Eldred G. Smith, the oldest Mormon church general authority, has died at the age of 106.
Smith was also the longest serving member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). He served 32 years as “presiding patriarch” before he died in his Salt Lake City home on Thursday.
"Though I didn’t know him personally, Eldred Smith embodied the Mormon patriarchal ideal — that we are connected in our families going back through time — and brought it into the 20th century," said ordained LDS patriarch and historian Richard Bushman. "No one spoke as long and as effectively about Joseph Smith as Patriarch Smith. His passing will be a loss.
Smith, who had five children, leaves behind 24 grandchildren, 45 great-grandchildren and 19 great-great-grandchildren.
"The church lost a valued friend and respected leader with the passing of Patriarch Eldred G. Smith," the LDS said in a statement.
As church patriarch, Smith was considered "a prophet, seer and revelator" on the level of the LDS president and 12 apostles.
Great-grandson of Hyrum Smith, church founder Joseph Smith’s brother, he inherited the patriarchy from 1947 to 1979, when LDS leaders decided that a patriarch was not a necessary position in the church.
His eldest son, Gary Smith, said the church was not comfortable with an extra-apostolic office. "From the time of [the Smith brothers’] martyrdom in 1844 on," he said, "it was problematic for the church to have an inherited office."
After his time as patriarch, LDS made him an emeritus general authority.
Smith travelled to show other LDS groups church artifacts, including his ancestor Hyrum’s clothing, which he wore June 27, 1844 when he was killed -- along with his brother John Smith -- in the Illinois Carthage Jail where they awaited trial on charges of treason against the state.
The LDS statement said Eldred Smith "was a man who lived a Christ-centered life as he faithfully served as patriarch to the church. We pray for the Lord’s blessing to be upon his family at this tender time."