A biographical overview of the life of George Albert Smith,
the eighth President and Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ
Following is a brief summary of some major events in the life of George Albert Smith, the eighth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- George Albert Smith was born on April 4, 1870 in Salt Lake City, Utah to John Henry Smith and Sarah Farr Smith. He was the second son born to this
- He was baptized June 6, 1878 in City Creek, Salt Lake City, by James Moyle. He was confirmed by his father.
- He received his patriarchal blessing in 1882 (age 12). The blessing was given by Zebedee Coltrin. The blessing indicated that George Albert would someday be an apostle.
- George’s hobbies included playing the guitar, hiking, camping, and fishing.
- George recounted this moving story about a dream that he had as he was recovering from a long illness: “I thought I was on the shore of a lake and I found that I was alone. I saw a trail through the woods and concluded that I would follow it; soon I saw a man coming towards me. As he neared me I discovered that he was my grandfather [George Albert Smith]. As we met, he said, ‘I’d like to know what you have done with my name.’ ‘Grandfather,’ I answered, ‘I have never done anything with your name that you need to be ashamed of.’ I then became conscious, and I made up my mind that I would never do anything to
harm his good name.”
- In his teens, he attended the Brigham Young Academy in Provo, Utah. He also attended one year at the University of Utah, and then became employed as a salesman at ZCMI.
- In 1891, he was called by the First Presidency to help organize MIA groups in southern Utah.
- He married his childhood sweetheart, Lucy Emily Woodruff, on May 25, 1892 in the Manti Temple. He was 22 years old. Lucy was the granddaughter of Wilford Woodruff.
- He served a mission to the Southern States from 1892-1894 (age 22-24). He left for this mission just one week after his marriage. His wife Lucy was able to join him in the missionary service during the last year of this mission.
- In January of 1898 he was appointed the Receiver of the Land Office of Utah (age 27). He served in this position for 6 years.
- He was ordained an apostle on October 8, 1903 by Joseph F. Smith (age 33).
- On February 22, 1904, he was elected Chaplain in the local organization of the Sons of the American Revolution.
- On April 13, 1904, he was called as Superintendent of the Church YMMIA organization.
- In February of 1909 he contracted a serious illness which incapacitated him for over 2 years.
- In 1916 he served as Chairman and 2nd Vice-President of the International Irrigation Congress.
- In 1918 he was elected as President of the Utah Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
- He served as the president of the European Missions from 1919-1921 (age 49-51).
- In September of 1921 he was again called to be the Superintendent of the Church YMMIA organization.
- In 1923 he was elected as Vice-President General of the Sons of the American Revolution.
- On January 6, 1932 he received the Silver Beaver Award of the Boy Scouts of America.
- He served on the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America.
- In 1934, he received the Silver Buffalo Award, the highest award given to a scouter in the United States.
- His wife Lucy passed away on November 5, 1937.
- He served as President of the Quorum of the Twelve from July 8, 1943 to May 21, 1945.
- He was ordained as the eighth President of the Church on May 21, 1945. He selected as his counselors J. Reuben Clark and David O. McKay.
- He dedicated the Idaho Falls Temple on September 23, 1945.
- In 1945 he directed the sending of supplies, clothing, and food to the impoverished saints in Europe following World War II.
- On July 24, 1947, he dedicated the newly-completed ‘This Is The Place’ monument.
- George Albert Smith passed away on his 81st birthday, April 4, 1951 in Salt Lake City.
- President Smith developed a creed that included the following ideals: “I would be a friend to the friendless and find joy in ministering to the needs of the poor. I would not seek to force people to live up to my ideals but rather love them into doing the thing that is right. I would not knowingly wound the feeling of any, not even one who may have wronged me, but would seek to do him good and make him my friend. I would not be an enemy to any living soul.”
- President David O. McKay paid this beautiful tribute to President Smith: “Our beloved leader has lived as nearly as it is humanly possible for a man to live a Christ-like life. He found the answer to the yearning of the human heart: for fullness lies in living outside of oneself by love. President George Albert Smith
has proved the truth of Christ’s paradoxical saying, ‘He that will lose his life for my sake, shall find it…‘. “
- A friend of President George Albert Smith had often shared the sentiment that he could not understand the scripture which said, “God is love”. It was a concept he could not grasp. He said he could understand that God had love, or that God radiated love, or that God demonstrated love, but an understanding of the phrase ‘God is love’ eluded him. He said, however, that once he became associated with and a friend of Elder George Albert Smith, he from that time on understood exactly how God was indeed love, because he had then met a man who also “was love”, love personified, love epitomized, love shown.
- During the last few mortal days of President Smith, when it was clear that the end of his life was nearing, several close associates and family members asked him if he had any final counsel to offer. He said, “Yes, I do. I know that my Redeemer lives”. Some of those who heard his comment quietly remarked that that really wasn’t counsel, but a declaration, a testimony, a pronouncement. Then they began to realize that it was indeed counsel of the most profound type. President Smith was counseling that since he knew his Redeemer lived, they too could know, but it would require the same effort he had displayed to truly know his Redeemer.
- Upon the death of President George Albert Smith, all the church mourned. A few days after the death, the Smith family answered a knock at their door and saw their 8 year-old newspaper boy standing on their porch. The young boy said, tearfully, “I have lost my best friend. I am sure you are sad too. Is there anything I can do to help your family?” The Smith family, reflecting on what must have transpired between the beloved prophet and this young boy to cause him to say that he had lost his best friend, asked him to be a pallbearer at President Smith’s funeral.