George Q. Cannon

George Quayle Cannon (January 11, 1827April 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.

Early life

Cannon was born in Liverpool, England 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.

Church service

Early Missions

In 1849, Cannon was asked by President of the Church Brigham Young to serve as a missionary for the church in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). 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, 1860 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.

Deseret News

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.

Sunday School

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.

First Presidency

On April 8, 1873, 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, 1901 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.

Published works

  • 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.

See also



External resources

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