Monday, November 16, 2020

President Heber J. Grant’s (Fun) Political Story

 by Dennis B. Horne

            [Editorial Note: With the 2020 election over and political tensions in the U.S. still high, I thought this story from President Heber J. Grant might bring some humor and fun to the situation. The setting is his last talk at his first general conference as President of the Church. I first encountered this story almost two decades ago as I was editing a selection of diary entries and related materials about Elder Abraham H. Cannon, a son of President George Q. Cannon who only served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve for some 6 years and died young. He and Elder Grant, along with Orson F. Whitney, were something of friendly rivals in their early years and had strong political views. They even dated some of the same women.]

            I have received a lot of anonymous letters, since I became President of the Church, telling me a great many things that people would like me to announce here, positions they would like me to take, etc., to all of which I shall pay no attention. Any person who wishes to write me a letter and give me pointers should not be afraid to sign his name. . . .

            Some years ago I preached a sermon in this Tabernacle. At the close of the service, on my way home, between here and the Eagle Gate, six or seven men complimented me for "spanking in public" Brother Abraham H. Cannon who had spoken just before I did. Two or three days later some seven or eight men were in the President's office, and I was summoned before them and taken to task for "spanking" Brother Cannon. They were very angry. They were all Republicans, and all those who had complimented me were Democrats. Brother Abraham and I were there at this meeting, and I asked him if he knew that he was spanked. He said, no, he did not; and I remarked, "If I spanked you in public, I must have done it in my sleep. I quite frequently sleep when other people are talking; but, up to date, I have not learned to sleep while I am talking. I am not aware of saying one single, solitary word that reflected on what you said."

            I requested that those two sermons be published in the Deseret News, one following the other; that neither Abraham nor I be permitted to read them before publication. When they were published I was to appear at the President's office and I would make any apology that was necessary for spanking Brother Abraham in public. Brother Cannon and I read them to ourselves and then read them aloud, and we could not find one single, solitary word, wherein I had found any fault with what he had said, neither could the Presidency. So I did not have to apologize. Do you know, it is a very easy matter for us to misconstrue what people say, and make such an application that it may appear partisan or as if it were intended for personal advantage, in some way, shape or manner. CONFERENCE REPORT, JUNE 1919, 139, 142-43.

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