Grampa Bill's General Authority Pages
John W. Taylor
John Whittaker Taylor

1858 - 1916

  • Born 1858 in Provo Utah to President John Taylor and wife Sofia
  • Ordained Deacon about 1872
  • Ordained Teacher about 1874
  • Ordained Elder
  • Ordained Apostle and sustained to the Twelve 1884
  • Resigned from Quorum of the Twelve 1905
  • Excommunicated 1911
  • Died 1916 at Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Blessings restored after death.

Adapted from LDS Biographical Encyclopedia

     John Whittaker Taylor was a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles from 1884 to 1905. He was the son of Pres. John Taylor and Sophia Whittaker, and was born May 15, 1858, in Provo, Utah county, Utah. This was at the time when Johnston's army was approaching Utah with hostile intent; the Saints living in Salt Lake City prepared to burn their homes, and then moved southward to various places in Utah county. Pres. John Taylor and family were among the exiles who located temporarily in Provo, where they rented from Roger Farrar a house of small dimensions and unpretentious appearance. In this humble abode the subject of this sketch was born.

    Upon the settlement of the trouble which caused the exodus from the northern settlements, Pres. Taylor and his family returned to their home in the Fourteenth Ward, Salt Lake City. Here Brother John W. was reared until he attained his twenty-fifth year, when he married and removed to Cassia county, Idaho. In his boyhood days, as in later life, he was industrious in his habits, being richly endowed with bodily health and a strong, active mind.

    He worked some at farming, and spent considerable time laboring in his father's saw mill, which was near Kamas, towards the headwaters of the Provo river. His father being somewhat hampered financially, the children's opportunities for scholastic education were not so abundant as those afforded the sons and daughters of some other families; but with Pres. Taylor the education acquired in the schoolroom, though not deprecated in the least, was regarded only as a small part of the broader education to be gained in the practical walks of life. He taught his children with great emphasis that whatever they undertook to do they should seek to do well—that people, on examining a piece of work they admired, would first ask who did it, but would care little about knowing what length of time it required to complete it. He taught them to respect each other's rights; and instead of governing his family by personal direction, he instructed them in the principles of righteousness and placed them upon their own responsibility to act for themselves. The grand and noble truths he sought to implant within the hearts of his children were conspicuously exemplified in his own life; and withal he possessed a spirituality and a veneration for God and truth so great that few men in this world have equaled him in the possession of such qualities.

    The mother of John W., Sophia Whittaker Taylor, was of a highly spiritual nature. She was patient, industrious and God-fearing. Indeed she was the ideal type of a true Saint. No one of the numerous posterity of Pres. Taylor inherited more of his excellent characteristics or developed them in a stronger measure than did his son John W. In his early youth he displayed an understanding of principle usually found only in persons of more mature years. He attended Sunday Schools and meetings with great regularity, and with his bosom friend and neighbor, Matthias F. Cowley, studied the Scriptures and memorized scores of passages bearing upon the most important principles of the gospel. By the time he concluded his first mission in the Southern States he had memorized and arranged in systematic order some four hundred such passages, chiefly from the Old and New Testaments.

    At about the age of fourteen years he was ordained a Deacon, and magnified his calling by the faithful performance of the duties of that office. Two years later he became a Teacher in the Ward and worked faithfully in this capacity for a number of years. After receiving his blessings in the house of the Lord, and being ordained an Elder, he was chosen counselor, with Brother Matthins F. Cowley, to Pres. Edward W. Davis of the Elders' quorum. In this capacity he also collected donations for the building of the Salt Lake Temple at a time when contributions for that purpose was raised through the quorums of the Holy Priesthood.

    Brother Taylor was also an active worker in the Fourteenth Ward Sunday School. He had charge of the primary class, consisting of about one hundred pupils. His ability to entertain and an the same time to impress the children with good, sound doctrine was very marked. He possessed a vein of humor and a happy faculty for making appropriate comparisons which enabled him to attract and retain the attention of children. The general assistant superintendent of Sunday Schools, Elder George Goddard, pronounced Brother Taylor the best primary teacher he knew of in the Church.

    A little incident which occurred one day in his Sunday School class will show his practical way of teaching, and at the same time illustrate his novel yet graceful and effective manner of correcting what he regarded as an erroneous idea. The Fourteenth Ward meeting house being near to the principal hotels of the city, tourists from the east and west would frequently visit the Sunday School held therein. Upon one occasion when a large number of these visitors came into Bro. Taylor's classroom he invited some of them to address the children. One religious gentleman exhorted the children to be very prayerful, and reminded them how nice a prayer was the simple rhyme

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

    This little verse he repeated to the children several times, and sought to impress the beauty of it upon their minds. When he concluded his remarks, Brother Taylor arose and questioned the pupils in substance about as follows: "How many of you say your prayers?"
    All hands went up.
    "When do you pray?"
    The answer came, "Night and morning."
    "To whom do you pray?"
    "To the Lord," was the ready response.
    "For what do you pray?"
    "We pray for what we want," again came the answer.
    "Very good," said the teacher, "these ladies and gentlemen are going on a visit to California. Would you like them to have a good time and to return home alive and well?"
    "Yes, sir," was the hearty reply.
    "How will you help them to do that?" inquired the teacher.
    "By praying for them," once more came the children's explanation.
    "Will you say in your prayer, "Now I lay me down to sleep?" etc., asked the teacher, leading the class to the point he wished to make, and gently reproving the visiting speaker, by the emphasis he placed upon the question.
    "No, sir," shouted the children in chorus.
    "Then what will you say in your prayer?" came the final question.
    "We'll ask the Lord to keep the train from jumping the track," was the sensible reply.
    The lesson thus taught would not be forgotten very soon either by the children or the visitors.

    At this period Bro. Taylor was only about nineteen years old, and, besides being a Sunday School teacher, was a worker in the Mutual Improvement Association, a Teacher in the Ward and a counselor in the Elders' quorum; and for daily employment he secured a position in the county recorder's office. He afterwards was employed for some time in the office of the "Deseret News." As a penman he was among the best in the country; and his ingenuity in mechanical pursuits was also of an exceptional order.

    In his boyhood days, while working at his father's sawmill, he received some remarkable dreams that were prophetic in their nature, and which have since been verified. These manifestations were living testimonies to him that Jesus is the Christ and that Joseph Smith was truly a Prophet of God. So vivid were these dreams that they are as clear on his memory to-day as when they were given. In 1876 he received a patriarchal blessing under the hands of Patriarch William McBride, in which his call to the public ministry was predicted, together with other most remarkable prophecies, several of which have already been fulfilled.

    In the fall of 1880 Elder Taylor was called upon a mission to the Southern States, and with Elder Matthias F. Cowley, the companion of his boyhood, was assigned by Pres. John Morgan to introduce the gospel into Terrell and Randolph counties, southwest Georgia, they being the first Elders in that part of the State. He labored in those two counties during the winter of 1880-81, baptized two individuals, and bore testimony to hundreds of people. In the spring the two Elders went north to Clayton, Campbell and Henry counties, where they labored a few months, and after the conference of the State, held in Harolson county, he labored with Elder William J. Packer in Polk and other counties, where, in a short time between thirty and forty people received the gospel through their administration.

    Elder Taylor was then sent to the State of Kentucky. Here he labored with Jacob G. Bigler with great success, baptizing about eighteen people. He was released in the spring of 1882. During this mission he enjoyed much power in preaching the gospel, and the spirit of prophecy rested upon him to a great extent. Many times when standing before a congregation of people, his countenance was resplendent with the light and inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Many people were impressed with the divinity of the message which he bore, and some honest-in-heart remarked, "Surely you must be inspired, or you could not speak as you do!"

    In missionary labor Bro. Taylor in a happy manner always adapted himself to the circumstances of the people with whom he labored. He would help them plow the corn, work in the cotton or tobacco fields, and while side by side with the farm laborers he was equal or superior to them in speed and endurance; while thus working in the field he would preach the gospel to those about him. He had great faith in administering to the sick, and many were healed under his administration. The spirit of prophecy was enjoyed to a marked extent by Elder Taylor.

    The following occurrences will serve to bear out his statement: When he read the inaugural address of President James A. Garfield, a spirit of inspiration came upon him and he remarked, "Something will happen to that man!" On learning of the assassination of the President, some months later, Elder Taylor's missionary companion, to whom the prophetic utterance was made, recalled the prediction While laboring with Elder Bigler, the two approached a house one evening and applied for entertainment Filled with the gift of inspiration Brother Taylor, in his characteristic manner, said, "We have a message for you from heaven; and if you will entertain us, it shall be made known to you by dreams this very night that we are the true servants of the Lord." They were invited in and their wants provided for. That night the father of the household as well as some of the children had dreams that were satisfying to them that the Elders they were entertaining were servants of the Lord.

    The mother also had a dream or vision which was most assuring to her mind that these men were sent of God. In this dream a heavenly messenger appeared to her. She had been for some time in a quandary about which of the religions she was acquainted with was the right one So she enquired of this messenger concerning the matter. Thereupon there passed before her all the preachers she was acquainted with or had ever seen in the neighborhood. Then the messenger asked if she was satisfied with either of them. She replied that she was not. She was next carried away in a vision to a steep cliff the top of which she was trying to reach. One of the sectarian preachers whom she had before met appeared above her and offered her something to grasp and thereby draw herself up to the summit of the rock. What he held out to her proved to be nothing but a straw, and it snapped in two the moment she caught hold of it. He next offered a stick, but this too proved to be useless as it was rotten. Presently Elder Taylor appeared on the top of the cliff. He offered his hand to help her up, and she at once gained the desired footing upon the rock. Still she was not entirely satisfied as to who had the truth.

    Another scene then presented itself to view. An open field spread out before her in which appeared all the preachers she previously saw in vision. In a moment they all vanished from her sight and directly before her there stood the two "Mormon" Elders who had received shelter under her roof. Upon being asked again by the messenger if she was satisfied, she replied that she was. The family was afterwards baptized into the Church. Some time later Elder Taylor, on leaving the house, one very clear, bright morning, said to a little girl, belonging to this same family, whom he saw in the front yard, "My little girl, a storm is coming here today." The child told her parents what the Elder had said, and they in their honest confidence in the word of Bro. Taylor, without waiting for further indications of a storm, housed themselves up and waited for its approach. Sure enough in the afternoon the howling tornado came and did considerable damage. But the family who believed in a living Prophet prepared for the predicted event and escaped all harm.

    While laboring in Rochester, Butler county, Kentucky, March 19, 1882, on this same mission, he wrote a letter to Elder Matthias F. Cowley, who at the time was also laboring as a missionary in St. Louis, Missouri. In this letter he made this prediction: "I believe I speak by the spirit of prophecy when I say, if you are faithful you will yet become one of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ in all the world, and by the power of God and the eternal Priesthood will become great in wisdom and knowledge. Amen." No one but the two Elders knew of this prophecy until after its fulfillment, fifteen years later, when Elder Cowley was chosen and ordained an Apostle.

    Another incident in his career will serve to show his inspirational nature: While addressing a public meeting on the principles of the gospel, during his labors in the Colorado mission, he became impressed that a certain lady who was present would accept the gospel. At the close of the meeting he inquired of her what she thought of the doctrines she had heard. The lady expressed herself as being pleased, and willing to hear more about the faith of the Latter-day Saints. An appointment was therefore made for Elder Taylor to visit her and her husband. The result was that the lady soon afterwards joined the Church.

    Upon his return from the Southern States, Elder Taylor was called as a counselor to Elder Joseph H. Felt, president of the Young Men's Mutual Improvement Associations of the Salt Lake Stake. In this position he labored with his characteristic energy and vim. In the spring of 1884 he was chosen to fill a vacancy in the quorum of the Twelve Apostles, being ordained an Apostle on April 9th, of that year, by his father, who was then President of the Church. Years previous to his ordination to this office it had been predicted that he would receive this calling. The prediction was made by a sister who spoke in tongues in a fast meeting in the Fourteenth Ward, Salt Lake City.

    After his call to the Apostleship much of his time was devoted to the ministry, and he fulfilled many important calls of a public character which have been made upon him by those in authority. Once he went to Washington, D. C., in company with others and presented to President Grover Cleveland an appeal from the Saints for their rights. In 1884 he went on a mission to Mexico, and had the privilege while there of meeting President Diaz. On his return from this mission he served a term in the Utah legislature. Another mission given him was to preach to the people of the Uintah Stake. Here he performed a good work, bringing a large number of people there into the Church, and awakening to renewed spiritual life many Church members who had become cold and indifferent.

    He had considerable business transactions with the government officials of Canada, by whom he was held in high esteem. In 1887 he had an interview with the then Canadian premier, Sir John A. McDonald, and to whom he had the privilege of bearing testimony to the truth of the gospel. His labors in the interest of the colonies of the Latter-day Saints in Canada were persistent and fruitful. By his practical preaching and inspired prophesying he has greatly encouraged the Saints in that newly-settled country, and endeared himself to them by the interest he took in their spiritual as well as temporal welfare.

    In 1896 he was called to open a mission of the Church in the adjoining State of Colorado. Elders Herbert A. White, William C. Clive, J. H. Boshard, Horace S. Ensign and Fred. C. Graham were assigned as missionaries to the same field, to assist him in the work. In the latter part of December, 1896, he proceeded to Denver, some of his fellow-missionaries having gone there a few days before. Here the brethren at once began active labors, traveling without purse or scrip. Their efforts were attended with success, and within six months some forty-four persons were baptized.

    In many respects Apostle Taylor was quite unlike the generality of mankind, as he possessed a combination of traits that was somewhat uncommon. And while these traits are what might be regarded as peculiarities, they were nevertheless evidences of moral strength and independence of spirit, as well as originality of thought and action. He was pre-eminently spiritual-minded, as will be readily perceived from what has been related in the foregoing; and his talents, while not of a showy kind, are such as to fit hint admirably for the public ministry. As a missionary he was highly successful. He baptized over two hundred and fifty new converts to the gospel, most of whom accepted the truth through his personal ministration.

    Having had a wide acquaintance with the Scriptures, and being sound in doctrine, as well as  apt in illustration by means of anecdote and incident, he was always able to hold the attention of his hearers, whether in private conversation or in public speaking. What is more important, his preaching evinced great freedom of the Spirit. At times he spoke with much power and his words carried conviction to the hearts of those who listen. Again, particularly when speaking upon everyday duties, his remarks were replete with wise counsel and suggestion, accompanied often with quaint humor.

    Though a great missionary, and often filled with the spirit, a difference of opinion arose between him and the First Presidency of the Church and the members of his own quorum in regard to the manifesto issued by President Wilford Woodruff concerning plural marriages, Bro. Taylor resigned from his position as one of the Twelve Apostles in April, 1906. This was followed six years later by his excommunication. His blessings were restored after his death. After the resignation, he retired to private life and spent the remainder of his days attending to necessary labors in providing for his large family.

    Bro. Taylor died at his home in Forest Dale, Salt Lake county, Utah, Oct. 10, 1916. In an obituary published in the "Deseret Evening News" on the day of his demise the following occurs: "Early in life John W. Taylor developed a marked spirituality and was the recipient of many manifestations of the power of God. His testimonies of the gospel and of the missions of the Savior and the Prophet Joseph Smith were deeply grounded in his soul, and to them he remained firm and unshaken to the end. . . . His inspired discourses will never be forgotten.

    He will be remembered as one filled with the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; his teachings and testimonies were a source of renewed diligence and encouragement to the Latter-day Saints. He was filled with the spirit of prophecy, and many of his utterances have realized a striking fulfillment. In a temporal capacity he took great interest in the colonization of the unsettled parts of the country, and he was especially interested in the development of the settlements in Canada. The Saints there never weary of telling how much support he gave them by word and deed and how remarkably his predictions concerning the future of that country have been fulfilled. The Taylor Stake of Zion in southern Alberta was named in his honor. He was also highly respected by the non-Mormon business men of Canada and in this country.

    He also presided over the Colorado Mission with marked ability, and by those who knew him in the mission field he is esteemed as one of the best of missionaries ever known in the Church. His happy disposition, coupled with a vein of humor, and his remarks filled with holy inspiration in public and private, won for him the confidence and respect of all around him. He got out of harmony with the Church and as a result the Council of the Twelve excommunicated him from the Church; but he never became bitter toward the Church. Like his illustrious father, he was a man of deep and strong convictions, 'The Kingdom of God or nothing,' was his motto. He loved righteousness and hated iniquity. His life was clean and pure, his language chaste and elevating. His family and friends who stood by his bedside during his last illness will never forget his beautiful teachings and exhortations, upholding the doctrines of the gospel, the authority of the holy priesthood, exhorting all to keep the commandments of God.

    He was blessed with a numerous family, all of whom survive him except three of his children. They all have an honorable standing in the Church with good moral characters. They are true, loving and loyal to each other and filled with love, confidence and respect for their honored husband and father."

    Edwin F. Parry, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p.151
    Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p.789
    Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p.325
    Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.4, Appendix 1
    Lawrence R. Flake, Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation, p.407
    2005 Church Almanac, p.64

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