Tag Archives: The Life of John Taylor

New Release: “Sinners and Saints,” an outside look at 1882 Utah

Phil Robinson’s Sinners and Saints: A Tour Across the States, and Round Them, with Three Months among the Mormons is now available on Project Gutenberg. Robinson, a travel correspondent, spent time in Utah in 1882 and later published his impressions, including an account of a General Conference; comments on communities including Salt Lake City, Logan, Provo, and Orderville; and discussions of Indian relations, polygamy, and even “their sobriety (to my great inconvenience).”

This book was brought to my attention by B. H. Roberts, who quotes it in The Life of John Taylor and comments that  “Mr. Robinson is one of the few writers who have endeavored to tell the truth about the Mormons.” Much of the literature on the Mormon pre-statehood Utah experience, whether “for” or “against” the Church, is polemical. As a more-or-less disinterested observer, accepted as honest by a Mormon authority while being published by and for the world at large, Robinson provides a primary source from an uncommon perspective. Hopefully readers will find it valuable.

As always, thanks to all those who proofread and made this work available!

Excerpt: John Taylor on socialism and French philosophy

The Icarians, a French socialist group, established a commune in Nauvoo after the departure of the saints. On his mission to France, John Taylor discussed the gospel with one of their leaders and took a rather dim view of both socialism and French philosophy in general. B. H. Roberts, in The Life of John Taylor (which we recently released on Project Gutenberg), writes the following:

Shortly after the discussion Elder Taylor left Boulogne for Paris, where he began studying the French language, and teaching the gospel. Among the interesting people whom he met there was M. Krolokoski, a disciple of M. Fourier, the distinguished French socialist. M. Krolokoski was a gentleman of some standing, being the editor of a paper published in Paris in support of Fourier’s views. Another thing which makes the visit of this gentleman to Elder Taylor interesting is the fact that it was the society to which he belonged that sent M. Cabet to Nauvoo with the French Icarians, to establish a community on Fourier’s principles. At his request Elder Taylor explained to him the leading principles of the gospel. At the conclusion of that explanation the following conversation occurred:

M. Krolokoski.—”Mr. Taylor, do you propose no other plan to ameliorate the condition of mankind than that of baptism for the remission of sins?”

Elder Taylor.—”This is all I propose about the matter.”

M. Krolokoski.—”Well, I wish you every success; but I am afraid you will not succeed.”

Elder Taylor.—”Monsieur Krolokoski, you sent Monsieur Cabet to Nauvoo, some time ago. He was considered your leader—the most talented man you had. He went to Nauvoo shortly after we had deserted it. Houses and lands could be obtained at a mere nominal sum. Rich farms were deserted, and thousands of us had left our houses and furniture in them, and almost everything calculated to promote the happiness of man was there. Never could a person go to a place under more happy circumstances. Besides all the advantages of having everything made ready to his hand, M. Cabet had a select company of colonists. He and his company went to Nauvoo—what is the result? I read in all your reports from there—published in your own paper here, in Paris, a continued cry for help. The cry is money, money! We want money to help us carry out our designs. While your colony in Nauvoo with all the advantages of our deserted fields and homes—that they had only to move into—have been dragging out a miserable existence, the Latter-day Saints, though stripped of their all and banished from civilized society into the valleys of the Rocky Mountains, to seek that protection among savages—among the peau rouges as you call our Indians—which Christian civilization denied us—there our people have built houses, enclosed lands, cultivated gardens, built school-houses, and have organized a government and are prospering in all the blessings of civilized life. Not only this, but they have sent thousands and thousands of dollars over to Europe to assist the suffering poor to go to America, where they might find an asylum.

“The society I represent, M. Krolokoski,” he continued, “comes with the fear of God—the worship of the Great Eloheim; we offer the simple plan ordained of God, viz: repentance, baptism for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. Our people have not been seeking the influence of the world, nor the power of government, but they have obtained both. Whilst you, with your philosophy, independent of God, have been seeking to build up a system of communism and a government which is, according to your own accounts, the way to introduce the Millennial reign. Now, which is the best, our religion, or your philosophy?”

M. Krolokoski.—”Well, Mr. Taylor, I can say nothing.”

“Philosophy” has always been a passion with the French; but Elder Taylor seems not to have had a very high regard for what he saw of it among them. He held it in the same esteem that Paul did the “science” of the Greeks—he considered it a misnomer—philosophy, falsely so called.

One day in walking through the splendid grounds of the Fardin des Plantes with a number of friends, one of the party purchased a curious kind of cake, so thin and light, that you could blow it away, and eat all day of it and still not be satisfied. Some one of the company asked Elder Taylor if he knew the name of it. “No,” he replied, “I don’t know the proper name; but in the absence of one, I can give it a name—I will call it French philosophy, or fried froth, which ever you like.”

New release: B. H. Roberts’ “The Life of John Taylor”

Get it here on Project Gutenberg,. Here’s a contemporary blurb from the back of the 1895 first edition of A New Witness for God, also by Roberts:

LIFE OF JOHN TAYLOR.

Third President of the Church of Jesus Christ, in the Dispensation of the Fullnes of Times, is a handsome volume of four hundred and sixty-eight pages, and containing ten illustrations finely executed, and the portrait of President John Taylor as the frontispiece. These are all well executed, and the steel engraving of the subject of the work is a striking and pleasing likeness.

Deseret News:–“The literary ability displayed in the book is to be highly commended. The volume is from the pen of Elder B. H. Roberts, and he has treated his theme in an able manner. The interest of the readers is maintained throughout. The life of President Taylor abounded with incidents of uncommon import. They are presented in forcible and pleasing style. The language is simple yet eloquent, and not overloaded with rhetoric.” Price, full cloth, $2.50; half leather, $3.00; full leather, $4.00; Morrocco, extra gilt, $5.00.

Sadly, no Morrocco extra gilt for you guys, but at least the price is right, and the book really is remarkable. John Taylor too often ends up known as “the one after Brigham Young,” but as Roberts says in his preface,

Justice to the character and labors of John Taylor demanded that his life be written. The annals of the Church could not be recorded without devoting large space to the part he took in her affairs; but no notice of his life and labors, however extended in a general history, could do justice to his great career: for of course there is much in that career peculiar to himself, and of a character, too, to make it worthy of a separate volume.

It really is a great book. I’ll be posting a some fun excerpts over the next few weeks, including stuff related to communism, Indian attacks, and the Relief Society.