Marriner W. Merrill

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Marriner Merrill, Mormon Leader

Marriner Wood Merrill was a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1889 until his death in 1906. He was born on September 25, 1932, to Nathan Merrill and Sarah Ann Reynolds in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada. Marriner was the fourth son among thirteen children. His father farmed and cut and hauled lumber on his Canada property.

Marriner's childhood was not remarkable. He helped with the work of the farm, but he had spiritual leanings and received a vision at the age of nine.

When I was a boy of nine years my mother sent me to the hayfield where my father and brothers were at work, to call them to dinner. On the way I became unconscious and was clothed with a vision which I distinctly remembered when I gained my usual feelings and thoughts. After I became conscious I found myself in a log cabin located on the way to the field. In this cabin I was on my knees in the attitude of prayer. In the vision I saw the Church and the Prophets Joseph and Brigham. I saw the travels of the latter and of the Saints from Nauvoo and Winter Quarters to Utah. In the vision the sight of covered buggies and wagons was peculiar to me, for at that time I had never seen such vehicles, nor had I ever seen the mules which I beheld in my vision. I saw two and sometimes six mules to a wagon, and in the company of pioneers I beheld two men who had been boy friends of my youth, and each of them had more than one wife. In my vision at that time the divinity of plural marriage was revealed to me. I comprehended the doctrines and principles as they had been revealed. The progress and development of the Church were shown and the persecutions of the Saints were made clear to my understanding, and I heard a voice which told me that all I beheld was true, but I was cautioned to keep to myself what I had seen until I should have the opportunity of leaving my native country.

Not too much later, Marriner asked his mother why the ancient prophets had multiple wives. His mother was taken aback and asked how that came to Marinner's mind. The boy dropped the subject, lest he betray the Lord's trust. Marriner was first exposed to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ by a local member of the LDS Church, but soon traveling elders also taught him. Marriner was baptized in 1852 at the age of 19. He soon learned that his mother had been secretly baptized around 1936. His father never joined the LDS Church. About a year after his baptism, Marriner set out to gather with the Saints, but was called back to Canada to settle the estate of his father who had passed away. Marriner finally arrived in Salt Lake City on September 11, 1853.

In November, 1853, Brother Merrill was married to Sarah A. Atkinson, and immediately went to a place in Bingham canyon, seven miles above its mouth, where he passed the winter in making shingles. The new venture became a profitable one. The shingles then sold at $8 per thousand, and he was able to make five hundred a day. [1]

Marriner had gained experience making shingles while in the Salt Lake Valley. His experiences with his dishonest employer had caused him to set out on his own. In making his journeys, and in his work in the mountain canyons of Utah, Marriner encountered several dangerous situations in which his life was miraculously saved, increasing his testimony of God's tender mercies. He eventually settled in Richmond, in northern Utah, one of the first settlers there. He continued making shingles, working untiringly in the Utah canyons to get timber. He gained a reputation for his hard work and honesty. In 1861 he became a bishop in Richmond. He served in that position for 18 years.

It was during the years of his bishopric at Richmond that the Utah Northern railroad was under construction from Ogden to Idaho and Montana. Elder Merrill became a contractor in the construction of the new road, and in a sense a mediator between the people of Cache valley and the railroad company. During his relations with that road he distributed among the people for work done some $780,000 (GA Pages).

This new work relationship enabled Marriner's family to prosper. He did have some situations where the community prospered and he earned little, but he did prosper in farming. Agriculture seemed to be his finest form of effort. Marriner continued to serve in various church leadership callings, and while in Cache Valley, served also in local government and as postmaster. In 1896 he was appointed a member of the Agricultural College board, which office he held for nearly four years. He served as a member of the Brigham Young College (now Brigham Young University) board. In 1889 he was ordained an Apostle by President Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith and eight of the Apostles being present.

Marriner went on to have one of the largest and most cohesive polygamist families in the LDS Church, fathering 45 children.

His life in Cache valley and its far-reaching influence throughout northern Utah and southern Idaho made him a leading character among men. His great farms, his beautiful homes, his industrial enterprises in dairying and milling all indicated a high degree of thrift and enterprise which show up strongly the life and character of the man. His powers of organization, his personal and family discipline, his persistent effort and indomitable will, made his life a study of value to all young men who undertake to grasp and deal with the material conditions of life and bring the forces of nature to their aid and use. The Apostle's broad form and the set features of his face, indicate superior strength, and his whole bearing indicates, above all things, power. [2]

Marriner Merrill passed away in Logan, Cache County, Utah, on February 6, 1906. His passing, although expected, was mourned by many who were touched by his capable and loving life.

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