While studying effort last year I came upon D&C 117:12-13. In there it talks about Oliver Granger and how “when he falls he shall rise again, for his sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than his increase, saith the Lord.” I did not recall this story about Granger and struck out to find more. I found the original revelation here, written with Joseph’s hand. Beautiful.
In a talk by President Hunter he references this church history story. Oliver Granger was a licensed Methodist preacher and a sheriff in Ontario County, New York.
“Oliver Granger was 11 years older than Joseph Smith and, like the Prophet, was from upstate New York. Because of severe cold and exposure when he was 33 years old, Oliver lost much of his eyesight. Notwithstanding his limited vision, he served three full-time missions. He also worked on the Kirtland Temple and served on the Kirtland High Council.
When most of the Saints were driven from Kirtland, Ohio, the Church left some debts unsatisfied. Oliver was appointed to represent Joseph Smith and the First Presidency to return to Kirtland to settle the Church’s business. He performed this assignment so well that one of the creditors wrote: “Oliver Granger’s management in the arrangement of the unfinished business of people that have moved to the Far West, in redeeming their pledges and thereby sustaining their integrity, … has entitled him to my highest esteem” (Horace Kingsbury, Painesville, 26 Oct. 1838).”
Although Granger was able to sell some land and pay off debts, he was unable to sell a lot of the church’s property and most of it did eventually go to people that would never pay the church. I find it interesting that the scripture reads “when he falls he shall rise again.” Not an if, when. The Lord knew what Granger was up against, but wanted him to give it his all.
“When Oliver Granger died in 1841, even though there were but few Saints remaining in the Kirtland area and even fewer friends of the Saints, Oliver Granger’s funeral was attended by a vast concourse of people. (President Howard W. Hunter, New Era, September 1991)
“In section 117 the Lord called Oliver Granger to return to Kirtland as “a merchant unto my name” to “contend earnestly for the redemption of the First Presidency of my Church”—adding, “And when he falls he shall rise again, for his sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than his increase” (emphasis added). There is a powerful gospel lesson here about the Lord’s bottom line—for his merchant and for us all.
…in celestial accounting—as the Lord tells Oliver Granger—heaven measures its merchant missionary not by “his increase” but “his sacrifice.” The Lord evidently cares more about Oliver’s effort than his results, more about his input than output, more about how much he gives than how much he gains. I believe that these divine priorities hold true for all of us…
Surely a culture’s obsession with success is bound up with its dynamism and energy. Great ambition can spur great accomplishment. I’m not opposed to ambition, achievement, or success. Indeed, like most people, I enjoy prosperity and fame, probably more than I ought. And I certainly would prefer to succeed than to fail—though failure sometimes has been better for me than success. My concern lies not with success, per se, but with the lust for success. Hence, I’m not concerned simply or mainly about the desire for wealth but about the desperate need to win. …success turns into a demon whenever it becomes our god.
So while I hope you succeed in your righteous desires, I also hope you won’t measure yourself exclusively by your successes and failures. God’s words to Oliver Granger remind us that we are more than our résumés, GPAs, salaries, and scholarships. What endears us to heaven is our sincere sacrifice; our sincere efforts to love God and our neighbor are sacred. The Almighty does not require success, but he does require sacrifice.
This doctrine is simultaneously comforting and frightening: the Lord mercifully accepts our sacrifice when we lay our all on the altar, but nothing less than our all is acceptable. For him, the widow’s mite means more than the millionaire’s munificence precisely because she gave her all (Mark 12:44).
So far as I know, no scripture specifies that we must be successful, in the modern sense, to inherit salvation. However, the scriptures repeatedly command us to sacrifice—to serve God with our heart, might, mind, and strength (see D&C 4:2). Our fundamental religious duty is to strive, not to succeed—recognizing that the outcome is in God’s hands. As T. S. Eliot says in the poem “East Coker,” “For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”
Our concern should be “…for righteousness, not its results”.
“If we fail, having tried with all our might, the Lord takes the intent for the deed because, in his economy, sacrifice is more sacred than success. …our profitability to heaven consists in the ancient sacrifice of a willing heart. The Lord does not need “man’s work”; he needs our will.
…heaven bids us fight but not necessarily win—at least not in the short term. The ultimate victory is sure; it is in the hands of the Lord of Hosts. What is at stake is not the outcome of the war but our faithfulness in battle.” …Remember that he who looks not on the countenance but on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7) sees beyond your résumé. He sees your soul. He knows your sacrifices, and they are sacred to him. (Tanner)
Though Oliver Granger is not as well known today as other early leaders of the Church, he was, nevertheless, important in the service he rendered to the kingdom. And of course, if no one but the Lord had his name in remembrance, that would be a sufficient blessing for any of us.” (President Howard W. Hunter, New Era, September 1991)
So with all these thoughts in my head, they finally came around full circle. John Tanner gave his all to the church. And it was a lot of all. He sacrificed. Many of the investments did not pan out. The Kirtland Temple he helped save? It is no longer owned by the church. (Although many, many blessings were given while it was.) The Kirtland Security Society? Failed. The donations and sacrifices were given, but in the world’s terms – they did not translate to success. Was that a good trade for millions? How does the Lord feel about it? “Sacrifices are more sacred” unto him than the “increase”. And again, I learn more about fortune and success. Effort is what matters. Giving our all.
“Sacrifice outweighs increase on the scales of heaven—which are the only scales that ultimately matter.” – John S. Tanner