The John Taylor Papers, by Samuel W. & Raymond W. Taylor Volume I, The Apostle

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recalled, "I could not remember every passage, but I knew their

connections and could tell others where they could find them." (8)

In comparing Mormonism with scripture, Taylor was troubled at being

"compelled to admit there was something reasonable about it."

I almost hoped it was not true. "If it is true," said I, "as an honest

man I shall be obliged to obey it." . . . When I had investigated the subject,

and became convinced that it was true, I said, "I am in for it; I must embrace

it; I cannot reject the principles of eternal truth." (9)

Parley P. Pratt baptized John and Leonora Taylor in Black Creek, on

the outskirts of Toronto, the afternoon of 9 May 1836.

Taylor was fully aware of the consequences of this radical change of

direction in his life.

[14] I expected when I came into this church that I should be persecuted and

proscribed. I expected that the people would be persecuted. But I believed

that God had spoken, that the eternal principles of truth had been revealed,

and that God had a work to accomplish which was in opposition to the ideas,

views, and notions of men, and I did not know but it would cost me my life

before I got through. (10)

(1) Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography, Salt Lake City, 1874. Parley was

killed before completing the book, and John Taylor "undertook the task of

assisting to collate and revise the work preparatory to publication."

Incidentally, the name of the stranger at Hamilton was Moses Nickerson.

(2) Journal of Discourses (hereafter JD), 12 June 1853; 5 March

1882; also, Three Nights Public Discussion . . . at BoulogneSurMer,

France (hereafter PD), Liverpool, 1850.

(3) JD 14 March 1869; 12 June 1853.

(4) JD 3 March 1872.

(5) JD and PD.

(6) PD; also JD 13 Dec. 1857.

(7) B. H. Roberts, The Life of John Taylor, Salt Lake City, 1892.

(8) JD 5 Feb. 1865.

(9) JD 10 Feb. 1884.

(10) Ibid.

[15] Chapter 2


In March the following spring, 1837, John Taylor visited the Mormon

settlement at Kirtland, Ohio, where he was a guest at Joseph Smith's

home. On first meeting the, prophet, Taylor felt a charge like an

electrical shock on grasping Joseph's hand. The two men had much in

common as mystics, seekers, selftaught intellectuals. They, immediately

became friends, and Taylor soon was admitted to the small circle of

Joseph's intimates.

Joseph Smith came forward telling us that an angel had administered to

him and had revealed unto him the principles of the gospel as they existed in

former days, and that God was going to set his hand to work in these last days

to accomplish His purposes and build up His kingdom, to introduce correct

principles, to overturn error, evil, and corruption, and to establish His

church and kingdom upon the earth. I have heard him talk about these things

myself. I have heard him tell over and over again, to myself and others, the

circumstances pertaining to these visions and the various ministrations of

angels, and the development of the purposes of God towards the human family .

. . . He taught precisely the same principles and doctrine and ordinances that

were taught by Jesus and His disciples in their day . . . .

God restored His ancient gospel to Joseph Smith, giving him revelation,

opening the heavens to him, and making him acquainted with the plan of

salvation and exaltation of the children of men. I was well acquainted with

him, and have carefully examined the revelations given through him, and

notwithstanding all the aspersions [16] that have been cast upon him, I

believe that with the exception of Jesus Christ there never was a greater

prophet upon this wide earth than he . . . .

He presented himself before the world and informed the people that God

had spoken, and that He had spoken to him. He told them that the heavens had

been opened and that angels clothed in light and glory had appeared to him and

revealed unto him certain things . . . .

I can tell you what he told me about it. He said that he was very

ignorant of the ways, designs, and purposes of God, and knew nothing about

them; he was a youth unacquainted with religious matters or the systems and

theories of the day. He went to the Lord, having read James' statement, "If

any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God . . . and it shall be given him."

He believed that statement and went to the Lord, and asked Him, and the

Lord revealed himself to him, together with His Son, Jesus, and pointing to

the latter, said, "This is my Beloved Son, hear Him!" He then asked in regard

to the various religions with which he was surrounded. He inquired which of

them was right, for he wanted to know the right way and to walk in it. He was

told that none of them was right, that they had all departed from the right

way, that they had forsaken God, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them

out cisterns, broken cisterns, that could not hold water.

Afterwards, the Angel Moroni came to him and revealed to him the Book of

Mormon . . . .

We have Oliver Cowdery, who tells us something about these things, and

gives his testimony as a living witness. Again, there were eleven witnesses in

relation to the Book of Mormon, who testify that the Book of Mormon was a

divine revelation from God. And some of these witnesses tell us that an angel

of God came and laid before them the plates from which the Book of Mormon was

translated, and they knew that their testimony was true [17] and faithful.

Others saw and handled the plates from which the record was taken. I have

conversed with several of those men who say they have seen the plates that

Joseph Smith took out of the Hill Cumorah; I have also conversed with Joseph

Smith, who has told me of these things and many more. (1)

Joseph Smith organized the church on 6 April 1830. From its

beginning, the original membership of six grew miraculously, while the

prophet was the storm center of violent controversy, known for good and

evil throughout the world.

Who was Joseph Smith? The Book of Mormon tells us he was the seed of

Joseph that was sold into Egypt, and hence he was selected, as Abraham was, to

fulfil a work upon the earth. God chose this young man. He was ignorant of

letters as the world has it, but the most profoundly learned and intelligent

man that I ever met in my life. . . And where did he get his intelligence

from? Not from books, not from the logic or science of philosophy of the day,

but he obtained it through the revelation of God made known to him . . . .

As the spirit of revelation rested down upon God's servant Joseph, . . .

the heavens unfolded to his view .... He learned by communication from the

heavens . . . of the great events that should transpire in the latter days. He

understood things that were past, and comprehended the various dispensations;

. . . and hence he introduced what was spoken of by all the prophets since the

world was: the dispensation in which we live, which differs from all other

dispensations in that it is the dispensation of the fulness of times,

embracing all others . . . that ever existed upon the face of the earth.

At that time he was a feeble youth, inexperienced, without a knowledge of

the learning of the day. But God put him in possession of that kind of

intelligence, and what may be termed a scientific knowledge of all things [18]

pertaining to this earthand the heavens, if you pleasewhich was altogether

ahead of all the intelligence that existed in the world . . . .

From then until the end of his life, John Taylor defended the

prophet's character; he refuted aspersions and bore personal testimony:

Suppose Joseph Smith was all you represent him to beyour systems are

still unscriptural. And the next thing you will have to do will be to prove

the scriptures false, if you would sustain . The eternal truths of God

are still the same, and whether Joseph Smith was a good or a bad man, the

truths we preach are scriptural, and you cannot gainsay that; and if they are,

what avails your attack upon character? . . .

I testify that I was acquainted with Joseph Smith for years. I have

traveled with him; I have been with him in private and in public; I have

associated with him in councils of all kinds; I have listened hundreds of

times to his public teachings, and his advice to his friends and associates of

a more private nature. I have been at his house and seen his deportment in his

family. I have seen him arraigned before the tribunals of his country, and

have seen him honorably acquitted, and delivered from the pernicious breath of

slander, and the machinations of wicked and corrupt men . . . .

My spirit glows with sacred fire while I reflect upon these scenes, and I

say, O Lord, hasten the day! Let Zion be established! Let the mountain of the

Lord's house be established on the tops of the mountains! Let deliverance be

proclaimed unto Zion! Let redemption echo from mountain to mountain, from hill

to hill, from nation to nation! Let the world hear! Let the law go forth from

Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem! Let the dead bear a voice and

live! Let the captives be set free! Let the Saints possess the kingdom, and

the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of our God and his Christ! . . .

[19] I have seen him, then, under these various circumstances, and I testify

before God, angels and men, that he was a good, honorable, virtuous manthat

his doctrines were good, scriptural, and wholesomethat his precepts were

such as become a man of Godthat his private and public character was

unimpeachable . . . .

If I did not believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet, I should not have

been here. If he was a true prophet, and spake the word of the Lord, that is

just as binding on the human family as any other word spoken by any other

prophet. The scriptures tell us that "Man shall not live by bread alone, but

by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." . . . Gentlemen, I

again say that Joseph Smith was a virtuous, highminded, honorable man, a

gentleman and a Christian . . . .

But he introduced principles which strike at the root of the corrupt

systems of men. This necessarily comes in contact with their prepossessions,

prejudices, and interests; and as they cannot overturn his principles, they

attack his character. And that is one reason why we have so many books written

against his character, without touching his principles, and also why we meet

with so much opposition. But truth, eternal truth, is invulnerable. It cannot

be destroyed, but like the throne of Jehovah, it will outride all the storms

of men, and live forever. (2)

Taylor found the community at Kirtland rent with apostacy. Not only

the outside world attacked Joseph's character, but a great many within

the society of Saints claimed that he was a fallen prophet. Although just

a year previously, heavenly beings had attended the dedication of the

temple there, manifestations accompanied by great spiritual ecstacy, now

"the church seemed on the point of disintegration," B. H. Roberts

recorded. Previously, Roberts said:

[20] Everything in and about Kirtland had been prosperous. The Saints abounded

in everything their hearts could desire. The men wore expensive rainment,

ornamented with velvets and silks . . . the sisters were not a whit

behind them. They were arrayed in their silks, satins, lace, veils and

jewelry; and amid all their piety, manifested a full share of vanity and


Speculation was rife all over the United States at that time, and the

Saints did not escape the contagion. They started a banking institution,

engaged in mercantile pursuits and land speculation. For a time they were

prosperous, and wealth rapidly accumulated among them . . . . But a wave of

financial disaster swept over the entire country. Banking institutions went

down before it; thousands of merchants were hopelessly ruined; and in the

general disaster Kirtland did not escape . . . .

"Distress, ruin and poverty," says Elder Taylor, "seemed to prevail.

Apostates and corrupt men were prowling about as so many wolves seeking whom

they might devour. They were oppressive, cruel, heartless, devising every

pretext that the most Satanic malignity could invent to harass the Saints.

Fraud, false accusation and false swearing, vexatious law suits, personal

violence, and barefaced robbery abounded . . . ."

Among others, Parley P. Pratt was floundering in darkness, and coming to

Elder Taylor told him of some things wherein he considered the Prophet Joseph

in error. . . . (3)

Parley had summed up his hurt in a bitter letter to Joseph Smith, 23

May 1837:

. . . Having long pondered the path in which we, as a people, have been

led in regard to our temporal management, I have at length become fully

convinced that the whole scheme of speculation in which we have been engaged

is of the devil. I allude to the covetous, extra[21]ordinary speculating

spirit which has reigned in this place for the last season: which has given

rise to lying, deceiving and taking advantage of one's neighbor, and, in

short, every evil work . . . .

And now, dear brother, if you are still determined to pursue this wicked

course, until yourself and the church shall sink down to hell, I beseech you

at least to have mercy on me and my family, and others who are bound with me

for those three lots (of land) which you sold to me at the extraordinary price

of 2000 dollars, which never cost you 100 dollars.

Parley had paid $75 down for the lots, with a note secured by a

mortgage on his home. Sidney Ridgon of the church presidency had told him

that unless the remainder was paid, the mortgage would be foreclosed.

Parley wanted his money back and the whole deal cancelled. But Joseph

himself had been saddled with debts of the entire community following the

financial collapse, while his bank was facing failure.

In reply to Parley's accusations against the prophet, Taylor said:

"I am surprised to hear you speak so, Brother Parley. Before you left

Canada you bore a strong testimony to Joseph Smith being a prophet of God, and

to the truth of the work he has inaugurated; and you said you knew these

things by revelation, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

"You gave me a strict charge to the effect that though you or an angel of

heaven was to declare anything else, I was not to believe it. Now, Brother

Parley, it is not man that I am following, but the Lord. The principles you

taught me led me to Him, and I now have the same testimony that you rejoiced

in. If the work was true six months ago, it is true today; if Joseph Smith was

then a prophet, he is now a prophet."

[22] To the honor of Parley, be it said, he sought no further to lead Elder

Taylor astray; nor did he use much argument in the first place. "He, with many

others," says Elder Taylor, "were passing under a dark cloud; he soon made it

all right with the Prophet Joseph, and was restored to full fellowship." (4)

Parley was only one of many in darkness. Heber C. Kimball declared

that during the apostacy at Kirtland, "there were not twenty persons on

earth that would declare that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God." (5)

At this time Taylor became a marked man in the church because of his

defense of the prophet in the temple. A group of apostates led by Warren

Parrish, who had been cashier of the Kirtland Bank, made a violent attack

on the character of the prophet. In rebuttal, Taylor said:

From whence do we get our intelligence, and knowledge of the laws,

ordinances and doctrines of the Kingdom of God? Who understood even the first

principles of the doctrines of Christ? Who in the Christian world taught them?

If we, with our learning and intelligence, could not find out the first

principles, which was the case with myself and millions of others, how can we

find out the mysteries of the Kingdom? It was Joseph Smith, under the

Almighty, who developed the first principles, and to him we must look for

further instructions. . . . The children of Israel, formerly, after seeing the

power of God manifested in their midst, fell into rebellion and idolatry, and

there is certainly very great danger of us doing the same thing." (6)

Joseph saved the shattered church by calling the apostles to a

mission in England, where they made thousands of converts. Taylor had a

role in initiating this:

[23] I was the first person that wrote a letter to England on the subject of

the gospel. I did it at the request of Brother Fielding, who got me

to write for him to a brother and brotherinlaw of his who were ministers in

England. These were the men that helped to introduce the gospel into England

in that early day. (7)

(1) JD 1 March 1863; 17 March 1872; 1 Feb. 1874; 7 Dec. 1879.

(2) Millennial Star (hereafter MS), 1 November 1846; PD; JD 7

December 1870, 1 February 1874, and 8 April 1879.

(3) Life of John Taylor.

(4) Actually, Parley's period of darkness lasted more than a year.

(5) JD 28 Sept. 1856.

(6) Roberts, Life.

(7) JD 5 March 1882. Those called on this first foreign mission of

the church were Apostles Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde, with Elders

Willard Richards, Joseph Fielding, John Goodson, Isaac Russell and John

Snider. They left Kirtland in June, 1837, and returned the following May.

[24] Chapter 3


During the great falling away, John Taylor returned to Canada to

supervise the branches there. Joseph Smith fled Kirtland ahead of mob

violence, and settled with the Saints in Missouri. Taylor reported:

There were four of the Twelve who did apostatize Wm. E. McLellin, Luke

Johnson, John F. Boynton and Lyman Johnson. When they apostatized, the

following revelation was given:

"Revelation, given through Joseph, the Seer, at Far West, Missouri, July

8th, 1838, in answer to the question, `Show us thy will, O Lord,

concerning the Twelve.'

"Verily, thus saith the Lord, let a Conference be held immediately, let

the Twelve be organized, and let men be appointed to supply the place of those

who are fallen. . . .

"And next Spring, let them depart to go over the great waters, and there

promulgate my Gospel, the fulness thereof, and bear record of my name. (1)

"Let them take leave of my Saints in the city of Far West, on the 26th

day of April next, on the building spot of my house, saith the Lord.

"Let my servant John Taylor, and also my servant John E. Page, and also

my servant Wilford Woodruff, and also my servant Willard Richards, be

appointed to fill the places of those who have fallen, and be officially

notified of their appointment."

[25] I will state that I was living in Canada at the time, some three hundred

miles distant from Kirtland. I was presiding over a number of churches in

Upper Canada. I knew about this calling and appointment before it came, it

having been revealed to me. But not knowing but that the devil had a finger in

the matter, I did not say anything about it to anybody . . . .

A messenger came to me with a letter from the First Presidency, informing

me of my appointment, and requesting me to repair forthwith to Kirtland, and

from there to go to Far West. I went according to the command. (2)

Taylor organized a wagon company of Canadian Saints, who went with

him to the gathering in Missouri. They arrived at a time of mob violence,

which culminated in the order of Governor Lilburn Boggs to expel the

Mormons or exterminate them.

We lived in a rich land, back in Missouri . . . . I have seen fields of

corn that a regiment of soldiers could ride into and they would be out of

sight; and I have seen beans grow where corn has been planted, where the

cornstalks have served as bean poles; and I have seen pumpkins and squash grow

among them, three crops growing the same year and at the same time . . . .

Why could we not stop there? Because the land was too good, and we were

easy of access to men desirous to possess our property; and they told us to

move on, and we had to go. We had to leave Missouri, and I suppose God

intended to try the Saints, to let them pass through certain kinds of

experience and play them in a position that they would have to lean on Him.


At the request of the St. Louis Gazette, John Taylor wrote a Short

Account of Murders, Robberies, Burnings, Thefts, and Other Outrages

Committed by the Mob and [26] Militia. The editor, however, declined to

publish the unpopular Mormon viewpoint.

As many reports have been put in circulation relative to the

circumstances that have taken place in Missouri, concerning the persecutions

of the Mormons (so called), and as the public are unable to arrive at any just

conclusions relative to the events that have taken place, I thought it best to

lay this short account before the world, as I was an eye and an ear witness to

most of the things mentioned in this account. And what I did not witness, I

have documentary evidence or testimony that could not be impeached, from those

that did see and hear.

It is almost unnecessary for me to state that every possible means have

been made to, in order to misrepresent us as a people, calumniate our

characters, rob us of our rights as citizens, take away our liberty of

conscience, and deprive us of all those privileges for which our fathers bled

. . . .

The difficulties under which our people have labored ever since their

settlement in Jackson County, in Missouri, have been nothing more nor less

than religious persecution . . . as constables and lawyers, priest and

magistrates, civilians and officers have been arrayed against us . . .

declaring their determination, as expressed in one of their resolutions in

Jackson County, to "expel them peacefully if we can, forcibly if we must." (4)

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