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THIS volume contains considerable of the biography of President Joseph Smith, and his subsequent work is closely associated with the narrative of history.
In this chapter we give short biographies of other members of the First Presidency who came into prominent positions prior to the time of the closing of this volume. We had hoped to include one year more of the history, and bring in the biographies of Presidents A. H. and D. H. Smith, who were called to leading positions in 1873, but space forbids.
William Marks, First Counselor to President Joseph Smith, was born in Rutland, Vermont, November 15, 1792. We know but little of his family or his early life. We do not know just when he united with the church, but he was prominently mentioned as early as September, 1837, he being chosen a member of the High Council at Kirtland on the third of that month. On the 17th of the same month he was appointed agent for Bishop N. K. Whitney, to transact the business of the Bishop at Kirtland, in order to liberate the Bishop so that he might travel, as provided for in the revelation of September, 1832. (See D. C. 83:23.)
In 1838, Joseph Smith saw William Marks in vision, wherein his future was shown, and it was plainly revealed that the Lord would, after severe trials, raise him "up for a blessing unto many people," and cause him to triumph over his enemies. (See this work, vol. 2, p. 147.) This was remarkably verified by his experience at Nauvoo, his career in searching for the right way among the many factions of the church. and his finally finding rest and peace in the
Reorganization, where he occupied an honorable position in the councils of the church, a "blessing unto many people."
According to the Millennial Star, volume 16, page 183, a revelation was given to William Marks and N. K. Whitney, on July 8,1838, commanding them to settle up their business in Kirtland, Ohio, speedily, and remove to Missouri.
Of William Marks, this communication says: "Let my servant William Marks be faithful over a few things, and he shall be made ruler over many. Let him preside in the midst of my people in the city Far West, and let him be blessed with the blessings of my people."
After the church was driven from Missouri, Elder Marks, with others, believed it unwise to again settle in a body, and advocated the propriety of scattering abroad and building up homes individually, where each one should choose.
In February, 1839, a twenty thousand acre tract of land was offered the church in Iowa Territory, between the Des Moines and Mississippi rivers, at two dollars per acre, to be paid in twenty annual installments, without interest. A committee was appointed, who reported favorably on the propriety of making the purchase, but the proposition was defeated through the opposition of Elder William Marks, Bishop Edward Partridge, and Judge Elias Higbee. Had this tract of land been purchased at that time it is probable that the history of Nauvoo would never have been written. What effect the influence of William Marks had upon the destinies of the church, at this critical moment, whether for weal or for woe, eternity alone can disclose.
On October 8, 1839, a stake of Zion was organized at Commerce (afterwards Nauvoo), Illinois, and William Marks was chosen president of the stake, and of the High Council, which position he held through all the peaceful and troublous times in Nauvoo until after the death of Joseph Smith, in 1844.
February 1, 1841, at the first election held under the new and famous Charter of Nauvoo, William Marks was elected an alderman. He acted as Chief Justice of the Municipal Court of Nauvoo, in the memorable habeas corpus trial of
Joseph Smith, In July, 1843, and as such rendered the decision which set him at liberty.
The scenes through which Elder Marks passed after the death of Joseph Smith, his opposition to the measures of the Twelve which finally resulted in his leaving Nauvoo, are narrated in this volume.
At a General Conference held in Nauvoo, Illinois, In October, 1844, a motion to sustain William Marks "in his calling as president of this stake" was lost by a large majority. In this connection Samuel Bent stated that the High Council had already dropped him, because he did not acknowledge the authority of the Twelve. The minutes of the conference do not state any other cause for his rejection, but it was well understood that it was because he would not indorse [endorse] the measures and policy of Brigham Young and his supporters. For a short time Elder Marks favored Sidney Rigdon, but soon became satisfied that his claims were erroneous, and renounced them. On April 6, 1847, Elder Marks was in attendance at the Strangite conference held at Voree, Wisconsin. At this time he was presumably in fellowship with that faction, as he was then appointed and acted as a member of the "committee on church property." Prior to this, on November 6, 1846, Elder Marks was called through James J. Strang to be a counselor to Strang in the presidency; but it appears that he was not very credulous in receiving the word through Strang, for in another communication, bearing date of January 7, 1849, he is spoken of as follows: "Behold my servant, William Marks, has gone far astray in departing from me, yet I will give unto him a little space, that he may return and receive my word, and stand in his place; for I remember his work that he has done in the time that is past."
The action of April conference of 1849, held at Voree, Wisconsin, was consistent with this communication, for then Elder Marks was sustained conditionally. The minutes contain the following: "Resolved that if Bro. William Marks will magnify his office according to the requirements of the revelation of January 7, that we will receive, uphold,
and sustain him by our faith, confidence, and prayers, as one of the First Presidency."-Gospel Herald, vol. 5, p. 17.
Whether he increased his faithfulness or whether his skepticism was tolerated does not appear, but he retained his standing with this organization, at least until June 6, 1850, when he signed, in connection with J. J. Strang and G. J. Adams as a presidency, a call for a "general assembly" to be held at St. James, Beaver Island, July 1 to 6, 1850. (Gospel Herald, vol. 5, p. 96.)
Several times prior to this his name also appeared in Strangite publications in connection with the presidency. We have seen no mention of him in connection with this faction after June 6, 1850, though he may have continued with them for a time thereafter. The next mention of Elder Marks coming to our notice was in connection with Charles B. Thompson, who, on April 9. 1853, received a revelation appointing Richard Stevens, William Marks, and Harvey Childs a "locating" committee. (See this volume, page 55.)
In 1855 he entered into an organization with John E. Page, John Landers, John Gaylord, Russell Huntley, W. W. Blair, and others; but this was of short duration.
On June 11, 1859, at a special conference held at Amboy, Illinois, William Marks was received into the Reorganization upon his original baptism, and his ordination as an high priest was recognized. From this time on he was a prominent character in the history of the church. At the same conference that he was received he was appointed with Elders Z. H. Gurley., Sen., and James Blakeslee a committee to publish a hymn book.
At the Semiannual Conference of October, 1859, held at the barn of I. L. Rogers, in Kendall County, Illinois, there were measures taken to publish a periodical as related on pages 238 to 240 of this volume. Elder Marks was associated with Z. H. Gurley and W. W. Blair as a publishing committee.
In March, 1860, as related in this volume (pp. 264, 265), when President Joseph Smith decided to identify himself with the Reorganization, he placed himself in communication
with William Marks, for reasons assigned on page 264. Elder Marks chose I. L. Rogers and W. W. Blair to accompany him, and visited Joseph Smith at Nauvoo, Illinois.
When Joseph Smith was received by the Reorganization at Amboy, Illinois, April 6, 1860, William Marks assisted others in his ordination to the Presidency of the high priesthood. In March, 1863, William Marks was called by revelation (see this book, p. 318) to the Presidency, and at the Annual Conference in April following, he was ordained to that position, under the hands of Joseph Smith, Jason W. Briggs, and E. C. Briggs.
In 1866 he was one of the committee appointed for the purpose, and to whom Mrs. Emma Smith Bidamon (widow of the Prophet) delivered the manuscript of the Inspired Translation for publication. He filled his position as counselor to the President with honor and credit the remainder of his life. His death occurred at Plano, Illinois, May 22, 1872. President Marks was a man of sterling integrity, true to his convictions, faithful and courageous in the discharge of duty. If he seemed vacillating because of his several changes from one faction to another, it was only seeming. He was seeking the right; and when he discovered wrong he had the courage to denounce it, and sever his connection from those who fostered it. Through all these changing scenes and experiences he maintained his honor intact, and his record was unstained by immoral acts. He was, much of his life, a man of considerable means, which he always freely spent in the promulgation of what he accepted as true. The last years of his life he spent in peace, satisfied in the possession of what he long had sought among the factions in vain. Firm and unwavering, in his early devotion to the church prior to the death of Joseph Smith, he proved in his devotion to the Reorganization that he had not lost these stable qualities. Elder Marks was twice married. His first wife was Miss Rosannah R. Robinson, to whom he was married May 2, 1813. As a result of this union eleven children were born to him, viz., Fayette, Eliza, William, Lucy Ann, Llewellyn, Ader Rosette, Hannah Syrene, Ephraim, Henry, Ira Goodrich,
and Sophia Ann. We are not informed how many of these there are now living. Mrs. Marks died October 18, 1863, aged sixty-eight years. He was married the second time in 1866, espousing Mrs. Julia A. Muir, daughter of Jabez Durfee, who survived him twenty years, and died at Lamoni, Iowa, May 4,1892.
WILLIAM WALLACE BLAIR.
The late W. W. Blair, First Counselor to President Joseph Smith, was one of the best known characters of the prominent men of the Reorganization. He was the son of James Blair and Fanny Hamilton Blair. He was born in the village of Holly, Orleans County, New York, October 11, 1828. In 1831 his parents moved to Chautauqua County, New York, and the family resided in the same county until 1839, when they went west, going by raft to Cincinnati, Ohio, and thence by steamer to St. Louis, Missouri, from whence they proceeded by steamer to Peru, La Salle County, Illinois. Here they were met by Mr. Blair, William's father, who had preceded them the year before, and located a claim and erected a log house thereon, in Lee County, near where Amboy now stands. To this residence in the western wilds the family were conveyed. Here William remained under the parental roof, sharing in the toils and hardships incident to making a home on the frontier, until the year 1845, when he was placed in the family of Mr. George W. Gilson, of Peru, Illinois, to attend school. Circumstances prevented, so that he was unable to attend school much while there.
In the spring of 1846 he entered the employ of Messrs. Frink, Walker, and Co., stage proprietors, and remained in their employ until the autumn of 1848.
On leaving the employ of the above-named gentlemen he entered the service of Messrs. Russell P. and George C. Thorp, of Mt. Carroll, Illinois, as a salesman in a mercantile house. It was while at Mt. Carroll that he became acquainted with and finally married Miss Elizabeth J. Doty, the marriage being celebrated December 25, 1849, at Dixon, Illinois. In the late years of his life, in recording this
event, he tenderly wrote: "I recognize the hand of a kind Providence in my meeting with, and finally being united in marriage with her, as I am conscious that our marriage was one of the brightest, and most important periods of my life." In the spring of 1850 he began farming, on what had been his father's farm, near where Amboy is now located.
In 1851, Mr. Blair first became interested in religion, having previously been skeptical on the subject. This interest was awakened by the preaching of ministers connected with the Latter Day Saints, among whom were John Landers, Edwin Cadwell, J. W. Briggs, Ira J. Patten, Aaron Hook, William Smith, and Joseph Wood. After thorough investigation, he became convinced that the mission of Jesus Christ was divine, and recognized the truth of the latter-day message. He was therefore baptized by Elder William Smith, brother of the martyred Prophet, on October 8, 1851. Of the happy change experienced in his conversion, be wrote: "The change from the darkness and deadness of infidelity, to the joyful light and the thrilling hope of life-eternal life -in Christ. was delightful and glorious beyond my power to fully tell. I felt as my faith in Christ increased, that a change was being wrought in all my nature; my mind, my feelings, my affections, my desires, yea my entire being-soul, body, and spirit seemed changed, and was enjoying this happy and wonderful transition."
He continued in association with William Smith and his colleagues until the summer of 1852, when, as he states it, he "learned that some of the leading elders were walking in unrighteousness." He and Edwin Cadwell then publicly withdrew from this connection. He then investigated "Baneemyism;" but of this he states: "In time became fully satisfied that it was not the work of God."
In a state of doubt and uncertainty he continued until the autumn of 1855, when he became acquainted with Elder John E. Page, formerly one of the Twelve Apostles, and after investigation and comparison of views he united in a temporary organization with Elders Page, John Landers, William Marks, John Gaylord, Russell Huntley, and others. He continued in association with these parties until November
1856, at which time he received a visit from two missionaries of the Reorganization. An account of this visit we give in Elder Blair's own words:-
"At this time two young men called at our store (I was then engaged in the mercantile pursuit) just after nightfall, and inquired for me. When they entered the store the thought was impressed upon my mind that they were Mormon elders. . . . After they introduced themselves (not mentioning yet that they were elders) and stating that they came to make me a call, I was more sensibly impressed that they were, indeed, 'Mormon elders.' I at once took them to my home, for refreshments, and on my way learned that they were elders, sent from Zarahemla, Wisconsin, to hunt up the saints, and to tell them that the time was near at hand when the Lord would call young Joseph Smith to take his martyred father's place as President of the Church.
"These tidings were strange and somewhat novel to me; and I had no confidence, whatever, in their truthfulness; but I felt willing to hear what the young men had to say, and to prove their pretensions.
"I had known, in 1853, at Amboy, the younger of the two men, Edmund C. Briggs, who was then a delicate, sickly boy, but the other, Samuel H. Gurley, I had never known. . . . We read the books and argued various points touching the idea that young Joseph Smith would be called of God as his father's successor, till about three o'clock the next morning, when we retired to bed. The next day was Sunday; and after our prayers for the guidance of God in our interchange of views, we entered again upon the subject of young Joseph being called, at sometime in the near future, to be his father's successor. We continued our investigations till about eleven a. m. and it seemed we were then just as far from seeing alike as when we began the night before. The elders seemed to be somewhat disappointed in my opposing them so persistently. I said to them that they manifested a gentle and kind spirit, but that I could not indorse [endorse] their teachings. I would not say that they were wrong, for I did not know. I only knew I could not, as yet, see their claims to be true. I felt and said, that if their
views and teachings were of God, then I hoped to be able to know it; but as yet I had no confidence in them. Soon after this, Elder Briggs rose up and took the Book of Mormon from the stand, and opened it hastily, looking intently upon it as though he were reading it to himself, when after a moment's waiting, his countenance and his entire being seemed highly animated, and he began speaking, as if reading from the book. As soon as he began speaking the Spirit came in mighty power,-the same Spirit that bore witness to me of the truth of the gospel five years before,--bearing testimony to me that they were the servants of God, and that their mission and tidings were of God. The first words uttered by Elder Briggs were these: 'I, the Lord, will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy; and I will forgive whom I will forgive.' Then he began speaking in prophecy, declaring the coming of Joseph, my future mission in the church, with many other things connected with the church and myself. When he ceased speaking, Elder S. H. Gurley arose and spoke in prophecy, testifying many things through the Spirit. My doubts were now dispelled, and my mind was fully satisfied that the Lord would, in his own good time, call young Joseph to the Presidency of the Church."
In December, 1856, Mr. Blair and wife went to Zarahemla (now Blanchardville), Wisconsin, where they made the acquaintance of Elder Z. H. Gurley and the branch at that place. They were highly pleased with their visit, and returned strengthened in the faith of the Reorganization.
In 1857 he attended the Annual Conference held at Zarahemla, and on the 7th of April was baptized by Elder Z. H. Gurley, and on the 8th was ordained to the office of an high priest. During the ensuing year he followed the avocation of farming, preaching occasionally as opportunity offered.
On October 7, 1858, at the Semiannual Conference held at Zarahemla, Wisconsin, Elder Blair was ordained an apostle. At a special conference, held at Amboy, Illinois, June 10 to 14, 1859, he was chosen Church Recorder. This position he held until October 8, 1860, when he was released by General Conference. At this conference he was appointed with Elder E. C. Briggs
to labor in the west, with Nauvoo, Illinois, Far West, Missouri, and Council Bluffs, Iowa, objective points. This mission resulted in a great awakening among the old members of the church located in western Iowa and elsewhere.
From this time to the close of his life Elder Blair was an active, zealous missionary, visiting nearly all parts of the United States (except the Southern States) and Canada. He was the means of bringing many into the church. He was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve until 1873, when he was called to the position of First Counselor to the President of the church. After this he was more of his time at headquarters, yet spent much time in the prosecution of missionary work.
On April 18, 1896, he died suddenly, while on the cars returning to his home, Lamoni, Iowa, from Kirtland, Ohio, where he had been in attendance at the General Conference.
His missionary and other official work appear in this volume, and will appear in volume 4, in connection with current events. We have not room for mention in detail here.
The wife of his youth, his companion in all the events of his active life, the sharer of his joys and sorrows, survived him, and still lives, residing at Lamoni, Iowa. He was the father of seven children, five sons and two daughters. One daughter and five sons are still living: Charles E., now a resident of Lamoni, Iowa; Mary B., now the wife of D. F. Nicholson, of Lamoni, Iowa; George W., now a resident of Lamoni; William A., now a resident of St. Joseph, Missouri; David H., also a resident of St. Joseph; and Frederick B., now a resident of Lamoni and an active missionary.
The other daughter, Fannie B., was the second child. She died when about seven years of age, near Amboy, Illinois.
The Quorum of the Twelve, at its first meeting after his demise, adopted the following:-
"Resolutions on the death of President W. W. Blair. Adopted by the Quorum of the Twelve, Lamoni, Iowa, March 22, 1897. Whereas, in the providence of God the removal by death of our esteemed brother and colaborer,
President William Wallace Blair, has been permitted, during the past year; and whereas, the life and labors of our departed brother have held a conspicuous place in the history and development of the Church of Christ since its reorganization; and whereas, his literary, moral, and social qualities, and the untiring zeal with which he employed his powers in helping to advance the church from its conditions of feebleness to those of prestige and power in the world, under the blessing of God, have won for him our respect and admiration; resolved, that in his death we recognize a loss to the church of a man of intellectual ability and moral worth, a brother loyal to the faith, and a minister whose delight was to serve well the great cause which had secured the consecration of his energy. Resolved further, that while we deeply regret the need for his removal from the church militant, we nevertheless bow with reverence to the will of our heavenly Father, and record our expression of profound sympathy for the widow and family, so terribly bereaved by his death, together with the assured hope that the church triumphant has gained to the full measure of our loss, and that our brother has found deserved and eternal rest."
This document was adopted by the General Conference, on April 6, 1897, by a unanimous vote.
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