away. Please join us for a program celebrating what a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, and man he was. He was very loving and kind, and he so enjoyed his posterity.
Don’t miss our annual Reunion & birthday celebration FHE:
Monday, November 12, 2018
At the Monument Park Stake Center (1320 East Wasatch Drive)
Registration begins at 6:30 PM
Program starts promptly at 7:00 PM
As always, we will honor our 8- and 12-year-old family members. They will be singing “We’ll Bring the World His Truth,” so remember to practice if you can. The children’s program for children ages 3-7 will be held in the Primary area of the building. In addition, there will be a program for children ages 8-12, which will be held after the 8- and 12-year=olds have sung and been honored. They will be dismissed from the general meeting. Light refreshments will also be served following the program.
Please make plans to attend the Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family Reunion in 2020. It will be held in Palmyra New York. For questions, contact Steve Orton, firstname.lastname@example.org or Frances Orton, email@example.com.
Please make a family donation so our reunion can continue to be an annual event. To make the reunion happen we research family names and addresses and send out nearly 5000 invitations each year. The money covers postage, refreshments, website domain renewal, sharing family history research, etc. Suggested donation is $15-50 per household. You can make your donation at the reunion or through the website http://josephfsmith.org/. Thank you for your contributions!
We hope you will be active participants in carrying on the Smith Family legacy by attending the reunion, helping to keep our family connected, by reporting to data stewards, and perhaps volunteering to serve on a committee.
Andrea Patrick Black
2018 Reunion Committee Chairman
We have a great program this year. Some wonderful Hawaiian saints, who “want to honor your Grandfather and his descendants for his lifelong efforts for the people of Hawaii”, are coming all the way from Hawaii to do just that! Shannon and Kimo Kanekoa who run an LDS Historical Tours business on Maui and are faithful members of the LDS Church, thanks to Joseph F. Smith and others, have much to share in honor of our ancestor. They will talk about ancient Hawaiian religious traditions that correlate with the restored gospel. They will provide insights about the Iosepa (Joseph) colony in Skull Valley that Joseph F. Smith started and where descendants of those early Hawaiians still meet for “spirit-filled reunions”. We will hear about the Authentic Hawaiian Voyaging Canoe, built at BYU-Hawaii, and is named for Joseph F. (another Iosepa). We will hear from a young Hawaiian whose name means “The Keeper of the Record” after his great-great-grandfather, along with some Hawaiian genealogy of those who were first converted to the gospel by Joseph F. and those who accompanied him. The Kanekoas have arranged for the Utah Polynesian Choir to sing for us as well – in Hawaiian and English. Perhaps you thought you knew all about Joseph’s visits to Hawaii. Come and see if you can learn something new and amazing!
Don’t miss this reunion/birthday celebration/Family Home Evening! It will be on:
Monday, November 13, 2017
At the Monument Park Stake Center (1320 East Wasatch Drive)
Registration begins at 6:30 PM. Program will start promptly at 7:00 PM.
As always, we will honor our 8- and 12-year-old family members. They will be singing “We’ll Bring the World His Truth,” so remember to practice a little. The children’s program, for children ages 3-7, will be held in the Primary area of the building. Light refreshments will be served following the program.
Some family members have expressed an interest in a program for children older than our 3- to7-year-old group. If you have ideas for such a program, or would be interested in helping, please send your ideas to Julie Goodro, firstname.lastname@example.org As Vivian McConkie, our Educational Outreach officer says, “I absolutely believe that the youth are the most important members of the family and that it is more important to reach them than anyone!”
For next year’s program, we are requesting any stories about Papa that you might have heard from your grandparents, parents, etc. Email the stories ASAP to Andrea Black, email@example.com. Thank you!
Upcoming Joseph Smith, Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Family Reunions
August 2-5, 2018 – in Salt Lake City, Utah
August 6-9, 2020 – in Palmyra, New York
Please make a family donation so our reunion can continue to be an annual event. To make the reunion happen we research family names and addresses and send out nearly 5000 invitations each year. The money covers postage, refreshments, website domain renewal, sharing family history research, etc. Suggested donation is $10-$50 per household. You can make your donation at the reunion or through the website http://josephfsmith.org/. Last year, sadly, we did not receive enough to cover reunion expenses. Thank you for your contributions!
We hope you will be active participants in carrying on the Smith Family legacy by attending the reunion, helping to keep our family connected, by reporting updates to Data Stewards, and perhaps volunteering to help on a committee.
Julie Nichols Goodro
2017 Committee Chairman