The Restoration of Christ's Church


Hey guys. George Albert Smith was the 8th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You’ve probably heard his name. You’ve probably seen his face. But you probably know next to nothing about the guy other than the fact that he had a sweet goatee and a lazy eye. In this video, we’re going to get a bit deeper and look at why George was one of the most unique leaders in Latter-day Saint history an absolute boss. Let’s do it.

George Albert Smith was born in Salt Lake City on April 4th, 1870. He came from a long line of Church leadership. His great-grandfather was Joseph Smith’s uncle, John Smith. His grandfather was a prominent leader, and his namesake George A. Smith. His parents were Sarah Farr Smith and John Henry Smith—John became an apostle when George was 10 years old. 

George was one of 11 siblings, 8 of whom lived past infancy. He was baptized in City Creek Canyon. As a young man, he was known as somewhat of a comedian who liked to play his guitar and sing funny songs. While still young, he worked at ZCMI making overalls and boxes. Later, he became a salesman, worked on the railroad, and ultimately worked for the U.S. Land Office, among other business ventures. He was a student both at Brigham Young Academy (now Brigham Young University) and later at the University of Deseret (now the University of Utah). 

While working for the railroad as a teenager, the glare of the desert sun permanently damaged his eyesight, but his turned eye most likely came as a result of an unspecified injury in early 1900. In some post-accident photographs, you can see attempts to correct how his eye looks.

At 22 years old, he married his childhood friend, Lucy Emily Woodruff, in the Manti temple. She was the granddaughter of the 4th president of the Church, Wilford Woodruff. Just weeks after getting married, George was called to serve a mission in the Southern States — a rather dangerous place for Latter-day Saints at the time. After a few months of service, George’s wife joined him as a missionary, and they served under the legendary President J. Golden Kimball until June of 1894. George and Lucy eventually had 3 children together. 

At only 13 years old, he received an interesting blessing from the Church patriarch, Zebedee Coltrin. The blessing stated that George would “become a mighty prophet in the midst of the sons of Zion…. A mighty apostle in the Church and kingdom of God upon the earth….” And indeed, at 33 years old, George was called to be an apostle during the October 1903 general conference. George actually missed that session of conference and hadn’t been forewarned about the calling, so he heard the news from friends and neighbors who came to his house after the conference. “Bit of a nasty shock for him when he found out.”

Now, George’s father, John, was an apostle at the time, and both John and George were staunchly against nepotism. After his call had been confirmed, George went looking for his dad, whose first words to his son were, “George, I didn’t have anything to do with it.” Soon after his call, he wrote down this really quite inspiring personal creed in his journal, which you can pause and read. He served in the Quorum of the Twelve for 42 years. For about 8 of those years, he served at the same time as his father. George became the president of the Church in May of 1945, after the death of President Heber J. Grant, just at the tail-end of WWII.

Firehose of fun facts for ya: George served as the president of the European Mission in 1921 while still an apostle. Later, he organized the Church’s humanitarian response to Europe after World War II, with some help from President Harry Truman. George was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in 1947. He supervised the publication of the Book of Mormon in Braille. As president, he emphasized bringing the gospel to the Native Americans. He was a big supporter of the Boy Scouts organization and helped adopt it as a church program in 1913. This is where he lived in Salt Lake City on Yale Avenue. In addition to his regular church service, George was also involved in a shocking number of other organizations. He was also the president of the Church when general conference was first televised in 1949.

I found this one fascinating: In 1936, about ⅓ of all Latter-day Saints in Mexico joined an unauthorized split-off group known as the Third Convention. This group taught Latter-day Saint beliefs but had separated from the main church because they wanted mission presidents in Mexico to be native Mexicans who could better understand and meet their needs instead of Americans. Long story short, in 1946, President George Albert Smith helped smooth things over and bring most Third Conventionists back into the Church. 

Not so fun fact: George’s life was hugely impacted by poor mental and physical health challenges. “George Albert was tall, thin, and nervous, could not keep weight on, and experienced recurrent and extreme fatigue.” One grandchild suggested that “his grandfather struggled with depression, feeling incompetent, and being overwhelmed.” Physical, mental, and emotional anxieties resulted in a massive breakdown between 1909 and 1912. During those years, he spent time trying to get well on the California coast; He spent 6 months in St. George, where he hardly left his bed; He even spent five weeks at a sanatorium in Salt Lake. At his lowest point, “the frail apostle asked his wife, Lucy, to join him in praying for restoration or for release from mortal life, if that were God’s will.” His wife wrote that this surrender to God was the turning point for him, and he slowly “recuperated from his long illness from this time on.” 

The road to recovery was long, and George still suffered periodically throughout the rest of his life, but he was able to return to his duties as an apostle and later president of the Church. George died on his birthday, April 4, 1951, at 81 years old. He seemed like he was a sincerely humble, gentle, compassionate, and sensitive guy. Sometimes, his desire to diligently serve simply outpaced his body’s ability to do so. Bryant Hinckley summed up his character well when he wrote, “His religion is not doctrine in cold storage. It is not theory…It is more than a philosophy of life. To one of his practical turn of mind, religion is the spirit in which a man lives, in which he does things, if it be only to say a kind word or give a cup of cold water.” Check out this video if you want to learn more about Latter-day Saint prophets. Have a great day!

TikTok Snippet: As Latter-day Saints, we often talk a lot about the first prophet of our dispensation, Joseph Smith, and the current prophet, Russell M. Nelson. But there have been some amazing presidents of the Church between those two that we sometimes gloss over. One of them is the eighth president of the Church, George Albert Smith. President Smith was a unique guy who, unfortunately, suffered greatly from physical, emotional, and mental difficulties during his time as an apostle and president of the Church. Frankly, he sometimes worked harder than his body was able to endure. At the same time, he was extremely compassionate, humble, and absolutely dedicated to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Go watch the full episode to learn more about this guy.  


Learning More:

— “The Life and Ministry of George Albert Smith,” via the Church’s website: 

— “The Presidents of the Church: Biographical Essays,” by Merlo Pusey (George Albert Smith chapter begins on pg. 251): 

— “Chapter 8: George Albert Smith” in Presidents of the Church Student Manual (Institute): 

— “Mormon History: LDS (Mormon) Prophet George Albert Smith 1/2,” via YouTube (I think this is an old Church publication republished on this non-official channel): 

— “Mormon History: LDS (Mormon) Prophet George Albert Smith 2/2,” via YouTube: 

— “Third Convention” via the Church’s website: 

— “’Cheat the Asylum of a Victim’: George Albert Smith’s 1909—12 Breakdown,” by Mary Jane Woodger in Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Fall 2008), pp. 113-152: 

— “George Albert Smith: Prophets of the Restoration,” via the Church’s website: 

— “Prophet Portrait: George Albert Smith,” via the Church’s website: 

— “George Albert Smith,” in Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation, by Lawrence R. Flake (online at BYU RSC): 

— “Greatness in Men: Superintendent George Albert Smith,” by Bryant S. Hinckley in Improvement Era, March 1932, No. 5, pgs. 269-272, 295-296: 

— Here’s a picture of George & Lucy’s Salt Lake City home (coincidentally only a short walk from where my grandmother currently lives, which I suppose isn’t going to mean anything to anyone but me): 

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