A Book of Mormons
by Richard S. Van Wagoner and Steven C. Walker
1873. April 1: Born in Salt Lake City to Mary Ann Tuddenham and George Reynolds, secretary to Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, and Joseph F. Smith. Alice described her father as a man who “loved knowledge and it certainly was a dreadful thing in [his] eyes to be unnecessarily ignorant.”
Alice Louise Reynolds never married. “To some of you,” she said, “the sweetest word in the English language is ‘husband,’ to some of you, ‘child,’ but to me the sweetest word in the English language is ‘friend.’”
1877. When she was four, Alice was wheeled by her mother’s maid to her first day at school in a baby buggy. Thereafter family and friends referred to her as “Princess Alice.”
“Seeker After Knowledge”
Extremely absentminded, she “carried her teakettle to school, thinking it to be her purse, she wore a dress the wrong side out to a play, she slid through a window to a classroom, bloomers first, and once she walked while reading a book through a herd of cows, absently swatting them with her purse.”
1890. Having begun her studies with Karl G. Maeser at thirteen, she graduated from the Brigham Young Academy and began teaching there.
1894. Completing a B.A. in two years at the University of Michigan, she returned to Brigham Young Academy, where she taught until her death forty-four years later.
She taught theology, organized a literature department, and established the first library collection at the school. Much of her time was spent helping students edit their compositions; she felt “tough criticism would help them to grow.” She was the second woman in Utah to attain full professorship.
[p.226]Her sabbaticals were spent at the University of Chicago, Columbia, Queens College in London, Berkeley, and Cornell.
1933. She encouraged women’s clubs to donate books to the Brigham Young University library and in 1933 helped former students and friends organize the Alice Louise Reynolds Club, which promoted libraries and the study of literature throughout the country. “Members found in her a champion of their sex, a custodian of their cultural and spiritual values, and an exponent of friendship. They continued to send back books and money, and to sponsor an English student scholarship. Their meetings became spontaneous centers of continuing education.” Thirteen chapters of the club were organized in Provo, Springville, Salt Lake City, Hurricane, Saint George, and New York City.
Reynolds wrote extensively for the Young Woman’s Journal, the Improvement Era, the Instructor, and the Relief Society Magazine. She also wrote many lessons for Church auxiliaries, including ten years of literature courses for the Relief Society.
During a single six-month period in 1934 Reynolds lectured to sixteen different groups. She was a leader in the Federation of Women’s Clubs and the National Education Association, and represented the Relief Society General Board in the National Council of Women in the years just prior to World War I.
1938. December 6: Died of cancer at the age of sixty-five in Salt Lake City’s LDS Hospital. Shortly before her death, she commented to her sister Polly, “Well, I am not afraid to die. I have lived the best I could, and I am sure no girl or [p.227]woman ever had a more wonderful life, with more opportunities, more privileges, and more friends. I have been most fortunate and for all these blessings, I am sincerely grateful.” Buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Keele, Reba L. “Alice L. Reynolds.” Sister Saints. Edited by Vicky Burgess-Olson. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1978.
Lyman, Amy Brown. A Lighter of Lamps: The Life Story of Alice Louise Reynolds. Provo: The Alice Louise Reynolds Club, 1947.
Provo, Utah. Brigham Young University. Harold B. Lee Library. “Autobiography of Alice Louise Reynolds.”
_____. Alice Louise Reynolds, “History of George Reynolds.”
Reynolds, Alice Louise. “Music That Pays Dividends.” National Education Association Journal of Proceedings and Addresses. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1913.
1804. June 24: Born in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Brigham Young was his first cousin, and Joseph Smith his fourth cousin. In 1838, while serving a mission in England, he married Jennette Richards, one of the first English converts. Many English Saints opposed the marriage, feeling that Richards should devote himself “wholly to the ministry.”
Jennette died at Nauvoo in 1845. After her death, Richards married Nanny Longstroth (1843), and later Sara Longstroth (1843), Susannah Lee Liptrot Walker (1843), Amelia Perrson (1845), Alice Longstroth (1845), Mary Thompson (1846), Ann Rees Babcock (1846), Jane Hall (1846), Susannah Bayless (1847), and Rhoda Harriet Foss (1851).
1830s. While traveling with his “electro-chemistry” show, Richards became interested in herbal medicine and joined the Friendly Botanic Society in 1833. The following year, he paid $20 to attend the six-week course of Samuel Thompson, founder of the Thompsonian method of herbal medicine. Completion of the course earned him the title used throughout his life— “Dr. Willard Richards.”
Parley P. Pratt’s wife, Mary Ann Frost, described Dr. Richards’s treatment for measles: “We were liberally dosed with composition, lobelia, etc. To me the red pepper was something dreadful, and taking the composition through straws did not help the matter much—and oh, how I did long for a drink of cold water. But we got well… and I will not condemn the bridge that brought us safely over.”
Three of Richards’s sons became prominent Utah physicians, and more than thirty of his grandsons and great-grandsons earned M.D.s or Ph.D.s.
1835. While practicing medicine in Boston, Richards read the [p.230]Book of Mormon his cousin Brigham Young had left with Lucius Parker. After reading half a page, he concluded, “God or the Devil has had a hand in that Book, for man never wrote it.”
He read the book through twice in ten days, then “commenced settling his accounts, selling his medicine, and freeing himself from every incumbrance, that he might go to Kirtland 700 miles west, the nearest point he could hear of a Saint, and give the work a thorough investigation: firmly believing, that if the doctrine was true, God had some greater work for him to do than peddle pills.”
Richards was baptized “on the 31st of December, at the setting of the sun… under the hands of President Brigham Young, in the presence of Heber C. Kimball, and others, who had spent the afternoon in cutting ice to prepare for the baptism.”
1837. Richards was in the first group of missionaries sent to England.
1840. While on a second mission to England, he was one of six called to fill vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve. He was ordained in England by Brigham Young.
1844. June 27: Richards was with Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, and John Taylor in Carthage Jail when a group of armed men broke in, killing Joseph and Hyrum, and seriously wounding Taylor. Richards escaped with a slight wound on one ear lobe.
A few hours after the murders, Richards sent the first message to Nauvoo: “CARTHAGE JAIL, 8:05 o’clock, p.m., June 27th, 1844: Joseph and Hyrum are dead. Taylor wounded, not very badly. I am well. Our guard was forced, as we believe, by a band of Missourians from 100 to 200. The job was done in an instant, and the party fled towards Nauvoo instantly. This is as I believe it. The citizens here [p.231]are afraid of the Mormons attacking them. I promise them no!”
“Keeper of Rolls”
1845. Willard Richards was toasted by W. W. Phelps as “Keeper of Rolls”—not a pun on his nearly-three-hundred-pound physique. Richards had been appointed Church historian and general clerk in 1842 and had served as Joseph Smith’s private secretary, recorder of the Nauvoo City Council and clerk of the municipal court, and recorder of the Council of Fifty.
He was the first postmaster of “Great Salt Lake City of the Great Basin Kingdom,” and the editor and proprietor of the Deseret News from 1849 to 1854.
Member of the First Presidency
1847. Called to be Brigham Young’s first counselor in the newly reorganized First Presidency.
1854. March 11: Died in Salt Lake City at the age of fifty from “the Palsy,” an ailment which had afflicted him since before joining the Church. Shortly before his death he told the Deseret territorial legislature, “Death stares me in the face, waiting for its prey.” Buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Barrett, Gwynn W. “John M. Bernhisel: Mormon Elder in Congress.” Utah Historical Quarterly 36 (Spring 1968):143-167.
Deseret News, 16 March 1854.
Jenson, Andrew. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. 4 vols. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Company, 1901-1936.
Times and Seasons, 5:76.
1793. February 19: Born in Saint Clair Township, Pennsylvania. In 1820 he married Phebe Brooks; they had twelve children.
Baptist and Campbellite Minister
1824. A prominent Regular Baptist minister, Rigdon joined Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott in the “Disciples”—the Campbellite movement. He built up large congregations in Mantua and Mentor, Ohio.
1830. Rejecting Rigdon’s proposal for an experimental economic community at the annual meeting of the Mahoning Baptist Association, Campbell delivered a “bitter, scathing attack” on Rigdon, who grumbled, “I have done as much in this reformation as Campbell or Scott, and yet they get all the honor.”
Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, Ziba Peterson, and Peter Whitmer, Jr., on their way to an Indian mission in Missouri, visited Rigdon. Believing the Book of Mormon, he asked Phebe, “My dear, you have followed me once into poverty, are you willing to do the same again?” Mrs. Rigdon replied, “I have weighed the matter, I have contemplated on the circumstances in which we may be placed. I have counted the cost, and I am perfectly satisfied to follow you; it is my desire to do the will of God, come life or come death.” They were baptized November 30 by Oliver Cowdery.
Immediately after his baptism, Rigdon visited Joseph Smith in New York and convinced him that the Church should remove to Ohio’s “Western Reserve”—Kirtland. Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith were never thereafter more than a few miles apart until just before the Prophet’s death.
[p.234]Prophet’s Counselor and Spokesman
Nine sections of the Doctrine and Covenants were revealed to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon.
1832. February 16: They envisioned “the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fullness. … This is the testimony … which we give of him: That he lives!”
March 8: Joseph Smith ordained Rigdon a counselor in the Presidency of the Church.
March 24: In the middle of the night, a mob seized Rigdon in Hiram, Ohio, dragged him by the heels across the frozen ground, and tarred and feathered him. In the morning, Joseph Smith, who had also been assaulted, found Rigdon out of his mind, asking his wife to bring a razor so he could kill the Prophet. When she refused, he asked Joseph for a razor so he could kill her. Church leaders later speculated that the Hiram mobbing caused Rigdon’s periodic instability.
July: Rigdon apparently resented his subordinate position to the Prophet’s other counselor, Jesse Gause. While Joseph Smith was out of Kirtland, Rigdon announced to a stunned congregation that God had taken “the kingdom” from Joseph and had given it to him.
The Prophet later told Rigdon, “You had better give up your license and divest yourself of all the authority you can, for you will go into the hands of Satan, and he will handle you as one man handleth another, and the less authority you have the better for you.” But Joseph restored Sidney to fellowship three weeks later.
1833. March 18: Chosen first counselor to Joseph Smith in the First Presidency.
October 12: A revelation given to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon announced that Rigdon should be “a spokesman unto this people; yea, verily, I will ordain you unto this calling, even to be a spokesman unto my servant Joseph” (D&C 100:9).
A contemporary, Amos S. Hayden, described Rigdon as an “orator of no inconsiderable abilities, his personal influence with an audience was very great … While speaking, open and winning, with a little case of [p.235]melancholy … his language copious, fluent in utterance, with articulation clear and musical.”
1834. Rigdon was a member of the committee charged to “arrange the items of the doctrine of Jesus Christ for the Government of the Church.” The result is now known as the Doctrine and Covenants. Rigdon was also a trustee of the “Kirtland School,” where he taught penmanship, arithmetic, English grammar, and geography.
1838. July 4: Visiting the beleaguered Saints in Missouri, Rigdon delivered an Independence Day “Call to Liberty” oration. “From this hour, we will bear it no more,” he declared. “Our rights shall no more be trampled on with impunity; the man, or the set of men, who attempts it, does it at the expense of their lives. And that mob that comes on us to disturb us, it shall be between us and them a war of extermination; for we will follow them till the last drop of their blood is spilled, or else they will have to exterminate us.” The oration helped precipitate Governor Boggs’s “extermination order” and the expulsion of Mormons from the state.
October 31: Among eighty Mormons arrested on charges ranging from treason to murder, Rigdon was incarcerated for several months in the Richmond and Liberty jails. In Richmond he was “compelled to sleep on the floor with a chain and padlock around his ankle, fastened to six others.” The abuse drove Rigdon beyond the breaking point, resulting in fits of uncontrollable laughter and incoherent speech.
1839. February: After pleading his own case before the court, Rigdon was discharged from custody. He was afraid the “mob was watching, and would most certainly take my life,” and remained in protective custody ten more days. The sheriff then secretly led him to the place where his family was waiting, “telling me to make my escape, which I did with all possible speed.”
1839. May: Appointed to petition the federal government for $1,381,044 in compensation for Church losses suffered in Missouri. Deteriorating health prevented him from completing the October trip with Joseph Smith and Elias Higbee. Sick and discouraged, Rigdon returned to Nauvoo and declared “he never would follow Brother Joseph’s revelations any more, contrary to his own convenience.”
1841. April: Joseph Smith effectively replaced Rigdon in the First Presidency by calling John C. Bennett as an added counselor because of Rigdon’s “poor health.”
October: Ordained a “Prophet and a Seer and Revelator, and to be equal with him [Joseph Smith] in holding the Keys and authority of this kingdom.”
1842. May: Lasting difficulties were created between Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon when Rigdon’s daughter Nancy, her brother John, and her brother-in-law George W. Robinson testified that the Prophet had proposed “spiritual marriage” to her. Joseph publicly denied the accusations.
Rigdon wished to keep the problems private: “On my part they were never mentioned to any person, nor a subject of discourse at any time or place.” He wrote the Prophet, “I had hoped that all former difficulties had ceased forever.”
1843. March 27: Joseph Smith accused Rigdon of “seeking to destroy me and this people” by attempting to turn the Prophet over to Missouri lawmen who sought his extradition.
August 13: Joseph Smith accused Rigdon of conspiring with John C. Bennett and other anti-Mormons, and a Church conference temporarily disfellowshipped him.
October 7: The Prophet proposed that Rigdon be dropped from the First Presidency because he had not fulfilled his Church responsibilities since their arrival in Nauvoo. But Stake President William Marks moved that Rigdon be sustained in his position, and the Church conference voted to retain him. “I have thrown him off my [p.237]shoulders,” Joseph declared, “and you have put him on me; you may carry him, but I will not.”
Joseph Smith’s Vice-Presidential Running Mate
1844. Spring: Joseph Smith again extended a forgiving hand, admitting Rigdon to the Council of Fifty and to the endowment ceremonies of the Holy Order. He also selected him as his vice-presidential running mate, but this choice was apparently made only after other options had failed.
Just before leaving for Pittsburgh, Rigdon allegedly prophesied the death of Joseph Smith and the destruction of Nauvoo. “Poor Rigdon,” the Prophet reportedly said, “I am glad he is gone to Pittsburgh, out of the way; were he to preside, he would lead the Church to destruction in less than five years.”
1844. After the death of Joseph Smith, Rigdon presented himself to the Church as its “guardian.” He was rejected in favor of the leadership of the Quorum of the Twelve under Quorum President Brigham Young. Rigdon’s continued efforts to make himself a rallying standard for the Church resulted in his excommunication in September.
The next thirty-two years of his life were erratic and pathetic. With great enthusiasm and a significant following, he organized a new Church of Christ in Pittsburgh in April, 1845. But the death of his daughter Eliza shortly thereafter seems to have affected his emotional balance. Prophesying that Cincinnati would soon be destroyed by an earthquake, and New Orleans and London “sink to the bottom of the sea,” Rigdon proclaimed that he would soon “sit on the throne of England and lead ‘little Vic’ [Queen Victoria] by the nose.”
Insisting his followers establish a communitarian society on Pennsylvania farmland, Rigdon threatened to wreak blood and vengeance upon opposing local residents. Despite his long opposition to polygamy and his [p.238]published condemnations of its practice, Rigdon introduced a form of polygamy within his declining commune,which totally disintegrated by 1847.
Founder of the Children of Zion
Rigdon retired to Friendship, New York, with his family. Aside from a single episode of preaching in 1859, he had ended his public ministry. But in 1856 he began a strange absentee leadership of a new religious organization. After corresponding with former followers of James J. Strang, Rigdon appointed Stephen Post to be his spokesman, writing him lengthy instructions, revelations, and sermons that were to be read on Rigdon’s behalf at meetings of “The Church of Jesus Christ of the Children of Zion.” A small group of followers perpetuated the organization for a few years after Rigdon’s death.
1871. Rigdon wrote Brigham Young that he would like to visit Utah if the Church would pay for the trip. Brigham Young was agreeable, commenting that “if it were possible to do the old man any good by him coming here, he should be glad.” But before arrangements could be completed, Rigdon wrote again, asking for $100,000 in gold coin in return for spiritual counsel. Counselor George A. Smith’s feelings expressed the sentiments of the Church leadership: “He pitied the old gentleman, as he thought he was crazy, and if he had kept faithful, he might have accomplished a great deal of good.”
1876. July 14: Died at the age of eighty-three in Friendship, New York; buried in Friendship’s Maple Grove Cemetery.
Chase, Daryl. “Sidney Rigdon: Early Mormon.” Master’s thesis, University of Chicago, 1931.
Gregory, Thomas J. “Sidney Rigdon: Post Nauvoo.” Brigham Young University Studies 21 (Winter 1981):51-67.
History of the Church, 4:341; 5:8, 46, 532, 553-556; 6:47-49.
Hunt, James. Mormonism. Saint Louis: Ustick and Davies, 1844.
Keller, Karl, ed. “‘I Never Knew A Time When I Did Not Know Joseph Smith’: A Son’s Record of the Life and Testimony of Sidney Rigdon.” Dialogue 1 (Winter 1966):15-42.
Latter Day Saints Messenger and Advocate, 1 (January 1845).
McKiernan, F. Mark, The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness: Sidney Rigdon, Religious Reformer (1793-1876). Lawrence, Kansas: Coronado Press, 1971.
Quinn, D. Michael. “Latter-day Saint Prayer Circles.” Brigham Young University Studies 19 (Fall 1978):79-105.
_____. “The Mormon Succession Crisis of 1844.” Brigham Young University Studies 16 (Winter 1976):187-233.
Rollmann, Hans. “The Early Baptist Career of Sidney Rigdon in Warren, Ohio.” Brigham Young University Studies 21 (Winter 1981):37-50.
Salt Lake City, Utah. LDS Church Archives. Reynolds Cahoon Diary.
_____. Stephen Post Papers.
_____. Sidney Rigdon Papers.
_____. Salt Lake City School of the Prophets Minutes.
[p.431]_____. Brigham Young Papers.
Times and Seasons, 5:660-666.
1857. March 13: Brigham Henry Roberts, named after Brigham Young, was born in Warrington, England. His mother emigrated to Centerville, Utah, after separating from her husband, leaving five-year-old Henry in England in the care of friends. Four years later, he emigrated to Utah with his sister Polly. As an adult, Roberts summed up his youth: “My childhood was a nightmare; my boyhood was a tragedy.”
Roberts married Sarah Louisa Smith in 1878, and later married Celia Ann Dibble (1884) and Dr. Margaret Curtis Shipp (1890). He was the father of fifteen children.
1871. Young Roberts worked for Centerville farmers, made bricks for construction of the Salt Lake ZCMI, and drove an ox-team grader for the Utah Central Railway. At fourteen, he prospected in the Utah mining districts of Ophir, Jacob City, and Metcur. His evenings were spent in gambling houses, where he “manipulated the jack of hearts and spades; learned to drink his coffee black and his liquor straight; learned to bet and bluff and cajole.”
Bishop Edwin D. Woolley, disapproving Roberts’s mining activities, disfellowshipped him. A short time later George A. Smith met Roberts on a Salt Lake street and remarked, “Henry, I understand you’ve been cut off from the Church.”
“Well, what are you going to do about it?” “Nothing! If Bishop Woolley wants me out of the Church, then I’m out of the Church.” “Well, then, you’re on your way to hell,” retorted Smith. Roberts appealed his case and was restored to fellowship.
At seventeen, he put his mining camp life behind him and returned to Centerville, where he apprenticed as a blacksmith. The transition was not easy—”The good boys didn’t want me; I did not want the bad ones, so I stayed to myself.”
[p.241]Valedictorian of the University of Deseret
1878. Respectably married and ordained a seventy, Roberts attended the University of Deseret, at the time scarcely more than a high school. He was so destitute that he wore the same “brown-sack-suit” every day of the school year. And when he delivered the valedictory speech he wore a secondhand suit made over by his sister.
[p.241 photo: B. H. Roberts in disguise (1884)]
[p.242]A few months later, he returned as assistant president of the Southern States Mission. Violence against his missionaries was commonplace. When Elders John H. Gibbs and William S. Berry were murdered in Cane Creek, Tennessee, Roberts shaved his beard and mustache, dressed in old, mismatched clothes, and rubbed soot grease from the smokehouse walls over his face. So disguised, he entered the hostile region and recovered the temporarily buried bodies for return to Salt Lake.
1886. December 5: As associate editor of the Salt Lake Herald, Roberts was preparing the daily dispatches when deputy marshals arrested him for “unlawful cohabitation.” By six o’clock he was called on a mission to Great Britain, jumped his $2,000 bail, and left for Liverpool.
1888. October 7: Soon after his return from England, he was called to the First Council of Seventy.
1889. April: Tiring of life on the underground, Roberts gave himself up. “I preferred to spare these women all the publicity, all the court inquiry that it was in my power to spare them. So I ended matters by pleading guilty.” The customary sentence for “Mormon Cohabs” was “6 by 3″—six months in jail and a fine of $300. Roberts was forced to take a “pauper’s oath,” becoming, in his words, “an inferior hero,” because his sentence was only “4 by 2.”
During the 1900 Congressional hearings on his right to be seated as a U.S. Representative, he was again charged with “unlawful cohabitation,” having fathered polygamous children after 1890. He argued that polygamists “have found it necessary to regard their moral obligations as more binding upon their consciences than their technical obedience to statutory law.”
1891. When the Church disbanded the People’s Party and encouraged the Saints to divide along national party lines, Roberts became an ardent Democrat.
[p.243]1894. Drafting Utah’s proposed constitution, Roberts argued that woman’s suffrage was a privilege rather than a right, and he observed that in his own home he preferred “some asylum, some refuge from the storms and cares of life,” not “political argument.” His position was widely criticized. One editorial cartoon pictured him as a bull braced on a railroad track to contend with an approaching train. The caption was supplied by Orson F. Whitney: “We can admire your courage, but damn your judgment.”
1895. June: Utah Democrats nominated Moses Thatcher for the U.S. Senate and B. H. Roberts for the House of Representatives.
October: At conference Joseph F. Smith of the First Presidency remarked that Roberts and Thatcher were out of harmony with the brethren because they had not cleared their political activities in advance. Five weeks later, both Democrats were defeated. Roberts later wrote that “unquestionably … the defeat of Mr. Roberts and the Democratic party in general was more or less influenced by the criticism.”
1896. February: Roberts and Thatcher refused to sign a Church “political manifesto” which stipulated that before a general authority could seek political office he must “apply to the proper authorities and learn from them whether he can, consistently with the obligations already entered into with the Church upon assuming his office, take upon himself the added duties and labors and responsibilities of the new position.”
March 5: The First Presidency, the Twelve, and Seven Presidents of Seventy continued to labor with the Democrat leader. “We spent the whole day here until six o’clock laboring with B. H. Roberts,” Wilford Woodruff wrote. “He stood like Adamant and he is going to destruction.” Roberts felt that the political manifesto constituted an infringement on basic civil liberties. He was suspended from ecclesiastical duties and given three weeks to recant. Two weeks later Heber J. Grant recorded that Roberts “held all the brethren at bay.”
March 24: He walked the streets all night, wrestling with the dilemma of sacrificing principle or being stripped of his Church blessings. Just hours before the deadline, [p.244]he decided to sign and was accepted back into fellowship.
1898. With approval from Quorum of the Twelve President Lorenzo Snow, Roberts ran for the House of Representatives and won by a plurality of 7000 votes.
1900. After a lengthy debate the U.S. House of Representatives refused to seat him because of his plural marriages. “Gentleman,” he responded, “I have lived with a good conscience until this very day and am sensible of no act of shame upon my part; you can brand me with shame and send me forth, but I shall leave here with head erect and brow undaunted, and walk the earth as angels walk the clouds. If you violate the Constitution of these United States all the shame will be with you.”
Utah Democratic Chairman
1902. Utah Democratic Chairman B. H. Roberts wrote a letter criticizing Senator Reed Smoot for seeking re-election instead of magnifying his office as an apostle. The letter was published and caused an uproar. Fellow Democrat Heber J. Grant recorded that in a meeting of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, “the general feeling was that after having run for Congress himself twice, that it came with very poor grace for [Roberts] to take the position that no high church official should hold any high office politically.”
1910. Roberts stunned the Mormon community during the 1910 campaign when he accused Smoot of being “content to be the tool of the trusts and a trickster in the politics of his own state.” Smoot did not publicly reply to his political and ecclesiastical subordinate, but in private he observed that B. H. Roberts “is a very contemptible man and dishonest in his life and utterances.”
Roberts continued to advocate causes not favored by Republican general authorities, notably the League of Nations and Roosevelt’s “New Deal.”
Roberts was recognized as the greatest Mormon orator [p.245]since Sidney Rigdon. Preston Nibley described his style: “How often have we seen him arise and face an audience, beginning at first to talk in a modulated tone, so low that he could scarcely be heard, increasing gradually in volume, making a point here and there, and then approaching his climax with a perfect Niagara of words, that left us almost breathless, and ending finally in a voice that was scarcely audible. There is power in oratory, and nature never lavished this gift more freely than she did on B. H. Roberts.”
1917. During World War I Roberts served, at the age of sixty, as chaplain of the 145th Utah Light Field Artillery in France. [p.246]During an influenza epidemic near Bordeaux, “he was unafraid of the vicious malady. He never hesitated to go into the sick rooms and never seemed to worry about the risk of getting the disease himself. Many times, especially when visiting the Latter-day Saint men, he would administer to them and the blessings Brother Roberts would give were tremendous and would kindle encouragement and hope to the men.”
President of the First Council of Seventy
Roberts’s non-ecclesiastical activities created friction between himself and other members of the First Council of Seventy. In 1899, commenting on Roberts’s lack of Church involvement, J. Golden Kimball commented, “No man can be inactive in the Church and have much faith.” And even Kimball cringed when Roberts referred to a political opponent as a “son of a bitch.”
[p.245 photo: B. H. Roberts—World War I]
[p.246]In 1901 another member of the Council, Joseph W. McMurrin, “took Bro. Roberts to task for not doing his part in filling appointments,” and the senior president of the Council, Seymour B. Young, noted that when “Bro. Roberts was asked if he could find time to devote a little more time to his Seventies duties, he said no and seemed offended that such a question should be asked.”
Roberts’s weakness for alcohol seems to have put another barrier between him and other members of the Council. In 1908 Seymour B. Young recorded that Roberts “has been many times much worse for liquor in so much that his brethren of the council have had to take up a labor with him.”
1924. Became senior president of the First Council of Seventy. From 1922 to 1927 he served as president of the Eastern States Mission.
Although he had no professional training in history, Roberts ranks among the most productive historians of [p.247]Mormonism. Appointed assistant Church historian in 1901, he was author of many historical works, including The Life of John Taylor, Outlines of Ecclesiastical History,, Succession in the Presidency, New Witnesses for God, Missouri Persecutions, The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo, Joseph Smith—Prophet, Teacher, and the six-volume Comprehensive History of the Church. He also edited the History of the Church in seven volumes.
His numerous theological works include Defense of the Faith and the Saints, Seventys’ Course in Theology, “Man’s Relationship to Deity, Man’s Need of God,” and “The Immortality of Man.”
When, in 1921, James E. Talmage forwarded several pointed questions about the Book of Mormon, Roberts prepared for the Quorum of the Twelve “Book of Mormon Difficulties” and “A Book of Mormon Study.”
“I am thoroughly convinced of the necessity of all the brethren herein addressed becoming familiar with these Book of Mormon problems, and finding the answer for them, as it is a matter that will concern the faith of the Youth of the Church now as also in the future, as well as such casual inquiries that may come to us from the outside world.”
Released from the presidency of the Eastern States Mission in 1927, Roberts devoted his full efforts to “The Truth, the Way, the Life”—a systematic theology of Mormonism. He had worked intermittently on the project for more than thirty years. But when the manuscript was completed in 1928, objections from Joseph Fielding Smith and others prevented Church publication. Opposition centered around Roberts’s contention that a race of men existed before Adam. Additional concerns were expressed over his attempts to reconcile the “scientific theory of catastrophism” with the scriptures. Roberts’s observation in 1931 that “Doctrinal questions before the Twelve and the First Presidency in connection with my book… [have] little prospect of settlement,” proved correct. “The Truth, the Way, the Life” has never been published.
1933. September 27: Died in Salt Lake City from complications of diabetes at the age of seventy-six. Buried in Centerville, Utah.
Bitton, R. Davis. “The B. H. Roberts Case of 1899-1900.” Utah Historical Quarterly 25 (Spring 1957):27-46.
Improvement Era, December 1933, p. 839.
Jenson, Andrew. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, 4 vols. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Company, 1901-1936.
Madsen, Truman G. B. H. Roberts: Defender of the Faith. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1981.
Malan, Robert H. B. H. Roberts. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1966.
Provo, Utah. Brigham Young University. Harold B. Lee Library. Reed Smoot Diary.
Salt Lake City, Utah. LDS Church Archives. Alma Eldredge Journal.
_____. Heber J. Grant Journal.
_____. J. Golden Kimball Journal.
_____. Journal History, 11 July 1907, 31 October 1908, 23 December 1933.
_____. Seymour B. Young Journals and Notebooks.
Salt Lake Tribune, 15 September 1898, 7 November 1910.
Whitney, Orson F. History of Utah. 4 vols. Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon and Sons Co., 1892-1894.
1813. June 28: Orrin Porter Rockwell was born in Belcher, Massachusetts. By 1830 the Rockwells were living one mile from Joseph Smith’s family in Manchester, New York. Porter was baptized shortly after the Church was organized. His 1832 marriage to Luana Beebe ended in separation ten years later, and he married Mary Ann Neff, Christine Olsen, and a Mrs. Davis. He was the father of fourteen children.
Joseph Smith’s Bodyguard
1840. Joseph Smith asked Rockwell to be one of his Nauvoo bodyguards. Porter replied, “Your enemies are my enemies, Joseph.” The Prophet felt more threat “from some little doughhead of a fool in this city than from all my numerous and inveterate enemies abroad. I am exposed to far greater danger from traitors among ourselves than from enemies without, although my life has been sought for many years by civil and military authorities, priests, and people of Missouri.”
“The Destroying Angel”
1842. Rockwell was arrested in Saint Louis and charged with the attempted murder of Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs. Ex-Mormon John C. Bennett claimed, “In the spring of the year Smith offered a reward of five hundred dollars to any man who would secretly assassinate Governor Boggs.” After the attempt on Boggs’s life, according to Bennett, “Smith said to me, speaking of Boggs, ‘The Destroying Angel’ had done the work as I predicted, but Rockwell was not the man who shot; the Angel did it.’”
Rockwell never denied shooting Boggs. General Patrick E. Conner reported that Rockwell told him, “I shot through the window and thought I had killed him, but I had only wounded him; I was damned sorry that I had not killed the son of a bitch!” Joseph Smith prophesied, “Orrin Porter Rockwell will [p.251]get away honorably from the Missourians.” Eight months later, Rockwell was released.
When he arrived at the Nauvoo Mansion House on Christmas Day, Joseph prophesied, “Orrin Porter Rockwell, so long as ye shall remain loyal and true to thy faith, [you] need fear no enemy. Cut not thy hair and no bullet or blade can harm thee.” Rockwell did not cut his hair until 1855.
1845. Fifteen months after Joseph and Hyrum were murdered, Rockwell was watering his horse on the outskirts of Nauvoo when Sheriff Jacob Bakenstos rode his lathered horse onto the scene. Hot on his trail was a group of Carthage Greys, a paramilitary group responsible for Joseph Smith’s security in the Carthage Jail. Bakenstos ordered Rockwell and another man to protect him “in the name of the State of Illinois, County of Hancock.” Rockwell took aim at the lead rider’s belt buckle and fired. Franklin A. Worrell “jumped four feet in the air and rolled away from his horse dead.” He was the first of forty to one hundred men reportedly killed by Orrin Porter Rockwell throughout his life.
1847. A member of the Council of Fifty since 1844, Rockwell was guide and chief hunter for the Brigham Young pioneer company. When camp hunters argued about whether a buffalo could be dropped with a frontal shot to the head, Rockwell deftly maneuvered his mount ahead of a large bull and fired point-blank into the shaggy forehead. “The ball just stirred up a little dust is all. That old bull shook his head like he was brushing off a fly and kept right on coming. I had to move pretty fast to get out of his way.”
1849. Elected deputy marshall of Salt Lake City. One year later he was appointed “Deputy Sheriff for Life.”
1855. The widow of the Prophet’s brother, Don Carlos Smith, had lost her hair from typhoid fever. Rockwell cut his hair to provide her with a wig—and claimed that henceforth he could no longer control his drinking and swearing.
Porter Rockwell could not read nor write. Like his friend Joseph Smith, he suffered a life-long limp because of a childhood injury. Rockwell’s voice was high-pitched, and when he became emotional, it raised to a high falsetto. But to the Eastern Press, he was “The Destroying Angel of Mormondom,” “Chief of the Danites,” “one of the pleasantest murderers I ever met.”
Stories about Rockwell’s “immortality” and “quick trigger” spice Mormon history. Once he reportedly dodged the rapid fire of several outlaws, then routed them with deadly accuracy. “When the smoke cleared, he shook himself like a great shaggy bear and several pistol balls of various calibers fell from the folds of his ill-fitting homespun coat, thus offering witnesses additional evidence of the fulfillment of Joseph Smith’s prophecy protecting Rockwell from harm.”
Another time a young gunslinger got the drop on Rockwell. “Say your prayers,” he demanded. Rockwell replied, “You wouldn’t try and shoot a man without a cap on your pistol, would you?” The instant the man glanced at his gun, he was blown from his saddle by Rockwell, who had a gun hidden in his pocket.
Rockwell was the object of several ballads:
Old Port Rockwell looks like a man,
With a beard on his face and his hair in a braid,
But there’s none in the West but Brigham who can
Look in his eyes and not be afraid.
For Port is a devil in a human shape,
Though he calls himself ‘Angel,’ say vengeance is sweet;
But he’s black, bitter death, and there’s no escape,
When he wails through the night his dread war cry,
Somewhere a wife with babes kneels to pray,
For she knows she’s a widow and orphans are they.
In his later years Rockwell raised horses in Skull Valley, fought Indians, continued as a lawman, carried mail across the plains, worked as a scout and guide, and established the Hot Springs Brewery Hotel near the present site of the Utah State Penitentiary in Draper, where he also operated a Pony Express station.
1877. September 30: The Salt Lake Tribune reported, “Another one of ‘our best society’, O. P. Rockwell, was jugged yesterday. This man has been one of the chief murderers of the Mormon Church, opening his career of blood in Nauvoo, under the regime of the Prophet. He was indicted a day or two ago by the grand jury of the First District Court, for participation in the horrible atrocious murder of the Aiken party, in 1858, on the Sevier.”
After a week in jail he was released on $15,000 bail posted by friends. Trial date was set for October, 1878. Lawyers attempting to prepare his defense met with frustration; his answer to every question they asked him was, “Wheat! Wheat!”
1878. June 8: Rockwell died at the age of sixty-five, before he was brought to trial. He had attended the theater the previous evening with his daughter, and after the performance walked the few blocks to the Colorado Stables, where he often slept to be close to his animals. After a fretful night of chills and nausea he vomited violently and frequently. Recovering, he rose up in his bed and attempted to put on his boots, then fell suddenly back on his bed, dead.
At the time of his death, Rockwell had been a member of the Church longer than any other Mormon. Joseph F. Smith eulogized, “He had his little faults, but Rockwell’s life on earth, taken altogether, was one worthy of example, and reflected honor upon the Church. Through all his trials he had never once forgotten his obligations to his brethren and his God.” The anti-Mormon Salt Lake Tribune dryly commented that this eulogy was “fitting tribute of one outlaw to the memory of another.”
Rockwell’s epitaph in the Salt Lake City Cemetery reads, “He was brave & loyal to his faith, true to the prophet Jos. Smith, a promise made him by the prophet thro obedience it was fulfilled.”
Bennett, John C. The History of the Saints: Or an Expose’ of Joe Smith and Mormonism. Boston: Leland & Whiting, 1842.
Clayton Family Association. Journal of William Clayton. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1921.
Deseret News, 10 October 1855, 31 August 1935.
History of the Church, 5:305, 6:152.
Ludlow, Fitz Hugh. “Among the Mormons.” The Atlantic Monthly April 1864, p. 492.
Salt Lake Tribune, 30 September 1877, 11 June 1878, 13 June 1878, 24 February 1924.
Schindler, Harold. Orrin Porter Rockwell: Man of God, Son of Thunder. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1966.
Wyl, Wilhelm W. Mormon Portraits: Joseph Smith the Prophet, His Family and His Friends. Salt Lake City, 1886.
1834. October 4: Aurelia Read Spencer was born in Deep River, Connecticut, to Catherine Curtis and Orson Spencer. Her father was a charter member of the Council of Fifty, Saint Louis Stake president, president of the British Mission, and president of the University of Deseret.
Her family joined the Church and moved to Nauvoo when she was seven. Aurelia learned to smoke a pipe at her grandmother’s knee, but finally responded to a “monitor within that told me it was wrong, and what it would lead to if persisted in: I should be, if I lived, an old lady smoker. This thought disgusted me, for I never did like to see women smoke.”
Aurelia was only thirteen when her mother died during the Nauvoo exodus. Orson Spencer related the last days of his wife’s life: “Under the influence of a severe cold, she gradually wasted away, telling her children, from time to time, how she wanted them to live and conduct themselves, when they should become motherless and pilgrims in a strange land.”
Aurelia and her older sister Ellen cared for the other four children in Winter Quarters while their father filled a mission to England.
1851. Three years after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley with Brigham Young’s 1848 company, Aurelia married Thomas Rogers and moved to Farmington, Utah. They had twelve children, only seven of whom lived to maturity. After the death of one, Aurelia wrote: “I almost lost faith in God; for once in my life, I even doubted the existence of a Supreme Being.
“One day while reflecting on these things, one of my father’s letters came to my mind, wherein he said, ‘Trust in God though he slay you!’ I caught at the suggestion, which had surely been given by the Spirit of the Lord, and went to Him in prayer, asking Him to forgive me for my lack of faith, and to grant me strength to endure, feeling that I would put my trust in Him henceforth and forever.”
[p.256]“Mother of the Primary Association”
1878. March: When Relief Society President Eliza R. Snow visited Farmington, Aurelia expressed concern about rowdy boys. “What will our girls do for good husbands, if this state of things continues? Could there not be an organization for little boys, and have them trained to make better men?”
Farmington Bishop John W. Hess received a letter from John Taylor authorizing a new organization in the ward. August 11, 1878, Bishop Hess set Aurelia Rogers apart as president of the Church’s first Primary Association. Though she felt “willing, but very incompetent,” she taught her charges “obedience, faith in God, prayer, punctuality, and good manners.” Rogers also served as secretary of the Farmington Relief Society for twenty-two years.
1893. Called to the Primary General Board. One year later she was a Utah delegate to the Women’s Suffrage Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1895 she was elected a delegate to the National Council of Women in Washington, D.C.
1922. August 19: Died in Farmington, Utah. Shortly before her death, she told family members: “I would like just a few simple blossoms from my own garden … if any one has money to spend for flowers for me, it would make me happier to have it given to comfort someone in need.” Buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Madsen, Carol Cornwall, and Oman, Susan Staker. Sisters and Little Saints. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1979.
Rogers, Aurelia S. Life Sketches of Orson Spencer and Others, and History of Primary Work. Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon and Sons Co., 1898.
Ritchie, Elizabeth Kohler. “Aurelia S.Rogers.” Sister Saints. Edited by Vicky Burgess-Olson. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1978.