on the cover:
Seldom have readers been treated to such a detailed view of LDS history from the modern period. In 1909 young Henry Moyle began a three-year mission to Europe, a time when the continent was still ruled largely by monarchs (he saw Kaiser Wilhelm II riding in state and King George V at a coronation). In Germany proselyting was illegal. Once the polizei disrupted a church service to escort Henry from the podium.
The church was different, too. For instance, missionaries had few guidelines—something Moyle himself would later rectify. As it was, he and other elders traveled extensively on sight-seeing excursions, spent prolonged periods away from their companions, and attended public dances. Henry spent the last year of his mission studying engineering at the University of Freiberg.
Historian Richard D. Poll’s treatment of this fascinating period includes a look at the Moyle family: Alberta’s resistance to being seen as a general authority’s wife, as well as her musical talent and her sometimes independent-minded opinions. When the Moyles left Salt Lake City in favor of the wide-open spaces of the surrounding suburban landscape, they were among the first to do so.
For his part, Henry found personal interests in professional boxing, opera—to which he was exposed in Germany—and other pastimes. As an apostle, he sat on the corporate boards of Consolidated Freightways, Phillips Petroleum, and other firms. He arranged church travel to coincide with business, and took family members with him to visit friends, to shop, and to attend cultural events.
“Convinced of the validity of Mormonism,” writes Poll, “President Moyle left the finer points of theology to others” and “concentrated on making the church an effective force for good in the lives of its members. Quick in sizing up situations and devising solutions,” he was, as one associate observed, “a worker, a mover, who got things that needed doing done.” In his diary, he “spelled out a blend of Protestant ethic and noblesse oblige,” and he spoke of “an enthusiasm and appreciation for the work at hand.” In reality, “his talent and drive carried him to great influence and disappointment,” writes Poll. At his funeral, Apostle Harold B. Lee contrasted Elder Moyle’s “deep-seated spirituality” to his “bulldog tenacity.” As Poll concludes, “President Moyle may sometimes have pushed too aggressively,” but he “pushed mainly in the right direction.”
Working the Divine Miracle:
The Life of Apostle Henry D. Moyle
by Richard D. Poll
Edited by Stan Larson
Signature Books, Salt Lake City
Jacket design by Ron Stucki
Working the Divine Miracle: The Life of Apostle Henry D. Moyle was printed on acid free paper and was composed, printed, and bound in the United States of America.
© 1999 University of Utah, for the text of the biography; published by arrangement with the University of Utah. © 1999 Signature Books for the front matter, editor’s footnotes, and end matter. All rights reserved. Signature Books is a registered trademark of Signature Books, Inc.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Poll, Richard Douglas
Working the divine miracle : the life of apostle Henry D. Moyle / Richard D. Poll ; edited by Stan Larson. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 1-56085-129-5 (hardcover)
1. Moyle, Henry Dinwoodey, 1889-1963. 2. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—United States—Biography.
3. Mormons—United States—Biography. I. Larson, Stan. 11. Title.
Tribute by David O. McKay [see below]
Foreword by Ned Winder [see below]
Editor’s Preface [see below]
Introduction [see below]
01 – The Pioneer Moyles
02 – Son and Brother
03 – Missionary
04 – Student, Lawyer, Soldier
05 – Alberta and Henry
06 – Parents and Children
07 – Lawyer and Lecturer
08 – Stake President
09 – Welfare Worker
10 – Oil Entrepreneur
11 – Democratic Politician
12 – Ranch Developer
13 – Missionary Apostle
14 – Man of Action
15 – Family and Friends
16 – Counselor in the First Presidency
Epilogue [see below]
Appendix: Problems of Writing Mormon Biography [see below]
Bibliographical Note [see below]
David O. McKay
Ninth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(Reprinted from “Impressive Final Rites: Thousands Honor President Moyle,” Deseret News, 21 Sept. 1963, A1-A2.)
[p.vii] Measured by the standards of true nobility, President Henry D. Moyle [counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] was truly a great man.
President Moyle [was] honorable in all his dealings with his fellowmen; true to every trust imposed in him by his loved ones, by his Church, and by his state. He courageously defended what he thought was right.
Among the basic virtues that stand out in President Moyle’s life [are] first, his unwavering faith in the Gospel; second, his courageous defense of truth; third, his cheerfulness, even in the face of frowns or rebuke; fourth, his responsiveness and loyalty to duty; and, fifth, his reverence for God and all things sacred.
President Moyle [was] an indomitable worker, and one who saw work beyond that assigned him, and labored with equal zeal in the completion of the extra labor as he did to his assigned task.
No trip was too long, no assignment too unexpected, no responsibility so great but he would fill the assignment without question and perform his duty to his utmost ability.
He accepted the Church as having been divinely established, that men have been authorized in this day to represent the Lord through the channels of the Priesthood. He accepted as a fundamental principle of the Gospel the immortality of man. The Resurrected Christ and His
Gospel served as anchors to his soul.
by Ned Winder
[p.ix]My mother was a descendant of George Q. Cannon, nineteenth-century Mormon church apostle and counselor in the First Presidency. The Cannons and Henry D. Moyle’s family were next-door neighbors, so our families were friends all of my life. In 1963 I was called to be the president of the church’s Florida-Caribbean mission. In August 1963 my wife, Gwen, and our seven children moved to the mission home in Winter Park, Florida, adjacent to Orlando, some forty miles from the church’s huge ranch in Deer Park. At the ranch there were two nice homes and also a new chapel housing the Deer Park Ward, which was in the Orlando Florida Stake. Farrell A. Munns was the stake president.
As may be already known, President Moyle first bought the ranch and then the church purchased it from him. President Moyle loved to visit there when he could get away from his busy schedule. He called me one day in early September and said he was coming down and looked forward to seeing us. He said he would like to have a meeting with the Saints and neighbors and asked President Munns to arrange for such a meeting.
That night the chapel was jammed to overflowing with people from all over Florida-from Pensacola to Key West. President Moyle, President Munns, the bishop, and I (and all with our wives) sat on the stand.
After the usual prayer and congregational singing, President Munns and I each gave short talks. As President Moyle began his talk, I was once again impressed with his bearing and power of speech. However, after about ten minutes he toned down and interrupted his speaking with long pauses. I know at least one pause was a minute long! At this time Sister Moyle, sitting next to my wife, whispered, “I worry about Henry’s health; [p.x]he’s had a bad case of angina.” Meanwhile President Munns whispered to me, “Be ready to catch him; I think he’s going to faint.” He then seemed to regain his composure and a minute or so later finished his talk in a normal way.
The next morning at about 3 o’clock, the phone by my bed rang and President Munns told me that President Moyle had just died in his bed. Together we went out to the ranch and began to make all the needed arrangements, calling President David O. McKay, the mortuary, etc. The mortuary in nearby St. Cloud said they could prepare him at once for transporting to Salt Lake City the next morning.
One of the most inspirational things of this whole sad event was at the mortuary, which was owned by two fine Jewish men. At the viewing that evening they were “in shock” at the number of people who were there on such short notice. The place was packed, with several hundred people. I walked out in the parking lot and saw car licenses from not only Florida, but Georgia, Alabama, and even South Carolina. President Munns had called the other four stake presidents in Florida and also some out-of-state stake presidents. Our mission then had five districts and I called all of our presidents to have them pass on the news. After this experience, with the word quickly going out to presidents, bishops, branch presidents, home teachers, and members, I felt that the church has a pretty good network after all!
Robert Sears, corporate treasurer of Phillips Petroleum, called and said they would send one of their planes to fly the body to Salt Lake City. However, we found beforehand that there was not enough room, so we had to fly him commercial from Orlando. An interesting sidelight is that when President Moyle’s plane went via Chicago, it picked up President Moyle’s son Hank, who was mission president in Geneva, Switzerland, and was headed home to be with his family. Hank did not know his dad was on the same plane as he was, and Hank’s family did not know Hank was returning and was shocked at the airport when they saw him get off his dad’s plane.
President Henry D. Moyle was a remarkable church leader.
[p.xi]Richard Douglas Poll was born 23 April 1918 in Salt Lake City, Utah, the oldest child of Carl William Poll and Annie Rosella Romney Swenson. His family moved to Fort Worth, Texas, when he was ten years old. At age thirteen Poll published his first article, “The Peacemakers,” in the Liahona, a monthly periodical of the LDS church’s Central States mission. He graduated from W. C. Stripling High School in 1934. His experience in high school debate developed in him an ability to examine both sides of an issue. During the 1930s a number of LDS general authorities stayed at his parents’ home—including apostles Melvin J. Ballard, Charles Callis, George Albert Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Stephen L. Richards—and he discovered that they were “impressive, even likable, human beings, more like somebody’s grandfather than our Heavenly Father’s spokesmen.”1
Still living at home in Fort Worth, Poll attended Texas Christian University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in history in 1938 and a master’s degree the following year. The instructions he received at school prompted him to examine carefully and then reject creationism, scriptural literalism, and prophetic infallibility. Poll reminisced that one of his professors taught him that “the purpose of religion is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”2
Poll was called as an LDS missionary to the West German mission in [p.xii] 1939. When the missionaries were recalled from Germany following the onset of war, he finished his mission in Canada. Poll then served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force from 1942 to 1945. In 1943 Poll met Emogene Hill after he had given a Sunday school lesson at their local LOS branch. He proposed to her on their first date; she responded the next day. Seven weeks later they were married in the Salt Lake temple.
After World War II, Poll worked on his Ph.D. in history at the University of California at Berkeley, graduating in 1948. He became a professor of history at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, that same year and department chair seven years later. In the 1950s he was a member of the Mormon Seminar, also known as the “Swearing Elders,” an informal group that met regularly to discuss sometimes controversial topics in Mormonism.3 In 1962 he was made associate director of the BYU Honors Program.
In 1970 Poll left BYU to become vice president for administration at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. While there he began work on a biography of Hugh B. Brown. On this project he worked with Eugene E. Campbell; their work was published in 1975 as Hugh B. Brown: His Life and Thought.4
In 1978 the popular volume Utah’s History was published with Poll as general editor and Thomas G. Alexander, Eugene E. Campbell, and David E. Miller as associate editors.5 Poll also wrote the final chapter, “An American Commonwealth,” and coauthored the chapter “The Forty-fifth State” with Gustive O. Larson.
During the late 1970s Poll researched the life of Mormon banker and financier Howard J. Stoddard. This biography was published by a university press in 1980.6
Poll stepped down from his position at Western Illinois University in [xiii] 1975 but continued teaching history until his retirement in 1983. He and his wife returned to Provo, Utah, where for the next decade he taught occasional classes at BYU.
From 1980 to 1982 Poll, with financial support from Leonard J, Arrington’s Mormon History Trust Fund, gathered research, interviewed people, and wrote a biography of LDS apostle and member of the First Presidency, Henry D. Moyle. Because of his earlier work on Hugh B. Brown, Poll already had a good background for the period when Brown was a fellow general authority with Moyle (1958-63). Poll’s completed manuscript was submitted to the Moyle family for their reaction, but some members felt the work was not sufficiently “faith-promoting.” Though extremely disappointed, Poll decided not to pursue publication at the time.7
Thus during his career Poll wrote biographies of three Mormons. As he had done with Brown and Stoddard, he tried to recount Moyle’s life accurately and with balance, while being sympathetic but not apologetic. He wanted his depiction to be positive and uplifting, but also be a “warts and all” story without shirking from those elements that demonstrated Moyle’s humanness.
In 1967 at the Palo Alto, California, Ward of the LDS church, Poll delivered a sermon on “What the Church Means to People Like Me,” in which he used the symbols “Iron Rod” and “Liahona” to differentiate two types of Mormons, as he saw them. The metaphor contrasts an “Iron Rod” (1 Ne. 8:19) approach which leads one step-by-step on the journey of life with a “Liahona” (Alma 37:38) approach which merely points one [xiv] in the right direction. This contribution of Poll to Mormon culture is one of the best known.8 The topic proved to be popular and the essay appeared first in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, then separately as an offprint pamphlet, and eventually reprinted in the RLDS Saints’ Herald, 9Sunstone,10A Thoughtful Faith,11Personal Voices,12and in Poll’s own History and Faith.13 At the April general conference of the LDS church in 1971 Harold B. Lee, first counselor in the First Presidency, replied to Poll’s metaphors, saying:
If there is any one thing most needed in this time of tumult and frustration, … it is an “iron rod” as a safe guide along the straight path on the way to eternal life,… There are many who profess to be religious and speak of themselves as Christians, and, according to one such, “as accepting the scriptures only as sources of inspiration and moral truth,” and then ask in their smugness: “Do the revelations of God give us a handrail to the kingdom of God, as the Lord’s messenger told Lehi, or merely a compass?” … Wouldn’t it be a great thing if all who are well schooled in secular learning could hold fast to the “iron rod,” or the word of God, … ?14
In September 1982 Poll surveyed what had happened since 1967 in “Liahona and Iron Rod Revisited,” given at the annual meeting of the John Whitmer Historical Association and later published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.15 Poll and his wife both passed away in 1994.
With six books, seven pamphlets, twenty-nine articles, and thirty-eight book reviews,16 Richard O. Poll made a significant impact on Mor[xv]mon history—and with the publication of his biography of Henry D. Moyle, his final contribution now becomes available.
The Art of Writing Mormon History
Often Poll compared various aspects of his three Mormon biographies. For example, at the Family History Festival sponsored by the LDS Genealogical Society in June 1984 he spoke on the topic of “How to Deal with Sensitive Issues When Researching and Writing Family History.” Poll listed a number of characteristics of Henry D. Moyle: “dynamic, sharp, strong testimony, generous, drive, … temper,” then explained that there were “fewer accomplishment[s] without drive; not so high price without temper. Wonderful lessons in this life, warts and all.” Poll concluded his presentation by saying: “We can learn from their human foibles, faults, and failures as well as strivings, strengths, and successes. Let our family histories, then, be sympathetic but unapologetic tellings of the truth and nothing but the truth. Let us treat the sensitive issues with sensitivity but not with silence, so that our records will ring true to those who know our subjects best, including the Father who will one day judge all our lives from His records.”17Five years later Poll explained in his book of essays, History and Faith: Reflections of a Mormon Historian, that his policy on handling sensitive information was to “tell the truth and nothing but the truth but not necessarily the whole truth.”18
In February 1991 Poll delivered a lecture entitled “On Writing Biography” at Dixie College in St. George, Utah. He said that Brown, Stoddard, and Moyle were “great men, [of] good character, who left [the] world better. My admiration and respect grew [in studying their lives], but they were human.”19 Finally, the next year at the August 1992 Sunstone Symposium he participated in a panel discussion on the “Problems of Writing Mormon Biography.” At the time he said:
Bad judgment is a forgivable offense, and its acknowledgment in a biography may even make the reader more sympathetic. … Henry Moyle’s overexrending the Church budget was a mistake, and it cost [xvi] him. … Henry Moyle, like Brigham Young, loved power. He had uncommon ability, and he had a charitable side that was not widely known. But he was impatient and sometimes ruthless in pursuing his goals, and these traits eventually isolated him from his peers, cost him most of his power, and hastened his death from heart disease at the Florida ranch that still commemorates his tremendous impact upon the church he loved. Great man he was, but “beloved church leader” he was not …20
The Present Editing of the Moyle Biography
Poll’s biography of Henry Dinwoodey Moyle (1889-1963) is not a simple listing of chronological events. Moyle was too diversified in his experiences for that kind of treatment. Instead, Poll divided the book into sixteen broad subject chapters that focused on different aspects of Moyle’s life. The titles of the chapters show this approach: The Pioneer Moyles; Son and Brother; Missionary; Student, Lawyer, Soldier; Alberta and Henry; Parents and Children; Lawyer and Lecturer; Stake President; Welfare Worker; Oil Entrepreneur; Democratic Politician; Ranch Developer; Missionary Apostle; Man of Action; Family and Friends; and Counselor in the First Presidency.21
Poll decided to write a fluent narrative, devoid of extensive documentation. However, he included a short bibliographical essay at the end in which he discussed the manuscript, printed, and oral history sources he used. Poll’s study is the only full-length biography of Moyle and the entire text of the 271-page manuscript follows. Poll also wrote the Introduction and Epilogue. His original research notes, oral history interviews, and chapter drafts are housed in the Richard D. Poll Collection, Manuscript 674, Manuscripts Division, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, where they are available to researchers without restriction.
Poll periodically interspersed his text with parenthetical comments, which I have placed as footnotes. The text itself represents the final version written by Poll, with some minor copy-editing and added footnotes [xvii] allowing readers an opportunity to glimpse Poll’s earlier wording. The few bibliographic references in notes have been silently updated, but if the note is new it is followed with “—Ed.” in order to indicate that this material has been added by the present editor.
The manuscript, which bears a date of 1983, was not yet ready for the printer. In fact there were several places where errors indicated that Poll had dictated parts to someone else and no final proofreading had been done. Accordingly, I have silently corrected misspelled words, typographical errors, and grammatical inconsistencies. The ellipses are Poll’s, showing where he left out words in quotations.
An appendix has been added, which reprints Poll’s lecture on “Problems ofWriting Mormon Biography” given at the Sunstone Symposium in 1992.
[p.xvii]In preparing Poll’s biography of Moyle for publication, I must first express appreciation to Poll’s three daughters—Nanette Poll Allen, Marilyn Poll Bell, and Jennifer Poll Crawford—for their support of this important project. Jeanette Larson carefully typed Poll’s manuscript into the computer. Appreciation is extended to Gregory C. Thompson, Assistant Director for Special Collections at the University of Utah Marriott Library, for permission to print Poll’s biography of Moyle. Lastly, Ned Winder’s foreword provides a first-hand insight into the end of Moyle’s life.
1. “Richard D. Poll: His Story,” manuscript, chap. 4, p. 5, located in the Richard D. Poll Collection, Manuscript 674, Box 9, Fd 14, Manuscripts Division, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City; hereafter referred to as the Poll Collection.
7. Poll’s three daughters donated his personal papers to the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah in 1995. At first the collection also contained the completed manuscript of Poll’s biography of Henry D. Moyle. However, one of Moyle’s sons asked that the manuscript be given to him. Since the library cannot deaccession a manuscript and give it to someone who was not the donor, and since the collection was given on the condition that it not be restricted, the manuscript was returned to one of Poll’s daughters. Moyle’s son was given the names and addresses of all three daughters but never contacted them. In 1997 the three daughters decided not only to return the manuscript to their father’s collection in the Marriott Library but also to give without restriction copies of the manuscript to seven other libraries: LDS church archives, the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University, the library at the Utah State Historical Society, the Merrill Library at Utah State University, the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, the Beincke at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and the library at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey.
[p.xix]Two of the more strong-willed builders of pioneer Utah came head to head one day on the grounds of the uncompleted Salt Lake temple. President Brigham Young had come, as he often did, to inspect the project. James Moyle was going about his duties as superintendent of construction on the slowly rising walls. According to one version of the encounter, the Mormon leader—a one-time carpenter and glazier—said, “Brother Moyle, you’re not doing this quite right. You’re going to have to change your method.” The experienced stone mason calmly replied, “No, no, Brother Brigham, we’re going to have to continue doing it just this way. I know what I’m doing.” The man who was sometimes described as the Lion of the Lord said, “You think a lot of yourself, don’t you?” And James Moyle replied, “Well, I’ve never met a man I’d rather be.”
Henry Dinwoodey Moyle—engineer, lawyer, teacher, businessman, politician, churchman, apostle, and member of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-was the grandson of James Moyle. Had he stood in his grandfather’s shoes that day on Temple Square, it is altogether likely that he would have answered just the same.
Self-confidence and enthusiasm for work were the hallmarks of Henry Moyle. Heredity and experience produced the first and success validated the second of these attributes. There were, of course, other strengths. He was generous, sometimes in surprising ways. He was forward-looking and he did not think small. He was clear and incisive in counsel. He was prayerful and responsive to what he perceived as personal inspiration. He felt deep affection for his family and friends. He relished living in spite of prolonged health problems. And he had a strong and uncomplicated [xx]testimony of the truth and importance of the message of the church in which he served. A few months after he became a member of the Council of the Twelve, he wrote to a non-Mormon friend: “So far as I can remember, there has never been a day of my life when I would not have preferred to give up my life and all that I have rather than lose my membership in the Church or have any cloud cast upon my standing in the Church.”
There were also weaknesses. The impatience and stubbornness that marked his drive to achieve carried him at last beyond the heights to heartbreak. His dearest friend among the leaders of his church, President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., once said to a colleague among the LDS general authorities: “I wish Henry were not always so sure he is right.”
Monuments to Henry Moyle’s quest for success in the secular world include an oil company, a livestock company, a law firm, and a circle of friends prominent in government and business. Evidence of his religious commitment may be found in the chapels, welfare storehouses, and administrative structures that serve the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in the missionary program that is carrying Mormonism around the world.
No one better summed up the stature and the story of Henry D. Moyle than the longtime associate who paid this tribute at the time of his death: “He never put his hand to any task but what it moved.”
[p.220]That recent events had not undermined President Moyle’s confidence in human capabilities is demonstrated by the theme that he was planning to develop at the coming October conference. The same unfinished tape on which he recorded the events of that last trip to Texas and Florida contains this hopeful challenge:
One thing we must all do, we must cherish and honor the word “free” or it will cease to apply to us, and that would be an intolerable situation. This I know, this I believe with all my heart: If we want a free and peaceful world, if we want to make the deserts bloom and man grow to greater dignity as a human being, we can do it.
Hundreds of people who had been affected by Henry D. Moyle’s efforts to meet this challenge came to pay their respects as his body lay in state in a Florida funeral home and then in the Federal Heights Ward in Salt Lake City. Those who could not visit with Sister Moyle and her children sent messages that spoke of shared experiences, plans fulfilled, battles won and lost, unheralded gifts, projects still in blueprint, and dreams waiting to become plans. They triggered memories.
A “Who’s Who” of business leaders recalled that Henry Moyle had not only shaped Wasatch Oil and Deseret Live Stock but vigorously represented the petroleum and livestock industries in governmental and public forums. Men who had tested his mettle at the bar noted that he had built a modest fortune and a prestigious firm before he turned from the law to other pursuits.
The University of Utah Board of Regents recalled Henry’s quarter century of faculty service along with other contributions to education. One of his former students sent this revealing tribute:
[p.222]President Moyle was a specific milestone in my life. In 1924 he was my law school instructor and during that process of instruction we had several very decided conflicts, the upshot of which made me more determined than ever, by reason of his challenge to perfection, to continue on in my law training. He was advised at that time that someday I would meet him on higher ground. Years later we worked closely together in the great Welfare Program, where I learned to appreciate his sterling qualities, his deep devotion to truth, and his absolute personal adherence to the great principles of charity. …
The revitalization of downtown Salt Lake City was only in the initial stages when the city and county commissions acknowledged President Moyle’s efforts in this cause. Others would carry forward the enterprise, as they would erect a skyscraper home for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where there was only an excavation in September 1963.
Many people who knew Henry Moyle only through the church sent their condolences to President McKay, who graciously shared them with the Moyle family. Some wrote tributes for delivery later, recalling episodes in the building of the Welfare Program and the Deseret Farms, the reforming of accounting, investment, personnel, and genealogy operations, the launching of the building missionary and overseas building programs, and the energizing of the missionary work. The president’s message in the Northeast British Mission Challenger said of Henry D. Moyle:
He loved young people and they knowing this loved him in return. He was patient and loving and compassionate with them in their weaknesses and mistakes. He always seemed to make them feel that because of their divine origin that they could accomplish anything they set their minds on. Many are these who in the coming years will call his name blessed for the encouraging motivation toward the perfect life which he has given them.
Impressive funeral services were held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on 21 September. President McKay conducted the meeting and the Tabernacle Choir, in which Henry Moyle had taken a lively interest, sang some of his favorite selections. President McKay described the “basic virtues” of his former counselor as “unwavering faith in the gospel, courageous defense of truth, cheerfulness even in the face of frowns or rebukes, respon-[p.223]siveness and loyalty to duty, and reverence for God and all things sacred.” “Measured by the standards of true nobility, President Henry D. Moyle was truly a great man,” he testified with visible emotion.
Gordon B. Hinckley spoke of the range of President Moyle’s interests but focused on the missionary efforts that the two men had shared. “He worked as one whose eye had seen the coming of the Lord,” Elder Hinckley declared. During the forty-two months of his leadership of the Missionary Committee, the number of missions had increased from forty-seven to seventy-one, the missionary force had doubled, and a quarter of a million converts had accepted baptism. He “warmed hearts and quickened faith” in scores in European cities; Saints in Switzerland and Germany “listened with tears as he spoke in their tongue.”
Harold B. Lee and Hugh B. Brown spoke of the loss of a “great friend” and “comrade.” President Brown emphasized President Moyle’s love of life, love of family, and faith in the resurrection. Elder Lee recalled his generosity, “deep-seated spirituality,” and “bulldog tenacity,” “If I were on trial for my life, I could wish for no more able defender,” Lee declared, adding with perhaps more candor than sensitivity: “There was no middle ground with Henry D. Moyle; you either loved him or hated him [but] you never had to guess where he stood.”1 His death recalled the poet’s image of a giant cedar falling, leaving “a lonesome place against the sky.”
No memorial statement was more apropos than a paragraph that Elder Lee recalled from an article he had written for the Relief Society Magazine at the time his friend Henry D. Moyle was called to the First Presidency:
As this man of God now becomes better known to the church as one of the three presiding High Priests forming the quorum of the First Presidency, the membership of the church will come to feel the great driving power of his soul, which was put in his own words on one occasion … as he stood on a half-finished project he was promoting against great difficulties, “Well, at least they can never say of Henry Moyle that he never tried.” That statement could well be the epitaph of his life. …
One knowledgeable observer has expressed the view that Henry D. [p.224] Moyle had more impact upon the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the current century than any other man who did not hold the office of president. Certainly he belongs to that small group of counselors in the First Presidency who have been responsible for important change. What has transpired in the church in the years since his death suggests that President Moyle may sometimes have pushed too aggressively, but he pushed mainly in the right direction.
Perhaps the frustrations and disappointments that punctuated his remarkably successful career brought him at the last to a greater respect for the virtue of patience. If he had lived, he intended to conclude his next general conference address with these words from theologian Reinholt Niebuhr: “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in a lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love.”
1. Belle Spafford told Dick Poll in an interview that she was disappointed at Moyle’s funeral, explaining: “One or two things said that detracted from his greatness. One speaker said, ‘He wasn’t always liked.’ True, but not necessary at funeral” (Belle Spafford Interview, 13 Jan. 1981, in Poll Collection, Box 65, Fd 1).—Ed.
Problems of Writing Mormon Biography1
[p.225]Over all who undertake to write biography hangs the ancient admonition: De mortuis nil nisi bonum, “of the dead say nothing but good.” The charge bears most heavily on whomever aspires to write “faithful history” about a man, a woman, or a community of faith. The result, as Edwin Gaustad noted in a Tanner Lecture to the Mormon History Association, is that religiously inspired history tends to be “a sanctification of our past and a canonization of our progenitors.” In such narratives, only noble thoughts, good deeds, and heroic suffering are deemed worth mentioning, even though the leading men and women of Holy Writ were not given such sheltered treatment.
I have written three book-length biographies, all under contract to the families of the subjects. All have been paid for but only two have been published. A collaboration with Eugene Campbell, Hugh B. Brown: His Life and Thought, was published by Bookcraft in 1975. The story of an innovative Mormon financier, Howard J. Stoddard: Founder, Michigan National Bank, came from Michigan State University Press in 1980. A manuscript with the suggested title, “Henry D. Moyle: Man of Action,” was finished [p.226]ten years ago but may wait even longer for a publisher than Merlo Pusey’s work on George Albert Smith. 2
The key questions confronting any honest biographer (or autobiographer) are these:
1. What did he (or she) do?
2. Why did he do it? (This is the key to understanding who he really was.)
3. What shall I write?
The first question related to sources of information.
If he is available, the subject himself is an invaluable, though not objective, source. Alas, in my case, both Stoddard and Moyle were dead and Brown was too infirm for systematic interviews. Happily, President Brown had been extensively interviewed ten years before by his grandson, Edwin B. Firmage, and these transcripts proved invaluable.3
Close associates of the subject can tell a lot if they are willing to be interviewed, and I have had the pleasure of talking with scores of men and women, including N. Eldon Tanner, J. Bracken Lee, Belle Spafford, Herbert Maw, Jennie Stoddard, George Romney, Marriner Eccles, and Marion G. Romney. One soon discovers that these sources are like the blind men of Hindoostan who came to see an elephant, limited in both knowledge and perspective. However, as wives, children, business colleagues, political allies and opponents, and church associates share their images of the subject, those images begin to converge, and the biographer begins to feel that he, too, knows the subject. Elder Gordon B. Hinckley told many useful anecdotes about the apostle who was his close friend and mentor, but my most vivid memory is of his several times parrying questions with statements like, “You’re not going to get me to say anything bad about Henry Moyle.”
Documents, of course, are the primary stuff from which biographies, like other forms of history, are made. Those produced by the subject are especially valuable, not only for what they say but how they say it and what they leave unsaid. Those produced at the time of the events in-[p.227]volved are usually more dependable than retrospective accounts, and those in which the subject writes from the heart are best of all. Forthright family letters are such special sources that they may be sheltered from the biographer, as was unfortunately the case with all three of my subjects. The sermons and church writings of Brown and Moyle were helpful, as was some business correspondence of Moyle and Stoddard; a missionary journal and the daybook of a World War I aide helped Gene Campbell and me to evaluate some of President Brown’s most famous stories.
Personal bias, inaccurate reporting, and even forgery can affect the reliability of documents. Still, we have a responsibility to document our own lives and preserve documents that illuminate the lives of others. Without documents, only the present lives.
The “why” question—the “What makes Sammy run?” question—is the biographer’s greatest challenge. Motivation remains elusive, even with the tools and insights of psychohistory, as the mixed reviews of Fawn Brodie’s Jefferson and Nixon demonstrated. After fifty years of studying the Utah War, I am still trying to understand, in the absence of “smoking gun” documents, why [U.S. president James] Buchanan decided to send so many soldiers to Utah and why Brigham Young decided to respond as he did.
All three of my subjects were great men, of good character, who left the world better for their efforts. My admiration and respect grew as I came to know them better. This was particularly true with Henry Moyle, of whom I had earlier formed an unfavorable image, and Howard Stoddard, of whom I had no prior knowledge. Such was the image of Hugh B. Brown that I brought to the biographical assignment that it should surprise no one that my affectionate regard only became more three-dimensional as I discovered that he, too, was human. For instance, he wanted to be rich, and he even used one of his great faith-promoting stories to suggest that he almost made it.
The human dimensions of great men and women manifest themselves in quirks, mistakes, and sins. Quirks present no problems for the Mormon biographer; indeed, even the hagiographer welcomes the hobbies and eccentricities that can pep up an otherwise austere and otherworldly account. I grew up on Heber J. Grant’s baseballs banging against the barn, and I entered the mission field as a proud recipient of his autograph on a card affirming: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not [p.228]because the nature of the thing has changed, but because our power to do has increased.” I enjoyed the quirky details in Ed[ward L. Kimball]’s biography of his father4 and Leonard [Arrington]’s several portraits of our nineteenth-century heroes,5 and I have no doubt that Harriet [Arrington]’s story of Alice Merrill Horne will be salt-and-peppered with engaging derails.
Mistakes, too, need not trouble the Mormon biographer unless he is infected with the “De mortuis nil nisi bonum” virus. The error that is human may be an unwise business decision, a poor choice of companions, a political error, even a missed opportunity. Trivial mistakes, with little or no bearing on the main lines of the story, may in my opinion be omitted for persuasive reasons, but mistakes with significant consequences should not and need not be. Bad judgment is a forgivable offense, and its acknowledgment in a biography may even make the reader more sympathetic. Hugh Brown’s acceptance of the Utah State Liquor Commission chairmanship was a mistake, and it cost him. Howard Stoddard’s effort to influence the Michigan state legislature was a mistake, and it cost him. Henry Moyle’s overextending the church budget was a mistake, and it cost him. The significance of their lives is not diminished, in my view, by the fact that these errors are noted in their biographies. President Benson’s involvement with the John Birch Society was also a mistake, and I find it regrettable that this aspect of his life is not discussed in the authorized biography.6
The sins present the big problems for the Mormon biographer. Not the private transgressions that escaped public notice, which I would have no difficulty omitting if I encountered clues that they may have occurred. Or even the transgressions that came to light and reaped their harvest, which I would note briefly, without judgmental comment. The sins that [p.229]challenge the biographer are not deeds but traits of character. They raise the central question of responsibility. Did King Lear die because of circumstances outside himself, even beyond his control, or because of his nature and his choices.
All three of my subjects had what Aristotle described as a “tragic flaw”—a trait that shaped their lives and finally frustrated their hopes. President Brown, like his friend David O. McKay, was a proud man. He loved, and he effectively held, the limelight. The embellishment of his stories was one consequence. Much more tragic was the effect on his relations with McKay and less charismatic colleagues during the years of his de facto leadership of the church, and his isolation from power after McKay’s death.
Howard Stoddard, like his cousin Marriner Eccles, loved to own and manage money. His preoccupation with building banks brought him companions with marginal business ethics and a scandal that I might never have heard about if I had not sat next to a venerable journalist at a Rotary Club meeting. Devoted but only marginally active in the church, he gave large sums to every Michigan chapel building project until his death in 1971. There is evidence that he treated some of these contributions as tithing, which may be viewed as a quirk, a mistake, or a sin; I chose not to write about it. I had difficulty with the scandal and with the down side of Stoddard’s preoccupation—neglecting some of the intangible enrichments of life and turning the banks over to a son who fell short of his father’s hopes.
Henry Moyle, like Brigham Young, loved power. He had uncommon ability, and he had a charitable side that was not widely known. But he was impatient and sometimes ruthless in pursuing his goals, and these traits eventually isolated him from his peers, cost him most of his power, and hastened his death from heart disease at the Florida ranch that still commemorates his tremendous impact upon the church he loved. Great man he was, but “beloved church leader” he was not, and I was unable to inject enough of that flavor into my story to satisfy those who, having paid the piper, have the right to call the tune or call off the concert.
Which brings up the third question: “What shall I write?” Those who sponsored my three biographies all assented to this formula: “The truth, nothing but the truth, but not necessarily the whole truth.” They accepted this guiding principle: great accomplishments and good deeds are not proof of infallible wisdom or moral purity. They agreed that the story [p.230]should avoid the extremes of muckraking and idealization. But in the end they were understandably unwilling to leave the judgment to an outsider. It is no great loss that the published volumes lack certain humanizing details and that Howard Stoddard’s is not subtitled “Maverick Banker,” but it is a significant loss to our understanding of recent LDS and western history that the story of “Henry D. Moyle: Man of Action” remains untold.
Before concluding, let me offer this admonition. It will be a significant loss to your family and a wider circle of devotees of history if you do not preserve your own story and tell it in terms that seek to satisfy the proposition: “This is a fair representation of the life of the author.”
The challenge to the Mormon writer of Mormon biography is to go beyond obituary without succumbing to hagiography. When Gene Campbell and I called on Hugh B. Brown to report that our biography about him was in press, the bed-ridden apostle said, “We can call it my obituary.” I protested that the book was more substantial and significant than that. He smiled and replied, “Maybe we should call it ‘Son of Obituary.’”7
1. Richard D. Poll gave this presentation at a panel discussion held at the Sunstone Symposium in Salt Lake City on 8 August 1992. The other panelists were Martha S. Bradley (moderator), Edward L. Kimball, Harriet H. Arrington, and Leonard J. Arrington. The typescript is located in the Poll Collection, Box 74, Fd 11. His biography of Henry D. Moyle had not been published, and because of pressures from the Moyle family at the time, the outlook regarding publication was dim.—Ed.
3. The interview typescripts are now located in the Edwin Brown Firmage Collection, Accession 1074, Box 3, Manuscripts Division, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. They were published as An Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown, edited by Edwin B. Firmage (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988).—Ed.
5. Some of Leonard J. Arrington’s biographies are: William Spry: Man of Firmness, Governor of Utah (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society and University of Utah Press, 1971) (co-authored with William L. Roper); Charles C. Rich: Mormon General and Western Frontiersman (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1974); David Eccles: Pioneer Western Industrialist (Logan: Utah State University, 1975); From Quaker to Latter-day Saint: Bishop Edwin D. Woolley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976); and Brigham Young: American Moses (NewYork: Knopf, 1985).—Ed.
[p.231]This volume is based primarily on the papers of Henry D. Moyle and interviews with people who knew him. The Henry D. Moyle Collection, Church Archives, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, consists of 105 boxes of papers encompassing most aspects of the professional, business, political, and ecclesiastical life of President Moyle, together with material on his personal and family life and the lives of his progenitors. Diaries and journals are intermittent except for the years when he was an LDS general authority, 1947-63.
The papers have been microfilmed on sixty-eight reels and a fifty-eight-page register was completed by Ronald O. Barney in July 1979. The collection is closed to research until 1988 except by permission of the church archivist. 1
The following family members, friends, business, church, and community associates were interviewed on one or more occasions between 1980 and 1982. Most of the interviews were audiotaped.
Frank Armstrong William Bates
A. Kyle Bettilyon Stanford W. Bird
Bernard P. Brockbank Edwin Q. Cannon, Jr.
Millicent Dewsnup Cornwall Stephen L. Covey
Sara Moyle Creer J. Howard Dunn
William E Edwards Alfred C. Emery
James E. Faust Edwin B. Firmage
George B. Fudge L. Brent Goats
David B. Haight Marion D. Hanks
F. Henri Henriod Gordon B. Hinckley
David M. Kennedy J. Bracken Lee
Arch L. Madsen Virginia Moyle Marsh
Herber B. Maw David Lawrence McKay
Sterling M. McMurrin Henry D. Moyle, Jr.
James D. Moyle Richard W. Moyle
Janet Moyle Nielsen Dallin Oaks
Wayne Owens Johanna Ruf Peterson
Ronald E. Poelman A. Hamer Reiser
Marion G. Romney Glen L. Rudd
Robert N. Sears Belle S. Spafford
N. Eldon Tanner Samuel D. Thurman
Marie Moyle Wangeman Milton L. Weilenmann
Evan P. Wright Alice Moyle Yeates
[p.232]Transcripts of interviews conducted between 1972 and 1981 under the Oral History Program and the James H. Moyle Oral History Program by Church Archives personnel were also consulted. The following provided helpful material: George Z. Aposhian, S. Clair Bankhead, J. Alan Blodgett, J. Neil Bradley; Julian S. Cannon, James A. Cullimore, J. Howard Dunn, Franklin J. Murdock, Erik Albert Rosenvall, Albert V. Stirling, and Charles Ursenbach.
The James Henry Moyle Collection, also in the Church Archives, contains material on President Moyle’s family; the many enterprises in which father and son shared interests, and the close personal relationship which continued until James H. Moyle’s death in 1946. The twenty-two boxes have been microfilmed on twenty-three reels and a nineteen-page-register was completed by Brent G. Thompson in 1975. These papers are not restricted. In preparation of the books on James H. Moyle that are cited below, Gene A. Sessions interviewed Evelyn Moyle Nelson, James D. Moyle, and Sara Moyle Creer in 1974 about their brother, Henry; as well as their father. Transcripts in the Church Archives were consulted, and Sessions himself was interviewed in 1980. Manuscripts on President Moyle in the Harold B. Lee Library; Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, were consulted, as were the student and faculty records of Henry D. Moyle and the papers of the Deseret Live Stock Company in the Marriott Library; University of Utah, Salt Lake City.
[p.233]Henry D. Moyle, Jr., permitted use of his photocopied set of the four volumes, in six parts, of his father’s public addresses, almost all of which were to church audiences between 1947 and 1963; also his set of photocopies of blessings received by his father and the journal of the 1956 tour of South America and Central America. The originals are in the Church Archives.2
Published and unpublished works that provided useful background and some direct information about Henry D. Moyle, his family, and his activities are:
Allen, James B., and Glen M. Leonard. The Story of the Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976.
Blumell, Bruce D. “‘Remember the Poor’: A History of Welfare in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830-1980.” Manuscript, Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 1981.
Campbell, Eugene E., and Richard D. Poll. Hugh B. Brown: His Life and Thought. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1975.
Durham, G. Homer. N. Eldon Tanner: His Life and Service. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982.
Hinckley, Gordon B. James Henry Moyle: The Story of a Distinguished American and an Honored Churchman. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1951.
Jenson, Andrew, comp. “Cottonwood Stake, Utah.” Manuscript, Archives, Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.
Kimball, Edward L., and Andrew E. Kimball, Jr. Spencer W. Kimball: Twelfth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1977.
Lythgoe, Dennis L. Let ’em Holler: A Political Biography of J. Bracken Lee. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1982.
Moyle, James D. Remembrances. Ogden, UT: Weber State College Press, 1982.
Nelson, Evelyn Moyle. The Generations of James Moyle. Salt Lake City: James Moyle Genealogical and Historical Association, 1976.
Sessions, Gene A., ed. Mormon Democrat: The Religious and Political Memoirs of James Henry Moyle. Salt Lake City: Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1975.
________. ed. A View of James Henry Moyle: His Diaries and Letters. Salt Lake City, 1974.
1. Poll wrote this in 1983; the Moyle papers were scheduled to be opened to researchers five years later. However, the Henry D. Moyle Collection at LDS archives is still restricted and unavailable to researchers.—Ed.
2. Typed notes and/or photocopies of most of the manuscript materials Poll consulted, as well as the original audio recordings and/or typed notes of the interviews he conducted, are located more accessibly in boxes 62 though 69 of his papers at the Marriott Library.—Ed.