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George Albert Smith, eighth President of the Church, was born on April 4, 1870. In 1903, at age thirty-three, he was called to the Twelve, and then became President of the Church in 1945. After six years in office, he passed away on his birthday, April 4, 1951.

George Albert Smith is often remembered for his kind and loving nature. A part of his life is not so well-known, however—and this part of his life illustrates an important principle about the holy apostleship.

At a young age George Albert received a blessing from the venerable patriarch, Zebedee Coltrin (an original member of the School of the Prophets), prophesying that George Albert would become “a mighty Apostle” and “a mighty prophet.” Both promises were fulfilled, of course, the first in 1903 and the second in 1945. But Brother Coltrin also prophesied that: “the angels of the Lord shall administer to you;” “thou shalt be wrapped in the visions of the heavens;” and “thou shalt become a mighty man of faith before the Lord, even like unto that of the brother of Jared.”[i]

There is every reason to believe that these promises were also fulfilled, of course. What stands out, however, is that, at least publicly, George Albert never spoke of such spiritual experiences—ever. And this very absence of sharing illustrates an important principle stated by the Lord: “Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit” (D&C 63:64). The reality is that, as a rule, apostles and prophets are not supposed to speak of the divine experiences that come to them. Dallin H. Oaks emphasized this point when he testified of such manifestations (“visions do happen . . . I know this”) but also explained that those who enjoy such experiences “rarely speak of them publicly because we are instructed not to do so.” He added that most revelation comes by the still, small voice of the Spirit, but that, particularly regarding more dramatic experiences, prophetic leaders are directed not to speak of them. The channels of revelation, he said, would be closed if such sacred matters were shown before the world.[ii]

These remarks by Elder Oaks, and the public ministry of George Albert Smith, both teach us that the Lord’s manifestations to His servants are generally to be guarded from the ridicule of the world. For the most part they are to be kept private, between the Lord and the participant. They assist in the guidance of the Church, but they are not to be shared publicly. Thus, while speaking of the Lord’s well-known visitation to Lorenzo Snow in the temple, Elder Packer reported that “there have been many visitations to the temple,” but added that “most of these sacred experiences remain unpublished.”[iii]

So don’t be surprised by the fact that the Brethren do not speak of dramatic experiences of one kind or another. Such silence does not mean they do not occur from time to time; they certainly do, as needed for the work. The Brethren’s silence means only that making them public is not needed for the work. That is at least one principle we learn from the life of George Albert Smith, apostle and prophet of the Lord.

Learn more about modern prophets in the authors’ new book The Last Safe Place: Seven Principles for Standing with the Prophets in Troubled Times.

[i] See Robert and Susan McIntosh, eds., The Teachings of George Albert Smith, in Teachings of the Latter-day Prophets (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), xix.

[ii] Dallin H. Oaks, “Teaching and Learning by the Spirit,” Ensign, March 1997,

[iii] 36 Boyd K. Packer, “The Temple, the Priesthood,” General Conference, April 1993, general-conference/1993/04/the-temple-the-priesthood?lang=eng. Also in Boyd K. Packer, A Refuge from the Storm: The Priesthood, the Family, the Church (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2014), 7