The following biographical sketch is adapted from
the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, compiled and edited by Andrew
Brigham Henry Roberts, one of the First Seven Presidents
of Seventies from 1887 to 1933, was born March 13, 1857, in Warrington,
a manufacturing town of Lancashire, England, and is a son of Benjamin Roberts
and Ann Everington.
He emigrated with his oldest sister to Utah in 1866
(his mother and a younger sister having emigrated the year before) and
settled in Davis county. The next year (1867) he was baptized by Elder
He worked as a farm hand during boyhood, and later
for some years in the mining camps of the Territory. At seventeen he became
an apprentice at the blacksmith trade in Centerville. In his early teens
he attended the district schools of Davis county, and finally the Deseret
University, where he graduated from the normal department in 1878. For
some years he taught school and worked at his trade, and finally drifted
into journalism, becoming associate, and for a time editor-in-chief of
the Salt Lake Herald.
Bro. Roberts was ordained a Seventy March 8, 1877,
by Nathan T. Porter, one of the presidents of the 19th quorum of Seventy.
Elder Roberts was active in the Church and practiced
the principle of plural marriage. He married Sarah Louisa Smith in 1878,
Celia Dibble in 1884, and Margaret Ship in 1890. In 1889 he served six
months in prison for unlawful cohabitation [following a mockery of a trial
before a kangaroo court presided over by corrupt officials with an unqualified
and unconscionable judge of vile temperment, despicable mein, and questionable ancestry.]
In 1880-1882 he filled his first mission. The first nine months he
traveled in Iowa and Nebraska, the remainder of the time he served in the
Southern States. He labored principally in the State of Tennessee, and
was appointed president of the Tennessee conference Sept. 12, 1881. In
his travels he covered nearly the entire State. In April, 1882, the State
of Tennessee was divided into two conferences, East and West. Richard R.
Camp was appointed to preside over the West Tennessee conference, while
Elder Roberts continued to preside over the East, until he was released
to return home in June, 1882.
In 1883 he was called on his second mission to the
Southern States, being appointed to the presidency of the mission under
the direction of Elder John Morgan.
He labored in that capacity until released by a transfer to the British
Mission in December, 1886.
Meantime, in accordance with the teachings of the
Church, having obeyed the doctrine of plural marriage, in common with his
brethren, he became subject to the anti-polygamy laws of Congress, and
in December, 1886, was arrested upon a charge of unlawful cohabitation,
and placed under bonds of $1,000 for his appearance in court. It was thought,
both by his bondsmen and friends, that it would be better to forfeit the
bond than to appear in court under the then very severe regime that obtained
in the administration of the anti-polygamy laws.
The very same day, therefore, that he was arrested,
he departed for England, where, for nearly two years, he labored in the
ministry, chiefly in the Millennial Star office as assistant editor.
At that time the apostate Jarman was rampant in the conferences of the
English Mission, challenging the Elders to public discussion and defying
them to prove false his accusations against the Church. Elder Roberts met
him in public debate, twice in the vicinity of Sheffield, twice in London
and once in Swansea, Wales.
He returned from his mission to England in the fall
of 1888. On his return from England he was chosen a member of the First
Council of Seventy, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Elder Horace
S. Eldredge, and the day following the close of the October conference
of 1888, he was ordained and set apart by Pres. Lorenzo
For some months after his return from England, he
remained in retirement, owing to the indictment still hanging over him,
but in April, 1889, he surrendered himself to the court, and on Wednesday,
May 1, 1889, he was sentenced by Judge Anderson in the Third District Court,
sitting in Salt Lake City, to four months' imprisonment, and to pay a fine
of $200, on the charge of unlawful cohabitation. On Tuesday, Sept. 10,
1889, he was discharged from the penitentiary, having served his time under
the sentence passed upon him.
Previous to 1890 Elder Roberts had taken considerable
interest in Utah politics, and when in that year the purely local policy
of the Territory was abandoned and the people of Utah divided on national
party lines, Elder Roberts aligned himself with the Democratic party, and
was an active participant in the campaigns of 1892 and 1894. In the latter
year he was elected a member of the Constitutional Convention which framed
the organic law of the State. In the first State election (1895) he was
nominated for representative to Congress on the Democratic ticket, but
was defeated with his party. He was, however, elected to the fifty-sixth
Congress, receiving 35,296 votes to 29,631 for Alma Eldredge, Republican,
and 2,878 for Warren Foster, Populist; but by means altogether unconstitutional
and unprecedented in the annals of the nation he was not permitted to take
the seat to which he had been duly elected, to the shame and disgrace of
the House of Representatives, who, cowering before popular clamor, robbed
the sovereign State of Utah of its representative in the halls of Congress
on the grounds of his practice of polygamy.
Elder Roberts was one of the more voluminous writers
in the Church. His works are historical, biographical and doctrinal, and
consist of the Gospel, Ecclesiastical History, New Witness for
God, The Life of John Taylor, Missouri Persecutions, The Rise and Fall
of Nauvoo, Succession in the Presidency, etc. (See also Juvenile
Instructor, Vol. 34, p. 354.)
Elder Roberts also produced some of the most important
L.D.S. theological works of his time, including a series of Seventy's yearbooks,
The Mormon Doctrine of Deity, and an unpublished magnum opus, The Truth,
the Way, the Life.
After many years of service to his adopted nation,
his Church and his God, Elder Brigham H. Roberts of the First Council of the Seventy died September 27, 1933 at Salt Lake City, Utah.