Joseph T. Ball, Jr.
Joseph T. Ball, Jr. was born on 21 February 1804 in Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. His mother, Mary Montgomery Drew of Cambridge, Massachusetts, was White. His father, Joseph T. Ball, Sr., was born in Jamaica and came to Massachusetts in 1790.
He had four sisters – Mary Montgomery Ball, Lucy Montgomery Ball, Martha Violet Ball, and Hannah Burdine Ball. All four sisters became women’s rights advocates and abolitionists. His father was the founder of society to help African-American widows in need.
Baptism, Ordained Elder, and Missionary Work
Joseph T. Ball, Jr. was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the summer of 1832 by either Brigham Young or his brother, Joseph Young, in Boston. Soon after his baptism, in September 1833, he moved to Kirtland, Ohio, where he became acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith. He may have been ordained an Elder as early as 1833 or as late as 1837. Wilford Woodruff, an early Church leader, recalls that Ball was an Elder in 1837 as they served a mission together in both New England and New Jersey.
Ordained High Priest and Service as Branch President
Ball baptized William Willard Hutchings on 2 May 1842. Two years later he was ordained a High Priest by William Smith, the brother of Joseph Smith. The ordination coincided with his new Church service as the Boston Branch President from October 1844 to March 1845. The Boston congregation was the largest Latter-day Saint group apart from Church headquarters in Nauvoo, Illinois. He was not only the first African-American to be ordained a High Priest in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but he was also the first Black man to preside over a Latter-day Saint congregation.
Life in Nauvoo
In the spring of 1845, following his service as Branch President, Apostle Parley P. Pratt sent him to Nauvoo, Illinois to work on the temple there and promised him that he would receive his temple endowment. While in Nauvoo, he received his patriarchal blessing from William Smith and participated in the ordinance of baptism for the dead on behalf of his ancestors.
In August 1845 both Joseph T. Ball, Jr. and William Smith left the Church for reasons that are unclear. Because Ball left the Church before the Nauvoo Temple was completed, he was not able to receive his temple endowment. After leaving Nauvoo, Ball appears to have affiliated with a rival Mormon schismatic group in Wisconsin led by James Strang and appears in their church records in 1848.
Death and Burial
Joseph T. Ball, Jr. died of tuberculosis on 20 September 1861 in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts. He is buried in Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.