I decided to make Joshua Reuben Clark, Jr. – or J. Reuben Clark, Jr. as he was generally known – my VIP for this week after a long discussion of leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with my son over the weekend. President Clark was a brilliant man who served at the highest levels of both the Church and the nation. He was a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church during my childhood and most of my youth. I heard his name often and even listened to him speak.
The boy who would become President Clark was born on September 1, 1871, in Grantsville, Utah, a small farming community located in Tooele Valley, and was named Joshua after his father. Young Clark was the first of ten children born to his parents, Joshua R. and Mary Louisa Woolley Clark. His grandfather was a minister in the Church of the Brethren. His father was a trapper and freighter who met the Mormons in Utah, attended a Sunday meeting, and was baptized a month later. Soon after he was baptized he was hired to teach school in Grantsville and moved there from Salt Lake City. Not long after moving to Grantsville, Joshua met Mary Louisa Woolley, a young woman who was born on the plains as her parents traveled with the Mormon Pioneers.
Education and culture were very important to members of the LDS Church in the pioneer days and still are today. Even though Joshua could do hard physical labor, he was also very “a knowledgeable, culturally-oriented man.” He was more than willing to “sleep in a hay loft in order to afford to see a Shakespearean play and would make great sacrifices to afford to buy a good book. The small library in the Clark home was made up of history books, classics, an encyclopedia, the Bible, plus other religious works of the LDS Church.”
Young Clark did not have much opportunity for education in his youth because the family needed his help on the farm and lack of resource, and he was home schooled by his mother. About the time young Clark was ten years old, his father began teaching at a private school and was able to teach his son. Young Clark missed school in order to help the family, but his father said that his son would “rather miss his meals than to miss a day from school.” He completed the highest grade offered at the Grantsville school and then repeated it two more times.
In spite of the fact that his family was financially challenged, young Clark “was able to take music lessons and to play with various bands. He played the piccolo and then the flute.” As a youth young Clark “participated in dramatic productions” and “displayed a talent for public speaking, comedy, and humor. He also participated in other activities of children and youth such as “sledding in the winter and swimming in the summer.”
In 1890 when young Clark was 19 years old, he went to Salt Lake City to attend the Latter-day Saints’ University. He lived with his aunt and earned extremely high grades. James E. Talmage, a LDS scholar and scientist, was the principle at the University and hired Clark as the assistant curator and later as curator for the Deseret Museum. The position was considered to be a “mission” and thus Clark served his mission while attending college. Talmage was charged with creating a new college for the Church and took Clark with him as his chemistry lab assistant and clerk; Clark was still working at the museum. Clark finished “six years of advanced schooling in four” with two of those years meeting high school requirements. Talmage encouraged Clark to attend an eastern university and called him “the greatest mind ever to leave Utah.”
Clark entered the University of Utah in 1894 and lived so frugally that he was able to send money to his father who was serving as a missionary and the mission president in the Northern States Mission. Talmage became president of the University of Utah, and Clark “graduated in 1898 as valedictorian of his graduating class, still serving as clerk to Talmage and on the faculty of the university.
In 1894 Clark met Luacine “Lute” Annetta Savage, the youngest daughter of Charles Roscoe Savage of Salt Lake City. Lute taught kindergarten and worked in her father’s store during the four years she dated Clark. They were married on September 14, 1898, in a Salt Lake Temple ceremony performed by Elder Talmage, the first such marriage he performed. The couple was feted at a modest reception; this was Lute’s choice even though her family was prosperous. Clark left a few days after the wedding for Heber, Utah, where he started his career as a teacher and principal at the new Heber City High School; he went to find housing before Lute followed. Five children blessed their union.
Clark taught part of the next year at Latter-day Saints’ University, resigning in February to teach at Salt Lake Business College headed by Joseph Nelson. Clark went to Cedar City, Utah, in the fall of 1900 to be the principal of the Branch Normal School. In 1901 he was an instructor in Commercial Law, Principal of the Shorthand Department, and Secretary of the Faculty at Salt Lake Business College. Clark assumed most of the duties of as head of Salt Lake Business College when Nelson became cashier of the Utah National Bank. Nelson offered to pay for law school for Clark that year, and Clark applied to Columbia University and was accepted; he received his entire education in law at Columbia.
In the beginning of his second year at Columbia, Clark was elected to a position on the editorial board of the Columbia Law Review. By the end of his second year, he was admitted to the New York bar. He received his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1906. In 1905 Clark “worked with James Brown Scott on the 772-page book Cases on Quasi Contracts, and Scott recommended him as Assistant Solicitor of the Department of State;” Clark was appointed to the position on September 5, 1906. Thus, he began his career with the federal government.
Clark was Assistant Solicitor and then Solicitor in the State Department and “was often confronted with critical issues of international consequence.” During the Mexican Revolution, Clark made “crucial decisions and recommended courses of action to the secretary of state and Howard Taft. Of particular concern to Clark was the plight of the Latter-day Saints who lived in Mexican colonies, who were often caught in the middle of the conflict and whose presence in Mexico was resented by the revolutionaries.”
Resigning from the State Department in 1913, Clark returned to his law practice. The Japanese government was “one of his first major clients” seeking help to “combat anti-Japanese discrimination in California. Clark was offered but declined an offer to become Tokyo’s permanent counsel. Clark was commissioned as a major in the Judge Advocate General Officer Reserve Corps (Army) when the United States entered World War I. He also worked in the Attorney General’s office as well as helped to create the regulations for the Selective Service. The federal government called Clark back into service in 1925 where he used his previous experience in Mexico to help alleviate tensions with Mexico. A treaty in 1924 avoided war with Mexico. Clark held other government positions: Special Counsel for the United States before the American-British Claim Arbitration, Agent for the United States on the US-Mexico General and Special Claims commissions, and personal legal adviser to the US Ambassador to Mexico.
“In 1928, as Under Secretary of State to Secretary of State Frank Kellogg in the Calvin Coolidge Administration, Clark wrote the `Clark Memorandum on the Monroe Doctrine’, which repudiated the idea that the United States could arbitrarily use military force in Latin America. The Memorandum was a 238-page treatise exploring every nuance of America’s philosophy of Western Hemispherical guardianship. The `Clark Memorandum’ was published as an official State Department document and partially reprinted in textbooks for years.
“When Dwight Morrow resigned as ambassador to serve in the US Senate, Clark was recommended as his replacement. Herbert Hoover appointed Clark as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States to Mexico on October 3, 1930. The Mexican ambassadorship was a key post in US foreign relations and earned him instant prestige." Clark served as US ambassador to Mexico from 1930-1933. Franklin D. Roosevelt summoned Clark to the White House and asked him to be a delegate to the Pan-American Conference at Montevideo, Uruguay. Roosevelt “tapped” him again in 1933 to serve on the newly formed Foreign Bondholders Protective Council.
Clark was also filling major position in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In June 1925 he appointed to the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association board; in April 1933 he was called as Second Counselor to President Heber J. Grant. The position was vacant for over a year until Clark could resign as ambassador and “resolve necessary government matters.” Clark was sustained as second counselor to President Grant on April 6, 1933, even though he had never served as bishop, stake president, or in Quorum of Twelve Apostles. President Clark was able to relieve President Grant of many of his administrative duties.
With encourage from President Grant, President Clark continued to “take advantage of business and governmental opportunities whenever possible.” FDR again asked President Clark to serve his nation in October 1933 as the Great Depression ravaged the economies of the world. That same year President Clark lobbied for some changes in the Church welfare policy and to “adopt many of the innovative techniques instituted by Harold B. Lee in the Salt Lake Pioneer Stake.”
President Anthony W. Ivins, first counselor to President Grant, died in September 1934, and President Clark “was ordained an apostle and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for purposes of seniority.” He was then set apart as President Grant’s first counselor with David O. McKay as second counselor.
President Grant presented a new “Church Security” program in 1935; it was renamed the “Welfare Plan” in 1938. This new plan “encouraged industry and personal responsibility and enabled the members to turn to the church instead of relying on the `demoralizing system’ of government dependence. The Welfare Plan would centralize the church’s efforts and grow to include a `Beautification Program,’ church farms, Deseret Industries, and a Bishop’s Central Storehouse.”
President Clark explained the goal of church welfare to stake presidents in a special meeting held on October 2, 1936: “The real long term objective of the Welfare Plan is the building of character in the members of the Church, givers and receivers, rescuing all that is finest deep down inside of them, and bring to flower and fruitage the latent richness of the spirit which after all is the mission and purpose and reason for being of this Church.” His counsel is still “the guiding principle of LDS Church welfare.”
After the death of President Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith was ordained as the President of the Church and kept President Clark and President McKay as his first and second counselors, respectively. Upon the death of President Smith, David O. McKay was ordained as the President of the Church. He chose Stephen L. Richards to be his first counselor, and J. Reuben Clark, Jr. to be his second counselor. President Clark made his famous statement at that time: “In the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve but how. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one takes the place to which one is duly called, which place one neither seeks nor declines.” After the death of President Richards in 1951, President Clark was made first counselor to President McKay and remained in that position until his death. He was “involved with most of the administrative innovations of the church while he was in the First Presidency.”
President Clark died on October 6, 1961, at his residence in Salt Lake City, at the age of 90 years. He was a counselor in the First Presidency for more than 28 years, longer than any other man who has not been President of the Church. He was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.