John S. Carter

Zion's Camp 3.jpg

Question: Where did John Sims Carter die and what was the cause of his death?

Answer: John Sims Carter was born in 1796 at Killinworth, Middlesex, Connecticut to Gideon Carter and Johanna Sims. He married Elizabeth Kenyon on February 28, 1813 in Benson, Rutland, Vermont, and they had seven children.

In 1797, several members of the Carter family established the Baptist Church of Benson. In 1822 John was elected to be a pastor for that church, and he served in that role until a group of Baptist ministers from the area decided that his teachings were not in harmony with Baptist orthodoxy. John believed that man had a choice in his destiny. He believed in agency. He believed that a person could be saved by the spirit and personal conviction plus personal revelation.

Carter left his post and led a congregation of Free Will Baptists in Benson. In late October 1831, John’s younger brother Jared, who had been baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints earlier that year, arrived in Benson while serving a proselytizing mission. While John was preaching in another town, Jared baptized twenty-seven people in Benson, including virtually all of his brother’s Free Will Baptist congregation.

In November 1831, Jared introduced John to Joseph Smith’s teachings. John was baptized a member of the Church soon after, just before Jared left to return to Kirtland, Ohio.

On April 25, 1832, Jared Carter, along with Calvin Stoddard and Aaron Lyon, commenced another mission to the New England states. Jared arrived in Benson in May 1832, and John was ordained a high priest on May 24, 1832. John then joined Jared in proselytizing in Vermont. On this mission, Jared expressed his confidence in John as a church leader, writing that he “bids fair for extensive usefulness because of his exceeding sincerity & acquired abilities and also because of his constant devotedness” to God.

Following Jared’s departure in the summer of 1832, John became a key leader of the Church in Benson. John finished his mission and moved to Kirtland with his "covey of converts." Doctrine and Covenants Section 102:3 relates his call to be a member of the first Kirtland high council, along with his brother Jared.

John Sims Carter was a member of Zion’s Camp which made a trek from Ohio to Missouri to assist in protecting the property of the Saints there. In June 1834, in the summer’s muggy heat some men in the camp became disappointed and angry with the lack of progress and the many hard circumstances they encountered.

Cholera had broken out in many locations across Missouri, and it shortly struck in the camp. John Sims Carter was the first among those who had sought to use priesthood authority to rebuke the disease. He became ill, along with a third of those in Zion’s Camp. Fourteen died, and John S. Carter was one of them, he being the first to die. He died June 24, 1834, in Clay County, Missouri, leaving his six living children orphans.

Historical marker in the Mound Grove Cemetery.

Historical marker in the Mound Grove Cemetery.

Joseph Smith gave patriarchal blessings to the daughters of John S. Carter, and they reflect the blessings that came to his posterity because of his ultimate sacrifice. Joseph and Emma also cared for John’s young daughters at times in their own home.

Some seven or so months later Joseph Young, a brother of Brigham Young, described an event that took place on Sunday, February 8, 1835, at Joseph Smith’s home in Kirtland. He and Brigham were at the Smiths’ house when the Prophet related a vision to them:

“Brethren,” [the Prophet said,] “I have seen those men who died of the cholera in our camp; and the Lord knows, if I get a mansion as bright as theirs, I ask no more.” At this he wept, and for some time could not speak.

Source: “Valiant Ones,” 1990, by Arlen Clement; FamilySearch.org; “John Sims Carter: A Highly Regarded Man,” by C. Owen Roundy; FamilySearch.org; “The Carter Orphan’s Intriguing Ties to Joseph and Emma Smith” by Cheryl Evans Fromm.