Thomas Bullock

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Thomas Bullock contributed significantly to the history and organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He was born at Leek, Staffordshire, England on December 23, 1816. At the age of thirteen, he clerked at a law office. After eight years there, he began working as an excise officer, which means that he inspected and rated taxable items.

Bullock married Henrietta Rushton in 1838 and a year later he was promoted and transferred to Ireland. In November 1841, while back in Leek to visit family, they heard Latter-day Saint missionaries and were converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were baptized on November 20, 1841, “on a cold . . . night, when ice was on the canal, and the keen frosty air was blowing in all its severity.”[1] His commitment to the gospel was tested as he was “pelted with stones,” “threatened to be run over by a carriage,” and someone attempted to throw him “down an old coal pit.”[2]

On March 8, 1843, Thomas, his wife, and three children boarded the ship ‘’Yorkshire’’ and embarked on their journey to the United States. Bullock and his father-in-law, Richard Rushton, were selected to supervise a company of eighty-three Saints on the vessel. Thomas even paid the passage for several Latter-day Saint families. They arrived in New Orleans and then boarded a steamboat to carry them to St. Louis. From there they took a steamer to Nauvoo. He arrived in Nauvoo on May 31, 1843.

Thomas met the Prophet Joseph Smith the day they arrived in Nauvoo and soon after he began using his skills. Within five months he began serving as a personal clerk to Joseph Smith, where he served until the Prophet was martyred in June 1844. Thomas was the clerk for the April 1844 general conference. He was one of the four men who recorded the King Follett Discourse (the other four were Wilford Woodruff, Willard Richards, and William Clayton.

He also clerked for the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge, for a court-martial, and for the steamboat ‘’Maid of Iowa’’ (owned by Dan Jones and Joseph Smith]).

On December 8, 1844, Bullock became deputy city recorder under Willard Richards. Thomas began putting the Nauvoo city records into order inasmuch as they had been neglected for several months due to Elder Richards’s extended illness. “In February 1845, Bullock began his greatest endeavor as a historian, writing the manuscript for the “History of Joseph Smith.” Up to that time, Elder Richards and others had written 394 pages of the manuscript. [25] However, between February 1845 and February 1846, Bullock, under the direction of Elder Richards, wrote an incredible 674 pages of the history. [26] Then on February 4, 1846, Bullock and Richards packed the manuscript for the pioneer trek to the Rocky Mountains. Because of the western migration and subsequent Mormon colonization, Bullock’s further work on the “History of Joseph Smith” would be suspended until 1854.”[3]

Brigham Young had asked his trusted clerk, Bullock, to remain in Nauvoo and record its final days as a Latter-day Saint community, and it was a heart-wrenching story. On September 13, a renegade anti-Mormon army commenced an attack on the small Nauvoo militia. Several Latter-day Saints were killed, and the survivors were forced to surrender. Within days, the last remnant of destitute Mormons would flee across the Mississippi River. During the retreat, a band of about thirty mobocrats confronted a sickly Thomas Bullock. The captain of the band pointed his sword at Bullock’s throat. Four others directed their bayonets at his chest. The leader then threatened, “If you are not off from here in twenty minutes, my orders are to shoot you.” Bullock snapped back, “Shoot away, for you will only send me to heaven a few hours quicker.” The captain then countered, “If you will renounce Mormonism you may stay here, and we will protect you.” To this, the courageous Bullock declared, “I am a Mormon, and if I live, I shall follow the Twelve.” The captain then ended the confrontation with one final warning, “If you are not gone when I return in half an hour, my orders are to kill you and every Mormon in the place.” Soon thereafter, Thomas and his impoverished family complied with the merciless order, making their way across the Mississippi River to safety in Iowa.[4]

Bullock and his family arrived in Winter Quarters two months later on November 27, 1846. There he reunited with Willard Richards and continued assisting him. On April 11, 1847, Brigham Young called him to be the chief clerk for the vanguard company of pioneers going to the Salt Lake Valley. Two days later Bullock left his family behind, departing from Winter Quarters to the Rocky Mountains with eight Apostles and a total of 143 pioneers. “Thomas’s journal is the official record of the vanguard pioneer company and one of the most important documents in Church history. During the trek west, Bullock also served as clerk for meetings of the Twelve Apostles, which at that time constituted the presiding quorum of the Church.”[5]

After the exodus to the Salt Lake Valley, he served as Brigham Young’s clerk for more than a decade. He was the clerk for the September 1 return trip to Winter Quarters, where he was reunited with his family. He recorded the reorganization of the First Presidency.

As the spring of 1848 approached, Bullock with his family began making preparations to return to the Salt Lake Valley with the leaders of the Church. Again President Young assigned Bullock to keep the official journal for the trip. In addition, Bullock was given the responsibility of caring for the Church records during the journey. These records filled an entire wagon, called the “big wagon,” and contained the manuscript for the “History of Joseph Smith” which Thomas Bullock and Elder Richards had worked on so diligently back in Nauvoo. Bullock faithfully carried out his duties as church scribe in addition to looking out for the safety of his own family during the westward trek. They departed on May 24 and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on September 22.[6]

Among Bullock’s duties in the Salt Lake Valley were moneymaking, issuing land inheritances, Salt Lake County recorder, clerk for the Council of Fifty, clerk for exploration parties, clerk for general conferences, proofreader for the Deseret News, clerk for the Perpetual Emigration Fund, and clerk for the House of Representatives. He also served a mission to England from 1856 to 1858.

He completed a territory census spanning three months 1851. he helped start the first library and catalogoued the books. He was appointed the military secretary of the Nauvoo Legion and achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel.

George A. Smith and Bullock finished the work on the History of Joseph Smith in August 1856. “Thomas Bullock in some ways contributed as much as Willard Richards or George A. Smith to the “History of Joseph Smith.” Though he was not the immediate author of the manuscript, his journals and memory were extensively drawn on. He wrote the final or rough draft of the manuscript for each year from 1839 to 1844. His participation in the history spanned from nearly the beginning of the renewed emphasis on the work in 1843 until it was completed in 1856, something neither Richards [nor] Smith could claim.”[7]

In 1863, the Territorial Legislative Assembly voted to make Bullock one of the regents of the University of Deseret (later University of Utah). This assignment was his highest academic honor.

The previous year he had moved to the little town of Wanship, Summit County, east of Salt Lake City. Thereafter his assignments in the Salt Lake Valley began to decrease as he accepted increasing responsibilities in Summit County such as county clerk and recorder. In 1868, Thomas moved to Coalville, Utah, where he lived the rest of his days. He died on February 10, 1885, at age sixty-eight.


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