Truth Restored


Chapter 14: The Sunshine of Good Will

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 abroad.

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 crops matured.

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 Iowa.

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 Mormonism.

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 expense.

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 missionary program.

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 Place" Monument.

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.



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