The Growth of the Church
President George Albert Smith
President of the Church
(Conference Report, October 1947, pp. 3-8)

I am very grateful this morning to be able to be here at this session of the conference. It seems incredible that there could be so much quiet and peace and comfort, yes, luxury, in this part of the world today, while in many other parts of the world people are suffering for the necessities of life, and there appears to be no hope of peace in those sections, in fact, in any section, for a long time.

We are met this morning in worship. I see in the audience, today, prominent officials of the state, our educational institutions, missionary representatives, and people from all parts of the Church. I think I should mention this morning that we have here with us the grandson of a great friend of the Church in early days, Colonel Thomas L. Kane, who offered his life that he might preserve the people in this valley, and the Lord preserved him to do his work, and he returned home safely. Today we feel grateful that his grandson is here. We hope that he will enjoy being with the people for whom his grandfather sacrificed so much.

It was eighty-nine years ago that Colonel Kane visited here, but one hundred years ago the first general conference was held in this valley. I think you would like to know just about what happened.

Events of 100 Years Ago

The conference meetings began on Sunday, October 3, and continued until Friday, October 8. During that period the weather in Salt Lake City was warm. Brigham Young was sustained as President of the whole Church. The Twelve Apostles were sustained with the exception of Lyman Wight, who was left until he came in person, which he did not do. An epistle from the Twelve was read by Parley P. Pratt and accepted by the Saints. Charles C. Rich and John Young were elected counselors to President John Smith; Father John Smith, who was my great-grandfather, was sustained as president of the Salt Lake Stake of Zion, and as patriarch to the Church.

It does not seem possible that we are talking about a hundred years ago. At that time Henry G. Sherwood, Thomas Grover, Levi Jackman, John Murdock, Daniel Spencer, Lewis Abbott, Ira Eldredge, Edson Whipple, Shadrach Roundy, John Vance, Willard Snow, and Abram O. Smoot were elected members of the high council. Charles C. Rich was also elected chief military commander. Albert Carrington was elected clerk, historian and deputy postmaster for the city. John Van Cott was elected marshal of the city—all this was one hundred years ago!

Several companies of emigrating Saints arrived in Salt Lake City on Monday, October 4. The presidency of the stake and the high council met in Great Salt Lake City for the first time at 7 p.m., at which meeting they considered the advisability of building mills on City Creek and on Mill Creek.

On Tuesday the presidency of the stake and the high council met at 9 a. m. and appointed a committee to lay out farming land. The city had been surveyed, and they were now getting ready to move out a little farther. Other companies of pioneers arrived in Salt Lake City on this date.

The presidency of the stake and high council met on October 6, and appointed a committee to see that the fort had proper gates made for it. Also Henry G. Sherwood was continuing his survey.

Nancy Rich, mother of Charles C. Rich, was buried beside the grave of Caroline Grant, a short distance southeast of the Fort, which was out in the southwest part of the city.

The last families of emigrating Saints arrived in Salt Lake City on Friday, October 8. There were about two thousand people in the valley at this time.

I thought that this might bring to your minds some things that would be of interest to you. It is wonderful to think that this marvelous land we live in, then desert, now is as the garden of the Lord, and to realize that our Heavenly Father preserved the people and opened the way for them to multiply and increase until today we have here in this valley every comfort, every convenience, almost every blessing that you can think of which is enjoyed in any part of the world.

Walking Stick of Thomas L. Kane

In view of the visit here of the Honorable E. Kent Kane, the grandson of Colonel Thomas L. Kane, I brought with me this walking stick which I hold in my hand. It was given to my great-grandfather, John Smith, by Colonel Kane as a result of their friendship. They were great friends before either came to Salt Lake Valley, having become acquainted during the exodus of our people from Nauvoo. This walking stick was handed down from John Smith, to George A. Smith, my grandfather, then to John Henry Smith, my father, and then it came to me and has been passed down to my son, George Albert Smith, IV.

I thought it might be of interest to go back into that history, particularly in view of the fact that we are honored by the presence of the grandson of the man who gave this cane. It came from the hickory grove at the Old Hermitage near Nashville. It was given by Andrew Jackson, the man who became president of the United States, and who owned the Hermitage and lived there, to Thomas L. Kane, and he passed it to John Smith who became the first president of the stake in this valley.

Today, instead of having only two thousand members of the Church in this valley, we have more than four thousand missionaries of the Church in the world who are sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with the children of men—the largest number that have ever been in the world at any one time.

Temple Square

Hundreds of incidents could be narrated here, if there were time, that would be of interest to this particular audience. Today we are met in the great Tabernacle that is known the world over because from this building each week for more than seventeen years has gone a broadcast by the Tabernacle Choir and the great organ which has been carried to nearly all parts of the civilized world. This Tabernacle, of course, a hundred years ago had not been thought of. Since that time on this block we have the Tabernacle which holds 10,000 people and is one of the most delightful places in the world to meet in; we have the great temple; we have the Bureau of Information; we have the little old log cabin that used to be over on First North Street, and the Assembly Hall, all in this ten acre square. And I call your attention to the fact that the square is adorned, not only by these buildings, but by monuments and markers in honor of those who have passed on, and is beautified by gardens of flowers, and shrubs, and trees. It is one of the most attractive squares in all, the world.

Relief for European Saints

Word comes from our people in Europe. In many cases they are still having difficult times, but they are faithful, in the main, to God and the Church, and the messages that they send us from time to time in expressing gratitude for food, clothing, and bedding we have sent them warm our hearts.

It may be of interest to you to know that since World War II closed, more than seventy-five major carloads of food and clothing and bedding have been shipped across the sea to those needy people over there, without any expense to them whatsoever.

Visit to President Truman

When the war was over, I went representing the Church, to see the president of the United States. When I called on him, he received me very graciously—I had met him before—and I before—and I said: "I have just come to ascertain from you, Mr. President, what your attitude will be if the Latter-day Saints are prepared to ship food and clothing and bedding to Europe."

He smiled and looked at me, and said: "Well, what do you want to ship it over there for? Their money isn't any good."

I said: "We don't want their money." He looked at me and asked: "You don't mean you are going to give it to them?"

I said: "Of course, we would give it to them. They are our brothers and sisters and are in distress. God has blessed us with a surplus, and we will be glad to send it if we can have the co-operation of the government."

He said: "You are on the right track," and added, "we will be glad to help you in any way we can."

I have thought of that a good many times. After we had sat there a moment or two, he said again: "How long will it take you to get this ready?"

I said: "It's all ready."

The government you remember had been destroying food and refusing to plant grain during the war, so I said to him:

"Mr. President, while the administration at Washington were advising the destroying of food, we were building elevators and filling them with grain, and increasing our flocks and our herds, and now what we need is the cars and the ships in order to send considerable food, clothing and bedding to the people of Europe who are in distress. We have an organization in the Church that has over two thousand homemade quilts ready."

The group that sang for you this morning, the Singing Mothers of the Relief Society, represent that organization. They had two thousand quilts made by their own hands ready to ship. The result was that many people received warm clothing and bedding and food without any delay. Just as fast as we could get cars and ships, we had what was necessary to send to Europe.

Accomplishments of the Last Century

Now, we couldn't have done that a hundred years ago. We were seeking food ourselves. Our people in this valley then were digging thistle and sego roots for food, and they were utilizing every means possible to get food to keep the soul and body together. In a hundred years the desert has been made to blossom as the rose (Isa. 35:1). In a hundred years the gospel has been preached to almost all nations of the earth where it would be received. In a hundred years the people have been gathered from the various nations and have come here to Zion, and have settled and made homes. In Utah and Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Montana, California, and Oregon, the state of Washington and western Canada we have congregations as large as this that can be gathered together—members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have reason to thank God for the gospel of Jesus Christ revealed in this latter-day, for without it there could have been no such a settlement, no such a gathering as has been made by the people in this great western land.

So this morning, brothers and sisters, we have much to be grateful for. Thanksgiving should fill our hearts. Here we are in this house that has been utilized now many, many years. I was in it myself in 1875; I was a little child then and used to play around here on the great stones that were piled on this block when the temple was being built. Now they all have been finished and laid in place. The great organ was constructed and there have been hundreds of thousands of people worship God in this building under the influence of the spirit of our Heavenly Father.

The Handcart Pioneers

Just north of this building a monument is being completed this morning to the emigrants who came into Salt Lake Valley, bringing all their earthly possessions in handcarts which were pushed and pulled by members of the family. They walked approximately one thousand five hundred miles, coming from Iowa City, Iowa, to this place, and they suffered untold hardships along the way. More than two hundred of them died on the way due to hunger, cold, and exhaustion, but their associates continued to arrive here eventually to make their homes.

Now, think what has happened. That same trip can be made from Iowa City into the valley of the Great Salt Lake in comfort, having your meals en route prepared for you as you come flying through the air overlooking the country, and in seven hours the trip is completed. When the handcart people came, it took weary months of time as it did with the ox team. Now we have the railways with their fast trains; we have the automobile; we have the airplane, and in addition to that we have that wonderful device, the radio, over which the Tabernacle choir and organ have been singing to the world from this building each Sabbath day for seventeen years, and by means of which people all over the country are listening in to this service today, hearing it probably just as plain in their own homes and in their churches as if they were present with us. Surely, a marvelous work and a wonder (Isa. 29:14) has been brought into the world.

The scripture has been fulfilled, and today we humble members of the Church, men and women who enjoy almost every comfort that can be desired, all the necessities at any rate, assemble in the house of the Lord this morning. Here in quiet we commune together; we listen to the strains of music; we offer prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude to our Heavenly Father; we listen to sermons that are delivered by men who have had experience in the world—everyone of them has been a missionary in some form or another.

The Inspiration in Worship

That reminds me of an incident that happened a long time ago. A Holland brother by the name of Folkers was living with his wife at my place, and they could not speak or understand the English language. He used to go to the fast meetings, and when the other people talked, he could not understand what they said. When they finished, he would get up and talk, and we could not understand him. One day I asked him, "Why do you go to the English-speaking services? You cannot understand." It took me sometime to make him understand what I wanted to know. Finally he smiled and said: "It is not what you hear that makes you happy; nor what you see that makes you happy; it is what you feel, and I can feel just as well as anybody." And that is the thing I wanted to impress upon you this morning. In this house, dedicated to the worship of our Heavenly Father, we not only can hear and see, but we can also feel the inspiration of the hour and have our faith increased and our spiritual strength renewed, not as a great group of strangers but as real brothers and sisters, children of the Living God. We can be here together and surely have thanksgiving in our hearts to our Heavenly Father for the many, many blessings extended to us and the opportunities and privileges that are ours.

Thanksgiving for Blessings

Now, brothers and sisters, you have come here to wait upon the Lord (Isa. 40:31), forget the problems on the outside as far as you can and

Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you, what the Lord has done.

We who are here as the descendants of those who came a hundred years ago to this valley can see the hand of the Lord has been over the people. He has blessed us as few people in the world have ever been blessed, and surely there will be in our hearts a feeling of gratitude and thanksgiving to him who is the Author of our being for all the blessings he has bestowed upon us.

I am so happy this morning to see Aunt Augusta Grant here. She has been coming to these conferences ever since she was able, and here in her later years she sits in our midst representing a great family and bringing to our minds the fact that her husband not very long ago stood where I am standing, delivering the message that the Lord had for us through him. Then when his work was completed, he was permitted to go to paradise.

May the Lord add his blessings. I pray that his Spirit may be in our hearts and in our homes, that we may have love for our fellow men wherever they may be, that we may sincerely desire to share the only message that will bring peace to the world, the gospel of Jesus Christ, with our Father's other children, with the hope that enough of them will understand it and make it their own that war may be at least withheld for some time and that we may go on happily serving our Heavenly Father.

I bear you my testimony this morning that I know that God lives; I know that Jesus is the Christ; I know that Joseph Smith was his prophet, and I pray that all of us may have that assurance and so adjust our lives that when the time comes for us to go hence we shall find our reward is that of an inheritance in the celestial kingdom in the companionship of those we love, to be with them forever, and I pray that it may be so, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.