John Taylor was born on November 1, 1808, in Milnthorpe, England. At fourteen he finished schooling and became a skilled woodworker. He joined the Methodist church and became a lay preacher. John Taylor emigrated to Canada in 1832 and there met his future wife Leonora Cannon. Both John and Leonora were part of a religious group that prayed for the restoration of New Testament Christianity. Upon their introduction to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they felt it was the answer to their prayers and were baptized in 1836.
The Taylors moved to Far West, Missouri, in 1837 and on December 19, 1838, John Taylor was ordained as an apostle. He became instrumental in assisting the Saints as they sought escape from mob persecution in Missouri and fled to Illinois. He also served a mission to the British Isles and helped open the mission in Ireland and on the Isle of Man. The Prophet Joseph Smith dubbed John Taylor a true “defender of the faith.”
In Nauvoo John Taylor published the Times and Seasons from 1842 to 1846 as well as another newspaper, the Nauvoo Neighbor, from 1843 to 1846. John Taylor was one of the men who was with Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage Jail when they were martyred. John Taylor was shot numerous times by the same mob that killed the prophet and his brother, Hyrum. John Taylor wrote Doctrine and Covenants 135 as a tribute to Joseph and Hyrum. The most famous passage from this section is—
- Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!
In 1847, after having been forcefully evicted from Nauvoo, the city they had built in Illinois, John Taylor helped lead the Saints again. With the help of Parley P. Pratt, John Taylor led 1,500 Saints to Utah. He then served in various civil service roles such as judge of Utah County, territorial superintendent of schools, and as Speaker of the House for five sessions. In 1849, John Taylor was sent to Europe again and there directed the missionary work in France and Germany. He also directed the translation and printing of a French-German edition of the Book of Mormon. In 1880, after the death of Brigham Young, John Taylor was ordained as the President of the Church. His life's motto, which people often heard him say, was “the Kingdom of God or Nothing.”
John Taylor's Family
John Taylor embraced plural marriage in Nauvoo and eventually was married to eight women. He was the father of 34 children. "Amid the growing strife over the issue of polygamy, President Taylor was informed that government officials planned to arrest him soon. Having exhausted all legal appeals, he had to decide whether to obey God or man. In his last public discourse, he told the Saints, “I cannot as an honorable man disobey my God … and trample these holy and eternal obligations under foot, that God has given me to keep, and which reach into the eternities that are to come.” From the day he delivered this sermon until the day of his death almost two and a half years later, he hid in various locations throughout Utah. Rather than turn away from the Lord’s instructions regarding plural marriage, President Taylor chose to go into hiding as a way to obey the Lord and hopefully decrease the persecution against the Church."
John Taylor's Death
John Taylor died from congestive heart failure on July 25, 1887, in Kaysville, Utah Territory. He was buried at the Salt Lake City Cemetery in The Avenues, Salt Lake City, Utah. After his death the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with Wilford Woodruff as president of the quorum, assumed leadership of the church for two years. In the April 1889 church general conference, the First Presidency was reorganized with Wilford Woodruff as the president.
Quotes from President John Taylor
- “And this provision [the Atonement] applies not only to the living, but also to the dead, so that all men who have existed in all ages, who do exist now, or who will exist while the earth shall stand, may be placed upon the same footing, and that all men may have the privilege, living or dead, of accepting the conditions of the great plan of redemption provided by the Father, through the Son, before the world was; and that the justice and mercy of God may be applied to every being, living or dead, that ever has existed, that does now exist, or that ever will exist.”
- The Mediation and Atonement, 1882
- “There is no man living in and of himself, can guide the ship of Zion or regulate the affairs of the Church and kingdom of God unaided by the Spirit of God, and hence he has organized the Church as He has with all the various quorums and organizations as they exist today.”
- The Gospel Kingdom, sel. G. Homer Durham, 1943
- "This church fail? No! Times and seasons may change, revolution may succeed revolution; thrones may be cast down; and empires be dissolved; earthquakes may rend the earth from center to circumference; the mountains may be hurled out of their places, and the mighty ocean be moved from its bed, but amidst the crash of worlds and the crack of matter, truth, eternal truth, must remain unchanged, and those principles which God has revealed to his saints be unscathed amidst the warring elements, and remain as firm as the throne of Jehovah."
- The Gospel Kingdom
See also Quotes from the Prophets
- Prophets of the Restoration
- The Life and Ministry of John Taylor
- LightPlanet, John Taylor
- Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor
- John Taylor—Part 1
- John Taylor—Part 2