John Taylor: Prophet Seeking Truth

John Taylor: Prophet Seeking Truth November 15, 2023

Wagon Like Those Used by John Taylor
(Hahn/Wikimedia Commons)

For as long as I can remember, I have looked up to my paternal grandmother’s grandfather, John Taylor, whose influence is strong two generations later in the lives of his descendants and of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide. Influenced by his deeply spiritual and devoutly religious parents, John Taylor developed an intense determination to find and share truth, which would take him far beyond the small English village where he was born. When I say he is my “GREAT-great-grandfather,” I mean he is doubly great.

Blessed with Truth

Yearning for spiritual truth, John Taylor left the Church of England at age 16 and became a Methodist. Most of his free time was spent studying the Bible, reading theological works, and praying. At 17 he became a Methodist “exhorter” (lay preacher), still constantly seeking truth.

He emigrated at about age 24, to Canada, where he served in Toronto as a Methodist preacher. His continual search for truth led him to learn of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; he was soon baptized. His joy in the truth of the church led him to serve as the church presiding officer in Canada.

After about three years, John moved again, to Kirtland, Ohio in the United States. His search for truth led him to seek the one with ultimate truth, the prophet and church president Joseph Smith. In 1838, at age 30, John Taylor was ordained an Apostle of the church, under the direction of Joseph Smith, who was at the time in Liberty Jail.

Called to Serve

John Taylor was anxious to spread the truth in which he had found such joy, wherever this quest would take him.

Service and Sacrifice 

It took him abroad to serve a mission including England, Ireland, and the Isle of Man. In addition to proselyting, he oversaw the printing of the first edition of the Book of Mormon published outside the US.

Returning to US, he edited church publications, including the Times and Seasons. Diversifying, He served on the Nauvoo City Council, acted as a regent of the University of Nauvoo, and did legal advocacy work for the Nauvoo Legion.

 Being true to truth requires sacrifice. In 1844, John Taylor chose to accompany Joseph Smith to Carthage Jail in Illinois, where Joseph was facing charges of treason with no conviction. On June 27, 1844, an angry mob with black-painted faces attacked the jail, brutally murdering Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. John Taylor loyally stood by his friends and spiritual leaders. He was seriously wounded and nearly killed. God miraculously preserved his life, leaving him with a lifelong limp (as a badge of honor).

John continued seeking and sacrificing. As the pioneers undertook their trek west, he went to Council Bluffs and organized the Mormon Battalion for their legendary march of over 2,000 miles to earn money to pay pioneering expenses.

More Missions and Service of John Taylor

John Taylor enjoyed serving  a second mission to Great Britain. Later he served a mission that combined France and Germany, where he continued sharing the truth through publications and translations. He created and edited the first church periodical in France, Etoile du Deseret (Star of Deseret), and helped translate the Book of Mormon into French. With the same enthusiasm and talent, he published the first church periodical in Germany, and directed publication of the first Book of Mormon in German.

His final mission called him to travel and preside over church branches in the eastern states. Returning to Utah, John Taylor served for several years as speaker of the house of the Utah Territorial Legislature and as probate judge of Utah County.

Forced to Endure

At the death of Brigham Young, John led the Church for three years before being officially sustained as President of the Church at age 71.

During Joseph’s Smith’s lifetime, John Taylor had accepted plural marriage. In 1882, when the US Congress declared plural marriage a felony, he refused to abandon loved ones. Again, he was to sacrifice for his life’s dedication. He returned to Salt Lake City on January 27, 1885. On February 1, he preached his last public sermon, then went into hiding, hoping to limit persecution of other church members.

He died at age 78 in Kaysville, Utah.

 Heritage of John Taylor

During John Taylor’s administration, the Church increased to 150,000 members. Despite bitter persecution, it maintained an active and powerful foundation that  thrives today with several million members. He is largely responsible for helping the church to survive one of its greatest challenges.

 He is now affectionately known as the Champion of Liberty, with his motto “The kingdom of God or nothing.”1 He was ever an unflinching and powerful advocate of the spiritual truths that were the passion and goal of his life.

John Taylor continues to teach me truth, along with all of his descendants and many church members worldwide. He was unfailingly loyal to his church, his family, and his God. I hope I can leave a legacy like my GREAT-great-grandfather, inspiring love and devotion to God as John Taylor did. I hope I can be a champion of liberty with the truth as my quest—as he did.

He proclaimed,

 If there is any truth in heaven, earth, or hell, I want to embrace it; I care not what shape it comes in to me, who brings it, or who believes in it; whether it is popular or unpopular, truth, eternal truth, I wish to float in and enjoy. 2


About Lisa Laycock
Lisa Laycock and her husband and frequent co-author, Larry, have four children, four in-law children, and 11 grandchildren. Their kids and grandkids are the light of their life, and they consider their family to be a missionary family. Lisa, a writer, poet, lyricist, and teacher, retired early from teaching high school English and dance, to raise their children full time and now enjoys writing books and spending time with the children and grandchildren. You can read more about the author here.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!