Prophet Insurance Guru Heber J. Grant - 1938

Erie Times - 1938


with Walter Jack

A full page picture of Heber J. Grant, twenty years president of the church of Latter Day Saints in the current issue of Life. Erie insurance men knew Heber J. Grant by reputation and personally because of his prominence in the insurance world.

The space accorded to the "Mormon" church in Life may have been prompted by its security program which was put in effect in a more definite tangible way in the last few months taking off the federal relief rolls 21,000 persons and aiding more than 30,000 others. The undertaking is one of the greatest attempted by any religious body. Rigorous tithing, church and community co-operation, and a business-like, efficiently-administered church organization, conducted as a big business make possible such effort. The Mormon members of the Erie and Greenville congregations tell us they dispense their charity to both Mormon and "Gentile.

Local Associations

Many Erie people are familiar with the great domed tabernacle and its nearby spired temple at Salt Lake City. The firmer is open to visitors of other faiths. Many Erie people are also familiar with the program of promotion and publicity of the Church of Latter Day Saints at the Century of Progress, Chicago. This was dignified, and reflected the heroism of the pioneers who pushed westward into the heart of the Rockies.

There are many old families living in western New York, northwestern Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio whose cousins several generations removed are among the adherents of the faith and now reside in Utah and adjoining states. A few became restless under the stern discipline and returned.

Wolverine a Refuge

The historic Wolverine was the refuge of an early Mormon leader, James J. Strang, who proclaimed himself king and ruled on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan 90 years ago. Whenever the writer visits this old boat tied up in the Peninsula and subject to the elements, he wonders just where within it this king had refuge. Strang, according to J. J. Thompson, Mayville, curator of the Chautauqua County Historical museum, was a Chautauqua county man. He was the only man to establish a kingdom and reign over it within the limits of the United States. "King of Zion" Strang was crowned in 1850. He differed in doctrine from the main body of Mormons who were located at Nauvoo, Ill., who were driven out of Illinois in 1846. Returning to his island realm, the "King of Zion" was murdered by his followers.

Mormonism Moved Westward

Mormonism was founded by Joseph Smith, then twenty-five, near Palmyra, N. Y. Near Palmyra hill, was unearthed by the founder, the so-called gold plates and mystic spectacles enabling him to translate the ancient characters. After 1830, the doctrine spread rapidly. In the decade that followed, there were many converts, local ones particularly at Conneaut and Conneautville. It was during this decade that the great "Mormon Temple" was built at Kirtland, south of Willoughby, Ohio. This was to be the "New Jerusalem," The temple was abandoned, and the congregation moved westward because of "persecution."

The Kirtland temple has been reopened and restored. Regular services are held, and its congregation numbers nearly 500 widely-scattered in northern Ohio and in western Pennsylvania. This church was built a little over a hundred years ago.

Women gave their silver and their rings to be melted up for the communion service. They are said to have cut off their hair to be twisted into needed ropes, and their dishes for mortar for the plaster.

[missing sentence] This old church, four miles west of Conneautville, was torn down three of four years ago. The congregation was unable to maintain the building in repair. The great windows were too great a temptation to the stone-throwing instinct of impetuous youth.

The movement of the sect to the far west where it became established in 1848, is a matter of general knowledge. Mormon doctrines have been adapted to present day conditions by a series of "progressive revelations," and a vigorous administration by the president and apostles.

Mormonism at Conneaut

During the decade 1830-40 several Mormon families moving westward "to Zion" spent a winter on the Benedict farm in West Springfield township. Quite a number around Conneaut leaned toward, and a few openly avowed the Mormon faith. The Free Will Baptist church on South Ridge, Route 7, granted the congregation privilege of worshipping under the roof at any time, other than the regular hours of Free Will Baptist services.

The successive steps of the migration westward were from Ohio to Illinois, Missouri and to Salt Lake City. The trek westward was one of the most romantic of all the world's history. The advanced guard fitted fields and seeded them to grain. The main body following harvested the grain and ground it to flour in a mill erected for their use. It was in Utah they had hopes to build a mountain-hemmed temporal kingdom on earth. The trek of the original founders, however, proved to be important in the expansion of the nation. Senator Smoot, able in congress, was an apostle, and in early life he was a missionary to the Hawaiian Islands.

Other Mormon History

Gen. Thomas L. Kane, founder of Kane, healed the breach between the Mormons and the Federal government in 1858. Kane had been baptized by Brigham Young.

The Mormons had captured or burned three government supply trains and had cut out 800 head of oxen from another supply train in their efforts to thwart the government and protect their isolation. Kane, with authority from President Buchanan, persuaded the Mormons to make formal submission to Federal authority. Kane had acted as Mormon agent in the immediate section of Pennsylvania.

Solomon Spaulding Manuscript

Many Conneaut people hold that the fantastic manuscript of Solomon Spaulding, a Conneaut preacher and iron foundryman, was the basis of the book of Mormon. This was written 125 years ago, and had been prompted by the discovery of particularly large skeletons found in an aboriginal graveyard. Spaulding wrote his highly imaginative account of the lost tribes of Israel and associated them with probable Eries Indian remains found in the Conneaut burial place.

This manuscript was read aloud to employees in the old Rathbun mill which stood not far from the site of the present Bessemer depot. In after years Conneaut citizens who read the Book of Mormon declared Spaulding's manuscript had been appropriated by Rev. Sidney Rigdon, earlier a Lake county Disciple preacher. That Rigdon had come across the Spaulding manuscript submitted for publication, while Rigdon was employed as compositor in a Pittsburgh printing office, has been advanced as a theory. In connecting up the story Conneaut people conceived that Rigdon had framed a plot with his leader, Joseph Smith, using the manuscript as a new Bible.

Oberlin college possesses an unusual manuscript written by Spaulding. This was found by President Fairchild more than 50 years ago. E. C. Lawson, vice president of the Ashtabula Historical society, has carefully studied the style of the Book of Mormon, and agrees with others who have critically studied the style of the two. He rejects the possibility of Spaulding's authorship.

Note 1: The date of this 1938 clipping is uncertain. Apparently it appeared the same month that LDS President Grant was featured in Life Magazine.

Note 2: George W. Rathbun was the proprietor of Union Mills, and a dealer in wheat flour at Conneaut, Ohio after the Civil War. His mills were located in the west side of Conneaut Creek --- Solomon Spalding's house and forge were located across the creek, below the embankment on the east side. Both in terms of time and space, it seems impossible that Spalding's auditors could have assembled in "the old Rathbun mill."