Joseph F. Smith (1838–1918) was the sixth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from October 17, 1901 to November 19, 1918. On January 5, 1923, some four years after Joseph F. Smith’s death, a Latter-day Saint named Joseph Bailey Smith (1870–1944), grandson of Joseph Smith’s younger brother Samuel H. Smith (1808–1844), wrote a letter to his son, Joseph Byron Smith (1906–1997).1 A copy of this letter is housed in the Church History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The part of this letter that is especially interesting to me comes at the very end.
My Son Joseph you are all I have from Effie [Field Howell]2 that will listen an not always make one feel bad I love you more than I can tell and my first blessing go to you, you will build the Lord work as did Samuel H Smith you shall have part in the construction of many Wards. You was bless by Joseph F. Smith. Prophet of the church, and when You and were in his office YOU was part of a REVELATION given when I spoke that it has to bad that the Abraham papyraham were burnt in the Chicago fire Joseph F. Smith put his hans to his face and said Bro Joseph they are not gon and before your son is 63 years old they will be in the hands of the Church. You will live to see this and you will know the truth. I have not seen Young <Joseph> tell truth.
The “Young Joseph” mentioned at the end of this letter appears to be Joseph Smith III (1832–1914), who earlier in the letter Joseph Bailey mentions by name as “Joseph the 3rd.” It appears that Joseph Byron had questions about his late relative David H. Smith (1844–1904) and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In response, Joseph Bailey told his son what he knew about that branch of the Smith family and, it appears, attempted to in some manner dissuade him from accepting Joseph Smith III’s claims to being a prophet. This he did by telling his son about a prophecy Joseph F. Smith gave as part of a blessing to Joseph Byron sometime between 1906 (when Joseph Byron was born) and 1918 (when Joseph F. Smith died). In it, Joseph F. Smith predicted that before Joseph Byron was 63 years old the Joseph Smith Papyri, once thought to be totally lost to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, would be returned to the Church. “You will live to see this and you will know the truth,” Joseph Bailey assured his son.
Sure enough, on November 27, 1967, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City returned the surviving fragments of the Joseph Smith Papyri to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph Byron Smith, who was born December 1, 1906, was just a few days shy of his sixty-first birthday at the time.
Joseph F. Smith’s prophecy about the return of the papyri to the Church, uttered six decades earlier, was fulfilled to the letter.