Tuesday, September 7, 2021

President Henry D. Moyle’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)


I know that as this call came to me,

 there came a witness of the Holy Ghost that I had never possessed before,

a change that sometimes I feel was physical as well as spiritual.



James H. Moyle’s Testimony

            Henry D. Moyle loved his father, an energetic man of great strength of mind, character, influence, and spirituality. While standing before religious educators at BYU, Brother Moyle spoke of his father’s valiant service as a missionary and of his becoming one of the first and most prominent lawyers in Utah:


            My father, James H. Moyle, had been on a mission to the southern states. He had seen fellow missionaries murdered in the mission field. He was right close by when Elder Joseph Standing was shot. He was one of the first elders to arrive on the scene after his death. He was there with Elder Matthew Cowley. After he had completed his mission, in which he had many miraculous experiences—given power to control the mobs and to stay them in their course, and by the exercise of that power to have men of influence and power in the community converted and brought into the Church—after he had finished that mission he went to the University of Michigan. President John Taylor had given him a blessing that he might go there to study the law and promised him that he would have the privilege of coming home and using that talent to defend the Brethren. I am sure that that was one of the great highlights in Father’s life, to come back at the time when the Brethren needed a man holding the priesthood to be their friend in court.[1]


            At the conclusion of his law studies, James H. Moyle (Jim) learned from his father that David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon, was still alive (about eighty then). Jim therefore decided to visit David Whitmer at his residence in Richmond, Missouri. He had a special purpose in mind—to interview (really interrogate) him about his testimony of the Book of Mormon. Elder James E. Faust told the story in a general conference address:


            As a young Aaronic Priesthood boy, I received a firsthand confirmation of the remarkable testimony of the Three Witnesses concerning the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. My stake president was President Henry D. Moyle, and his father was James H. Moyle. In the summertime Brother James H. Moyle would visit his family, and he would worship with us in our little ward in the southeast of the Salt Lake Valley.

            One Sunday, Brother James H. Moyle shared with us a singular experience. As a young man he went to the University of Michigan to study law. As he was finishing his studies, his father told him that David Whitmer, one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon, was still alive. The father suggested to his son that he stop on his way back to Salt Lake City to visit with David Whitmer face-to-face. Brother Moyle’s purpose was to ask him about his testimony concerning the golden plates and the Book of Mormon.

            During that visit, Brother Moyle said to David Whitmer: “Sir, you are an old man, and I’m a young man. I have been studying about witnesses and testimonies. Please tell me the truth concerning your testimony as one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon.” David Whitmer then told this young man: “Yes, I held the golden plates in my hands, and they were shown to us by an angel. My testimony concerning the Book of Mormon is true.” David Whitmer was out of the Church, but he never denied his testimony of the angel’s visitation, of handling the golden plates, or of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Hearing with my own ears this remarkable experience directly from Brother Moyle’s lips had a powerful, confirming effect upon my growing testimony. Having heard it, I felt it was binding upon me.[2]


            Over the decades Jim Moyle was often hired by the Church to defend it and its leaders in court against various prosecution (mostly relating to plural marriage) and nuisance suits brought by anti-Mormons. He led a life of productivity and usefulness in the church and dabbled in politics. He eventually became the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury of the United States and then Commissioner of the United States Customs Service, serving as Eastern States Mission President in-between. Jim Moyle died in 1946, the year before his son Henry was called as an apostle.


An Optimistic and Prosperous Beginning

            Henry Moyle was born in Salt Lake City in 1889. He served in the military, attended the University of Utah, and served a mission to Switzerland and Germany. On his return he studied law at the University of Chicago and Harvard law schools. Then, armed with his education and law degree, he waded into Utah business and politics, becoming highly successful and wealthy. From 1927 to 1937 he served as a stake president. In 1937 he was asked to chair the Church Welfare Committee, in company with Harold B. Lee and (later) Marion G. Romney. During these years of welfare responsibility he also kept up a law practice and many other investments and interests (oil, ranching, politics). Then in early April 1947, his life was drastically altered with his call to become a special witness of Jesus Christ.


Call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

            Brother Moyle had been in Salt Lake City before conference, but was given permission by President George Albert Smith to travel to New York City since there were no major issues needing his attention. But as general conference was about to start (then a three-day affair), Henry received a “long-distance” telephone call from President Smith, in which he was called as an apostle and told to return immediately to Salt Lake so he could be sustained and ordained.[3]

            Near the conclusion of conference, Elder Moyle was given opportunity to speak. His words were an expression of humility: “It goes without saying that we do in this Church what we are told. I have never understood that it was my privilege as a member of this Church, holding the priesthood, to say no. I have never had a desire in my heart to do anything other than that which the brethren direct. While I may feel as if some of the things that they have most recently asked me to do are beyond my power, nevertheless so far as my Heavenly Father will give me the power to act I shall do so, and all that I have and am belongs to my Heavenly Father.” After noting his complete willingness to be obedient, he bore testimony: “I know that this is the gospel of Jesus Christ. . . . There has never been a question of a doubt in my mind that our Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove. I have stood on that spot. I have heard the testimonies of the leaders of this Church borne there. I have felt with all the feeling there was within my being, that that was the Sacred Grove, and that that was where the gospel of Jesus Christ was again restored to mankind in this day and age.”[4]

            In a meeting of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, Henry D. Moyle was ordained an apostle by President George Albert Smith and then given the apostolic charge. It has been noted that Brother Moyle was a man of wealth, probably a millionaire. It is thought that Elder Matthew Cowley was referring to Elder Moyle when he said the following about Elder Moyle’s humble spirit of consecration, in a (1953) talk to BYU students: “I’ll never forget the day I heard one [new apostle] after he had received the [apostolic] charge, when he was ordained to the Council—one of the wealthiest ones there. He stood up and he said, ‘Everything I own, everything I possess, all my securities, all my wealth is on the alter. Take it.’”[5] Elder Moyle felt that his ability to give up the practice of law and the pursuit of wealth, in conjunction with his call to the apostleship, was a special gift to him from God. He explained:


            I will never cease to be grateful to the Lord for the first and lasting impression he gave me in reference to my call into the circle of the General Authorities. It seemed that spontaneously, instantaneously, without any voluntary act upon my part (I really cannot claim any credit for it) I had no interest in anything that pertained to my former profession. I was in New York on one of the largest legal matters that I had ever handled, and I had just barely laid the foundation for the negotiations on a Friday afternoon, with appointments made for the next week, when President Smith called me and told me to catch a night plane home. From that moment to this I have never been back into my old office. When I came home President George F. Richards said, “I would like to see you in the morning.” He made his request at the afternoon session of the conference, and I was due back in New York—I had been promised by President [George Albert] Smith that I could be back in New York Monday morning. But, to make a long story short, I never went at all. I telephoned New York and told my client to pack up my bags, which I had not had time to bring with me that Friday night, and to bring them home. I informed him that he would have to start over again with somebody else. He was, of course, agreeable.

            I am so grateful for that. It was not even a temptation. I had gone to President Smith just the Tuesday before. (I was then the chairman of the General Welfare Committee and had been for many years, and I was accustomed to going to conference.) I said, “Would you like to excuse me from this General Conference, or should I give up this work in New York?” and he said, “Go ahead, my boy. We have no use for you here.” And so I left. So I know that between Tuesday and Friday afternoon something happened. President Smith told me what happened, and I have never had any occasion to doubt it. He said that the Lord had spoken. What was there on earth that could interest me? You know, my faith was just simple enough to believe him. I know with all my heart and soul what he told me was true. And so there was not anything else in life that had any interest for me. . . . But I am grateful to the Lord that he made that divorcement so complete, so definite, and so quick because I am sure that therein lies the basis and the foundation for anything I have been able to do, since, in helping with his work. . . .

            I love to bear my testimony of the divinity of this work. I love to be engaged in it. And I want to say to you in all humility that I know that the Lord magnifies us in our callings. I know that I can call on the Lord for his help today and know that I am going to get it. I have that assurance, and when the day is over I know that I have had that help and can kneel down and thank God for it. I think I would be the most miserable of all men on the earth if that were not the case. I would hate to have to stand alone. I am sure I could not stand alone and accomplish the work that I should accomplish in my calling. That is true of every one of us, brethren.

            Now, I hope and pray the Lord will bless us with his Spirit and let it wipe out of our minds any doubts, any uncertainties, any unwillingness on our part to go the whole way. I am willing to stand before anybody in the world and call them to repentance and to bear my unequivocal testimony to them. And the moment that I let propriety, or friendship, or reason, or anything else, hold me back from doing what I know my duty to be, I am sure that I would lose the spirit that I now enjoy. . . .

            And still, out of all the means and methods by which he could have established the truth in the heart of that boy prophet, Joseph Smith, he chose this one. And after one hundred thirty years, all the wisdom of mankind has never made it possible for us to devise a better means than to deliver, right from the shoulder, the eternal truth that God revealed to Joseph Smith—and let the chips fall where they may. I have no apology for any man upon the face of the earth for what the Lord said to Joseph Smith. And I have no apology to offer any man, if he will stand still long enough to listen to me tell him what the Lord said.[6]


Bearing his Special Witness of Jesus Christ

            In 1954, Elder Harold B. Lee invited Elder Moyle to speak to a group of Church Educational System instructors. The First Presidency had assigned Elder Lee to teach these men because some of them were (alarmingly) drifting into unorthodox doctrinal territory. They spent two hours a day, five days a week, for five weeks, being taught by Elder Lee and a few other church leaders that he sometimes invited to substitute for him.

            Elder Moyle was asked to describe his testimony as a special witness of Christ, including the question of whether it was necessary to see Jesus to qualify. Elder Moyle quoted extensively from President Joseph Fielding Smith on the subject (that it was not necessary for an apostle to see Jesus to gain his special witness), and then spoke of his own testimony or witness, of the reality of Jesus the Christ, and how he knew:


            I want to bear witness of my own knowledge . . . that there is this greater witness that comes into our hearts, a witness that we can no more deny than we can deny that which is absolutely fresh in our mind. It is a witness that continues with us every day of our ministry, regardless of where we are or to whom we bear witness to the truth. . . .

            That testimony comes to us through the Holy Ghost. . . .

            And when that gift comes to us, my brethren and sisters, we do not need any further witness. We have received the highest possible witness that can be given to man from God. . . .

            You don’t need any logic or syllogism to know when the Holy Ghost has told you. That is final. . . .

            We have a testimony; we who are witnesses have no need of witnesses. Thus should we be qualified for our work in the Church, and I tell you, brothers and sisters, there are others who have not seen the Savior but know that He lives and that He is the Redeemer of mankind.

            Now I want to say to you that as I have gone along here today, I have endeavored to bear my testimony to you. I rejoice in the call which has come to me. I have always felt, and I hope that I shall always feel, humble in it. It has been my purpose since this call came to me to serve. I have not wanted to ask anything of anybody. I have just wanted to give. I have felt that there was no service to which man could be called higher than to preach the gospel. There is no work that pertains to the office of a member of the Quorum of the Twelve that is higher than to bear witness to the world that God lives and that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored. . . .

            Some of us wander over the earth, and sometimes we begin to wonder what need we have of a home or a place to lay our heads, because wherever we go there seems to be some provision made for us. The Lord provides for us, gives us all that we need, and I am sure that we magnify our callings in no higher respect or regard than we do as we go out and fill these assignments throughout the Church and throughout the world and give all that we have and are to the service of the Lord. I know that as this call came to me, there came a witness of the Holy Ghost that I had never possessed before, a change that sometimes I feel was physical as well as spiritual. . . .

            Well, it was of supreme satisfaction to me that I [can] . . . bear witness to it—that something far greater than any earthly profession had come into my life, and my only concern now was that I might continue to so live that this witness, which has been borne in upon me by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, might never leave me. I have been given to know that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ, to the point where no vision, no revelation, no divine manifestation could in anywise, as I feel today, add to the assurance that I have in my being that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He and the Father appeared to Joseph Smith, and through divine manifestations of the servants of God, he received the keys of the dispensation of the fulness of times.[7]


            In early April, 1951, when President George Albert Smith died right before general conference began, Elder Moyle, in his remarks, remembered him with deep affection: “I sorrow with you in the passing of President George Albert Smith. It was he who advised me four years ago of my call to the Twelve, and no man could have shown more love or affection or consideration for a new member of the Quorum than did President Smith.”[8] (This was a rare conference occurrence, being conducted by the Quorum of the Twelve, with David O. McKay as its President, in the absence of a First Presidency. It also turned into something of a commemoration or funeral service for President Smith.)

            In 1950, Elder Moyle, because of his previous business experience with cattle ranching properties, worked with the Presiding Bishopric and the First Presidency to buy a huge cattle- and citrus-producing ranch in central Florida, near Orlando, that cost over a million dollars; this purchase taking place as part of the welfare program of the Church. (With additional property acquired, it eventually became the largest cattle ranch in the world, with well over 300,000 acres.) Elder Moyle had developed a great love for the people and state of Florida, and this interest would in time be felt by a young welfare associate, Glen L. Rudd (as noted below).


Called into the First Presidency

            Elder Moyle continued his service as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles until June of 1959, when he was called by President McKay to be his second counselor (at the passing of Stephen L Richards). In speaking of the inspiration behind this call, Elder Boyd K. Packer remembered:


I was talking to one of the Brethren the other day, and he was searching threw his drawer for a piece of paper, and he came upon an envelope. He picked it up and looked at it, and looked at it again; studied it carefully and said, “What do you know.” He said, “Let me read this to you.” He said, “This is a quotation that I wrote down three years ago. I was in the office of President McKay and as soon as I stepped outside the door I searched for the first piece of paper I could find because I wanted to record exactly the statement that he had made.” The statement he had written on this envelope was this, President David O. McKay speaking: “I received inspiration from the appropriate source that Bro. Henry Moyle was to take Stephen L’s place as a member of the First Presidency.” And when you look at what has happened; you look at what is going on, it is a miracle.[9]


            While accepting the appointment to the First Presidency, President Moyle remarked, “I do hope and pray that the Lord will bless me that my labors may in some small measure reflect the deep sense of gratitude I have in my heart for this call and make me capable, qualified, worthy, to continue to associate and to counsel with you, my beloved brethren. I love the brethren of this Church. I am so grateful that I have had these years of opportunity to associate with President Joseph Fielding Smith and the members of the Twelve. It was brought rather sternly to my realization that I was not a member of the Twelve any more when my beloved friend, Howard W. Hunter, was called to take my place in the Twelve.”[10]

            In 1961, with the passing of President J. Reuben Clark Jr., President McKay asked President Moyle to serve as his first counselor. President Moyle’s service in the First Presidency was marked by enthusiasm and consecrated service to the Lord, but also by what some historians have termed mistakes in judgment. President McKay had delegated to him a great deal of financial responsibility for the Church’s building program, but Brother Moyle had become perhaps overzealous—and overspent, putting the Church in debt running into tens of millions of dollars. President McKay had thereupon relieved President Moyle of those responsibilities and returned him to more spiritual service during his final years in the First Presidency.[11]


Last Years and Death

            Although he was only in his early 70s, President Moyle knew he would not live much longer. Over the years of his service in the Twelve, he had several heart attacks and other health problems—yet somehow he understood his time to depart for the spirit world was near, and he wished to pass on his knowledge and experience to the younger members of the Quorum. One of these was Elder Boyd K. Packer, who spoke of his own concluding experience with this wonderful mentor:


            President Moyle was planning to go to Alaska. I was working very closely with him, and something had been said about my wife and me accompanying him on this tour. I didn’t want to go. There were several reasons, one of them being that I knew Sister Moyle was going to go, and because of some financial pressures Donna wouldn’t be able to go. (There were some other reasons, but I bring that in to kind of comfort you.)

            I went to President Moyle’s office one day, and he mentioned it again. I said, “Oh, President, why don’t you just leave me here. I don’t want to go. It just complicates things, so why don’t you just leave me here and let me tend shop. I’ll feel good about it!”

            At this he became very serious, almost stern. “No,” he said, “I want you to go. I’ve already talked to President McKay, and he wants you to come with me.” Then he prophetically made a statement that had its fulfillment in scarcely a month. He said: “Boyd, I’m not going to be here very much longer. I know that. If what I know is worth anything, it ought to be preserved and kept. I don’t know anywhere to keep it except in those of you who are younger. I want you to come along, and I want you to listen to me and stay close to me.” Then I could see that he was a keeper of the faith and that the place he wanted to keep it was in those who were younger.[12]


            President Moyle used part of one of his last general conference talks to declare his special witness: “I bear my solemn witness to the world that Jesus lives, that his mission upon the earth was divine, that he is the Only Begotten Son of the Father, . . .”[13]

            President Moyle died at age 74 of heart disease in September 1963, on the Church cattle ranch in Florida. “The last meeting I had with him,” remembered President Hugh B. Brown, “was just inside my office door. He came in to tell me goodbye as he was leaving for Florida. With tears in his eyes, he said, ‘Goodbye Hugh, we don’t know for how long.’ He seemed to have a presentiment that he would be leaving us.”[14]

            Three years later, one of his protégés, Elder Glen L. Rudd, served as the President of the Florida Mission, where the ranch was located. Brother Rudd recorded his precious but unusual experience visiting the ranch:


            One day in 1963 I was with President Henry D. Moyle when he told me that he felt I would be called to preside over of the missions in New Zealand. He said to me, “Get the expansion work done at Welfare Square and get your personal finances in order so that when we have the next opening we can call you to go to your old mission field in New Zealand to preside.”

            As Brother Moyle and I traveled together he often talked to me about Florida. He said, “I want you to go with me to Florida. I want to take you to the Church ranch and have you meet my friends in Florida. In fact, if you get a welfare speaking assignment for Florida, see if you can get out of it so that I can be the one to take you there.” We both laughed over that, but I knew what he meant.

            Shortly after the 1963 visit, President Moyle died on the Church ranch in Florida. I lost one of my finest friends. In 1966 I received a call to preside over the Florida Mission. We were delighted and gladly accepted the new calling.

            The mission home was in Orlando, Florida, and nearby was the large Church ranch. The first time I went out on the ranch I had a very unusual experience. Everywhere I went I seemed to feel the presence of Brother Moyle who had always wanted to be with me in Florida.

            When I went to Tallahassee there was a beautiful large building under construction. I found out that President Moyle had authorized a larger building than a district was authorized because he loved Tallahassee and had promised the Saints there that they would have a stake soon. So he gave permission to build a stake center and it was under construction when we arrived. I had the opportunity of overseeing its completion and shortly thereafter Brother Lee dedicated the building.

            Everywhere I went in the mission, especially in Tallahassee and Blountstown and other places in northern Florida, I met people who knew Brother Moyle. I had the feeling that he was close by. I have never had an experience quite like that one since. I seemed to be in the company of my departed friend.[15]


[1] Henry D. Moyle, “Value of a Personal Testimony,” Lecture Given to Seminary and Institute Teachers, Brigham Young University, July 16, 1954.

[2] James E. Faust, “A Growing Testimony,” Ensign, November 2000. For other (first person) narrations by James H. Moyle of his visit with David Whitmer, see Gordon B. Hinckley, James H. Moyle: the Story of a Distinguished American and an Honored Churchman (Salt Lake City; Deseret Book, 1951), 148-150, 366-68.

[3] These events are related in more detail in Richard D. Poll, Working the Divine Miracle: The Life of Apostle Henry D. Moyle, ed., Stan Larson (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999), 143-46.

[4] “Strength of the Gospel,” Conference Report, April 1947, 159.

[5] Matthew Cowley, “Learning to Live Through Better Use of Vocational Opportunities,” BYU Speeches, June 19, 1953; I believe this comment had reference to Elder Moyle because Elder Cowley had, earlier in his talk, mentioned President Moyle’s name but had cut himself off; then later he spoke anonymously about “one” of their number. Further, Elder Moyle was definitely one of the wealthiest men in the Quorum of the Twelve.

[6] Henry D. Moyle, “Address to Seminary and Institute Faculty, Brigham Young University, June 27, 1962, 6-8.

[7] Henry D. Moyle, “Value of a Personal Testimony,” Lecture Given to Seminary and Institute Teachers, Brigham Young University, July 16, 1954.

[8] Conference Report, April 1951, 127.

[9] Boyd K. Packer, “The Ideal Teacher,” June 28, 1962, transcribed from audio file at about 3 mins in; quoted text not found in the text of the published version.

[10] Conference Report, October 1959, 83.

[11] In his last general conference talk, in April 1963, President Moyle spoke of the expenditure of church funds in the building program, perhaps trying to defend or explain to the church how those matters worked and who had ultimate responsibility for church finances; see Conference Report, April 1963, 93.

[12] Boyd K. Packer, Address to CES Religious Educators, 17 July 1968, 1-2.

[13] Conference Report, October 1962, 93.

[14] Edwin B. Firmage, An Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988), 132.

[15] Glen L. Rudd, Treasured Experiences of Glen L. Rudd, 164-65.


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