George Albert Smith (Prophet)
George Albert Smith was born on April 4, 1870 in Salt Lake City, Utah, to John Henry Smith and Sarah Farr. His grandfather, George A. Smith, was an apostle and counselor to President Brigham Young, and his father, John Henry Smith, was an apostle and counselor to President Joseph F. Smith. When he was five years old he had the opportunity to meet Brigham Young. Arthur R. Bassett recorded his experience this way:
- President Smith had learned early in life that great men always make time for those in need. When only five years of age, his mother had dressed him up in his little black velvet suit and sent him to see Brigham Young. He carried a letter asking some assistance from President Young in getting some railroad tickets to go to Ogden. Sister Smith’s husband was in the mission field in Great Britain and she was too poor to acquire the tickets herself.
- Little George walked the two blocks to President Young’s office and pushed open the huge timber gate in the wall that then surrounded the headquarters of the Church. As the massive gate swung back on its heavy iron hinges, the little boy found himself face to face with a rather large Scot, named John Smith, who demanded of the boy, “What do you want?” Frightened to death George answered, “I want to see President Young,” to which the Scot bellowed back, “President Young has no time for the likes of ye.” According to President Smith’s own account he was by now nearly ready to faint, but just then the door of the office opened and President Young walked out and asked:
- “‘What’s wanted, John?’ John replied, ‘Here is a little fellow wants to see President Young,’ and then he roared with laughter. He thought it was a good joke. But with all the dignity in the world, President Young said to him, ‘John, show him in.’ “There was nothing else the guard could do then but to let me in and he took me up to the porch where President Young was standing, ...
- “President Young took me by the hand and led me into his office, sat down at his desk and lifted me up on his knee and put his arm around me. In the kindest way one could imagine, he said, ‘What do you want of President Young?’ Just think of it! He was President of a great Church and Governor of a Territory, and with all the duties he had to perform, yet I as a little boy was received with as much dignity, and kindness as if I had come as a governor from an adjoining state.”
- Imagine the image the future prophet of the Lord, George Albert Smith, had of President Young as he, a little boy, walked away from his office. In his adult life he never forgot that lesson and was always conscious of people who easily could have been passed by as insignificant to others. (Arthur R. Bassett, “George Albert Smith: On Reaching Out to Others,” New Era, Jan. 1972, 50)
George Albert Smith attended high school at Brigham Young Academy and then studied law for a year at the University of Deseret. As a young man, he surveyed for the railroad and his vision was permanently damaged from the glare of the sun. Also as a young man, he served two missions. The first was to work with youth in southern Utah. He was called on his second mission just a week after he married Lucy Emily Woodruff in May of 1892. She joined him in the Southern States Mission; their mission president was J. Golden Kimball. After their mission ended in June 1894, the Smiths settled in Salt Lake City and raised three children.
In life outside of the Church, George Albert Smith became president of the Sons of the American Revolution, was awarded the highest award in Scouting, served on the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America, and was the president of the International Irrigation and Farm Congress.
In 1903 George Albert Smith (at the age of 33) was ordained to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. His father was already serving as an Apostle. They served in the Quorum together between 1903 and 1910. As an apostle, George Albert Smith served as European Mission president from 1919 to 1921, and on his return from Europe he became YMMIA general president. On May 21, 1945, he was sustained as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was the only president of the Church to serve as a widower. His wife, Lucy, had died in November 1937 and he never remarried. Although not well known, he also suffered from depression, anxiety, and an autoimmune disease.
As president of the Church, George Albert Smith conducted numerous welfare operations for those who were suffering from the effects of World War II. He also oversaw an increase in missionary work and construction of buildings for the increasing members of the Church. George Albert Smith died on April 4, 1951, from the effects of a stroke he had suffered in March.
Quotes from President George Albert Smith
- "Brethren and sisters, let us go to our homes. If our houses are not in order, let us set them in order. Let us renew our determination to honor God and keep His commandments, to love one another, to make our homes the abiding place of peace. Each of us can contribute to that in the homes in which we live."
- Conference Report, Apr. 1950
- "The Prophet Amos said: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7.) I know of nothing of great importance that has happened in the world that the Lord through his prophets has not advised the people of beforehand so that they have not been left in ignorance of what was to develop but could plan their lives, if they would, to their advantage."
- “Origin of Man and Prophecy Fulfilled,” reprinted in Tambuli, Jan. 1980
- "I cannot understand how people can be other than happy under all these circumstances. Think of our opportunities. There is not a desirable blessing, and all blessings are desirable, that we may wish to have that we may not enjoy if we are faithful to God and honor our membership in His Church. He has promised us that all things will come to us if we are righteous."
- Conference Report, Apr. 1950
- "Think of the devotion and the faithfulness of those who day after day go into these temples and officiate for those who have passed to the other side; and know this, that those who are on the other side are just as anxious about us. They are praying for us and for our success. They are pleading, in their own way, for their descendants, for their posterity who live upon the earth, many of whom, because they have been unwise, have been betrayed into fighting the Church and kingdom of God and opposing those who are its leaders."
- Conference Report, April 1937 (as quoted in The Teachings of George Albert Smith edited by Robert and Susan McIntosh, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996, page 27).
See also Quotes from the Prophets