Question: Why was it so impressive that Heber J. Grant gave books as gifts at Christmas time?
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PRESIDENT HEBER J. GRANT
Heber J. Grant was ordained and set apart as the Church President on November 23, 1918. During the holiday season and on other occasions, President Grant habitually gave of his substance to buy books for numerous friends. He drew from a multiplicity of titles, sometimes buying out entire editions, four or five thousand copies, of a book he particularly liked. Handwritten messages in his own deft penmanship or preprinted inscriptions were all signed in person. Such works as William Jennings Bryan’s The Prince of Peace, Edgar A. Guest’s The Path to Home, Thomas Carlyle’s Martin Luther, David Starr Jordan’s The Strength of Being Clean, Henry Drummond’s The Greatest Thing in the World, and Orson FE Whitney’s Love and the Light were among those circulated. He had read each volume with care himself and underscored salient passages in his own copy.
Illustrative of his exhaustive giving of books in the holiday season are his activities on Christmas Day, 1925:
“Spent the morning until 11:00 AM at the hotel writing in books and signing slips…A lot of books arrived from Independence last night. Some of them should have been here at least ten days ago and I wrote in books until late last night and again this morning, also wrote in them this afternoon until about 300… Called and delivered a lot of books this evening. Gusta, [President Grant’s wife, Hulda Augusta Winters] was with me… presented to all the people on whom we called this afternoon and evening a copy of “The Prince of Peace.”…Have had a very strenuous day indeed but have thoroughly enjoyed the day in visiting with my daughters and granddaughters and friends.”
President Grant enjoyed both an exceptional number of friends in the religious sphere and also in the greater business community. His diary chronicles the massive efforts of one man to make a difference in people’s lives:
“Day spent with books. Books! Books! Had lunch at home today for the first time in several days. I am sending books to all the members of the Sunday School Union Board, Y.L. and Y.M.M.I.A., Primary, Relief Society boards, and to the directors of Grant & Co., Home Fire, Utah State National Bank, Zions Savings Bank, Utah Light & Power Co., Utah Light & Traction Co., Z.C.M.I., Utah Hotel, Salt Lake Theater, Consolidated Wagon & Machine Co., Beneficial Life Ins co., Union Pacific Railroad Co., and the Pacific Coast Joint Stock Land Bank to say nothing about personal friends. I am sorry to say that all the books have not yet arrived from the Deseret News press and that part of the books will not reach my friends until after Christmas…I am giving over one hundred copies of the Lecture on Martin Luther to the employees in the Church offices. Owen and Rachel Heninger have been helping Brother Anderson and Bertha mailing these books. I was busy all day principally with books, and it was a little after nine o’clock PM when I left the office.”
During the 1935-36 school year, President Grant went to Brigham Young University where his portrait was to be unveiled in the Heber J. Grant Memorial Library. In answer to an inquiry the school’s President, Dr. Franklin S Harris, told President Grant that the library had over one hundred thousand volumes on the shelves. In his address that followed, President Grant said that while he had never kept track of the number of books he had given away, he believed that the number, too, would be just about one hundred thousand volumes.
Challenge: Read the Christmas Story and another inspiring book this Christmas. Read a special Christmas story to a child.
Taken from: Larry C. Porter, “Remembering Christmas Past Presidents of the Church Celebrate the Birth of the Son of Man and Remember His Servant Joseph Smith”, p. 76-78.