James E. Talmage

From MormonWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

James Edward Talmage (September 21 1862 – July 27 1933) born in Hungerford, Berkshire, England, was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1911 until his death in 1933.

Early life

Elder Talmage grew up in Hungerford, England. He was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at age 10 on June 15, 1873. In August of 1873 he was ordained a deacon.[1]

Elder Talmage moved with his family to Provo, Utah in 1877. In Provo he studied the Normal Course at Brigham Young Academy, having as one of his teachers Karl G. Maeser. He graduated in 1880.

In 1881, Talmage received a collegiate diploma from the BYA Scientific Department, the first such diploma to be issued.

His early predilection was for the sciences, and in 1882-1883 he took selected courses in chemistry and geology at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Though a special student and not a candidate for a degree, he passed during his single year of residence nearly all the examinations in the four-year course and later graduated; and in 1883-1884 he was engaged in advanced work at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. In 1891 Elder Talmage received a B.S. degree from Lehigh University and he recieved a Ph.D. from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1896. He had done all his work for his Ph.D. as a non-resident student.[2]


Elder Talmage married Mary May Booth on the June 14, 1888 in the Manti Utah Temple. They had a total of eight children.[3] Among their children was John Talmage who wrote a biography of his father.

James E. Talmage's son Sterling B. Talmage (1889-1956) followed his example and became a geologist. [4]

Academic career

Elder Talmage was elected to life membership in several learned societies, and for many years was a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society (London), Fellow of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (Edinburgh), Fellow of the Geological Society (London), Fellow of the Geological Society of America, Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Associate of the Philosophical Society of Great Britain, and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1897 Elder Talmage went to a geographical meeting in Russia under the auspices of the Scottish Geographical society and then from there traveled on a geological expedition that crossed the Ural Mountains.

Elder Talmage taught science at Brigham Young Academy. He first began teaching at Brigham Young Academy when he was still seventeen. He continued teaching there after he had undertaken advanced studies in the eastern United States. He served as president of the University of Utah from 1894 to 1897.[5] From 1897-1907 Elder Talmage served as a professor of geology at the University of Utah. From 1907 until his call as an apostle in 1911, he worked as a full time geological consultant.

In 1909 Talmage was serving as the director of the Deseret Museum. He went to Detroit in November of that year to participate in diggings connected with the Scotford-Soper-Savage relics craze that involved the finding of supposed ancient relics in much of Michigan.[6] Talmage would go on to denounce these findings as a forgery in the September 1911 edition of the Deseret Museum Bulletin in an article entitled "The Michigan Relics: A Story of Forgery and Deception".

Religious writings

Elder Talmage was the author of several religious books such as Jesus the Christ, The House of the Lord, The Great Apostasy, and The Articles of Faith. These books are an effort to clarify Latter-day Saint doctrine and are still widely read by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In 1911 the First Presidency of the Church was shocked to learn that a photographer had gained unauthorized access to the Salt Lake Temple and had taken numerous photographs of the interior. He was now holding those photographs ransom for 100,000 US dollars. Talmage suggested that the First Presidency commission its own photographs of the temple. Joseph F. Smith, then president of the Church, suggested that Talmage write a treatise on the subject of the temple, to accompany the publication of the photographs. It was done, and shortly thereafter the book titled "The House of the Lord" was published in 1912.

Political involvement

While he lived in Provo and taught at BYA, Elder Talmage served as a member of the Provo City council and later as a justice of the peace.[7]

Elder Talmage went to Washington D.C. to testify in the Smoot Hearings.

Religious offices

In 1884 Elder Talmage was called as an alternate member of the High Council of the Utah Stake. At that time the Utah Stake included all of Utah County.

Elder Talmage became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1911. From 1924 to 1928 Elder Talmage served as president of the European Mission, with headquarters in Great Britian. He directly supervised missionary work in Britain and oversaw the activities of the mission presidents in the other missions in Europe as well.[8]

Elder Talmage died in 1933.


The Mathematics and Computer Sciences Building at Brigham Young University is named after Talmage. There is also a building on the University of Utah campus named after him.

Testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ

I was not born in the Church; my early training was received through the schools of the world; amongst the Methodists, Wesleyans, Presbyterians, and in the Church of England I have been by turns a pupil. But even during those periods of first tuition I had a knowledge of the divinity of God’s work as taught and practiced by the Latter-day Saints, for my parents had previously learned of the gospel, and were then awaiting the reorganization of the branch of the Church in the region of our home. This was in due time accomplished, and soon after my years had filled the allotted number, I was baptized by my father, who was an Elder in the Church. Jeers from schoolmates and scoffs from neighbors came to me as a matter of course. Our family being alone in the professions of the gospel there, to me it seemed that we had always been the recipients of such unkind attentions, which however served to strengthen my faith.
My testimony of this work dates back to the limits of my earliest memories. Since reaching the years that bring with them the powers of judgment, I have never been without an assurance of the divinity of this cause, and therefore I claim no honor for having gained such knowledge. I regard it as the greatest gift of God to me on earth; for though it is a natural endowment, I am none the less certain of its divine origin. I cannot remember a time when I did not live, yet I know that my life is a gift of our heavenly Father, so also is my testimony of His will.
Do not conclude that my faith has never been assailed; that it is like a greenhouse plant nourished through artificial culture, and alive only because protected from the blasts that wither and the frosts that destroy. I call to mind many periods of sore temptation and trial, when snares of the wily adversary have been set with alluring baits of mis-called science, and that which men style wisdom. Sophistry, doubt, and the craft of misbelief have surged in threatening torrents about the delicate roots of the feeble plant of my faith; yet, through the protecting care of the All Merciful, these dark rivers have been made to yield nutriment and impart strength to the rising stem and its sprouting branches.
I know that these vicissitudes are not yet over. A retrospect of my faith’s feeble growth gives me thankfulness, but the thought of the future brings fear lest after all the sapling should be uprooted. Did I not know that there is One who will temper the elements and adapt the conditions to my weak and immature growth, despair would bring destruction. Yet by prayer and works I may hope for the continued support of Him who is the source of my testimony and the author of my life – our Father. (James E. Talmage, “How I Gained My Testimony of the Truth,” Young Woman’s Journal [March 1893], 258-259.)

Published works

  • First Book of Nature (1888)
  • The Domesitc Science, a Book for Use in Schools and for General Reading (1891) online 1892 second edition
  • Tables for Blowpipe Determinations of Minerals (1898)
  • The Articles of Faith: A Series of Lectures on the Principal Doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1899) online
  • The Great Salt Lake, Present and Past (1900) online
  • The Great Apostasy: Considered in the Light of Scriptural and Secular History (1909) online
  • The Story of Mormonism (1910) online 1920 seventh edition
  • The House of the Lord (1912)
  • The Philosophy of Mormonism (1914)
  • Jesus the Christ: A Study of the Messiah and His Mission According to the Holy Scriptures Both Ancient and Modern (1915) online
  • Latter-Day Revelations: Selections from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Deseret Book Company (1915)
  • The Vitality of Mormonism, Deseret Book Company (1919) online
  • Sunday Night Talks by Radio (1930)
  • The Parables of James E. Talmage, comp. Albert L. Zobell, Jr. Deseret Book Company (1973)
  • The Essential James E. Talmage, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, 1997, ISBN 1-56085-018-3


  1. Andrew Jenson. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 787
  2. Jenson. Biographical Encyclopedia. Vol 3, p. 787
  3. Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Apendix 1, p. 1648
  4. Sterling B. Talmage Papers
  5. University of Utah Alumni Association e-newsletter, U-News & Views, August 2007
  6. Richard B. Stamps, "Tools Leave Marks: Material Analysis of the Scotford-Soper-Savage Michigan Relics" in BYU Studies Vol. 40 (2001) no. 3 p. 212.
  7. Jenson. Biographical Encyclopedia. Vol. 3, p. 787
  8. Arnold K. Garr, Donald Q. Cannon and Ricahrd O. Cowan, ed. Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History. pp. 1217-1218


External links