Chapter 7: Heber J. Grant: Seventh President of the Church

“Chapter 7: Heber J. Grant: Seventh President of the Church,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual (2004), 110–27

“Chapter 7,” Presidents of the Church Student Manual, 110–27

Chapter 7

Heber J. Grant

Seventh President of the Church

President Heber J. Grant

Highlights In The Life Of Heber J. Grant



He was born 22 November 1856 in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Jedediah M. and Rachel Ridgeway Ivins Grant; his father died when Heber was nine days old.


He was ordained a Seventy (1871); he began a career as a bank clerk (1871).


He married Lucy Stringham (1 Nov. 1877); she died in 1893.


He became stake president of the Tooele Stake (30 Oct. 1880).


He was ordained an Apostle (16 Oct. 1882).


He served a mission to the Native American Indians (1883–84).


The Manifesto ending plural marriage (Official Declaration 1) was issued (1890).


He became a candidate for governor of the state of Utah (1896); he later voluntarily withdrew.


He became a member of the General Superintendency of YMMIA (Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association; 1897).


He opened and presided over the Japanese Mission (1901–3).


He presided over the British and European missions (1904–6).


World War I was being fought (1914–18).


He became President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (23 Nov. 1916).


He became President of the Church (23 Nov. 1918).


He dedicated the Laie Hawaii Temple (27 Nov. 1919).


He dedicated the Cardston Alberta Temple (26 Aug. 1923); he spoke on the first radio broadcast of general conference (1923).


The Church purchased the Hill Cumorah and the Whitmer Farm (1926).


He dedicated the Mesa Arizona Temple (23 Oct. 1927).


The Church welfare plan was established (1936).


He visited missions in Europe (June–Sept. 1937).


Missionaries were withdrawn from Europe as World War II began (1939).


He called the first Assistants to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (6 Apr. 1941).


He died in Salt Lake City, Utah (14 May 1945); World War II ended (2 Sept. 1945).

Heber Jeddy Grant was born 22 November 1856, during a time when Latter-day Saints were arguably less popular with other Americans than they had ever been. The fact that this negative feeling began to change significantly during President Grant’s life was largely the result of his personal efforts to improve the public perception of the Church.

When Heber was nine days old, his father, Jedediah M. Grant, died. Because Heber was a frail baby and his mother was left in poverty, many predicted that he would not long survive. However, the Lord had other plans.

He Grew Up in the Salt Lake Valley

By the time Heber J. Grant was nine, the United States Civil War was over. President Abraham Lincoln had established Fort Douglas and had sent troops into Utah on a permanent basis. Heber probably saw Union soldiers pass by his home, half a block south of the Salt Lake temple block.

A more common sight to Heber would have been the fine horses and carriages of Brigham Young, George Q. Cannon, Daniel H. Wells, and other successful men of the Church and in business in the bustling frontier town. He must have watched freighters going north toward Ogden and south toward Provo, pulled by teams of horses, mules, or oxen. There would have been short trips to Temple Square to check the progress of the construction of the Tabernacle and the temple. The new Salt Lake Theatre was just around the block.

Much of Heber’s time was spent playing in streets and in yards. He played marbles skillfully, often winning enough marbles to use them as pay to get his friends to do his chores so that he could spend more time practicing pitching a baseball. And, of course, there was school.

His best friends were Feramorz L. and Richard W. Young, a son and a grandson of President Brigham Young. Together they ran into the Lion House when the prayer bell rang and joined in the Young family’s prayers. Sometimes young Heber peeked to see if President Young was talking face to face with Heavenly Father because his prayers sounded as though he must have been. In addition to the prayers, Heber sometimes attended Brigham Young’s school. There were long talks with President Young, Eliza R. Snow, and with Eliza’s relative Erastus Snow, whom Heber regarded as an ideal Apostle. They told Heber about the Prophet Joseph Smith and about his father, Jedediah M. Grant, one of the most trusted of the Prophet’s friends. His very name opened doors to Heber when he began to travel in business circles. These were potent influences in the life of this gifted child of destiny.

Though Gifted, He Felt Inadequate

Heber J. Grant was a person of great ability, yet many of his public statements reveal a sense of deep humility, if not inadequacy. He felt that he measured up to the goals he set for himself only by great determination and constant effort.

He lived in a time when leaders quite often expressed appreciation for learning, artistic talent, professional success, and other achievements dependent upon what usually are defined as talents or gifts. It was in these areas that he struggled the hardest. His talents lay in the field of business and social success. These talents often escaped notice, even though they may have been more important. His strengths helped carry him over all obstacles.

He Worked toward Excellence as an Athlete

The following story that President Heber J. Grant shared about his youth illustrates his determination to overcome obstacles:

“Being an only child, my mother reared me very carefully. Indeed, I grew more or less on the principle of a hothouse plant, the growth of which is ‘long and lanky’ but not substantial. I learned to sweep, and to wash and wipe dishes, but did little stone throwing and little indulging in those sports which are interesting and attractive to boys, and which develop their physical frames. Therefore, when I joined a baseball club, the boys of my own age and a little older played in the first nine; 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 the other. Another reason was that I lacked physical strength to run or bat well. When I picked up a 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 that would win the championship of the Territory of Utah.

“My mother was keeping boarders at the time for a living, and I shined their boots until I saved a dollar which I invested in a baseball. I 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 of the territory and beat the nine that had won the championship for California, Colorado, and Wyoming. Having thus made good my promise to myself, I retired from the baseball arena” (Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham [1969], 342–43).

His Determination Was Encouraged by a Wise Mother

In an address during funeral services for President Heber J. Grant, President David O. McKay, then a counselor in the First Presidency, said:

“Early in his youth there was developed in his young soul a spirit of independence and determination that later made him outstanding among his associates. … In the humble surroundings and spiritual atmosphere of his boyhood home were formed those sterling traits of character which in maturity made him so distinguished.

“President Grant always spoke with deference and heartfelt appreciation of his noble inheritance from both his parents. …

“Deprived of a father’s companionship, President Grant appreciated all the more deeply the transforming power of a mother’s love. It was she who changed his timidity to courage; his self-depreciation to self-confidence; impetuousness to self-control; lack of initiative to perseverance” (“President Heber J. Grant,” Improvement Era, June 1945, 334).

He Was Deeply Affected by the Sacrifices of His Family

President Heber J. Grant said: “I have never heard and never expect to hear, to the day of my death, my favorite hymn: ‘Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear, But with joy wend your way,’ but what I think of the death and the burial of my little baby sister, and the wolves digging up her body on the plains; but what I think of the death of my father’s first wife, and the bringing of her body here for burial, from Echo Canyon; but what I think of others that I know of, who laid down their lives; but what I think of that wonderful journey of Brigham Young and his band of Pioneers, those who followed him, and my heart goes out in gratitude beyond all the power with which God has given me to express it, that my father and my mother were among those who were true to God, and who made those sacrifices for the conviction of their hearts, because of the knowledge that they had that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that Joseph Smith is his Prophet” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1922, 13).

He Never Forgot the Sacredness of Family Responsibility

President Heber J. Grant wrote of an experience that taught the importance of being self-sufficient and of taking care of family:

“Referring to that wonderful mother of mine, I remember that one day we had at least a half dozen, if not more, buckets on the floor catching the rain that came through the roof. It was raining very heavily, and Bishop Edwin D. Woolley came into the house, and he said:

“‘Why, Widow Grant, this will never do. I shall take some of the money from the fast offerings to put a new roof on this house.’

“‘Oh, no, you won’t,’ said mother. ‘No relief money will ever put a roof on my house. I have sewing here.’ (She supported herself and me with a needle and thread for many years; later with a Wheeler and Wilcox sewing machine. …)

“Mother said, ‘When I get through with this sewing that I am now doing, I will buy some shingles and patch the holes, and this house will take care of me until my son gets to be a man and builds a new one for me.’

“The bishop went away and said he was very sorry for Widow Grant, that if she waited for that boy to build a house she would never have one, for he was the laziest boy in the whole Thirteenth Ward. He went on to tell that I wasted my time throwing a ball across the fence behind the house hour after hour, day after day, and week after week, at his adobe barn.

“Thank the Lord for a mother who was a general as well as a Latter-day Saint; who realized that it was a remarkable and splendid thing to encourage a boy to do something besides perhaps milking cows if he was on a farm, if he had ambitions along athletic lines” (Gospel Standards, 343–44).

He Was Challenged to Read the Book of Mormon

President Heber J. Grant wrote about his experience in first reading the Book of Mormon:

“I can remember very distinctly when Uncle Anthony Ivins … said to me and to his son, Anthony C. Ivins:

“‘Heber, Anthony, have you read the Book of Mormon?’

“We answered, ‘No.’

“He said, ‘I want you to read it. I want you to pledge to me that you will not skip a word, and to the one who reads it first, I will give a pair of ten dollar buckskin gloves with beaver tops.’

“Any boy of fourteen who had a pair of those gloves thought he was ‘it.’ I remember that my mother had urged me to read systematically the Book of Mormon, but I had not done it. I determined to read the book, say, twenty-five pages a day and get the benefit of its contents. I believed its contents were true because my mother and many others had told me so; and because of the testimony of the teacher of the class that Richard W. Young and I attended, I thought that to win the gloves I would have to read the book so rapidly that I would get no benefit; and therefore decided to let Anthony win the gloves.

“I met my cousin, Anthony C., the next morning, and he asked, ‘How many pages have you read?’

“I said: ‘I have read twenty-five pages.’

“He said: ‘I have read over one hundred and fifty. I sat up until after midnight.’

“I said: ‘Good-bye gloves.’

“I went on reading twenty-five pages a day and occasionally I got so interested that I read fifty or seventy-five pages, and, lo and behold, I got through first and got the gloves. He got such a good start he did not bother to read any more until after I got through with the book” (Gospel Standards, 350–51).

His Penmanship Improved from “Hen Tracks” to the Best in Utah

“One day Heber was playing marbles with some other boys when the bookkeeper from the Wells Fargo Company Bank was walking down the other side of the street. One of the boys remarked, ‘That man gets $150.00 a month.’ Heber figured to himself that not counting Sundays, that man made $6.00 a day and that at five cents a pair, he would have to black 120 pairs of boots to make $6.00. He there and then resolved that some day he would be a bookkeeper in the Wells Fargo and Company’s bank. In those days all the records and accounts of the bank were written with a pen, and one of the requisites of a good bookkeeper was the ability to write well. To learn to write well was his first approach to securing this job and the fulfilment of his resolve; so he set to work to become a penman.

“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.’ This touched Heber’s pride and, bringing his fist down on his desk, he said, ‘I’ll some day be able to give you fellows lessons in penmanship.’ …

“He secured a position as bookkeeper and policy clerk in an insurance office at fifteen. About this he said: ‘I wrote a very nice hand, and that was all that was needed to satisfactorily fill the position which I then had. Yet I was not fully satisfied but continued to dream and scribble when not otherwise occupied. … I learned to write well, so well, that I often made more before and after office hours by writing cards, invitations, and making maps than the amount of my regular salary. At nineteen I was keeping books and acting as policy clerk for Henry Wadsworth, the agent of Wells Fargo and Company. My time was not fully employed, and I was not working for the company but for the agent personally. I did the same as I had done in Mr. White’s bank, volunteered to file a lot of bank letters, etc., and kept a set of books for the Sandy Smelting Company, which Mr. Wadsworth was doing personally. My actions so pleased Mr. Wadsworth that he employed me to do the collecting for Wells Fargo and Company and paid me $20.00 a month for this work in addition to my regular compensation of $75.00 from the insurance business. Thus I was in the employ of Wells Fargo and Company and one of my day-dreams had become a reality’” (Bryant S. Hinckley, Heber J. Grant: Highlights in the Life of a Great Leader [1951], 39–42).

“When Heber, still in his teens, was working as a policy clerk in the office of H. R. Mann and Co., he was offered three times his salary to go to San Francisco as a penman. He later became teacher of penmanship and bookkeeping at the University of Deseret (University of Utah). …

“At one of the territorial fairs in which he had not competed, he noticed the exhibits of four professional penmen. He remarked to the man in charge of the art department that he could write better than that before he was seventeen years of age. The man in charge laughed and said that nobody but a cheeky insurance agent would make such a remark. He handed the gentleman three dollars which was the fee necessary to compete for a diploma and sent for the specimen which he had written before he was seventeen and hung it up with the remark, ‘If you judges know good penmanship, when you see it, I will get the diploma.’ He walked away with a diploma for the best penmanship in the territory. He encouraged the art of good penmanship among the youth of Zion and offered many prizes for the best specimens” (Hinckley, Heber J. Grant, 40–41).

He Was Determined to Learn to Sing

As with baseball and penmanship, Heber J. Grant was determined to learn to sing, despite the negative opinions of others. Years of practicing brought moderate success. He wrote:

“My mother tried to teach me when I was a small child to sing but failed because of my inability to carry a tune.

“Upon joining a singing class taught by Professor Charles J. Thomas, he tried and tried in vain to teach me when ten years of age to run the scale or carry a simple tune and finally gave up in despair. He said that I could never, in this world, learn to sing. Perhaps he thought I might learn the divine art in another world. Ever since this attempt, I have frequently tried to sing when riding alone many miles from anyone who might hear me, but on such occasions could never succeed in carrying the tune of one of our familiar hymns for a single verse, and quite frequently not for a single line.

“When I was about twenty-five years of age, Professor Sims informed me that I could sing, but added, ‘I would like to be at least forty miles away while you are doing it.’ …

“Upon my recent trip to Arizona, I asked Elders Rudger Clawson and J. Golden Kimball if they had any objections 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 from Holbrook to St. Johns, a distance of about sixty miles. After I had sung about forty tunes, they assured me that if I sang the remaining sixty they would be sure to have nervous prostration. I paid no attention whatever to their appeal, but held them to their bargain and sang the full one hundred. One hundred and fifteen songs in one day, and four hundred in four days, is the largest amount of practicing I ever did.

“Today [1900] my musical deafness is disappearing, and by sitting down to a piano and playing the lead notes, I can learn a song in less than one-tenth the time required when I first commenced to practice” (Gospel Standards, 351–52, 354).

He Married Lucy Stringham

“Once his business career was underway, Heber began to focus his attention on more distant career goals as well as on other intimate, personal goals that had been simmering in his consciousness for years. In his reminiscenses he provides us with this insight into the process and scope of his goal setting: ‘I promised myself when I was a young man that I would be married before I was twenty-one if I could persuade some good girl to marry me, so that I would start out as a full-fledged man when I reached my majority. … At the same time that I made this promise, I mapped out my life until I was thirty-odd years of age, and made up my mind as to the things that I was going to try to accomplish’” (Francis M. Gibbons, Heber J. Grant: Man of Steel, Prophet of God [1979],27–28).

Heber was determined to achieve all the goals he had set for himself. He determined that he had weak social skills and set out to improve himself. Dancing was a challenge, but eventually became one of his favorite activities. He even helped organized dances and used these opportunities to search for a wife. As he dated, he became interested in Emily Wells, the daughter of Daniel H. Wells, a prominent leader in the Church. They had much in common and it appeared that they might marry. They discovered, however, that they disagreed about the practice of plural marriage. Heber had come from a family that had practiced it and was surprised at some of the sarcastic comments Emily made about it. He asked the Lord in prayer about continuing to pursue Emily’s affections and was surprised by the negative answer he strongly received. He shed some very bitter tears because he had admired her so deeply. But then his attentions were drawn to Lucy Stringham. (See Gibbons, Heber J. Grant, 29–31.)

“Heber’s first overtures to Lucy were met with a response that could hardly be called enthusiastic. He started by walking her home from Sunday evening meetings, a frequently used courting device of the day. It was customary, however, for the young lady to invite her escort to join her in the family sitting room, where they could engage in serious or flirtatious talk and perhaps enjoy some refreshments, all under the careful scrutiny of the girl’s parents. Sunday after Sunday, however, instead of receiving a hoped-for invitation into the Stringham sitting room, Heber received a somewhat indifferent, even chilly, ‘good night’ at Stringham’s gate. That he was not deterred by this unencouraging treatment is still another evidence of Heber J. Grant’s characteristic perseverance.

“The turning point in this tepid courtship occurred one Sunday evening when Rodney C. Badger walked past the Stringham’s gate just as Heber received his customary ‘good night’ from Lucy. As these two friends walked together to the corner, Heber, instead of turning south toward his home, told Rodney, ‘I’m going down to Wells corner and visit with some of the girls there.’

“Shocked at what he interpreted as fickleness, Rodney chided Heber for leaving one girl only to go in search of other female companionship. Rodney appeared satisfied, however, when Heber explained Lucy’s distant attitude toward him.

“Whether Rodney planted a seed in Lucy’s mind or mere chance intervened, the very next Sunday Heber received an invitation into the Stringham sitting room, where he became almost a fixture until the time of his marriage to Lucy a few months later. It turned out that Lucy’s initial reluctance came not from a lack of feeling for the great man she was later to marry, but from the false notion that she was merely a temporary substitute for Emily Wells.

“Once the ice was broken and Lucy realized that Heber had matrimony in view, their courtship sped toward its inevitable culmination. They were married in the St. George Temple on November 1, 1877, three weeks prior to Heber’s twenty-first birthday” (Gibbons, Heber J. Grant, 32–33).

Later, in 1884, with Lucy’s full approval, Heber married Hulda Augusta Winters and Emily Wells.

He Added Faith in God to His Determination and Overcame His Weaknesses

President Heber J. Grant told the following experience from his life:

“Before I was twenty-four I was made the president of the Tooele Stake of Zion. I announced in a speech that lasted seven and a half minutes that I would ask no man in Tooele to be a more honest tithe payer than I would be; that I would ask no man to give more of his means in proportion to what he had than I would give; I would ask no man to live the Word of Wisdom better than I would live it, and I would give the best that was in me for the benefit of the people in that stake of Zion.

“That night I heard in the dark a man say in a contemptuous way: ‘It is a pity if the General Authorities have to send a man out here to preside, … that they could not have sent one with sense enough to talk at least ten minutes; and that they had to send a boy to preside over us.’

“When I heard this, I remember thinking: ‘The boy is the only one who has any right to complain.’ … However, I was not able during the next three or four Sundays to talk as long as I did the first one. I ran out of ideas in five, six, and six and a half minutes.

“At the lunch table after my first short speech which lasted seven and a half minutes, President Smith said: ‘Heber, you said you believe the gospel with all your heart, and propose to live it, but you did not bear your testimony that you know it is true. Don’t you know absolutely that this gospel is true?’

“I answered: ‘I do not.’

“‘What, you! a president of a stake?’ said President Joseph F. Smith.

“‘That is what I said.’

“‘President [John] Taylor, I am in favor of undoing this afternoon what we did this morning. I do not think any man should preside over a stake who has not a perfect and abiding knowledge of the divinity of this work.’

“I said: ‘I am not going to complain.’

“Brother Taylor had a habit, when something pleased him excessively, of shaking his body and laughing. He said, ‘Joseph, Joseph, Joseph, he knows it just as well as you do. The only thing that he does not know is that he does know it. It will be but a short time until he does know it. He leans over backwards. You do not need to worry.’

“I went to the little town of Vernon in Tooele County, took two others with me to do the preaching, and I got up to say a few words and spoke for forty-five minutes with perfect ease under the inspiration of the Lord. That night I shed tears of gratitude to the Lord for the abiding, perfect, and absolute testimony that came into my life of the divinity of this work.

“The next Sunday after speaking at Vernon, I was at Grantsville. I told the Lord I would like to talk forty-five minutes. I got up to speak and ran out of ideas in five minutes, and I was sweating.

“After the meeting I walked out past the farthest house in the west part of Grantsville, I am sure nearly three miles, and I got down behind a haystack and I shed some more tears. But they were tears of humiliation. I made a pledge to God there upon that occasion that never again in my life would I stand up before an audience with the feeling that all I needed to do was just stand up and talk; but that I would get up upon all occasions with a desire to say something that might be of benefit to the people to whom I spoke, and not with the spirit of pride, such as I had that day when I stood up in Grantsville. And I have never failed from that day until now—fifty-odd years ago—to have any desire in my heart when speaking except that I might say or read something that would be of lasting benefit to those who listened to my voice” (Gospel Standards, 191–93).

He Was Willing to Sacrifice

Heber J. Grant sought to always follow the counsel of the Lord’s servants: “I have never seen the day since I became the president of Tooele Stake of Zion, at the time I was not yet twenty-four years of age, when I did not want to know what the president of the Church wanted, and what the leading officials of the Church wanted me to do, and that I did not want to do whatever they would have me to do, no matter what my personal likes or dislikes might be. I have sacrificed my own financial prospects to a great extent, among the prospects being the one this dear friend of mine offered me [Colonel A. G. Hawes], a little job of forty thousand dollars a year when the Church was making me an allowance in tithing office orders of three thousand six hundred dollars” (Gospel Standards, 200–201).

His Faith in God Gave Him Confidence

Heber J. Grant believed that the Lord would bless us in many ways as we did our duty:

“I remember as a young man I had $50.00 in my pocket on one occasion which I intended to deposit in the bank. When I went on Thursday morning to fast meeting—the fast meeting used to be held on Thursdays instead of Sundays—and the bishop made an appeal for a donation, I walked up and handed him the $50.00. He took five of it and put it in the drawer and gave the $45.00 back to me and said that was my full share.

“I said, ‘Bishop Woolley, by what right do you rob me of putting the Lord in my debt? Didn’t you preach here today that the Lord rewards fourfold? My mother is a widow, and she needs $200.00.’

“He said, ‘My boy, do you believe that if I take this other $45.00, you will get your $200.00 quicker?’

“I said: ‘Certainly.’

“Well, he took it.

“While walking from fast meeting to the place where I worked, an idea popped into my head. I sent a telegram to a man asking him how many bonds of a certain kind he would buy at a specified price within forty-eight hours and allow me to draw a draft on him through Wells Fargo’s Bank. He was a man whom I did not know. I had never spoken to him in my life, but I had seen him a time or two on the streets of Salt Lake.

“He wired back that he wanted as many as I could get. My profit on that transaction was $218.50.

“The next day I walked down to the bishop and said: ‘Bishop, I made $218.50 after paying that $50.00 donation the other day and so I owe $21.85 in tithing. I will have to dig up the difference between $21.85 and $18.50. The Lord did not quite give me the tithing in addition to a four to one increase.’

“Someone will say that it would have happened anyway. I do not think it would have happened. I do not think I would have had the idea. I do not think I would have sent the telegram.

“… I am a firm believer that the Lord opens up the windows of heaven when we do our duty financially and pours out upon us blessings of a spiritual nature, which are of far greater value than temporal things. But I believe he also gives us blessings of a temporal nature” (quoted in Hinckley, Heber J. Grant, 98–100).

He Suffered the Deaths of Loved Ones

Heber J. Grant was a beloved, attentive father and husband. He treated his wives and daughters as queens and princesses. His courtesy, generosity, and fairness were a constant source of joy to them. Yet, sickness and death in his family were some of his greatest trials. He lost his only two sons—one as a baby and the other as a young boy. His grief knew no bounds because he so wanted a son. Untimely deaths also took two of his three wives—one three years after the Manifesto was issued and the second a few years later. Great as his grief was, these events brought rewarding spiritual experiences that affirmed God’s love and will concerning the losses of loved ones.

He Had a Reputation for Honesty

Heber J. Grant turned down an appointment to the Naval Academy and pursued business interests. He pursued them with vigor through good times and bad, through successes and reversals. He walked with such courage and well-earned credentials that not even his comparative youth stood in his way. The great financiers of Wall Street in Chicago and points west came to know that Heber J. Grant would never default.

By the time he became President of the Church, Heber had many friends in the world, whose admiration for his ability and integrity was so great that they simply took the position that nothing he had anything to do with could be the least bit dishonest or bad. He wrote of one experience: “I had a letter when I, as a young man, was made an apostle, from a nonmember of the Church. … Of prominence in the world so far as business affairs are concerned, he was the manager of a great corporation. … He said: ‘I never thought very much of the leaders of the Mormon people, in fact I thought they were a very bright, keen, designing lot of fellows, getting rich from the tithes that they gathered in from a lot of ignorant, superstitious, and over-zealous religious people. But now that you are one of the fifteen men at the head of the Mormon Church, I apologize to the other fourteen. I know that if there were anything crooked in the management of the Mormon Church you would give it all away’” (Gospel Standards, 70).

He took advantage of every opportunity to use his friendship to promote the Church. He was in great demand as a speaker and was honored by important nonmember groups and individuals. His subject was always the same—the story of his Church and people and their principles. He received standing ovations.

He Was Called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

President John Taylor called Heber J. Grant into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles one month before Elder Grant’s twenty-sixth birthday. Before this calling he held many positions in the Church, including general secretary of the YMMIA at the age of twenty-three and president of the Tooele Stake. It could be said that Heber J. Grant was an important link in the bridge over which the Church crossed from an old world of criticism and misunderstanding to a new world of guarded respect and some outright admiration and friendliness.

Heber J. Grant personally knew every individual who became President of the Church from President Brigham Young to President Gordon B. Hinckley. Among the General Authorities who were called by him are President Harold B. Lee, President Spencer W. Kimball, and President Ezra Taft Benson.

Heber felt inadequate when he was called to the apostleship and sought the Lord’s confirmation. Once while out riding with a group he found an opportunity to be alone and reflect upon his call. He later described his experience:

“As I was riding along to meet them … , I seemed to see, and I seemed to hear, what to me is one of the most real things in all my life. I seemed to hear the words that were spoken. I listened to the discussion with a great deal of interest. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had not been able to agree on two men to fill the vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve. There had been a vacancy of one for two years, and a vacancy of two for one year, and the conferences had adjourned without the vacancies’ being filled. In this council the Savior was present, my father was there, and the Prophet Joseph Smith was there. They discussed the question that a mistake had been made in not filling those two vacancies and that in all probability it would be another six months before the Quorum would be completed. And they discussed as to whom they wanted to occupy those positions, and decided that the way to remedy the mistake that had been made in not filling these vacancies was to send a revelation. It was given to me that the Prophet Joseph Smith and my father mentioned me and requested that I be called to that position. I sat there and wept for joy. It was given to me that I had done nothing to entitle me to that exalted position, except that I had lived a clean, sweet life. It was given to me that because of my father’s having practically sacrificed his life in what was known as the great reformation, so to speak, of the people in early days, having been practically a martyr, that the Prophet Joseph and my father desired me to have that position, and it was because of their faithful labors that I was called, and not because of anything I had done of myself or any great thing that I had accomplished. It was also given to me that that was all these men, the Prophet and my father, could do for me. From that day it depended upon me and upon me alone as to whether I made a success of my life or a failure” (Gospel Standards, 195–96).

He Presided over Missions in Japan and England

Teaching about times the Lord blessed him when he prayed to serve in certain positions, Heber J. Grant told the youth of the Church:

“When in Japan, feeling that I was not accomplishing anything, I went out into the woods and got down on my knees and told the Lord that whenever He was through with me there, where I was accomplishing nothing, I would be very glad and thankful if He would call me home and send me to Europe to preside over the European missions. A few days after that a cable arrived: ‘Come home on the first boat.’ And I went home.

“Brother Joseph F. Smith said to me: ‘Heber, I realize you have not accomplished anything in Japan. We sent you there for three years, and I want you to put in the other year in England, if you are willing.’

“I said, ‘I am perfectly willing.’

“Later I went in to bid him goodbye and said: ‘I will see you in a little over a year.’

“He said, ‘Oh no, I have decided to make it a year and a half.’

“I said, ‘All right, multiply it by two and do not say anything about it to me.’ And he did.

“I want you young people to know that in all my labors I got nearer to the Lord, and accomplished more and had more joy while in the mission field than ever before or since. Man is that he may have joy, and the joy that I had in the mission field was superior to any I have ever experienced elsewhere. Get it into your hearts, young people, to prepare yourselves to go out into the world where you can get on your knees and draw nearer to the Lord than in any other labor” (Gospel Standards, 245–46).

He Earned the Respect of Business Leaders

“As a young man Heber J. Grant proceeded with boldness to play a large role in the economic history of his people. He was a pioneer in industry, second only to Brigham Young. Pioneering in industry requires much the same sturdy qualities that pioneering new lands requires: faith, vision, imagination, patience, and fortitude, backed by a determination that knows no failure. Heber J. Grant had all of these qualities.

“A boyhood associate, Heber M. Wells, said this of him: ‘He has probably been instrumental in establishing and furthering the cause of more successful intermountain industries than any other man of his time. His personal credit, his unquestioned integrity, his super-salesmanship brought capital to the aid of the Church, the community, and private enterprises. In times of panic and in times of plenty Heber J. Grant has been able to raise a few dollars or millions where other men have failed to raise any amount. This has been done largely by his personal guarantee and persuasion. He has never repudiated or failed to pay a dollar of obligation for which he was directly or indirectly responsible, legally or morally, and the result is that today, as during all the many decades since he was a young man, he can walk into the offices of executives and directors of great financial institutions in America and be affectionately greeted by men who are proud to know him as a friend and a leader of financial industries’” ( Hinckley, Heber J. Grant, 51–52).

He Knew the Agony of Debt

Heber J. Grant’s daughter Lucy said: “During those lean years which followed the panic of 1893, when to raise a nickel was harder than it had been to give $5.00, Father still helped those in distress. He knew the widow’s lot; he had felt the pinch of poverty; he knew the bitterness and bondage of debt. Through all the dark hours of his life there was a shining and secure faith in God and his promises which sustained him. I know in those years the horror of financial obligation was borne into the souls of those of us who were old enough to see him under this great strain which made us feel that debt was like a huge dragon, into whose ugly mouth the very lifeblood of its victims was drawn. No wonder he was constantly crying unto the people everywhere to keep out of debt. One whose experiences have been such as his, knows the exquisite pain of honor when on the verge of being crushed, and of a good name when near being dragged into the dust” (quoted in Hinckley, Heber J. Grant, 206).

He Was Honorable and Paid All of His Debts

President Heber J. Grant taught the following about honoring our obligations to the Lord and to others:

“I have had friends beg and plead with me to take bankruptcy, saying that I would never live long enough to pay my debts.

“If there is any man living who is entitled to say, ‘Keep out of debt,’ his name is Heber J. Grant. Thank the Lord that I was able to pay it all, and pay it all without asking a dollar discount from anyone.

“I do not believe I ever would have paid it if I had not been absolutely honest with the Lord. When I made any money, the first debt I paid was to the Lord. And I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if the Latter-day Saints as a people, had taken the advice of the prophet of the Lord, and had been efficient tithe payers they would not be in the condition they are today” (Gospel Standards, 59).

Doctrine and Covenants 121Was One of the Disciplines in His Life

Elder Heber J. Grant, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught: “In talking to the Latter-day Saints, there is no revelation in all the Doctrine and Covenants that I have quoted from so often as that contained in Section 121 … : That ‘No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the Priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness, and meekness, and by love unfeigned.’ There is no danger of a Priesthood of this kind—gentleness, and meekness, and love unfeigned. But when we exercise the power of the Priesthood … to ‘Gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control, or dominion, or compulsion, upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the Priesthood or the authority of that man.’ These are the words of God” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1902, 80).

His Definition of Success Was Simple and Practical

Elder Grant taught what true success is: “Not he who merely succeeds in making a fortune, and in so doing blunts the natural affections of the heart, and chases therefrom the love of his fellows, can be said to be truly successful: but he who so lives that those who know him best shall love him most; and that God, who knows not only his deeds, but also the inmost sentiments of his heart, shall love him; of such an one, only—notwithstanding he may die in poverty—can it be said indeed and of a truth, ‘he should be crowned with the wreath of success’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1911, 24).

One of the Secrets of Success Is Service

President Heber J. Grant wrote: “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. We can’t look back with any particular satisfaction upon having spent an evening just for the privilege of laughing loud and long” (Gospel Standards, 187).

He Had a Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith

President Grant said: “I have met hundreds of men who have said: ‘If it were not for Joseph Smith I could accept your religion.’ Any man who does not believe in Joseph Smith as a prophet of the true and the living God has no right to be in this Church. That revelation to Joseph Smith is the foundation stone. If Joseph Smith did not have that interview with God and Jesus Christ, the whole Mormon fabric is a failure and a fraud. It is not worth anything on earth. But God did come, God did introduce His Son; God did inspire that man to organize the Church of Jesus Christ, and all the opposition of the world is not able to withstand the truth. It is flourishing; it is growing, and it will grow more” (Gospel Standards, 15).

The Welfare Plan Was Established upon Revealed Principles

The Church welfare plan was based on God-given, immutable, moral and economic laws. President Heber J. Grant explained: “Our primary purpose was to set up, in so far as it might be possible, a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self respect be once more established amongst our people. The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1936, 3).

The Church Welfare Plan Was Given through Inspiration

Elder Harold B. Lee, then newly called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, bore testimony of the welfare plan: “For the last five glorious, strenuous years, I have labored, under a call from the First Presidency, with a group of men in the development of and the unfolding of what we have called the Church Welfare Plan. I felt that I should bear my testimony to you concerning that work as I close. It was on April 20th, 1935, when I was called to the office of the First Presidency. That was a year before official announcement of the Welfare Plan was made in this Tabernacle. There, after an entire half day session, at which President Grant and President McKay were present, President Clark then being in the East—they had some communications with him, so that all members of the Presidency were in agreement—I was astounded to learn that for years there had been before them, as a result of their thinking and planning and as the result of the inspiration of Almighty God, the genius of the very plan that is being carried out and was in waiting and in preparation for a time when in their judgment the faith of the Latter-day Saints was such that they were willing to follow the counsel of the men who lead and preside in this Church” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1941, 120–21).

He Taught about Welfare and the Word of Wisdom

President Heber J. Grant included the Word of Wisdom as an important welfare principle. In fact, he mentioned it as a welfare principle almost as often as he mentioned the payment of tithing and the avoidance of debt. The Word of Wisdom can be recognized as a welfare principle because welfare is based on caring for oneself and on saving today’s resources for tomorrow’s use.

President Grant taught: “I would like it known that if we as a people never used a particle of tea or coffee or of tobacco or of liquor, we would become one of the most wealthy people in the world. Why? Because we would have increased vigor of body, increased vigor of mind; we would grow spiritually; we would have a more direct line of communication with God, our Heavenly Father” (Gospel Standards, 50).

He also mentioned the large amounts of money wasted in treating the illnesses that were directly attributable to harmful substances, the loss of employment, the loss of production caused by hangovers and smoking and coffee breaks, and the accidents on the highways caused by drunken drivers and in industry by drunken employees.

Payment of Tithes and Offerings Helps Overcome Selfishness

President Heber J. Grant taught: “Some people have found it very hard to pay their tithing. The harder it is for an individual to comply with requirements of the Lord in the payment of his tithing, the greater the benefit when he finally does pay it. The Lord loves a generous giver. No man living upon the earth can pay donations for the poor, can pay for building meetinghouses and temples, academies, and universities, can take of his means and send his boys and girls to proclaim this gospel, without removing selfishness from his soul, no matter how selfish he was when he started in. That is one of the finest things in all the world for men—to get to that point where the selfishness in their natures is cured. When it is eradicated from their dispositions, they are glad and anxious and willing and seeking the opportunity to do good with the means that the Lord places in their hands, instead of trying to get more of it” (Gospel Standards, 62).

The Law of the Fast Is the Spiritual Foundation of the Welfare Plan

President Heber J. Grant taught about the blessings of fasting:

“Let me promise you here today that if the Latter-day Saints will honestly and conscientiously from this day forth, as a people, keep the monthly fast and pay into the hands of their bishops the actual amount that they would have spent for food for the two [consecutive] meals from which they have refrained; and if in addition to that they will pay their honest tithing, it will solve all of the problems in connection with taking care of the Latter-day Saints. We would have all the money necessary to take care of all the idle and all the poor.

“Every living soul among the Latter-day Saints that fasts two meals once a month will be benefited spiritually and be built up in the faith of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ—benefited spiritually in a wonderful way—and sufficient means will be in the hands of the bishops to take care of all the poor” (Gospel Standards, 123).

Tithing Is the Lord’s Law of Financial Success

President Heber J. Grant often taught about the importance of paying an honest tithe. In 1898, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he testified: “A man will say, ‘I owe my neighbor and must pay him before I can settle my tithing.’ Well, I know I owe lots of my neighbors, and they try to collect from me. But I owe God an honest tithing; He has given me a testimony of Jesus and a hope of eternal life, and I intend to pay Him first and my neighbors afterwards. It is our duty to settle with the Lord first, and I intend to do it, with the help of my Heavenly Father. And I want to say to you, if you will be honest with the Lord, paying your tithing and keeping His commandments, He will not only bless you with the light and inspiration of His Holy Spirit, but you will be blessed in dollars and cents; you will be enabled to pay your debts, and the Lord will pour out temporal blessings upon you in great abundance” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1898, 16).

In 1925, he said: “The law of financial prosperity to the Latter-day Saints, under covenant with God, is to be an honest tithepayer, and not to rob the Lord in tithes and offerings. Prosperity comes to those who observe the law of tithing; and when I say prosperity I am not thinking of it in terms of dollars and cents alone, although as a rule the Latter-day Saints who are the best tithepayers are the most prosperous men, financially; but what I count as real prosperity, as the one thing of all others that is of great value to every man and woman living, is the growth in a knowledge of God, and in a testimony, and in the power to live the gospel and to inspire our families to do the same. That is prosperity of the truest kind” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1925, 10).

Avoiding Debt Is a Welfare Principle

President Heber J. Grant gave the following counsel against debt: “If a person owned what he had and did not have to pay interest, and only bought as he had the money to buy, the majority of people would be in reasonably comfortable circumstances. … It has been due to debt, I think, that the main part of this suffering has come. We have mortgaged our future without taking into account the incidents that may happen—sickness, operations, etc.” (Gospel Standards, 112).

His Closest Associates Knew Him as a Generous Man

In an address given during President Heber J. Grant’s funeral, President David O. McKay said: “President Grant enjoyed making money, but he loved to use it for the benefit of others. On more than one occasion, quietly, usually, forcefully, if necessary, but always unostentatiously, he has protected the good name of his associates, has paid mortgages on widows’ homes, has paid expenses of missionaries, given employment to the unemployed, rendered help and succor wherever needed. No mind has been more eager to bless, no heart more tender, no hand more generous than the heart and hand of President Grant. Thus in ‘going about doing good’ he ‘fanned the flame of human love, and raised the standard of civil virtue among mankind’” (Improvement Era, June 1945, 361).

Joseph Anderson, President Grant’s secretary, wrote: “No one will ever know how many mortgages on homes of widows he paid out of his own funds. Time and again he would inquire as to his bank balance. He had no special interest in the accumulation of money except for the good he could do with it” (Prophets I Have Known [1973], 30).

He Made Contributions of Service and Love

Heber J. Grant’s Church assignments were numerous, including a lifelong commitment to the MIA, in which he held many positions of leadership and helped establish the Improvement Era, serving as an editor and contributor from its beginning. He often found the time and means to attend the temple when near one. He usually arranged to have family members accompany him. As President of the Church, he dedicated three new temples. “President Grant advocated and supported in the most practical way work for the dead. Although he did not frequently discourse upon the subject, the records show that he has done more for his kindred dead than has any other man. That was typical of him; that was the way he did things” (Hinckley, Heber J. Grant, 125).

Besides all this, there were the thousands of books sent with personal messages in his own matchless handwriting to members and nonmembers, there were the endless hours spent in reclaiming the wayward, and there were the widows’ mortgages paid off and other philanthropies.

He Died in Salt Lake City

“In the late afternoon, May 14, 1945, President Heber J. Grant, peacefully passed away at his residence in Salt Lake City. He had been ailing for the past five years, but his courage and determination to press on and perform his duty, never deserted him. Each day, up to a short time before his death, he was found at the office attending to duties as much as the physician permitted him to do. His life had been one of great activity. In his early years he appeared frail, was rejected for insurance, because of his physical condition, however, he had been active always, engaging in athletics, one time belonging to the champion baseball team of Utah. His energy was marvelous and his activities never ceased. There was never any compromise on his part with evil. Some of his strongest characteristics the public never realized. He had a tender, sympathetic nature, loved his friends dearly; was kind to the distressed; assisted the needy scores upon scores of times, the knowledge of which never got into any earthly record. His testimony of the Truth never wavered. His friends were legion outside of the Church, and he was dearly loved by his people” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History, 26th ed. [1950], 530–31).

The Second World War was ending in Europe when his tall, thin frame was laid to rest. Member and nonmember alike honored and eulogized him. Thousands came to view him. At his funeral one of his counselors, President J. Reuben Clark Jr., said of him: “He so lived his life that it had no dark place across which he must draw a curtain. His life had nothing to embarrass, nothing to hide, nothing of which he must be ashamed” (quoted in Hinckley, Heber J. Grant, 262).

“He Was a Giant of a Man”

In his journal entry for 14 March 1995, President Gordon B. Hinckley, facing his new responsibilities as President of the Church, wrote: “It will be sixty years ago in July when I first came into this room as a newly returned missionary to meet with the First Presidency at the request of my mission president Elder Joseph F. Merrill of the Council of the Twelve. It is difficult to realize what has happened since then. To think that I now sit where President Heber J. Grant sat at that time. He was a giant of a man whom I loved” (quoted in Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward with Faith: The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley [1996], 511).

Jedediah M. Grant

Jedediah M. Grant, Heber J. Grant’s father, died nine days after Heber was born.

Photograph by Savage and Ottinger

Grant home

The Grants’ home on Main Street in Salt Lake City

Grant as boy

Young Heber J. Grant, about 1860. It was the custom of that day to dress young boys in dresses for photographs.

throwing baseball

Heber J. Grant was determined to develop his skills.

Painting by Robert T. Barrett

Rachel and Heber J. Grant

Heber J. Grant and his mother, Rachel Ridgeway Ivins Grant

young men in baseball uniforms

Territorial baseball champions. The Red Stocking baseball team in August 1877. They defeated teams in Utah, California, Colorado, and Wyoming to win the championship. Heber J. Grant is in the center of the second row.

Photograph courtesy of Bertram T. and Gene C. Willis

sewing box

Rachel Grant’s sewing box. She sewed for hire in order to provide food and clothing for herself and young Heber.

Photograph by Don O. Thorpe; courtesy of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum


A new home for his mother. It originally had four rooms and a large closet, which became Heber’s room when they started to take in boarders.

Photograph courtesy of Bertram T. and Jenna C. Willis

Heber J. Grant

A youthful Heber J. Grant

missionaries in Japan

Heber J. Grant (front), Louis A. Kalsch, Horace S. Ensign, and Alma D. Taylor dedicated Japan for missionary work on 1 September 1901.

handwritten document

Sample of Heber J. Grant’s handwriting

Photograph by Don O. Thorpe

singing in buggy

“I have learned to sing.”

Painting by Robert T. Barrett. DO NOT COPY

family photo

Heber and Lucy Grant and family on their tenth wedding anniversary, 1887

President Heber J. Grant

Heber J. Grant was called to be a stake president when he was twenty-three and an Apostle when he was twenty-five.

Heber J. Grant family

Heber J. Grant and his family, 1892

front of chapel

Elder Heber J. Grant with other General Authorities and Church members attending a funeral service at the Grantsville First Ward Chapel, September 1892.

Photograph courtesy of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, Tooele, Utah

President Heber J. Grant

Heber J. Grant

Japan missionaries

In 1901, Elder Grant was called to serve as the mission president in Japan.

Grant in Japan

Elder Grant (center) in Japan, 1902

Boy Scouts

Heber J. Grant at an International Scout Jamboree

handwritten document

A handwritten copy of the revelation President John Taylor received calling Heber J. Grant to the apostleship and a photograph of Elder Grant during his early years as an Apostle

President Heber J. Grant

Heber J. Grant

Grant family

Heber J. Grant and family when he was president of the European Mission in 1905


Enjoying a favorite pastime

wearing flower leis

On a Hawaiian trip, about 1935. Heber J. Grant is in the front row, second from the left.

Grand Canyon

Near the north ridge of the Grand Canyon

President Grant in Holland

Visiting Holland, 12 August 1937

Henry Ford and President Grant

Meeting with automobile industrialist Henry Ford

speaking into microphone

President Grant was chosen to speak during the first broadcast of radio station KZN in Salt Lake City on 6 May 1922.

President Heber J. Grant

President Heber J. Grant

President and Sister Grant

President Heber J. Grant and his wife, 1942


Heber J. Grant with his wife and nine daughters


The First Presidency: Anthony W. Ivins, Heber J. Grant, and Charles W. Nibley

Alberta Temple

At the dedication of the Alberta Canada Temple, August 1923; the first temple constructed outside of the United States. President Grant also dedicated the Laie Hawaii and Mesa Arizona Temples.

President Heber J. Grant

President Heber J. Grant

President Grant and Elder McKay

President Heber J. Grant with Elder David O. McKay

Sacred Grove

In the Sacred Grove, 22 September 1923

Grant on stairs

President Heber J. Grant stood 6 feet, 1 1/2 inches tall. He was the first Church president to have been born in the West.

President Heber J. Grant

President Heber J. Grant