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

Democratic Politician

[p.112]One of his longtime associates in the Democratic party described Henry D. Moyle as “a political animal.” The characterization requires explanation. Henry had many of the attributes of a successful political boss. He could organize and direct people and he enjoyed manipulating the levers of power. He understood the mechanisms of government and, within limits, he could compromise to reach goals. But he lacked the crowd-pleasing skills of an effective campaigner, he did not bear opposition easily, and he could not gracefully shrug off defeat. He ran for elective office only once, losing then in a bitter contest. Still, he breathed the air of politics in childhood, and from the first time he cast a ballot until the last time, he was a factor in the political and governmental life of his native state.

Henry inherited his party affiliation from his father, who often declared that he had two religions: he was a Mormon and a Democrat. James H. Moyle helped found the Democratic party in Utah and was its candidate for governor in 1900 and 1904. He lost both races by narrow margins, as he did in a senatorial bid against incumbent Reed Smoot in 1914. He served for sixteen years thereafter as Democratic national committeeman from Utah. In 1917 the Woodrow Wilson administration acknowledged his ability and support by appointing him Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. There he formed the acquaintance with Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt that flowered a decade later when Moyle was president of the LDS Eastern States Mission and Roosevelt was battling the Great Depression as governor of New York.

[p.113]When Moyle, then seventy-five, was invited to the White House in 1933 to be offered an appointment in the new Roosevelt administration, his son Henry accompanied him. The president’s charm impressed them both. It did not, however, prevent their forming sharply contrasting views of the New Deal in the years that followed. As Collector of the Customs, James H. Moyle developed a close and supportive relationship with the Roosevelt program, while Henry remained with the conservative component of the Democratic party. When the New Dealers were dominant in the Utah party, he was heard to say, “I hope I can live long enough to vote for a Democrat.” He stayed with the party, however, and helped to give it its present character in the state.

It may be supposed that young Henry Moyle marched in the parades and cheered at the rallies that highlighted his father’s campaigns in the pre-radio era. He started his own political activities when, as a Harvard Law School student, he toured Massachusetts in the 1914 campaign. The next Fourth of July he spoke to the Chicago Mormon group on “Patriotism to God and Man.” Soon after his return from Chicago with law degree in hand, he was elected secretary of the Salt Lake County Democratic organization. One of his rewards for helping elect Governor Simon Bamberger and reelect Woodrow Wilson was his appointment as secretary to the state director of Liberty Bond sales. Years later he recalled that the appointment brought him $200 or $300 a month, and “there were many months when this meant the difference in my being able to pay my rent. …”

His motives for reentering politics after his stint in the armed forces appear to have been both civic and vocational. He grew up with a sense of the importance of involvement in the public business of a democracy, and under his father’s influence it was natural for him to equate democratic with Democratic. And he early learned that the links among business, government, and politics were nebulous but real. Both he and his father were convinced in 1924 that the law firm of Moyle and Ray lost Federal Reserve Bank business to a firm with Republican orientation because Senator Smoot had more clout than any Utah Democrat. Henry Moyle admired power, appropriately used, as much as he respected money, honestly gained.

The positions as assistant Salt Lake County attorney, assistant United States district attorney, and U.S. district attorney came partly because of his father’s influence, but Henry Moyle quickly made his own place in [p.114]the party. As a member of the Democratic state committee in 1924, he helped to select parry nominees at county and state conventions. He gained access to power when George H. Dern took the governorship away from a Republican incumbent. In 1928 he became a member of the parry’s executive committee, a post he held for ten years. The next year, when he was a successful lawyer, a budding businessman, an LDS stake president, and almost forty, he was asked about his political prospects by a University of Chicago classmate. He replied: “There is, in fact, no present prospect of my becoming a senator from Utah. … I am certain of one thing-that if I ever get there, it will be on the Democratic ticket.”1

The landslide Democratic victory in 1932 brought Henry’s friend, Henry H. Blood to the governorship and filled offices up and down the state with successful party candidates and deserving parry workers. When his own hopes for appointment to a federal judgeship did not materialize, Henry Moyle contented himself with an advisory role to the governor while pursuing his personal interests and responsibilities amid deepening hard times. His office diary shows that he spent considerable time lobbying while the legislature was in session, and he met frequently with Blood and heads of state and federal agencies on Depression-related matters.

By the time Henry became state party chairman and convention keynoter in 1934 he was beginning to be described as the most powerful Democrat in Utah. Few patronage appointments to important state offices were made without his approval. Illustrative of his influence and his operational style in 1936 is an anecdote told by Walter W. Kershaw. A trucking firm in which he had an interest had come upon financial difficulties and was threatened with being shut down by a state regulatory agency. Kersaw came to Henry for advice, was asked if he could raise the $500 fee for legal services, and was told to return with the money later in the day. When he did so, he listened to a telephone conversation that began, “Henry, this is Henry.” The gist of the exchange with Governor Blood was that Henry would like to see him, and on the way down from the capitol he should drop by the Department of Transportation and [p.115]countermand the pending closure order. According to Kershaw, the order was cancelled, the trucking company survived and later merged with a large regional concern, and Henry Moyle was the attorney for all of the legal transactions involved.

Conservatism and pragmatism shaped Henry’s response to the unfolding New Deal. He was unenthusiastic about the repeal of the Prohibition amendment, observing to a friend: “We are going to try to continue to be sober, no matter how unpopular and inconvenient it may be so to do. …” On the other hand, he supported the president’s effort to reform the U.S. Supreme Court in 1937, writing to Senator Elbert D. Thomas: “I have long since been of the opinion that our federal judiciary needed some drastic changes. …” He recognized the need for some governmental assistance to those most affected by unemployment or loss of income. However his long-range confidence was in a revitalized private economy and such voluntary measures of help as the American Red Cross, whose state roll call he chaired in 1935, and the church program with which he was becoming more and more involved. He was a factor in shaping Governor Blood’s program, which adapted the Utah government to the requirements of many new federal programs but reduced the state debt by $10 million between 1933 and 1940. He never spoke publicly against President Roosevelt, but according to David Lawrence McKay, he “felt a lot like Heber J. Grant” about some of the changes taking place.2

Henry Moyle’s participation in the first efforts to control the reviving liquor business stemmed at least partly from his friend and fellow stake president, Hugh B. Brown. Henry supported Brown’s unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in 1934. Then when Brown became the first chairman of the Utah State Liquor Control Commission a few months later, he asked Henry to become a commission attorney. The same scruples that led Henry to reject a large fee to represent one of the companies now seeking to do business in Utah caused him to accept Brown’s offer. It meant preparing contracts and handling violations cases for the commission. By the evidence in his office diary and his testimony before a legislative investigating committee in early 1937, he earned the retainer that followed. The inquiry stemmed [p.116] from a political tug-of-war between supporters and critics of Brown’s administration, and it followed his resignation. The record shows Henry insisting that he had been paid less and worked more than his critics charged, that he had been on Brown’s side in the policy controversy, and that the committee was interested in tying him in with some alleged (and never proved) misconduct by the commission chairman. He also made no secret of the low opinion he held of the motives and conduct of the legislative inquisitors.

Heavily engaged with the new Church Welfare Committee and with building the Wasatch Oil Company, Henry spent less time with politics in 1937 to 1939. Newspaper reports had him being groomed to take a U.S. district court judgeship, but it is not clear how much he was interested. He had worked actively for Blood’s reelection and he continued as an advisor on fiscal and other matters. Late in 1939 he rendered a signal service to his father and the nation by preparing an analysis of the savings bond program. James H. Moyle had just been appointed assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury and asked to make recommendations for adapting the bond program to the new defense effort. The assignment may simply have been a tactful way to move the eighty-one-year-old Commissioner of the Customs out of a post which darkening war clouds were making more demanding, but the report was so thorough and perceptive that it led to important changes in the bond program. That Henry did most of the work is clear from his father’s correspondence, but Henry did not permit this point to be mentioned in Gordon B. Hinckley’s biography of his father.

Henry supported the appointment of Parnell Black, who had taken classes from him at the University of Utah Law School, as chief counsel for the Liquor Control Commission and as chairman of the state Democratic party organization. His ongoing advisory relationship with Governor Blood also positioned Henry strategically in the party’s leadership circle. As he approached his fiftieth birthday, he began to see 1940 as the year of decision insofar as his political future was concerned. “I am being urged by some of my friends to run for governor,” Henry Moyle wrote to Hugh Brown in May 1939, “but I am sure the urge falls short from being sufficient to justify any such action.” Brown, then a mission president in London, replied: “As far as I am concerned, I would prefer to see you do what I propose to do and that is to stay out of politics. However, there is no one I would rather see in the governor’s chair than [p.117]your good self. If you were there, they would at least have some decision, some justice, and some action.”

Correspondence between James H. Moyle and his sons Henry and James throws interesting light on the process by which Henry changed his mind in the ensuing months. The crucial questions among conservative Democrats in Utah were who should carry the banner if Blood did not run for a third term and who could prevent Herbert B. Maw from gaining the nomination. As senate president, Maw had developed a strong following by supporting the Roosevelt program and advocating more liberal state policies than those favored by the Blood administration. He had also led the successful campaign to substitute a two-stage direct primary for the convention system of selecting parry candidates. The law, incidentally, abolished the judicial district parry committees, one of which was chaired by Henry Moyle. As Henry discussed the situation with professional, church, and social acquaintances, he found many who spoke encouragingly of his own capabilities and prospects. When he wrote to his father about the situation, he received this sage—and, as it turned out, prophetic—advice in two late 1939 letters:

You state that “there is rather a definite tie-up with [senatorial aspirant Abe] Murdock and Maw and my guess would be that it would not be difficult to make a tie-up with [Senator William H.] King and give them the licking of their lives.[”] … If Murdock has made any such tie-up it will be, in my opinion, a serious mistake for him, because he is already known to be ultra-liberal or progressive. … The same, in my opinion, would be true of two of the right wing tying up. Particularly would that be true as to you, who takes the position, I am presuming, of being a moderate and not extreme on either side. …

The great body of Democrat support comes from the masses and not the upper structure of society, which is the most conservative. Murdock and Maw are relying on what they call the progressive element; the people whose vote counts just as much as that of the rich man’s….

I am of the opinion that what you want is support from the element where you are the weakest or from those who ate on the borderline. … I would try to make friends on all sides as far as that can be done honorably and with a substantial degree of consistency.

Thus far, none of the men whom I met either at home or here, seem to be sufficiently advised or enthused to say anything about my son in connection with that matter. It may be wise for you to keep in the background until you have a clear understanding with the governor, [p.118]who no doubt would greatly appreciate your support, for a third term for him. Hence, you are in a very delicate situation there.

I repeat that a leading prospect for candidate for governor will have all kinds of people, irrespective of their inner thoughts, indicating outwardly their admiration and devotion if not directly promising support and indicating indirectly a promise of support when they are doing the same with the next most promising candidate. … You will excuse me if I bank too much on your optimism leading you to draw desired conclusions from such diplomats.

Similar uneasiness was expressed to Henry’s youngest brother, James, but the father added: “I am anxious not to stand in Henry’s way and will be very proud if one of you boys should become governor of the state. That was my ambition before I was your age.” He was not as optimistic as Henry; fearing “that the dominating way he has, if things and people don’t agree with him, must have made more enemies than he thinks.”

France had fallen to Hitler’s armies and Franklin Roosevelt had disclosed his interest in a third term by the time that Henry Blood decided not to run again. Whether he bowed to pressure, saw omens of defeat, or simply had had enough is not clear. It was no coincidence, however, that Henry Moyle announced his candidacy on the same day; 6 July 1940, that the governor bowed out. “I am proud of my efforts in Governor Blood’s behalf in 1936,” Henry told the press, “and if nominated and elected I will undertake to maintain the sound economic policies which have made his administration outstanding.”

His initial fifteen-point statement of principles, Henry Moyle Says, was too wordy and abstract for widespread campaign use. As compressed into mass-produced pamphlets, the Moyle platform placed the candidate in the middle of the road:

We must insure the continuation of our democratic form of government with its religious and civil liberties through an adequate defense. We must so devise and develop our economic and business structure as to provide the individual with and opportunity to provide for himself.

Until opportunities for the individual enable him to become self-sustaining, we must provide an adequate and sufficient program of welfare and relief to meet his needs.

If Henry expected other candidates to withdraw, he was disappointed. The prospects for Democratic victory in November had already drawn five [p.119]contenders, with Herbert Maw well in the lead. The first task, therefore, was to place no worse than second in the 3 September primary. The treasurer of the party state committee, Lyle B. Nicholes, resigned to become manager of the Moyle campaign. Offices were opened in the Newhouse Hotel. Robert Sears came down from Spokane to help. The candidate’s family—parents, brothers and sisters, children and wife—became involved. Fund raising must have been effective, judging from the volume of pamphlet, newspaper, and radio publicity during the campaign.

Henry threw himself into the campaign with the same zeal he tackled other enterprises. Using a chattered airplane sometimes to cover more territory, he tried to overcome the teal political handicap of starting late and being little known outside Salt Lake County and the Deseret Live Stock Company sphere in northern Utah. His main theme was: “The way to make Utah a better place to live is to increase incomes. The way to increase incomes is to increase industry. The way to increase industry is to give constructive leadership to it.” Both speeches and printed publicity called attention to his experience with mining, agriculture, industry, education, and law as evidence that he could provide such leadership. “A Democratic Exponent of Democratic Principles” was the slogan on his campaign cards. But there was no “populism” in his campaign style and his business success made it possible for the opposition to brand him a spokesman for the rich.

Henry tried to keep the race from being a referendum on the New Deal. The Social Security Act and the National Labor Relations Act, he said, were accomplished facts, and he had no desire to turn back the clock. Still, his personal conviction, as he told a Provo audience, was that “the best way to take care of the aged is to provide jobs for them while they are able to work.” And he cautioned against unrealistic pension and welfare expectations, urging in Ogden that “economies be effected in Order that Utah may meet its share of national defense costs.” Spokesmen for labor unions, senior citizens, and teachers organizations were, as James H. Moyle had predicted, working for Maw, and they characterized Henry Moyle as the candidate of big business and the state Democratic “machine.” The campaign took on more strident quality as the primary neared. Maw publicists charged that state employees were being coerced by the opposition and Moyle spokesmen denounced a fraudulent “Moyle Strategy Committee Bulletin.” In his pre-election day statement Henry held to the high ground: “I solicit only the votes of those who will be [p.120]content to have their confidence in me repaid through good government for the benefit of all.”

The voting on 3 September left only Maw and Moyle in the race. Maw received more than twice as many votes as his nearest rival and came close to a majority of all the votes cast. When only the weakest of the eliminated candidates gave a public endorsement to Henry Moyle, it was clear that he faced an uphill task before the 1 October run-off election.

The events of September 1940 do not constitute one of the brightest chapters in the story of Henry D. Moyle. Doggedly determined to win and taunted by intemperate charges from interest group publications in the Maw camp, he and his campaign strategists threw moderation to the winds. On evidence that Maw had drawn a retainer from a liquor company while president of the senate and apparently engaged in some other actions of questionable propriety and legality, they launched a multi-media campaign that boiled down to the question: “Do the People Want a Whiskey Salesman for Governor?” The blasts and counter-blasts are more significant for the light they throw on political tactics in that pre-television era than for any impact on the outcome of the election. Neither of the statewide papers—Salt Lake Tribune or Deseret News—gave much space to any of the primary races except for the advertising. An editorial in the church-owned News decried the mud-slinging in the Democratic governorship contest; one searching for clues might detect the slightest bias toward Moyle in the language.

When the 3 October returns were tallied, Herbert Maw had 55,000 votes and Henry Moyle had almost 30,000. Efforts to persuade Republicans to cross over and vote against Maw failed because there were too many close contests in the Republican primary. Henry carried only Rich, Summit, and Wasatch counties—Deseret Live Stock country. He did about as well in Salt Lake County as he did statewide.

Maw went on to win in November and Henry Moyle retired from the political limelight. He took no part in the November campaign, and in the following years he played some role in the conservative effort to regain control of the Democratic party apparatus. His work with the Petroleum Industry War Council and the post-war National Petroleum Council brought him in contact with many agencies of government and political leaders around the nation.

Relations between the Mormon church and the Democratic party were at a low ebb when Henry D. Moyle became a member of the Quo-[p.121]rum of the Twelve Apostles in 1947. The anti-New-Deal stance of President Grant and President Clark and the enduring wounds left by the Maw-Moyle contest weakened the parry base among rank-and-file Mormons and radicalized the party leadership. The result was unfortunate for both institutions. The church lost most of its power to influence Democratic policies and candidates and the parry lost its monopoly on statewide offices as soon as the war changed the political and economic environment.

As an apostle, Henry Moyle was still a Democrat by sentiment, habit, and connections. Bur his political objectives in Utah were now two-fold. The first was personal—to move the parry back to traditional principles “and see if we can’t once again have a good Democratic governor like we once had …” The second was related to his church calling—to see that laws compatible with LDS values were adopted and sustained. As he wrote to several legislators after the 1949 lawmaking session: “In common with you, I seek constantly to improve the environment in which we live and give to our rising generation the best possible chance to succeed. …” In the April general conference he addressed the same theme. He commended Utah lawmakers who had voted for Sunday closing and against horse race betting and the sale of liquor by the drink. “Now is the time to prepare for the next election,” he admonished. “It is upon politics we must rely in large measure for the kind of government that we have.” He added that Latter-day Saints living outside the United States, “so far as the laws of those countries permit, should exercise the same influence there as we undertake to exercise here under our laws.”

The mechanism by which Henry Moyle and his good friend Harold B. Lee became liaisons between the church leadership and the political process in Utah grew out of a conversation between the new apostle and the new state chairman of the Democratic Party, Milton L. Weilenmann. Henry observed that when church leaders intervened directly and publicly in political affairs, it generated controversy and backlash. It would be more appropriate, therefore, to communicate more systematically and quietly. The church was interested in having men of good character and sound principles nominated by both parties, and it was concerned about public policies with clear moral implications, such as those relating to liquor, gambling, and vice. Would it not be a good idea for the leaders of the two major parties to meet with designated general authorities at regular intervals for the sake of free interaction on any subjects of concern? [p.122]Henry suggested himself for the Democrats and Lee, a former Salt Lake County commissioner, for the Republicans. Further he proposed that the church should urge its members to play a more active part in the political process—a non-partisan effort that would be entirely consistent with LDS principles.

That this approach to political detente had at least the informal approval of the First Presidency is clear from Henry’s frequent conferences on political topics with one or more of these men. They were George Albert Smith, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., and David O. McKay at the time; in 1951 they became McKay, Stephen L. Richards, and Clark.

So it was that a forerunner of the present Special Affairs Committee of the church came into being.3 For a decade Weilenmann met with Henry Moyle, at least weekly when election or legislative business was heavy and less often in other times. Lee maintained similar G.O.P. contacts. Then the two men took whatever steps a particular situation seemed to require, after consultation with their ecclesiastical leaders. Until his death in 1953 Albert E. Bowen was frequently a member of the team, and later Delbert L. Stapley; both belonged to the Quorum of the Twelve.

Two general consequences followed. Interest in “good men” led Henry and his partners to follow the electoral process with great care. They reviewed lists of aspirants to various state and local offices in Utah and Idaho. They occasionally asked stake leaders to mobilize support for particular candidates—Democrat or Republican—in races that seemed to present a clear moral choice.4 Some undecided individuals were encouraged to become candidates. It was more appropriate and effective, Henry Moyle believed, to elect individuals whose stands on horse racing or Sunday closing legislation proceeded from personal convictions than to count on swaying a legislature dominated by wrong-headed men. The strategy brought many stake and ward officers and former officers into the Utah legislature-a phenomenon that continues.

Beginning in 1952 the First Presidency publicly urged Latter-day Saints to participate in party mass meetings and other political activities. Henry Moyle had the privilege of emphasizing the message at the April [p.123]general conference. Relying on texts from the 101st and 134th sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, he admonished:

I hope and pray, my brethren and sisters, that we will not feel that politics has become so degraded that we are too good to participate. If any of us believe politics to be in that kind of state, we need only to enter into politics, go into it with our honesty and our integrity and our devotion to truth and to righteousness, and the standards will be raised. We cannot expect in this country a better government than the leaders are good, and so if we want a good government we must have good leaders. Let us participate in our mass meetings, in our party organization meetings, in our conventions; then when we go to the polls, we may have somebody worthy of our vote on our tickets.

“All three of the presidency approved after the meeting,” he noted in his diary, He added: “The Lord was with me and prompted me to speak rather than read what I had prepared. For this I am grateful.”

Messages read in stake, ward, and branch meetings in this and subsequent election years certainly contributed to bringing Utah to the top among the states in voter turnout. The tendency of most Mormons toward conservatism had an interesting effect on both Utah parties. It pushed the Democrats back toward the middle of the road and eventually made possible the election of Democratic governors. It also strengthened the ultra-conservative component in Utah politics, some of which found expression in the Republican party and some in third parties. Being a pragmatic conservative, Henry Moyle approved of the Democratic trend but sharply disagreed with the radical right, as will be noted later.

The political responsibilities of Henry D. Moyle and Harold B. Lee did not end with the electoral process. Having a special charge to see that laws were made and administered “for the good and safety of society” (D&C 134:1), they spent hours discussing governmental affairs in their offices and homes and as they drove to stake conferences around the West.5 They caucused with local Mormon leaders while on some of these assignments. They met, singly or together, with governors and other [p.124]state and local officials. They corresponded with members of Congress about federal appointments and policies. They met with legislators, some of whom sought “guidance” on controversial issues and some of whom voluntarily served as contacts in state lawmaking bodies. Editorials were suggested for the church-owned newspaper, The Deseret News.

On occasion individuals and groups were encouraged to work for or against particular measures. The range of subjects on which one such activist reported after the 1953 Utah legislative session is broad: This Is the Place Monument, Non-Profit Hospitals, Corporation Franchise Taxes, Nurses Training, Educational TV, Tavern Lighting, Civil Defense, Horse Racing, Sunday Closing, and Right to Work. Generally the efforts to prevent horse race betting and to maintain relatively restrictive liquor laws were successful. The attempt to prohibit the labor union closed shop failed then but succeeded later in the decade. An all-out effort to override a gubernatorial veto of a Sunday closing law came within one vote of succeeding; no subsequent attempt came so close.

The year 1954 saw Henry Moyle in the political fray almost as deeply as in 1940. Again his side lost, but this time the pain passed more quickly. The issues were legislative reapportionment and junior colleges.

Like many states, Utah had a bitter contest between rural and urban counties whenever the decennial census confronted the legislature with the task of redistricting congressional and legislative seats. No changes had been made since 1931. Such was the population growth along the Wasatch Front during and after World War II that political control of the stare threatened—or promised—to follow. A philosophical conservative with substantial interests in the cow counties, Henry Moyle was bound to resist this shift. Because the most thoroughly LDS parts of the state then were rural, the church leadership as a whole was disposed also to oppose changes in representation. The result of the sparring in the 1953 legislature was a proposed constitutional amendment that would guarantee every county one seat in the senate and at least one seat in the house of representatives; population would determine total seating in the lower house.

A second issue developed fortuitously at the same time when Governor J. Bracken Lee proposed that the state, to reduce expenses, return to the church three junior colleges—Weber (Ogden), Snow (Ephraim), and Dixie (St. George)—that had been given to the state during the Depression. Influenced by Brigham Young University’s dynamic president, Er-[p.125]nest L. Wilkinson, the church leadership was willing and the legislature went along. The opponents then launched a successful petition campaign to put the issue on the 1954 general election ballot.

Elders Moyle and Lee thus found themselves directing a two-front campaign in which the urban-rural, church-state, and Mormon-gentile issues became intricately and emotionally mixed. As for Henry himself, he felt strongly that each county should have its own representative in at least one house. “There is no plan that has ever appealed to me as much as our federal plan which gives to Utah two senators the same as New York,” he told a Utah Water Users Association audience. The proposed amendment protected “county rights.” Furthermore, it strengthened the capacity of the Latter-day Saints and other like-minded people to keep corrupt and alien influences from dominating the state. The junior college transfer might be seen in similar terms. Certainly it would make church-oriented higher education available to a greater proportion of the state’s Mormon youth.

What Henry Moyle had feared when he spoke to Milton Weilenmann a few years earlier about the church in politics came to pass in 1954. The mobilization of church resources, including the press, was on so energetic and open a scale that the merits of the two propositions became submerged in religious controversy. The battle cut across party lines and divided Mormon ranks. Pressed for a statement on whether church members were obligated to vote for the two measures, President McKay eventually felt obliged to tell Weilenmann and others that there was no institutional commitment to either measure and members were free to vote as they saw fit. Whether this apparent about-face affected the outcome is doubtful. Both propositions were handily defeated in November.

Like his campaigning partner, Henry Moyle was disappointed at the outcome. But he found solace in a basic tenet of his political philosophy, writing to Eugene H. Merrill in January 1955:

In spite of my own feelings on the subject, there seems to be little regret, at least on my part. I have an abiding conviction that when the people speak, even though they may be swayed one way or the other by propaganda, that it is pretty safe to follow the rule. I hope that I always remain about as far away from any ideas of totalitarianism as is possible. I firmly believe that there is real safety in numbers.

A reapportionment act rather favorable to the rural interests was [p.126]passed in the next legislature. The junior colleges remained in stare hands. Political activities on behalf of the church were conducted quietly during the remainder of Henry Moyle’s tenure in the Council of the Twelve.

Henry also did some lobbying on his own account during the 1950s. His telephone endorsement of Wallace E Bennett to every Democratic county chairman may have helped to swing the 1950 election against incumbent Senator Thomas. Support of Utah participation in the new Interstate Oil Compact and federal deregulation of natural gas production attested to his continuing interest in the petroleum industry. His appointment to the Utah Water and Power board and Utah Water Users Association board gave him a chance to influence resource management and development. Although church assignments kept him away from many meetings, he was a vigorous advocate of multiple use of the large federal land holdings in the state. He also followed the Central Utah Project closely. His experience as a water-rights lawyer stood him in particularly good stead when he became a member of the policy committee of the water and power board during his second term.

Most of Henry Moyle’s interactions with governmental agencies during his four years in the First Presidency related to development plans for Salt Lake City and international ramifications of the expanding missionary program. He was still a Democrat, but his relations with the Democrats in Utah’s congressional delegation were amiably non-commital. When a woman wrote expressing concern about John E Kennedy’s election, Henry replied: “I feel that whatever is done the Lord will use it to further His purpose. … We must follow the admonition of President McKay when he said if Kennedy won we would support him wholeheartedly.”6 If Henry’s faith in individual initiative and private enterprise led him ro oppose many governmental programs of the post-1929 generation, it did not lead him into a categorical anti-government position. Dallin H. Oaks remembers that when President Moyle visited a conference in Chicago in 1963 he inquired about Oaks’s work. Told that he was writing an article supportive of the recent Supreme Court decision on school prayer, which had generated vehement reactions among some Latter-day Saints, [p.127]Henry asked that a copy be sent to him. The article appeared a few months later in the church-published Improvement Era.

Henry also cooperated with his colleague in the First Presidency, Hugh B. Brown, to resist efforts to identify the church with the extremist John Birch Society. While he was less outspoken in his public criticism than Brown, his addresses and correspondence show him to be particularly concerned about the divisive effects of radical politics in the church.7 In January 1963 the First Presidency issued a statement that included these paragraphs:

We encourage our members to exercise the right of citizenship, to vote according to their own convictions, but no one should seek or pretend to have our approval of their adherence to any extreme ideologies. …

We denounce Communism as being anti-Christian, anti-American, and the enemy of freedom, but we think they who pretend to fight it by casting aspersions on our elected officers or other fellow citizens do the anti-Communist cause a great disservice. …

A few weeks later Henry wrote to a critic of the statement: “I hope that … you will not be too severe on us if we undertake to encourage the tendency to depend upon the priesthood rather than outside influences to carry out whatever is good for the church, among which, of course, falls the good of the government under which we live.”

This was by no means intended to discourage the Latter-day Saints from civic activity. Henry Moyle liked to quote the Athenian statesman, Pericles: “But we regard him who holds aloof from public affairs as useless.”8 In a 1959 general conference address Henry pointed out that the Greeks called such non-participants idiotes, from which our word idiot [p.128]comes. “The citizens of the kingdom of God should set the pattern for the citizens of the kingdoms of men,” he admonished.

When Henry Moyle was asked to say a few words at the memorial service for his friend Alonzo Hopkins, who had served in the state legislature longer than any other man in Utah history, he drew a moral from his own observations of politics and government. According to his diary for 30 January 1963, he told the lawmakers that neither Hopkins “nor anyone else could sit in government, pass laws, … or do anything else pertinent to the welfare of their fellow men without the help of the Lord. …” At seventy-three, he was still confident that good government was achievable with that help.


1. In a postscript he replied to his friend’s comment that his secretary had asked if Mr. Moyle had more than one wife. “You tell her that the nearest I have ever come to having more than one, legally or otherwise, was to dream once that I had four, so you see I have it on my mind.”

2. President Grant’s open endorsement of Republican Alfred M. Landon in the 1936 campaign so incensed James H. Moyle that he took the church leader to task in along letter and a somewhat stormy interview just before the election.

3. In 1999 this committee is known as the Public Affairs Committee.—Ed.

4. Henry wrote to a friend in 1955: “Whoever advised you that there were only two Democratic stake presidents in Utah … was very seriously mistaken. We have many of them.”

5. At this point Poll wrote the following two sentences and then deleted them: “It is not recorded what they were engrossed in when they were stopped near Las Vegas and warned for driving eighty-five miles per hour. Lee was at the wheel, but it could as easily been his compatriot.”—Ed.

6. A note from columnist Jack Anderson late in August 1963 reports that he was trying to arrange a meeting between Henry Moyle and President Kennedy. Within three months both men were dead.

7. He read with apparent approval BYU professor Richard D. Poll’s critical review of an anti-Communist book by a Mormon author. [Poll refers to W. Cleon Skousen, The Naked Communist (Provo, UT: Utah Citizens for Positive American Goals, 1962) and his own pamphlet-sized critique, entitled This Trumpet Gives an Uncertain Sound. According to D. Michael Quinn, “Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26 (Summer 1993): 33, Hugh B. Brown had encouraged Poll to do this review “in the hope that we may stem this unfortunate tide of radicalism.” —Ed.]

8. Pericles made this statement, which is recorded by Thucydides in his History, in 431 B.C. as part of his funeral oration over the graves of the Athenians who fell in the first year of the Peloponnesian War. Compare the same quotation with a different English translation in the frontispiece of Marvin J. Bertoch and Julia Brixen Bertoch, Modern Echoes from Ancient Hills: Our Greek Heritage (Salt Lake City: Blue Ribbon Publications, 1998). —Ed.