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

Family and Friends

[p.174]Although Henry D. Moyle projected an air of confidence in public situations, he was not by nature gregarious. The affection he was capable of expressing and the warmth he needed to relieve the pressure of his own sense of duty required one-to-one and small-group intimacy. His family and a limited group of personal friends provided this blessing.

Alberta Wright Moyle—”Berta” as he sometimes called her—was at the center of Henry’s personal life, as he was of hers. She supported him as companion, homemaker, hostess, nurse, fellow traveler, comforter, and mother to their children, while gradually defining her “helpmeet” role in such a way as to provide some private space for herself. Since she was not much interested in his business affairs and unenthusiastic about his political activities, he did not talk to her about details or share the decision-making responsibility. But over the forty-three years of their married life, he brought her lots of papers to sign, and at the end most of their property was in her name.

As the wife of an LDS general authority, Alberta Moyle was invited to join many groups and support many worthy causes. Generally she elected not to do so, going to the activities Henry took her to and letting his contributions represent them both.1 An exception was her active role in breaking the anti-Mormon barrier in the Salt Lake chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. When the established chapter resisted [p.175]admitting Latter-day Saints of impeccable genealogical credentials, Alberta became a charter member of a new Princess Timpanogos Chapter, founded in February 1960.2 The competition was soon resolved by action of the national organization, and Alberta Moyle served for a time as chaplain of the Utah State DAR.

Mothering was Alberta’s favorite vocation, and she remained engrossed in it as the children married and left home—the first in 1941 and the last twenty years later. Looking after Henry was another on-going, many-sided responsibility. It meant Scrabble games on a quiet evening, parties for a dozen friends or a hundred associates, and diet menus, pills, and hand-holding when his weight and blood pressure demanded attention. Except for a weight problem of her own and an occasional spell of frayed nerves, best relieved by a short trip somewhere, Alberta enjoyed good health. When she required major surgery in 1961, it was almost more than Henry could bear.

It was a red-letter day in 1950 when the Moyles moved into a lovely house at 78 Laurel Street, on Salt Lake City’s near east side, and bade farewell to the added-upon home in Cottonwood. Here were the space—3,600 square feet—and facilities for entertaining in the elegant manner that Alberta Moyle enjoyed. Furnishing the home became a continuing hobby, with French-style furniture and art objects coming from New York auctions as well as shops in many lands.3 There was room at Laurel Street for family visits, though the older grandchildren missed the lake and running room they had enjoyed at the country place. Richard was the only child to live in the new home.

Soon the family circle increased to four, however, as Alberta’s youngest brother, Gordon, came to live with them. He was fifteen years younger than she was. Henry Moyle had been his guardian for ten years after Alberta’s father’s death in 1924. Thereafter Gordon had taken care of his mother until her death, never marrying. Clara Wright asked Alberta to look after Gordon, and when he came to Laurel Street to convalesce from an illness, it seemed a natural thing for him to stay. The arrangement was not without stresses, but he was a companion for Alberta when Henry [p.176]was away and he had a knack for household tasks that she found helpful.4

As Elder and Sister Moyle toured missions together, she became more comfortable in the pulpit. Much of the time she had to cope with a language barrier, but what her daughter Alice describes as “her ability to reach out to people, to inspire confidence, and to understand their problems” came through. When she was in France, her school-girl French served her reasonably well. When she was in Germany, she labored under a special handicap: Elder Moyle insisted on translating for her, and sometimes he did not resist the temptation to substitute his thoughts for hers. When others of his family caught up with him in one of the German-speaking missions, he gave them the same treatment, sometimes giving so free a translation as to elicit smiles, even laughter, among the bilingual members of the congregation.

In South America, where Alberta spoke many times through a neutral translator, she developed a message of particular appeal to the women who heard her. These are the personal resolutions of which she spoke, as she shared them later with her daughter Alice:

I will study the language of gentleness and refuse to use words that bite and tones that crush.

I will practice patience at home lest my temper break through and disgrace me.

I will remember that my neighbors have trouble enough to carry without loading mine on them.

I will excuse others’ faults and failures as often and as freely as I expect others to excuse mine.

I will cure criticism with appreciation, close up against gossip, and build a healthy life of service.

I will love boys and girls so that old age will not find me soured and sullen but fresh and free.

I will gladden my nature by being cheerful on every occasion and by being optimistic.

I will pray frequently, think good thoughts, believe in men, and do a day’s work without fear or favor.

If two or three of these points may have spoken to the frailties of someone very dear to her, the testimony she bore was of one piece with [p.177]his: “We are the children of God and we have an obligation to keep the commandments. … A noble and God-like character is not a thing of favor or chance, but is the natural result of continued effort in right thinking.”

Travel gave Henry and Alberta Moyle some of their happiest moments, but it frequently separated them. At first she accompanied him to many stake conferences, bur the routine proved tedious and thereafter she went where family visiting could also be accomplished. Helping out with the birth of some of the grandchildren also took her away, and there were lonely times in the 1950s when Henry and Richard played chess and went to shows and weekend conferences together. Some of Elder Moyle’s itineraries in the United States were ingeniously arranged to combine visits to Janet’s family in Oklahoma with Phillips Petroleum board meetings and church assignments in the Southwest, or to transact church welfare business and attend stake meetings while visiting Alice, Marie, or Virginia and their families on one coast or another, or to pick up Henry Jr. as he returned from his mission and Richard as he thankfully ended a summer stint at Deseret Farms. Father and sons then saw New Orleans on the way home; Henry noted in his diary: “It was a day to be remembered.”

Usually such trips were arranged so that Sister Moyle was a traveling companion coming or going, and the days together were seasoned with Broadway shows, gourmet meals, shopping excursions, and the kinds of special events that Henry Moyle so delighted to share with his family. One or two of the daughters saw big league baseball with him, but usually it was the sons and sons-in-law who witnessed the ball games and prize fights that provided relaxation for Elder Moyle after appointment-crowded days.

Two diary entries in December 1951 show Henry Moyle as husband-father. On the day after Virginia’s marriage, which left only one child at home, he wrote: “We came home and after dinner Mother and I kind of clung to each other the closer. …” But on New Year’s Eve he wrote of “a happy and prosperous old year in which I am sure we accomplished some good and made many others happy.” He added: “We could not have enjoyed our family more. Grateful to have been with them so much and to have them all happy.”

He took a lively interest in the material side of that happiness. Checks for $100 and gifts of stock came with babies, birthdays, and [p.178]sometimes for no reason at all. The four sons-in-law—Alice’s Kenneth Yeates, Jr., Marie’s Frank Wangeman, Virginia’s Howard Marsh, and

Janet’s Veigh Nielson—were helped with advice, referrals, and investment opportunities, as were Henry Jr. and Richard as they moved into the business world. Loans were available for homes and investment opportunities and no rigorous repayment schedules were imposed. Sometimes the generosity was accompanied by advice. Henry Moyle was still a lawyer-businessman-politician-Welfare Program promoter when he accompanied a stock gift to newlyweds Alice and Ken with a strong endorsement of tithing:

I want you to know that I have lived this principle as scrupulously as I knew how, in the hope that my doing so would reflect a lasting benefit to you. I do hope that you will so live that you may not only inherit this blessing in the beginning but enjoy it throughout your life. It is my promise to you that if you will live in accordance with this law, it will be the greatest and surest insurance that you can possibly acquire against want. … There is nothing you can do with your income that will bring you so much satisfaction as to feel that you have accounted to the Lord for that which is His.

With marriage, Henry Moyle’s daughters became someone else’s primary responsibility; they were to be helped, enjoyed, and pampered, but no longer managed. Henry’s youngest son, Richard, was a comfort rather than a challenge to his father; he was guided so gently that he freely acknowledges being spoiled. But Elder Moyle never lost that special concern that his firstborn son should measure up to what he saw in his own father and what he thought James H. Moyle expected of him. As Hank moved through his mission and on to military service, marriage, law school, and his father’s old law firm, Henry Moyle spoke with pride of his son’s accomplishments. He spoke so, too, in his diary. But his letters asked for an ever higher standard. “From all accounts you are making good use of your time,” he wrote to Elder Henry D. Moyle, Jr., in Geneva, Switzerland, “but no matter how good you are doing, there is always great room for improvement. And so I feel it my duty to urge you to find some ways and means of improving your work day by day. …” When the son went back to Geneva as a young mission president in 1961, he was at last doing something of which his father thoroughly approved. He was there when Henry D. Moyle died in Florida.

[p.179]Alberta and Henry both doted on their grandchildren. She planned the parties and spent more time with them, but he became more and more attentive as the years went by. He named and blessed many of them, and he recorded on the occasion of Elizabeth Yeates’s christening: “She looked at me and smiled all the time that I blessed her.” In January 1958 he blessed his first grandchild to bear the Moyle name; John Rowe Moyle was named for the stonecutter who had accepted Mormonism in Devonshire and brought the name to Utah a century before. Not all the grandfatherly encounters were successful. During one of Marie’s visits, he recorded: “Little Frankie was very naughty. I undertook to discipline him and it upset me more than him. I shan’t do it again.” But many of them were happy. He wrote after a canyon party with Alice’s children and Richard: “I took 4,100 feet of colored film of the children swimming and on horseback.”5

Elder Moyle was at home recuperating from travel fatigue, angina, and shingles in 1955 when Alice and Virginia came to visit with their children. According to Virginia: “All of a sudden my father, who had not been out of the house for at least a month, missed Henry, who was about eighteen months old at the time.” He hurried out and found the child floating face down in a little fish pond. He pulled the unconscious boy out of the water, and as Alice administered artificial respiration, mother and grandfather prayed. The boy; Henry Marsh, lived to set a world’s record as a steeplechase runner.

When the oldest grandson, Kenneth W. Yeates III, went to Harvard in 1960, Henry Moyle gave him a special blessing and later wrote a letter that has become a family treasure. He spelled out the blend of Protestant ethic and noblesse oblige with which he had waged his own life:

I have often been told throughout my life that I had been born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I have endeavored religiously and persistently to try to demonstrate by my activity, expenditure of energy, by enthusiasm, and by ambition that I can proceed as far and do as much from my point of advantage as those who have not had the advantage do when they overcome the obstacles which confront them in the beginning and succeed in spite of it. … It takes real effort to turn the advantage that you’ve had into a blessing. …

[p.180]Then he passed on advice that he had been giving to missionaries about hard work and charged young Kenny to stay close to the church in Cambridge:

No person is educated who does not continually broaden his base, and no base is very broad without a spiritual side to it …, The revelations of the Lord to His prophets give us … information to enlighten our minds and to touch our hearts and our souls with a recognition and a knowledge of God which serves us in every capacity and in every activity of life. And when we have that light shining in our lives, we cannot go astray but will always be able to get more out of any human activity than those get out of it who do not have such an advantage.

Three years later he sent another letter, this time addressed to Elder Yeates in Dusseldorf. It was written in German and signed “In aller Liebe, Dein Grossvater.” The young missionary barely had time to reply before he, and the twenty-six younger grandchildren of Henry and Alberta Moyle, learned that their grandfather was dead.

Henry Moyle’s relations with his parents, brothers, and sisters were affectionate and sometimes tempestuous. James H. Moyle was a counselor as well as friend until he died in his eighty-eighth year. Walter, Gilbert, and James sometimes resisted Henry’s business recommendations and pressure, but he christened several of their grandchildren and the family groups got together frequently. Evelyn was only a little younger and not a bit less strong-willed than Henry; he did not entirely understand or approve of her interest in a social work career, but he was often helpful to her and her husband, Harry Nelson. Sarah was so much younger that Henry treated her as much like a daughter as a sister. She and her husband, Frank Creer, received some of the same kinds of attention that Henry and Alberta gave their own children.

The ties between Henry Moyle and his mother were uncommonly close. As she had kissed him better when he was a child, Alice Dinwoodey Moyle continued to comfort and encourage him until her death in 1950. During the years of her widowhood, he made a particular point of visiting with her frequently and taking her to church when his appointments permitted. A diary entry on 16 October 1945 might be developed into a short story: “Spent evening with Harry Nelson at Mother’s—went home to have Alberta tell me it was our wedding anniversary—we then celebrated.”

[p.181]Age and the death of his parents only increased Henry Moyle’s sense of family kinship and obligation. He retained Gordon B. Hinckley, then a member of the church public relations staff, to write a biography of James H. Moyle; it was the beginning of a close relationship between the two men. He recorded after blessing Walter Moyle’s grandson—the first great-grandchild of James H. Moyle to carry the family name: “I felt the influence of father at hand—I sensed his approval—to me the opportunity was priceless.”

As head of the James H. Moyle family organization, Elder Moyle showed a lively interest in genealogy and temple work. Twice in 1951 he arranged for many relatives to go together to the Salt Lake temple and perform ordinances for their forebears. “We had a wonderful ‘Moyle’ sealing party;” he noted; “ninety-seven couples were sealed and their children. … The spirit of love and unity was present in such abundance.” 6

Both Henry and Alberta attended the dedication of the Swiss temple and the ground breaking and dedication of the London temple. Richard Moyle remembers that while he and his parents were in London in 1955, his father invited over a hundred English Moyles to a reception at Claridge’s Hotel. None was previously known to Elder Moyle and none proved to be closely related to the humble Cornish Moyles who immigrated to Utah. But they all had a wonderful time-from the secretary of a cabinet member to the vicar from the Midlands, whom Henry Moyle invited to join the Mormon church. Richard recalls his father’s replying to the vicar’s request about clerical employment by pointing out that the gospel offers truths of great importance to one’s eternal occupation.

The circle of Henry and Alberta’s friends changed with their occupational and family circumstances. Much of their socializing was dictated by Henry’s various careers, and uncommitted time was rather likely to be spent with family groups or quietly at home. The most durable social connection was the church history group that began meeting when B. H. Roberts’s A Comprehensive History of the Church appeared in 1930; it was still holding monthly sessions when Alberta Moyle stopped attending almost fifty years later. A study group with a self-generated curriculum at the start, it evolved into a dinner-and-guest-speaker activity that usually [p.182]met in Salt Lake’s Lion House. The group began with some of Henry’s old missionary comrades—two of whom were married to women he had dated—and business and church friends and their partners. Topics went afield from Mormon history: Gordon B. Hinckley once talked to the group about Abraham Lincoln. Even when Henry was busiest, he tried to arrange his schedule so that he and Alberta could enjoy this fellowship.

“He saw potential in people and gave them the opportunity to develop,” was said of Henry Moyle by one of his children. For them he went beyond granting opportunity; the same daughter wrote: “We felt we just had to succeed because we were Moyles.” But for many young people, the gift was spontaneous and unconditional. Steven Covey, a young mission president in 1960, remembers thinking of himself as one of “a number of people who thought Henry D. Moyle was their special friend.” At the time he believed it was a small group, but he learned that there were many church and business people who felt the same. Glen Rudd recalls his first meeting with Henry Moyle vividly. After the funeral service for Apostle Matthew Cowley, at which Rudd spoke, Elder Moyle commented on the close relationship that had existed between Rudd and Cowley. He added that Rudd seemed to be a man of considerable promise, but one who needed supervision to keep out of trouble. So he was going to “adopt” Rudd now that his former mentor was gone. The relationship went far beyond the requirements of their mutual interest in the Welfare Program.

Many young men were helped through college, or missions, or given law office or business opportunities. Judge F. Henry Henriod recalls how Henry Moyle held a stenographic slot open in his office for thirty days while Henriod crammed enough shorthand to hold down the job while he started in law school. Robert Sears became a protégé after a five-minute interview. Milton Weilenmann became a close friend on the basis of a connection going back to when his grandmother had been Henry Moyle’s landlady in Zurich before World War I. Throughout his later life, Henry needed people with whom he could “talk shop” on an informal and confidential basis, and some of his young friends helped to meet this need. He showed his appreciation in many ways. James E. Faust, who became the Moyles’ bishop and stake president and who related to Henry more like a son than a friend, said: “If he loved you, he loved you through and through.”

The sixteen years as a general authority brought Henry Moyle into [p.183]close working relations with the “mortal men”—as George F. Richards had described them—who shared the responsibilities of leading the church. They represented a broad range of experience, education, age, material means, and political and social perspectives. Not surprisingly, Elder Moyle was drawn closer to some than others, and among these Sister Moyle helped define the nature and extent of social interaction. References to the Harold Lees, Spencer Kimballs, and Delbert Stapleys occur frequently in the records of the apostolic years. Elder Stapley followed Henry Moyle into the council, bringing a background of business success. Harold Lee and Spencer Kimball, like Henry Moyle, enjoyed the friendship of President J. Reuben Clark before they came into the council and the link was an element in their continuing kinship.

From the day in August 1947 when Henry and Alberta entertained the members of the Church Welfare Committee and the general authorities, church groups of varying sizes were frequently at the Highland Drive and Laurel Street homes. Alberta handled the catering and Henry took care of the entertainment. After he had begun touring the foreign missions, cameras in hand, and had been initiated into the techniques of editing and adding sound, he sometimes showed movies. Musicians occasionally performed, and small groups amused themselves with permissible card games like Rook. Sister Moyle’s most spectacular production, perhaps, was the reception for all the mission leaders and their partners, many of the general authorities, and quite a few Moyles in connection with the 1961 mission presidents’ seminar. Seventy-eight Laurel Street was bedecked and alight, the buffet was sumptuous, and the two hundred or so people apparently had little difficulty entertaining themselves.

The friendship between Henry and Alberta Moyle and Harold and Fern Lee runs like a golden thread through the 1940s and 19S0s. It began when the two men came together as stake presidents in the battle against hard times in Salt Lake County. It ripened as they worked under President Clark’s aegis to build the Church Welfare Program and then cooperated on many sensitive and important assignments in the Council of the Twelve. The two couples often visited together and Elder Lee became like a loving uncle to the Moyle children.

When Henry Moyle was ordained an apostle, Elder Lee—Henry Moyle, Jr., remembers—“came to our house, gathered the whole family together, and explained our responsibilities as members of the family of a general authority.” He noted that “living in a fishbowl” would be harder [p.184]for the mother and children than for the father. “He was very kind, very thoughtful, and considerate. And then he knelt down with us and gave one of the most beautiful prayers for the family and for Dad and his welfare as a general authority that I have ever heard.”

The two men were by no means alike. Although Lee was ten years younger, he preceded Henry Moyle into the Council of the Twelve and seemed destined to someday become president of the church. Henry deferred to that seniority and to Elder Lee’s knowledge of the scriptures and LDS doctrine. On many of their long trips together, they took turns being teacher and pupil—Harold instructing on church procedures and precepts, and Henry opening up some of the mysteries of business and finance. When circumstances permitted, Elder Moyle moved into an office that shared a reception area with Elder Lee, “which I will enjoy very much.” In his first public address after appointment to the First Presidency, Henry Moyle acknowledged that “Brother Lee has exercised a stabilizing power in my life to smooth off many of my rough spots and to guide me away from mistakes …”

As Henry prospered, he helped his friend take advantage of investment opportunities, co-signing loans that could be paid off out of earnings. There were also gifts of various kinds. In 1953 Elder Lee and Marion G. Romney, the other member of the Welfare Program trio, gave Elder Moyle a birthday present with this greeting: “As a token of our affectionate regard for one who has exemplified by the outgiving of a generous heart, the great brotherhood of Christ. …” Believing that the Lees should have housing more appropriate to their ecclesiastical position, Henry worked with his brother James to bring the price of one of James’s properties within the range of the Lees’ ability to finance. He and Alberta also offered to take Harold and Fern with them to the London temple dedication, but Elder Lee was unwilling to attend that exercise without having been appointed to participate.

The incident reflects the differences between the personalities of the two men. Elder Lee was thoughtful, introspective, conservative, and socially insecure. Elder Moyle had no qualms about moving onto any stage where he thought he had a right to be, and he did not lose the optimism of the “wildcatter” when he moved from the oil business. Lee was as cautious as J. Reuben Clark, Jr., about church expenditures, while Henry believed that revenues and reserves should be used to forward church programs. They took opposite sides on Ernest Wilkinson’s junior college [p.185]program and on the Florida ranch. Elder Lee saw the cost of the latter as far too high, while Henry Moyle, in the words of Milton Weilenmann, “expected the Church to own all of Florida some day.”

The apostolic years saw Henry Moyle draw even closer to President Clark, while forming links of friendship with President David O. McKay. The two church leaders admired Henry’s ability to get things done and they appreciated his generosity. J. Reuben Clark, Jr., was as pleased with the work that Henry did in the political arena and the Welfare Program as he was with the new Cadillac that was a surprise birthday present. President McKay liked Henry’s enthusiasm for temple building, proselyting, and church growth in general, and he was naturally touched by such demonstrations of affection as the birthday party in London. It is probably fair to say that Henry Moyle was able to influence President McKay in a number of innovative directions—first as an apostle and then as a counselor in the First Presidency—because the venerable president was already sold on Henry Moyle himself.


1. Many, like the $10,000 check for the new Relief Society Building that Henry quietly slipped to Belle Spafford during a conference of the society, were in Alberta’s name.

2. Alberta served as registrar in the new organization. [See the records of the Princess Timpanogos Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Accession 1526, Bx 2, located in the Manuscripts Division, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City.—Ed.]

3. Trophies from such excursions often came to the married children’s homes, as well.

4. Gordon continued to live with her for eighteen years after she became a widow. His death in December 1980 preceded hers by only a few days.

5. The vast collection of family films was rarely shown outside the family circle.

6. About this time Elder Moyle expressed in counsel his opposition to adding lace to women’s temple garments. Whether Alberta Moyle concurred in her husband’s judgment is not recorded; in any event, the church made the change.