Reuben Hedlock experienced a rise and puzzling fall in the early years of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Hedlock was born sometime about 1809, although one source indicates 1803. He joined the Church in 1834 with other family members. He and his family moved to Kirtland, Ohio, and he was called to serve as a counselor in the elders quorum presidency. He then served as president.
As with many of the Saints, he relocated to Missouri in 1838, and then to Illinois in 1839. He was called to labor as a missionary in England and arrived in Liverpool in April 1840. He was the first missionary to preach the gospel in Ireland. A year later, he returned to the Nauvoo, where he was ordained a high priest.
By trade Hedlock was a printer, carpenter, and journeyman. Joseph Smith assigned Hedlock in February 1842 to engrave the original facsimiles that would accompany the text of the Book of Abraham printed in the Church’s newspaper the Times and Seasons. Joseph worked with him, instructing him on the details of the engravings. Hedlock’s name can be seen on the top left side of Facsimile 2 and the bottom of Facsimile 3.
Hedlock produced a “careful, faithful—though not entirely photographically accurate—copy of the papyrus that, in the first publication, preserved the exact size of the originals.” Subsequent versions of the facsimiles were not as carefully copied as Hedlock’s. Editions after 1981 have returned to Hedlock’s originals.
Hedlock also assisted in promoting interest in the Church’s Egyptian collection.
Hedlock was called to preside over the British Mission from October 1843 until he returned in January 1845, after the martyrdom of the Prophet in June 1844. After his return to Nauvoo, he was asked to return to Great Britain and continue as president. His service has been described as “dedicated.”
During this time, the baptism and emigration of new members was significant. The leaders of the Church developed a plan to ease the cost of emigration from England, although they never implemented the plan. Hedlock thought of a plan to assist emigration called the British and American Commercial Joint Stock Company. It was accepted by Church members in England and Hedlock obtained British government approval. The company was promoted in the England-published Millennial Star. Hedlock assisted hundreds of Saints to immigrate to Nauvoo. He arranged the emigration of nonmembers as well.
When the Quorum of the Twelve in Council Bluffs, Iowa, learned of the creation of the company, they believed Hedlock had overstepped his role as president of the mission. Hedlock was disfellowshipped in July 1846. The Twelve sent Parley P. Pratt, John Taylor, and Orson Hyde to look into the matter. They found “financial irregularities’’ in the Joint Stock Company and the British Mission. Hedlock refused to meet with the apostles. Hedlock had “mismanaged Church funds in the past” and had “alienated many British Saints by squandering funds they had consecrated for emigration.”
The Joint Stock Company was dissolved and Hedlock was excommunicated, both in October 1846. Hedlock moved to London and refused to return to his wife and children in America. He married again and died from bronchitis on July 5, 1861.