George Patrick Lee was the first American Indian
to become a General Authority of the Church. He was born in 1943 in Towaoc,
Colorado to Mae K. Lee (Asdzaa Lichii) of the Tódích'íi'nii
(Bitter Water Clan), and to a Medicine Man, Peter Lee (Hastiin Jaaneez
Yee Biye), of the Under the Flat-Roofed House People Clan. One of 17 children
from his parents' marriages, Lee was called Ashkii Yazhi (Little Boy),
until he was given a sacred name, Ashkii Hoyani (Boy Who is Well Behaved
He attended a government boarding school at Shiprock,
New Mexico for two years after a trader, assisting the Bureau of Indian
Affairs, helped him enroll. Because a religious preference, other than
the Native American traditional faith, had to be indicated on the application,
Lee’s mother told the trader to write in the name of his religion, The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After completing the second
grade at Shiprock, Lee attended school in Aztec, New Mexico, where he was
promoted to the fifth grade.
When he was 12, he became a member in one of the
first children’s groups to participate in an official Indian foster placement
program sponsored by the Church. He was transported to Orem, Utah where
he lived with the Glen and Joan Harker family. Lee remained in their home
for seven years, returning to his Navajo family during summer vacations,
until he graduated from Orem High School in 1962. He excelled in school,
achieving many honors, and became a devout member who later served as a
missionary on the Navajo reservation.
He attended Brigham Young University,
where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree and a Doctorate in Educational Administration,
and Utah State University, where he completed a Master’s Program. In Arizona,
Lee taught at the Rough Rock Demonstration School and later served as President
of the College of Ganado. He received many honors, including a fellowship
from the U.S. Office of Education for the 1970-1971 academic year, a Ford
Foundation Fellowship Award and the Spencer W. Kimball Lamanite Leadership
George P. Lee married Katherine Hattick, a Comanche. The couple had three children.
George's efforts were not limited to academic excellence. He also served long and
well in his adopted church. Over the years he was called as a Scoutmaster, a Young Mens President, an
Elders Quorum President, a Branch President, a District President, a Counselor to a Mission President
and as a Mission President.
Lee’s achievements culminated in his October 3, 1975
ordination, at the age of 32, as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy,
a General Authority, by President Spencer
W. Kimball. President of the Arizona Holbrook Mission at the time of his call to the First Quorum
of the Seventy, he continued as Mission President for some time as a General Authority. He would serve
some fourteen years as a General Authority.
On September 1, 1989, however, it was announced that Elder
Lee had been excommunicated for “apostasy and other conduct unbecoming
a member of the church.” His excommunication was the first of a General
Authority to occur in 46 years. According to Elder Lee, the action stemmed from
his disagreement with the other church leaders over the role of American
Indians in the religion and from other charges he had presented in a 23-page
letter to President Ezra Taft Benson,
and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It is the policy of the Church to
respect an individual's right to privacy and not publicize the details
of an excommicant's behavior which brought about the disciplinary action.
However the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Lee had attempted to molest
a minor girl. Lee originally denied the charges but on October 12,
1994, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Lee acknowledged his guilt:
"A year ago, former Mormon general authority George
P. Lee proclaimed he was 'innocent before God' of sexually molesting a
12-year-old neighbor girl.
"But Tuesday before a 3rd District judge, Lee humbly
hung his head and admitted to touching the girl's breasts for sexual gratification....
"Lee, 51, pleaded guilty to attempted sexual abuse
of a child, a third-degree felony...."
George P. Lee died July 28, 2010 at the Utah Valley
Regional Health Center in Provo, Utah after years of battling numerous health issues.
He had never returned to the Church.