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John Taylor
Full name John Taylor
Born November 1, 1808(1808-11-01)
Place of birth Milnthorpe (Cumbria), England
Died July 25, 1887 (aged 78)
Place of death Kaysville, Utah Territory
LDS Church President
Ordained October 10, 1880 (aged 71)
Predecessor Brigham Young
Successor Wilford Woodruff
LDS Church Apostle
Called by Joseph Smith, Jr.
Ordained December 19, 1838 (aged 30)
Reason for ordination Replenishing Quorum of the Twelve[1]
End of term July 25, 1887 (aged 78)
Reason for end of term Death
Reorganization at end of term Marriner W. Merrill, Anthon H. Lund, and Abraham H. Cannon ordained[2]
LDS Church General Authority
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Called by Joseph Smith, Jr.
Start of term December 19, 1838 (aged 30)
End of term October 10, 1880 (aged 71)
End reason Became President of the Church
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Start of term April 10, 1875 (aged 66)
End of term October 10, 1880 (aged 71)
End reason Became President of the Church
President of the Church
Start of term October 10, 1880 (aged 71)
End of term July 25, 1887 (aged 78)
End reason Death

John Taylor (November 1, 1808 – July 25, 1887) was the third president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1880 to 1887.

Taylor was born in Milnthorpe, Westmorland (now part of Cumbria), England, the son of James and Agnes Taylor. He had formal schooling up to age fourteen, and then he served an initial apprenticeship to a cooper and later received training as a woodturner and cabinetmaker. He was christened in the Church of England, but joined the Methodist church at sixteen. He was appointed a lay preacher a year later, and felt a calling to preach in America. Taylor's parents and siblings emigrated to Upper Canada (present-day Ontario) in 1830. John stayed in England to dispose of the family property and joined his family in Toronto in 1832. He met Leonora Cannon from the Isle of Man while attending a Toronto Methodist Church and, although she initially rejected his proposal, married her on January 28, 1833.

Between 1834 and 1836, John and Leonora Taylor participated in a religious study group in Toronto. The group discussed problems and concerns with their Methodist faith, and quickly became known as the "Dissenters." Other members included Joseph Fielding and his sisters Mary and Mercy, who later also became prominent in the Latter Day Saint faith.


Early church service

Taylor and his wife first came in contact with the Latter Day Saint church in 1836 after meeting church apostle Parley P. Pratt in Toronto. Leonora was the first to join the church and she persuaded Taylor to continue his studies with Pratt. After the couple's baptism, they were active in preaching and the organization of the church in Canada. They then moved to Far West, Missouri, where Taylor was ordained an apostle on December 19, 1838. He assisted other church members as they fled frequent conflict to Commerce, Illinois (soon known as Nauvoo).

In 1839, Taylor and some of his fellow apostles served missions in Britain. While here, Taylor preached in Liverpool and was responsible for Mormon preaching in Ireland and the Isle of Man. He returned to Nauvoo, Illinois to serve as a city councilman, a chaplain, a colonel, a newspaper editor, and a judge advocate for the Nauvoo Legion.

In 1844, Taylor was with church founder Joseph Smith, Jr., Hyrum Smith and Willard Richards in the Carthage, Illinois jail when the Smiths were killed by a mob. Taylor was severely wounded in the conflict. His life may have been spared when a ball directed towards his chest was stopped by a pocket watch which he was carrying at the time.[3] However, recent analysis shows the watch may instead have been damaged when Taylor fell against the windowsill.[4]

In 1846, most Latter-day Saints followed Brigham Young into territory then controlled by Mexico, while Taylor went to England to resolve problems in church leadership there. On his return, he and Pratt led more followers to the Salt Lake Valley, where Young and the others had settled. Taylor was appointed an associate judge in the provisional State of Deseret in 1849 and served in the Utah territorial legislature from 1853 to 1876. Taylor was elected Speaker of the House for five consecutive sessions, beginning in 1857. In 1852, he wrote a small book, The Government of God, in which he compared and contrasted the secular and ecclesiastical political systems.

Mission president

Taylor served as president of two missions of the LDS Church. In 1849, he began missionary work in France and was the first church mission president in the country. While in France, Taylor published a monthly newspaper called L'Etoile du Deseret.

Taylor later served as president of the Eastern States Mission, based in New York City. In this capacity he published a newspaper that presented the position of the Latter-day Saints.

Musical ability

Taylor is reported to have had a marvelous singing voice. At the request of Hyrum Smith (Joseph Smith's brother), he twice sang the song "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" in Carthage Jail just before the Smiths were killed.[5]

Taylor wrote the lyrics to several hymns, some of which are still used by the LDS Church. Taylor's hymn Joseph the Seer was sung at the 200th anniversary celebration of Joseph Smith's birth. The 1985 English-language edition of the LDS Church hymnal includes two hymns written by Taylor, "Go Ye Messengers of Glory" (#262) and "Go, Ye Messengers of Heaven" (#327).

Actions as church president

Following Brigham Young's death in 1877, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles governed the church, with John Taylor as the quorum's president. Taylor became the third president of the church in 1880. He chose as his counselors Joseph F. Smith and George Q. Cannon, the latter being the nephew of his wife Leonora.

As church president, Taylor oversaw the expansion of the Salt Lake community, the further organization of the church hierarchy, the establishment of Mormon communities in other states as well as in the Canadian province of Alberta and the Mexican state of Chihuahua, and the defense of plural marriage against increasing opposition.

In 1878, the Primary Association was founded by Aurelia Spencer Rogers in Farmington, Utah, and, for a time, the organization was placed under the general direction of Relief Society general president Eliza R. Snow. In 1880, Taylor organized the churchwide adoption of the Primary Association; he selected Louie B. Felt as its first general president. In October 1880, the Pearl of Great Price was canonized by the church. Taylor also oversaw the issuance of a new edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. During his term as president, the seventies quorums were also more fully and regularly organized.[6]

In 1882, the United States Congress enacted the Edmunds Act, which declared polygamy to be a felony. Hundreds of Mormon men and women were arrested and imprisoned for continuing to practice plural marriage. Taylor had followed Joseph Smith's teachings on polygamy, and had at least seven wives. He is known to have fathered thirty-five children.

Taylor moved into the Gardo House alone with his sister Agnes to avoid prosecution and to avoid showing preference to any one of his families.[7][8] However, by 1885 he and his counselors were forced to withdraw from public view to live in the "underground": frequently on the move to avoid arrest. During his last public sermon Taylor remarked, "I would like to obey and place myself in subjection to every law of man. What then? Am I to disobey the law of God? Has any man a right to control my conscience, or your conscience? ... No man has a right to do it".[9]

Many viewed Mormon polygamy as religiously, socially and politically threatening. The U.S. Congress passed the Edmunds-Tucker Act in 1887, which abolished women's suffrage, forced wives to testify against their husbands, disincorporated the LDS Church, dismantled the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company, abolished the Nauvoo Legion, and provided that LDS Church property in excess of $50,000 would be forfeited to the United States.

Grave marker of John Taylor.

For two and a half years, Taylor presided over the church from exile. During this time, he received the 1886 Revelation, which restated the permanence of the commandment to practice plural marriage;[10] the validity of this revelation is rejected by the LDS Church but it is used by Mormon fundamentalists to justify the continued practice of polygamy.

Taylor died on July 25, 1887, from congestive heart failure in Kaysville, Utah. Taylor was buried at the Salt Lake City Cemetery in The Avenues, Salt Lake City, Utah. For two years after his death, the church was without a presidency. The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with Wilford Woodruff as president of the quorum, assumed leadership in this interim period. In the April church general conference of 1889, the First Presidency was reorganized with Wilford Woodruff as the president. Six months later, in the October general conference, Anthon H. Lund was called to fill President Woodruff's vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.


Taylor practiced plural marriage and was married to seven wives: Leonora Cannon, Elizabeth Kaighin, Jane Ballantyne, Mary Ann Oakley, Sophia Whitaker, Harriet Whitaker, and Margaret Young.[11] He was the father of 34 children.[12]

Taylor's eldest son, John W. Taylor, continued to serve in the church and in politics and helped to shepherd Utah to statehood in 1896. John W. Taylor was ultimately excommunicated from the LDS Church for his opposition to the church's abandonment of plural marriage.

Another son, William W. Taylor, served as one of the first presidents of the seventy and also served in the Utah territorial legislature.

Taylor's wife Margaret Young Taylor was a member of the inaugural general presidency of what is today the church's Young Women organization. Taylor's daughter Annie Taylor Hyde was a leader in the Relief Society general presidency and was the founder of Daughters of Utah Pioneers.


See also


  1. ^ The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had not had twelve members since 1837-09-03, when Luke S. Johnson, John F. Boynton, and Lyman E. Johnson were disfellowshipped and removed from the Quorum. Since that time, William E. M'Lellin had been excommunicated and removed from the Quorum and David W. Patten had been killed. The ordinations of Taylor and John E. Page brought membership in the Quorum of the Twelve to nine members.
  2. ^ Merrill, Lund, and Cannon were ordained at the same time to fill three vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that had been created by the excommunication of Albert Carrington; the death of Taylor and the reorganization of the First Presidency; and the death of Erastus Snow.
  3. ^ Taylor, John. Witness to the Martyrdom. pp. 91, 114–115. "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 upoon the windowsill 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. ...The doctor [Willard Richards] had taken my pantaloon's pocket, and put the watch in it with the purse, cut off the pocket, and tied a string around the top; it was in this position when brought home. My family, however, 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 strruck me at the time I felt myself falling out of the window, and that it was this force that threw me inside."  
  4. ^ Leanord, Glen. A Place of Peace, a People of Promise. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book. "Taylor, close behind the Prophet, had been using Markham's ‘rascal-beater’ to knock against the muskets and bayonets thrusting into the room. Richards waited behind Taylor, beyond striking distance. Without any way to shoot back, and certain death threatening from the landing, Taylor suddenly dashed toward the east window, intending to jump. A ball from the landing behind him struck Taylor in the left thigh, grazed the bone, and pushed within half an inch of the other side. He collapsed on the wide sill, denting the back of his vest pocket watch. The force shattered the glass cover of the timepiece against his ribs and pushed the internal gear pins against the enamel face, popping out a small segment later mistakenly identified as a bullet hole."  
  5. ^ B. H. Roberts (ed.) (1902). History of the Church, vol. 6, pp. 614–615; vol. 7, p. 101.
  6. ^ Clark, James R. "Messages of the First Presidency, vol. 2"
  7. ^ Cowley, Matthias F. Prophets and Patriarchs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Kessinger Publishing, 2006, p. 68. ISBN 1428601805.
  8. ^ Taylor, Samuel Woolley. The Kingdom Or Nothing: The Life of John Taylor, Militant Mormon. Macmillan, 1976, p. 302. ISBN 0026166003.
  9. ^ Journal of Discourses 26:152.
  10. ^ 1886 Revelation,, accessed 2008-05-09.
  11. ^ B. H. Roberts, The Life of John Taylor (Salt Lake City, Utah: George Q. Cannon & Sons, 1897).
  12. ^ Richard L. Jensen, “The John Taylor Family,” Ensign, Feb. 1980, pp. 50–51.


  • Allen, James B.; Glen M. Leonard. The Story of the Latter-day Saints. Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, UT, 1976. ISBN 978-0-87747-594-1.
  • Krakauer, John. Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith (Doubleday, New York, 2003). ISBN 978-1-4000-3280-8. The book takes its title from part of a speech given by Taylor on January 4, 1880 in defense of the Mormon practice of polygamy: "We believe in honesty, morality, and purity; but when they enact tyrannical laws, forbidding us the free exercise of our religion, we cannot submit. God is greater than the United States, and when the Government conflicts with heaven, we will be ranged under the banner of heaven and against the Government."
  • Ludlow, Daniel H., Editor. Church History, Selections from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, UT, 1992. ISBN 978-0-87579-924-7.
  • Nibley, Preson. The Presidents of the Church. Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, UT, 1974. ISBN 978-0-87747-414-2.

External links

Religious titles
Preceded by
Brigham Young
President of the LDS Church
October 10, 1880–July 25, 1887
Succeeded by
Wilford Woodruff
Preceded by
Orson Hyde
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
June 1875–October 10, 1880
Succeeded by
Wilford Woodruff
Preceded by
John E. Page
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
December 19, 1838–October 10, 1880
Succeeded by
Wilford Woodruff


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

John Taylor was the third President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1880 to 1887.


  • Again, there are other things associated with these matters, all bearing more or less upon the same points. When God selected Joseph Smith to open up the last dispensation, which is called the dispensation of the fullness of times, the Father and the Son appeared to him, arrayed in glory, and the Father, addressing himself to Joseph, at the same time pointing to the Son, said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him."
  • When Jesus sent forth his servants formerly he sent them to preach this Gospel. When the Father and the Son and Moroni and others came to Joseph Smith, he had a priesthood conferred upon him which he conferred upon others for the purpose of manifesting the laws of life, the Gospel of the Son of God, by direct authority, that light and truth might be spread forth among all nations.
    • Journal of Discourses 20:257 (March 2, 1879)
    • John Taylor’s comments on the appearance of God the Father, Jesus Christ and Moroni to Joseph Smith, Jr.
  • None of them was right, just as it was when the prophet Joseph asked the angel which of the sects was right that he might join it. The answer was that none of them are right. What, none of them? No. we will not stop to argue that question; the angel merely told him to join none of them that none of them were right.
    • Journal of Discourses 20:167 (March 2, 1879)
    • John Taylor’s comments on the first vision of Joseph Smith, Jr. This quote is also discussed in The Changing World of Mormonism (page 164) as an illustration that John Taylor believed that an angel had visited Joseph Smith Jr. rather than the Father and Son.
  • [A]s a commencement the Lord appeared unto Joseph Smith, both the Father and the Son, the Father pointing to the Son said, "this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him" Here then, was a communication from the heavens made known unto man on the earth, and he at that time came into possession of a fact that no man knew in the world but he, and that is that God lived, for he had seen him, and that his Son Jesus Christ lived, for he also had seen him.

External links

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