As a young apostle he was able to amalgamate his dominant interests: church and business. Believing it his personal ministry to preserve Mormon commercial influence, he launched a series of enterprises. In addition to his insurance agency, he was owner or principal investor in the territory's leading agricultural implement concern, two insurance companies, a livery stable, a leading Salt Lake City newspaper, a bank, the famed Salt Lake Theatre, and the Utah Sugar Company, which provided Utah agriculture with its most important cash crop. There also were less successful ventures in mining and the manufacture of soap and vinegar. During the Panic of 1893 and its aftermath, his eastern loan brokering and public subscriptions maintained the solvency of his church and many Utah businesses as well. The hard times of the 1890s and his subsequent mission calls to Japan and Great Britain at the turn of the century ended this phase of his career.
Rejecting pleas to make himself available for either the U.S. Senate or Utah's governorship, his time increasingly was preoccupied by his ministry and by moral or public issues of overriding concern. Accordingly, he placed himself in the forefront in the drive for Utah prohibition and led several of the state's World War I Liberty Bond drives. He was made president of the Quorum of Twelve in 1916. Two years later he became president of the church.