Rulon Seymour Wells was one of the First Seven Presidents
of Seventies from 1893 until his death in 1941. He was born July 7, 1854,
in Salt Lake City, Utah, inside the stone wall just east of the Deseret
News corner. He was the son of Pres. Daniel
H. Wells and Louisa Free.
In 1861 that part of Pres. Wells' family of which
Rulon was a member moved across the street south, to the Wells home (formerly
occupied by Apostle Ezra T. Benson), where Rulon
lived until his marriage in 1883. He was baptized by his father when about
eight years of age, and confirmed by Elder John V. Long. Brother Rulon
attended the various common schools of his boyhood. He also attended the
Morgan & Macauley night school for penmanship, and finally the Deseret
University, then under the direction of Elder David O. Calder as a commercial
college. He was a student at that institution when Dr. John R. Park came
and inaugurated the change by which the Commercial College was transformed
into a collegiate institution. Dr. Park was ably assisted by Professor
Bellerive, Dr. Benedict, Professor Monch and later by Dr. Karl Maeser.
Under the tuition of these educators he took a scientific and classical
course, such as was at that time being offered.
He was ordained an Elder by Elder W. J. Smith Aug.
15, 1868, and he left school April 1, 1871, to accept of his first employment
with a party of engineers who, with Jesse W. Fox, sen., as chief engineer,
started from Salt Lake City to locate and survey the route of the Utah
Southern Railroad, now a part of the Oregon Short Line system.
In the winter of 1873-4, Brother Wells was chosen
by the Utah legislature as engrossing clerk. In 1874 he was employed by
Elder John R. Winder in the assessor and collector's
office for Salt Lake City. In 1875 he was employed at the saw mills "E"
and "F," Big Cottonwood canyon, belonging to his father, in the capacity
It was while in this employment in October, 1875,
that he received the call for his first mission. The following incident
as related by himself is of interest: "I was measuring lumber as it came
from the mill and was being stacked near by, when I was seized with a peculiar
feeling over which I had no control, and which impelled me to descend from
the pile of lumber and go to the office, a little board shanty which served
the purpose of office, store and bedroom combined. It was situated about
300 or 400 feet from where I was working. After entering the door and locking
it, I knelt down and prayed to the Lord 'to send me where He wanted me
to go.' This was the whole burden of my prayer which lasted only about
one minute. The whole proceeding was to me a very strange one, for I did
not understand the meaning of it, and it was so unusual and out of the
ordinary. On this very day, and probably at the same moment, my name was
being called in the Tabernacle at Salt Lake City, where the conference
was then being held, for a mission. The first intimation I had of this
call was when my mother, then fifty-one years old, rode on horseback, in
company with Archibald Livingstone, who was superintendent of the mills,
on the following day to mill F and apprised me of this fact."
On Oct. 22, 1875, Brother Wells was ordained a Seventy,
and set apart for his mission to Europe by Pres. Brigham
Young, assisted by Pres. Daniel H. Wells. On arriving in Liverpool
Brother Rulon was assigned to the Swiss and German Mission, whither he
journeyed in company with Elder Martin Lenzi. In 1876 he assisted Elder
Theodore Brandley in holding a public meeting in the city of Berlin, which
was attended by dignitaries of the German empire, there being present members
of the reichstag and the royal police and several representatives of the
state church. Returning home again in company with Elder Lenzi, with a
company of emigrating Saints, Elders Lenzi and Wells having charge of the
Swiss and German branch of the company, they held meeting on board the
steamer "Wisconsin," and arrived in New York, July 7, 1877, where Elder
Wells was met by his mother and his sister, and after visiting with his
father's relatives in the State of New York, he continued his journey home,
where he arrived July 23, 1877.
He was afterward active as a home missionary for
a number of years. Brother Wells was in the employ of Z. C. M. I. from
1877 until 1880, and for a few months kept books for Mr. John Brooks who
was running the Chicago Smelter at Rush Lake, Tooele county. In 1881, he
accepted a position from Hon. John W. Young,
having charge of his books and clerks in Arizona on the line of the Atlantic
and Pacific Railway Company, where Brother Young had a contract for building
one hundred miles of road, besides getting out ties and timber.
Brother Wells returned home in December, 1882. Jan.
18, 1883, he married Miss Josephine E. Beatie, daughter of Hampton S. and
Marion T. Beatie, by whom he has had seven children, two sons and five
daughters. During this year he built his home in the Eighteenth Ward and
moved in on Jan. 9, 1884. He at once identified himself with the Ward,
and served in the several capacities of teacher in the Sunday School, Ward
teacher, president of the Mutual Improvement Association and second assistant
superintendent of the Sunday School.
On returning from Arizona he was again employed by
Z. C. M. I. until March, 1886, when he accepted the secretaryship of the
Co-operative Wagon & Machine Company, then known as Grant, Odell &
Company. He served as secretary and treasurer, also as director of this
institution until 1896, excepting for about a year, 1891-2, during which
time he had charge of the office work of Heber J.
Grant & Company. He was secretary of Zion's Benefit Building Society,
and was elected secretary of the Home Fire Insurance Company of Utah; this
latter position he also held until 1896.
April 5, 1893, he was chosen to fill the vacancy
in the First Council of Seventies caused by the death of Pres. Jacob
Gates, and was ordained on the same day to that position by Pres. George
Q. Cannon, assisted by Pres. Wilford Woodruff
and several of the Apostles. May 8, 1896, he was called on a mission to
Europe, having been unanimously chosen by the First Presidency and Twelve
Apostles to succeed Apostle Anthon H. Lund in
the presidency of the European Mission. He departed for this mission in
company with Elder Joseph W. McMurrin, June
29, 1896. During this mission he visited the various conferences of Great
Britain five or six times, and those of the continental missions three
or four times, mostly in company with Elder Joseph W. McMurrin, his co-laborer
in the presidency of the mission.
He returned home on Christmas eve, 1898, having been
met in New York by his wife and eldest daughter, and accompanied by Pres.
McMurrin. Soon after he took up the insurance business, and on Dec. 1,
1899, was installed as manager at Salt Lake City of the Mutual Life Insurance
Company of New York. After returning from Europe he visited many of the
Stakes of Zion at the quarterly conferences, and labored with his associates
among the Seventies.
He wa also one of the General Board of the Y. M.
M. I. A. In November, 1900, he was elected to the lower house of the fourth
legislature of the State of Utah, and served the term from Jan. 14th to
March 14th, 1901.
Elder Wells died May 7, 1941 in Salt Lake City, Utah
after serving as a General Authority for almost half a century, well respected
and well loved by those who knew him best.