John Wells served as second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1916 to 1938. He served under two Presiding Bishops, Charles W. Nibley and Sylvester Q. Cannon.
He was born on September 16, 1864, in Carlton, Nottinghamshire, England, and learned of the Church through childhood friend Arthur W. Winter. He was converted and baptized in August 1882. In 1885 he was called to serve as branch president in Nottingham. He and his wife Almena, immigrated to Salt Lake City in July 1889 and he found work at the ZCMI shoe factory. He began working in the office of the Presiding Bishopric on February 1, 1890. In the spring of 1898, he became chief clerk in that office.
President David O. McKay used an incident in the life of Wells and his wife to illustrate the importance of being responsive to the whispering of the Spirit.
- A son of Bishop Wells was killed in Emigration Canyon on a railroad track. Brother John Wells was a great detail man and prepared many of the reports we are following up now. His boy was run over by a freight train. Sister Wells was inconsolable. She mourned during the three days prior to the funeral, received no comfort at the funeral, and was in a rather serious state of mind. One day soon after the funeral services while she was lying on her bed relaxed, still mourning, she says that her son appeared to her and said, “Mother, do not mourn, do not cry. I am all right.” He told her that she did not understand how the accident happened and explained that he had given the signal to the engineer to move on, and then made the usual effort to catch the railing on the freight train; but as he attempted to do so his foot caught on a root and he failed to catch the hand rail, and his body fell under the train. It was clearly an accident. Now listen! He said that as soon as he realized that he was in another environment he tried to see his father, but he couldn’t reach him. His father was so busy with the duties in his office he could not respond to his call. Therefore, he had come to his mother. He said to her, “You tell father that all is well with me, and I want you not to mourn any more.”
Wells was the father of seven children. After his wife Almena died in May 1929, he married Margaret Ann Newman. He died on April 18, 1941.