Monday, August 23, 2021

President Heber J. Grant’s Special Witness of Jesus Christ

[Readers desiring to obtain their own hardback copies of volume one of I Know He Lives: How 13 Special Witnesses Came to Know Jesus Christ can find copies on sale here  Softbound copies can be purchased here, on sale. An ebook (Kindle) edition is available on Amazon here, for cheap. The Amazon page also includes the Introduction and first chapter of volume one for free.]

(by Dennis B. Horne)

God lives, Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith was a prophet

of the true and the living God. . . .

God has given me a witness of these things.

I know them and I bear that witness to you.

            President Marion G. Romney loved to hear President Heber J. Grant express his special witness: “I remember the times I have thrilled as I have listened to President Grant bear his testimony. When he used to close conference, he would say: ‘I know as I know that I live that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Redeemer of the world, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the true and the living God, and that Mormonism, so-called, is in very deed the plan of life and salvation’ (Conference Report, Oct. 1934, 132). I never heard him say these words without getting a tingling feeling up and down my spine.”[1] Another apostolic associate of Brother Romney’s felt the same way: “When I was a young man,” remembered President Gordon B. Hinckley, “I sat in a general conference in this Tabernacle and heard President Heber J. Grant declare that he was grateful above all else for the testimony which he had of this, the work of God. I am now older than President Grant was when I heard him say those words. I now know how he felt.”[2]

A Child of Promise

            Heber J. Grant was born November 22, 1856, in Salt Lake City. His father Jedediah, a counselor to President Brigham Young, died when Heber was barely born. Therefore, his mother had to raise him and proved to have a saintly influence on him, ensuring that he would carry a great love for her all his life and would support her as soon as he could. He often spoke tenderly of his mother is his discourses: “I, of course, owe everything to my mother, because my father died when I was only nine days of age; and the marvelous teachings, the faith, the integrity of my mother have been an inspiration to me.”[3] The Lord let Heber’s mother, Rachel, know what his future could be at an early age if he lived worthy of it. He explained the setting:


When I was a little child, in a Relief society meeting . . . my mother was there, “Aunt Em” Wells was there, Eliza R. Snow, Zina D. Young, and many others. After the meeting was over Sister Eliza R. Snow, by the gift of tongues, gave a blessing to each and every one of those good sisters, and Sister Zina D. Young gave the interpretation. After blessing those sisters, she turned to the boy playing on the floor, and pronounced a blessing upon my head by the gift of tongues, and Zina D. Young gave the interpretation. I of course did not understand one word that Aunt Eliza was saying. I was astonished because she was talking to me and pointing at me. I could not understand a word, . . . My mother made a record of that blessing. What was it? It was a prophecy, by the gift of tongues, that her boy should live to be an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ; and ofttimes she told me that if I would behave myself, that honor would come to me.[4]


            Heber did (mostly[5]) behave himself and showed a strong capacity for perseverance and a sharp mind for business.[6] By his teens he was working long hard hours to support himself and his mother. Then, when only twenty-three years old, filled with obvious talent and potential but not yet very spiritually-minded or experienced, the First Presidency called him (in 1880) to leave his home and growing business interests and move a few miles down the road to serve as the Toole, Utah, stake president. This call shocked him and he felt completely unprepared. Young Heber recalled:


            Years rolled on, and 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, if they could not find one in Tooele County, 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.”. . .

            At the lunch table [with the First Presidency] after my first short speech. . . , 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 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. . . . 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.[7]


Called to the Apostleship

            With a newly acquired but strong testimony intact, stake president Heber went forward with zeal in both business and church service. His stay in Toole would only last two years, at which time the Prophet of God received a written revelation with his name in it: “Revelation given through President John Taylor at Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, October 13th, 1882. Friday morning. Thus saith the Lord to the Twelve, and to the Priesthood and people of my Church: Let my servants George Teasdale and Heber J. Grant be appointed to fill the vacancies in the Twelve, that you may be fully organized and prepared for the labors devolving upon you, for you have a great work to perform; . . .”[8]

            Thus the Lord called Heber J. Grant as one of his special witnesses. Elder Grant told the story of his call on several occasions in General Conferences and elsewhere, for it included some of the defining spiritual experiences of his life:


          I was made one of the apostles in October, 1882. On the 6th of October, 1882, I met Brother George Teasdale at the south gate of the temple. His face lit up, and he said: “Brother Grant, you and I”—very enthusiastically—and then he commenced coughing and choking, and went on into meeting and did not finish his sentence. It came to me as plainly as though he had said the words: “Are going to be chosen this afternoon to fill the vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.”

          I went to the meeting and my head swelled, and I thought to myself, “Well, I am going to be one of the apostles,” and I was willing to vote for myself, but the conference adjourned without anyone being chosen.

          Ten days later I received a telegram saying, “You must be in Salt Lake tomorrow without fail.” I was then president of Tooele Stake. The telegram came from my partner, Nephi W. Clayton. When I got to the depot, I said: “Nephi, why on earth are you calling me back here? I had an appointment out in Tooele Stake.”

          “Never mind,” he said; “it was not I who sent for you; it was Brother Lyman. He told me to send the telegram and sign my name to it. He told me to come and meet you and take you to the President's office. That is all I know.”

          So I went to the President's office, and there sat Brother Teasdale, and all of the ten Apostles, and the Presidency of the Church, and also Seymour B. Young and the members of the Seven Presidents of the Seventies. And the revelation was read calling Brother Teasdale and myself to the apostleship, and Brother Seymour B. Young to be one of the Seven Presidents of the Seventies.

          Brother Teasdale was blessed [ordained and set apart] by President John Taylor, and George Q. Cannon blessed me.

          After the meeting I said to Brother Teasdale, “I know what you were going to say to me on the sixth of October when you happened to choke half to death and then went into the meeting.”

          He said, “Oh, no, you don't.”

          “Yes, I do,” and I repeated it: “You and I are going to be called to the apostleship.”

          He said, “Well, that is what I was going to say, and then it occurred to me that I had no right to tell it, that I had received a manifestation from the Lord.” He said, “Heber, I have suffered the tortures of the damned for ten days, thinking I could not tell the difference between a manifestation from the Lord and one from the devil, that the devil had deceived me.”

          I said, “I have not suffered like that, but I never prayed so hard in my life for anything as I did that the Lord would forgive me for the egotism of thinking that I was fit to be an apostle, and that I was ready to go into that meeting ten days ago and vote for myself to be an apostle.”

          I was a very unhappy man from October until February. For the next four months whenever I would bear my testimony of the divinity of the Savior, there seemed to be a voice that would say: “You lie, because you have never seen Him.” One of the brethren had made the remark that unless a man had seen the Lamb of God—that was his expression—he was not fit to be an apostle. This feeling that I have mentioned would follow me. I would wake up in the night with the impression: “You do not know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, because you have never seen Him,” and the same feeling would come to me when I would preach and bear testimony. It worried me from October until the following February.

          I was in Arizona in February, traveling with Brigham Young, Jr., and a number of other brethren, . . .

          I had this feeling that I ought not to testify any more about the Savior and that, really, I was not fit to be an apostle. It seemed overwhelming to me that I should be one. There was a spirit that said: “If you have not seen the Savior, why don't you resign your position?”

          As I rode along alone, I seemed to see a council in heaven. The Savior was there; the Prophet Joseph was there; my father and others that I knew were there. In this council it seemed that they decided that a mistake had been made in not filling the vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve, and conference had adjourned. The chances were the Brethren would wait another six months, and the way to remedy the situation was to send a revelation naming the men who should fill the vacancies. In this council the Prophet said, “I want to be represented by one of my own in that Council.”. . .

          I had always understood and known that my mother was sealed to the Prophet [Joseph Smith], and that Brigham Young had told my father that he would not marry my mother to him for eternity, because he had instructions from the Prophet that if anything happened to him before he was married to Rachel Ivins she must be sealed to him for eternity, that she belonged to him.

          That is the reason that Father spoke up in this council to which I have referred, and said: “Why not choose the boy who bears my name, who belongs to you, to be one of the apostles?” That inspiration was given to me.

          I can truthfully say that from February, 1883, until today I have never had any of that trouble, and I can bear my testimony that I know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world and that Joseph Smith is a prophet of the living God; . . . I have just had real, genuine joy and satisfaction in proclaiming the gospel and bearing my testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ, and the divine calling of Joseph Smith, the prophet.[9]


            Elder Grant’s reminiscences of his call as an apostle and member of the Quorum of the Twelve is one of the more well-known from earlier Utah days in the Church, and several accounts exist. Following is another that includes further details and confirms the validity of his special witness:


            I have felt my own lack of ability. In fact when I was called as one of the apostles I arose to my feet to say it was beyond anything I was worthy of, and as I was rising the thought came to me, “You know as you know that you live that John Taylor is a prophet of God, and to decline this office when he had received a revelation is equivalent to repudiating the prophet.” I said, “I will accept the office and do my best.” I remember that it was with difficulty that I took my seat without fainting.

            There are two spirits striving with us always, one telling us to continue our labor for good, and one telling us that with the faults and failings of our nature we are unworthy. I can truthfully say that from October, 1882, until February, 1883, that spirit followed me day and night, telling me that I was unworthy to be an apostle of the Church, and that I ought to resign. When I would testify of my knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Redeemer of mankind, it seemed as though a voice would say to me: “You lie! You lie! You have never seen Him.”

            While on the Navajo Indian reservation with Brigham Young, Jr., and a number of others, six or eight on horseback, and several others in “white tops”—I was riding along. . . .

            As I was riding along . . . 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. . . .

            It was given to me, as I say, that it now depended upon me.

            No man could have been more unhappy than I was from October, 1882, until February, 1883, but from that day I have never been bothered, night or day, with the idea that I was not worthy to stand as an apostle, . . .[10]


            So began Elder Grant’s tenure as a special witness of Jesus Christ. That same year, 1883, that Heber was called to the Twelve, his cousin and best friend Anthony W. Ivins was sent to Mexico to serve as the mission president and then as stake president. Elder Grant felt bad about being separated from his close friend, but was blessed with comforting spiritual knowledge: “I thank God for a testimony that came to me, the eternal part of me, the day Brother Ivins was called to Mexico. Brother George Q. Cannon made the remark, ‘I do not want Brother Ivins to go to Mexico, we need him here. He is the outstanding man in his party in Utah, but I believe the Lord wants him there.’ When he was called I felt a little sad, and while thinking about it, the Lord saw fit to give me this word: ‘You need not feel bad, he is going where the Lord wants him to go and you shall have the exquisite joy of welcoming him back into this room as one of the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ I was in the Apostles' room in the temple at the time. I turned my head and wept for joy.” Elder Grant had to wait until 1907 to welcome his friend into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and later called him as a counselor when he became the president of the Church.


A Watershed Change of Heart

            In the latter half of the 1880s some unusual circumstances of confusion, rampant misunderstanding, and unfortunate miscommunication arose in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. For many reasons, most of the ill-will in the Quorum focused on George Q. Cannon, who had served as a counselor to President John Taylor (who died in exile in 1887). Several of the newer and younger apostles (including Heber) refused to permit reorganization of the First Presidency without airing their grievances, and this made for many very tense and unpleasant Quorum meetings. Eventually, with much prayer, time, and effort, most matters were resolved amicably enough for the First Presidency to be reorganized in April, 1889 (with Wilford Woodruff as President). Two apostles, Moses Thatcher and Heber J. Grant, still harbored some resentments against President Cannon into 1890 (while President Cannon had indeed done some unwise things, he was still largely in the right).[11] Elder Grant did not like carrying ill-will toward President Cannon, and prayed fervently to overcome all bad feelings.

            By 1891 his prayers were answered and his heart softened, so when his watershed moment came, he was victorious. On January 29, in his diary he wrote: “After our meeting I had a very nice chat with President Cannon and explained more fully that at the present time he had my perfect confidence and respect and that I loved him. . . . After our chat as we were starting away and shaking hands he leaned over and kissed me and I felt the tears of gratitude coming to my eyes as I returned the kiss. I hope and pray with all my heart that the day will never come again when I will lack confidence in any of my brethren.” Later that year (October 9) he recorded: “I called on President Cannon this morning . . . and unburdened myself to him, . . . I could not keep from crying while I was chatting with President Cannon. I confessed to him that I felt that perhaps it was just that I should suffer as I was suffering as I had made him and others suffer by misjudging them and their actions. As we were parting he put his arm around me and kissed me and I felt that all ill feeling that I might have engendered in his heart because of my criticisms of his actions after the death of President Taylor was a thing of the past.”[12]

            Brotherly love and unity with his Quorum and the First Presidency meant a great deal to Elder Grant. Elder Moses Thatcher’s heart continued to rankle and harden until he was dropped from the Quorum of the Twelve and later almost excommunicated—while Heber went on to become the President of the Church.

            Later, Elder Grant recalled another choice experience with President Cannon; the setting was a public church meeting at which he spoke:


            I saw my brother, the late Brigham Frederick Grant, in the audience and knew that he was seeking a testimony of the gospel. I prayed earnestly to the Lord that I might be inspired to say that which would touch his heart. . . . I decided to stop . . . so as to leave time for Brother George Q. Cannon who had come into the meeting late.

            I started on time and quit on time, and upon sitting down I heard Brother Cannon say to himself—he was sitting behind me in a chair facing north—”Thank God for the power of that testimony.”. . .

            I preached a sermon on the divine mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the divinity of the mission of the Savior of the world.

            When I heard Brother Cannon make that remark to himself—I could have touched him with my left hand as he sat behind me—I put my arms on my knees and covered my eyes with my hand and made a puddle on the floor, with tears of gratitude that filled my heart. . . .

            The very next morning my brother came into my office and told me that I had preached by the inspiration of God and that I was inspired. . . .

            I said: “Well, what more do you need than to say that I spoke by inspiration—you have never heard me speak like that before—and that the Lord manifested His Spirit to me. You had better get your thinking cap on your head.” Before the week was out I had the pleasure of baptizing him.[13]


            As for the meeting and the talk Elder Grant had given, President George Q. Cannon arose before the people when Heber was finished and stated—“There are times when the Lord Almighty inspires some speaker by the revelations of His Spirit, and he is so abundantly blessed by the inspiration of the living God that it is a mistake for anybody else to speak following him, and one of those occasions has been today in the address of Brother Grant, and I therefore ask [to] dismiss the meeting.”[14]

            Throughout his long ministry as a special witness, Elder Grant served two missions. One of them was to Japan, which he did not enjoy. But as the prophet of the Lord knew, this mission was more for Elder Grant and his three companions than for baptizing multitudes. During a very spiritual social gathering that included several apostles, President Lorenzo Snow taught:


When the Lord first sent forth his elders in this generation, very little was known as to what their labors would be and what they could accomplish. They failed in some respects, but they did not fail in one thing: They did their duty. Apostle Orson Pratt and others were sent to Austria to open a mission there, but, by reason of the rejection of their testimony, they did not succeed. Nevertheless they did their duty and were blessed. Noah preached one hundred and twenty years; he was a grand man; he did his duty, but failed, and it was because the people rejected him. However by doing his duty, he secured to himself exaltation and glory, while those who rejected his testimony were held in prison for two thousand five hundred years. Moses in leading the children of Israel to the promised land, failed to accomplish what the Lord wanted by reason of the Israelites. Moses himself, through faithfulness has attained to the Godhead. There is no doubt of this. As to these brethren who will shortly leave for Japan, the Lord has not revealed to me that they will succeed, but he has shown me positively that it is their duty to go. They need not worry concerning the results, only they should be careful to search the Spirit of the Lord, and understand its language to see what it indicates to them. Do not be governed by your own wisdom but by the wisdom of God.[15]


            As Providence would have it, Elder Grant went to Japan, established a mission headquarters, and did his best to labor with his companions, but the mission enjoyed little success and years later was closed. After a time (1901-1903), Elder Grant, feeling depressed because of his lack of success, was able to convince the First Presidency to reassign him as President of the European Mission, headquartered in Liverpool, England, where he excelled and thoroughly enjoyed his service (1903-1906).

            Elder Hugh B. Brown shared an experience when serving as a young missionary under President Grant:


            During that first mission to England, I had a great experience with President Grant. In 1905 I had an attack of kidney stones. The pain was so severe that the local doctors told me I must go home and have medical attention or I would die.

            President Grant learned of this and made a special trip from Liverpool down to Norwich, where I was laboring, to tell me that I would be released and sent home.

            This broke my heart, and I said to him, “President Grant, if you will give me a blessing, I will not have to go home. I will get well.”

            He said, “If you have faith that that is so, it will be so.”

            He blessed me, and I did not have another attack of kidney stones.[16]


Becomes President of the Church

            In 1919 a flue pandemic swept the world, killing many millions. It forced the Church to shut down its temples and meetinghouses and all public gatherings for months. President Joseph F. Smith himself had become incrementally ill for some time and had been largely confined to his room. Few church members and most of the apostles had no idea how ill he really was. On November 19, President Heber J. Grant (then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) visited the ailing prophet. Then and there, President Joseph F. Smith, on his deathbed, gave his final parting charge to President Heber J. Grant:

            “I will read the following statement—and have no recollection of having done so before—written at my request, by Bishop David A. Smith, Nov. 19, 1918: President Grant came into the Beehive House yesterday afternoon to inquire as to father's condition, and I suggested that he go in and speak to him, but he said he did not want to disturb him. I said, ‘You had better wait and see him, as it may be your last chance to speak to him.’ Father being awake, I told him Brother Grant was there, and he directed me to tell Brother Grant that he wanted to see him, and when Brother Grant entered the room he took him by the hand and said: “The Lord bless you, my boy, the Lord bless you, you have got a great responsibility. Always remember this is the Lord's work, and not man's. The Lord is greater than any man. He knows whom he wants to lead his Church, and never makes any mistake. The Lord bless you.”’ This was the last message that President Smith delivered to anyone.’ (Signed) David A. Smith.”[17]

            Heber had loved Joseph F. all his life, sustaining and supporting him: “I believe that I am safe in saying that no man who has ever stood at the head of the Church, within the recollection of us who were born in this valley, ever thrilled the hearts of the people in testifying that his Redeemer lived, as did our late beloved President Joseph F. Smith.”[18] No public funeral was held because of the flue pandemic.

            On November 23, Heber was set apart as the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[19] In his first address as President, given in the delayed (June) general conference, Heber gave what has since become known as one of the greatest talks ever given at a general conference. In it, he pledged his remaining life to serving the Lord and the people, and he briefly referenced his acquaintance with each president of the Church from Brigham Young through Joseph F. Smith, and spoke of their testimonies and hallmarks of their service.

            One of his first obligations as Church President was to present a name to the Quorum of the Twelve to fill the vacancy caused by the passing of President Smith. One source quotes President Grant as remembering, “I went into the elevator and rode up to the fourth floor of the temple. On the way up I heard three times, as clearly as I ever heard any voice in my life, the name Melvin J. Ballard. I only knew Brother Ballard in passing, that he was at the time president of the Northwestern States Mission.”[20] In his diary, President Grant recorded: “When I became the President and it was up to me to nominate someone to the Council of the Twelve I told the Lord in prayer that he knew who I wanted for an Apostle, namely, Richard W. Young, but that I wanted the impression of the Spirit as to whom he wanted, and I finally nominated Melvin J. Ballard”[21] President Grant later commented on the lesson taught him by this experience: “I have been happy during the twenty-two years that it has fallen to my lot to stand at the head of this Church. I have felt the inspiration of the living God directing me in my labors. From the day that I chose a comparative stranger to be one of the apostles, instead of my lifelong and dearest living friend, I have known as I know that I live, that I am entitled to the light and the inspiration and the guidance of God in directing His work here upon this earth. And I know, as I know that I live, that it is God's work, and that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God, the Redeemer of the world and that He came to this earth with a divine mission to die upon the cross as the Redeemer of mankind, atoning for the sins of the world.”[22]

            Elder Ballard was the first of many apostles called by President Grant. President Boyd K. Packer shared, in brief, another story: “In 1930 J. Reuben Clark was named as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. Two and a half years later he was called by letter as second counselor to President Heber J. Grant. General conference had come and gone, and a vacancy in the First Presidency was not filled. A senior Apostle told me that two members of the Twelve waited upon President Grant and said, ‘We see you did not fill the vacancy in the Presidency.’ President Grant replied, ‘I know the man the Lord wants me to have, and he is not ready yet.’ Pointing his cane at each of them, he said, ‘I know that feeling when it comes. I had it when I called you! And I had it when I called you!’ ‘When that cane pointed at me,’ one of them told me, ‘I felt as if I had been electrocuted.’ It was nearly a year before President Clark was able to come to Church headquarters.”[23]

            As the years of his administration passed and he fulfilled his calling as a special witness, President Grant’s words rang with truth and testimony: “When I think of the men who have occupied this position, from President Brigham Young to President Joseph F. Smith, I indeed feel weak, but my faith and my knowledge regarding the divinity of the work in which we are engaged are so perfect that I have no doubt whatever that the Lord will give to me, with the aid of my counselors and the Council of the Twelve, with whom I meet in council every week, the inspiration to guide and direct the affairs of this Church in a way and manner which will be pleasing and acceptable to him.”[24]

            Further: “I bear witness to you here today that we have the truth, that God has spoken again, that every gift, every grace, every power, and every endowment that came through the Holy Priesthood of the living God in the days of the Savior, are enjoyed today. God lives, Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith was a prophet of the true and the living God. ‘Mormonism,’ so called, is in very deed the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. God has given me a witness of these things. I know them and I bear that witness to you, in all humility,”[25]

            And again: “I thank the Lord that I am able to bear witness to you here today that I know that God lives, that he hears and answers our prayers; that I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer of the world, the Savior of mankind. I bear my witness to you here today that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the true and the living God, that he was the instrument in the hands of God of establishing again upon the earth the plan of life and salvation, not only for the living but for the dead, and that this gospel, commonly called ‘Mormonism,’ by the people of the world, is in very deed the plan of life and salvation, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, that the little stone has been cut out of the mountain, and that it shall roll forth until it fills the whole earth.”[26]

            President Grant also delineated the absolute sureness of his testimony: “I do not need to say faith, for I can say knowledge. I know that God lives; that Jesus is the Christ; that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the true and the living God, and that Mormonism, so-called, is in very deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the plan of life and salvation, revealed again from heaven, and that all authority existing on the earth at any time has been bestowed again upon men by messengers from heaven.”[27] Such was the special witness of this prophet of God.

            President Heber J. Grant died May 14, 1945, of ailments incident to old age, after suffering for several years from the effects of a stroke.


[1] Marion G. Romney, Look to God and Live (Salt Lake City; Deseret Book, 1971), 37-38.

[2] “My Testimony,” Ensign, November 1993.

[3] “The Life and Ministry of Heber J. Grant,” in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant. Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2011.

[4] Conference Report, October 1919, 31-32.

[5] One of Heber’s biographers noted that he had to overcome brief addictions to both tobacco and beer as youthful follies. These events made him especially strong in preaching the Word of Wisdom and making sure it was observed by those entering the temple.

[6] Church manuals contain stories about how Heber’s determination to excel at some of the things he struggled with meant he could accurately throw a baseball, write beautiful penmanship, and even sing some. But it was in business that his talents really shone.

[7] Heber J. Grant, “Some Things for Our Young People to Remember,” The Editor’s Page, Improvement Era, 1939, 1.

[8] James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency 2:347.

[9] Conference Report, October 1942, 25. On another occasion, Pres. Grant told some of the same story: “Forty years ago this October conference [1922], I met the late Elder George Teasdale at the south gate of the Tabernacle grounds. He shook hands with me and said: ‘Brother Grant, I am delighted to see you. You and I are going to be—' and he stopped suddenly and his face turned red. But the Lord gave me the balance of the sentence. Four times in my life I have been permitted to read the thoughts of people. The balance of Brother Teasdale's sentence was—'sustained this afternoon as apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ to fill the vacancies in the Quorum.’ And that went through me like a shock of electricity. I came to the Sunday afternoon meeting of the conference, because of this partial sentence, and the balance that was given to me, with the assurance in my heart that Brother Teasdale and myself would be sustained as apostles. Those of you who were at that conference remember that it adjourned without filling those vacancies. I do not believe that any mortal man ever more humbly supplicated God during the next few days to forgive him for his egotism than I did for thinking I was to be chosen as an apostle. As you are aware, within a week a revelation came to John Taylor calling Brother Teasdale and myself to those positions” (Conference Report, October 1922, 2-3).

[10] Improvement Era, 44:267, 315.

[11] Regarding this unfortunate situation and its eventual resolution, President Cannon recorded in his diary that, “My feelings have been very peculiar during these whole proceedings. I have been profoundly impressed with the goodness of God to me. I feel that He has vindicated me abundantly and has heard my prayers, for in the depth of my affliction I cried unto Him to deliver me from what seemed to be a combination against me, and I asked Him that that combination might be broken. It has taken time, but it has come to pass. I have pitied Brother Thatcher. I have prayed for him most earnestly, for I did not want to see him or any of my brethren take a wrong course. All I have asked in all these difficulties and misunderstandings has been that each of us might see himself in the light of the Holy Spirit. I knew that if I received the Holy Spirit I would see where I had done wrong and I would repent of it, and it would be the same with all the rest” (George Q. Cannon diary, April 6, 1893).

[12] On January 1, 1891, he wrote: “I felt truly thankful that there was perfect confidence existing between myself and President George Q. Cannon . . . and felt that while I had once felt unkindly towards President Cannon that he is now one of my dearest friends.”

[13] Conference Report, April 1942, 9.

[14] Conference Report, April 1944, 6.

[15] JH, June 26, 1901 and Improvement Era, August 1901, 795-96.

[16] “Recollections of a Missionary in Great Britain,” Ensign, September 1971.

[17] Conference Report, April 1934, 10. President Grant reported this experience more than once. At the April 1942 general conference he said: “On the day that Brother Joseph F. Smith bade me good-bye, and he died that very night, he told me that the Lord never makes a mistake. He said: ‘You have a great responsibility resting upon you. The Lord knows whom He wants to preside over His Church and He never makes a mistake.’ I can testify to you that He has not made a mistake in my case any more than He did with each and all of my predecessors” (Conference Report, April 1942, 9).

[18] Conference Report, October 1919, 201.

[19] At the June 1919 conference, a mission president told this experience: “I want to bear you my testimony that God has shown me that President Heber J. Grant is the right man in the right place. Some four weeks ago, in the temple of our God, at a fast meeting, the President was speaking. I was sitting on my seat, looking very intently upon him, as I do upon all speakers, desiring to hear all they say. All of a sudden, President Grant had disappeared; I did not see him, but I saw our beloved president, Joseph F. Smith, who departed this life a few months ago. I saw the mantle of the Prophet resting upon our beloved brother, and I thought that this was another testimony unto me that he was the right man in the right place. I had never doubted but what this was the case—never in the world. I know the order of the Church too well for that; but God made manifest unto me that the mantle of the Prophet had fallen upon President Grant, and he was indeed his legal and lawful successor” (Conference Report, October 1919, 130).

[20] Hugh B. Brown, An Abundant Life: the Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown, ed., Edwin B. Firmage (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988), 128-29.

[21] Heber J. Grant diary, February 20, 1935. Of his call to the Twelve, Elder Ballard said: “I rejoice to be identified with this work. In my soul I am thankful for a standing in this Church [of apostle]. I feel my weakness in appearing before the Latter-day Saints in the responsibilities that have come to me. When President Grant informed me that it was the will of the Lord, and that the brethren had approved of that decision, that I should become a special witness for the Lord Jesus Christ, I was overwhelmed, because I did not feel that I was worthy of any such thing; and I answered him that if I believed that I could be worthy to be a special witness of the Lord Jesus Christ, an apostle, it would be the happiest hour of my life; for I look upon it as the highest honor that can come to a man on the earth; but my standard of what kind of men they ought to be was so great, so far above what I am, that I did not know if I could measure up to that standard or not. . .” (Conference Report, June 1919, 73).

[22] Improvement Era, 44:267, 315.

[23] Boyd K. Packer, “On the Shoulders of Giants,” Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law Society Devotional, February 28, 2004, 3.

[24] Conference Report, October 1919, 3.

[25] Conference Report, April 1920, 15-16; see also Conference Report, April 1943, 7.

[26] Conference Report, October 1919, 15.

[27] Conference Report, April 1934, 11.

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