From the Life of Heber J. Grant
President Heber J. Grant rarely spoke of his acts of service, but at times others told of the good deeds they had seen him perform. His family members were the primary witnesses and the primary beneficiaries of his service. His daughter Lucy Grant Cannon told of his generosity and kindness toward his children and grandchildren:
“Father’s devotion to his family is outstanding. His personal interest in them and their homes is constantly exhibited. He has helped them even when it was a great sacrifice. He has often said, ‘Help the sapling; the oaks can take care of themselves.’
“Each birthday of every child and grandchild a letter and a check come to them either delivered personally or by mail. Each Christmas and New Year’s and often at other times, books and checks, pictures or some thoughtful token arrives. His love and blessing always go with the gifts and fall like a benediction upon us all.”1
Lucy told of the tender care of her father at a time when she was suffering from diphtheria:
“Even after forty-three years, as I write, tears of gratitude and appreciation come to my eyes when I think of his tenderness to me in times of sickness. As many have heard him tell, I had a severe sickness when twelve years old; we were in Washington, D. C., at the time. But for the administration of the servants of the Lord and the power of God being sought in my behalf I should have died. Those weeks when I was so ill, even though we had two trained nurses, father scarcely left the room night or day. As I was improving, he read to me by the hour. He brought me presents and dainties as I was able to enjoy them and in the most wonderful way did as much as the fondest mother could.
“I was still too weak to walk when we left Washington. Father carried me to the train and waited on me during the journey home. If he had been a trained nurse, his touch could not have been more gentle or his care more considerate. We arrived in Salt Lake in time for the dedication of the temple. Several times he carried me all through the temple. Weeks of convalescence followed when I arrived home, and although all the family were willing to wait on me I still wanted him near and he was willing to be with me. What I say of myself is true of all my sisters when they have been ill.”2
President Grant’s service extended beyond his family. Lucy recalled:
“Once a few days before Christmas as I was preparing some little gifts for a needy family, father walked in and I showed him the things, telling him about the family as I had gathered the story from the mother. I mentioned that I must get my temple clothes ready; I was lending them to the woman to use the next morning. The next day when she came to return my clothing she told me when she went into the temple gate father was there waiting. He had never seen her before, only, knowing her by my description, he stopped her and handed her an envelope as he wished the family a happy Christmas. The envelope contained twenty dollars.”3
Even after suffering a series of debilitating strokes, President Grant continued to find ways to serve. With his physical activity curtailed, his main recreational outlet was riding in an automobile. He went on outings almost daily, and he always invited family members and friends to join him. During these outings he often extended his love to others by stopping to visit hospitals or people’s homes.4
In a tribute to President Grant, Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote: “His greatest love has always been humanity. The children of his heavenly Father have been his life’s concern. … This love has manifested itself, not merely in a general concern for all mankind, but in a care for individuals. The poor and the needy have always received of his bounty. The quick response of his heart to those in distress is a commonplace among his associates. Money has been given, as also the personal help that the strong may give the weak. President Grant is generous to a fault, charitable to the full limit of his power, and naturally, therefore, true to his friends and loving to his family. He stands in his high office with love in his soul for all people, urging upon all men to cast out selfish desire.”5
Teachings of Heber J. Grant
Our love for the Lord should translate into Christlike service.
What kind of men and women should we be, as Latter-day Saints, in view of this wonderful knowledge that we possess, that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God? We should be the most honest, the most virtuous, the most charitable-minded, the best people upon the face of the earth.6
Let us not forget the obligation which rests upon us to render allegiance and service to the Lord, and that acceptable service to Him cannot be rendered without service to our fellow man.7
We earnestly implore all members of the Church to love their brethren and sisters, and all peoples whoever and wherever they are; to banish hate from their lives, to fill their hearts with charity, patience, long-suffering, and forgiveness.8
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. Greed, avarice, base ambition, thirst for power, and unrighteous dominion over our fellow men, can have no place in the hearts of Latter-day Saints nor of God-fearing men everywhere.9
Our acts of service can lift and encourage others.
I heard a story of a brother (I have forgotten his name now) who attended a meeting in the early days. President Brigham Young made an appeal for donations to send to the Missouri River to help the Saints gather to Zion. He wanted everybody who could afford it, to give an ox or a cow or any other donation. One good brother jumped up and said, “I will give a cow.” Another brother got up and said, “I will give a cow.” The first brother had two cows and a large family; the other brother had a half-dozen cows and a small family. And, so the spirit [of the devil] came over the first man, [saying,] “Now, look here, you cannot get along with your large family; you cannot possibly get along with one cow. Now, that other man has got a small family and six cows; he could just as well give two or three and still get along all right.” As he started home, he walked four or five blocks, all the time getting weaker and weaker. Finally he thought, “I guess I won’t,” and then he realized the difference in the spirit that was tempting him and the one that had prompted his promise to the President of the Church that he would give a cow. Here was a spirit telling him to fail to fulfill his obligation, to fail to be honest, to fail to live up to his promise. He stopped short and turned around and said, “Mr. Devil, shut up or just as sure as I live, I will walk up to Brother Brigham’s office and give him the other cow.” He was not tempted any more.
Now, every Latter-day Saint ought to be a lifter and not a leaner.10
I remember once while sitting in the State Bank I saw an aged brother passing, by the name of John Furster. He was one of the first men baptized in Scandinavia. As he passed the bank window, the Spirit whispered to me “Give that man twenty dollars.” I went up to the teller, handed him my I O U for $20, walked down the street and overtook Mr. Furster in front of the Z. C. M. I. store. I shook hands with him and left the twenty dollars in his hand. Some years later I learned that that morning Brother Furster had been praying for sufficient means to enable him to go to Logan and do a little work in the temple there. At the time, the Salt Lake Temple was not completed. The twenty dollars was just the amount he needed, and years later he thanked me with tears running down his cheeks, for having given him this money.
One day while sitting in my office an impression came to me to go to Sister Emily Woodmansee and loan her fifty dollars. I did so, and found that she was in absolute need of the necessities of life. … There is nothing I desire more than to have my mind susceptible to impressions of this kind.11
Every kind word spoken gives you greater ability to speak another. Every act of assistance rendered by you, through the knowledge that you possess, to aid one of your fellows, gives you greater ability to aid the next one. Good acts grow upon a person. I have sometimes thought that many men, judging from their utter lack of kindness and of a disposition to aid others, imagined that if they were to say or do a kind thing, it would destroy their capacity to perform a kind act or say a kind word in the future. If you have a granary full of grain, and you give away a sack or two, there remain that many less in your granary, but if you perform a kind act or add words of encouragement to one in distress, who is struggling along in the battle of life, the greater is your capacity to do this in the future. Don’t go through life with your lips sealed against words of kindness and encouragement, nor your hearts sealed against performing labors for another. Make a motto in life: always try and assist someone else to carry his burden.12
Service is the true key to happiness in life.
One can never tell what will be the result of faithful service rendered, nor do we know when it will come back to us or to those with whom we are associated. The reward may not come at the time, but in dividends later. I believe we will never lose anything in life by giving service, by making sacrifices, and doing the right thing.13
The true key to happiness in life is to labor for the happiness of others. I pity the selfish man who has never experienced the joy which comes to those who receive the thanks and gratitude of the people whom they may have aided in the struggle of life.14
The real secret of happiness in life and the way in which to prepare ourselves for the hereafter is service.15
I am converted to the thought that the way to peace and happiness in life is by giving service. Service is the true key, I believe, to happiness, because when we perform labors like missionary work, all the rest of our lives we can look back upon our accomplishments in the mission field. When we perform any acts of kindness, they bring a feeling of satisfaction and pleasure into our hearts, while ordinary amusements pass away.16
It is a God-given law that in proportion to the service we give, in proportion to what we do in this Church and out of it—what we are willing to sacrifice for the Church and for those to whom we owe our loyalty outside of Church activity—we shall grow in the grace of God and in the love of God, and we shall grow in accomplishing the purposes of our being placed here on the earth.17
May the Lord be with you all, our brothers and sisters, wherever you may dwell. May His peace be in your hearts; may His Spirit inspire you to new achievements in brotherly and neighborly service.18
Suggestions for Study and Discussion
Why do we find “the true key to happiness” when we “labor for the happiness of others”?
Why do we sometimes hesitate to actively serve others? What can we do to feel more joy as we give service?
What can we do to help children and youth have a desire to serve?
How can we improve our ability to sense others’ needs?
What does it mean to “be a lifter and not a leaner”?
In what ways does service help us “prepare ourselves for the hereafter”?
What are some specific, simple things we can do to follow President Grant’s example of service? How can we give service regardless of our circumstances?
“A Father Who Is Loved and Honored,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1936, 680.
Improvement Era, Nov. 1936, 682.
Improvement Era, Nov. 1936, 682.
See Francis M. Gibbons, Heber J. Grant: Man of Steel, Prophet of God (1979), 222–23; see also Improvement Era, Nov. 1936, 684.
“The Living Prophet,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1926, 7.
Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham (1941), 4.
In James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (1965–75), 5:223.
Message from the First Presidency, in Conference Report, Oct. 1939, 8; read by President Heber J. Grant.
Message from the First Presidency, in Conference Report, Apr. 1942, 90; read by President J. Reuben Clark Jr.
“Settlement,” Improvement Era, Jan. 1941, 56.
Letter from Heber J. Grant to N. L. Nelson, 1 Apr. 1914, Family and Church History Department Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Have a Purpose in Life,” Improvement Era, Feb. 1902, 289–90.
Gospel Standards, 356.
Improvement Era, Feb. 1902, 290.
Gospel Standards, 187.
Gospel Standards, 187.
Gospel Standards, 186–87.
In Messages of the First Presidency, 5:311.