“Heber J. Grant,” Church History Topics
“Heber J. Grant”
Heber J. Grant was the seventh President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Born in Salt Lake City in 1856, Grant was raised by his mother, Rachel Ridgeway Ivins Grant, after his father, Jedediah Grant (a counselor to Brigham Young) died when Heber was only a few days old. Heber was called as a stake president at age 23 and ordained an Apostle two years later. During 36 years of apostolic service, he worked with Native American members, ordaining many as priesthood leaders; organized and presided over the first mission in Japan; and presided over the British and European missions. One of the most dramatic incidents in his apostolic service came in 1893, when he sought divine aid to secure loans to save the Church. At the time, the Church was still reeling financially from the effects of antipolygamy legislation and bad investments; Grant’s efforts protected the Church from financial collapse during a nationwide economic crisis. 1 As an Apostle and later as Church President, Grant emphasized adherence to the Word of Wisdom and promised that faithful observance would bring Latter-day Saints greater knowledge and testimony.
A hallmark of Grant’s life and ministry was his devotion to the Word of Wisdom. His conviction stemmed from his experience as a younger man during a time when the Word of Wisdom was not observed as strictly in the Church. Heber sought a life insurance policy to ensure his mother would be cared for were he to die young, like his father. When insurers denied him the policy because of his slender build, his physician prescribed “four glasses of beer daily” to help him gain weight. The regimen soon developed into a habit. Determined to follow the Word of Wisdom’s counsel “insurance or no insurance,” he quit drinking and ceased to do business with saloons and breweries. From that point onward, he championed the Word of Wisdom among colleagues, friends, and fellow Church members. During the era of prohibition, he spoke often of the blessings promised in the Word of Wisdom and urged others to abstain from tobacco and alcohol. Later as President of the Church, he made abstinence from alcohol part of obtaining a temple recommend and lobbied for prohibition. 2
As President of the Church from 1918 to 1945, Heber J. Grant oversaw the expansion of the Church outside Latter-day Saint–majority areas along the Rocky Mountains. He assured Saints that migration away from 19th-century gathering centers was in full accordance with Church teaching, and in 1923 he organized the Los Angeles Stake, the first stake in a city where Latter-day Saints were a small minority. Grant dedicated temples in Laie, Hawaii; Cardston, Alberta, Canada; and Mesa, Arizona. He also oversaw the creation of the institutes of religion, a program of religious education for Latter-day Saints attending colleges and universities, and other efforts to strengthen Church members as they studied, worked, and lived around the world.
While Grant was leading the Church, many members suffered economically because of the Great Depression. After experimenting with several different approaches to helping members survive the extended economic crisis, the First Presidency established the Church Security Plan, later called the Church welfare program, to advance Church efforts at relieving economic suffering.
For more information about the events and themes in the life of Heber J. Grant, see the Prophets of the Restoration videos at history.ChurchofJesusChrist.org or in the Gospel Library app.