Working the Divine Miracle
by Richard D. Poll
Stan Larson, editor

Student, Lawyer, Soldier

[p.35]Henry Moyle’s arrival in the historic city of Freiberg on 29 September 1911 was a lonesome experience. In the diary that he continued to share with his family, he wrote: “We will hope that this will be the last time I come without … good friends to welcome me. … They are about the best asset after all.” After a few hours spent visiting the rektor, several professors, and the local Mormon missionaries, he was happy to retreat to nearby Dresden for an evening at the theater with his old friend, Wilford Cannon.

Freiberg University had been founded in the eighteenth century, with a technological emphasis. One of its most illustrious alumni, Henry learned at the orientation meeting for new students, was steam engine inventor, James Watt. Its small student population came primarily from the German upper class. “I was one of the few without evening dress,” Henry wrote after that first assembly; “nevertheless, I was proud of my new blue suit and red necktie.” Classes, too, were formal. Students were expected to be in their seats when the class period began. The professor entered and bowed, and the students applauded by shuffling their feet. The professor read his lecture or spoke from notes, without any class interaction. Then he headed for the door at the lecture’s end and the students again shuffled their feet. Laboratory sessions were less rigidly structured, but there was little of the easy interchange between pupils and teachers that had marked the University of Utah. There were no course grades. Everything pivoted on the individual comprehensive examinations.

[p.36]There were also no dormitories. Henry lived in one or two private rooms before finding one that served for the rest of his Freiberg career. He joined one of the eating—and drinking—clubs that were at the heart of student life. Two or three of the members were from England, and particularly at the first they provided amiable relaxation from the strain of total immersion in a type of German more complex than that required by missionaries. The club members were mostly students of mining engineering. On certain holidays they paraded in the traditional costumes of Freiberg miners, attracting much attention. If some of them participated in competitive dueling, as did their contemporaries at many pre-war German universities, Henry did not mention it in his diary.

The socializing was another matter. English hockey, bicycling, and skiing engaged Henry at one time or another. Drinking, dancing, and carousing were major club activities, which he soon found that he did not enjoy very much but could not entirely avoid. After his first dance hall foray, Henry wrote: “I did no dancing and only stayed a few minutes. It will most probably be the last as well as the first time on a Sunday. Might just add that the students don’t go with the best of girls. …” He visited the opera in Chemnitz and Dresden frequently but dismissed the Freiberg company after one performance; the unnamed opera was “unmercifully slaughtered by orchestra and singers.” A comment in his diary suggests that his exposure to European culture may have made Henry a little smug: “I don’t know what I will do when I get home and have to listen to so much rag time. It may be a change, but I think Henry will seek some nice girl who can play Wagner’s music and spend an evening or so a week there. … So if any happen to be waiting with nothing to do, tell them to practice Wagner.”

Whether Edna Nibley was practicing Wagner is not known, but she was writing to Henry Moyle. “She is just independent enough to lead one on,” he observed, failing to note that she might have made the same observation about him. A Christmas holiday in Berlin gave Henry a chance to visit with some American and German LDS girls. One of the latter, Hildegarde Berthold, met him again in Dresden on Easter. They went dancing but stayed only a half hour. They also went to church and presumably stayed till the “amens” were said.1

[p.37]Henry’s relations with fellow Mormons in the Freiberg area were warm and constructive, as would be expected of an unofficial missionary. He went back ro Zwickau more than once and attended services in some branch in Saxony almost every Sunday. He preached occasionally and made visits to non-member families with the missionaries. He enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with the Thomas E. McKays in Leipzig and Christmas Eve with a German family in Berlin. While in the German capital, he also accepted an assignment ro preach. “If you remember,” he recorded, “this is one of the most dangerous places in the mission. Bur I felt safe and knew I was only doing my duty.”

The hazards of missionary work were vividly recalled in a talk that Henry D. Moyle gave to an LDS Servicemen’s Conference at Berchtesgaden, Germany, fifty years later. He described being escorted out of a sacrament meeting in Chemnitz by several detectives. A large congregation was present and he was scheduled to speak, the regular missionaries having been banished for performing baptisms in violation of the law. When appeals for a delay until after the meeting failed, he told the officers that he was a student at the University of Freiberg and offered to let them hold his identification card for security. Seeing the card, the officers instantly apologized, stating that as a guest of the King of Saxony he was immune from arrest. Pursuing his advantage, Henry said that he would accept their apology on one condition, “and that is that all six of you … come in and sit down and stay until I get through speaking.” They did.2

Learning more about mining engineering was, of course, Henry Moyle’s primary business in Freiberg. To this end he worked hard on his German and he faithfully attended classes in metallurgy, mineralogy, mechanics, geology, and machine drawing. Engineering journals were studied in the university library and at his student club. The evaluation of his first exercise in assaying led him to comment on “German thoroughness.” He attended some of the student exams—oral interrogations in which a single student faced a panel of his professors before an audience of whoever wished to attend. Henry thought that the exams were not too [p.38]difficult and was intrigued by the fact that all of the principal participants wore evening clothes.

It seems certain that Henry had not been at Freiberg long before whatever plans he had for a two-year “diplom” in engineering were abandoned. Perhaps his missionary experience had already given him second thoughts—as it has done for many young Mormons—about his vocational choice. Perhaps Freiberg generated such questions. Maybe the routine there was too demanding and/or too dull. Maybe Henry was conscience-weary about being financially dependent, or simply homesick. In any event, by November 1911 he could report the spoiling of an experiment without anxiety: “As I am only working for experience and not results at present I got what I wanted without being about to give the Prof what he wanted.” During the spring term he began studying a little French and looking forward to a pending reunion with his parents.

On 10 April 1912 his classes having ended, Henry Moyle packed his books and took the train to Frankfurt am Main, en route home.3

Waiting for Henry were James H. and Alice Moyle and nineteen-year-old Evelyn, Henry’s sister. It was a happy time for all of them. Also present in Frankfurt was another nineteen-year-old Utahn, recently a resident of Paris and now touring with her brother. When Clara Alberta Wright met Henry Moyle on that occasion, she decided he was conceited. He simply catalogued her as another pretty Mormon girl who might bear further investigating. Neither before nor after their marriage did either claim that on that first meeting the heavens lit up and inner voices identified them as destined for each other. That conviction was seven years in coming.

Details are lacking on how Henry spent the six months after his return from Europe. For at least part of the time he did mine-related work at Eureka, ninety miles southwest of Salt Lake City. Here he lived in a boarding house and sampled the lifestyle of an early-twentieth-century mining town. It was not for him. Surely there must be away to make career use out of his technical education that was more compatible with the notions of family and home life that three years alone had helped him to prize.

James H. Moyle was naturally pleased when Henry sought his advice [p.39]about becoming a lawyer. Yes, he would be willing to help. So Henry moved back to 411 East First South and re-enrolled at the University of Utah. The prerequisites for law school were now his concern—economics, sociology, political science, history, English, and Latin. Grades were consistently good, if not outstanding. The 95 percent that he received by special examination in German showed that he had learned to read and write as well as speak his missionary language. In June 1913 he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree.

The course that Henry Moyle then chose offered him the best of two academic worlds. The still-new University of Chicago Law School permitted its students to take some of their classes at Harvard, the nation’s oldest university. When Henry matriculated at Chicago a week after his graduation in Salt Lake City, this was his plan. With sustained hard work it should bring the Doctor of Jurisprudence degree by September 1915.

Resisting the temptation to go home even at Christmas, Henry applied himself to the task. Campus and fraternity accommodations minimized the time spent in life-support activities. His social life was spartan, since he had no time for money-earning activities and what came from home was not meant to lead him into temptation. He was initiated into the John Marshall Chapter of Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity early in his Chicago stay, but at twenty-four he had little interest in such collegiate high jinks as may have engaged some of his P.A.D. brothers. The fraternal relationship was helpful at both Chicago and Harvard, and Henry later took the lead in establishing the George Sutherland Chapter at the University of Utah.

Two weeks after his arrival Henry gave one of the prayers at the small Mormon branch on Chicago’s west side. A little later he preached to a congregation of forty-there. His topic, “Savonarola: The Catholic Reformer and His Doctrines Contrasted with Those of the Present Day,” like many others noted in the branch minutes, suggests that the graduate students at the University of Chicago were prominent in the group. While Henry was away at Harvard, a university branch was formed on Chicago’s south side.4 Of his participation in the Cambridge Branch, near [p.40]Harvard, Henry wrote years later to a prospective law school student:

I hope … you will keep up your standing and your activities in the Church in spite of your concentrated law studies. I am certain that devoting the time I did while at the Harvard Law School to the Church has paid me dividends even greater than those which my attendance at Harvard has. We get so much more out of our life if we maintain our ideals and keep our life well rounded and not too much self-centered upon our profession. It does not detract from our efficiency in the least.

Attendance at an occasional concert, ball game, or public lecture punctuated the classes-library-church-sleep regimen at Chicago. When Henry moved to Massachusetts in September 1914, he found a little time to campaign for Democratic candidates in the congressional election. He could hardly do otherwise with his father making a valiant but narrowly unsuccessful try for a Utah seat in the U.S. Senate.5 The outbreak of war in Europe doubly grieved Henry because of the many good friends he had in Germany. It may also have inspired the sermon, “Patriotism to God and Man,” that he gave in the Logan Park chapel on 4 July 1915.

With an academic transcript from Chicago showing mostly As and fully satisfactory transfer credit from Harvard, Henry Moyle earned the cum laude that came with his J.D. degree. There is irony in the only two lower grades: Bills and Notes, about which he became really expert later when he moved into the world of business and finance, and Equity, the course he later taught for almost thirty years. He did well in Mining and Irrigation Law at Chicago, and there is a tradition among his family and later law school students that he helped Dean Roscoe Pound develop a similar course at Harvard and then used those lecture notes when he taught the course at Utah.

Henry remained a loyal and contributing supporter of his eastern alma maters. He was active in the Phi Alpha Delta alumni group in Salt Lake City, and in 1924 he was elected president of the Harvard Club of Utah. At the fortieth reunion of the Chicago Law School class of 1915, he was one of the speakers.

A young lawyer with impressive credentials, good family connections, [p.41]and no clients, Henry Moyle returned to Utah in September 1915. Thanks to his father’s helpfulness, he was relatively debt free. James H. Moyle provided a desk in his law office but made it clear that Henry’s dependency was over. Advice, moral support, and suggestions on business opportunities there might be. Henry was still welcome to live at home until he found a wife-a high priority objective now in his father’s judgment. But insofar as income was concerned, twenty-six-year-old Henry was on his own.

A ledger for 1915-17 shows how Henry scrambled for business.1 Homestead filings, land transfers, and estate probates brought fees of $15, $20, or occasionally $25. Henry soon discovered that corporate clients—and adversaries—generated the most rewarding cases, with fees of $100 or more.71 Good political service to the Democratic Party in 1916 brought him two part-time assignments: secretary for the U.S. war bond campaign in Utah and assistant Salt Lake County attorney. He also began a long relationship with the University of Utah Law School as a part-time faculty member. His professorial career will be considered later; his salary for teaching one course each quarter during the 1916-17 academic years was $37.50 per month.

Henry did well enough to meet his business and living expenses and to save and invest a little. He was also able to move as an eligible bachelor in Salt Lake City’s social circles. He might have pursued his investigation of Alberta Wright more vigorously if he had not had to use the train or a borrowed automobile for the trips to Ogden. The impending war may also have made both of them cautious. In any event, James H. Moyle had not married until twenty-nine, so there was precedent for Henry’s waiting a little longer.

When the United States declared war on Germany on 7 April 1917, Henry Moyle was ready to serve his country. He saw himself—quite rightly—as overqualified to go into the army as a buck private. He applied, therefore, for a military commission and in August was ordered to the Presidio, San Francisco, for officer training. The silver insignia of a first lieutenant was awarded to him three months later.

Because he wanted to go where the action was, Lt. Henry Moyle ap-[p.42]plied for assignment to the infantry.8 His first posting was to the Twenty-first Infantry Division at Camp Walter R. Taliaferro, San Diego, California. Training exercises occupied him there until his legal credentials led to his assignment in March 1918 as judge advocate of a general court martial.

For two months he heard the cases of delinquent soldiers, sharing with other officers the responsibility of meting out penalties of dishonorable discharge, fines, and imprisonment. Then, much against his wishes, he was sent back to the training command at the Presidio while his friends in the Twenty-first Infantry went off to Europe. According to his brother, James, Henry was a disappointed man when he arrived in Logan in September to become senior instructor in the Student Army Training Corps at Utah State University. Even a captain’s commission did not relieve his feeling that he had been shunted into a backwater of the war.

That he was closer to home was some solace, though most of his immediate family were in Washington, D.C., where James H. Moyle was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. The fact that Ogden lay between Logan and Salt Lake City also gave him occasional opportunity to pursue the Alberta Wright inquiry. Neither was yet carried away by the other, however. Indeed, Alberta was a little miffed at Henry’s California deportment. While in San Diego he had developed a strong—and apparently mutual—attraction for the good-looking daughter of a fellow officer. Because Jeannette Speis, a Catholic, found Henry’s personality more persuasive than his preaching, the likelihood of a marriage was not great. But the glow of the relationship was sufficient to bring Alice Moyle to California with a word of caution for her son.9 With separation, the romance died.10

In uniform Henry Moyle was a dapper figure. An incident in San Francisco suggests that neither missing the war nor Jeannette nor Alberta suppressed his fun-loving aspect. “I busted up a happy home Saturday night,” he wrote to his mother. He had gone to dinner with friends from [p.43]Utah, and while dancing he had smiled at a girl at another table who seemed to be smiling at him. He thought perhaps they had met when he was at the Presidio before.

But no, she was just flirting and before I knew it this young Lieut. got very indignant and I laughed at him and so did the girl. Well, our table thought it all pretty funny but I said I will see the thing through so when the music started up I nodded and so did the girl and I stood up and so did she so we walked out to the floor together and danced. During all this the young Lieut. was getting redder and redder and he almost collapsed when we started off. She then apologized and said they were engaged and that he had been kind of cross with her so she told him she bet I would be nice to her and had started off to show him. …

After the dance her escort “marched her out of there double quick,” Henry reported. He signed himself “Your lonesome boy.” The assignment in Logan was anti-climactic. The war ended in six weeks and the SAT.C. program lost most of its points for both teachers and students. The influenza epidemic that swept America in the 1918-19 winter took its toll on the Utah State University campus. Because Capt. Henry Moyle foresightedly requisitioned blankets and other supplies while they were still available, the cadets in his charge came through in relatively good shape. The program wound up in the spring and Henry was discharged. His separation bonus—$60.00—came in time to help him with his next big undertaking.


1. She sent him a birthday card after immigrating to America in 1923 and an intermittent, amiable correspondence went on until Henry’s death.

2. President Moyle visited Freiberg during that 1961 tour and addressed two large audiences. Today Freiberg is a stake headquarters and the site of the first Mormon temple to be built in a Communist-governed nation. [The Freiberg Ward is now part of the Dresden Germany Stake.—Ed.]

3. By the time he returned to Germany as a Mormon apostle, two world wars had intervened and Freiberg, Zwichau, Chemnitz, and Dresden were all behind the Iron Curtain.

4. When the parent branch moved from rented quarters into a new church-owned chapel in Logan Park a few months earlier, attendance by the Latter-day Saints scattered throughout the metropolitan area doubled. The implications were not lost on Henry Moyle and many years later he would have the opportunity to act vigorously upon them.

5. It was the first year that senators were elected directly by the people and not by the legislature.—Ed.

6. It also shows that he was not a bookkeeper by training or inclination.

7. Years later he told a junior associate that an excellent way to make money as a lawyer was to organize a business and handle all of its legal work.

8. His engineering background made him a natural for the field artillery, but he wanted to direct men, not weapons.

9. The story that Alberta sent a telegram, “What’s going on?,” is apparently apocryphal.

10. The name of Henry’s youngest daughter suggests that a bit of the memory lingered on. So does this comment in a letter he wrote in 1933 to a former comrade in arms: “I certainly had more fun in San Diego while I was there than I have ever had in any other place on this earth.”