Responsibility in the Church Brings Humility

President Heber J. Grant

The following is an excerpt from a general conference address given by President Heber J. Grant.[1]

At this time I feel that I could say nothing to you that would better portray my testimony and my love of God than to give in substance what I said to the English Saints nearly four years ago.

“It has never ceased to be a wonder to me that I do represent the Lord here upon the earth. My association from childhood with the remarkable and wonderful men that have preceded me has made it almost overwhelming to think of being in the same class with them.

“The last words uttered by President Joseph F. Smith were to the effect, when he shook hands with me–he died that night–‘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.’

“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’–riding along with Lot Smith at the rear of that procession, suddenly the road veered to the left almost straight, but there was a well beaten path leading ahead. I said: ‘Stop, Lot, stop. Where does this trail lead? There are plenty of foot marks and plenty of horses’ hoof marks here.’ He said, ‘It leads to an immense gulley just a short distance ahead, that it is impossible to cross with a wagon. We have made a regular “Muleshoe” of miles here to get on the other side of the gulley.’

“I had visited the day before the spot where a Navajo Indian had asked George A. Smith, Jr., to let him look at his pistol. George A. handed it to him, and the Navajo shot him.

“I said, ‘Lot, is there any danger from Indians?’

“‘None at all.’

“‘I want to be all alone. Go ahead and follow the crowd.’ I first asked him if I allowed the animal I was riding to walk if I would reach the road on the other side of the gulley before the horsemen and the wagons, and he said, ‘Yes.’

“As I was riding along to meet them on the other side 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 see a Council in Heaven. 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 Council 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 Conference 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 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.


There is a law, irrevocably decreed in Heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated, and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

“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, and I have not been worried since the last words uttered by Joseph F. Smith to me: “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.’

“I have been happy during the twenty-two years that it has fallen 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.”

[1] Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, April 1941, p.3-7.

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