In a tribute to President Heber J. Grant, Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote, “His life is a lesson to all.”1 Elder Samuel O. Bennion of the Seventy also spoke of the example set by President Grant: “He is anxiously engaged in the great cause of the Lord; he is commanded only of God, and he sets to the people the proper example, and as a result the work is becoming greater and more glorious.”2
In addition to setting a righteous example himself, President Grant taught that each member of the Church can live in a way that will bring credit and glory to the work of the Lord. He said, “The greatest and the most wonderful preacher among the Latter-day Saints is the man or the woman who lives the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”3
While serving as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Heber J. Grant received a letter from a friend who was not a member of the Church. In a general conference address, Elder Grant read portions of the letter to emphasize the need for Latter-day Saints to set a good example:
“‘My Dear Heber:
“‘… You know, aside from the long and intimate personal friendship we have had together, how much I have always been impressed with the genuineness and sincerity of the religious feeling among the men and women who hold your faith. Many times and oft I have said, in conversation, that the only religious people I ever knew who lived up to their professions, were the Mormons of Utah. And this is true.’”
After reading this excerpt, Elder Grant commented: “I am indeed grateful that my friend has not access to the list of non-tithe-payers, … because I doubt very much if then he could say ‘that the only religious people I ever knew who lived up to their professions, were the Mormons of Utah.’ I am grateful that the Mormons with whom this man became acquainted were not only Mormons in name, but that they were in very deed Latter-day Saints. He gained his opinion of all ‘Mormons’ by those with whom he became acquainted; and I have often said in public that I regard it as the duty of every Latter-day Saint to so order his life that his conduct will inspire all people with respect for him, and thereby create respect for the entire people. It is in keeping with the teachings of our Savior to let our light so shine, that men, seeing our good works, will glorify God and be led to embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Continuing with the letter, Elder Grant read: “‘This it is that inspires respect. … Your people carry their beliefs into daily life, and act as if they think there is something in them. …’”
Referring again to his friend’s letter, Elder Grant then said:
“Now here is the sentence that I desire impressed upon your minds indelibly:
“‘If there is anything (and my friend draws a big black line under “anything”) in a belief which involves an eternity of future existence, there is everything (and my friend draws another black line under “everything.)’”
“Do we as Latter-day Saints believe this? Do we appreciate the force of my friend’s remark? ‘If there is anything in a belief which involves an eternity of future existence, there is everything.’ Are we convinced that there is everything in this belief that involves an eternity of future existence? And do we, as our friend says we do, carry our beliefs into daily life, and act as if we do think there is something in them?”4
We have now become known for what we are—upright, God-fearing people; and just in proportion as we live the Gospel, knowing that it is the truth, will we continue to break down prejudice, build good will, and draw other men to us.
This condition has been brought about by the fact that we have knowledge, and that so many of our people have lived up to it. Every man among us carries on his shoulders the reputation of his Church, and as you and I live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we bring credit to the work of the Lord that has been established again upon the earth in this dispensation.
I am very thankful that this is the condition, and my heart is full of gratitude to the Lord for the remarkable change that has come about, and I hope that every man and woman who holds membership in this Church may be inspired to make up his or her mind that so far as their ability and their capacity are concerned they are going to live this Gospel so that their lives will preach the truthfulness of it.5
The railing out against the Church, the viciousness and the lying about our people as a whole have almost entirely died out because people have come to know the desires of our hearts, that we have no enmity against even those who malign us. The Lord has helped us upon many occasions to make friends with some who were at one time our enemies. They have learned that every true Latter-day Saint is a servant of the Lord desiring to know what the Lord would like him to do, and although their own personal ambitions might be vastly different from those of ourselves, yet men are learning that a real, genuine Latter-day Saint is a man worthy to be trusted in all particulars because he desires to know the mind and will of God. While they may feel that we are mistaken as a people, they realize our honesty and integrity.6
Go where you will among the elders of Israel, travel from one end of the Church to the other, and you will find a testimony burning in the hearts of the Latter-day Saints that this is the work of Almighty God and that his Son Jesus Christ has established it. You find this testimony, you hear it borne, but do we always live the lives of Latter-day Saints? Do we live as we should live, considering the great testimony that has been given unto us? Do we keep His commandments as we ought to do? We carry upon our shoulders the reputation, so to speak, of the Church, every one of us.7
May the Lord bless the people of Zion. May we keep his commandments in a way and manner that all men, seeing our good deeds, our honesty, our integrity, may be led at least to respect us, whether they believe in our faith or not.8
I maintain that a Latter-day Saint that does a wrong is not only held accountable for that wrong, but also for the discredit he brings upon the cause. Let a man get drunk who belongs to the church, probably some one sees him and sees in him for the first time a Mormon. He is pointed out as a Mormon, and by him the rest are judged. He who sees this would say, “If that is Mormonism, I don’t want any of it,” and when he hears of a Mormon sermon to be preached he will stay away. So there are many sins intended to close men’s hearts against the Kingdom of God.9
Preaching and talking mean but very little unless our lives are lived in perfect harmony with our teachings.10
On one occasion a man delivered a very remarkable sermon. Later one of his friends said: “You know, that was a very wonderful sermon, very remarkable, but your acts shout so loud I didn’t hear anything you said.”11
I heard of a man who was at a great banquet speaking to another regarding the faith of the Latter-day Saints. He said, “Why, the ‘Mormon’ people, those who live their religion, do not use tea, coffee, tobacco or liquor.” The other man said, “I do not believe a word of it.” The man said, “It is true.”
These two non-“Mormons” were sitting at one of the tables at this banquet. Along came a “Mormon.” The man who was defending the “Mormons” said, “There comes a Mormon. He is going to take a seat with us. I’ll bet you he won’t drink coffee.” The bet was accepted. The “Mormon” drank the coffee! When they came out the one who lost his bet said, “I have no further use for that man, who professes to believe that God gave a revelation through Joseph Smith, telling the people to leave such things alone, and yet he comes here and publicly disobeys the teachings of his prophet. I have trusted that man, but I will quit trusting him.”12
I want to say to the Latter-day Saints that it behooves us, having received a testimony of the divinity of the work in which we are engaged, to so order our lives from day to day that glory shall be brought to the work of God by the good deeds that we perform, so letting our light shine that men, seeing our good deeds, shall glorify God [see Matthew 5:16]. No people upon the face of the earth have ever been blessed as have been the Latter-day Saints; no people have ever had the many manifestations of the kindness and mercy and long-suffering of God that have been bestowed upon us, and I say we, above all men and women upon the earth should live Godlike and upright lives.13
The Savior told His followers that they were the salt of the earth, but that if the salt lost its savor, it was henceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men. He told them also that they were the light of the world, a city set upon a hill which could not be hid. He told them that men did not light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it might give light to all that were in the room. And He admonished them to let their light so shine that men seeing their good deeds might glorify God. [See Matthew 5:13–16.]
This admonition applies to us. We are the light of the world. We have received the inspiration of Almighty God. We have received a testimony of the gospel, and we do know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. … Every true Latter-day Saint has this testimony burning within his or her heart. Now, are we so living that the good deeds that we perform bring credit to the work of God? Are our examples worthy of the imitation of all men? Do we by our example show that we have faith in the gospel?14
I maintain that it is the absolute duty of each and every member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to so order his life that his example will be worthy of the imitation of all men, thus bringing credit and blessings to himself and his posterity and also making friends for the work of the Lord. This should be the loftiest ambition of every Latter-day Saint.15
That God our heavenly Father may help us to be loyal and true to him and that we may ever show by our faithfulness, by our honesty to men and women, and by the uprightness of our lives that we are in very deed the servants and handmaidens of the living God, striving for the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is my earnest prayer.16
May each and every Latter-day Saint live the gospel so that its truth will be proclaimed by his example.17
The greatest and the most wonderful preacher among the Latter-day Saints is the man or the woman who lives the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Show me thy faith by thy works” is the thing that counts. James said that he would show his faith by his works, and that faith without works is dead. It is like the body without the spirit. [See James 2:17–18, 26.] … It is by our works, our diligence, our faithfulness, our energy, that we can preach this gospel. The people of the world are beginning to recognize, to know and to comprehend the fact that the fruits of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as taught by the Latter-day Saints, are good fruits. … The one great standard laid down by the Savior of the world was, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” [Matthew 7:20.] For happiness in their homes, for contentment, prosperity, business integrity, sobriety, for observance of the laws of God and of man, I am at the defiance of the world to find any people superior to the Latter-day Saints. I am not speaking now of Mormons who do not keep the commandments of God.18
May God bless you one and all. May each and every one of us who have a testimony of the divinity of the work in which we are engaged, so order our lives that those who know not the truth, seeing our diligence, our faith, our humility, and our desire to serve God, may be led to investigate the truth that we have to bear to them. This is my prayer and desire.19
God lives; Jesus is the Christ; Joseph Smith is a prophet of the living God; we have the truth; and may those who know it, so live that those who know it not may investigate the plan of life and salvation and obtain eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God to man.20
I pray that the blessings of Almighty God may be and abide with all the members of this Church, every faithful, diligent Latter-day Saint. May we be able to preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ by the honesty, the uprightness and the truthfulness of our lives. If we do this, then we are sure of a final triumph.21
I am grateful beyond all the power and ability with which God has given me to express myself for a knowledge that he lives, that God is our Father, and that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer and Savior.
May the Lord help you and me and every soul who has that knowledge to labor with all the ability which we possess to bring others to that same knowledge, by our example. Oh, how grateful I am to our Heavenly Father that he saw fit to choose Joseph Smith as the instrument in his hand of establishing again upon the earth the plan of life and salvation. May the Lord bless you one and all, and bless every honest soul upon the earth, and help every Latter-day Saint to so live that his example will shine and that it will help to bring others to a knowledge of the truth.22
Why is example such a powerful influence?
What does it mean to carry the reputation of the Church on our shoulders?
How can we be better examples to our family members, ward or branch members, and neighbors?
Who are some people whose examples have influenced you? Why have these people been so influential in your life?
What are some instances in which the good works of Latter-day Saints have inspired others to investigate the gospel?