The Joseph F. Smith Building was completed in 2005. It replaced the Joseph F. Smith Family Living Center which had housed the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, a School of Nursing, and the Departments of Sociology and Psychology. The new building includes 27 classrooms, 401 faculty and administrative offices, a large auditorium, a theater, and a three-level underground parking lot. It is more than double the square footage of the Family Living Center and takes up less space on BYU’s campus. The College of Humanities and the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences now share the building.
Architects were asked to focus on natural light as they designed the building. Van C. Gessel, Dean of the College of Humanities when the building was completed, said “The architectural concept emphasizes light as the source of any kind of knowledge and learning. Education at BYU is very much about the light that comes from the Spirit.” In order to allow as much light as possible to enter the building, it features a large courtyard with windows into faculty offices and hallways. The east side of the building features a large glass façade that reflects the image of the mountains while providing natural light for the building’s Education in Zion exhibit.
The Education in Zion exhibit was opened as a permanent exhibition in 2008. Original curator Dr. C. Terry Warner, professor emeritus of Philosophy, featured the stories of BYU’s educational pioneers. The exhibit was refreshed in 2018 by curator Heather Seferovich, who changed the focus of the exhibit and renamed it Education for Eternity. The exhibit now elaborates on BYU’s aims for education and the cycle of study, experience, and spiritual revelation.
Like its predecessor, the building was named for Joseph F. Smith, former President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1901-1918. President Smith had established the seminary program and standardized courses for Church auxiliaries. He encouraged Church members to become educated “not only for time but also for eternity.” At the dedication of the building, Church President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “To provide this kind of education the Church maintains this university with a great infusion of its resources. It demonstrates to all the world that the acquisition of secular knowledge is important, but just as important is the acquisition of spiritual truth.”