George Quayle Cannon (January 11, 1827 – April 12, 1901) was an early member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), and served in the First Presidency under four successive presidents of the church: Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Lorenzo Snow. He was the church's chief political strategist, and was dubbed "the Mormon premier" and "the Mormon Richelieu" by the press.
Cannon was born in Liverpool
to George Cannon and Ann Quayle, the eldest of six children. His father's sister, Leonora Cannon, had married Latter Day Saint Apostle John Taylor
and was baptized in 1836. News reached the elder George Cannon and four years later, when Taylor came to Liverpool, the entire Cannon family was baptized
into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
; George Q. Cannon was 13 years old at the time. Cannon's siblings were Mary Alice Cannon (Lambert), Ann Cannon (Woodbury), Angus M. Cannon, David H. Cannon and Leonora Cannon (Gardner). In 1842, the Cannon family set sail for the United States
to join with the church in Nauvoo, Illinois
. On the voyage over the Atlantic Ocean
, Cannon's mother died. The motherless family arrived safely in Nauvoo in the spring of 1843. George Sr. married Mary Edwards in 1844 and had another daughter, Elizabeth Cannon (Piggott).
In Nauvoo, George Q. Cannon's father sent him to live with his uncle and aunt, John and Leonara Taylor. Cannon worked in the printing office of Times and Seasons and the Nauvoo Neighbor for this uncle, who was an editor of both periodicals. In June 1844, Taylor accompanied Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, and Willard Richards and others to Carthage Jail. There, Joseph and Hyrum were killed, and Taylor sustained serious bullet wounds. Cannon tended the printing affairs while Taylor recovered. This training would serve Cannon well in latter life. Cannon's father died in 1845.
In 1846, Taylor travelled to England to organize the affairs of the church after Joseph Smith's death. Meanwhile, Cannon accompanied John Taylor's wife and family as they moved to Winter Quarters, Nebraska. When Taylor returned, Cannon traveled with the entire Taylor family to the Salt Lake Valley, arriving in October 1847.
In 1849, Cannon was asked by President of the Church Brigham Young
to serve as a missionary
for the church in the Sandwich Islands
). Cannon served this mission for four years. While in Hawaii Elder Cannon converted many Native Hawaiians. One of the most notable was Jonatana Napela
, who was well acquainted with the ancient high language of Hawaii. Napela assisted Cannon in translating the Book of Mormon
into Hawaiian. Joseph F. Smith
, a future president of the church
, would follow Cannon and serve in Hawaii
one year later.
Marriage and Early Publishing
Returning to Utah
, Cannon married Elizabeth Hoagland (daughter of Abraham Hoagland
) and was almost immediately called to assist Apostle Parley P. Pratt
in publishing a newspaper in California
. Meeting Pratt in California, Cannon was told that he would remain behind and was ordained president
of the Oregon
and California mission
of the church at the young age of 28; Pratt returned to church headquarters. It was during this period of time that Cannon published the Hawaiian
translation of the Book of Mormon
. Cannon served in California until he heard of the Utah War
in 1857. In February 1856 he started the Western Standard
, a weekly publication based in San Francisco. From 1856-1858 Cannon presided over the California mission.
Utah War and Deseret News
Returning to Utah
to assist, Cannon was commissioned a Lieutenant General
in the Nauvoo Legion
. During this time Cannon served as printer of the Deseret News
while it was in exile in Fillmore, Utah
. After the Utah War
he was called to preside
over the Eastern States Mission
of the church.
Call to Twelve Apostles
The murder of Parley P. Pratt
in 1857 created a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. That vacancy wasn't filled until Brigham Young
called Cannon to the apostleship three years later. Cannon was ordained to the priesthood
office of apostle
on August 26
at the relatively young age of 33. Upon his joining the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
, Cannon was called to preside
over the European Mission
of the church.
Missions in Washington and Europe
Cannon's mission presidency was short-lived: he was recalled by Young in 1862 to work in Washington, D.C.
in assisting the church's promotion of Utah Territory's
bid for statehood. At the adjournment of the 1862 congressional
session, Cannon left once again for Europe to preside over the European Mission. In this capacity, Cannon was the editor of the Millennial Star
and, for a short time, the church's Welsh language
periodical, Udgorn Seion
In 1867 Cannon became the managing editor of the Deseret News
. It was under his direction that the News was first published on a daily basis. He held this position until 1874.
In 1866 in Utah
, Cannon began publication of a magazine for youth and young adult Latter-day Saints
called The Juvenile Instructor
. Cannon owned and published this magazine until his death; in 1901 the Cannon family sold the magazine to the LDS Church's Sunday School
organization. The periodical was the official organ of the Sunday School until 1930, when it was replaced with The Instructor
. Cannon also served as the first general superintendent of the church's Sunday School
from 1867 until his death.
On April 8
, Cannon became a member of the church's First Presidency
when he was called as a counselor to Church President Brigham Young
. Cannon went on to serve as counselor to three more presidents of the church: he was First Counselor in the First Presidency
to Presidents John Taylor
and Wilford Woodruff
throughout their presidencies and was the First Counselor to Lorenzo Snow
until his own death.
Although Cannon was the second-most senior apostle of the church after the death of Wilford Woodruff, Cannon did not become President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as would be the practice in the LDS Church today. Rather, because Cannon was a member of the First Presidency, the church simply appointed the next senior apostle of the church—Brigham Young, Jr.—to be the President of the Quorum. (Under today's practices, Cannon would have been appointed the President of the Quorum and Young would have been appointed the Acting President of the Quorum.)
Political life and plural marriage
Cannon was elected to be the non-voting delegate for Utah Territory
in the United States Congress
in 1872. He remained a congressional delegate until 1882, when his seat was declared vacant by the enactment of the Edmunds Act
, which terminated many political and civil rights for Utah's polygamists
. Like many early Latter-day Saints
, Cannon practiced plural marriage
: he was married to five women simultaneously.
- It is a fact worthy of note that the shortest lived nations of which we have record have been monogamic. Rome...was a monogamic nation and the numerous evils attending that system early laid the foundation for that ruin which eventually overtook her.
- George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 202
When the Supreme Court upheld the ban on plural marriage in the 1879 Reynolds v. United States decision, George Q. Cannon stated:
Eventually, Cannon was driven "underground" to the life of a fugitive along with others in the church leadership who practiced plural marriage. In September 1888, Cannon surrendered himself to authorities and pleaded guilty at trial to a charges of unlawful cohabitation under the Edmunds Act. As a result, Cannon served nearly six months in Utah's federal penitentiary.
Death and descendants
Cannon died on April 12
in Monterey, California
at 74 years of age. Had he lived only a few months longer, he would have been the next president of the church: Lorenzo Snow
died on October 10
of that year.
Cannon fathered 32 children, some of whom are Abraham H. Cannon, John Q. Cannon, and Sylvester Q. Cannon, all of whom became general authorities in LDS Church, and Frank J. Cannon, Utah's first U.S. Senator. Some of Cannon's prominent descendants include Howard Cannon, U.S. Senator from Nevada between 1959 and 1983 and Chris Cannon, member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1997. His descendant George I. Cannon was a general authority of the LDS Church from 1986 to 1991.
- Cannon, George Q. (1878). Discourse: Delivered in the New Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Sunday morning, October 8, 1877. W. Budge. ISBN B00088KE9Q.
- --- (1957). A history of the prophet Joseph Smith for young people. Deseret Book Company. ISBN B0007H18H0.
- --- (1986). Life of Joseph Smith: The Prophet. Deseret Book Company. ISBN 0-87747-148-7.
- --- (1882). My first mission. Juvenile instructor office. ISBN B00087OZEC.
- --- (1876). Robt. N. Baskin, contestant, v. George Q. Cannon, contestee: Brief and argument of Charles A. Eldredge, counsel of contestee. Gibson Brothers, printers. ISBN B0008A1QZ0.
- --- (1969). Writings from the Western standard. Paladin Press. ISBN B0006BZBL6.
- Newquist, Jerreld L. (Ed.) (1974). Gospel truth: discourses and writings of president George Q. Cannon (Vol. 1). Deseret Book Company. ISBN 0-87747-520-2.
- --- (1974). Gospel truth: discourses and writings of president George Q. Cannon (Vol. 2). Deseret Book Company. ISBN 0-87747-519-9.
- Turley, Richard E. Jr.; Cannon, Adrian; Landon, Michael (Eds.) (1999). The Journals of George Q. Cannon (Vol. 1). Deseret Book Company. ISBN 1-57345-465-6.