logo John Taylor, 1808-1889


John Taylor
Portrait 1851 (from The Mormons London:1851)

Son of James and Agnes Taylor, born Nov. 1, 1808, Milnthorpe, Cumberland. Emigrated 1829 Toronto. Married Leonora Cannon 1833 in Toronto. Joined Methodists prior to emigration and became a Local Preacher in Toronto, converted to Mormonism in 1836.

Later third President, went into hiding after passage of anti-Polygamy bill and died 'in exile' in 1889.

John Taylor
Portrait in later life


The six plural wives admitted to by the Church are indicated *, the additional 8 above are taken from list in Taylor(p 100) but "that the number of women he had married was a secret between himself and God".

One characteristic of his writings was summed up by his grandson Samuel Taylor -

"Joseph [Smith] , speaking to the group [after the troubles at Zion] ... "Whatever you do, do not betray your friends."

This became Taylor's creed. Until the end of his life he was to be at war, fighting one battle after another for the faith. There could be no compromise, no quarter; for him it would be the Kingdom of God, or nothing; all or none. The greatest crimes of war were treason, betrayal, and giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Truth was a relative thing. A basic rule of war was to confuse and mislead the enemy; any device to this end was justified. Apostates-traitors-were to be rejected utterly, denounced as complete liars, their characters destroyed. Treason was the greatest crime, not because the traitor lied, but because he revealed war secrets, the truth.

John Taylor would never again from this moment admit to any fact, regardless of the evidence, that involved violation of this creed."

A charge which has been continually thrown at him as Editor of the Millenial Star was that as a Polygamist himself, he consistently denied that polygamy was church policy or even allowed - when closely read his writings do not include any explicit falsehood but their whole tenor is such as to make others believe that polygamy was not acceptable. Samual Taylor candidly admits that in this and similar church matters that when writing for a Gentile audience Taylor would disemble if he thought the good of the Church demanded it.

Was sent on a brief mission to England in 1847 - it was on return voyage that married Sophia Whitaker. In 1849 after having completed the overland trek to S.L.C. he was again sent to Europe for three years - this time to the Channel Islands and then France.

According to his grandson John Taylor despised Brigham Young; it was however Taylor who was in charge of Youngs 'state' funeral in April 1877 and who saw off an attempt to establish a Young dynasty by ensuring that he was voted 3rd President by the two consellors and 10 of the Twelve. Taylor was thus in charge for the years that finally saw the admission of Utah to the Union, an act however that required that plural marriages be discontinued and against which 'humiliation' which Taylor fought until his death preferring to die in exile in July 1887 than be seen to have agreed


B.H.Roberts Life of John Taylor 1893 - Salt Lake City Bookcraft ed 1963 reprinted 1994 (ISBN 0-88494-106-0) - hagiographic but with some useful biographical details.

Francis M. Gibbons John Taylor, Mormon Philosopher, Prophet of God 1985

Samuel W. Taylor The Kingdom or Nothing Macmillan 1976 reprinted 1999 as The Last Pioneer: John Taylor a Mormon Prophet Salt Lake City: Signature Books (ISBN 1-56085-115-5). Journalistic in style, the admittedly short Manx section indicates no critical research (e.g. still states the Pitchforths were Jewish - a misunderstanding based on name Solomon and a phrase uttered by Anne re 'her Jewish heart' - and from this builds up a false picture of a large mansion presumeably based on a stereotype of what rich Jewish families should be like, whereas they were hotel keepers) - if the research in other sections is just as shoddy then it is an untrustworthy book. However it does confront the 'lying for God' charge re Taylor as denying polygamy whilst married to several wives and finds it proved.


Manx Note Book      [Genealogy Index]

see Mormon Converts

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 1999