Friday, February 7, 2020

President Heber J. Grant’s Audio Address to the 1938 Deseret Sunday School Union Meeting

Introduced by Dennis B. Horne

            As far as I know, audio recordings of addresses given by President Heber J. Grant are rare. They are also a treat, for several reasons. Not only do you get to hear his voice but you get a flavor of his personality not so easily discernable in his written words. And best of all, his speeches were not written down and read as most are today. They were extemporaneous, vigorous, and from the heart. Today we are not used to hearing the prophet of the Lord speak in this old-time oratorical style. Today the addresses given by the prophets and apostles are written well in advance so that they can be translated into many other languages, and also to ensure that nothing wrong is accidentally said. (Critics gleefully latch onto misstatements and make a mountain of a mole-hill out of them, trying to weaken faith. As President Hinckley said, “Our critics at home and abroad are watching us. In an effort to find fault, they listen to every word we say, hoping to entrap us. We may stumble now and again. But the work will not be materially hindered. We will stand up where we fell and go forward.”)
            After listening to President Grant preach with the fire he did, I can’t help but feel sorry for the poor apostate who crossed him; they would soon be a miserable puddle on the floor. When Pres. Grant goes after an apostate in this speech, he isn’t tactful and diplomatic, except in withholding the man’s name (Frank J. Cannon).
            I assume one reason for the volume and vigor of the speaking style is that there were no amplifiers in that day, and speakers had to be sure the person sitting in the back of the Tabernacle heard them as clearly as those at the front, despite the exceptionally fine acoustics of the building.
            In order to assist listeners with understanding the content of this address, I make the following historical observations.
            Much of the talk is an intriguing review of Pres. Grant’s acquaintance with the Presidents of the Church that proceeded him. (He does get Wilford Woodruff and Lorenzo Snow out of order in the prophetic line—I presume a result of age and extemporaneous speaking.)
            Pres. Grant shares some of his childhood and early experiences with President Brigham Young’s children who were his best friends and also with Pres. Young himself, including hitching a sleigh ride and listening to the prophet pray. He discusses a possible mission call with Bro. Brigham and what that meant. He defended Pres. Young’s good character from misconceptions common to that earlier day.
            Jedediah Grant, Heber’s father, is mentioned, in connection with the reformation, which was a time in the 1850s (earlier pioneer Utah) when church leaders vigorously sought to counsel members to be cognizant of keeping the commandments. Jedidiah Grant wore himself out from preaching, lost his health, and died during this informal reformation period, just after Heber was born.
            Brother Heber notes how President John Taylor received a written revelation, calling himself and George Teasdale to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The relevant portion of the wording of the revelation is read by Elder David O. McKay in his introduction of President Grant. Pres. Grant tells some stories about some friend’s reactions to his call; these are the kind of stories that probably would not be told so freely and easily and with such deprecating humor today. (For those interested in Pres. Grant’s own words describing a sacred experience he received following his call to the Twelve, in which it was made known to him why he was called, see here, at about 8:15 mins; this is another rare recording of his voice, speaking of sublime things.)
            President Grant discusses how President Lorenzo Snow was blessed of the Lord to deliver the Church from overwhelming debt; to make the right financial decisions at the right time and rescue it from bankruptcy. He mentions how beloved Pres. Wilford Woodruff was to the members of the Church. He reviews the high place that President Joseph F. Smith held in his estimation and affection; a marvelous example of what a true man and prophet should be.
            This mention of President Joseph F. Smith led Pres. Grant to reminisce about how vicious the Salt Lake Tribune (an anti-Latter-day Saint newspaper in Salt Lake City) had treated Pres. Smith, having hired an eloquent writer/editor, Frank J. Cannon (son of Pres. George Q. Cannon). Frank turned viciously against the prophet and the Church, printing lies and slanders in editorials, news stories, and cartoons, because Pres. Smith would not support his political aspirations (and because he was well-known to be an immoral drunken pig).
            Pres. Grant talks about the Salt Lake Tribune’s glowing tribute to Joseph F. Smith in an editorial at his death (after getting rid of Frank Cannon) as an apology for the years of lies told by the Tribune (not much has changed there). The Tribune evidently temporarily improved. Pres. Grant comments on how Pres. Smith beautifully handled the piles of lies told about him for years in the Tribune.
            Pres. Grant also tells about receiving his patriarchal blessing and what the patriarch did not say but that was revealed to him (Heber): that he would become the President of the Church.
            Lastly, Pres. Grant speaks of a painting of the prophet Joseph, and of Josiah Quincy’s book Figures of the Past, which tells of an experience Josiah had meeting Joseph Smith.

Click here for a brief recording of Pres. Grant’s testimony.

President Hinckley said: “On more than one occasion I heard President Heber J. Grant, his voice ringing with conviction, bear his witness concerning the sacred law of tithing and the marvelous promises which the Lord has made to those who are honest in paying their tithes and offerings. I was deeply impressed by what I heard.” Amen to that!

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