John Taylor

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Question: John Taylor is mentioned in D&C 118:6; 124:129; 135; 138:53. How old was he when he was called to be an Apostle? How long had he been a member of the Church? How many bullets hit John Taylor in Carthage Jail? Was the Church without a Presidency for three years in the 1870's?

Answer: John Taylor was born 1 November 1808 in Westmoreland County, England. He was reared in the English countryside and attended a common school. At age fourteen he became apprenticed to a cooper in Liverpool and later took up the turner’s trade. His quest for religious truth began in his youth, when “he saw, in vision, an angel...holding a trumpet to his mouth, sounding a message to the nations.”

When about sixteen, he left the Church of England, and a year or so later became a Methodist preacher, a distinction he continued when he migrated to Canada. His unusual perceptions of the Methodist faith led to his dismissal and to the formation of Bible study classes. Meantime, Elder Parley P. Pratt, an Apostle, had come to Toronto. John carefully compared Elder Pratt’s teachings with the scriptures: “I made a regular business of it for three weeks, and followed Brother Parley from place to place.” On 9 May 1836 John Taylor was baptized by Elder Pratt.

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John was ordained an elder, a high priest, and in the fall of 1837, at the age of twenty-nine, was called to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. John then crossed the ocean back to Britain, where he was instrumental in opening the mission in Ireland, and, along with other Church leaders, was instrumental in baptizing literally hundreds and helping in their migration to Nauvoo. Returning to Nauvoo, John became prominent in civic affairs. He was also associate editor of the Times and Seasons and proprietor of the Nauvoo Neighbor.

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In 1844, John Taylor is most remembered as one who was with the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum in the Carthage Jail on 27 June 1844. In the afternoon he sang “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.” At 5:15 p.m., his beloved Prophet and Hyrum were murdered. John was severely wounded with four bullets penetrating his body, and a fifth that would have hit his heart if it had not struck the watch in his vest pocket. John was taken to the Hamilton Hotel, but it was not until the following day that his wounds could be dressed. John was thirty-five years of age at this time.

John’s faithful obedience did not end. He followed the leadership of the Twelve from Nauvoo to the Iowa Territory. He then served another mission to the British Isles. He gathered many of the English Saints to Salt Lake before accepting another mission assignment to France, where he made arrangement for the translation of the Book of Mormon into French. He then traveled to Germany where he supervised the translation of the Book of Mormon into German.

After an absence of three years, John returned to the United States and was again called on a mission. This time he presided in the eastern states. In May 1857 John returned to the Salt Lake Valley where he actively served in the development of pioneer settlements. His civic service ended at the death of Brigham Young on 29 August 1877. The Quorum of the Twelve led the Church for three years after the death of President Young, with John Taylor as its presiding officer. On October 10, 1880, John was sustained as the third President of the Church.

Due to the persecution of polygamy, he went into retirement in 1885 from public life, and directed the affairs of the Church from the homes of Saints in Salt Lake and Davis Counties for the next two and one-half years, until his death, 25 July 25 1887, in Kaysville, Utah. John Taylor truly was a choice spirit who was “reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work.”

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He is buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Source: Who's Who in the Doctrine & Covenants by Susan Easton Black