Lesson 25: George Albert Smith: Responding to the Good

"Lesson 25: George Albert Smith: Responding to the Good," The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual, (1996)


Objective

To show that the blessings of the gospel are valuable to us only if we partake of them.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Prepare to bring individual pieces of any kind of fruit that the class might enjoy (also bring napkins and a plastic trash bag). Note: do not violate the fast if this lesson falls on fast Sunday.

  2. 2.

    Prepare to display the picture of George Albert Smith in the color section and the picture Christ and the Children (62467; Gospel Art Picture Kit 216) from the meetinghouse library.

  3. 3.

    Prepare four sheets of paper with the names John Smith, George A. Smith, John Henry Smith, and George Albert Smith written, one per page, at the bottom of the sheets of paper. Also, obtain something flat that each of the four class members participating can use in writing on the paper.

  4. 4.

    Prepare to give the winner or winners of the “Church leaders” activity a small reward.

  5. 5.

    Obtain pencils and paper for each class member.

  6. 6.

    See that each class member has a copy of the Bible and of the Book of Mormon.

Suggested Lesson Development

Introduction

Activity

Give each class member a piece of fruit and a napkin. Caution them to use the trash bag you have provided and extra napkins, if needed. (Do not violate the law of the fast if this lesson has fallen on fast Sunday.)

Scripture discussion

While you are enjoying the fruit, visualize in your mind the fruit of the tree that Lehi saw in his dream. (Read 1 Nephi 8:10–12, 17–18.)

  • How did Lehi describe the fruit? (“It was most sweet … and … was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen” [1 Nephi 8:11].)

  • How did the fruit make Lehi feel? (It gave him “great joy” [1 Nephi 8:12].)

  • Was the fruit available to everyone? (Yes.)

  • Did everyone come to eat of the fruit? (No, Laman and Lemuel and others did not come; see verses 17–18.)

  • Why didn’t they come? (Because they did not want or desire to come; see verse 18.)

  • What seems to be the most important factor determining whether or not we receive the blessings, or fruits, of the gospel? (Whether or not we desire to receive them.)

George Albert Smith Had Many Good Influences in His Life

Picture

Display the picture of President George Albert Smith.

George Albert Smith was thirty-three when he was sustained as an Apostle and became the President and prophet at age seventy-five. He learned from the good influences of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, who had all been great leaders in the Church.

Activity

Place four chairs in front of the class. Give four class members each a sheet of paper. One of the following names should be written at the bottom of each sheet: John Smith, George A. Smith, John Henry Smith, George Albert Smith. Also, give each of these four a pencil and something flat on which to place the paper to write. Introduce the four to the class as “visiting Church leaders.” Begin reading the descriptions that follow. As you come to the different leaders, tell the class member who has that name to take notes. He should write as many details as he can about the person he is representing.

After all of the descriptions are read, class members (who may also take notes) may question the person representing any of the Church leaders. For example, a class member might ask: “How old was George A. Smith when he was called to be an Apostle?” If someone asks a question that the class member representing a leader cannot answer, then the person asking the question will take that person’s place as the “visiting Church leader.” Any person who can answer all questions asked will retain his position of honor in front of the class throughout the lesson. All questions from the class must pertain to information given in the descriptions that are read, so both the “visiting leader” and class members must listen carefully.

  1. 1.

    John Smith: President George Albert Smith’s great-grandfather was John Smith, brother of Joseph Smith, Sr., and uncle of the Prophet Joseph. John Smith was called as the first stake president in the Salt Lake Valley and helped carry much of the leadership load during that first winter the Saints were in the valley. He was one of those in charge of the Saints when the cricket plague hit during the summer of 1848. From 1849 to 1854 he served as the Presiding Patriarch to the Church.

  2. 2.

    George A. Smith: “George A.,” as he was called, was the son of John Smith and the grandfather of President George Albert Smith. It was after “George A.” that President Smith was named. A cousin of the Prophet Joseph, George A. Smith was the youngest man in this dispensation to be called as an Apostle, being less than twenty-two at the time he was called. He was involved in many of the colonizing efforts of the Church and served for several years in the Quorum of the Twelve before being chosen as a counselor to President Brigham Young.

  3. 3.

    John Henry Smith: George A. Smith’s son, John Henry Smith, was the father of President George Albert Smith. John Henry, like his father, served in the Quorum of the Twelve. Later he served as a counselor to President Joseph F. Smith. The home life of John Henry and his wife was regarded as an ideal of love and affection by their neighbors and friends. John Henry Smith was one of President George Albert Smith’s ideals. In speaking of him, President Smith remarked, “I have never met a greater man than my father” (Preston Nibley, The Presidents of the Church [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1941], p. 337).

  4. 4.

    George Albert Smith: There is great significance in the promises made in the patriarchal blessing given to George Albert Smith several months before his fourteenth birthday. The patriarch said to him:

    “‘Thou shalt become a mighty prophet in the midst of the sons of Zion. And the angels of the Lord shall administer unto you, and the choice blessings of the heavens shall rest upon you. …

    “‘And thou shalt be wrapt in the visions of the heavens and thou shalt be clothed with salvation as with a garment, for thou art destined to become a mighty man before the Lord, for thou shalt become a mighty Apostle in the Church and kingdom of God upon the earth, for none of thy father’s family shall have more power with God than thou shalt have, for none shall exceed thee, … and thou shalt become a man of mighty faith before the Lord, even like unto that of the brother of Jared, and thou shalt remain upon the earth until thou art satisfied with life, and shall be numbered with the Lord’s anointed and shall become a king and a priest unto the Most High” (Doyle L. Green, “Tributes Paid President George Albert Smith,” Improvement Era, June 1951, pp. 404–5).

After the class has finished the questioning, present the reward to the winner or winners of the activity.

Worthy Thoughts Helped George Albert Smith Obtain Gospel Fruits

  • What would you think if you had received a patriarchal blessing like President Smith’s? (Accept varied answers.)

Discussion

A patriarchal blessing is of little value to a person unless he lives a life worthy of the blessings of the Lord. George Albert Smith was well aware of this, and he began in his youth to prepare for the responsibility he was later to carry. The following is from that period:

Said President Smith, “As a child thirteen years of age, I went to school at the Brigham Young Academy. It was fortunate that part of my instruction came under Dr. Karl G. Maeser, that outstanding educator who was the first builder of our great Church schools. … I cannot remember much of what was said during the year that I was there, but there is one thing that I will probably never forget. … Dr. Maeser one day stood up and said:

“‘Not only will you be held accountable for the things that you do, but you will be held responsible for the very thoughts that you think.’

“Being a boy, not in the habit of controlling my thoughts very much, it was quite a puzzle to me what I was to do, and it worried me. In fact, it stuck to me just like a burr. About a week or ten days after that it suddenly came to me what he meant. I could see the philosophy of it then. All at once there came to me this interpretation of what he had said: Why, of course, you will be held accountable for your thoughts because when your life is complete in mortality, it will be the sum of your thoughts. That one suggestion has been a great blessing to me all my life, and it has enabled me upon many occasions to avoid thinking improperly because I realize that I will be, when my life’s labor is complete, the product of my thoughts” (“Pres. Smith’s Leadership Address,” Deseret News [Church section], 16 Feb. 1946, p. 1).

This advice came at a good time in the life of George Albert Smith, for that same year, as a lad of thirteen, he launched out in the world of business and began to earn his own way by obtaining employment in the overall factory at ZCMI, a Church-owned department store in Salt Lake City.

Discussion

  • How powerful are our thoughts in directing the course of our lives? (Answers will vary, but stress that our thoughts are an important part of our righteous progression.)

Scripture discussion

The scriptures speak concerning the power of our thoughts. (As the class follow in their Bibles, have one person read aloud Proverbs 23:7: “As he [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he.”)

As George Albert Smith decided, when our life’s labors are completed, we will be the sum of our thoughts.

President George Albert Smith Was Grateful for Good Influences

Read together Alma 29:5.

Discussion

  • What does Alma say will determine whether or not we receive the blessings of heaven? (Whether or not we desire and choose the good.)

President George Albert Smith was humbly grateful for the good influences in his life. He tried very hard to show his gratitude by living the best he could.

In February of 1909 he suffered a serious illness.

It was apparently during this winter that George Albert dreamed a dream in which he was visited by his grandfather, George A. Smith. (We do not know the exact date of this dream, but the events associated with it seem to fit best his illness of 1909–1912. George Albert had traveled to St. George to recuperate and sometime during the winter of 1909–1910 he had the dream.) This dream made a deep impression on him. He recorded his experience as follows:

“A number of years ago I was seriously ill. In fact, I think everyone gave me up but my wife. With my family I went to St. George, Utah, to see if it would improve my health. We went as far as we could by train, and then continued the journey in a wagon, in the bottom of which a bed had been made for me.

“In St. George we arranged for a tent for my health and comfort, with a built-in floor raised about a foot above the ground, and we could roll up the south side of the tent to make the sunshine and fresh air available. I became so weak as to be scarcely able to move. It was a slow and exhausting effort for me even to turn over in bed.

“One day, under these conditions, I lost consciousness of my surroundings and thought I had passed to the Other Side. I found myself standing with my back to a large and beautiful lake, facing a great forest of trees. There was no one in sight, and there was no boat upon the lake or any other visible means to indicate how I might have arrived there. I realized, or seemed to realize, that I had finished my work in mortality and had gone home. I began to look around, to see if I could not find someone. There was no evidence of anyone’s living there, just those great, beautiful trees in front of me and the wonderful lake behind me.

“I began to explore, and soon I found a trail through the woods which seemed to have been used very little, and which was almost obscured by grass. I followed this trail, and after I had walked for some time and had traveled a considerable distance through the forest, I saw a man coming towards me. I became aware that he was a very large man, and I hurried my steps to reach him, because I recognized him as my grandfather. In mortality he weighed over three hundred pounds, so you may know he was a large man. I remember how happy I was to see him coming. I had been given his name and had always been proud of it.

“When Grandfather came within a few feet of me, he stopped. His stopping was an invitation for me to stop. Then—and this I would like the boys and girls and young people never to forget—he looked at me very earnestly and said:

“‘I would like to know what you have done with my name.’

“Everything I had ever done passed before me as though it were a flying picture on a screen—everything I had done. Quickly this vivid retrospect came down to the very time I was standing there. My whole life had passed before me. I smiled and looked at my grandfather and said:

“‘I have never done anything with your name of which you need be ashamed.’

“He stepped forward and took me in his arms, and as he did so, I became conscious again of my earthly surroundings. My pillow was wet as though water had been poured on it—wet with tears of gratitude that I could answer unashamed” (George Albert Smith, “Your Good Name,” Improvement Era, Mar. 1947, p. 139).

Discussion

  • What does this story show about President Smith’s desires during his life? (He wanted to do good and to honor both his heavenly and earthly parents.)

  • How can we train ourselves to think good thoughts, to desire good things, and then to act on those good thoughts and desires?

Guide class members to the following possible answers:

  1. 1.

    By putting ourselves in places where there are good influences.

  2. 2.

    By remembering these good influences and experiences.

  3. 3.

    By asking God to help us love and appreciate the good gifts of the gospel. (To help establish this point, you may wish to have a member of the class read Mosiah 5:2. Here we see that the Lord changed the hearts, or desires, of a group of people because they had faith and asked him for that help.)

  4. 4.

    By quickly replacing any thought or desire that does not meet God’s standards with one that does.

  5. 5.

    By keeping the covenants we made at baptism and by renewing those covenants each Sunday as we partake of the sacrament.

  6. What good influences are available in your lives? (Discuss the various responses.)

Picture and discussion

Show the picture Christ and the Children.

  • How are the children responding to the Lord? (They are showing trust and affection, listening intently, and letting the Lord lead them wherever he thinks best.)

We all have the same opportunity, to be taught and blessed by the Lord, if we will show that same trust and willingness as the children showed. He has indicated that he is always with us. If we show through our actions and prayers that we desire his help and blessings, he will willingly extend them to us.

President George Albert Smith had a long life of service. At his funeral, Elder Matthew Cowley said, “God attracts the godly, and I am sure that the shortest journey this man of God ever made in all of his travels has been the journey which he has just taken” (Doyle L. Green, “Tributes Paid President George Albert Smith,” Improvement Era, June 1951, p. 405).

Testimony and Challenge

Bear your testimony and challenge the class to find some way to respond positively to the good things in their life this week either by expressing gratitude, by thinking of uplifting words, or, more often, by doing a good deed. Assure them that their joy in life will increase as they do so.