Saints Without Halos: The Human Side of Mormon HistorySaints without Halos
The Human Side of Mormon History
Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton

on the cover:
Unlike most Mormon histories, Saints without Halos is a treatment of the human, rather than institutional side of Mormon history. Through the fascinating experiences of seventeen Latter-day Saints, Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton sketch Mormonism from its earliest beginnings to modern times. These are Saints presented not as objects of veneration, but as “human beings who, like the rest of us, struggle to be worthy of the title Latter-day Saint.”

Two were apostles. One was an enthusiastic supporter and friend of Joseph Smith, who eventually left the main body of the Church to lead his own band to Texas. The other was a link in the chain of a renowned Mormon family whose positions in the leading councils of the Church span virtually the entire history of Mormonism.

The other fifteen individuals, except for one colorful non-Mormon advocate, are “ordinary” Latter-day Saints—faithful members who helped realize the vision of their prophetic leaders: a personal friend of Joseph Smith, missionaries and converts, a plural wife, an Indian woman, a widowed immigrant, pioneers and philosophers, bishops and blacksmiths, and even a historian.

In this book, the authors of The Mormon Experience draw on their vast knowledge of Mormon diaries and other first-hand accounts to disclose the rich diversity of Mormonism as well as its unity of purpose.

about the authors: Leonard J. Arrington is Director of the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History and the Lemuel H. Redd Professor of Western History at Brigham Young University. Born in Twin Falls, Idaho, in 1917, Dr. Arrington received his degrees from the Universities of Idaho and North Carolina. He is the author of several books on Mormon history, including the classic Great Basin Kingdom (1958). He is a regular contributor to many scholarly journals and has taught at North Carolina State, UCLA, and Utah State University.

Davis Bitton is Professor of History at the University of Utah and compiler of A Guide to Mormon Diaries and Autobiographies (1977), as well as several other books and numerous articles on Mormon history. Born in Blackfoot, Idaho, in 1930, Dr. Bitton received his degrees from Brigham Young and Princeton Universities and has taught at the University of Texas and the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Arrington and Bitton are co-authors of the widely acclaimed book, The Mormon Experience (1979). For many years they served as Church Historian and Assistant Church Historian for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

title page:
Saints without Halos:
The Human Side of Mormon History
Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton
Signature Books
Salt Lake City

copyright page:
© Copyright 1981 by Signature Books
Salt Lake City, Utah
All Rights Reserved
ISBN 0-941214-01-X
Printed in the United States of America
Introduction [see below]

Part One: From the Beginnings to the Great Basin [see below]
01 – Joseph Knight: Friend to the Prophet
02 – Jonathan Hale: Preaching the Restored Gospel
03 – Lyman Wight: Wild Ram of the Mountains
04 – Colonel Thomas L. Kane: A Friend in Need
05 – Jean Baker: Gathering to Zion

Part Two: Settling the West [see below]
06 – Edwin Woolley: Bishop of the Thirteenth Ward
07 – Charles L. Walker: Sage of Saint George
08 – Lucy White Flake: Pioneering Utah and Arizona
09 – Edward Bunker: Living the United Order
10 – Lemuel H. Redd: Down the Chute to San Juan
11 – Chauncey West: Nineteenth-Century Teenager

Part Three: The Twentieth Century [see below]
12 – George F. Richards: A Link in the Chain
13 – Helen Sekaquaptewa: Traditions of the Fathers
14 – Ephraim and Edna Ericksen: The Philosopher and the Trail Builder
15 – Margrit Feh Lohner: Swiss Immigrant
16 – T. Edgar Lyon: Missionary, Educator, Historian

Bibliographical Note


[p.vii]History is often portrayed as the story of movements and their leaders. Typically, historians emphasize key figures who change the course of history by their charismatic personalities, genius, creativity—or simple good fortune. In Latter-day Saint history there has been a tendency to ignore what happens below the top level of administration. The lives of those who drive the engines of history are ignored, often because they leave no written records, but just as often because they are not considered important. Such an attitude is unfortunate, for the vitality and strength of any movement is expressed in the diversity of its experience as well as its unity of purpose.

Mormon history abounds with people of all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and personalities. Their individual stories are not well enough known. Quite apart from the notable lives of the General Authorities there is a wealth of experience in the stories of the members—men and women who, as teachers, bishops, stake presidents, and Relief Society presidents, served faithfully in the vineyards to which they were called.

Historians have a vast reservoir of personal records to tap as they present the human side of Mormon history, as well as the institutional side. When one of the authors compiled Guide to Mormon Diaries and Autobiographies, he found nearly three thousand first-hand accounts in public repositories; at least that many more remain virtually unknown in the possession of family members. In this decade alone, thousands of personal histories have been written in response to the counsel of President Spencer W. Kimball. Though many of these will interest only the family of the person keeping the record, many others will certainly interest future historians as they describe the recent expansion of the Church and explore what it means to be a Latter-day Saint in Japan, in Mexico, in Africa—in all parts of the world.

Of the many stories which could be told, we have selected these for their intrinsic value and because they illuminate [p.viii]various facets of our history: early conversion and sacrifice, proselyting, gathering, colonizing, building the kingdom in distant lands, and transforming and modernizing Church programs.

For the most part, these are “mainstream Mormons,” Latter-day Saints whose lives reflect the beliefs and values of traditional Mormonism. Only two were General Authorities. All were committed to the restored gospel, although some understood it differently than others. All had their burdens to bear, which they did in their own ways and with varying degrees of success. They are not objects of veneration but human beings who, like the rest of us, struggle to be worthy of the title Latter-day Saint. They are Saints without halos.

Portions of some chapters have appeared in different form in Arizona and the West, BYU Studies, the Church News, the Las Vegas Sun, and the New Era. We have benefited from the research and editorial work of Scott Kenney and express our appreciation for his help.

Part One: From the Beginnings to the Great Basin

[p.3]The first period of Mormon history was not long, but it was exceptionally varied and restless. The main lines are well known: Joseph Smith’s youthful quest for religious certainty and the spiritual manifestations that followed; the coming forth of the Book of Mormon; the organization of the Church in upstate New York; the move to Kirtland, Ohio; the gathering to Missouri; the persecution in both places; the establishment of a new headquarters in Nauvoo, Illinois; the martyrdom of the Prophet; the expulsion from Nauvoo and the trek across the plains to refuge in the Great Basin. Such is the main story line of the Church’s first decades.

But there were many subcurrents and side eddies. The missionary net was flung wide and each convert gathered in had his or her own story to tell. Joseph Knight, one of the first to hear the restoration message, came to Joseph Smith’s aid when he needed help to continue translating the Book of Mormon, participated in events leading up to the organization of the Church, and became a stalwart in the first branch.

Jonathan Hale, a good example of the first missionaries who spread the gospel message, also played an important role in the move of the “Kirtland Camp” to Missouri; he later assisted the poor to relocate in Illinois and eventually helped supervise the evacuation of Nauvoo.

Lyman Wight, second in command of Zion’s Camp, member of the stake presidency in Missouri, fellow-prisoner with the Prophet in Liberty Jail, and finally, apostle, left the main body of the Church and led his own band of followers to Texas. His experience reminds us that people were moving out of the Church as well as coming in. Nine apostles in Joseph Smith’s first Quorum of the Twelve were excommunicated, and thousands of others have left the Church for their own reasons, many after having made significant, enduring contributions to the advancement of the gospel.

Thomas Kane, a nonmember, entered the picture just as Lyman Wight was leaving. Touched by the plight of the refugees from Nauvoo, he offered help on many occasions. His intervention on behalf of the Saints in 1857 was especially [p.4]crucial and may have been responsible for averting war with the United States.

One experience shared by most early converts was that of gathering with the Saints. A prominent missionary theme for sixty years, the principle of gathering induced thousands of converts to forsake their homes and move to Missouri, Illinois, and finally to the Great Basin. Between 1849 and 1857 alone, more than 15,000 British converts moved to Utah. One of these was Jean Rio Griffiths Baker. Making the trip as a widow with her seven children in 1851, Jean kept a detailed diary of her ocean voyage and overland trek, giving us an eloquent firsthand account of the experience shared by tens of thousands of nineteenth-century Saints.

Part Two: Settling the West

[p.51]The Mormon migration west continued for many years after 1846. By, wagon, handcart, and eventually railroad, Latter-day Saints continued to gather in the Great Basin. Until the mid-1880s, gathering was an official Church policy.

Even after gathering to Utah, the pioneering was far from over. To be sure, some immediately staked out a claim in the Salt Lake Valley, built a house, and within a year or two were settled for the rest of their lives. But others were called upon to uproot their families and head out for a new location in Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, California, Wyoming, and eventually Mexico and Canada. The gospel ensign to the nations was intended to wave over North and South America and eventually the world, carried forth from a secure base in the Great Basin. Historian Milton R. Hunter listed 350 settlements established during Brigham Young’s lifetime, and each of them was, for its settlers, a new exodus and a new beginning.

The initial gathering place for this period was, of course, Salt Lake City. Among its most prominent leaders was Bishop Edwin D. Woolley, who presided over the Thirteenth Ward for twenty-seven years. A practical man with an independent streak, Bishop Woolley’s primary concern was the temporal and spiritual welfare of his people. Occasionally he locked horns with Brigham Young and Eliza R. Snow, but they were able to work through their differences with some judicious give and take.

Charles Walker was a salt-of-the-earth Saint who responded to the colonizing call with a simple faith and an accepting heart, and who endured the deprivations of pioneering with an ebullient sense of humor.

Lucy White Flake was born in the Church, in Illinois. She walked across the plains with her family and helped settle Lehi, Cedar City, and Beaver, Utah, then Allen’s Camp and Snowflake, Arizona. Though her husband was not religious when they married, largely through her persistent efforts he eventually became one of the pillars of the Church in Arizona. Lucy’s poignant autobiography reveals her heartache at plural marriage, and her alternate fortitude and depression through the hardships of pioneering.

[p.52]Edward Bunker was a member of the Mormon Battalion and a missionary to England. He led a company of handcart pioneers across the plains, served as a bishop in Ogden and Santa Clara, Utah, and founded Bunkerville, Nevada. His experience with the Santa Clara and Bunkerville United Orders helps us appreciate the difficulties encountered by those who tried to implement the economic ideals inspired by the revelations of Joseph Smith.

Of all the colonizations attempted in the generation after Brigham Young, none was more grueling than settling the San Juan region of southeastern Utah. In fact, it is hard to imagine how any settlement, at any place or time, could have demanded more than this incredible journey down the Hole-in-the-Rock chute as told through the experience of the Lemuel H. Redd family.

Chauncey West’s 1895 diary gives us a view of the life and times of an extraordinary young man in Brigham City, Utah.

Part Three: The Twentieth Century

[p.107]Some years ago the great Western historian Walter Prescott Webb told the authors, “Mormon history has everything. It is the ideal topic for a historian. It has sacrifice, persecution, great movements across space, pioneering, economic experimentation, political struggle, and religious zeal. And it has a beginning, a middle, and an end.”

Webb and some other historians seem to feel that the adjustments associated with the Manifesto and the coming of statehood to Utah ended the distinctiveness of Mormonism. According to this interpretation, Latter-day Saints entered the American mainstream and became virtually indistinguishable from the rest of society.

There is some truth to this view, of course, because changes of policy did occur, and in many respects the Mormons, tired of constant harassment, welcomed the “respectability” of full-fledged citizenship. But the adjustment was far from an abandonment of principle; it was a creative adjustment that enabled the Saints to pursue the main goals of their theological and ecclesiastical program.

Too much that is genuinely exciting has occurred in the twentieth century to conclude that Mormon history ended with the nineteenth.

From 1840 to the present, one or more members of the Richards family has served almost continuously in the leading councils of the Church. George F. Richards is an especially interesting link in this great chain because so many advancements were made during his lifetime (1861-1950).

From the very beginning, Latter-day Saints have been theologically and culturally interested in the American Indian. Helen Sekaquaptewa is a Hopi who joined the Church in 1953. Her life before and after baptism illustrates the inspiration and the conflict generated by the traditions of her people as she bridges two cultures.

Though his professional training led philosopher Ephraim E. Ericksen to make a critical evaluation of the Church’s theology and programs, his contributions on the YMMIA General Board and in the classroom have had significant impact on modern Mormonism. The contributions of his wife [p.108]Edna Clark Ericksen were equally important to the development of the Primary’s Trail Builder program.

Following her emigration from Switzerland during World War II, Margrit Feh Lohner made an unusually successful adaptation to American society. She became a prominent member of the YWMIA General Board and general Church Music Committee. Her enthusiasm for the arts and the Church has made her an especially effective leader of young women throughout the Church.

As a missionary, T. Edgar Lyon experienced spiritual gifts which helped sustain his faith throughout his life. Later, as a mission president in Holland, he witnessed the effects of the Depression and Nazism in Europe. As a seminary and institute teacher, Ed Lyon earned a rare reputation—that of a devoted teacher, and, at the same time, a respected scholar.