Chapter 14: The Sunshine of
by Gordon B. Hinckley
AT the age of 84, when most men have laid aside their
life's work, Lorenzo Snow succeeded Wilford Woodruff as President of the
Church. As with the men who had gone before him, early in life he gained
extensive experience in the Church, serving on missions both at home and
When he took over the leadership of the organization, the
Church was in a desperate financial condition. The nation had passed through
a severe economic depression, which had been felt in the West as elsewhere.
Then, too, under the anti-polygamy prosecution the payment of tithing had
seriously decreased. The property of the Church had been escheated, and much
of the incentive for paying tithing had gone. The organization was under a
staggering burden of indebtedness.
In the spring of 1899, in the midst of this situation,
President Snow made a trip to the town of St. George in southern Utah.
Drought had blighted the land. The preceding winter had been the driest in
thirty-five years, and the one preceding that the driest in thirty-four
years. The people were discouraged, for it appeared as if a curse had come
over what once had been a garden-land.
By inspiration, as President Snow said, he spoke to the
assembled Saints on the law of tithing. Had not the Lord said through the
Prophet Malachi that Israel had robbed Him in tithes and offerings? And had
He not also given them a promise that if they would bring their tithes into
the storehouse, He would open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing
that they would not have room enough to receive it?
The President then went on to promise the Saints that if
they would faithfully pay their tithes, they could plant their crops and
rain would come. The people heeded the counsel. They paid their tithes, not
only in St. George, but throughout the Church as the President continued his
appeals for obedience to the commandment of God. But weeks passed in the
southern colony, while hot winds blew and the crops wilted.
Then one morning in August a telegram was laid on the
President's desk: "Rain in St. George." The creeks and rivers filled and the
In 1907 the last of the Church's indebtedness was paid.
Since then the Church has been free of financial stress.
Joseph F. Smith
Lorenzo Snow died October 10, 1901. He was succeeded by
Joseph F. Smith, son of Hyrum Smith who was murdered in Carthage jail. His
life is worthy of note because it epitomizes the history of Mormonism from a
position of ignominy to one of wide respect.
He was born November 13, 1838 at Far West, Missouri. At
the time his father was a prisoner of the mob-militia whose avowed purpose
was to exterminate the Mormons. When he was an infant his mother carried him
in the flight from Far West to Illinois.
One of his earliest recollections was of that historic
night of June 27, 1844, when he was five years of age. A knock was heard on
his mother's window and a trembling voice whispered that his father had been
killed by the Carthage mob. As a seven-year-old boy he heard the roar of
guns incident to the final expulsion of the Mormons from Nauvoo, and before
reaching his eighth birthday he drove a team of oxen most of the way across
In 1848 the family crossed the plains. It was no small
task for a ten-year-old boy to yoke and unyoke oxen as well as drive most of
the day. When the boy was thirteen, his mother died, her vitality completely
exhausted by the experiences through which she had passed.
Two years later he was called on a mission to the Hawaiian
Islands. Making his way to the Coast, he worked in a shingle mill to earn
money to pay his way to the Islands.
Following his missionary experience in Hawaii, he served
the cause in the British Isles as well as in other fields of labor. He
became President of the Church in 1901. Shortly after this, Reed Smoot was
elected U. S. Senator from Utah. But his seat was contested by political
enemies who played on the old polygamy issue. Joseph F. Smith, rather than
the senator, became the principal target of attack. He was cartooned and
slandered over the nation. But he had seen so much of intolerance, that he
passed over this new outburst, saying of those who opposed him, "Let them
alone. Let them go. Give them the liberty of speech they want. Let them tell
their own story and write their own doom."
In spite of all such attacks, these were years of progress
for the Church. Missionary work was extended. Scores of beautiful buildings
were erected, including three temples—one in Arizona, one in Canada, and one
in the Hawaiian Islands. A Bureau of Information was established on Temple
Square in Salt Lake City. Thousands of tourists came from all parts of the
world, usually out of curiosity. They learned the facts concerning the
Mormons and the old hatreds, the old bitterness slowly gave way.
On November 18, 1918 Joseph F. Smith died. Newspapers
which had slandered his character paid editorial homage to him, and
prominent men throughout the nation paid high tribute to his memory. The
years had vindicated him and the cause to which he had dedicated his life.
Heber J. Grant
Four days following the death of President Smith, Heber J.
Grant became President of the Church. His father had been a counselor to
Brigham Young, but had died when the boy was nine days old. He was born
November 22, 1856, the first of the presidents of the Church to have been
born in Salt Lake City.
Heber J. Grant was by nature a practical man. His chief
talent lay in the field of finance, and as a young man he made an enviable
record. But at the same time he was active in Church affairs, and when only
twenty-six years of age, he was ordained a member of the Council of Twelve
Apostles. From that time forward he was a zealous worker in the cause of
His financial abilities were shown to marked degree when
during the depression of the Nineties he was sent east by the President of
the Church to borrow money. In spite of business conditions and the popular
attitude toward the Mormons, he returned with hundreds of thousands of
dollars which proved a great boon in those difficult times. It was this
indebtedness, in part, which was discharged during the administrations of
Lorenzo Snow and Joseph F. Smith through the faithfulness of the membership
in the payment of tithes.
Heber J. Grant was also a leading factor in the
establishment of the western beet sugar industry. The Church was interested
in this because it meant a cash crop for thousands of its members.
Accordingly, it materially assisted in the founding of this industry which
has put millions of dollars into the hands of western farmers.
One of President Grant's favorite projects was giving away
books. The funds for this purpose he called his "cigarette money." During
his lifetime he passed out more than a hundred thousand volumes at his own
Unflinching in his loyalty to his church and its
teachings, he was nevertheless a great friend maker. Leaders in business,
education, and government were his intimate friends, and his capacity for
getting along with people greatly helped in breaking down the wall of
prejudice which had existed against the Mormons.
His administration was an era of progress. The Church
passed its hundredth anniversary in 1930, commemorating the event with a
great celebration. Unhampered by the oppression of religious bigots, freed
from the brutality of mobs, strong enough to assert its power for good, it
flourished in an era of good will previously unknown in all of its history.
George Albert Smith
President Grant died May 15, 1945 in his eighty-ninth
year. He was succeeded by George Albert Smith. President Smith also was a
native of Salt Lake City, having been born here April 4, 1870. As a young
man he served on a mission in the Southern States, and, after becoming a
member of the Council of Twelve Apostles, he presided over the affairs of
the Church in Europe.
One of his major interests was Scouting. He served as a
member of the National Executive Board of Boy Scouts of America, and
received the highest awards for local and national service to the cause of
Scouting. In the official citation given him by national officials, it was
stated that "to his enthusiasm for its [Scouting's] program must be largely
traced the fact that Utah stands above all other states in the percentage of
boys who are Scouts."
For many years President Smith took a leading part in
preserving the story of America's pioneers. He was the organizer and served
as president of the Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association, under
whose sponsorship the Mormon trail from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City was marked
with stone and bronze. He likewise served as vice-president of the Oregon
Trail Memorial Association, and was one of the organizers of the American
Pioneer Trails Association.
The Church in Our Time
President Smith passed away on April 4, 1951, his
eighty-first birthday. He was buried from the Salt Lake Tabernacle on April
7, and two days later, in the same building, members of the Church, "in
solemn assembly," sustained David Oman McKay as president of the Church.
President McKay was then seventy-seven, having been born
at Huntsville, Utah, September 8, 1873.
By training he is an educator, but he has devoted most of
his life to the Church, having become a member of the Council of the Twelve
at the age of thirty-two. Perhaps his major interest has been the world-wide
missionary work of the Church. Few if any men in all the history of
Mormonism have travelled so widely or have done more to promote the cause of
the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. From the time of his first mission to
the British Isles in 1897, he has actively promoted the unique Mormon
A man of commanding appearance, with a remarkable capacity
for making friends, he also has served his nation and state in many
capacities. In 1947 Utah commemorated her centennial with a great
celebration under President McKay's direction as chairman of the Centennial
Commission. One of the highlights of the celebration was a convention of
governors of the United States who joined the citizens of Utah in paying
tribute to the Mormon Pioneers who built a commonwealth in the desert. It
was during this same celebration that a fitting monument was unveiled at the
site where Brigham Young first looked over the Salt Lake Valley and
declared, "This is the place."
The Mormon people are always mindful of their history.
They know that the Church has reached its present stature only because of
the trials and the courageous efforts of the men and women who made its
history. It has endeavored to preserve their memory with suitable monuments
as a reminder to this generation of the price paid for the peace they enjoy.
Among these monuments is one at Joseph Smith's birthplace
at Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont. It is a striking shaft of marble, a
monolith thirty-eight and one-half feet high, one foot for each year of the
Prophet's life. Crowning the Hill Cumorah in western New York is another
imposing monument. Surmounting a granite shaft is a statue in heroic size
representing Moroni, the resurrected being who delivered the plates of the
Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith.
Scenes of historical interest in other places have
likewise been suitably marked. One of the most beautiful of these monuments
stands in the old pioneer cemetery at Winter Quarters, Nebraska. It was
placed in remembrance of the thousands who died in the forced migration
across the plains.
On the State Capitol grounds in Salt Lake City the
citizens of Utah have erected an inspiring monument to the memory of the
Mormon Battalion. The most recently-dedicated is the so-called "This Is the
The men and women of that pioneer era are gone. Gone are
the days of forced winter marches, of burning homes and desecrated temples,
of lonely graves on the prairie. Another generation has come to whom these
trials are but words of history. But this generation also has its problems.
Never was there a greater need for religion. Seldom if ever have men and
nations been more abjectly destitute of the principles of Christianity
applied to living.
And now, as before, the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints is endeavoring to meet this challenge and this
opportunity. It has ever had but one purpose, and now, under able and
inspired leadership, it is pursuing that purpose more vigorously than at any
time in its history. That objective is to bring men and women to a knowledge
of the eternal truth that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the
world, and to a realization that only through the cultivation of faith which
actively manifests itself in good works can men and nations enjoy peace.