Chapter 9: James Foster Scott

Old Main Utah State University.jpg

In January 1993,  I was working on a masters degree and taking a class at Utah State University in Archive Management.  The instructor was A. J. Symmonds, the “somewhat rough around the edges” director of the Archives at the Library.  A. J. was a heavy smoker as well as possessing a few other “habits” members of the Church wouldn’t approve of.  Maybe it was his lack of “university stuffiness” that attracted my interest, but for some reason, I enjoyed his classes.  One of the requirements for this class was to process a collection (a box full of unsorted stuff) and get it ready for the archives.  In class, on the day the assignments were handed out, A. J. asked if I had a project yet.  No, was my unenthusiastic answer.  He then pushed a box full of stuff on the table in front of him over to me to process—a box full of papers, letters, etc. of a James Foster Scott.

James Foster Scott has a fascinating story.  He was born in 1863 in India to Christian missionary parents.  He came back to the United States to finish school.  He went to Yale and then went to Scotland and graduated in medicine from the University of Edinburgh.  He volunteered for the British Army medical corps and went to Europe for a while during a war.  He then returned to the United States and became the head of a hospital in Washington D.C.  He published a medical book, and by his late twenties, was well recognized in the medical field.  Suddenly, however, in 1898, he dropped everything and went to Alaska and traveled the Yukon River for a year.  His adventures were later published in a book.  He then returned to Virginia where he semi-retired from medicine and began a life long pursuit of philosophy and religion--to find the  meaning of life.

He married in 1940 in his twilight years, and never had any children.  At his death in 1946, he was writing a book on what he felt was the purpose and meaning of life.  He believed in a personable God and Savior, and that life should be spent doing as much good as possible, helping your fellow beings, and learning to know yourself and your God.  He wrote what he called, “My Creed and My Prayer,” a beautiful rendition of Christian worship and belief.

I enjoyed learning about his life from looking through the papers of James Foster Scott.  As I continued to look through the materials, I noticed four pages at the bottom of the box.  These pages were torn out from his father's family Bible.   It contained birth, marriage, and death dates of their family for several generations. 

James Foster Scott had no descendants and his niece had, for some reason, donated some of his personal papers to Utah State University.  I was amazed at the events that had brought these pages into my hands.  As I sat there and looked at these names, I had an overwhelming feeling come over me that this man wanted his temple work done.   I carefully copied down all the information on his family from these four torn out pages.  When I got home, I transferred all the information into the PAF program.  I started with forty names.  I went to Salt Lake and looked for more information on his family and soon gathered over l,000 names. I also discovered that James Foster Scott's family is related to my own family back a couple hundred years, extending my own family history several generations.  

I took a few of my cousins’ children up to the temple to do the baptism work for the first few names.  Ricky Casper, my cousin’s son, had the privilege of being baptized for James Foster Scott.  There certainly was a special spirit and I hope that Ricky and the other young people who were there never forget the experience and joy of being in the temple on that special day.  James Foster Scott was someone who wanted to be baptized and made sure his cluttered box of papers went to someone who would recognize the need to do his temple work.   

Many are called, but few are chosen, often because they do not have the knowledge, recognize the opportunity, or do not place themselves in a position to be able to serve when the opportunity presents itself.  I am grateful that I had been taught enough about family history work to be able to be of service when a call was made.  May each of us prepare by learning, study, and prayer, so that when the call is made, the “things” of the world do not drown out the call (D&C 121: 34-35) or block the light as at “noon-day” (D&C 95:5-6), but that we will recognize the voice making the call and know the action to take.      

My Creed and My Prayer

 I thank Thee, my Father, for the priceless gift of Thy perfect son, Jesus the Christ.  I believe in Him and in His Gospel; I love Him; I take Him for my King, and I intend to be loyal to Him.  Help me to be so.

It is my goal to call Him Brother, which I may do upon the condition that I fulfil Thy will, which is His Gospel condensed into the Law of Love, upon which all the Law and the Prophets hang.  Help me to get this Law within my heart so that it shall permeate all my conduct.  Help me to exercise it toward all in my environment, and by no means neglecting to adore the Godlike part of my own nature. 

Help me to heed the announcement that Thy Kingdom is at hand for me.

Help me to purify myself by doing the deeds meet for repentance, so that I can ask Thee to forgive my sins.

Help me at the close of each day’s work to be worthy of the reward, “well done thou good and faithful servant,” so that I can enter into the joy of Thy Kingdom.

Help me to follow all the directions of my Father for the attainment of Heaven without compromise, namely: to take the straight and narrow way through the eye of the needle which leadeth unto life; to take up my cross and follow Him without fear and with rejoicing; to let the dead past bury its dead; to let the evil of today be sufficient thereunto; to finish the furrow which I have started to plough without turning my gaze backwards; to pluck out my right eye if it causes me to swerve from the course; to do what Love dictates; to do unto others whatsoever I would that they should do unto me; to find my life losing it in service to others; not to be of a sad countenance as are the hypocrites, but to let my face shine in gladness; to endeavor to be perfect even as Thou are perfect; to sin no more; to take my light out from under the bushel and let it shine that I may help others on their way; and not to permit myself to be led astray by evil influences.  I rejoice and thank Thee, my Father, for having helped me to gain a clear vision of the supremely beautiful divine man within myself, who is no longer the hidden man of my heart, for Christ has sent the Comforter to me, informing me that Thou, He, and the Holy Ghost are abiding within me, intimately blended with my personality.  Thus I have assurance that I am a member of Thy Family with a share of its joys and responsibilities.  Heaven on earth is within me, and Thou art enthroned within me.

I love Thee, my Father, and all the members of our Family with heart and soul and mind and strength, and I love the loveable part of my neighbor as I love the lovable part of myself; help me to be merciful to his faults, but merciless to my own.  Use me as Thou wilt, and may Thy will, not mine, be done.

With reverence I express my gratitude to my Savior, the Founder, the Light, and the Life of the Church Invisible, for having given His Life and all that He had for my salvation, and with joy I avail myself of the supreme privilege and offer my prayer in His dear Name.


James Foster Scott