Daniel Spencer, Jr.

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Question: What was Daniel Spencer, Jr.’s reaction when he realized that the doctrine, taught by the missionary, was true?

Answer: Daniel Spencer, Jr. was the son of Daniel Spencer and Chloe Wilson, and was born July 20, 1794, at West Stockbridge, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Daniel’s father fought in the Revolutionary war; he volunteered at the age of sixteen and remained through the entire struggle.

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Before Daniel reached the age of twenty-one, he moved to the Southern States area. There he opened the way for five of his brothers, in the State of Georgia and also in North and South Carolina. For himself he established a mercantile house at Savannah. He also gave his brother Orson a collegiate training, bearing chiefly the expenses of that classical education. Orson was lame, and his elder brother educated him for the pulpit. In 1823, Daniel married Sophronia, daughter of General Grove Pomeroy. They had one son, and Sophronia died in 1832. In 1834, Daniel married Sarah Lester. They had four children.

At the close of his commercial career in the South, Daniel Spencer returned to his native place, West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Daniel then became connected with a mercantile house in partnership with the Messrs. Boyingtons, celebrated marble dealers. So much trusted by the firm was he, that the whole supervision of the firm fell upon his shoulders.

Until 1840 no Elder of the Mormon Church had preached in his native town. At this time Daniel belonged to no sect of religionists, but it was his custom to give free quarters to preachers of all denominations. Through his influence, the Presbyterian meeting house was obtained for a "Mormon" Elder, who had come into their town to preach the gospel, and the meeting was attended by the elite of the town. At the close of the service, the Elder asked the assembly if there was any one present who would give him "a night's lodging and a meal of victuals in the name of Jesus." For several minutes a dead silence reigned in the congregation. At length Daniel Spencer rose up, stepped into the aisle, and broke the silence: "I will entertain you, sir, for humanity's sake." Daniel took the poor Elder, not to his public hotel, as was his wont with the preachers generally who needed hospitality, but he took him to his own house, a fine family mansion, and the next morning he clothed him from head to foot with a good suit of broad cloth from the shelves of his store.

Seeing the bitter malevolence from the preachers and the best of the professing Christians, Daniel resolved to investigate the cause of this enmity and unchristian-like manifestation. For two weeks he closed his establishment, refused to do business with any one, and shut himself up to study; and there alone with his God, he weighed in the balances the divine message. One day, when his son was with him in his study, he suddenly burst into a flood of tears, and exclaimed: "My God, the thing is true, and as an honest man I must embrace it; but it will cost me all I have got on earth."

Daniel had weighed the consequences, but his conscientious mind compelled him to assume the responsibility and take up the cross. He saw that he must, in the eyes of friends and townsmen, fall from the social pinnacle on which he then stood to that of a despised people. At midday, about three months later, Daniel Spencer having issued a public notice to his townsmen that he should be baptized at noon on a certain day, took him (the Elder) by the arm and, not ashamed, walked through the town taking the route of the main street to the waters of baptism, followed by hundreds of his townsmen to the river's bank. The profoundest respect and quiet were manifested by the vast concourse of witnesses, but also the profoundest astonishment.

The conversion and conduct of Daniel carried a deep and weighty conviction among many good families in the region around, which, in a few months, resulted in the establishment of a flourishing branch of the Church. This branch which he was the chief instrument in founding, and over which he presided, contributed its full quota of citizens to Nauvoo and Utah.

About the period of Daniel ‘s connection with the "Mormon" Church, the partners in the firm to which he belonged, took the benefit of the bankrupt law, which resulted in his financial depression. He then gave himself much to the ministry, and soon afterward brought into the Church his brother Orson. He continued for two years laboring in the ministry in that region, and then (in 1841) he removed to Nauvoo. Daniel’s wife, Sophronia, and his father and mother died in Nauvoo.

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Daniel had scarcely arrived in the city of the Saints, when he was appointed on a mission to Canada. On his return, he was elected a member of the Nauvoo city council; but soon afterwards was sent on a mission to the Indian nation. From the hardships of that mission he never recovered to the day of his death. The next year, he was sent on a mission to Massachusetts. He returned and after the death of Joseph Smith, he was elected mayor of Nauvoo. At the time a number of men were selected by Joseph Smith to explore the Rocky Mountains, with the view of the Saints locating there, Daniel Spencer was called as one of them, but the exploring expedition was interrupted by the martyrdom.

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At the time of the great exodus from Nauvoo, in 1846, Daniel started among the first of the exiles to the Rocky Mountains. He was a captain of fifty. But finding that the journey could not be accomplished that year, Brigham Young departed from his first intentions, and the Saints went into Winter Quarters. When the city was organized, Daniel Spencer was chosen to act as a Bishop of one of the Wards. He spent a large amount of his means in his benevolent administration to the suffering and dying. His wife, Mary, died in 1846 in Iowa. Daniel married Emily Thompson in 1847 at Winter Quarters. They had six children.

In the spring of 1847, when the Pioneers, under President Young, took the lead of the main body of the Church, Daniel was appointed president of two companies of fifties to follow the next summer. Daniel Spencer's company was the first of the Winter Quarters' emigration that followed the Pioneers into the Great Basin. They arrived in September 1847.

In the organization of the High Council of the Salt Lake Stake in 1847, Daniel was appointed a member. He was a member of the legislature for years, and for some time sat in the Senate of the provisional government of the State of Deseret, and acted in connection with those who framed its constitution.

Daniel was sent on a mission to England in 1852; there he filled the place of first counselor to Franklin D. Richards...Having honorably fulfilled his mission, he returned to his native land in 1856. At the organization of the Salt Lake Stake, he was made the spiritual head of that area. At that time the president of the Stake occupied something like the position of the mayor of the city, and chief justice of the Church. Nearly all cases were tried under him...

Daniel Spencer Jr. died in Salt Lake City on December 8, 1868, aged 74 years. He was a remarkable man and very exemplary in his life. He is buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Source: Excerpts from “Biography of Daniel Spencer Jr.” by Andrew Jensen, FamilySearch.org; FindAGrave.com