President Heber J. Grant: Determined to Serve the Lord

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 191

President James E. Faust, a counselor in the First Presidency, said: “Heber J. Grant was the first President of the Church I had the privilege of meeting. He was truly a great man. We admired him because part of his strength was his great determination for self-mastery.” President Faust went on toexplain how, as a young man, Heber J. Grant could not throw a baseball, had poor handwriting, and could not carry a tune when singing. “By practicing all of his life, he made some improvement in singing but perhaps not as much as in baseball and penmanship, which he mastered. President Grant had a favorite quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson which he lived by: ‘That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2000, 56–57; orEnsign, May 2000, 44–45). His determination to improve blessed President Grant throughout his life.Elder John Longden, who was an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, shared an experience told him by Elder Clifford E. Young, also an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve: “Three or four weeks before [President Grant] passed away, Brother Young was in his home visiting him. President Grant uttered this prayer: ‘O God, bless me that I shall not lose my testimony and [that I may] keep faithful to the end!’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1958, 70).

His Life (1856–1945)


Born in Salt Lake City on November 22 to Jedediah Morgan Grant and Rachel Ridgeway Ivins Grant. His father, a counselor to President Brigham Young, died nine days later.


Age 16, completed high school and began a career in banking and business


Age 20, married Lucy Stringham on November 1; she died in 1893


Age 23, called to be a stake president


Age 25, ordained an Apostle by President George Q. Cannon, a counselor in the First Presidency


Age 26–27, served a mission to the American Indians


Age 43–48, served as president of the first mission in Japan, then as president of the British and European missions


Age 60, became President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles


Age 62, sustained as President of the Church after the death of President Joseph F. Smith


Age 88, died May 14 in Salt Lake City

His Presidency (1918–45)


1919, 1923, 1927

Dedicated the temples in Hawaii, Alberta, and Arizona


The first radio broadcast of general conference


The first mission in South America organized


The first institute of religion began (in Moscow, Idaho)


The Church celebrated its 100th anniversary (there were about 670,000 members)


Organized Church welfare


Began programs to help Church members serving in the military during World War II

The Life of President Heber J. Grant

1. “Shortly before his death in November 1918, President Joseph F. Smith took Heber J. Grant, then President of the Twelve, by the hand and said: ‘The Lord bless you, my boy, the Lord bless you, you have got a great responsibility. Always remember that this is the Lord’s work, and not man’s. The Lord is greater than any man. He knows whom He wants to lead His Church, and never makes any mistake’ [“Editorial,”Improvement Era,Nov. 1936, 692]. Heber J. Grant became the seventh President of the Church at age 62, having served as an Apostle since 1882.

2. “As a young man and throughout his life, Heber showed an unusual determination in achieving his goals. As an only child reared by a widowed mother, he was somewhat sheltered from the activities of other boys his age. When he tried out for the baseball team, he was teased for his awkwardness and lack of skill and was not accepted as a team member. Instead of becoming discouraged, he spent many hours of persistent practice in throwing a ball and eventually became a member of another team that won several local championships.

3. “As a boy he wanted to become a bookkeeper when he learned that it would pay much more than his job of shining shoes. In those days, being a bookkeeper required good penmanship skills, but his writing was so bad that two of his friends said it looked like hen tracks. Once again, he was not discouraged but spent many hours practicing his penmanship. He became well known for his ability to write beautifully, eventually taught penmanship at a university, and was often called on to write important documents. He was a great example to many people who saw his determination to do the best he could in serving the Lord and his fellowmen.

4. “President Grant was a wise and successful businessman whose skills helped him lead the Church through a worldwide financial depression and the personal problems that resulted from it. He firmly believed in being self-reliant and in depending on the Lord and his own hard work, not on the government. He blessed many needy people with the money he earned.

5. “In the 1930s the Saints, like many other people in the world, were struggling with unemployment and poverty during the GreatDepression. In 1936, as a result of revelation from the Lord, President Grant established the welfare program of the Church to assist those in need and help all members become self-reliant. The First Presidency said of this program: ‘Our primary purpose was to set up, in so far as it might be possible, a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self respect be once more established amongst our people. The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership’ [First Presidency, in Conference Report, Oct. 1936, 3].

6. “[Elder Albert E. Bowen, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,] emphasized, ‘The real long term objective of the Welfare Plan is the building of character in the members of the Church, givers and receivers, rescuing all that is finest down deep inside of them, and bringing to flower and fruitage the latent richness of the spirit’ [The Church Welfare Plan(Gospel Doctrine course of study, 1946), 44].

7. “A General Welfare Committee was established in 1936 to over welfare efforts in the Church. Harold B. Lee, president of the Pioneer Stake, was made the committee’s managing director. Later, Deseret Industries stores were developed to help the unemployed and handicapped, and farms and production projects were established to help the needy. The welfare program continues to bless thousands of people today, both needy Church members and others in destitute circumstances throughout the world. [For further information, Glen L. Rudd,Pure Religion: The Story of Church Welfare Since 1930(1995).]

Deseret Industries

8. “While missionary work continued at an expanded pace, President Grant was instrumental in a most unusual conversion. Vincenzo di Francesca, an Italian minister of religion, was walking down a New York City street toward his church when he saw a book without a cover in a barrel full of ashes. He picked up the book, turned the pages, and saw for the first time the names Nephi, Mosiah, Alma, and Moroni. He felt impressed to read the book even though he did not know its name or origin, and to pray about its truthfulness. As he did, he said that ‘a feeling of gladness, as of finding something precious and extraordinary, bore consolation to my soul and left me with a joy that human language cannot find words to describe.’ He began teaching the principles in the book to the members of his church. His church leaders disciplined him for doing so and even directed him to burn the book, something he refused to do.

9. “He later returned to Italy, where in 1930 he learned that the book was published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He wrote a letter to the Church in Utah that was forwarded to President Grant. President Grant sent him a copy of the Book of Mormon in Italian and gave his name to the president of the European mission. The difficulties of wartime prevented Vincenzo from being baptized for many years, but he was finally able to become a member of the Church on 18 January 1951, the first person baptized on the island of Sicily. Five years later he was endowed in the Swiss Temple. [ Vincenzo di Francesca, “I Will Not Burn the Book!”Ensign,Jan. 1988, 18.]

Church's first radio station

10. “On 6 May 1922 President Grant dedicated the Church’s first radio station. Two years later the station began broadcasting sessions of general conference, allowing many more Church members to hear the messages of the General Authorities. Not long thereafter, in July of 1929, the Tabernacle Choir aired the first program ofMusic and the Spoken Word,a weekly broadcast of inspirational music and spoken message. This program has continued to be broadcast each week to the present time.

11. “President Grant died on 14 May 1945. His 27 years of service as President of the Church are exceeded in length only by Brigham Young’s years of service” (Our Heritage,107–10).

Understanding the Reading

The Life of President Heber J. Grant

Reared(par. 2)Raised 
The Great Depression(par. 5)A time of extreme poverty throughout the world 
Self-reliant(par. 5)Able to care for themselves 
Idleness(par. 5)Laziness 
Dole(par. 5)Free money and services from the government 
Abolished(par. 5)Ended, done away with 
Re-enthroned(par. 5)Returned to power 
Latent(par. 6)Potential 
Destitute(par. 7)Poor, impoverished 
Bore consolation(par. 8)Brought comfort 

The Teachings and Testimony of Heber J. Grant

12. In 1925 President Heber J. Grant and his counselors in the First Presidency issued the following statement concerning gambling: “The Church has been and now is unalterably opposed to gambling in any form whatever. It is opposed to any game of chance, occupation, or so-called business, which takes money from the person who may be possessed of it without giving value received in return. It is opposed to all practices the tendency ofwhich is to encourage the spirit of reckless speculation, and particularly to that which tends to degrade or weaken the high moral standard which the members of the Church, and our community at large, have always maintained” (in “Gambling,”Improvement Era,Sept. 1926, 1100).

13. During World War II many Church members from different nations were required to go to war, sometimes even fighting against each other. In a statement read during the April 1942 general conference, President Heber J. Grant and his counselors in the First Presidency said:

14. “The gospel of Christ is a gospel of love and peace, of patience and long suffering, of forbearance and forgiveness, of kindness and good deeds, of charity and brotherly love. …

15. “Hate can have no place in the souls of the righteous. …

16. “… Hate is born of Satan; love is the offspring of God. We must drive out hate from our hearts, every one of us, and permit it not again to enter. …

17. “For one hundred years, the Church has been guided by the following principles: [They quoteDoctrine and Covenants 134:1–6, 8.]

18. “Obedient to these principles, the members of the Church have always felt under obligation to come to the defense of their country when a call to arms was made. …

19. “… In the present war, righteous men of the Church in both camps have died, some with great heroism, for their own country’s sake. In all this our people have but served loyally the country of which they were citizens or subjects under the principles we have already stated. …

20. “… When … constitutional law, obedient to … principles [taught inDoctrine and Covenants 98:4–7], calls the manhood of the Church into the armed service of any country to which they owe allegiance, their highest civic duty requires that they meet that call. If, harkening to that call and obeying those in command over them, they shall take the lives of those who fight against them, that will not make of them murderers. …

21. “The whole world is in the midst of a war that ms the worst of all time. This Church is a worldwide Church. Its devoted members are in both camps. They are the innocent war instrumentalities of their warring sovereignties. On each side they believe they are fighting for home, and country, and freedom. On each side, our brethren pray to the same God, in the same name, for victory. Both sides cannot be wholly right; perhaps neither is without wrong. God will work out in His own due time and in His own sovereign way the justice and right of the conflict. …

22. “To our young men who go into service, no matter whom they serve or where, we say live clean, keep the commandments of the Lord, pray to Him constantly to preserve you in truth and righteousness, live as you pray, and then whatever betides you the Lord will be with you and nothing will happen to you that will not be to the honor and glory of God and to your salvation and exaltation” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1942, 90–91, 93–96).

23. “I leave with you my testimony that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God. … How do I know it? I know it as well as I know that I stand before you tonight. I know heat, I know cold; I know joy, and I know sorrow; and I say to you that in the hour of sorrow, in the hour of affliction, in the hour of death, God has heard and answered my prayers, and I know that he lives. I leave my testimony with you” (“Farewell Address of Apostle Heber J. Grant,”Improvement Era,July 1901, 691).

Understanding the Reading

The Teachings and Testimony of Heber J. Grant

Unalterably opposed to(par. 12)Unchangeably against 
Forebearance(par. 14)Patience 
Wholly(par. 21)Completely 
Sovereignties(par. 21)Countries 
Sovereign(par. 21)Supreme 
Betides you(par. 22)Happens to or comes upon you 

Studying the Reading

Do activities A and B as you study “President Heber J. Grant.”

Activity A iconSet Two Goals

  1. 1.

    Study paragraphs 1–11 and list five of President Heber J. Grant’s accomplishments that you think are important.

  2. 2.

    Write a short paragraph about how you think he was able to accomplish those tasks and the difficult challenges he had to overcome in order to do so.

  3. 3.

    Write down two goals you would like to achieve and describe the difficulties you think might lie in the way of your achieving them. Explain what you plan to do to reach your goals and how long you think it will take to achieve them.

Activity B iconGuidance for Making Important Decisions

Read the following situations, and then identify which teaching or testimony of President Heber J. Grant would best apply to each situation. Also, briefly explain what you think the person in each situation should do, and why.

  1. 1.

    Olivia’s closest friend was recently killed in an automobile accident. She is upset and wondering whether there really is a God.

  2. 2.

    James is thinking of buying a lottery ticket for the million-dollar jackpot. He could really use the money.

  3. 3.

    Stephen is a soldier in the army during wartime. He worries that he may need to kill enemy soldiers.

  4. 4.

    Maria is having a hard time finding a job. She decides it would be easier to apply for a check each month from the government so she won’t have to work.