Lesson 22: Heber J. Grant—Man of Determination

, "Lesson 22: Heber J. Grant—Man of Determination," The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual1996


The class members will recognize the faith, desire, and determination that characterized the life of President Heber J. Grant, and they will begin to incorporate these qualities into their own lives.


  1. 1.

    See that each class member has a copy of the Book of Mormon.

  2. 2.

    Prepare to show the picture of Heber J. Grant in this lesson.

  3. 3.

    If the videocassette Testimonies of the Presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (53242) is available, show the section “Heber J. Grant.”

  4. 4.

    If possible, bring the following to class for a table display: a baseball, baseball cap, baseball bat, an ink pen (or large feathered pen), and a hymnbook.

Suggested Lesson Development



When Heber J. Grant was only nine days old, his father, Jedediah M. Grant (a member of the First Presidency), died, leaving the frail infant and widowed mother in what after a short time was almost poverty. Many felt the delicate baby would not survive—and he would not have survived, had he not received the best of care from his mother.

When Jedediah’s widows finally could not meet expenses, the lovely home and property on Main Street in Salt Lake City was sold and the money divided among the Grant heirs. Heber’s mother received five hundred dollars. With this money she purchased a little house and helped support herself and Heber by sewing for others.

Heber learned from his mother that the Lord would bless them if they had faith, worked hard, and kept the commandments. As a boy he knew times of scarcity. “There were blustery nights with no fire and a meager diet that allowed only several pounds of butter and sugar for an entire year. One Christmas [Rachel Grant] wept because she lacked a dime to buy a stick of candy for [Heber’s] holiday” (Ronald W. Walker, “Heber J. Grant,” in The Presidents of the Church, ed. Leonard J. Arrington [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986], p. 218).

Once during a heavy rain, at least a half dozen buckets were on the floor to catch the water that came through the leaky roof of the poor little home. Bishop Edwin D. Woolley (President Spencer W. Kimball’s grandfather) came over and offered to take money from the fast offerings and put a new roof on the house. Widow Grant refused, saying she would get along until her son grew into manhood and built her a new house.

Amid these adversities they always worked to please our Heavenly Father by the way they conducted their lives and lived the gospel.

The faith of this mother and son, during these trying times, embedded determination into their character. Heber’s mother took in boarders to help provide the necessities for her and her son. Heber learned to work hard and never used the circumstances at hand as an excuse to complain. Later Heber did succeed in building his mother a nice comfortable home, and he invited Bishop Woolley to dedicate it when it was finished. This experience enabled a great sense of gratitude and accomplishment to soar within the young Heber J. Grant.

Scripture discussion

Read and study together 1 Nephi 7:12. (We can accomplish all things according to the will of the Lord, if we exercise faith.)

  • How does having faith strengthen one’s character? (We begin to rely on the Lord when we have faith. Our increased faith helps us in keeping the commandments and as we keep and do the things the Lord would have us do, we build our character.)


  • What are things in your life that require faith? Are they building your character? (Allow varied responses.)

Desire and Determination Can Lead One to Great Works


Show the picture of Heber J. Grant from the lesson.

The following three examples from the life of Heber J. Grant show his great desire and determination to succeed. (As you read and study them, use the visual aids on the table display to help make the stories more meaningful. For example, ask some members of the class to try using an ink pen to make “certificate quality” lettering or have several others try singing a hymn without accompaniment.)

Example 1

Read and discuss the following:

Heber said, “‘As I was an only child, my mother reared me very carefully. Indeed, I grew up more or less under the principles of a hothouse plant, a growth which is long and lengthy but not substantial. I learned to sweep and to wash and wipe dishes but did little stone throwing and little indulgence in works which are interesting to boys, which develop their physical frames. Therefore, when I joined the baseball club the boys of my own age and a little older played in the first nine [players], those younger than I played in the second, and those still younger, in the third, and I played with them. One of the reasons for this was that I could not throw the ball from one base to another, and another reason was that I lacked the strength to run or bat the ball. When I picked up the ball, the boys would generally shout, “Throw it here, sissy!” So much fun was engendered on my account by my youthful companions that I solemnly vowed that I would play baseball in the nine [team] that would win the championship in the territory of Utah. … I shined … boots until I saved a dollar which I invested in a baseball and spent hours and hours throwing the ball at Bishop Edwin D. Woolley’s barn, which caused him to refer to me as the laziest boy in the Thirteenth Ward. Often my arm would ache so that I could scarcely go to sleep at night, but I kept on practicing and finally succeeded in getting into the second nine of our club. Subsequently, I joined a better club and eventually played in the nine that won the championship in California, Colorado, and Wyoming, and thus made good my promise to myself and retired from the baseball arena’” (Bryant S. Hinckley, Heber J. Grant [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1951], pp. 37–38).

Example 2

“‘My mother,’” Heber said, “‘tried to teach me [to sing] when [I was] a small child, but failed because of my inability to carry a tune. I joined a singing class taught by Professor Charles J. Thomas, who tried in vain to teach me … and finally he gave up in despair. He said that I could never, in this world, learn to sing … [possibly I] might learn the divine art in another world. … [Then a friend told me] that any person could learn to sing who had a reasonably good voice, and who possessed perseverance, and who was willing to do plenty of practicing’” (Hinckley, Heber J. Grant, p. 470). President Grant finally did learn to sing in tune because he kept practicing.

Later, he said, while visiting the stakes in Arizona with Elders Rudger Clawson and J. Golden Kimball, “I asked [them] if they had any objection to my singing one hundred hymns that day. They took it as a joke and assured me that they would be delighted. We were on the way back [in a buggy] from Holbrook to St. Johns, a distance of about sixty miles. After I had sung about forty times, they assured me that if I sang the remaining sixty they would have [a] nervous [breakdown]. I paid no attention whatever to their appeal but held them to their bargain and sang the full one hundred [songs]” (Hinckley, Heber J. Grant, p. 47).

Heber J. Grant’s interest in music extended beyond himself. He helped musicians and encouraged the Sunday broadcasts of the Tabernacle Choir. He personally sponsored the choir “in several trips to California and Chicago and authorized the [formation of the] Church Music Committee” (Hinckley, Heber J. Grant, p. 41).

Example 3

As a boy, Heber wanted to become a bookkeeper for the Wells Fargo and Company’s bank because he had learned it would pay much more than polishing shoes. He knew that he needed to improve his writing, however, to have such a job. “At the beginning his penmanship was so poor that when two of his chums were looking at it one said to the other, ‘That writing looks like hen tracks.’ ‘No,’ said the other, ‘it looks as if lightning had struck an ink bottle.’ [These comments] touched Heber’s pride” (Hinckley, Heber J. Grant, p. 40). He decided he would practice until he could write better than his two friends. He later said that he used carloads of paper practicing writing.

Eventually, because of his developed talent, he was called on to write “greeting cards, wedding cards, insurance policies, stock certificates, and legal documents” (Hinckley, Heber J. Grant, p. 40). In his day these things were written by hand and not printed. He was even offered a high salary to go to San Francisco as a penman, but declined. “He later [taught] penmanship and bookkeeping at the University of Deseret [University of Utah]” (Hinckley, Heber J. Grant, p. 40).

Scripture discussion

The Lord said in Doctrine and Covenants 6:8: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, even as you desire of me so it shall be unto you; and if you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good.”

  • Are desire and determination powerful tools? (Yes! And when we have righteous desires and are determined in our goals, the Lord has promised that we “shall be the means of doing much good.”)

  • How are you, as youth, using desire and determination as tools to bring about great works?

Videocassette testimony

If it is available, show the videocassette, part 3 (1 minute, 10 seconds), of President Heber J. Grant’s testimony. If it is not available, read the following testimony:

“‘I want to bear my testimony to you … and tell you I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Eternal Father. I know that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God, and may God help us so to live, that others, seeing our good deeds, will investigate the plan of life and salvation, I ask, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen’” (Preston Nibley, The Presidents of the Church [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1941], pp. 322–23).

Testimony and Challenge

Bear your testimony and challenge the class members to incorporate into their lives the qualities of faith, desire, and determination. Discuss with them ways in which they can do this.