Question: What special experience did Jedediah M. Grant have on his deathbed in 1856?
Answer: Jedediah Morgan Grant was born February 21, 1816, to Joshua Grant and Athalia Howard in Windsor, New York. He was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on March 21, 1833, at age 17.
The next year, at age 18, after traveling to the headquarters of the Church at Kirtland, he joined the historic Zion’s Camp march. This expedition of brethren, who set out to aid their distressed fellow Saints, tested the mettle of its participants.
Jedediah Grant was among the first missionaries to go to Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia. One time, while preaching in Jeffersonville, Virginia, a group of skeptical southerners, whose preachers worked long hours preparing sermons, did not believe the eloquent Mormon missionary when he told them that he had never studied up a sermon in his life but delivered them spontaneously after filling his mind with scriptures and truths of the gospel. They mockingly challenged him to preach to them at an appointed date in the courthouse at Jeffersonville, Virginia, from a text that they would furnish upon the spur of the moment.
Thinking to make a fool of the naive young man, they handed him a piece of blank paper in front of his audience. Not to be thwarted by their cruel sense of humor, Elder Jedediah M. Grant, without hesitation, uttered a marvelous sermon on the theme of the “blankness’ of the Protestant doctrine, winning the good will of almost all there and convincing some of them that the gospel had been restored. One well-wisher, greatly impressed with the remarkably skillful young orator and observing Elder Grant’s frayed clothing, suggested that his listeners take up a collection for him. Many of the congregation readily responded, and the sum collected not only provided Brother Grant with a fine suit of clothes, but with a horse and saddle as well. Many such stories of Elder Grant’s unforgettable sermons circulated in the Southern States Mission for years after his departure.
In 1842 he was called by the Prophet to preside over the Church in Philadelphia. He returned to Nauvoo at the time of the martyrdom and, accompanied by his young bride, Carolyn VanDyke, he carried the news of the tragedy to Brigham Young and the other apostles, who were on missions in the East. The next year, Jedediah was ordained to the First Council of the Seventy. Then, as captain of a company of one hundred, he trekked to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, suffering the devastating loss of his beloved wife and tiny daughter as a result of the hardships of the journey. He later married Rachel Ivins; they were the parents of one child, Heber J. Grant, who later became president of the Church.
In 1851 Jedediah Grant was elected the first mayor of Salt Lake City and retained that position by an almost unanimous vote until his death. The honor of being chosen as second counselor to Brigham Young came in April 1854, and with this call came the blessing of being ordained an apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jedediah was thirty-eight years of age.
In 1856, Jedediah Grant was called by Brigham Young to tour the northern sections of Utah Territory, calling the Latter-day Saints to repentance. Jedediah delivered fiery speeches on this tour. Jedediah’s speeches earned him the title “Brigham’s Sledgehammer.” The effects of his speeches were felt almost immediately. The purpose of the reformation was to urge the Saints to improve the appearance of both themselves and their property and to become purified of all sin, confessing and abandoning everything unholy in their lives. So ardently did Jedediah work to effect this marvelous sanctification among the people he loved, that his health broke down. Jedediah contracted pneumonia after his vigorous tour.
Upon his deathbed a miraculous experience occurred, which he related to Heber C. Kimball. “Brother Grant entered the spirit world two nights, witnessing there the marvelous order of heaven and seeing his deceased wife and his baby girl. Sister Grant told him that though the wolves had devoured their baby’s body when they left it on the plains, she was, by the reality of eternal life, alive and well. He also beheld beautiful buildings and spectacular flowers. So perfect and harmonious and glorious was everything there that he was loathe to return to his mortal body.’
Jedediah Grant died on December 1, 1856 in Salt Lake City, at the age of forty, just nine days after his son, Heber J. Grant, was born to his wife Rachel Ivins. He was deeply loved and revered by thousands. He was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.