A successful New York lawyer's response when called as an Apostle

by | Sep. 08, 2021

Editor’s note: The following excerpt comes from a book about special witnesses of Jesus Christ. You can read this chapter in its entirety at truthwillprevail.xyz as well as other chapters as they are posted. This excerpt is republished here with permission. 

Brother Henry D. Moyle, then the chairman of the General Welfare Committee, had been in Salt Lake City before conference, but was given permission by President George Albert Smith to travel to New York City (to begin some legal work for a client) since there were no major Welfare issues needing his attention.1 But as general conference was about to start (then a three-day affair), Henry received a “long-distance” telephone call from President Smith, in which he was called as an Apostle and told to return immediately to Salt Lake City so he could be sustained and ordained.

Near the conclusion of conference, Elder Moyle was given opportunity to speak. His words were an expression of humility: “It goes without saying that we do in this Church what we are told. I have never understood that it was my privilege as a member of this Church, holding the priesthood, to say no. I have never had a desire in my heart to do anything other than that which the brethren direct. While I may feel as if some of the things that they have most recently asked me to do are beyond my power, nevertheless so far as my Heavenly Father will give me the power to act I shall do so, and all that I have and am belongs to my Heavenly Father.” After noting his complete willingness to be obedient, he bore testimony: “I know that this is the gospel of Jesus Christ. . . . There has never been a question of a doubt in my mind that our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove. I have stood on that spot. I have heard the testimonies of the leaders of this Church borne there. I have felt with all the feeling there was within my being, that that was the Sacred Grove, and that that was where the gospel of Jesus Christ was again restored to mankind in this day and age.”

In a meeting of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, Henry D. Moyle was ordained an Apostle by President George Albert Smith and then given the apostolic charge. It has been noted that Brother Moyle was a man of wealth, probably a millionaire. It is thought that Elder Matthew Cowley was referring to Elder Moyle when he said the following, about Elder Moyle’s humble spirit of consecration, in a 1953 talk to BYU students: “I’ll never forget the day I heard one [new Apostle] after he had received the [apostolic] charge, when he was ordained to the council—one of the wealthiest ones there. He stood up and he said, ‘Everything I own, everything I possess, all my securities, all my wealth is on the altar. Take it.’”4 Elder Moyle felt that his ability to give up the practice of law and the pursuit of wealth, in conjunction with his call to the apostleship, was a special gift to him from God. He explained:

I will never cease to be grateful to the Lord for the first and lasting impression he gave me in reference to my call into the circle of the General Authorities. It seemed that spontaneously, instantaneously, without any voluntary act upon my part (I really cannot claim any credit for it) I had no interest in anything that pertained to my former profession. I was in New York on one of the largest legal matters that I had ever handled, and I had just barely laid the foundation for the negotiations on a Friday afternoon, with appointments made for the next week, when President Smith called me and told me to catch a night plane home. From that moment to this I have never been back into my old office. When I came home President George F. Richards said, “I would like to see you in the morning.” He made his request at the afternoon session of the conference, and I was due back in New York—I had been promised by President [George Albert] Smith that I could be back in New York Monday morning. But, to make a long story short, I never went at all. I telephoned New York and told my client to pack up my bags, which I had not had time to bring with me that Friday night, and to bring them home. I informed him that he would have to start over again with somebody else. He was, of course, agreeable.

I am so grateful for that. It was not even a temptation. I had gone to President Smith just the Tuesday before. (I was then the chairman of the General Welfare Committee and had been for many years, and I was accustomed to going to conference.) I said, “Would you like to excuse me from this General Conference, or should I give up this work in New York?” and he said, “Go ahead, my boy. We have no use for you here.” And so I left. So I know that between Tuesday and Friday afternoon something happened. President Smith told me what happened, and I have never had any occasion to doubt it. He said that the Lord had spoken. What was there on earth that could interest me? You know, my faith was just simple enough to believe him. I know with all my heart and soul what he told me was true. And so there was not anything else in life that had any interest for me. . . . But I am grateful to the Lord that he made that divorcement so complete, so definite, and so quick because I am sure that therein lies the basis and the foundation for anything I have been able to do, since, in helping with his work. . . .

I love to bear my testimony of the divinity of this work. I love to be engaged in it. And I want to say to you in all humility that I know that the Lord magnifies us in our callings. I know that I can call on the Lord for his help today and know that I am going to get it. I have that assurance, and when the day is over I know that I have had that help and can kneel down and thank God for it. I think I would be the most miserable of all men on the earth if that were not the case. I would hate to have to stand alone. I am sure I could not stand alone and accomplish the work that I should accomplish in my calling. That is true of every one of us, brethren.

Now, I hope and pray the Lord will bless us with his Spirit and let it wipe out of our minds any doubts, any uncertainties, any unwillingness on our part to go the whole way. I am willing to stand before anybody in the world and call them to repentance and to bear my unequivocal testimony to them. And the moment that I let propriety, or friendship, or reason, or anything else, hold me back from doing what I know my duty to be, I am sure that I would lose the spirit that I now enjoy. . . .

And still, out of all the means and methods by which he could have established the truth in the heart of that boy prophet, Joseph Smith, he chose this one. And after one hundred thirty years, all the wisdom of mankind has never made it possible for us to devise a better means than to deliver, right from the shoulder, the eternal truth that God revealed to Joseph Smith—and let the chips fall where they may. I have no apology for any man upon the face of the earth for what the Lord said to Joseph Smith. And I have no apology to offer any man, if he will stand still long enough to listen to me tell him what the Lord said.5 

Bearing His Special Witness of Jesus Christ

In 1954, Elder Harold B. Lee invited Elder Moyle to speak to a group of Church Educational System instructors. The First Presidency had assigned Elder Lee to teach these men because some of them were (alarmingly) drifting into unorthodox doctrinal territory. They spent two hours a day, five days a week, for five weeks, being taught by Elder Lee and a few other church leaders that he sometimes invited to substitute for him. 

Elder Moyle was asked to describe his testimony as a special witness of Christ, including the question of whether it was necessary to see Jesus to qualify. Elder Moyle quoted extensively from President Joseph Fielding Smith on the subject (that it was not necessary for an Apostle to see Jesus to gain his special witness), and then spoke of his own testimony or witness, of the reality of Jesus the Christ, and how he knew:

I want to bear witness of my own knowledge . . . that there is this greater witness that comes into our hearts, a witness that we can no more deny than we can deny that which is absolutely fresh in our mind. It is a witness that continues with us every day of our ministry, regardless of where we are or to whom we bear witness to the truth. . . .

That testimony comes to us through the Holy Ghost. . . .

And when that gift comes to us, my brethren and sisters, we do not need any further witness. We have received the highest possible witness that can be given to man from God. . . .

You don’t need any logic or syllogism to know when the Holy Ghost has told you. That is final. . . .

We have a testimony; we who are witnesses have no need of witnesses. Thus should we be qualified for our work in the Church, and I tell you, brothers and sisters, there are others who have not seen the Savior but know that He lives and that He is the Redeemer of mankind.

Now I want to say to you that as I have gone along here today, I have endeavored to bear my testimony to you. I rejoice in the call which has come to me. I have always felt, and I hope that I shall always feel, humble in it. It has been my purpose since this call came to me to serve. I have not wanted to ask anything of anybody. I have just wanted to give. I have felt that there was no service to which man could be called higher than to preach the gospel. There is no work that pertains to the office of a member of the Quorum of the Twelve that is higher than to bear witness to the world that God lives and that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored. . . .

Some of us wander over the earth, and sometimes we begin to wonder what need we have of a home or a place to lay our heads, because wherever we go there seems to be some provision made for us. The Lord provides for us, gives us all that we need, and I am sure that we magnify our callings in no higher respect or regard than we do as we go out and fill these assignments throughout the Church and throughout the world and give all that we have and are to the service of the Lord. I know that as this call came to me, there came a witness of the Holy Ghost that I had never possessed before, a change that sometimes I feel was physical as well as spiritual. . . .

Well, it was of supreme satisfaction to me that I [can] . . . bear witness to it—that something far greater than any earthly profession had come into my life, and my only concern now was that I might continue to so live that this witness, which has been borne in upon me by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, might never leave me. I have been given to know that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ, to the point where no vision, no revelation, no divine manifestation could in anywise, as I feel today, add to the assurance that I have in my being that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He and the Father appeared to Joseph Smith, and through divine manifestations of the servants of God, he received the keys of the dispensation of the fulness of times.6 

Read this chapter in its entirety at truthwillprevail.xyz.


1. For those unfamiliar with Elder Moyle’s life, he worked as a lawyer at the same time he served in the unpaid, part-time position on the Welfare Committee. See the full chapter at truthwillprevail.xyz for more particulars.
2. These events are related in more detail in Richard D. Poll, Working the Divine Miracle: The Life of Apostle Henry D. Moyle, ed., Stan Larson (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999), 143-46.
3. “Strength of the Gospel,” Conference Report, April 1947, 159.
4. Matthew Cowley, “Learning to Live Through Better Use of Vocational Opportunities,” BYU Speeches, June 19, 1953; I believe this comment had reference to Elder Moyle because Elder Cowley had, earlier in his talk, mentioned President Moyle’s name but had cut himself off; then later he spoke anonymously about “one” of their number. Further, Elder Moyle was definitely one of the wealthiest men in the Quorum of the Twelve.
5. Henry D. Moyle, “Address to Seminary and Institute Faculty, Brigham Young University, June 27, 1962, 6-8.
6. Henry D. Moyle, “Value of a Personal Testimony,” Lecture Given to Seminary and Institute Teachers, Brigham Young University, July 16, 1954.
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