Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #20: Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards

Editor's note: This is # 20 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

The story of a book of wide acceptance and far-reaching significance

On the morning of November 22, 1941, Dr. John A. Widtsoe of the Council of the Twelve and one of the editors of the Era; Elder Richard L. Evans of the First Council of the Seventy and managing editor of the Era; Marba C. Josephson, associate editor of the Era; Dr. G. Homer Durham, compiler; and John Kenneth Orton, business manager of the Era, having previously met in the office of Dr. Widtsoe by appointment, drove to the home of President Heber J. Grant….

The President was seated in the living room by the front window overlooking the valley. He was jovial and in good spirits [for his 85th birthday]….

Greetings having been exchanged, Dr. Widtsoe explained the purpose of the visit, and introduced each member of the official party in the order in which their remarks appear below:

Remarks by Elder John A. Widtsoe: “We are here representing the fifty-three thousand or more subscribers to the Era.

"All who are associated with The Improvement Era recognize that not only were you the practical founder of The Improvement Era, but also through your continuous, vigorous support, The Improvement Era has become an influential and serviceable magazine in the Church. We have felt that the Era would do itself honor to remember and recognize in a special manner your eighty-fifth birthday anniversary. In thinking the matter over we concluded that the Era could perhaps best show its appreciation by compiling for wide public use, throughout the Church and beyond, the essence of your teachings to the people throughout your long official life within the Church. We felt that in your public utterances you have presented the gospel as needed in our day and generation. Joseph Smith the Prophet applied the principles of the gospel to his day; Brigham Young did the same in his day, and your other predecessors in the presidency used the gospel to meet the issues of their days. A compilation of your sermons and writings would, therefore, it seemed to us, be but a continuation of the messages delivered by the presidents of the Church from Joseph Smith to your own time….

"Brother G. Homer Durham was asked to do the work of compilation; Brother Richard L. Evans accepted the very heavy burden of editing the manuscript, and the many details of bookmaking and seeing the book safely through the press; Sister Marba C. Josephson did invaluable work in proofreading and in her many constructive suggestions. Other members of the Era staff and the Era business manager, John K. Orton, have given much help also. The general superintendent of the Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association, George Q. Morris (he is absent from the state on Church business), and the general president of the Young Women's Mutual Improvement Association, Sister Lucy Grant Cannon, approved the project and have supported us in the work.

"The work is now completed and the book is printed. We have brought with us two specially bound copies for yourself and Sister Grant and a package of the books as they will appear on the market. We now present this volume to you with our love and our gratitude for your great service to the Church and to humanity and with the earnest prayer that your days may be increased through many years to come upon the earth. We do this in full appreciation of your service as the Era's founder, senior editor, and constant friend.

"We have with us all who have taken a prominent part in the work. We should much like to have each of these who are here express themselves….

"We now hope that this book, which we have chosen to call Gospel Standards, may be widely circulated and be a blessing in teaching young and old of the Church, and many not of our faith, the fruits of the gospel, and in establishing in the hearts of the membership of the Church an increasingly firm testimony of the truth of the gospel…."

Remarks by Lucy G. Cannon: “The opportunity of participating in this presentation is one of the most pleasant assignments that has ever come to me as the president of the Young Women's organization.

When Brother Richard Evans presented the matter of the publication of the book to the Era committee, I was heartily in favor of it and felt it would be a distinct honor for the Era to sponsor its publication. Naturally, being your daughter, it made me very happy to have in book form the many splendid things you have been saying all your life to help us all live as Latter-day Saints should live.

As Brother Widtsoe has said, we are all taking satisfaction in the fact that the book is now ready on your birthday, instead of at Christmas, as first intended. An almost impossible feat has been accomplished in its early publication….”

Remarks by Richard L. Evans:Now that this book is off the press, we are all very thrilled. It has been work—hard, grinding work, and physically we are weary. I know that I have been at my office, at my desk, working on this book almost every night for the past month and have seldom left earlier than ten o'clock and sometimes it has been midnight and on into the early hours of the morning. And the others here with us this morning have also put in their long hours and have worked hard and conscientiously. But it has been a labor of love, and we have all been happy in doing it…. I am happy in whatever part I may have played in making available this volume of your essential teachings to your generation and to my generation, for whom it has a vital and a significant message—the message of your life, and the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ as it has operated through your life.”…

Remarks by Marba C. Josephson: Although I read the material that went into the book Gospel Standards fully three times, once in copy, once in galley proof, and once in page proof—in addition to rechecking of many pages—each time I came to the reading I was deeply moved by the importance and the freshness of your message, President Grant….”

Remarks by G. Homer Durham: It was a remarkable experience for me to go to the published sources, and from them to gather the bulk of the material now appearing in Gospel Standards. We know that only a small part of your sermons, messages, and stories are represented in this book, but trust that it is an accurate sample of your work. I know that many excellent stories and messages do not appear…. Therefore I know that there must be many, many more stirring messages and stories which do not appear for the same reason. However, in the Conference Reports since 1897, The Improvement Era, and the other sources noted in the Introduction, were gleaned the contents which now grace the volume. For materials from the time of your ordination as an apostle in 1882, to 1897, the year of the first printed Conference Report, presented the chief difficulty. Finally, from the Journal History of the Church, were extracted some valuable items from the relatively few sermons which were taken down and which were printed, or excerpts therefrom, in the Deseret News, the Utah Enquirer and included in the Journal History…. I believe, President Grant, that I have read practically everything of yours that has been published in our Church publications more than fifteen times, from first extraction for compilation to final proofreading and preparation of the index….”

President Grant expressed his heart-felt appreciation for the personal good wishes of those present and for the work that they had done and were doing. He also recalled events leading to the founding of the Era and other noteworthy happenings of his life.

Fifteen copies of the book were left with him—two especially bound in morocco, and thirteen of the regular binding with their colorful jacket. After further brief informalities, the party left. (Improvement Era, 1942, no. 1)

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