Joel Hills Johnson (March 23, 1802 – September 24, 1883) was a Latter-day Saint (LDS) missionary and hymn writer, most famous as the author of "High on the Mountain Top" (hymn #5 in the 1985 LDS hymnbook, English edition). Johnson was also the founder of Enoch, Utah.
Johnson was born in Grafton, Massachusetts
on March 23
. His parents were Ezekiel Johnson and the former Julia Hills. When Johnson was still a child, his family moved to Vermont
. Johnson eventually moved to Cincinnati
and then back east to Pomfret, New York
Church of Christ (Latter Day Saints)
Around the year 1830, Johnson sold his farm in Pomfret and moved to Amherst, Ohio
. It was in Amherst where Johnson was baptized a member of the Church of Christ
on June 1
, 1831. Soon afterwards, he became president
of the church's Amherst branch. He went on a mission to New York
Kirtland and Ramus
In 1833, Johnson moved to Kirtland, Ohio
where he operated a saw mill
. He went on another mission to both Ohio and Kentucky
in 1835, and often preached and baptized
in the vicinity of Kirtland. Johnson was an organizer of the Kirtland Camp in 1838. He stopped at Springfield, Illinois
and did not continue to Missouri
, thus avoiding the Mormon War
of 1838. He organized a branch in Springfield and became the first Latter-day Saint to preach in Carthage, Illinois
. Johnson later had a large amount of success in baptizing families that lived along Crooked Creek
. After this, Johnson directed his new converts in the forming of the town of Ramus (now Webster, Illinois
The Ramus stake was organized on July 4, 1840 with Johnson as president.
Book of Mormon
A poem written in 1841 by Johnson is sometimes used by opponents of the authenticity
of the Book of Mormon
to demonstrate that Oliver Cowdery
at times wavered in his testimony
as one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon
. Proponents argue that Johnson supporting the Book of Mormon and following the leaders of the church were one and the same.
They also note that the use of "denied" in the poem may mean to set aside, and not to speak against, and that this poem involves many statements that are not strictly true, such as that Paul
had killed Christians
. Poetry should not be taken as analytical evidence when it has not been collaborated.
In 1846, mobs forced Johnson to flee Ramus and movet to Knox County, Illinois. He later joined the Saints at Winter Quarters.
Salt Lake City
Johnson arrived in Salt Lake City
on October 11
, 1848. He crossed the plains in Willard Richards
' company. He served as a justice of the peace
and as bishop
of the Mill Creek Ward. Johnson built a saw mill in Mill Creek Ward from 1849-1851 at the mouth of Mill Creek Canyon.
In 1849 and 1850, Johnson served in the Utah Territorial Legislature.
Johnson was the founder of Enoch, Utah
. He settled there in 1851. When other settlers arrived in 1854, they built a fort
which they named "Johnson's Fort".
Johnson later helped settle southern Utah. In 1853, he was appointed to serve as a missionary among the Piedes of Iron County, Utah.
Poetry and Hymns
Johnson was a prolific poet and hymn writer. His journal contains 736 hymns. Collections of his writings were published in the pamphlet "Voice from the Mountains" in 1881 and a 344 page book of poems in 1882. His most sung hymn "High on the Mountain Top" was written on February 19
. The only other hymn by Johnson in the current English edition of the LDS hymnbook is "The Glorious Gospel Light Has Shone" (hymn #283).
On November 22, 1826, Johnson married Anna P. Johnson. He maintained a journal in which the earliest source for the interpretation of "Hot Drinks" in The Word of Wisdom
was found as being coffee and tea.
Anna P. Johnson died September 11, 1840. He married Susan Bryant on October 20, 1840. He later married Janet Fife on October 25, 1845. Lastly, he married Margaret Therekold in 1861.
Johnson has been included in a list of "75 significant Mormon poets Other texts by Johnson have were set to music in the 1980s.
In fact in 1982 there was a Joel Hills Johnson Music Contest.
Johnson died in Johnson, Utah (now Kane County, Utah
) on September 24