George Albert Smith (Prophet)

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President George Albert Smith was ordained as the eighth President of the Church on May 14, 1945. He was known for his love and genuine concern for others.

George Albert Smith[1] was born on April 4, 1870 in Salt Lake City, Utah. 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)

As a young man, George Albert Smith 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. After their mission 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, 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 an Apostle. His father was already serving as an Apostle. As an apostle, he 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.

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.

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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

See also Quotes from the Prophets

Presidents of the Mormon Church
Joseph Smith | Brigham Young | John Taylor | Wilford Woodruff | Lorenzo Snow | Joseph F. Smith | Heber J. Grant | George Albert Smith | David O. McKay | Joseph Fielding Smith | Harold B. Lee | Spencer W. Kimball | Ezra Taft Benson | Howard W. Hunter | Gordon B. Hinckley | Thomas S. Monson | Russell M. Nelson

An excerpt from History of Salt Lake City, 1886, by Edward William Tullidge (p. 35–36).

George A. Smith.
George Albert Smith was born in the town of Potsdam, St. Lawrence County, New York, on the 26th day of June, 1817. It may be claimed for him that he was of purely American descent, for his American-born ancestry date back to 1666. On the maternal side he was descended from the Lymans, a family of patriotic revolutionary record; and on the paternal side he was cousin to Joseph Smith the Prophet.
His cousin Joseph's seership was first brought to his attention in 1828, by a letter written to his grandfather by Joseph Smith, sen., in which was recounted several visions that the writer's son had received; and also in which letter was the remark: "I always knew that God was going to raise up some branch of my family to be a great benefit to mankind."
A subsequent letter from Joseph himself, in which he declared that the sword of the Almighty hung over that generation, and could only be averted by repentance and works of righteousness, made a profound impression upon the mind of George A., and elicited from his father the declaration that "Joseph wrote like a prophet." An investigation of the Book of Mormon resulted in the conversion of his parents, and the consequent bigoted opposition of their neighbors. One of these, an influential and wealthy man offered young Smith,—if he would leave his parents and promise never to become a Mormon,—a seven years' education, without expense, and a choice of profession when his education should be complete. His answer was worthy an everlasting record: "The commandment of God requires me to honor my father and mother." He did so honor them as to fully embrace their faith, and was baptized in their presence, September 10th, 1832. Concerning events immediately following, his journal states:
"My father sold his farm in Potsdam, and on the 21st of May, 1833, we started for Kirtland, Ohio, the second gathering place of the Saints, where we arrived on the 25th, having traveled 500 miles. We were heartily welcomed by cousin Joseph. This was the first time I had ever seen him; he conducted us to his father's house.
"I was engaged during the summer and fall in quarrying and hauling rock for the Kirtland temple, attending masons, and performing other duties about its walls. The first two loads of rock taken to the temple ground were hauled from Standard's quarry by Harvey Stanley and myself.
"In consequence of the persecution which raged against Joseph, and the constant threats to do him violence, it was found necessary to keep continued guard, to prevent his being assassinated. During the fall and winter I took part in this service, going two miles and a half to guard."
Although but seventeen years of age, he was a member of the company that went up to "redeem Zion" in Jackson County, Mo. He started with "Zion's Camp," May 5th, 1834, and returned on the 4th of August, of the same year, having traveled about 2,000 miles in three months, mostly on foot.
On the 1st of March, 1835, he was ordained a member of the first quorum of seventies, and on the 5th day of May, following, in company with Lyman Smith, started on a mission through Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. They returned in November, having traveled 1,850 miles on foot, without purse of scrip, holding numerous meetings, and making several converts.
From this time forward his life was a series of missions, and adventures incident thereto, up to April, 1839, when he was ordained one of the Twelve apostles, on the corner-stone of the temple, at Far West.
He was a member of the quorum of the Twelve who went on a mission to England in 1839-40, traveling and preaching in the counties of Lancaster, Chester, Stafford, Hereford, Worcester, and Gloucester, and preaching the first Mormon sermon in London.
Soon after his return, in 1841, he was married to Miss Bethsheba W. Bigler, and after a temporary settlement in Zarahemla, Iowa, became a resident of Nauvoo. He was thereafter engaged in mission work in various States until recalled, in 1844, by the martyrdom of the Prophet.
He was with the Twelve in their exodus from Nauvoo, and with the Pioneers in their journey from Winter Quarters to the Rocky Mountains. He planted the first potato that was put into the ground in Salt Lake Valley, and to the day of his death was permanently identified with the various projects for settling and redeeming the valleys of Deseret.
When the Provisional government of the State of Deseret was erected, he was chosen a member of the State Senate, and at that early date presented a bill concerning the construction of a national railroad across the continent.
In speaking of his mission to Jerusalem, which, in company with Lorenzo Snow, Albert Carrington, Feramorz Little, and others, he accomplished in 1873, it will be necessary to explain that one of the most peculiar and characteristic phases of the Mormon religion is the linking of the destiny of this modern Israel, raised up by Joseph Smith, with the destiny of ancient Israel. The Jews of course are the proper representatives of the former, the Mormons of the latter.
As observed elsewhere, the Mormons themselves are supposed to be the literal seed of Abraham "Mixed with the Gentiles," but now "in these last days" gathered by the mysterious providence of the House of Israel into the "new and everlasting covenant."
In 1840, Apostle Orson Hyde performed the first mission to Jerusalem, and thirty-two years later this second mission was appointed. Here is the commission:
"SALT LAKE CITY, U. T., October 15, 1872.
"Prest. G. A. SMITH:
"Dear Bro:—As you are about to start on an extensive tour through Europe and Asia Minor, where you will doubtless be brought in contact with men of position and influence in society, we desire that you observe closely what openings now exist, or where they may be effected, for the introduction of the gospel into the various countries you shall visit.
"When you go to the land of Pale tine, we wish you to dedicate and consecrate that land to the Lord, that it may be blessed with fruitfulness preparatory to the return of the Jews in fulfillment of prophecy and the accomplishment of the purposes of our Heavenly Father.
"We pray that you may be preserved to travel in peace and safety; that you may be abundantly blessed with words of wisdom and free utterance in all your conversations pertaining to the holy gospel, dispelling prejudice and sowing seeds of righteousness among the people.
"Brigham Young,
"Daniel H. Wells,"
These missionaries from the modern to the ancient Zion, visiting the President of the United States and President Thiers of France on their way, reached Palestine in March, 1873. they visited the most famous places of Bible mention, and also the places made famous by the exploits of the crusaders. The Jerusalem missionaries returned to Utah in July, 1873.
Upon the death of Heber C. Kimball, the elevation of George A. Smith to the second place in the Mormon Church, thus made vacant, was pronounced by the people of his faith an honor worthily bestowed.
The construction of the temple at St. George furnished the occasion for this apostle to unite with Brigham Young in the administration of ordinances in "high places," thus fitly crowning the labors of his life. On his tablet might thereafter be written, "It is finished."
Shortly after his return from St. George he was prostrated with a sickness which finally resulted in his death, September 1st, 1875. Although, mortally considered, he has passed away, in the hearts of the Mormon people George A. Smith will never die.