Heber J. Grant was born in 1856, during the Saints’ struggle to establish The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley. At that time, the Church had 7 stakes and approximately 64,000 members. There were no temples in operation.
In 1882, when Heber J. Grant was ordained an Apostle, the Church was firmly established in the Salt Lake Valley. Many people in the world at that time had prejudiced and incorrect ideas about the Latter-day Saints, but the Church continued to grow. Membership was approaching 146,000, and the number of stakes had risen to 24. Five years earlier, the St. George Utah Temple had been dedicated—the only temple in operation at the time.
As an Apostle, Elder Grant was a close witness of the Church’s progress. In 1902—when the Church had 4 temples in operation, 50 stakes, and almost 300,000 members—he made the following observation: “There is no such thing as standing still. The Church is not standing still; we have the evidence today of its growth, of its increased tithes, the increased results of the missionary work all over the world, and the increased efficiency of the work in the colleges, the Latter-day Saints’ university and academies. There has also been a wonderful growth in the Sabbath schools. The work of God is progressing, and the power and influence of the adversary and those who are working against us are waning.”1
During Heber J. Grant’s service as President of the Church, from November 1918 to May 1945, the Church’s remarkable growth continued. Membership climbed from approximately 496,000 to more than 954,000. The number of stakes increased from 75 to 149, and the number of temples in operation increased from 4 to 7.
President Grant often observed that people were beginning to look more favorably upon the Latter-day Saints. “I believe,” he said, “that we are recognized now by all who know us, as a God-fearing people, as an upright, honest community.”2 In the October 1937 general conference, just after returning from a tour of the missions in Europe, he shared the following example:
“When I was in Europe 30-odd years ago [as a mission president,] … during my entire three years in the British Isles I never succeeded in getting a single solitary article published in the newspapers. Some of the vilest, most wicked, obscene, terrible things were published regarding us, but those in charge of the press positively refused to listen to anything we had to say.
“I was assured while on this [recent] trip that we had favorable newspaper notices in Germany, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, in Holland and in Belgium. No criticism of any kind or description, just fine notices regarding our meetings, and in some cases the notices in the papers in the British Isles were of such a character that if we had had the privilege of writing them ourselves we could not have written anything that would have pleased us better. As near as I could judge not a single article was written during our entire trip but what was intended to give a fair, honorable and splendid report of our people. I rejoice in these things. It is such a marvelous change from the spirit of animosity and almost hatred that I found among newspaper men that I came in contact with over thirty years ago.”3
President Grant frequently shared his feelings of gratitude for the temporal and spiritual advancement of the Church. In these expressions of thanks, he acknowledged the blessings of the Lord and the dedication of the Latter-day Saints despite the adversity they faced. During the bleak times of the Great Depression, he said: “Nothing short of [the] perfect and absolute knowledge that we possess as a people would enable us to accomplish anywhere near the things that we are accomplishing. To think that in these days of depression and trouble we are able to spend millions of dollars of money to build meetinghouses! Nearly every Sunday, for weeks at a stretch, I have had to dedicate meetinghouses and every time the buildings have been full to overflowing with those who have attended these meetings. … We are growing splendidly. There is a feeling of absolute confidence. There is no fear on our part of the final triumph of the work of God.”4
I bear my witness to you here today that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the true and the living God, that he was the instrument in the hands of God of establishing again upon the earth the plan of life and salvation, not only for the living but for the dead, and that this gospel, commonly called “Mormonism,” by the people of the world, is in very deed the plan of life and salvation, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, that the little stone has been cut out of the mountain, and that it shall roll forth until it fills the whole earth [see Daniel 2:31–45; D&C 65:2].5
The Lord has established His Church in these latter-days that men might be called to repentance, to the salvation and exaltation of their souls. Time and time again He told the Prophet Joseph and those with him that “the field is white already to harvest.” (D&C 4:4; 6:3; 11:3; 12:3; 14:3; 33:3, 7.) Over and over again He commanded them to preach nothing but repentance to this generation (D&C 6:9; 11:9; 14:8) finally declaring:
“And thou shalt declare glad tidings, yea, publish it upon the mountains, and upon every high place, and among every people that thou shalt be permitted to see.
“And thou shalt do it with all humility, trusting in me, reviling not against revilers.
“Behold, this is a great and the last commandment which I shall give unto you concerning this matter; for this shall suffice for thy daily walk, even unto the end of thy life.
“And misery thou shalt receive if thou wilt slight these counsels, yea, even the destruction of thyself and property.” (D&C 19:29–33.)
These commands we must obey that men shall come to know God and Jesus Christ whom He sent, for “this is life eternal.” (John 17:3.)
For this cause was the Church organized, the gospel again revealed in its fulness, the Priesthood of God again restored, with all its rights, powers, keys and functions. This is the mission of the Church. The divine commission given to the apostles of old (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15) has been repeated in this day, that the gospel shall be carried to all nations (D&C 38:33), unto the Jew and the Gentile (D&C 18:26); it shall be declared with rejoicing (D&C 28:16); it shall roll to the ends of the earth (D&C 65:2); and it must be preached by us to whom the kingdom has been given. (D&C 84:76.) No act of ours or of the Church must interfere with this God-given mandate.6
The mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of peace. It aims to prepare the people of the world for the second coming of Christ, and for the inauguration of that blessed day when the millennium shall come and Christ shall reign as the King of kings, standing at the head of the universal brotherhood of man.7
The accomplishments of the Latter-day Saints are in absolute and full accord with the prophecy delivered on the west bank of the Mississippi River by the Prophet Joseph Smith, as recorded in the prophet’s journal under date of August 6, 1842:
“I prophesied that the Saints would continue to suffer much affliction and would be driven to the Rocky Mountains. Many would apostatize, others would be put to death by our persecutors or lose their lives as consequence of exposure or disease, and some of you will live to go and assist in making settlements and build cities, and see the Saints become a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains.” [History of the Church, 5:85.]
… We have in very deed fulfilled that prophecy notwithstanding the fact that this western country was considered worthless. When you think of this arid region, when you think that it was considered of no value, and then realize what has been accomplished, it is beyond question that we have fulfilled that prediction.8
I rejoice in the growth and in the advancement of the work of God here on earth. … I [am] reminded of being with President Wilford Woodruff, standing in a wagon in Idaho, … and talking to a half a dozen, or a dozen young people that were located there, and I [am] also very forcibly reminded of the remarks of that prophet of God. … I remember that the young people were somewhat discouraged on Sand Creek, as they looked around over land without a tree, without a shrub except sagebrush, without so much as a log cabin. Brother Woodruff said to the young people: “Be not discouraged; be not disheartened, because God’s blessing is upon this land. It will only be a little time before there will be prosperous and happy settlements of the Latter-day Saints here. You feel that you have gone away from your friends, that you are almost out of the world, but it will be only a short time when you will have a meetinghouse, and a schoolhouse and all of the facilities here that you had at home before you came here. God will bless and multiply the land.” What is the result today? On that spot of ground stands the town of Iona, the headquarters of one of the stakes of Zion, with about five thousand people instead of six or seven young people; the words of the Prophet Wilford Woodruff have been fulfilled to the very letter.9
When I think of all the accomplishments of the work of God, my language utterly fails me to speak in just praise of all that has been done.10
I feel that the very persecutions and troubles through which we passed prepared us and educated us and strengthened us as a people for greater things.11
The Latter-day Saints are indeed, as the Prophet Joseph said they should be, a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains, and we are simply in our infancy. We are beginning to grow and to become a mighty people, but we are as nothing to what we will be.12
Each and every year the Church is stronger than it was the year before. The Church is progressing, it is not going backward. Men may make mistakes, but the Church stands firm.13
The adversary of men’s souls, the destroyer, he who would have destroyed the work of God, he and his emissaries thought that by killing the Prophet [Joseph Smith] and the Patriarch [Hyrum Smith] they could retard the work of the living God that has again been established upon the earth; but … the wonderful growth of the Church, the great temple of God in [Salt Lake City], our wonderful tabernacle, the great [Church administration] building … , the monuments and the temples, from Canada to Hawaii, and to Saint George, and the great progress of the work of God,—all these things are a standing rebuke to those who thought they could stop the work of the Lord. The testimony of Jesus Christ that burned in the hearts of the Prophet and the Patriarch, and for which they gave their lives, burns in the hearts of each and all of us who have been blessed with the light, the knowledge, and the testimony of the divinity of the work in which we are engaged.14
There [has been] some indication by some … that unless this Church grew and “progressed” with the present age, so to speak, like other churches, it would be doomed to failure. Any Latter-day Saint that thinks for one minute that this Church is going to fail is not a really converted Latter-day Saint. There will be no failure in this Church. It has been established for the last time, never to be given to another people and never to be thrown down.15
Our enemies have never done anything that has injured this work of God, and they never will. I look around, I read, I reflect, and I ask the question, Where are the men of influence, of power and prestige, who have worked against the Latter-day Saints? … Where are there people to do them honor? They cannot be found. … Where are the men who have assailed this work? Where is their influence? They have faded away like dew before the sun. We need have no fears, we Latter-day Saints. God will continue to sustain this work; He will sustain the right.16
God lives, Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith was a prophet of the true and the living God; and this work called “Mormonism” is the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Redeemer, and is the plan of life and salvation; and all the disbelief of the world, all the opposition of all the world cannot stop it, God has established it and it will go on and on until it has fulfilled its destiny!17
God has promised many wonderful things regarding this people. We have a marvelous destiny before us, and are gradually fitting and qualifying ourselves for that destiny.18
If there is any one thing more than another that I desire to impress upon the hearts of the Latter-day Saints it is that we should in very deed serve God with all our might, mind and strength, that we may keep pace with the progress of his work here upon the earth.19
The destiny of the Latter-day Saints is very great. I realize that the prophecies that have been made with reference to this people will all have to be fulfilled. The little stone cut from the mountain without hands is to roll forth and fill the whole earth. I realize that it will be necessary that our children be fitted, qualified, and prepared by education, by study, and also by faith in God, our Heavenly Father, and in His Son Jesus Christ, if they successfully fulfill their destiny. That the Saints will fulfill their destiny, that they will accomplish all that God desires them to accomplish, I have no doubt. Whether we, as individuals, shall do all that is possible for us to do is a personal matter. I have often said in my remarks to the Saints, that each and every one of us are the architects of our own lives; that God will bless us in proportion to our faithfulness and diligence.20
There is no question in my mind but what the Lord is going to multiply the Latter-day Saints and bless them more abundantly in the future than He has ever done in the past, provided of course we are humble and diligent; provided we seek for the advancement of God’s kingdom, and not to do our own mind and will. We have the gospel of Jesus Christ restored to us; we have the plan of life and salvation; we have the ordinances of the Gospel not only for the living but for the dead. We have all that is necessary, not only for our own salvation, but that we may be in very deed “Saviors upon Mount Zion,” [see Obadiah 1:21] and enter into the temples of our God and save our ancestors who have died without a knowledge of the gospel.21
If we are loyal, if we are true, if we are worthy of this gospel, of which God has given us a testimony, there is no danger that the world can ever injure us. We can never be injured, my brethren and sisters, by any mortals, except ourselves. If we fail to serve God, if we fail to do right, then we rob ourselves of the ability and power to grow, to increase in faith and knowledge, to have power with God, and with the righteous.22
It is not out of place to predict that the people of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will continue to thrive and prosper, spiritually and temporally, as long as they (1) keep the commandments of God and (2) walk in the way which He shall point out through His inspired servants holding the Holy Priesthood. They are a people whose faith, teachings, thrift, and temporal and spiritual progress will be a blessing and an advantage to the whole nation. A people whom none need to fear, but on the contrary, bless and welcome, because they seek to do the will of the Lord, to treat all people in conformity with the principles of justice and righteousness, themselves loyal and law-abiding, obedient to the rules and regulations of the just governments of the earth, and the vitalizing gospel of Jesus Christ, established and restored through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith by visitation of God and His Son, Jesus the Christ, who stands at the head of the great and marvelous work in which we are engaged. Their motto is “Truth and Liberty,” and they would extend these to all mankind, and make all mankind partakers of the influence of peace and righteousness which accompany the true gospel of Jesus Christ—the only means by which peace and the brotherhood of man may be established in all the world.23
What is the destiny of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
What evidence is there today that the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have “become a mighty people”? Why has the Church experienced such tremendous growth?
What can we learn from the efforts of the early Saints in overcoming obstacles and building the kingdom of God?
How do the Church’s advancements in President Grant’s day compare to current advancements?
How does it help you to know that the Church “has been established for the last time, never to be given to another people and never to be thrown down”?
How can we contribute to the fulfillment of the Church’s destiny? In what ways can parents help their children “be fitted, qualified, and prepared” to contribute to this destiny?