Grampa Bill's General Authority Pages
Nicholas G. Smith Nicholas G. (Groesbeck) Smith

1881 - 1945

  • Born 1881 Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Baptized 1889; Aaronic Priesthood as a youth; Melchizedek Priesthood as a young man
  • Mission to the Netherlands 1902-1905
  • Married Florence Gay 1906, Salt Lake Temple; four children
  • Mission President in South Africa 1913-1921
  • Acting Patriarch to the Church 1932-1934??? (See text.)
  • Assistant to the Twelve 1941-1945
  • Died 1945 Salt Lake City, Utah

    This biographical sketch is adapted from the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, compiled and edited Andrew Jenson, Vol. 4, p.167 and from an article in the Ensign.
    During his lifetime Nicholas Groesbeck Smith served as eighth Bishop of the 17th Ward of the Salt Lake Stake, as President of the California Mission, as an Assistant to the Twelve and possibly as an acting Patriarch to the Church.     He was born June 20, 1881, in Salt Lake City, Utah, the son of Apostle John Henry Smith and Josephine Groesbeck. When three years old he accompanied his mother to Great Britain, his father at that time presiding over the European Mission. After returning to Utah with his mother in 1884 he received a common school education, first in Salt Lake City and afterwards in Snowflake, Arizona, and Manassa, Colorado, where his mother's family spent about ten years while in exile on account of the anti-polygamy persecutions. Apostle John Henry Smith, during that period only had the opportunity of visiting that part of his family occasionally, but on one visit on June 20, 1889 he baptized the youg lad on the eighth anniversary of the boy's birthday.

    Returning to Salt Lake City in 1897, Nicholas G. attended High School from which he graduated in 1902. From his earliest youth he took an active part in Sunday school and Y. M. M. I. A. work, acting as librarian of the Sunday school. He was ordained a Deacon and Priest successively and later ordained an Elder by his father.

    He filled a mission to the Netherlands in 1902-1905, during which he acted part of the time as president of the Amsterdam Conference and was the instrument of adding thirty new converts to the gospel by baptism. After his return from that mission he acted as a counselor in the 17th Ward Y. M. M. I. A. and as a Sunday school teacher. He was also ordained a Seventy and became a member of the Third Quorum of Seventy.

    On December 20, 1906 he married Florence Gay in the Salt Lake Temple, which marriage was blessed with four children, namely, Girard Gay, John Henry, Stanford Groesbeck and Nicholas Groesbeck.

    On September 1st, 1913, he was called by Pres. Joseph F. Smith to preside over the South African Mission. He left Salt Lake City with his family Sept. 15, 1913 and had charge of a party of missionaries crossing the Atlantic Ocean. He arrived in Cape Town, South Africa, Oct. 28, 1913 and succeeded Frank J. Hewlett, Oct 30th. During his administration the mission prospered and he reported with pleasure that the Saints in the South African mission rank at the head of the list of all missions in the world as tithe payers. After presiding eight years in South Africa he left Cape Town for home March 11, 1921, being succeeded by James Wylie Sessions. On his return with his family he traveled through war-stricken Europe and among other places visited the battle field of Verdun where everything seemed to be in ruins from the effects of the war.

    [Grampa Bill here inserts a story from Elder Smith's days as Mission President in South Africa.]
    In 1918 the Saints witnessed a remarkable and faith-instilling demonstration of the Lord’s healing power through the righteous exercise of the priesthood. That fall a flu epidemic that was afflicting people around the world finally reached Cape Town. It was recorded that in the first week the deadly disease took the lives of five thousand people in Cape Town alone.

    President Nicholas G. Smith, who presided over the mission at the time, said, in describing the insidious killer virus, that “it invaded the mission house—five of the missionaries were down—I remember Aaron U. Merrill of Cache Valley [Utah] and I were the only two left upon our feet!” President Smith then said to Elder Merrill, “Are you prepared to go with me through the city blessing the people?” And Elder Merrill answered, “I will go as far as I can.” And they left.

    President Smith concluded his account of that exhausting and harrowing episode by saying that he and his companion “went from door to door that day, and of the fifty-seven who had been smitten with that disease, every Latter-day Saint was healed. Not one died. …”

    [We now return to the sketch from the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia.]

    Soon after his return home (May 16, 1921) he was ordained a High Priest by Apostle Rudger Clawson and set apart as a member of the Salt Lake Stake High Council which position he held until Oct. 22, 1922, when he was ordained a Bishop by James E. Talmage and set apart to succeed Franklin S. Tingey as Bishop of the 17th Ward. Prior to this he was chosen as a member of the general board of Y.M.M.I.A.

    Bishop Smith's occupation in a secular way was that of manager of the Deseret Bank Building. Formerly he acted as manager of the Mountain States Telegraph and Telephone Company.

    As a Bishop, with the experience of a missionary abroad and president of a mission, he became popular with the members of his ward, possessing the confidence and good will of the whole community.

[End of reference from LDS Biographical Encyclopedia]

    At this point, Grampa Bill find's the trail growing cold on Elder Smith's life. The Encylopedia of Mormonism lists him as an Acting Patriarch to the Church for the years 1932 through 1934. The Church Almanac published by the Deseret News makes no such listing and in fact states, "From 1932 to 1937 no Patriarch was sustained." Grampa Bill believes but has not yet proven that Elder Smith was called, sustained, ordained, and set apart as Patriarch of the Salt Lake Stake and as such functioned as a Transient Patriarch for those visiting the Salt Lake area. Since this was largely the function of the Patriarch to the Church in later years, Elder Smith is cited in some lists as an Acting Patriarch to the Church.

    Whatever his callings, he must have been approved of the Lord for on April 6, 1941 he was called as an Assistant to the Twelve. This was a calling in which he would serve until his death in Salt Lake City, Utah on October 27, 1945.

    The following faith promoting story is taken from the Ensign, Jan. 1990, page 65

The Physician’s Faith By Maurine Harris, as told to Sandra Dawn Brimhall

    One day in 1945, my mother encountered our former bishop, Nicholas G. Smith, on the street. He inquired about our family and, upon learning that I was pregnant, asked Mother if she thought I would like a blessing, to which she replied that I would. At that time, Brother Smith was serving as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve.

    He came by my mother’s house that evening, as promised, and laid his hands upon my head. While I don’t recall everything he said, one part of the blessing stands out vividly: “I bless you that this child,” he began, and then paused. I felt his hands tremble. When he began again, he said, “I bless you that this child, or children, will be born without any complications and that they will be a comfort to you.”

    After Brother Smith left, my family and I discussed what had transpired and what it could mean. I asked my physician, Dr. Morgan Coombs, about the possibility of twins.

    “There’s no indication of twins,” he said as he shook his head.

    “Someone doesn’t agree with you,” I replied, and told him about Brother Smith’s blessing.

    “Well,” replied Dr. Coombs, “that’s good enough for me. I’m sending you down for X rays.”

    The X rays, reported Dr. Coombs the next day, showed only one baby. “I have looked at them from every angle,” he said.

    A few minutes after our conversation ended, my water broke and I went into labor. In the hospital delivery room, Dr. Coombs asked one of the attending nurses to obtain two sets of sterilized instruments and baby supplies, despite her protests that the X rays showed only one baby.

    “I don’t care about X rays. I want two sets of everything,” he said, and cautioned those attending the delivery that “when the first baby comes, you be ready for the second baby.”

    I delivered two healthy baby boys and named one of them in honor of Dr. Coombs. Because of him, the hospital staff was prepared for twins—an important preparation since the second baby was born breech.

    The night of the delivery, Mother called Brother Smith at his office and told him that all had gone well with the twins.

    “Twins?” He sounded somewhat surprised. “That’s really something. Were you expecting them?”

    “Not until your blessing,” Mother replied.

    “My blessing? What did I say in my blessing?” he asked.

    After Mother related the story, he said, “It’s interesting you would call tonight. I have a young couple sitting across from me who just asked if there was anything to priesthood blessings. You just gave me my answer.”

    Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p.167, 379
    Maurine Harris and Sandra Dawn Brimhall, “The Physician’s Faith,” Ensign, Jan. 1990, p.65
    Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.4, Appendix 1
    2005 Church Almanac, p.74

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