A Book of Mormons
by Richard S. Van Wagoner and Steven C. Walker
1862. September 22: Born James Edward Talmage in Hungerford, England. Talmage was baptized in England in 1873 and emigrated with his family to Provo, Utah, in 1876.
An Oxford Diocesan Scholar at the age of twelve, Talmage entered Brigham Young Academy in 1876 as a student of Karl G. Maeser. In 1879 he completed high school and became a teacher of elementary science and English at the academy. In the 1880s he attended LeHigh University and Johns Hopkins University. An avid scientific researcher, he conducted personal experiments to supplement theoretical investigation; in 1884 he even used hashish for two weeks to study the effects of narcotics.
1884. Named professor of geology and chemistry at Brigham Young Academy and later elected to the board of trustees. During four years in Provo, Talmage became a U.S. citizen, Provo city councilman, alderman, and justice of the peace.
1888. Married Merry May Booth in Salt Lake City. He called her “Maia,” after the Roman goddess of the spring. They had eight children.
1888. Called at twenty-six to be president of Latter-day Saints College in Salt Lake City. In 1894 he was named president of the University of Utah and joined the faculty as a professor of geology.
1896. Awarded a Ph.D. by Illinois Wesleyan University for non-resident work. March 12: Working feverishly on the Articles of Faith, in addition to his duties as university president, Talmage [p.345]undermined his health. The First Presidency “learned that my health has been jeopardized,” he wrote in his journal, “and, as they said, my sanity, and life threatened by insomnia and other evidences of nervous disorders. … Pres. Woodruff, Pres. Geo. Q. Cannon, and Pres. Jos. F. Smith gave me combined counsel to try the effect of moderate smoking: indeed said Pres. Cannon, ‘We give you this rather as an instruction than as counsel. …‘”
Despite his lack of experience with tobacco and his successful determination to prevent therapy from becoming habit, Talmage found that “a good cigar produced a marvelous quieting of my over-wrought nerves.”
1897. Resigned as president of the University of Utah, though continuing as professor of geology. Ten years later he resigned as chairman of the geology department to be a full-time mining consultant.
Talmage was a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society, and a member of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, Geological Society, Geological Society of America, Royal Society of Edinburgh, and American Association for Advancement of Science.
1911. December 8: Ordained an apostle after the death of Charles Penrose.
1924. Called as president of the European Mission for four years.
During the 1920s and early 1930s organic evolution was widely publicized in the United States. The Church took no specific stand on the theory, except to reaffirm that “man was created by God, that Adam was the parent of the human race, and that the destiny of man would be worked out according to the plan of God, which included the reality of the atonement of the Savior.” Talmage went a [p.346]step further in a 1930 radio address, “The Earth and Man,” reconciling propositions of science and religion.
A prolific writer, Talmage produced such scientific works as First Book of Nature (1888), Domestic Science (1891), and The Great Salt Lake, Present and Past(1900). His theological works include The Articles of Faith(1899), The Great Apostasy (1909), The House of the Lord (1912), and Jesus the Christ (1915).
Talmage was thoroughly converted to the Mormon work ethic. “In his later years he had no interests in the conventional sense, no sports or games or hobbies that were not closely associated with his work. His work was his recreation.”
[p.346 photo: no caption]
Family, friends, and associates were concerned about his long working hours. President Grant, an avid golfer, urged Talmage to take up the sport, and after much persuasion, reached a compromise: Talmage would give [p.347]the game an honest trial. His lessons would continue until he was able to hit a shot which President Grant rated as satisfactory, “a real golf shot.” Then President Grant would allow him to make his own decision about further play.
After a brief lesson on addressing the ball, Talmage teed up. Instead of missing or slicing the ball into the rough, he hit a clean, two-hundred-yard drive. When President Grant congratulated him on a “real golf shot,” Talmage responded, “If I have carried out my part of the agreement, then I shall call on you to live up to yours. … I should like to get back to the office, where I have a great deal of work waiting.”
1933. July 27: Died at seventy-one of a throat infection complicated by overwork into acute myocarditis. He had stayed in his office at 47 East South Temple overnight July 23, suffering from a slightly irritated throat which was not relieved by his favorite drink, root beer. He remained in his office on the 24th, but on the 25th was so ill he required help getting home.
His gravestone at the Salt Lake City Cemetery is an unusual geological phenomenon, a “xenolith” (rock within a rock)—dark limestone engulfed in granite.
His epitaph expresses the breadth of his scholarly and religious perspective: “Within the Gospel of Jesus Christ There Is Room and Place for Every Truth Thus Far Learned by Man or Yet to be Made Known.”
Allen, James B., and Leonard, Glen M. The Story of the Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976.
Talmage, John R. The Talmage Story: Life of James E. Talmage. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1972.
Jenson, Andrew. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. 4 vols. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Company, 1901-1936.
Provo, Utah, Brigham Young University. Harold B. Lee Library. James E. Talmage Journal.
1864. September 24: Born in Farmington, Utah. Baptized in 1873, Annie Clark was rebaptized a year later during a reformation movement. She remembered, “We raised our right hand and promised not to trade with outsiders. Also, as children, we promised never to touch tea, coffee, or tobacco. To take the Lord’s name in vain was a great offense. The punishment for disregard of high moral standards among young people was severe indeed. The young people who transgressed were required to make an acknowledgement of their sin in a public meeting and ask the forgiveness of the Saints.”
1880. At sixteen, Annie attended the University of Utah and served as a counselor to Farmington Primary President Aurelia Rogers. From 1882 to 1883 she attended the Brigham Young Academy, where Karl G. Maeser acclaimed her as the most brillant student in her class.
Professor Joseph M. Tanner made a strong impression on Annie’s classmate, Alice Louise Reynolds: “Had I not seen a guide in Rome in 1906,” she said, “I should be tempted to say he was the most handsome man I have ever seen.”
On his first visit to Annie Clark’s home, the circumspect Tanner brought along his first wife, Jennie. After returning from a buggy ride in the country the next day, “Mrs. Tanner, having observed that I had been comparatively indifferent to her husband, brought up the subject of polygamy. I told her that without her approval, our affair was at an end.
“‘Why,’ she answered, ‘don’t you love him?’ ‘Independent of that,’ I replied, ‘without your approval, our interest in each other will go no farther.’ She then related her father and mother’s miserable experience in the principle, and excused herself for the aversion she felt for it, but concluded, ‘I have no children although I have been married five years. I can’t deprive Marion of a family, and of all the girls I know, you are my choice.'” Annie became [p.350]his plural wife in 1883. He became president of Utah State University and superintendent of Church schools.
Anti-polygamy pressures demanded that Annie’s marriage be kept secret. Her wedding night was spent in her parents’ home: “As I sat down to a glass of bread and milk the thought came to me, ‘Well, this is my wedding supper.’ In those few minutes I recalled the elaborate marriage festivals which had taken place in our own family, of the banquets I had helped to prepare and the many lovely brides among my friends. I even began to compare their wedding gowns.”
Six months later, Tanner married a third wife. “I had not seen the third wife, but I did wonder wherein I lacked that so soon he should take another wife. Then I remembered the doctrine of the Trinity as taught by the Church—that if one wanted to attain the very pinnacle of glory in the next world there must be, at least, three wives.”
When Tanner was called on a mission to Europe, “Annie Clark” supported him and herself as a school teacher. In 1888, pregnant with the first of her ten children, she went underground until the baby was born.
Throughout her marriage, Annie Clark Tanner, like many plural wives, was essentially a hard-working widow: “I had the attitude of many Mormon women in polygamy. I felt the responsibility of my family, and I developed an independence that women in monogamy never know. A woman in polygamy is compelled by her lone position to make a confidant of her children. How much more is this true when that woman is left entirely alone.”
1910. Annie Clark Tanner rented out her Farmington home and moved to Provo so her children could obtain better educations. She took a Bible class from BYA professor Joseph Peterson, a popular instructor later dismissed for teaching evolution and “higher criticism.” “I had been a teacher of the Bible in several of the organizations of the Church and now for the first time in my life I was learning some truths which made reasonable explanation of Bible difficulties,” she wrote. “I fully believed that the men who [p.351]had done research on the old Hebrew records were just as honest as any scientist. Why should we turn down their findings?”
Her son Obert observed that in Provo “the basis of her authority for truth gradually shifted from the authority of sacred scriptures to the authority of scholars and universities. She continued to love the scriptures, but on a selective basis. One scripture story or doctrine, one after another, became of doubtful value to her, if not simply incredible. She ultimately cast her lot, not mainly with scriptures, but gradually and more finally with scholars and their books … from the warm and trusting security of a religious foundation, she gleaned whatever solace she could find in the scientific approach of the less certain, the less positive, the more tentative.”
Returning to Farmington, she continued to rent out part of her home to make ends meet. Though Wilford Woodruff had announced discontinuance of plural marriage on her twenty-sixth birthday, Marion and Annie Tanner continued to live together after the Manifesto. She bore eight children after 1890, and he entered into three plural marriages.
On a Sunday morning in 1913, J. M. Tanner made one of his infrequent trips home, a visit Annie never forgot. He informed her “that he would not come to Farmington to see us any more. There had been no previous differences between us except the children’s education to which no reference had recently been made, so the statement was a great shock to me at the time.
“Inwardly, I felt impelled to persuade him otherwise, and I was sure he had expected me to. I nevertheless controlled myself and made no response to his far-reaching decision. My silence at the moment was not an easy thing. Yet, I am aware now that the years of preceding struggle to live polygamy had all helped to steel me for whatever may come. I thought in those few moments before he departed: ‘I’ll be equal to whatever must come.'” Thus ended the thirty-year marriage. Annie was forced to find work as a practical nurse in Salt Lake City.
[p.352]After thirty years as a plural wife, Annie Clark Tanner concluded the “companionship between husband and wife in polygamy could not be so close as in monogamy. There was more independence on both sides in polygamy …. It is needless to observe that monogamous marriages are by far the more successful. They give security and confidence, and these are the requirements for happiness.”
Annie Clark Tanner wrote A Biography of Ezra T. Clark, her father, in 1934, and in 1941, the last year of her life, her autobiography, A Mormon Mother.
1942. Died at the age of seventy-eight in Farmington, Utah, the hometown she always hated to leave. Her gravestone in the Farmington Cemetery has no epitaph, but words from her autobiography are appropriate: “It is but a small part that the average person contributes to improve mankind. My life has been simple, full of love, devotion, and service for my family. I might have thought mine a hard row to hoe had not the plants I cultivated responded so magnificently to the culture I gave them.”
Bushman, Claudia V., ed. Mormon Sisters: Women in Early Utah. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Emmeline Press Limited, 1976.
Tanner, Obert C., ed. A Mormon Mother: An Autobiography by Annie Clark Tanner. Salt Lake City: Tanner Trust Fund/University of Utah, 1976.
1808. November 1: Born in Milnthorpe, England, he married Leonora Cannon in 1833. When Joseph Smith explained plural marriage to him in 1843, Taylor wrote, “I had always entertained strict ideas of virtue. … Nothing but a knowledge of God, and the revelations of God, and the truth of them, could have induced me to embrace such a principle as this.”
He embraced the principle thoroughly, marrying fifteen plural wives—Elizabeth Kaighin (1843), Jane Ballantyne (1844), Mary Ann Oakley (1846), Mary Amanda Utley (1846), Ann Hughlings Pitchforth (1846), Ann Ballantyne (1846), Mary Ramsbottom (1846), Lydia Dibble Smith (1846), Sarah Thorton Coleman (1846), Mercy Thompson Smith (1846), Sophia Whittaker (1847), Harriet Whittaker (1847), Caroline Hooper Saunders Gillian (1847), Margaret Young (1847), and Josephine Elizabeth Rouche (1886). Three of his wives later divorced him: Mercy R. Thompson Smith (1847), Sarah Thornton Coleman (1852), and Ann Ballantyne (1854).
He was the father of thirty-five children, including John W. Taylor and an adopted son (his wife’s nephew), George Q. Cannon, who became apostles. Another son, William W., became a president of the Council of the Seventy, and President Joseph F. Smith was the nephew of his wife Mercy Thompson Smith.
Two years after the Taylors immigrated to Canada from England, John became active in the Methodist church. Convinced that no denomination they knew followed the New Testament pattern, the Taylors and their friends prayed for someone to bring them the true church.
1836. Converted and baptized by Parley P. Pratt.
Taylor once said, “If it were not for the religion I profess, which gives me to know something about the matter, by revelation for myself, I would not have anything to do with religion at all …. I never would submit to be gulled with the nonsense that exists in the world, under [p.355]the name of religion.”
After serving as the Church’s presiding officer in Canada for a year, Taylor moved to Kirtland, Ohio, then to Far West, Missouri.
1838. December 19: Ordained an apostle at Far West by Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, following the excommunication of John F. Boynton. Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail.
1839. Taylor went with other members of the Twelve to Great Britain, where he opened Ireland and the Isle of Man to missionary work. He later served missions to Great Britain (1846-1847) and France (1850-1852). In France he wrote several pamphlets, including Government of God.
In Nauvoo, Taylor received his second anointings, became a member of the Council of Fifty (1844), served on the city council (1841-1844) and the board of regents for the university, and was judge advocate of the Nauvoo legion.
He edited the last three volumes of the Times and Seasons and published the Nauvoo Neighbor. In recognition of his polished editorials, W. W. Phelps, Nauvoo’s toastmaster supreme, dubbed Taylor “Champion of Right.”
Taylor established the first Church periodicals in France and Germany (1851) and published the Mormon, a New York City newspaper (1852).
1844. June 27: Jailed with Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, and Willard Richards in Carthage, Illinois. To cheer up the group, Taylor sang “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.” He suggested escape to the Prophet: “If you permit it, and say the word, I will have you out of this prison in five [p.356]hours, if the jail has to come down to do it.” The offer was refused.
Asked to sing the song again, Taylor said he did not feel like singing. Hyrum entreated, “Oh, never mind; commence singing and you will get the spirit of it.” Shortly after Taylor completed the song again, an armed mob overwhelmed the guard and rushed up the stairs to the prisoner’s room while gunmen outside fired into the building:
“After parrying the guns for some time, which now protruded thicker and farther into the room, and seeing no hope of escape or protection there, as we were now unarmed, it occurred to me that we might have some friends outside, and that there might be some chance of escape in that direction but here there seemed to be none. As I expected them every moment to rush into the room—nothing but extreme cowardice having thus far kept them out—as the tumult and pressure increased, without any other hope, I made a spring for the window, which was right in front of the jail door where the mob was standing, and also exposed to the fire of the Carthage Greys. …
“I was struck by a ball from the door about midway of my thigh, which struck the bone, and flattened out almost the size of a quarter of a dollar, and then passed on through the fleshy part to within about half an inch of the outside. I think some prominent nerve must have been severed or injured for as soon as the ball struck me, I fell like a bird when shot, or an ox when struck by a butcher, and lost entirely and instantaneously all power of action or locomotion. I fell upon the window-sill, and cried out, ‘I am shot!’
“Not possessing any power to move, I felt myself falling outside of the window, but immediately I fell inside, from some, at that time, unknown cause. When I struck the floor my animation seemed restored, as I have seen it sometimes in squirrels and birds after being shot. As soon as I felt the power of motion I crawled under the bed, which was in a corner of the room, not far from the window where I received my wound.
“While on my way and under the bed I was wounded in three other places; one ball entered a little below the left knee, and never was extracted; another entered the forepart of my left arm, a little above the wrist, and, passing down by the joint, lodged in the fleshy part of my hand, about midway, a little above the upper joint of my little finger; and another struck me on the fleshy part of my left hip, and tore away the flesh as large as my hand, dashing the mangled fragments of flesh and blood against the wall.”
When he reached Nauvoo, Taylor and his family were “not a little startled to find that my watch had been struck with a ball. I sent for my vest, and, upon examination, it was found that there was a cut as if with a knife, in the vest pocket which had contained my watch. In the pocket the fragments of the glass were found literally ground to powder. It then occurred to me that a ball had struck me at the time I felt myself falling out of the window, and that it was this force that threw me inside.”
Father of Utah Sugar Industry
1847. Mechanically gifted, Taylor built one of the first sawmills in Utah.
1849. On a mission to examine French methods of producing sugar from sugar beets, he purchased a French sugar factory for the Church and brought it across the plains in forty-four wagons. The factory was set up at the present site of Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake Valley without any written instructions for assembling the complicated mechanism.
The venture proved a failure. Instead of sugar, the process produced a thick brown syrup which even cattle would not eat. The Church lost more than $50,000 on the experiment. Brigham Young blamed Taylor for mismanagement and refused to compensate his personal losses. When Taylor became president thirty years later, he was compensated by the Quorum of the Twelve.
Taylor served as associate judge in the provisional State of Deseret (1849-50), territorial legislator (1853-54, 1857-79), [p.358]probate judge (1868-70), and member of Utah constitutional conventions.
Third President of the Church
1875. Brigham Young made John Taylor president of the Quorum of the Twelve by rearranging seniority.
1877. On Brigham Young’s death, Taylor led the Church as president of the Quorum of the Twelve.
1878. Organized the Primary Association.
1880. October 10: Sustained as president of the Church, with George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith as counselors.
1882. Wrote Mediation and Atonement of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“King, Priest, and Ruler over Israel on Earth”
During the Taylor administration, Congress passed a series of laws intended to disfranchise, fine, and imprison Mormon polygamists. Despite the Supreme Court’s 1879 decision upholding anti-polygamy laws, President Taylor received a revelation in 1882 indicating “all officers in the Priesthood must enter into plural marriage.” In 1884 he reported another revelation urging “monogamists to resign ecclesiastical offices in the church.”
During an 1885 visit to California he received word that federal officials had ordered his arrest, but returned to Salt Lake City January 27, 1885. February 1 he preached his last public sermon, explaining that he would submit to arrest “if the law would only be a little more dignified.” That night he disappeared from public view and went into hiding on the “Mormon underground.”
[p.358]1885. February 4: In a secret meeting of two members of the First Presidency, seven apostles, and two clerks at the Salt Lake City Endowment House, “President Taylor … directed Br Nuttall to read a Revelation which he said he [p.359]received more than a year ago requiring him to be anointed & set apart as King Priest and Ruler over Israel on the Earth—over Zion & the Kingdom of Christ our King of Kings.” Notices of the ceremony appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune three months later. But the coronation had little practical effect on Utah politics—the Council of Fifty had ceased to meet, and within six years Mormons would be encouraged to divide along national party lines.
The federal anti-polygamy crusade severely disrupted Church activities. First Presidency guidance at general conferences came in the form of letters signed by President Taylor and his first counselor, George Q. Cannon. Joseph F. Smith, second counselor, had escaped into exile in Hawaii.
President Taylor moved constantly to avoid arrest. According to his son, Apostle John W. Taylor, President [p.Taylor received an 1886 revelation which declared “the Law of Plural Marriage was Eternal.” By 1887 nearly every settlement in Utah had been raided by federal marshals, hundreds of Saints had escaped to Mexico or Canada, and almost all of the Church leaders were in hiding.
Shortly before President Taylor’s death in July, the First Presidency, hoping that plural marriage could survive under state-enforced laws, agreed to a compromise whereby Utah would adopt an anti-polygamy constitution in return for statehood. But the plan failed when the Scott Amendment was defeated in Congress.
1887. July 25: Died of congestive heart failure in Kaysville, Utah, while on the underground to preserve his religious principles. “I do not believe in a religion that cannot have all my affections, but in a religion for which I can both live and die,” he had said. Buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Green, Forace. Testimonies of Our Leaders. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958.
History of the Church, 7:104-105.Ivins, Stanley S. “Notes on Mormon Polygamy.”
Utah Historical Quarterly 35 (Fall 1967):309-321.
Minutes of the Trial of John W. Taylor before the Council of Twelve Apostles. Salt Lake City: Mormon Underground Press, n.d.
Quinn, D. Michael. “The Council of Fifty and Its Members: 1844 to 1945.” Brigham Young University Studies 20 (Winter 1980):163-197.
_____. “Organizational Development and Social Origins of the Mormon Hierarchy, 1832-1932: A Prosopographical Study.” Master’s thesis, University of Utah, 1973.
Roberts, B. H. Life of John Taylor. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1963.
Salt Lake City, Utah. LDS Church Archives. Abraham H. Cannon Journal, 6 April 1884.
West, Emerson R. Profiles of the Presidents. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1973.
John W. Taylor (1858-1916)
“Prophet of the Quorum”
Champion of Plural Marriage
1858. May 15: Born John Whittaker Taylor in Provo, Utah, to John Taylor and Sophia Whittaker, whom his father married on a carriage ride in Salt Lake City’s Liberty Park.
1883. Married May Leona Rich. He later married plural wives Nellie Eva Todd (known to the family as his “Canadian wife”), and—after the Wilford Woodruff Manifesto—Janetta Maria Woolley (1890), Eliza Roxey Welling (1901), and Rhoda Welling (1901)—(his “Mexican wives”), and Ellen Georgena Sandburg (1909). He was the father of thirty-five children.
Abraham Cannon reported that Taylor, as a young man working in a Summit County sawmill, saw a bright light which “continued to increase in intensity and with the increase he seemed to be pushed further away from its source. Finally he clasped his arms around the stump of a tree for the purpose of keeping himself in position. He saw the Son of God appear in the brilliancy of the light and then his hold upon the stump began to slip and he knew that should he release his grasp he would be thrust back with such violence that he would be dashed to pieces.
“His father told him that the interpretation of the dream was that the bright light was the truth which would banish all truthhaters from before it, and the tree stump to which he was holding was a similar representation to that of the rod of iron in the Book of Mormon.”
“Prophet of the Quorum”
1884. Called to the Quorum of the Twelve by his father, John Taylor. John W. so frequently pronounced public and private prophecies that during the next two decades he was referred to as “the prophet of the Quorum.”
1894. After “laboring for nearly six months almost entirely in his own interests,” Taylor was charged by President Lorenzo Snow to attend “more faithfully to his ecclesiastical duties, and less to his personal affairs.” John W.’s business speculations brought financial ruin to several friends, including J. Golden Kimball. By 1902 Taylor’s business prospects were so abysmal that the Twelve appointed Reed Smoot to persuade creditors to settle $140,000 of Taylor’s debts at ten cents on the dollar. A decade later, Taylor’s Mormon friends in Canada endured similar losses as his speculative schemes again collapsed.
Champion of Plural Marriage
1892. Two years after the Church sustained the Wilford Woodruff Manifesto, Taylor said, “I do not know that that thing was right though I voted to sustain it, and will assist to maintain it; but among my father’s papers I found a revelation given him of the Lord, and which is now in my possession, in which the Lord told him that the principle of plural marriage would never be overcome. President Taylor desired to have it suspended, but the Lord would not permit it.”
1905. John W. Taylor and Matthias Cowley, with tacit approval of members of the First Presidency, had entered plural marriages after the Manifesto and had performed such marriages in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Apostle Reed Smoot, committed by his election to the U.S. Senate to vote against known offenders of the Manifesto, withheld his sustaining vote for the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the 1905 October Conference. Taylor, asked about the possibility of resigning his apostleship, replied, “I told you brethren that while I didn’t support you in the policy of deposing the apostles to make a showing in Congress and said I would not approve of the policy of the Church in this regard, I would not oppose it.” Both Taylor and Cowley resigned their apostleships, but their resignations were not announced for several months.
1911. Charged with entering into plural marriages after the 1904 “Second Manifesto,” and of aiding others to do likewise, Taylor told the Twelve, “I have never married any one without the endorsement and authority of the President of the Church, and if you desire I will give the names of those I have married, but I think this would be unwise.”
“I have no aspirations in an ecclesiastical way,” he added. “I have a large family of children, my wives to take care of and my business needs my attention. I don’t say these things out of disrespect, but I would like you to do as you think best, not because of lack of testimony, but feel free in regard to my case. …
“I am a different man to what I have been. I am not a man of spiritual temperament as I was at one time. … In my parting with you, I desire to go with a spirit of kindness and with the best purposes. I feel freerer [sic] today than I have felt for the past four or five weeks.”
1911. March 28: Excommunicated by the Quorum of the Twelve for “insubordination.”
1916. October 10: Died of cancer at the age of fifty-eight in Salt Lake City.
Prior to his death, he had told his wives, “No tears … I will be waiting for you over there. I must go now to prepare a place. And when I leave I want no mourning, I want no flowers, no public display. No funeral. I am a nomad. Let the ashes of this wandering body blow with the winds from some mountain peak.”
Speculation as to whether the ex-apostle would be buried in his temple clothes caused curious onlookers to attempt to view the body. Family security prevented this. His wife Nettie related that on the night of Taylor’s death, President Joseph F. Smith, regretting his role in Taylor and Cowley’s dismissal, called privately at her home and gave her a package containing temple robes. He was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
1965. May 21: Reinstated as a Church member in full standing by authorization of President David O. McKay.
Jorgensen, Victor W., and Hardy, B. Cartoon. “The Taylor-Cowley Affair and the Watershed of Mormon History.” Utah Historical Quarterly 48 (Winter 1980):4-36.
Minutes of the Trial of John W. Taylor Before the Council of Twelve Apostles. Salt Lake City: Mormon Underground Press n.d.
Roberts, B. H. Comprehensive History 4:399-400.
Salt Lake City, Utah. LDS Church Archives. Abraham H. Cannon Journal, 29 March 1892, 2 April 1894.
_____. Anthon H. Lund Journal, 27 March 1902.
Salt Lake City, Utah. University of Utah. J. Willard Marriott Library. John Taylor Family Papers.
Taylor, Samuel Woolley. Family Kingdom. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.
_____. The Kingdom or Nothing: The Life of John Taylor, Militant Mormon. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1976.
Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, July 1930, p. 106.
1842. February 2: Born in Sangamon County, Illinois. His family migrated to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Two years later, touched with the gold fever, they moved to Sacramento, California, where his father operated an “eating house.”
Moses earned his keep by watering miners’ horses for as much as five dollars a drink. He also mined, extracting moss and gold from the crevices of rocks on the banks of the American River with a butcher knife and a milk pan.
Missionaries frequently visited the Thatcher home, and fourteen-year-old Moses was baptized in the Rio Puta in 1856. Three months later he was ordained an elder. In 1858 Moses and his brothers moved to Salt Lake City, where he joined the police force. In 1860 the Thatcher family moved to Cache Valley, Utah, where Moses married Lettie Farr in 1861. He later married Lydia Ann Clayton (1868) and Georgie Snow, daughter of Erastus Snow (1885).
1870. Appointed superintendent of Cache Valley schools, as well as director and secretary of the Utah Northern Railroad, a company which he eventually managed. As his wealth increased, Thatcher became a vice-president and director of ZCMI and Deseret National Bank, and president of Thatcher Brothers’ Banking Company. He was well respected in Cache and Rich counties, serving as territorial legislator for ten years.
1879. April 9:After two years as a stake president in Logan, Utah, Thatcher was ordained an apostle and, six months later, called on a mission to Mexico.
1880. February: He returned to Salt Lake City with a proposal to colonize Utah Saints in Mexico, but the Twelve decided against the measure and Thatcher returned to Mexico City in December.
[p.368]1881. April: Dedicated Mexico for the preaching of the gospel. The first Mormon mission to Mexico was in 1874.
1883. Prosecution of federal anti-polygamy laws made the prospect of Mexican colonies more attractive. Thatcher and his future father-in-law, Erastus Snow, were dispatched to find suitable sites. Thatcher knew key Mexican officials, and his business acumen qualified him to negotiate complicated agreements.
Dedicating Colonia Juarez on a 75,000-acre tract in Corrales Basin in 1887, Thatcher promised, “As long as saloons are banned, and profanity kept off the streets, this spot will remain a place of refuge for all who need it.” Mormon polygamists found refuge in Juarez and seven other Mexican colonies until 1910, when they were abondoned during the Mexican Revolution.
Abraham H. Cannon alleged that Thatcher “constantly opposed the increase of power in the hands of the President of the Church.”
1885. February 4: According to Cannon, “The Council of Fifty met in the old City Hall, and Moses opposed the proposition to anoint John Taylor as Prophet, Priest and King.” In 1889 Thatcher objected to the selection of Wilford Woodruff as president of the Church on grounds that the eighty-two-year-old apostle could not cope with increasing Church difficulties over polygamy.
1892. Moses Thatcher, B. H. Roberts, and Charles W. Penrose, campaigning for the Democratic Party, were censured by their Republican brethren, who felt it unwise for them to “take to the political stump at that time.”
1896. Thatcher, a Democratic Senatorial candidate, and B. H. Roberts, Democratic candidate for Congress, suffered disciplinary action for accepting nomination without approval from Church leaders. Wilford Woodruff explained: “When a man was appointed to the apostleship, or presidency, orin any office, as a teacher of the people, it placed on him a very grave responsibility; and no man was counted at liberty, from the organization of the church, to engage in any branch of business, politics, or anything else to take him entirely away from his calling, business, duty or responsibility for a length of time, without first counseling with the presidency of the church, or with his quorum, on its propriety, and getting permission to do so.”
After both Thatcher and Roberts were defeated, the First Presidency prepared a “political manifesto” which stipulated that “before accepting any position, political or otherwise, which would interfere with the proper and complete discharge of his ecclesiastical duties, and before accepting a nomination or entering into engagements to perform new duties, [every leading] official should 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.”
Although B. H. Roberts eventually endorsed the document, Thatcher steadfastly refused. He was convinced that the manifesto would be used selectively to stifle Democratic candidates: “I could not consent to the adoption of a rule that would effect the political liberty of so many people, and give so great power to the church authorities.”
The entire matter was complicated by Thatcher’s prolonged ill health and morphine addiction. Heber J. Grant recorded during this time that he called on Moses one evening “and found him very low indeed. … He told me that he felt impressed with the idea that he had a cancer in his stomach. He is a wonderfully sick man and it looks to me that he can not live long unless there is a change for the better.” He did not die for fifteen years. His refusal to sign the manifesto resulted in his name not being presented for endorsement in April conference.
1896. November 19: Dropped from the Quorum of the Twelve [p.370]and deprived of the right to use his priesthood. One year later, to avoid excommunication, he signed a prepared statement: “That in taking the position that the authorities of the Church, by issuing the declaration of principles on April 6, 1896, acted in violation of pledges previously given and contrary to what they had published in the Deseret News and given to the Salt Lake Times, he was in error and in the dark. … That he was mistaken in conveying the idea that the church authorities desired and intended to unite church and state to exercise undue influence in political affairs.”
1909. August 21: Having returned to his business interests and family in Logan, Moses Thatcher died there at the age of sixty-seven. Buried in the Logan Cemetery.
Deseret News, 19 October 1895, 28 November 1896.
Hatch, Nelle Spilsbury. Colonia Juarez: An Intimate Account of a Mormon Village. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1954.
Ivins, Stanley S. The Moses Thatcher Case. Salt Lake City: Modern Microfilm Company, n.d.
Journal of Discourses, 26:328
Madsen, Truman G. B. H. Roberts: Defender of the Faith. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1981.
Reasoner, Calvin. Church and State: The Issue of Civil and Religious Liberty in Utah. Salt Lake City, 1896.
Roberts, B. H. Comprehensive History 6:330-336.
[p.438]Salt Lake City, Utah. LDS Church Archives. Abraham H. Cannon Journal, 14 October 1886, 2 December 1895.
_____. Heber J. Grant Journal.
Salt Lake City, Utah. University of Utah. J. Willard Marriott Library. John Henry Smith Journal.
The Thatcher Episode: A Consise Statement of the Facts in the Case. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Publishing Company, 1896.