A number of years ago I started an article about George Q. Cannon's involvement in writing the book, The Life of Joseph Smith, The Prophet, which he published in 1888. I've gone back to work on it four or five times and have now lost steam. Rather than bury it, I've decided to put what I have on-line. In that way I'll be able to find it again some day if I get the momentum back, or perhaps someone may have an interest in what has been done, as incomplete and unconnected as it is. It follows:
George Q. Cannon wrote a book titled, The Life of Joseph Smith, The Prophet, published by the Juvenile Instructor Office in Salt Lake City in 1888. It was republished relatively recently and I read several things about it that piqued my interest into doing some research. First, I read that it was primarily written by George Q. Cannon’s son, Frank J. Cannon. I have one of the original books and didn’t recall any indication within it that it was written by someone other than George, so I decided to learn more about the authorship. Second, several reviews I read mentioned that it was particularly good because George knew Joseph Smith and worked with others that knew Joseph Smith, which gave him insights that other biographers of Joseph Smith have not had. I decided to see if I could determine how much contact George had had with Joseph and whether it was possible to see that personal knowledge manifested in the book.
My original edition was purchased from Sam Weller’s in Salt Lake in the early 1980s, shortly after Judy and I were married. It was originally purchased by Mathias F. Cowley, at the time a counselor in a stake presidency, but later a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, and given to a W. C. Spence, Esq.
|Interesting print marks inside.|
What evidence do we have for authorship?
We know from journal entries of George Q. and his son, Abraham, that George’s sons John Q. Cannon, Frank J. Cannon and Abraham H. Cannon (generally known as “Abram”) were involved in the book, and possibly Joseph F. Smith, at that time a counselor in the LDS Church First Presidency along with George.
The earliest mentions I can find of the book are in Abram’s journal. On June 29, 1886, more than two years before it was published, Abram stated that “Frank is preparing” the “History of Joseph Smith”. Less than two months later, on August 20, 1886, Abram notes that he and his father “revised what Frank had written of the Prophet’s History.” Fourteen months later, on November 7, 1887, Abram indicates that he got consent from his father “to get John Q. to revise the manuscript of Joseph the Prophet, which Frank prepared, after which Father and Joseph F. Smith will review it and we can then print the same…” These first three journal references all point toward Frank as the author of the initial manuscript.
Three months later, on February 11, 1888, apparently after John had revised the manuscript, and perhaps even after a review by Joseph F. Smith, Abram and Frank “submitted a part of the History of Joseph copy” to their father and he “approved it with a few exceptions…” Once they made the “suggested alterations” to this handwritten manuscript, George said they could get it “in type.” A month later, on March 31, 1888, George mentions the book for the first time in his journal. He noted that he “busied [himself] rewriting some portions of the 2nd chapter of the History of Joseph, and adding to the 3rd [chapter].” Three and a half weeks later, on April 24th, Abram noted that he “was busy at the office nearly all day, where we worked off the remainder of the first form of Joseph the Prophet (a 10,000 edition)…” To print a book, paper was fed through a press and printed on both sides. Then it was folded on another machine, using bars, rollers and cutters, into one or more signatures. A signature was a section of a book, usually 32 pages, but sometimes 16, 48 or 64 pages. After the signatures are all folded, they are placed in sequence in bins over a circulating belt onto which one signature from each bin is dropped. As the line circulates, a complete book is collected together in one stack. When the book is printed, it is printed one or two signatures at a time, not a complete book at a time. So when Abram says they did the first form of a 10,000 print edition, it appears that they ran 10,000 or more of one or two signatures, which was a small portion of the book.
Abraham H. Cannon spent six months in the Utah Penitentiary for cohabitation in 1886.
JQC was rebaptized and ordained an elder on May 6, 1888.
GQC Journal (May 26, 1888 – Saturday): “I spent the day working at my life of the Prophet Joseph.”
GQC Journal (May 31, 1888 – Thursday): “I did some work at the History of Joseph. I omitted to mention that yesterday my son Frank spent an hour or two with me, and we went over the History I had written, with the emendations which I had made since we last read it.
GQC Journal (June 2, 1888 – Saturday): “visit also from my son Frank. I was busy the great part of the day on my History of the Prophet Joseph.”
GQC Journal (June 5, 1888- Tuesday): “I dictated my journal, and read a revise [sic] of the History of Joseph.”
GQC Journal (June 7, 1888 – Thursday): “Busy on the History of Joseph.”
GQC Journal (June 8, 1888 – Friday): “My son Abraham paid me a visit. He is improving somewhat in health, though he is far from well. In the evening I was very busy till quite late, working on my History of Joseph and other matters.”
GQC Journal (June 9, 1888 – Saturday): “I worked on my History part of the morning, but did not feel much in the mood of writing.”
GQC Journal (June 15, 1888 – Friday): “every spare moment of my time I have worked on my History of Joseph.”
GQC Journal (June 16, 1888 – Saturday): “over to my wife Carlie's, where I spent the day working on my History of Joseph.”
GQC Journal (June 23, 1888 – Saturday): “I was busy in the forenoon reading proof of the History of Joseph.”
GQC Journal (August 6, 1888 – Monday): “Busily engaged in public affairs, also in reading proof of the LIFE OF JOSEPH SMITH and in preparing manuscript for the press.”
GQC Journal (August 15, 1888 – Tuesday): “I spent the day at home working on the History of Joseph.”
GQC Journal (August 25, 1888 – Saturday): “Bro. Wilcken called for me in the forenoon and took me down to the river…Busy on the History of Joseph. It has been my custom, whenever I could this summer, to go in swimming. I had a very delightful swim this afternoon with my boys.”
GQC Journal (August 30, 1888 – Thursday): “Busy with my History of Joseph.”
GQC Journal (August 31, 1888 – Friday): “Read proof of History of Joseph.”
GQC Journal (September 4, 1888 – Tuesday): “Read proof of my History of Joseph.”
GQC Journal (September 5, 1888 – Wednesday): “Today I have been exceedingly busy, preparing manuscripts for the History of Joseph, for which my son Abraham is very anxious, as he desires to get the book out by the time promised--the beginning of the month. I felt incapable of doing the work, but I stuck to it and was greatly blessed in accomplishing it.”
GQC Journal (September 6, 1888 – Thursday): “This has been another very busy day. I have been pushed for 'copy' of my History and to read proofs, and though not feeling well I have been much blessed in my labor. This evening, just as I was about to retire to rest, a note came to Bro. J. F. S. from his wife informing him that… I had been seen at the window…[W]e decided it would be well for us to move… We were carried to the Gardo House.”
GQC Journal (September 7, 1888 – Friday): “busy with correspondence, journal, history of Joseph met with Frank”
GQC Journal (September 8, 1888 – Saturday): “I was kept busy today reading proof and working on message of my History of Joseph. I took a swim in the river with my boys and enjoyed it very much, as I do every time I come down.”
GQC Journal – Utah Penitentiary (September 19, 1888 – Wednesday): “I worked at my Life of Joseph”
GQC Journal – Utah Penitentiary (September 21, 1888 – Friday): “My sons Frank and Abraham spent half an hour with me. I told them of a plan I had…I desired them to take it in hand as soon as convenient after the Life of the Prophet is completed…I worked very hard to-day at the MS of my Life of Joseph.”
GQC Journal – Utah Penitentiary (September 24, 1888 – Monday): “I worked all my spare time at my Life of the Prophet Joseph.”
GQC Journal – Utah Penitentiary (September 25, 1888 – Tuesday): “I was kept very busy preparing MS for my Life of the Prophet Joseph.”
GQC Journal – Utah Penitentiary (September 26, 1888 – Wednesday): “Prepared MS for my Life of Joseph.”
The Preface to The Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet, Salt Lake City, Juvenile Instructor Office, 1888, is dated October 1, 1888, Utah Penitentiary. It states, "To the Author its preparation has been a loving duty. In the midst of a somewhat busy and laborious life, he has found comfort in the contemplation of this great subject. The closing chapters, detailing the final sufferings upon earth of the Prophet of God and his ever-constant brother, were finished in a prison for adherence to the principles which they taught, and for this, the Life is invested with a dearer regard. To send the work away now is like being torn from a beloved companion when most the solace of his friendly presence is needed."
George Q. Cannon was age 16 when he, his siblings and father arrived in Nauvoo on the Maid of Iowa in April 1843, Joseph Smith met them at the dock and shook hands with all of the approximate 200 people on board.  George Q. noted that a large crowd was at the landing to welcome them. When he saw Joseph, “he knew him instantly.”  Joseph Smith noted that he kept “very busy receiving their congratulations and answering their questions.” 
Shortly after arriving in Nauvoo, George Q. and his sister, Ann, went to live with their aunt and uncle, Leonora and John Taylor. John Taylor was an apostle and the editor and publisher of the “Times and Seasons” and the “Nauvoo Neighbor.” George Q. went to work for Taylor as a printer’s apprentice and a compositor (a person who sets type) which is where George Q. learned the printing business. 14 ½ months after George Q. arrived in Nauvoo, on June 27, 1844, Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, were killed at Carthage, Illinois. John Taylor was with them and was also wounded. Leonora Taylor was with Joseph’s and Hyrum’s wives, Emma and Mary Fielding, shortly after it was learned they were killed. George Cannon, George Q.’s father, helped transport the wounded John Taylor back to Nauvoo, made the drag which carried the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum back to Nauvoo, and made the coffins and the plaster death masks of Joseph and Hyrum.
On February 28, 1884, George Q. met one of the three witnesses, David Whitmer, at his home in Richmond, Missouri. Whitmer showed George Q. the hand-written manuscript of the Book of Mormon which was in the handwriting of several people that he identified as Oliver Cowdery, Emma Smith, Martin Harris and perhaps, Christian Whitmer, David’s brother. It was the manuscript used to set the type. George Q. noted printer’s marks throughout the manuscript and that it was fastened together in about a dozen folios, by woolen yarn. Whitmer showed George Q. the paper with “characters drawn by Joseph Smith…for Martin Harris to show to Professors Mitchell and Anthon.” He described how Joseph translated, that “Joseph had [a] stone in a hat from which all light was excluded. In the stone the characters appeared and under that the translation in English and they remained until the scribe had copied it correctly. If he had made a mistake the words still remained and were not replaced by any other.” Whitmer described the setting for his acting as one of the three witnesses. “[I]t was shortly before the completion of the translation when there were but few pages left. He was plowing when Joseph and Oliver came to him and [Joseph] told him that he was chosen to be one of the three witnesses to whom the angel would show the plates…They went out and sat upon a log conversing upon the things to be revealed when they were surrounded by a glorious light which overshadowed them. A glorious personage appeared and he showed to them the plates, the sword of Laban, the Directors, the Urim and Thummim and other records. Human language could not, he said, describe heavenly things and that which they saw. The language of the angel was: Blessed is he that believeth and remaineth faithful to the end.” Whitmer said that he had since “had his hours of darkness and trial and difficulty, but however dark upon other things[,] that [vision] had ever been a bright scene in his mind and he had never wavered in regard to it; he had testified fearlessly always of it, even when his life was threatened.”
George Q. was sustained as an apostle in 1859, was secretary to Brigham Young from 1864 to 1867, was an assistant counselor to the First Presidency of Brigham Young from 1873 to 1877, .
Abram became president of the First Council of the Seventy in October 1882.
John was second counselor to the Presiding Bishop in October 1884.
On May 9, 1885, Angus Cannon was sentenced to six months in the penitentiary for practicing polygamy.
In 1885, the Edmunds Act passed and the threat of arrest and imprisonment chased President John Taylor and George Q. into hiding on the “Underground” in Utah. Joseph F. Smith fled to Hawaii. John Taylor died in 1887. (QuinnMH, p. 44, 427)
December 14, 1885: Cannon v. U.S., 116 U.S. 55 (1885) was decided. (Harvard, p. 91)
February 7, 1886: Marshall Ireland and a posse raided the Cannon farm on the Jordan River. They served subponeas on wives Martha and Sarah Jane and children Mary Alice and Hester. (Harvard, p. 217; citing Deseret Evening News, February 8, 1886)
February 8 1886: A $500 award was offered for information leading to Cannon’s arrest. (Harvard, p. 218; citing Cannon journal) (Deseret Evening News story dated February 11, 1886) (The February 8 date comes from QuinnMH, p. 785)
February (12?) 1886: Cannon and Taylor realized the potential reward would set “many human bloodhounds” on Cannon’s track. For the safekeeping of Cannon as well as President Taylor, who was exposed by Cannon’s nearness, it was agreed that Cannon should go to Mexico to close a land contract for the Saints with Messrs. Campo and Company. Cannon and a small group boarded a westward bound train on the Central Pacific Railroad. In Winnemucca, Sheriff Fellows, who apparently had been apprised of the fugitive'’ plans, took him into custody. (Harvard, pp. 218-219)
February 12, 1886: Cannon got on the Central Pacific Train at Willard on February 12th. He was arrested on the train at Humboldt Wells, Nevada. (Under the Prophet, p. 46)
February (13-14?) 1886: Marshal Ireland and his assistants came out to Nevada, along with some others, among them Cannon’s son, Frank J. Cannon, and brought Cannon and his group back on the train. Someone whispered to Cannon that a plan was being formulated by his friends to stop the train and rescue him. The train approached Promontory Cannon knew this was his last chance. He went to the back platform as it slowly pulled out of promontory. Cannon gave up the idea of escape, but when the train was making “full headway” it lurched and “pitched” him off the platform. (Harvard, pp. 219-220; citing Cannon journal) He landed “at full length on the frozen ground,” breaking his nose, gashing his forehead, bruising and skinning the left side of his head, disabling his left arm and bruising his left thigh. He was missed by Marshal Ireland almost as soon as he fell, and a search was instituted through the train. After going about four miles, the train was stopped and Deputy Greenman got off and walked back. The train continued to Blue Creek, ten miles east of Promontory, Captain Greenman found Cannon “wandering listlessly” around in a dazed condition near the place he had fallen, with “his overcoat and pants badly torn and almost covered with blood.” (Harvard, p. 220; citing Deseret Evening News, February 17, 1886) Greenman took Cannon to Promontory and wired marshal Ireland. Brother Hyde and marshal Ireland stayed in Blue Creek, unable to find any immediate transportation back to Promontory. Frank J. Cannon decided to go on with the train into Corinne, where he hired a horse and returned immediately to Promontory. (Harvard, p. 221; citing Cannon journal)
February (14?) 1886: Martha Telle Cannon was brought into court and quizzed. She refused to answer some of the questions, such as the following: “Are you not now a pregnant woman?” “Are you not now with child by your husband Geo. Q. Cannon?” She was told she would be adjudged guilty of contempt, but at the suggestion of District Attorney Dickson sentence was temporarily suspended. (Harvard, p. 224; citing Deseret Evening News of February 15, 1886)
February (16?) 1886: Since Cannon had bread and a half-pint flask of water in his pockets the non-Mormons were sure had had been caught in an attempt to escape. Once back in the hands of Marshal Ireland, a group of soldiers was sent to assist in bringing him back. Captain Pinney had the soldiers clear out Cannon’s car of any of his friends and put him under guard, refusing passage to newspaper reporters or others. (Harvard, p. 221; citing Deseret Evening News of February 19, 1886)
February 17, 1886: The train arrived early in the morning and Cannon was rushed down to the Marshal’s office in the Wasatch Building. Judge Zane was brought in and called for $25,000 bail, giving his reasons that the prisoner had tried to bribe an officer at Winnemucca, had subsequently tried to escape from Marshal Ireland, and that he was a high Church dignitary with “immense influence among the people.” Former Mayor John Sharp and Feramorz Little were accepted as sureties after a rigid examination as to their financial fitness. However, two additional warrants were issued for cohabitation at different times, and $10,000 was charged in bonds for each of these cases. So this amounted to $45,000 worth of bonds for a misdemeanor charge. (Harvard, pp. 223-224) After the bonds were posted, Cannon disappeared and the question was raised as to whether he would appear in court as scheduled.
February 1886: Cannon admired Martha’s willingness to to to the penitentiary for contempt if necessary, but he told her attorney to advise her to answer he questions, angry though he was at those who were interrogating her. (Harvard, p. 224; citing Cannon journal)
February (22?) 1886: Hugh J. Cannon, age 16, got his brother, Frank J. Cannon and cousin Angus, Jr., and went to the Continental Hotel. While District Attorney Dickson was walking by the newsstand in the Hotel, he spied the three youths looking at him and asked if they wanted to see him. Receiving an affirmative reply he walked out with them. Then Hugh gave Dickson a near jaw-breaking blow and disappeared, shortly thereafter turning himself over to the municipal officials, convinced that the punishment would be much less harsh than that from the federal officials. Dickson grabbed Frank J. and turned him over to a local policeman named Smith, who turned him over to municipal authorities. Angus, Jr., known to carry a gun and who had one with him at the time, was turned over to federal authority. (Harvard, pp. 225-226; citing Deseret Evening News of February 23, 1886)
Several weeks later, Frank went to the District Attorney’s office and arranged with his assistant, Mr. Varian, that the indictments against his brother [Hugh] who had escaped from Utah and his cousin [Angus] who was innocent should be quashed and he would plead guilty to assault and battery. Varian, after talking with Dickson, learned the Frank had not struck the blow and suggested to Justice Zane that the charge by suspended. Judge Zane sentenced him to three months in County Jail and a fine of $150. He was confined most of the time in a room in the County Court House. (Under the Prophet, pp. 47-49)
February 28, 1886: John Taylor became increasingly convinced that it was vital the Cannon not be lost for life to the Church. He was worried about how to cover the $45,000 bonds, but one morning indicated that a plan for financial arrangements which would not involve either the Church or individuals had been revealed to him. Pres. Taylor indicated that about 2 ½ years previously he had received manifestations concerning investments to be made for the creation of a fund under his sole control, apart from tithing, which would be available for emergencies. “Upon the strength of these manifestations we had purchased an interest in the Bullion, Beck and Champion Mining Company, and he now felt that the shares which we had set apart at the time of the purchase, out of which to create the fund, could now be used with perfect propriety. He had been offered twice as much as he had paid for it, and therefore felt that there would be no difficulty in raising the sum necessary to meet any obligations that others might be under on my account.” (Harvard, pp. 227-228; citing Cannon journal)
March 2, 1886: Pres. Taylor obtained the agreement of the other authorities on his plan. (Harvard, p. 228; citing Cannon journal) The Quorum of the Twelve accepted John Taylor’s statement that it is “the mind of the Lord” for George Q. to forfeit $25,000 bond and for that to be aid from church mining revenues. This may be the date of the second revelation on Bullion, Beck, and Champion Mining Company, which George described to the apostles on April 27, 1899. The text is unavailable. (QuinnMH, p. 785)
March 17, 1886: Cannon was scheduled to appear in court. It was great grief “to be suspected of cowardice, or to have any act of mine bring discredit upon the work, or jeopardise its interests, or endanger any of my brethren, …my conscience is now clear. There was a packed courthouse, with most of the Cannon family there as witnesses under bond. There was in the air an almost electric suspense as to whether Cannon would appear. Abraham Cannon, came up for sentencing first. Abraham said he couldn’t “sacrifice principle, even to procure life or liberty,” and Judge Zane lectured him. He was sentenced to the full penalty for a single cohabitation offense, six months in prison, $300 and costs of the court. The witnesses were called and all responded. The court ordered the name of “George Q. Cannon” called three times by the bailiff with no response. The court declared the $25,000 bond forfeit, with the provision that if the defendant appeared at 2 p.m. the forfeiture should be set aside. (Harvard, pp. 229-230; citing Cannon journal)
March 17, 1886: Attorney Dickson entered the marshal’s office and exclaimed: “That cur! God damn him! He hasn’t got the courage to stand his trial.” Then discovering some of the Cannon sons were in the room, he hastily retreated. At 2 p.m. the court was again packed, with a crowd outside. The full $45,000 bond was declared forfeit.(Harvard, p. 230; citing Deseret Evening News of March 17, 1886)
March 20, 1886: Salt Lake Stake President Angus Cannon wrote John Sharp and Feramorz Little, sureties, saying that to pay the bond would “defeat our object as a people, wherein we desire to test this question of excessive bail.” Bros. Sharp and Little responded that “our attorneys inform us that we have no legal grounds to stand upon in Court when the Bail is legally due.” Pres. Taylor also dictated a letter urging a refusal to pay since this was the only “opportunity that now presents itself to obtain redress.” The sureties, however, paid the bond. (Harvard, p. 233; citing Cannon journal of March 19 and 20) The sureties were later recompensed for their payments and after the Church and federal government became reconciled, Congress appropriated the $45,000 as reimbursement for the amount paid as bonds. (Harvard, p. 233; citing Deseret Evening News of April 12, 1901, George’s date of death)
April 1886: Presiding Bishopric councilor, John Q. Cannon, retained despite knowledge he had embezzled tithing funds. (QuinnMH, p. 649)
May 4, 1886: Apostle John Henry Smith wrote that John Q. Cannon, counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, was “getting quite reckless” with church tithing funds. John was excommunicated four months later for adultery, not embezzlement. George told the apostles on August 3, 1887 that “he admitted trying to cover up John Q. Cannon’s stealings from the Church and that he & his son Abraham had made good John Q’s defalcations to the amount of nearly Ten thousand dollars.” (QuinnMH, p. 785)
May 10, 1886: Frank J. Cannon was sentenced to three months imprisonment and $150 fine for instructing his 16 year old brother, Hugh J. Cannon, to physically attack Prosecuting Attorney Dickson. Hugh was fined $35. (QuinnMH, pp. 785-786)
September 4, 1886: John Q. Cannon confessed his fault to his brother this date. (Anderson, Lavina Fielding, “Ministering Angels: Single Women in Mormon Society,” Dialogue 16 (Autumn 1983), p. 67)
September 5, 1886: John Q. Cannon was excommunicated for adultery and for procuring an abortion for his sister-in—law. (QuinnMH, p. 649) John Q. appeared in stake conference with his uncle, Angus M. Cannon, the stake president. They interrupted the man who was speaking and John Q., “in tears and agony, confessed his fault and ‘laid down his priesthood.” Angus put the motion of excommunication to the congregation, who “in tears” voted unanimously to cut him off from the Church. (Anderson, Lavina Fielding, “Ministering Angels: Single Women in Mormon Society,” Dialogue 16 (Autumn 1983), p. 67) “Uncle Angus…said he felt John Q. ought to get up before the public congregation in the Big Tabernacle this afternoon and confess his sin and Uncle Angus should then propose and put it to vote that he be cut off from the Church. John Q. reached there about 2:30 p.m., but he would not go to see father. I therefore carried the latter’s [GQC’s] advice to John and he manfully agreed to follow it. He and Uncle Angus therefore went to town together and I took Bro. H. B. Clawson up home in John’s buggy. I reached meeting just in time to hear Uncle Angus put the motion to vote that John be cut off. It was unanimously sustained. Uncle Angus immediately left the meeting to again go in hiding. The affair created a great sensation because no idea was had by any, except two or three, of John’s guild and the fact that Uncle Angus came out of his hiding to put the matter before the people that it might be a warning made a profound impression. Bro. John Nicholson having been interrupted in his remarks that this confession might occur, continued after it was done. He eulogized Father for the noble stand he had taken with his own son, and hoped the warning would be taken to heart by the people. I drove to the farm after meeting and heard Father tell the folks what had occurred. He began in this way. ‘John Q. Cannon has committed adultery and was today cut off the Church.’ The sadness of the scene which followed beggars description. All wept and felt their spirits wounded. I went over for John Q. in the evening and after giving solicitation he went over and met Father and the folks. The former encouraged and advised him to remain right here and live down the sin he has committed as far as possible. John promised to do as told. He seemed to feel very penitent and humble…The blow has been a terrible one to us all as we all placed so much faith in John Q. He said he suffered a thousand deaths in telling Annie, Louis, and Sister Wells this afternoon for his fall from the Church.” (Diary of Abraham H. Cannon)
September 7, 1886: Edwin Quayle Cannon (30th child), my grandfather, was born to Eliza Lamercia Tenney Cannon at Salt Lake City.
September 9, 1886: Annie Cannon divorced John Q. Cannon. (Anderson, Lavina Fielding, “Ministering Angels: Single Women in Mormon Society,” Dialogue 16 (Autumn 1983), p. 67)
September 10, 1886: John Q. Cannon married Louie Wells Cannon. (Anderson, Lavina Fielding, “Ministering Angels: Single Women in Mormon Society,” Dialogue 16 (Autumn 1983), p. 67)
September 27, 1886: Pres. Taylor petitioned the Lord about polygamy and was told, ”All commandments that I give must be obeyed..unless they are revoked by me or by my authority.” The Lord had spoken in great plainness about the New and Everlasting Covenant and, “I have not revoked this law, nor will I, for it is everlasting, and those who will enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof…” (Godfrey/Dialogue, p. 15 [The family of John Taylor claims that he revelation was found in Taylor’s papers and the original was given to the Church historian. It has not been available to the public and the Church Historian has declared it is not in the Church Historian’s Library. Dean Jessee concluded it was highly probable the revelation existed. The above wording in Dean Jessee’s master’s thesis at BYU was taken from a fundamentalist publication called Truth (July 1949), 41-43])
JQC was in the Territorial legislature from 1886 to 1887.
John Taylor declined to allow JQC to marry his sister-in-law polygamously to protect him from arrest (1884 to 1886). JQC was arrested for polygamy in 1886 when his first wife’s (Elizabeth A. Wells) divorce petition charged him with adultery. They were divorced in 1886. The charges were dropped after the death in San Francisco of the principal witness Louie Wells Cannon. Louisa A. Wells, his second wife, died in 1886. JQC then remarried Elizabeth A. Wells.
JQC embezzled church funds while second counselor to the Presiding Bishop. He was retained in April 1886 despite the Twelve’s knowledge he had embezzled tithing funds. GQC repaid the embezzled fund in 1886 to 1887.
JQC was excommunicated on September 5, 1886 for adultery and procuring an abortion for his sister-in-law.
July 25, 1887: Pres. John Taylor died in obscurity at the home of a friend in Kaysville, 2 ½ years after his last public utterance. (Harvard, p. 93)
GQC was first counselor in the First Presidency [John Taylor] without being set apart, from October 10, 1880 to July 25, 1887.
GQC was first counselor in the First Presidency [Wilford Woodruff] without being set apart, from April 7, 1889 to September 2, 1898.
GQC indicted for cohabitation in 1885 and arrested in 1886. He was accused of bribery and flight in 1886. He was released on bail which he forfeited with prior approval of Pres. John Taylor and the Quorum of the Twelve. He was a fugitive with a $500 bounty from 1886 to 1888. Imprisoned five month in 1888 to 1889. Received a U.S. Presidential pardon in 1889.
GQC Journal (November 6, 1885 – Friday): Doctor G. L. Miller, editor of the Omaha Herald and John T. Caine, visited with GQC. “I then related to him what the Prophet Joseph had said when I was a boy, respecting the events that would yet happen in this nation; and that the time would come when the Latter-day Saints would have to uphold Constitutional liberty in the land.”
Abraham H. Cannon was made an apostle on October 7, 1889.
Have searched Vol. 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 of GQC.
“Cannon's magnum opus was the Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet. This work was reprinted in 1986 as part of the Classics in Mormon Literature series. In a preface, historian Donald Q. Cannon notes that it has been "a very popular book for a long time"; that it is eulogistic, "designed to build faith"; that it "tells the story of the Prophet, but it does not attempt to analyze him or to probe deep beneath the surface events of his life in a critical way"; and that it "always presents Joseph Smith and the Church in the most favorable light" (p. 6).8 All this is true enough, but more needs to be said.
George Q. Cannon's original preface, penned in late 1888, brings the reader into the intense religious atmosphere of the prison cell—he was then serving a term in the territorial prison for unlawful cohabitation.9 Cannon does not hide his own fervent conviction about Joseph Smith. Rather than allowing it to emerge as a conclusion reached after telling Smith's life story, the author's testimony is trumpeted in the opening lines: "Joseph and Hyrum are now dead; but like the first martyr they yet speak. Their united voice is one of testimony, admonition and warning to the world." Cannon's motive in writing the book is stated forthrightly: "It is in the hope that the Saints may find joy in reading of their beloved Prophet and Patriarch, and that the world may judge more fairly of these benefactors of mankind, that this book is written" (p. 1).
Although working on the project "in the midst of a somewhat busy and laborious life"—an understatement—Cannon considered the labor a "loving duty" that had brought him comfort. "The closing chapters," he says, "were finished in prison for adherence to the principles which they [Joseph and Hyrum Smith] taught, and for this, the life is invested with a dearer regard." He even hated to send the completed manuscript off for publication: "To send the work away now is like being torn from a beloved companion, when most the solace of his friendly presence is needed" (p. 1).
Cannon had help on this project. "To many friends the author is indebted for information here embodied," he wrote, "and he takes this occasion to thank them, hoping to live yet to meet them and express his gratitude in the flesh" (p. 1). We wish he had been more specific about these "many friends." It would seem natural for a member of the First Presidency such as Cannon to enlist the help of the Church Historian's Office in preparing his work. Whether he spent time in that office or had material delivered to his own office is not known. His three oldest sons all worked on the project. As early as the fall of 1882, Frank J. Cannon was "preparing the History of Joseph Smith."10 Abraham H. Cannon also had a hand in it. "We revised what Frank had written of the Prophet's History," Abraham wrote on 20 August 1886.11 A year later John Q. Cannon went over the whole thing and revised it.12 So a draft manuscript by George Q. and his three oldest sons was in existence even before 1888.
George Q. Cannon was writing and revising through much of the summer of 1888 and in the fall spent many hours in proofreading and preparing the manuscript for the press.13 "Every spare moment of my time," he wrote on 15 June, "I have worked on my History of Joseph."14 He thoroughly revised and approved the finished product. He would not have allowed this book to appear under his name if it did not represent his views on the life of Joseph Smith.
After an introductory section about the primitive Christian church, the apostasy, the Reformation, the French Revolution, and the rise of modern sectarianism, Cannon offered what is no less than a hymn of praise to his subject. Joseph Smith's "lofty soul," he said, "comprehended the grandeur of his mission upon earth." In his physical appearance "he seemed to combine all attractions and excellencies." Joseph Smith, he said, had been "a retiring youth" but the Spirit made him bold; had been a humble farmer, but "divine authority sat so becomingly upon him that men looked at him with reverent awe"; had been unlearned, but "he walked with God until human knowledge was to his eye an open book, the celestial light beamed through his mind" (p. 19).
Just as Jesus was ridiculed during his life and only later could be seen "illuminated by the eternal sunshine of heaven," standing "outlined against the blue vastness of the past in sublime simplicity," so Joseph Smith should now be seen "as he towered in the full radiance of his labors . . . the reconciler of divergent sects and doctrines, the oracle of the Almighty to all nations, kindreds, tongues and peoples." Joseph Smith's "life was exalted and unselfish," his death "a sealing martyrdom, following after that which was completed upon Calvary for the redemption of a world" (pp. 19, 21).
Whether the casual, unbelieving reader would be drawn in or turned off by these opening pages, there was no false advertising. This book would not be history or biography in the dispassionate mode. After such an opening, it is no surprise to find in the following sixty-five chapters a Joseph Smith without fault, a persecuted people, knavish enemies, and the eventual martyrdom that concludes the book. Good and evil are as clearly contrasted as in any medieval morality play or modern Western novel.
However, Cannon's Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet was not merely a grandiloquent homily. Holding it together is a string of factual statements that no one would contest—although, as suggested, some might well take exception to the spin he put on them. The book is interlarded with many documents. Available to Cannon were early newspapers and published works by George A. Smith, Thomas Ford, and Josiah Quincy. Documents such as the Wentworth letter of 1842, including the Articles of Faith, are printed in their entirety.
A short chapter that deserves careful attention is chapter 56, "Eternal Marriage." Did George Q. Cannon give a clear account of the origins of plural marriage? Did he, in prison, defend it? The answer to the first question is no, but he comes close. "Eternity and plurality of marriage" are not distinguished but melded together and explained as the product of revelation. Joseph Smith "did not write it for a time," Cannon says, "although he obeyed its commands and taught it to Hyrum and other faithful men, who, in prayer and humility before God, accepted and fulfilled its requirements" (pp. 438—39). It was on 12 July 1843, Cannon explains, that the revelation was dictated to William Clayton, on 13 July that a copy was made by Joseph C. Kingsbury, and on 12 August that it was presented to the stake presidency and high council of the Nauvoo Stake. He acknowledges Emma Smith's ambivalence. At first she did not accept it, "but later she became convinced of its truth and gave good women to her husband to wife as Sarah of old administered to Abraham" (p. 439).15
Then this editorial comment: "There is not one word in the revelation, nor was there one word in the Prophet's teaching other than purity and self sacrifice." It was a system that would make possible the satisfaction of every woman's right to "virtuous wifehood and maternity"; it was "a code of moral law by which the modern world, under the light of Christian truth, may achieve social redemption and be forever purified" (pp. 438, 440). An experienced soldier in the defense of polygamy for nearly forty years, Cannon could have said much more. But he said something about the subject, and it was not an apology or retraction.
In chapter 48, "Manliness of Joseph," we are treated to several complimentary quotations from contemporaries. Cannon does not choose to quote those who derided Joseph Smith, for his point is that even some who were not members of the Church of Jesus Christ were able to recognize something of the greatness of the man. He did not claim more than he should:
The foregoing opinions quoted from the Prophet's contemporaries and observers—his opponents, candid though they were—are as favorable as could be looked for in a skeptical, materialistic age. They prove all that can be asserted of the Prophet by his believers, except the essential feature of his inspiration. This could not be testified to by any except a believer. His reviewers, whom we have quoted, judge entirely from external evidence. They saw the phenomenon presented by his life and work, and recorded it, excluding entirely from their consideration of his character and deeds all thought of the superhuman. . . . It cannot be expected that any non-believer will testify to the prophetic power of Joseph Smith. To admit it is to believe. (pp. 357—58)
It is a thoughtful analysis. "No words of a believer can of themselves convince an unbeliever," he wrote. "There is but one power of demonstration, and that is to seek by humble prayer for the voice of the Holy Spirit. So surely as man prays in faith and meekness, so surely will the answer come" (p. 360).
The book concludes with a vivid, rapid-fire description of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. There is no epilogue or concluding chapter describing the trial of the assassins, the continued persecutions, the expulsion of the Saints from Nauvoo. With Joseph Smith dead and buried, author Cannon had finished his work—except for this final paragraph: "The enemies of truth were sure that they had now destroyed the work. And yet it lives, greater and stronger after the lapse of years! It is indestructible for it is the work of God. And knowing that it is the eternal work of God, we know that Joseph Smith, who established it, was a Prophet holy and pure" (p. 527). Such, even in prison, was the powerful conviction of George Q. Cannon.
Cannon was not trying to satisfy a doctoral committee or to please reviewers in secular journals. Readers would not have expected from him the flat exposition of an encyclopedia article. What they got—and arguably what was and is valuable—was not merely a life of Joseph Smith but what George Q. Cannon thought and felt about the life of Joseph Smith.
Cannon's work served a purpose. For the Saints, it was a reassuring and satisfying reaffirmation. For the outsider, the book, even with its heavy moralizing, told the Prophet's life in its essentials. The discerning reader would have little difficulty in recognizing that it told as much about Latter-day Saint self-perception as about Joseph Smith.
Although already simple, the work was not, in Cannon's estimation, simple enough for children. In 1898, George Q. enlisted the help of his 21-year-old son Joseph J. "My son Joseph submitted to me some manuscript of a 'Child's History of Joseph' which he is compiling under my directions," George Q. wrote.16 "Under my directions"—that is the key. Knowing how to use assistance, George Q. Cannon would again review the work, make whatever changes he thought necessary, and take responsibility for it. When published in 1900, The Latter-day Prophet: History of Joseph Smith Written for Young People must have filled a niche, for it came out again with a different subtitle—Young People's History of Joseph Smith—in 1912, 1914, and 1918. Always interested in children, Cannon was anxious to provide the new generation with a life of the Prophet that would stick in their minds.
Abraham H. Cannon Journal, 24 October 1882 (hereafter AHCJ). The holograph original of this journal, in 19 volumes, is housed in L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. Photocopies of the original are in the Family and Church History Department Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in Manuscripts Division, University of Utah Marriott Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
AHCJ, 20 August 1886.
AHCJ, 7 November 1887.
George Q. Cannon Journal, 31 March; 26 and 31 May; 2, 5, 7—9, 15—16, 23 June; 6, 15, 25, and 30—31 August; and 4—8 September 1888. Hereafter abbreviated as GQCJ. I was given access to this journal during the preparation of my biography of Cannon, cited in note 4. The journal is located in the Family and Church History Department Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
GQCJ, 15 June 1888.
Davis Bitton, “George Q. Cannon and the Faithful Narrative of Mormon History,” FARMS Review: Vo. 14, Issue 1, pps. 275-94. A review of “Life of Jseph Smith the Prophet” by George Q. Cannon (Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 2002)
One source mentions GQC mentions the seer stone more than once and cites page 54.
“One of Joseph’s aids in searching out the truths of the record was a peculiar pebble or rock which he called also a seer stone, and which was sometimes used by him in lieu of the Urim and Thummim. This stone had been discovered to himself and his brother Hyrum at the bottom of a well; and under divine guidance they had brought it forth for use in the work of translation. Martin determined to deprive the Prophet of this stone. He obtained a rock resembling a seer-stone in shape and color, and slyly substituted it for the Prophet’s real medium of translation. When next they were to begin their labor, Joseph was at first silent: and then he exclaimed: ‘Martin, what is the matter? All is dark.’ Harris with shame confessed what he had attempted. And when the Prophet demanded a reason for such conduct, Martin replied: ‘I did it to either prove the utterance or stop the mouths of fools who have said to me that you had learned these sentences which you dictate and that you were merely repeating them from memory.’” [pp. 56-57]
D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power (Signature Books, Salt Lake City: 1997), pp. 644 to 649.
George Q. Cannon was born January 11, 1827. He was 59 in 1886, 60 in 1887 and 61 in 1888.
John Q. Cannon was born April 19, 1857, son of Elizabeth Hoagland. He was 29 in 1886, 30 in 1887 and 31 in 1888.
Frank J. Cannon was born January 25, 1859, son of Sarah Jenne. He was 27 in 1886, 28 in 1887, 29 in 1888.
Abraham H. Cannon was born March 12, 1959, son of Elizabeth Hoagland. He was 27 in 1886, 28 in 1887 and 29 in 1888.
George Q. Cannon had the final right of approval and was responsible for the final product.
The authorship of the book, The Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet, which lists George Q. Cannon as the author, has been questioned. It appears to be a collaboration between Frank J. Cannon, who prepared a rough draft, Abraham H. Cannon, John Q. Cannon, George Q. Cannon, who extensively revised and added material, and Joseph F. Smith.
 CFHT, p. 162 (quoting Ann Cannon Woodbury).
 George Q. Cannon, The Life of Joseph Smith, 1888, page xxvi
 History of the Church, Vol. 5, pages 353-354.
 CFHT, p. 58; Harvard, pp. 106-107; and LDS Bios., Vol. I p. 44.
 CFHT, p. 62; CFHT p. 162 (Ann Cannon Woodbury reminiscence); and CFHT, pp. 240-241 (David H. Cannon reminiscence).
 Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 5 (Signature Books, Salt Lake City: 2003), pp. 111-113.
 Davis Bitton, George Q. Cannon: A Biography (Deseret Book Company: 1999), p. 511, no. 140.
 Dennis B. Horne, An Apostle’s Record: The Journals of Abraham H. Cannon (Gnolaum Books, Clearfield: 2004), p. 78, n. 12