Amasa Mason Lyman

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Question: Was Amasa Mason Lyman in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company in 1847?

Answer: Amasa Mason Lyman was born in Lyman Township, Grafton County, New Hampshire, on May 30, 1813, to Boswell and Martha Mason Lyman. At age six his father left the family and never returned. When his mother remarried, Amasa resided with his grandparents. After the death of his grandparents he was raised by a strict uncle, Parley Mason, for seven years.

Mormon elders taught him the gospel, and he was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Lyman E. Johnson and confirmed by Orson Pratt on April 27, 1832. His embrace of Mormonism was viewed by his uncle as an unbearably offensive. Ten days later he left his uncle's home. He journeyed over seven hundred miles to join with the Saints in Ohio, with only a knapsack containing his belongings and $11.13.

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In Kirtland Amasa met the Prophet Joseph Smith and later recalled, "There was nothing strange or different from other men in his personal appearance, yet when he grasped my hand in that cordial way, I felt as one of old in the presence of the Lord." The Prophet called Amasa on his first mission to the East. He preached the gospel in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York before returning to Ohio.

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On June 8, 1835, Amasa married Louisa Maria Tanner in Kirtland, Ohio. They had eight children together. Marriage did not alter his missionary zeal. Amasa continued to preach throughout the East and served several short missions in Ohio before moving to Far West, Missouri, in the fall of 1837. He was imprisoned in Richmond, released, and then threatened with mobbing. "Several times in the course of the day," he wrote, "I met with parties of the mob whom I learned, about sundown, were searching for me to take me back to prison." He evaded his enemies by fleeing to Quincy, Illinois. He wrote to a friend, "Of our sufferings in Missouri I have nothing to say, only let silence cover them till the Avenger of our wrongs shall reward our enemies according to their works."

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He settled in Nauvoo and served as a counselor in the high priests quorum and was recognized by Church leaders as a powerful preacher. In 1842 Amasa was called to fill the vacancy left by Orson Pratt in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In January 1843 the Prophet said, "I can take Amasa into the First Presidency." It was his intention that Amasa take the place of Sidney Rigdon. However, Rigdon was upheld in his office by the Saints. The Prophet then appointed Amasa as a Counselor to the Presidency until a vacancy occurred.

After the Martyrdom, question arose as to Amasa Lyman's right to claim the leadership of the Church. With unswerving devotion he supported the leadership of the Twelve: "I do not rise to electioneer. I am gratified with the open, frank and plain exposition of President Young.… I have been at the back of Joseph Smith, and will be at the back of the Twelve forever.” He urged the Saints, "Whether I rise or fall … heed the advice of President Young; he is the one to look to for counsel in all things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

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In the spring of 1847, Elder Lyman was asked to be in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company. He served in the 2nd Ten with Ezra Taft Benson as the captain. When the company reached Fort Laramie, Elder Lyman was sent to Pueblo, Colorado, to bring the colony of Mississippi Saints and others to Salt Lake Valley. He and the party arrived at City Creek in the Salt Lake Valley on July 29, 1847. The following year, he was a Captain of a Hundred in the 2nd company in Willard Richards 1848 Company. He and a few members of his 100 arrived in Salt Lake City on October 10, 1848. Elder Lyman captained his own company in 1850 and returned again to bring back a wife and son in 1852. He captained and co-captained two more companies, one in 1855 and the other in 1857.

In 1857, Charles C. Rich and Elder Lyman headed a colonization effort in San Bernardino, California, that lasted until the threat of Johnston's army to Salt Lake City. In 1860 Elder Lyman was called on a mission to Great Britain.

The remaining seven years of his life, from 1870 to 1877, were most peculiar. He started to espouse the doctrine that the more one comprehends universal truth, the closer he or she is to salvation. He spoke of Jesus as a holy man who attained perfection through years of learning. He taught that the shedding of Christ's blood had no effect on the salvation of man. His oldest son, Francis Marion Lyman, wrote of his father's confused doctrinal stance: "Father's death would have been a pleasure compared with what we suffered at this terrible announcement." The only explanation for many was that Amasa Lyman suffered some type of mental illness at this time.

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In 1870 Amasa was excommunicated due to his preaching false doctrine. He never returned to membership in the Church. He died at Fillmore, Millard County, Utah, on February 4, 1877, at age 63. Amasa had married other wives, and was the father of thirty-eight children. He was buried in the Fillmore Cemetery. He was posthumously restored to good standing within the Church.

Source: “Biographies of the Original 1847 Pioneer Company,” Church News, Updated, 14 October 2009; “Amasa Mason Lyman,” written by Susan Easton Black, FamilySearch.org; FindAGrave.com