Frank Warren Smith (1863-1946) was a native of Pennsylvania. He was a scientist, having earned a Master’s degree in chemistry from Harvard, followed by additional study in France and Germany. He authored several works on chemistry – at least one of which was a standard textbook at Harvard – and he amassed a large collection of scientific books, primarily chemistry, which he donated to Brigham Young University after he was converted to the Church.
F.W. Smith’s health – both mental and physical – was always somewhat fragile. Seeking a warm climate and privacy, he settled in Sinaloa, Mexico, in 1915, where he lived more or less as a hermit. He studied native plants, raised an extraordinary garden, specializing in exotic fruits, and, with his knowledge of chemistry, informally doctored his Mexican neighbors. Once in Mexico, he had little direct contact with the Church but faithfully paid his tithing by checks through the mail. Despite the poverty that came with his self-sufficient but low-income desert lifestyle, he somehow managed to travel occasionally – to Salt Lake, to Pennsylvania, to Italy, to England. He planned other trips that never came to be, when his nerves and breathing difficulties kept him at home in Mexico.
He carried on long correspondence (long letters, over long periods) with a few friends who appreciated or at least tolerated his quirky, sometimes incomprehensible rambling letters. On other occasions, his letters are completely lucid – any difficulty in understanding him then is due to obscure allusions, sophisticated topics, and complex sentence structure.