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
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
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
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
“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
“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
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.”