James L. Barker

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James L. Barker (27 July 1880 – 29 May 1958) was an American historian and a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).

Early life

Barker received his early education in the Weber County (Utah) School District and the University of Utah (B.A., 1901). Barker then served as a Mormon missionary in the Swiss–Austrian Mission of the LDS Church. After his return from this mission in 1904, he began an extensive study of foreign languages in Europe. He studied at the Sorbonne and the Catholic Institute in Paris. He also studied at the University of Marburg and at universities in Geneva and Neuchâtel.


In 1906, Barker married Kate Montgomery. After his return to the United States, he was hired as Principal of Weber Academy (now Weber State University) and later as Chair of Brigham Young University's fledgling language department. In 1919, he was appointed head of the University of Utah's Modern Language Department, a position he held for almost three decades. He is the author of the book Apostasy from the Divine Church which is a scholarly account of what he viewed as the decline and fall of the Christian Church not too many years after the times of the early Apostles. His book cites extensively from early historical sources, not all of which are documented because of his death before the publication of the book. The point-of-view is that of the LDS Church, but it is not an official church publication. The book was published by Barker's wife in 1959, then went out-of-print for a number of years, was re-published in 1985, and is again out-of-print.

LDS Church service

In 1944, Barker was serving as the president of the Argentine Mission of the LDS Church. In this year he organized the first branch of the Church in Uruguay.[1]

In the late 1940s, Barker served as the president of the French Mission of the LDS Church. The mission included all of France as well as French-speaking Switzerland and the Walloon region of Belgium.

However, Barker was not content to limit his mission to this area when people in other adjacent nations were totally beyond the influence of Mormonism. He sent missionaries into Italy to try to contact church members there.

In September 1947, Barker and his wife accompanied Archibald F. Bennett and James M. Black on their three-week trip to the Piedmont Region of northern Italy in which they microfilmed records for the Genealogical Society of Utah.


  1. 2008 Deseret Morning News Church Almanac (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Morning News, 2007) p. 496.


  • intro to Apostasy From the Divine Church written by Daniel A. Keeler
  • Allen, James B., Jessie L. Embry, Kahlile B. Mehr. Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Sociey of Utah (Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, 1995)