John Taylor (Mormon): Third president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1808 - 1887) | Biography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life
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John Taylor (Mormon)
Third president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

John Taylor (Mormon)

John Taylor (Mormon)
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Third president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Was Writer Politician Hymnwriter
From United States of America
Field Literature Religion Politics
Gender male
Birth 1 November 1808, Milnthorpe
Death 25 July 1887, Kaysville (aged 78 years)
John Taylor (Mormon)
The details (from wikipedia)


John Taylor (November 1, 1808 – July 25, 1887) was an English religious leader who served as the third president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1880 to 1887. He is the only president of the LDS Church to have been born outside of the United States.

Early life

Taylor was born in Milnthorpe, Westmorland (now part of Cumbria), England, the son of James and Agnes Taylor. He had formal schooling up to age fourteen, and then he served an initial apprenticeship to a cooper and later received training as a woodturner and cabinetmaker. He claimed that as a young man, he had a vision of “an angel in the heavens, holding a trumpet to his mouth, sounding a message to the nations" - the angel Moroni. He was christened in the Church of England, but joined the Methodist church at sixteen. He was appointed a lay preacher a year later, and felt a calling to preach in America. Taylor's parents and siblings emigrated to Upper Canada (present-day Ontario) in 1830. Taylor stayed in England to dispose of the family property and joined his family in Toronto in 1832. He met Leonora Cannon from the Isle of Man while attending a Toronto Methodist Church and, although she initially rejected his proposal, married her on January 28, 1833.

Between 1834 and 1836, John and Leonora Taylor participated in a religious study group in Toronto. The group discussed problems and concerns with their Methodist faith, and quickly became known as the "Dissenters." Other members included Joseph Fielding and his sisters Mary and Mercy, who later also became prominent in the Latter Day Saint movement. While in Toronto Taylor continued to work in his trade as a woodturner.

Early church service

Taylor and his wife first came in contact with the Church of the Latter Day Saints in 1836 after meeting Parley P. Pratt, an apostle in the church, in Toronto. Leonora was the first to join the church and she persuaded Taylor to continue his studies with Pratt. After the couple's baptism into the church, they were active in preaching and the organization of the church in Upper Canada. They then moved to Far West, Missouri, where Taylor was ordained an apostle on December 19, 1838. He assisted other church members as they fled frequent conflicts to Commerce, Illinois (soon after renamed Nauvoo).

In 1839, Taylor and some of his fellow apostles served missions in Britain. While there, Taylor preached in Liverpool and was responsible for Mormon preaching in Ireland and the Isle of Man.


Taylor returned to Nauvoo, Illinois to serve as a city councilman, a chaplain, a colonel, a newspaper editor, and a judge advocate for the Nauvoo Legion. Taylor edited two newspapers in Nauvoo, Times and Seasons and the Nauvoo Neighbor. Times and Seasons was the official organ of the Latter Day Saint church; he was officially the assistant editor under Joseph Smith, but due to Smith also being president of the church, Taylor made most of the editorial decisions. Taylor also edited the more politically concerned Nauvoo Neighbor and the Wasp, the predecessor of the Nauvoo Neighbor, for about a year. Taylor was thus the editor of Nauvoo's two main papers from 1842 to 1846.

In 1844, Taylor was with church founder Joseph Smith, his brother Hyrum Smith, and fellow apostle Willard Richards in the Carthage, Illinois jail when the Smiths were killed by a mob. Taylor was severely wounded in the conflict. His life may have been spared when a musket ball directed towards his chest was stopped by a pocket watch which he was carrying at the time. However, recent analysis shows the watch may instead have been damaged when Taylor fell against the windowsill.

In 1845 Taylor became the president of the Nauvoo Tradesmen Association. This group worked to encourage local manufacturing of goods for both local use and export. Taylor had two assistants who aided him in running this group, Orson Spencer and Phineas Richards.

Migration to Utah

In 1846-1847, most Latter-day Saints followed Brigham Young into Iowa then Utah, while Taylor went to England to resolve problems in church leadership there. On his return, he and Pratt led more Latter-day Saints, a group of about 1500, to the Salt Lake Valley, where Young and the others had settled.

Government positions

Taylor applied for and was granted United States citizenship in 1849. That same year he was appointed an associate judge in the provisional State of Deseret. He later served in the Utah territorial legislature from 1853 to 1876. Taylor was elected Speaker of the House for five consecutive sessions, beginning in 1857. In 1852, he wrote a small book, The Government of God, in which he compared and contrasted the secular and ecclesiastical political systems.

From 1868 to 1870 Taylor served as a probate judge of Utah County, Utah. He also served as superintendent of schools for Utah Territory beginning in 1876.

Mission president

Taylor served as president of two missions of the LDS Church. In 1849, he began missionary work in France and was the first church mission president in the country. While in France, Taylor published a monthly newspaper called L'Etoile du Deseret with the help of Louis A. Bertrand. He also supervised missionary work in Germany, but did not himself go to any of the countries that would later form Germany.

In 1852, the Book of Mormon was published in French, with Taylor and Curtis E. Bolton credited as translators. Taylor supervised the translation, which was carried out by Bolton, Bertrand, Lazare Auge, and a "Mr. Wilhelm".

Taylor later served as president of the Eastern States Mission, based in New York City. In this capacity he published a newspaper that presented the position of the Latter-day Saints.

Utah economic development

While serving as mission president in France, Taylor was directed by church president Brigham Young to prepare to establish a sugar industry in Utah Territory. This was done under the auspices of the Deseret Manufacturing Company. Taylor purchased sugar-making equipment in Liverpool while returning to the United States. These early attempts to produce sugar in Utah proved unsuccessful.

Musical ability

Taylor is reported to have had a marvelous singing voice. At the request of Hyrum Smith, he twice sang the song "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" in Carthage Jail just before the Smith brothers' murder.

Taylor wrote the lyrics to several hymns, some of which are still used by the LDS Church. In 2005, Taylor's hymn "Joseph the Seer" was sung at the LDS Church's celebration of the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith's birth. The 1985 English-language edition of the LDS Church hymnal includes two hymns with lyrics by Taylor, "Go Ye Messengers of Glory" (no. 262) and "Go, Ye Messengers of Heaven" (no. 327).

Actions as church president

Following Brigham Young's death in 1877, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles governed the church, with John Taylor as the quorum's president. Taylor became the third president of the church in 1880. He chose as his counselors Joseph F. Smith and George Q. Cannon, the latter being the nephew of his wife Leonora.

As church president, Taylor oversaw the expansion of the Salt Lake community; the further organization of the church hierarchy; the establishment of Mormon colonies in Wyoming, Colorado, and Arizona as well as in Canada's Northwest Territories (in present-day Alberta) and the Mexican state of Chihuahua; and the defense of plural marriage against increasing government opposition.

Taylor also established Zion's Central Board of Trade while president of the church, which was meant to coordinate local trade and production largely done through the local stakes on a wider basis.

In 1878, the Primary Association was founded by Aurelia Spencer Rogers in Farmington, Utah Territory, and, for a time, the organization was placed under the general direction of Relief Society general president Eliza R. Snow. In 1880, Taylor organized the churchwide adoption of the Primary Association; he selected Louie B. Felt as its first general president. In October 1880, the Pearl of Great Price was canonized by the church. Taylor also oversaw the issuance of a new edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. During his term as president, the seventies quorums were also more fully and regularly organized.

In 1882, the United States Congress enacted the Edmunds Act, which declared polygamy to be a felony. Hundreds of Mormon men and women were arrested and imprisoned for continuing to practice plural marriage. Taylor had followed Joseph Smith's teachings on polygamy, and had at least seven wives. He is known to have fathered 34 children.

Taylor moved into the Gardo House alone with his sister Agnes to avoid prosecution and to avoid showing preference to any one of his families. However, by 1885, he and his counselors were forced to withdraw from public view to live in the "underground"; they were frequently on the move to avoid arrest. In 1885, during his last public sermon, Taylor remarked, "I would like to obey and place myself in subjection to every law of man. What then? Am I to disobey the law of God? Has any man a right to control my conscience, or your conscience? ... No man has a right to do it".

Many viewed Mormon polygamy as religiously, socially, and politically threatening. In 1887, the U.S. Congress passed the Edmunds–Tucker Act, which abolished women's suffrage in Utah Territory, forced wives to testify against their husbands, disincorporated the LDS Church, dismantled the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company, abolished the Nauvoo Legion, and provided that LDS Church property in excess of $50,000 would be forfeited to the United States.

For two-and-a-half years, Taylor presided over the church from exile. During this time, he is said to have received the 1886 Revelation. Photographs of the original document exist, which restated the permanence of the "New and Everlasting Covenant", which some consider to be referring directly to the practice of plural marriage; the validity of this revelation is rejected by the LDS Church but it is used by Mormon fundamentalists to justify the continued practice of polygamy.


Taylor died on July 25, 1887, from congestive heart failure in Kaysville, Utah Territory. Taylor was buried at the Salt Lake City Cemetery in The Avenues, Salt Lake City, Utah. For two years after his death, the church again was without a presidency. The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with Wilford Woodruff as president of the quorum, assumed leadership during this interim period. In the April 1889 church general conference, the First Presidency was reorganized with Wilford Woodruff as the president. Six months later, in the October general conference, Anthon H. Lund was called to fill Woodruff's vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Taylor's teachings as an apostle were the 2003 course of study in the LDS Church's Sunday Relief Society and Melchizedek priesthood classes.


Taylor practiced plural marriage and was married to nine wives: Leonora Cannon, Elizabeth Kaighin, Jane Ballantyne, Mary Ann Oakley, Sophia Whitaker, Harriet Whitaker, and Margaret Young. He was the father of 34 children.

Taylor's son, John W. Taylor, continued to serve in the church and in politics and helped to shepherd Utah to statehood in 1896. John W. Taylor was ultimately excommunicated from the LDS Church for his opposition to the church's abandonment of plural marriage. His son, Samuel W. Taylor, became a writer, and the biographer of his father and grandfather.

Another son, William W. Taylor, served as one of the first presidents of the seventy and also served in the Utah territorial legislature.

Taylor's wife Margaret Young Taylor was a member of the inaugural general presidency of what is today the church's Young Women organization. Taylor's daughter Annie Taylor Hyde was a leader in the Relief Society general presidency and was the founder of Daughters of Utah Pioneers.


Wife Born Died
Leonora Cannon (1796-10-06)October 6, 1796 December 9, 1868(1868-12-09) (aged 72)
Elizabeth Kaighin (1811-09-11)September 11, 1811 September 30, 1895(1895-09-30) (aged 84)
Jane Ballantyne (1813-04-11)April 11, 1813 December 26, 1901(1901-12-26) (aged 88)
Mary Ann Oakley (1826-03-20)March 20, 1826 August 30, 1911(1911-08-30) (aged 85)
Sophia Whitaker (1825-04-21)April 21, 1825 February 28, 1887(1887-02-28) (aged 61)
Harriet Whitaker (1825-04-21)April 21, 1825 July 16, 1882(1882-07-16) (aged 57)
Margaret Young (1837-04-24)April 24, 1837 May 3, 1919(1919-05-03) (aged 82)
Josephine Elizabeth Roueche (1860-03-03)March 3, 1860 November 27, 1943(1943-11-27) (aged 83)


  • Taylor, John (1852). The Government of God. S. W. Richards. 
  • —— (1882). An Examination into and an Elucidation of the Great Principle of the Mediation and Atonement of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Deseret News. 
  • —— (1943). The Gospel Kingdom: Selections from the Writings and Discourses of John Taylor. compiled by G. Homer Durham. Bookcraft, Inc. 
  • —— (1984). Samuel W. Taylor and Raymond W. Taylor., ed. The John Taylor Papers: Records of the Last Utah Pioneer, Vol I, 1836-1877, the Apostle. Taylor Trust. 
  • —— (1985). Samuel W. Taylor and Raymond W. Taylor., ed. The John Taylor Papers: Records of the Last Utah Pioneer, Vol II, 1877-1887, the President. Taylor Trust. 
  • —— (1996). Dean C. Jessee., ed. John Taylor Nauvoo Journal. Grandin Book. 
  • —— (2001). Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  LDS Church publication number 35969.

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