Monday, March 18, 2013

Lucy Stringham Grant

Lucy Stringham was the first wife of Heber J. Grant, who would go on to become the 7th president of the church. She would die after a long fight with illness at age 34 in 1893, and she wouldn't live to see that part of his life. But Lucy made her mark on the man Grant became in two important ways.

The first is her intelligence. Heber praised her “business foresight and judgment,” and gives her credit for many of his business successes that occurred during her lifetime.

The other is the gifts of the spirit that were available to her, and the way she used them to bless others. In his younger years, Heber J. Grant had been carrying a great load of financial debt, and it was weighing on him. He worked long hours, well into the night, and still couldn't make headway. In previous years, he had already suffered from “nervous convulsions,” because of work and church stress. On one particular night, he came home at 1am, and Lucy was waiting for him. She brought him to task for the damage his long hours were doing to his body and mind, telling him that he was breaking the word of wisdom more severely through this self-abuse than if he had been using tobacco or liquor.

At that point in time, the gift of tongues descended on her, and she delivered a blessing to him. Grant recalled that he could feel the spirit of it, even if he didn't know the words. They knelt in prayer together for an interpretation, and they got an answer: that he should live to cancel all his debts, possess a comfortable home, and proclaim the gospel to many lands.

These prophesies all came to be, and even gave Grant comfort when he thought he wouldn't survive an episode of advanced appendicitis. He remembered the prophesy that he wife had given, and he knew that because he hadn't served a foreign mission yet, it wasn't his time to die. He recovered and lived for nearly fifty more years, fulfilling all elements of the prophesy.

It is clear from the records we have that Grant valued and believed in Lucy's wisdom and spirituality. There was no macho superiority in these accounts; he respected her capability. Her counsel led him to health, security, and faith in God's healing power.

Daughters of Light by Carol Lynn Pearson (citing Jeremiah Stokes' Modern Miracles)
Richard R. Lyman, “President Grant and his family,” The Young Woman's Journal, volume 30, page 73.


John Pack Lambert said...

Lucy was Grant's wife while he was stake president and when he was first an apostle though.

John Pack Lambert said...

Lucy and Heber had an interesting relationship. She was only 19 when they married (unless she was 18) which I guess was not that young. However she was not his first choice for a wife and this actually delayed his plans some, making him only barely make his goal of being married before age 21.

Initially Heber J. Grant had been courting Emily H. Wells. While Lucy's father Briant Stringham had been a probate judge, Emily's father was mayor of Salt Lake City. Emily's father was a couselor to Brigham Young, and while Briant Strongham was at times the keeper of the tithing stock, it just did not seem that up there. Briant Stringham was one of the pioneers of 1847, but Daniel H. Wells was the heroic defender of Nauvoo, the hero of that defense, actually before Nauvoo even fell.

On a more personal level, Emily was five months younger than Heer while Lucy was two years younger. That might not sound like much, but it matters to someone his age. Possibly most importantly Emily was a member of the "Wasatch Literary Association" with Heber and Heber and Emily were seen as the two top movers among the emerging youth in Salt Lake City.

In 1875 when the first Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association was organized, specifically in the 13th Ward, but it was the first one in the Church and thus had effect beyond just that ward, which as it was was close to being the Flagship Ward of the entire Church, the president was Emily's brother, Junius F. Wells was president and Heber J. Grant, then only 19, was one of his counselors. The next year Junius Wells would be made president of the YMMIA Churchwide.

However at some point Emily H. Wells made comments against polygamy and essentially publicly proclaimed her opposition to it. For someone who was staunch in their support of the Church, especially when Polygamy was the rallying cry for and against, as Heber J. Grant was, this was a sign he could not marry Emily. Heber prayed on this matter and recieved an impression that he should no longer pursue his courtship of Emily H. Wells. This was doubly disturbing because he had felt that his previous courthsip of Emily had been directed by the spirt.

Heber then began courting Lucy Stringham. It should be noted that Lucy's father was actuall quite respecited, Gordon B. Hinckley's father was Bryant Stringham Hinckley, and as far as I have ever been able to tell he was named after Briant Stringham not because he was a relative but because Ira Hinckley and his wife Angeline Wilcox Noble Hinckley viewed Briant as a person worthy of being an exemplar. Lucy was like Emily and Heber in the 13th Ward, had gone to school with Heber, and her two older brothers were good friends of Heber.

John Pack Lambert said...

At that time in Salt Lake City and other Mormon communities a key courting ritual was for the young man to walk the lady he was interested home from Church and then she would invite him in for conversation. Heber did this dutifyully with Lucy for weeks on end Lucy regularly did not invite him in. In fact she would wish him goodnight at the gate. Like much of this this is based on Gibbons biography of Heber J. Grant. I am still not sure the passage in question explains Lucy's turn of heart but I will quote it.

"The turning point in this tepid courtship occurred one Sunday evening when Rodney C. Badger walker past the Stringham's gate just as Heber received his customary "good night" from Lucy. As these two friends walked together to the corner, Heber, instead of turning south toward his home, told Rodney, "I'm going down to Wells corner and visit with some of the girls there" Shocked at what he interpreted as ficklesness, Rodney chided Heber for leaving one girl only to go in search of other female companionship. Rodney appeared satified, however, when Heber explained Lucy's distant attitude toward him. Whether Rodney planted a seed in Lucy's mind or mere chance intervened [this tells me that we do not know if Lucy even overheard this conversation, in part probably because she died long before Lyman wrote his article on Heber J. Grant and family], the very next Sunday Heber recieved an invitation into the Stringham sitting room, where he became almost a fixture until the time of his marriage to Lucy a few moths later".

The next part is more interesting "It turned out that Lucy's initial reluctance came not from a lack of feeling for the great man she was later to marry, but from the false notion that she was merely a temporary substitute for Emily Wells."

One story known about Heber J. Grant is that he made a long journey to the temple to marry his first wife. This is as much a sign of Lucy's valuing the temple as of Heber's doing so.

Of course Heber J. Grant did marry Emily H. Wells 7 years later, so for 9 years Emily and Lucy were simultaneously wives of Heber J. Grant. After Lucy died, Emily would fill in as mother to Lucy's children.

John Pack Lambert said...

Multiple of Lucy's daughter were wives of general authorities. Here daughter Susan Rachel Grant married John H. Taylor, who served as a member of the 1st Council of the 70 (mostly like the modern Presidency of the Seventy) from 1933 until 1946. Susan also served with John H. Taylor while he preided over the Northwestern States Mission during the 1920s (in fact I am prestty sure she held the title of Relief Society president for the mission, that is how they did things then, when missions and stakes never overlapped, which made things interesting when in about 1930 the president of the Czechoslovakia Mission married a lady who had been a member of the Church for at msot a few weeks, in the Salt Lake Temple no less, although since they then stayed in Salt Lake City for three months before returning to Czechoslovakia, by the time she did take head of the mission Sister Gareth had been to more regularly organized relief society meetings than any of the handful of very recent converts living in the mission).

John Pack Lambert said...

I also am pretty sure that Susan Rachel Grant Taylor actively worked with her husband when he presided over the Mission Home in Salt Lake City.

John Pack Lambert said...

Lucy's daughter Edith Grant was married to Clifford E. Young, who was an assitant to the quorum of the 12 from 1941 until 1958.

John Pack Lambert said...

Another of Lucy's daughters, Florence Grant (Smith) was the Salt Lake Temple Matron from 1961-1964. Here husband was Willard Ricahrd Smith, a son of Joseph F. Smith and Sarah E. Richards (who in turn was a daughter of Willarsd Ricahrds).

Among Florence's daughters was Florence Smith Jacobsen, who was General Young Women President from 1961 to 1972. She was also the moving force behind the formation of the Museums of Church Hisotry and Art. Hmm, so she was desceded from at least 4 aposltes.

John Pack Lambert said...

More fun, I have still not mentioned Lucy's daughter who held the highest ranking position in the Church. That would be Lucy Grant Cannon, who was General Young Women President from 1937 to 1948. This may be the only point in time when the General Young Women President was the daughter of the president of the Church, although we have had Sister Pearce and Sister Dibb, President Hinckley and President Monson's daughters, more recently. The fact that Lucy Grant was a Cannon is very interesting.

You see, just after Lucy Stringham Grant died Heber took his children on a tyour of many major US cities to help them deal with the sadness of loosing their mother. They stopped in Washington DC where little Lucy developed a sickness and was very near death. Heber was about to loose the second Lucy in his life.

He was however impressed to call on the elders, and sisnce George Q. Cannon was in DC as Utah's territorial delegate to congress, Heber got him to come and give her a blessing. He blessed her that she would recover and be a mother in Zion, so it is fitting that the father of those children was George J. Cannon, a grandson of George Q. cannon through Abraham H. Cannon.

John Pack Lambert said...

Considering the postions her daughters held, with a mother like Luch Stringham Grant, her son Heber Stringham Grant would probably also have been a stalwart member of the Church and maybe held distinguished positions if he had not died at age 8, 3 years after his mother.

However we still can say that there was a general authority who was the son of Lucy Grant. That George I. Cannon who was a member of the 1st adn 2nd Quorums of the 70 from 1986 until 1991. He had previously served as a general leader of the young men organization.

While the fact that Lucy's children served in such high postions in the Church suggests she was a good mother to them, the inverse would not be true, so we should not over-value it. Still, it is interesting.

Erin said...

John, thank you for taking the time to flesh out my brief sketch!