George Ivins Cannon was given the names of his father, George Cannon, and his great-grandmother, Rachel Ivins Grant. His grandfather, Heber J. Grant, was the seventh President of the Church. President Grant—the only person to do so—always called Elder Cannon “Ivins” because he wanted his grandson to be known by his (President Grant’s) mother’s name. Elder Cannon recalls that at Christmastime each of the fifty grandchildren received a small check from their grandfather, and Elder Cannon’s check was always made out to “Ivins Cannon.”
“I always thought of President Grant as just my grandfather—until I became a missionary. We grandchildren had a wonderful relationship with him. He knew us all, and he would always kiss us whenever we met him. Often he would take different family members to meetings with him. Sometimes he would sing for us at family reunions. He would always talk to us, and he was very concerned that his children and grandchildren felt as he did about the gospel.
“Mother went to California in 1928 to recuperate from an illness, and four of us children went along. While we were there, I turned eight, and since my grandfather was there also, we decided that he would baptize me on my birthday in the mission home. That was a highlight of my childhood.
“Grandfather had ten daughters, and most of them lived right around him. We lived in ‘Grantsville,’ in the Avenues area of Salt Lake City. In Grantsville we included all the children on the block in our play. We played run sheep run and kick the can right in front of President Grant’s home. We had all the benefits of an extended family, where cousins are like brothers and sisters. We always got together at Grandfather’s for Christmas.
“I’m the fifth of seven children, and the first son. My mother received a patriarchal blessing and was told that she would have sons and daughters. After she had had her third daughter, she had problems, and it seemed that she could have no more children. But eight years later she had another daughter, and finally I came along. I always felt that without my mother’s faith, I never would have been born into that family. Even after I was born, she said, ‘My blessing promises me “sons and daughters”’—and she had another daughter and another son!
“My father, too, was a faithful and humble man; he served many years in a stake presidency. Growing up in that environment, I never really had to struggle for faith. Of course, we each have to gain our own personal testimony and witness, but I had everything that would teach and encourage me. Without question, my mother and father were the most influential people in my life, with their example, their teachings, and their caring.
“I remember when we used to go up to a little mountain cabin in Brighton, Utah, on the Fourth of July and stay until school started. I enjoyed climbing the mountains, fishing in the lakes, and riding horses. My mother would have us read the Book of Mormon together in a little study class there that also included the neighbor children.
Recalling his activities in Scouting as a boy, Elder Cannon said, “It was a great part of my life. There’s still a group of us who were Scouts together who are very good friends, and we get together whenever we can.
“Another thing that I enjoyed as I was growing up was playing the piano. I studied it and played it in Church. In fact, my first calling was ward organist. I earned a music merit badge from Alvin A. Beesley, who ran a music store. He was the son of Ebeneezer Beesley, an early Church composer. Alvin Beesley was absolutely the most enthusiastic man that I have ever known. Before he signed my music merit badge, he said, ‘All right, George, I will pass you on the condition that you come and play in the Sunday School orchestra.’ I said that I would. Playing in that orchestra was a horrible experience because I didn’t know how to follow an orchestra leader. But Brother Beesley was so encouraging and so enthusiastic and so understanding with us that I suffered through it happily.”
Speaking of his great-grandfather, Elder Cannon said, “George Q. Cannon made this statement: ‘Everything I am, I owe to my membership in the Church. And I can say the same thing.
“My counsel to children is for each of you to know that you really are created in the image of your Father in Heaven. You are an individual spirit and soul, and you each have your own special talents to develop. Realize how important you are in the sight of your Father in Heaven and in the sight of all of us. Be glad that you are who you are. Don’t want to be somebody else, but realize that you have a unique and divine destiny. You are loved by your Father in Heaven, and you have much to share with others.”