George Albert Smith was born in Salt Lake City on 4 April 1870, the son of John Henry Smith and Sarah Farr Smith. His father served as an LDS apostle from 1880 to 1911, and his grandfather, for whom he was named, was also an LDS apostle, from 1839 to 1875, as well as first counselor to Mormon Church President Brigham Young.
George Albert attended Brigham Young Academy and the University of Deseret, was a sergeant in the Utah National Guard, worked for ZCMI as a salesman, and was a surveyor for the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. While working in the latter capacity, he suffered a permanent injury to his eyesight. He married Lucy Emily Woodruff in 1892; she bore him three children.
Active in the LDS Church, Smith was an officer of the Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association for most of his life and served three proselyting missions. He supported William McKinley for president in 1896 and was named by him to be receiver of public moneys and special disbursing agent for the U.S. Land Office in Utah.
In 1903, at the age of thirty-three, George Albert Smith was named to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church, in which capacity he worked with the YMMIA, with church missions, and with scouting, serving as a member of the executive board of the national council. He was also vice-president of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution and founding president of the Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association, and he helped organize the American Pioneer Trails Association. He was president of the International Irrigation and Dry Farm Congress in 1918, president for sixteen years of the Society for Aid to the Sightless, and in 1947 chairman of the state-sponsored commission that celebrated Utah's settlement centennial.
In 1945, George Albert Smith became eighth president of the LDS Church, and served until his death on 4 April 1951, at the age of eighty-one. As church president, he also was president of many church-controlled corporations: Beneficial Life Insurance Company, Utah Hotel Company, Utah Home Fire Insurance Company, Utah-Idaho Sugar Company, Utah First National Bank, Zion's Savings Bank and Trust, ZCMI, and Zions Securities Corporation. He was president of the Church Board of Education, which controlled LDS educational institutions, and was also editor of the church's official magazines. He expedited welfare shipments to Latter-day Saints in Europe at the end of World War II, supervised the reconciliation of 1,200 Latter-day Saints in Mexico who had formed a schismatic group, and expanded programs to help American Indians. A person of compassion, he worked especially in the interests of the youth of the church, the troubled, the poor, and the underprivileged.
See: Merlo J. Pusey, Builders of the Kingdom: George A. Smith, John Henry Smith, George Albert Smith (1981); and Pusey's chapter in Leonard J. Arrington, ed., The Presidents of the Church: Biographical Essays (1986).
Leonard J. Arrington