Chapter Thirty-Eight: Change and Consistency

Church History In The Fulness Of Times Student Manual, (2003), 495–508


The decade of the 1920s was in many ways a comparatively peaceful era in the Church’s history. Following World War I, many Latter-day Saints left Utah to find employment in California and other states. An increasing number of Church members remained in the lands of their births, as instructed, and helped strengthen the branches and districts in many areas of the world. In a dramatic symbol of their interest in all of the earth’s peoples, the First Presidency sent Elder David O. McKay and Hugh J. Cannon on a world tour of the missions. Also during the twenties the Church established seminaries and inaugurated the first institute of religion program. Utah’s first radio station, KZN, began transmitting gospel messages, and a new Church president was sustained who would lead the Church for almost three decades.

The Reorganization of the First Presidency

Even as he lay dying, President Joseph F. Smith’s thoughts turned to the man who would succeed him as prophet, seer, and revelator. Elder Heber J. Grant was told the stricken president wanted to see him. Taking President Smith’s hand, Elder Grant felt his spiritual power and strength. He was then given a special blessing by his terminally ill leader. President Smith told him that the Lord makes no mistake in choosing someone to lead his Church. With tear-filled eyes and a heart full of love, Elder Grant left the room with the prophet’s last words echoing in his ears, “The Lord bless you, my boy, the Lord bless you.”1

On 23 November 1918, four days after the death of President Joseph F. Smith, the Twelve convened in the Salt Lake Temple. There they ordained and set apart Heber J. Grant as the seventh President of the Church. He was the first native Utahan to be president. President Grant, who had served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since 1882, was known for his determination. He loved to relate in his talks how he had overcome personal limitations and excelled despite them. His favorite saying came from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the nature of the thing has changed but our ability to do it has increased.”

President Grant was a very spiritual man. It was reported in several meetings, including one held in the temple, that President Grant’s countenance when he spoke resembled that of the deceased Joseph F. Smith.2Because of the worldwide flu epidemic, which eliminated all large public meetings, President Grant was not sustained as Church president until June 1919. He chose Elders Anthon H. Lund and Charles W. Penrose, respectively, as his first and second counselors.

The death of President Smith and the reorganization of the First Presidency had left a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Many of the Apostles thought President Grant would call his good friend and faithful Church member Richard W. Young to that position. President Grant intended, with the consent of his two counselors, to call Richard Young to the apostleship. He began to reflect and pray about the vacancy. When the First Presidency met with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Grant reached into his pocket and pulled out a slip of paper with Richard W. Young’s name written on it, fully intending to present it for approval. Instead, he found himself saying that the Lord wanted Melvin J. Ballard, the Northwestern States mission president, to fill the vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. President Grant later testified that he learned from this experience that the Lord does indeed inspire the President of the Church.3

Prior to Elder Ballard’s birth, his mother had learned in a remarkable way that the baby she was carrying would become an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.4This spiritual experience was confirmed when Elder Ballard was told in his patriarchal blessing that he would be one of the Lord’s special witnesses.

In 1921, President Anthon H. Lund died, and President Grant chose Anthony W. Ivins as a counselor in the First Presidency. John A. Widtsoe, president of the University of Utah, was called to fill the vacancy in the Council of the Twelve Apostles created by Elder Ivins’s call. Four years later when Charles W. Penrose passed away, Presiding Bishop Charles W. Nibley became a member of the First Presidency. He and President Ivins served as President Grant’s counselors for the remainder of the decade. Joseph Fielding Smith, son of Joseph F. Smith, replaced President Lund as Church historian and served in that position for more than half of a century.

Soon after being set apart as Church president, Heber J. Grant instituted several administrative changes and procedures that would have a lasting impact on the Church. First he announced that the First Presidency would no longer serve as presidents of the various auxiliary organizations as they had heretofore done with other General Authorities as their assistants. Second, early in 1922, the Corporation of the President was organized to hold and administer the ecclesiastical property of the Church. This corporation was designed to administer the Church’s tax-free properties. At the same time, Zion’s Securities Corporation was founded to manage property considered strictly investment and revenue producing. On these holdings the Church voluntarily paid taxes, although it could generally claim nonprofit status.

The Church and the League of Nations

With the end of the First World War, United States president Woodrow Wilson presented plans to establish permanent world peace. His goals included a league of nations that would, by discussion and parliamentary procedures, solve the conflicts that might arise among the world’s countries. Since the farewell address of George Washington, the United States had refrained as much as possible from entanglements with foreign nations, especially those in Europe. Wilson’s plans reflected a departure from traditional United States foreign policy. When the president sought to have his treaty ratified in the United States Senate, a partisan battle ensued. Many Republican senators, including Apostle Reed Smoot, only favored the league if amendments were added to the charter to preserve American sovereignty. Others vigorously opposed the league altogether.

In February 1919, in an effort to promote the treaty, the Mountain Congress of the League to Enforce Peace held its convention in Salt Lake City. Former U.S. President William Howard Taft attended, and President Heber J. Grant conducted some of the sessions. In July, President Ivins, representing the First Presidency, spoke out in favor of the league, and several more of the Brethren also spoke in support of it at stake conferences that summer.

In spite of the efforts of those who supported the Wilson treaty, it suffered a crushing defeat in the United States Congress. That some Church members had vigorously opposed the league, while others had favored it, caused some divisions within the Church. Therefore, in the October general conference following the Senate defeat, President Grant reminded the congregation of what had happened the year before and expressed regret at the bitterness the controversy had caused. He made a plea for the spirit of forgiveness to permeate among the Latter-day Saints. He then referred to the advice he had received from President John Taylor when President Grant was a young Apostle, “My boy, never forget that when you are in the line of your duty your heart will be full of love and forgiveness.”

That no hard feelings were in President Grant’s heart is evidenced by the fact that he remained a great friend and admirer of Reed Smoot, and that those of the Brethren who had opposed the League of Nations—Charles W. Nibley, J. Reuben Clark, and David O. McKay—subsequently became his counselors in the First Presidency of the Church.5Yet there was still another political problem, this one deemed a moral issue, that waited to be resolved.

The Word of Wisdom and the Repeal of Prohibition

During this era some people in the United States joined in a movement to stamp out many of the nation’s evils and injustices. An essential part of this movement, centered in evangelical Protestant groups, involved prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages. The Church and its leaders supported this great moral effort. Soon the Utah Prohibition League was organized and led by President Heber J. Grant. Some Church leaders, including Senator Reed Smoot, preferred a local option on Prohibition rather than a nationwide ban on the sale of liquor. Others saw the ban as an infringement upon their freedom and urged Church members to continue to be taught the evils and consequences of consuming liquor, but be left to choose what course they wanted to pursue. The forces favoring outlawing the sale of alcohol, however, were so strong that the Eighteenth Amendment passed, making Prohibition a national law.6

During the 1920s bishops interviewing members who wanted to enter the temple were asked to encourage them to comply with the principles in the Word of Wisdom. The Church also used its publications, especially the Improvement Era, to campaign against the use of tobacco. Many articles appealed to both scientific authority and Church doctrine to promote abstinence from both liquor and tobacco. Church leaders also urged anti-tobacco legislation, including the banning of advertising cigarettes on billboards. President Grant frequently preached against smoking and the consumption of liquor and firmly supported strict enforcement of the law. He even insisted that the Deseret News officially support Prohibition enforcement. Moreover, the Church provided financial aid to the Prohibition League.

During those years when Prohibition was in effect, there were strong forces working for its repeal. In spite of the vigorous support of the Church and public knowledge that President Grant stood unalterably behind Prohibition, Utah became the thirty-sixth state to vote for the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment. Ironically, it was this affirmative vote that ended Prohibition. President Grant publicly expressed his disappointment that Church members had not followed his lead nor his counsel. Had they done so, he insisted, much of the suffering, sorrow, spiritual degeneration, and deterioration of physical health that accompany the consumption of liquor and tobacco, could have been avoided. Elder George Albert Smith later spoke on the consequence that had resulted and would continue because of the foolishness of those who had not heeded the counsel of the living prophet:

“There are those among us today who have been blinded by the philosophies and foolishness of men. There are those who reject the advice and counsel of the man that God has placed at the head of this Church.

“I am grieved as I stand here and think of the way we rejected the counsel of President Grant. And I don’t want to be counted among that ‘we’ for I was not—but there were those among us who rejected the advice of the President of this Church and voted to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment and approved of bringing intoxicating liquor back into our community and legalizing it. That action has increased our accidents and murders and thousands of the sons and daughters of America are losing themselves and are being debauched beyond the possibility of recovery.

“Had we listened to the man who stands at our head and done our duty we would not in this valley and other places be suffering from the distresses that have come upon us, at least, we would not be responsible for them.

“People who haven’t very much information suddenly come along with a bright idea, and they suggest ‘this is the way’ or ‘that is the way,’ and although it is in conflict with the advice of the Lord some are persuaded to try it. The Lord has given safe advice and appointed the President of his Church to interpret that advice. If we ignore what he advises, as the President of the Church, we may discover that we have made a serious mistake.”7

Continual Emphasis on Missionary Work

Following World War I the Church had some difficulty securing permission for missionaries to reenter several European countries. However, European mission president George F. Richards, working closely with his successor Elder George Albert Smith and with Senator Reed Smoot, finally obtained permission for missionaries to proselyte in Holland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. It was the fall of 1920 when the gospel was again preached in Germany and the spring of 1921 when South Africa was reopened.

In an effort to obtain firsthand information regarding Latter-day Saints in all parts of the world and to dramatize the scriptural injunction that the gospel be proclaimed to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, President Grant sent Elder David O. McKay and Hugh J. Cannon, editor of the Improvement Era, around the world. The Deseret News noted that Elder McKay would tour the missions under the title of Commissioner of Education so that he would be officially welcomed by the world’s leaders. In his charge to Elder McKay, President Grant told him, “Make a general survey of the missions, study conditions there, gather data concerning them, and in short obtain general information in order that there may be some one in the deliberations of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve thoroughly familiar with actual conditions.”8

The two ambassadors departed on 4 December 1920, accompanied by the good wishes of Church leaders, family, and friends. Traveling to Japan on the Empress of Japan, President McKay was sick much of the time. In describing his seasickness he wrote: “Good-bye last night’s dinner! Good-bye yesterday’s Rotary luncheon! And during the next sixty hours, good-bye everything I had ever eaten since I was a babe on mother’s knee. I’m not sure I didn’t even cross the threshold into the pre-existent state.”9

After meeting with the missionaries in Japan, they traveled to China via Korea and Manchuria. In Peking, they wandered the streets searching for a suitable place to dedicate the land. At length they walked to the walls of the Forbidden City, the former home of emperors. There they entered the gate and moved to a grove of cypress trees, which symbolized for the Chinese sorrow and sadness. Elder McKay sensed that this was a peculiarly fitting place in which to invoke the blessing of heaven upon this oppressed and sorrowing people. With bowed head, the modern witness for Christ quietly prayed to turn the key that unlocked the door for authorized servants of God to enter into China to preach the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

After traveling to Hawaii, Elders McKay and Cannon inspected the Church school at Laie and then visited the other islands. Elder Cannon particularly requested they visit Pulehu on Maui where his father, George Q. Cannon, had baptized the first Hawaiian in July 1851. Thirty-four years later, President McKay recalled the events of their visit to Maui.

“So we came up here, and this is where I was [pointing to a spot where a pepper tree had been], and as we looked at an old frame house that stood there then, he said, ‘That is probably the old chapel.’ It seemed to me it was over in the distance. Nothing else was here. We said ‘Well, probably that is the place. We are probably standing on the spot upon which your father, George Q. Cannon, and Judge Napela addressed those people.’ We became very much impressed with the surroundings, association, and spiritual significance of the occasion; as we had also been with the manifestations we had had on our trip to the Orient and thus far in Hawaii. I said, ‘I think we should have a word of prayer.’ …

“I offered the prayer. We all had our eyes closed, and it was a very inspirational gathering. As we started to walk away at the conclusion of the prayer, Brother Keola Kailimai took Brother E. Wesley Smith to the side and very earnestly began talking to him in Hawaiian. As we walked along, the rest of us dropped back. They continued walking, and Brother Kailimai very seriously told in Hawaiian what he had seen during the prayer. They stopped right over there [pointing a short distance away] and Brother E. Wesley Smith said, ‘Brother McKay, do you know what Brother Kailimai has told me?’ I answered, ‘No.’ ‘Brother Kailimai said that while you were praying, and we all had our eyes closed, he saw two men who he thought were Hugh J. Cannon and E. Wesley Smith step out of line in front of us and shake hands with someone, and he wondered why Brother Cannon and Brother Smith were shaking hands while we were praying. He opened his eyes and there stood those two men still in line, with their eyes closed just as they had been. He quickly closed his eyes because he knew he had seen a vision.’

“Now Brother Hugh J. Cannon greatly resembled Brother George Q. Cannon, his father. I spoke during the trip of his resemblance. Of course, E. Wesley Smith has the Smith attribute just as President Joseph Fielding Smith has it. Naturally, Brother Keola Kailimai would think that these two men were there. I said, ‘I think it was George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith, two former missionaries to Hawaii, whom that spiritual-minded man saw.’

“We walked a few steps farther and I said, ‘Brother Kailimai, I do not understand the significance of your vision, but I do know that the veil between us and those former missionaries was very thin.’ Brother Hugh J. Cannon who was by my side, with tears rolling down his cheeks, said ‘ Brother McKay, there was no veil. ’”10

From Hawaii the two men sailed to San Francisco in anticipation of making better connections for their journey to the South Pacific. There they were met by President Heber J. Grant and their wives. Hearing of the death of President Grant’s counselor, Anthon H. Lund, they decided to return briefly to Salt Lake City. They were back in San Francisco by late March prepared to begin a twelve-day voyage to Tahiti. They arrived there on 12 April, but were unable to contact the mission president, who was touring the mission. From Tahiti they sailed to Rarotonga and then on to Wellington, New Zealand, where they had their first scheduled appointment. They spent nine days visiting with the missionaries and the Saints of New Zealand. It was the first time an Apostle in this dispensation had been in New Zealand.

Leaving Auckland on 30 April 1921 they sailed for Samoa. Arriving aboard the S. S. Tofua they were greeted in Samoa with songs and shouts of glee by a huge throng of Church members. They spent more than a month traveling from island to island and holding meetings with the Saints and governmental officials. At each stop Elder McKay would speak to large congregations—at times as many as fifteen hundred natives, officials, and visitors. When speaking to these groups he used an interpreter. On one occasion, however, he stopped the interpreter and continued speaking, realizing that the members were able to understand him. The entire congregation had received the gift to interpret tongues.

By their demeanor and their testimonies Elder David O. McKay and Hugh J. Cannon won a place in the hearts of the Samoan people. When the time came to leave, there were tears and appeals for the men to stay. Under the promptings of the Spirit, Elder McKay turned back, slipped from his horse, made known what he was about to do, and then with hands raised aloft pronounced upon them blessings in the authority and power of the apostleship and priesthood. It was a splendid end to a perfect farewell, and quickly turning away, they left while the Saints waved good-bye with white handkerchiefs. The Samoan people later placed a monument to honor the spot where Elder McKay had prayed.

Because of an epidemic of measles in Tonga, anyone entering the country had to undergo a quarantine of twelve days. Elder McKay decided to visit the area anyway but sent Elder Cannon to New Zealand to avoid the quarantine.

From Tonga he returned to New Zealand for an additional two weeks, visiting Auckland and Hastings. On 2 August 1921 the two travelers sailed for Sydney, Australia. In contrast to the multitudes who had gathered at other places, the numbers of Saints in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Brisbane were small. The brethren, however, detected deep spirituality among the people.

From Australia they moved through Southeast Asia into lands overflowing with hungry and haggard faces, exemplified by the beggar who died near where Elder McKay was standing on a street in India. The hot, sticky boat ride from India to Egypt provided time for the two missionaries to think of home and family. One evening Elder McKay sat on deck next to a lady who was exhausted from jostling her little boy to keep him from crying. Elder McKay smiled at her, then asked if he could hold the child while she rested. She gladly consented, and soon the boy was asleep in the Apostle’s arms.

In the Holy Land they were to meet President J. Wilford Booth, the new president of the Armenian Mission, and travel with him among the small branches in the region. When they arrived in Jerusalem, however, they did not know where President Booth would be joining them. After several days of visiting the shrines and other historic locations, they determined to leave for Haifa, a seaport town north of Jerusalem along the Mediterranean coast, en route to Aleppo in the northwest corner of Syria. Originally they had planned to travel by car through Samaria, but Elder McKay was impressed to go by train instead.

They arrived in Haifa not knowing where they would stay, and while Elder McKay went to inquire regarding a suitable hotel, Brother Cannon took care of their luggage. Ten minutes later, Elder McKay returned with a runner for a prominent hotel. About to exit through the large door of the train station, Elder McKay felt a tap on his shoulder, and someone asked, “Isn’t this Brother McKay?” Elder McKay whirled about and saw President Booth. Had the two elders gone by car, or had they remembered to seek advice on a hotel before leaving Jerusalem, or had they remained there longer, they would not have met President Booth. As it turned out, they held many spiritual meetings with the Saints and distributed the funds collected during a special fast in Utah, which greatly blessed Church members on that part of the world.

They concluded the world tour with a visit to the missions of Europe. After traveling sixty-two thousand miles in five months, the two elders arrived home on Christmas Eve, 1921. In the April 1922 general conference, Elder McKay reported their successful mission and bore a powerful testimony that “Christ is ever ready to give you help in time of need, and comfort and strength, [if] you would approach Him in purity, simplicity, and faith.”11

Shortly after returning home, David O. McKay was called as the Church’s European mission president. He was charged with improving the public’s view of the Church, especially in Great Britain. Then an opportunity came for Senator Reed Smoot, accompanied by Elder John A. Widtsoe, to travel to Europe. In London, Senator Smoot met with the owners of the leading British newspapers. When the owners learned that much of the material their newspapers had printed about the Latter-day Saints was untrue, they agreed not to accept any anti-Mormon material. Senator Smoot also met with Denmark’s director general of the ministry of foreign affairs, Sweden’s prime minister, and the king of Norway.

Soon relationships for the Church improved in other parts of the world as well, and missions were either opened or reopened in France, Czechoslovakia, and Bavaria. In 1925, Melvin J. Ballard reopened the South American Mission. His dedicatory prayer, given in Buenos Aires, Argentina, included the following prophecy: “The work of the Lord will grow slowly for a time here just as an oak grows from an acorn. It will not shoot up in a day as does the sunflower that grows quickly and then dies. But thousands will join the Church here. It will be divided into more than one mission and will be one of the strongest in the Church. … The day will come when the Lamanites in this land will be a power in the Church.”12

Symbolic of the commitment by Church members to missionary work was the example of Percy D. McArthur. Percy, a gifted runner who observed the Word of Wisdom, was the California champion in the 440-yard race. He often prayed before he ran, not that he would win but that he would do his best. He represented the Los Angeles Athletic Club at the national track meet held in 1927 in Lincoln, Nebraska, and tied with two others in a dead heat. Speaking of the 1928 Olympic team, he said, “I was confident I could make the team—was all primed and in trim, when I received my call to fill a mission. That meant more to me than any race.” Soon he was laboring in the Mexican Mission.13He was neither the first nor the last great athlete to put the Church first in life. He turned his back on fame, and perhaps fortune, to proclaim to a humble people that the gospel was once more on the earth.

In an effort to send better trained missionaries into the field, Church leaders established a missionary training center in Salt Lake City with LeRoi C. Snow as its first director. The missionaries received two weeks of intensive instruction regarding such things as manners, punctuality, and missionary methods. They also heard instruction from General Authorities on gospel principles. The Mission Home, as it was called, was dedicated on 3 February 1925 by President Heber J. Grant, and its first class numbered only five elders. By 1927, however, nearly three thousand young men and women had been instructed.14The increase in the number of missionaries trained was due in part to President Grant’s announcement in the October 1925 general conference of the need for one thousand additional missionaries.

It was also during this time that several innovative methods were tried to better facilitate the preaching of the gospel. A young elder in the California Mission, Gustive O. Larson, produced a series of illustrated lectures, which he delivered with his mission president’s approval, all over the state. The slides and the dialogue centered on three themes: ancient American civilization, the history of the Mormons, and Latter-day Saint temples and temple work. Thousands of nonmembers came to see the slides and hear Elder Larson. Meanwhile, President B. H. Roberts, newly called leader of the Eastern States Mission, trained his missionaries in the fundamentals of proselyting and encouraged them to organize and teach the gospel message in a sequential manner and to make better use of the Book of Mormon. He also frequently called them into mission headquarters where he delivered lectures on the principles of the gospel.

Missionary work in Japan suffered a temporary setback during the 1920s. After twenty-three years of effort and sacrifice on the part of missionaries, President Grant, who had opened the Japanese mission, closed proselyting work there. A number of factors were involved in making the painful decision to withdraw the missionaries. Difficulties with the language and culture and the failure of the Church to attract converts all played an important role in the decision. Additional reasons included the Tokyo earthquake of 1923 and the Japanese exclusion law of 1924.

The earthquake was so devastating that missionary work completely stopped as the few missionaries who were there helped in the reconstruction effort. The Japanese exclusion law, which was passed in the United States in July 1924, prevented the Japanese people from immigrating to the United States. This caused bitterness toward all Americans living in Japan. Because of these factors, the First Presidency, after prayer and careful consideration, announced the mission closure in August 1924. It was not until after the Second World War that the restored gospel would attract thousands of Japanese converts.15

New Directions in Church Education

Prior to World War I, Latter-day Saints realized that they could not continue to support two systems of education. The Church could not build enough Church schools, then called academies, for all the children of member families. Members found it burdensome to support the legally required public schools and at the same time provide funds for the operation of local Church schools. So, beginning in 1920, most of the academies were transformed into public schools or converted into community junior colleges and normal schools.

To ensure that Latter-day Saint youth would have some means of receiving daily religious instruction, the Church established seminaries adjacent to public high schools, beginning in 1912 with Granite High School in Salt Lake City. Some local school districts granted released time, and buildings separate from the high schools were erected. Qualified teachers were hired, and the entire system was supervised by a general Church board of education and a Church-appointed commissioner. Thus, the Church’s great seminary system was initiated.

With increasing numbers of Latter-day Saints attending colleges and universities in the 1920s, some Church members became concerned about how students would integrate secular learning with their religion. The early twenties were marked by the rising reputation of science and a decline in the influence and power of the churches. One popular work at the time was entitled A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, written by Andrew Dickson White, a distinguished professor of history and president of Cornell University. He vigorously attacked fundamental Christian doctrines, which he called “a menace to the whole normal evolution of society.”16His book was considered a standard to help students of science understand the philosophical war between science and Christianity.

During this period of ferment and challenge, a group of Latter-day Saints at the University of Idaho sought help from the First Presidency because of the large number of Mormon students there without access to Church education to supplement their secular training. The First Presidency responded to their appeal and sent the recently released South African Mission president, J. Wyley Sessions and his wife Magdeline, to Moscow, Idaho, with authority to organize a program for those Latter-day Saint students. Working closely with university officials, Brother Sessions soon developed a social organization and taught scriptural and ethics classes in a Church environment for which the students received university credit.

The first classes were held in the fall of 1926 with fifty-seven students enrolled. A large building was constructed near the university. Soon institutes were organized and buildings constructed adjacent to Utah State Agricultural College in Logan, Idaho State University in Pocatello, and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

It was also during the early twenties that Brigham Young University administrators established the first adult-oriented Education Week. Originally these classes were designed to train stake and ward leaders and were taught by the First Presidency and other General Authorities. Because of demands upon their time, the General Authorities later instructed university officials to use university teachers as instructors and to open the classes to the public. Education Weeks now involve thousands of Latter-day Saints across the United States and Canada, with more than twenty-five thousand people attending the instruction held annually on Brigham Young University campus in Provo.

Further Church Expansion

During the twenties, many Latter-day Saints left Utah and settled in other areas, such as southern California. Missionary work brought in many converts and added to the large number of Church members residing in that part of the United States. In January 1923, President Heber J. Grant, his first counselor, Charles W. Penrose, and other General Authorities assembled with three thousand California members and organized the Los Angeles Stake, the Church’s eighty-eighth stake, which covered all of southern California. Creation of this stake symbolized that the Church was no longer just a Utah organization but was beginning to expand into every corner of the nation. Because of early colonization efforts, there were also sufficient Church members to justify erection of temples in Cardston, Alberta, Canada in 1923 and in Mesa, Arizona in 1927. Both of these sacred edifices were dedicated by President Grant.

On 6 May 1922 the prophet dedicated the new Deseret News radio station, KZN and, for the first time in the Church’s history, delivered a message over the airways. In his talk, the Church president bore his testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the true and living God. Two years later the station began broadcasting sessions of general conference. Thousands of Church members as well as nonmembers were able to hear the inspired messages of the General Authorities. During the summer of 1924 the station’s call letters were changed to KSL.

On 15 July 1929 the Tabernacle Choir began its first broadcast. The “Spoken Word,” a message of inspiration and hope, created by Richard L. Evans, also became a regular part of the program. Over the years thousands of people have come into the Church after hearing the choir’s inspiring singing and the eloquent and spiritual Spoken Word. Thousands more have received additional comfort and hope from choir broadcasts.

Centennial Celebration and Increasing Interest in Church History

Believing that the Church needed17a one-volume, easy-to-read history that would tell the story of the Restoration, the First Presidency asked Joseph Fielding Smith to write such a book. The finished work, entitled Essentials in Church History, was first published in 1922. This volume, which was used in the early twenties as a manual for the Melchizedek Priesthood, subsequently went through nearly thirty editions.

Andrew Jenson, assistant Church historian, spent much of the decade traveling the world in his assignment to gather historical records from the wards and branches. It is because of his interest, perseverance, and efforts that historians today have the material in which to research the history of the Church.

Also during the twenties, the Church marked the centennial of the appearance of the Father and the Son and of the Angel Moroni to Joseph Smith with special cantatas and ceremonies in Palmyra, New York. On Sunday morning, 6 April 1930, thousands of Church members packed the Salt Lake Tabernacle to participate in a solemn assembly where Church leaders were sustained by quorum vote, and the impressive hosanna shout was majestically rendered. B. H. Roberts wrote, “It seemed, as the mighty shout was given, to vibrate waves of emotion which were sustained by the choir’s rendition, at this point, of Handel’s ever glorious and joyous chorus, ‘Hallelujah,’ from ‘The Messiah.’”18

It was also during this conference that the Salt Lake Temple was first illuminated by giant floodlights, and a centennial pageant, “The Message of the Ages,” was presented on a special stage constructed in the Tabernacle. Newly written for this celebration, the pageant depicted the various dispensations of the gospel. Admission was free, and the pageant was so enthusiastically received that performances were continued for more than a month. Elder B. H. Roberts also presented his monumental six-volume A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the membership as a fitting climax to the centennial celebrations.

As a further evidence of the Church’s interest in its history, leaders announced in April 1928 that they had completed the purchase of the Hill Cumorah. Soon this location became one of the sites most frequently visited by Latter-day Saints traveling in the eastern United States. Many non-Mormons also visited the hill, and a visitors’ center was established at its base.

The twenties were a time in the Church’s history when its roots became better established. It was a decade of comparative peace, a time when bitterness and attacks for the most part had subsided. In this relatively tranquil decade, the Church slowly yet steadily grew in numbers and strengthened programs, and its members increased in their faith.

Time Line

Date

 

Significant Event

23 Nov. 1918

Heber J. Grant was ordained and set apart as seventh President of the Church

Dec. 1920

David O. McKay and Hugh J. Cannon left on world tour

1922

Corporation of the President established

6 May 1922

President Grant gave the first broadcast over KZN (later KSL) Radio in Salt Lake City

1925

Mission home opened in Salt Lake City

Fall 1926

First institute of religion opened in Moscow, Idaho

1928

The Church purchased Hill Cumorah

Apr. 1930

Centennial celebration of the organization of the Church

Heber J. Grant

Heber J. Grant (1856–1945) became the seventh President of the Church at age sixty-two, having served as an Apostle since 1882. He was set apart as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1916.

President Grant greatly influenced the Church in the twentieth century. He served as a General Authority longer than any other man except David O. McKay. His twenty-seven years of service as President of the Church marked the second longest administration, exceeded only by Brigham Young’s.

Hugh J. Cannon and David O. McKay

The world tour of David O. McKay (right) and his companion, Hugh J. Cannon (left), fulfilled the directions of President Heber J. Grant to gather information so that during their deliberations, Church leaders would have someone familiar with the conditions Latter-day Saints were living under.

For the remainder of his life, Elder McKay had his finger on the pulse of the world and the Church. As an Apostle he traveled widely, and he continued to do so into the early years of his administration as President of the Church. Under his leadership the Church became a worldwide institution.

Joseph Wilford Booth

Joseph Wilford Booth (1866–1928) labored most of his life as a missionary in the Middle East. His first mission in the Middle East was to Turkey in 1898. He later served twice as president of the Turkish Mission in 1903–9 and 1921–24.

He dedicated Greece for the preaching of the gospel while on Mars Hill in Athens in 1905. The name of the Turkish Mission was changed to the Armenian Mission, and he presided over it from 1924 to 1928. He died and was buried at Aleppo, Syria, just before the news came of his release.

Melvin J. Ballard and others at site of South America dedication

This is the exact spot where Elder Melvin J. Ballard (1873–1939), a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, dedicated South America for the preaching of the gospel on 25 December 1925 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This photo was taken June 1926.

Left to right: President Reinholdt Stoof, president of the South American Mission; his wife, Sister Ella Stoof; Elder Melvin J. Ballard; President Rey L. Pratt; and James Vernon Sharp.

Mission Home

For many years most newly called missionaries traveled to Salt Lake City to be given instruction, receive their temple endowment, and be set apart for their labors. In 1924 approval was given to establish a home for missionaries during their stay. A home was purchased and remodeled in 1925, and President Lorenzo Snow’s son LeRoi was named director.

Gradually the training program initiated there increased to two weeks and came to include seventy-one classes in such subjects as gospel instruction, Church organization, English and language instruction, personal health and hygiene, physical fitness, table etiquette and manners, personal appearance, and punctuality.

Granite Seminary

In the school year of 1912–13, the Granite Seminary in Salt Lake City housed the Church’s first “released-time” seminary classes, with seventy students attending. The next year Guy C. Wilson was hired as a full-time teacher.

Although begun as an experimental program, the seminary idea spread rapidly because of its success. A decade later almost five thousand students were enrolled in seminary, and that figure more than doubled by the time the first institute of religion, located in Moscow, Idaho, was created in 1926–27. By 1997, over 379,000 students were enrolled in seminary.

Moscow institute of religion

The Moscow institute building in Moscow, Idaho, was dedicated on 25 September 1928 by Charles W. Nibley, a member of the First Presidency.

Heber J. Grant radio broadcast

President Heber J. Grant began the first radio broadcast over KZN (later KSL), the Deseret News–sponsored radio station in Salt Lake City, on 6 May 1922. Pictured left to right are Nathan O. Fullmer, Anthony W. Ivins, George Albert Smith, not identified, not identified, Augusta Winters Grant, Heber J. Grant, C. Clarence Neslen, and George J. Cannon.

Show References

    Endnotes

  1.   1.

    Heber J. Grant, in Conference Report, Apr. 1941, p. 4.

  2.   2.

    See Journal of Anthon H. Lund, 25 May 1919, LDS Historical Department, Salt Lake City, pp. 49–50; Charles W. Penrose, Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1 June 1919, LDS Historical Department, Salt Lake City.

  3.   3.

    See Francis M. Gibbons, Heber J. Grant: Man of Steel, Prophet of God (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979) pp. 174–76.

  4.   4.

    See Bryant S. Hinckley, Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin Joseph Ballard (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1949), p. 23.

  5.   5.

    In James B. Allen, “Personal Faith and Public Policy: Some Timely Observations on the League of Nations Controversy in Utah,” Brigham Young University Studies, Autumn 1973, p. 97; see also James B. Allen, “J. Reuben Clark, Jr., on American Sovereignty and International Organization,” Brigham Young University Studies, Spring 1973, pp. 347–72.

  6.   6.

    This section was written for the Church Educational System; also published in Richard O. Cowan, The Church in the Twentieth Century (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1985), p. 129.

  7.   7.

    In Conference Report, Oct. 1936, p. 75.

  8.   8.

    “Two Church Workers Will Tour Missions of Pacific Islands,” Deseret News, 15 Oct. 1920, p. 5.

  9.   9.

    Llewelyn R. McKay, comp., Home Memories of President David O. McKay (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1956), p. 41.

  10.   10.

    David O. McKay, Cherished Experiences. Rev. and enl. Compiled by Clare Middlemiss (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976), pp. 115–16.

  11.   11.

    In Conference Report, Apr. 1922, p. 69; see also pp. 62–68.

  12.   12.

    In “Prophecies for Children of Lehi Are Being Fulfilled,” Church News, 26 Feb. 1984, p. 10.

  13.   13.

    M. C. Morris, “Olympic Games or a Mission?” Improvement Era, Mar. 1929, p. 382; see also pp. 378–83.

  14.   14.

    See LeRoi C. Snow, “The Missionary Home,” Improvement Era, May 1928, pp. 552–54.

  15.   15.

    See R. Lanier Britsch, “The Closing of the Early Japan Mission,” Brigham Young University Studies, Winter 1975, pp. 171–90.

  16.   16.

    Andrew Dickson White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, 2 vols. (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1897), 1:vi.

  17.   17.

    Section written for the Church Educational System; also published in Cowan, Church in the Twentieth Century, pp. 102–4.

  18.   18.

    B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Century One, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1930), 6:540.