Question: George A. Smith is mentioned in D&C 124:129; 136:14. How was he related to the Prophet Joseph Smith? Was there a town in Utah named after him?
Answer: George A. Smith was born 26 June 1817 in Lawrence County, New York, son of John Smith and Clarisa Loomis Lyman. His father was a brother to Joseph Smith Sr. so he was a first cousin to the Prophet Joseph. When he was nine years old, he sustained a severe blow to the head that was diagnosed as a skull fracture. A group of physicians determined that surgery was necessary. Due to George’s father’s faith, however, he dismissed the physicians, and within weeks, George’s health was restored.
In August 1830, his uncle Joseph Smith Sr. and cousin Don Carlos brought a Book of Mormon to his home. After reading this book, George was baptized on 10 September 1832. In 1833 he moved with his family from New York to Kirtland, Ohio, where, as a young man, he was on hand for any duty required of him. At age sixteen, he volunteered to march the 2000 miles with Zion’s Camp and served as the armor bearer and personal guard for the Prophet Joseph.
His mission call came soon after he returned from Zion’s Camp. George journeyed 1,850 miles on foot, held seventy-five meetings and baptized eight persons on his first mission. After he returned to Kirtland, he became afflicted with inflammatory rheumatism and grew discouraged. The prophet Joseph admonished him, “You should never get discouraged, whatever your difficulties may be . . . hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage…”
George’s second mission call was to the southern states, where he met a young lady by the name of Bathsheba Bigler, whom he courted through letters for the next few years. Returning from his mission, he joined the Saints in Missouri and endured with them abuse, religious bigotry, and mobocracy. It was while in Missouri that he received his call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
As a member of the Twelve, he desired to join his brethren in their missionary labors in England. George’s poor health forced him to stop at the Prophet’s home to rest. Since George was determined to go to England, Father Smith gave him a blessing promising him his health would be restored, and he would go to England. George did go to England and served a faithful mission, baptizing many.
When George returned to Nauvoo, he married Bathsheba Bigler. After the Martyrdom, George continued his faithful service. He helped complete the Nauvoo Temple. He joined Brigham Young in the vanguard company traveling to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. George returned to Winter Quarters to guide other Saints as they migrated to the Salt Lake Valley. He was then given the responsibility for the settlement in southern Utah. St. George may have been named in his honor.
In the winter of 1850, Smith led a company of 118 volunteers and about 30 families to establish a colony near the Little Salt Lake in Iron County. They arrived at Center Creek, 265 miles from Salt Lake City, on January 13, 1851. Under direction from the General Assembly of the State of Deseret, the group organized the political entity of Iron County and elected George A. Smith as chief justice. During the winter of 1850–-51, the settlers constructed a fort enclosing homes, a meeting house, a school, and a watch tower. They named their community Parowan. Smith taught school during the first winter, and later served as a member of Utah’s territorial legislature.
George later served as historian and general Church recorder. From 1868 to 1875, George served as First Counselor in the Presidency. One assignment he fulfilled was to rededicate the Holy Land, which he did standing on the Mount of Olives. From there he went to England and then back to the United States. When he returned, George was suffering from a lung ailment and died on 1 September 1875 at the age of fifty-eight. President Young wrote, “He has gone with as good a record, I believe, as any man who ever lived upon this earth.”
His wife Bathsheba, was only nineteen and the youngest member of the Relief Society in Nauvoo when it was organized. Later, in 1901 after the death of George A., she would become the fourth General Relief Society President until her death in 1910.
George A. Smith and his wife are buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Source: Who’s Who in the Doctrine & Covenants by Susan Easton Black
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