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23

Prayer

Mutual Improvement Association June Conference

Fourteenth Ward Assembly Hall, Salt Lake City, Utah

June 4, 1901


Ann Mousley Cannon (1869–1948) was a woman of cultural and literary discernment, as well as business acumen. She was born in Salt Lake City, the daughter of Angus Munn and Sarah Maria Mousley Cannon. She and a brother joined the Salt Lake Choral Society and often attended musical productions.1 When she was thirteen, she started working at another brother’s office, learning business skills.2 Beginning in 1883, at the age of fourteen, Cannon studied literature at the University of Deseret; she graduated in 1886 in a class that included two other young women.3 After graduation, she worked at the Salt Lake County Recorder’s office. Cannon never married; she devoted her life to her extended family, her church, and her community. She cared for her parents in their later years, and she helped raise the children of her sister. She always bought two tickets to cultural events and attended with a young person.4

Cannon served for decades in the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association (YLMIA). She began her work in the Salt Lake City Fourteenth Ward YLMIA, being appointed assistant secretary in 1887, treasurer in 1888, second counselor in 1891, and first counselor later that same year.5 Beginning in 1891, she served forty-six years on the YLMIA general board. During that time, she chaired the committee that explored joining the national program of Camp Fire Girls and eventually formed the Bee Hive program, a precursor to Personal Progress.6 Twice she represented the board as a delegate to the National Council of Women, working directly with national women’s rights leader Susan B. Anthony.7 For nineteen years she was the general secretary of the YLMIA, and for ten of those years, including the time she gave this talk, she acted also as treasurer.8 In her role as secretary, Cannon initiated the use of roll books with duplicate annual report blanks, a procedure that increased the efficiency of record-keeping.9 Cannon chaired the literary committee of the Young Woman’s Journal and edited the Journal for five years, from 1902 to 1907.10 Years later, Cannon wrote, “The mutual [YLMIA] has been a great power for good in my life. … The richest experiences in my life have come through it, and what I am is largely the result of those experiences.”11

group of women

Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association general board. Circa 1905. The first YLMIA general board was organized in 1880 under Elmina S. Taylor. The board members traveled, coordinated the efforts of local associations, corresponded with local units, conducted training, developed curriculum and programs, and spoke at MIA June Conferences starting in 1896. Included in this photo are the following women who are mentioned in this volume: Maria Y. Dougall (seated row, first on right), Emma N. Goddard (seated row, second from right), Ann M. Cannon (seated row, third from right), Mattie Horne Tingey (seated row, fifth from right), Ruth May Fox (seated row, sixth from right); May Booth Talmage (first standing row, fifth from right); and Minnie J. Snow (second standing row, first on right). Tingey was YLMIA general president at the time this photo was taken. (Church History Library, Salt Lake City.)

Beyond administrative church assignments, religion was an important part of Cannon’s everyday life.12 She discussed prayer in a talk to officers at the annual conjoint conference of the YLMIA and the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association in 1901.13 Other speakers included members of the YLMIA general board: Maria Y. Dougall, Mattie Horne Tingey, Mary Ann Freeze, May Booth Talmage, and Emma N. Goddard. At the time, the two organizations oversaw fifty thousand young men and women. Cannon’s speech was printed in the Young Woman’s Journal two months later.14

The subject of prayer is one dear to me. I know that prayer can lift the greatest burdens and rest the weary.15 Nothing else can give such perfect relief. Even the falling of a tear is prayer. There are times in the lives of all when we need extra strength and comfort.16 Be not discouraged in praying again and again for the same thing.17 God understands our needs, and he will bless us in his own way. The power in prayer seems to me much like that of electricity. As the wire is the conductor of the electric current, so, it seems to me, is prayer the channel through which inspiration comes to man.

Footnotes

  1. [1]Leonard J. Arrington, Madelyn Cannon Stewart Silver: Poet, Teacher, Homemaker (Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1998), 3–6. Cannon’s half brother Charles Mousley Cannon was the son of Angus Munn Cannon and plural wife Ann Amanda Mousley Cannon. (Ruth Stewart Barth, “Needs: The Biography of Ann Mousley Cannon,” n.d., 44, UU.)

  2. [2]Cannon worked in the office of her brother George Mousley Cannon. (Susa Young Gates, History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1911], 174–175.)

  3. [3]T. D. Lewis, “Remarks,” in Funeral Services for Ann Mousley Cannon, Salt Lake City, UT, Nov. 9, 1948, 10, in family possession; Barth, “Needs,” 7.

  4. [4]Barth, “Needs,” 14, 44. Cannon’s attentions had a powerful influence on her niece, the poet Madelyn Cannon Stewart Silver. (Arrington, Madelyn Cannon Stewart Silver, 17–18; Madelyn Stewart Silver, “A Story of Vision and Accomplishment … Ann Mousley Cannon,” Improvement Era 53, no. 2 [Feb. 1950]: 135.)

  5. [5]Fourteenth Ward, Salt Lake Stake, Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association Minute Book, vol. 3, 1887–1896, Oct. 25, 1887, 3; Sept. 30, 1888, 32; Jan. 13, 1891, 118; Oct. 13, 1891, 136–137, CHL; Gates, History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, 175.

  6. [6]Marba C. Josephson, History of the YWMIA (Salt Lake City: Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association, 1955), 12, 44–45, 53; Barth, “Needs,” ii, 21–27; Silver, “A Story of Vision and Accomplishment,” 107, 134–135.

  7. [7]Cannon served as secretary of the resolutions committee of the National Council of Women in 1902. She presented speeches before the triennial sessions in 1899 and 1902. (Barth, “Needs,” 32–40; Silver, “A Story of Vision and Accomplishment,” 135.)

  8. [8]Barth, “Needs,” ii; Gates, History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, 175.

  9. [9]Barth, “Needs,” 20.

  10. [10]Ann M. Cannon, “Recollections,” Young Woman’s Journal 25, no. 10 (Oct. 1914): 621–623, 637; Josephson, History of the YWMIA, 115–118; Barth, “Needs,” 49–50. Susa Young Gates said of Cannon, “Her editorial work gives proof of a logical mind endowed with superior power of analysis. The literary style developed in this connection is one of sweetness and simplicity.” (Gates, History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, 175.)

  11. [11]Ann M. Cannon to Madelyn Stewart Silver, 1945, in Barth, “Needs,” 16.

  12. [12]Cannon was known for her “deeply religious character,” as one speaker at her funeral noted. (Lewis, “Remarks,” in Funeral Services for Ann Mousley Cannon, 13.)

  13. [13]Young Women General Board Minutes, vol. 4, 1899–1901, June 2, 1901, 214; June 3, 1901, 253–254, CHL; Sixth General Conference of the Young Men’s and Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Associations, Salt Lake City, UT, Meeting Program, June 1901, CHL. In 1896, the general leaders of the YLMIA began holding annual meetings on Temple Square, known as conjoint conferences, with their counterparts in the Young Men’s MIA to train local officers. These annual general conferences were held around the first of June each year in honor of Brigham Young’s birthday. (Gates, History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, 140–142, 221–222.)

  14. [14]“Annual June Conference,” Young Woman’s Journal 12, no. 7 (July 1901): 292; “General M.I.A. Conference,” Young Woman’s Journal 12, no. 8 (Aug. 1901): 362–368.

  15. [15]See “Did You Think to Pray?” Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985), no. 140. This hymn entered Latter-day Saint hymnody in 1884 in the second edition of the Deseret Sunday School Union Music Book. Cannon shared a room with her niece, Judith Silver Poulsen, as leukemia brought Cannon’s life to a close. Recalling overhearing Cannon’s nightly prayers, Poulsen said, “I never felt she was just ‘saying her prayers.’ Instead, I knew she was talking to a trusted friend.” (Karen Lynn Davidson, Our Latter-day Hymns: The Stories and the Messages [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988], 166; Judy Silver Poulsen, email to Kate Holbrook, Oct. 15, 2015.)

  16. [16]See Alma 31:31.

  17. [17]In a draft of a letter to a suitor, Cannon wrote, “For near seven years I have been striving to make my will subservient to the Father’s and have prayed every day for guidance. I cannot think my prayer unavailing; I know I will have the light when the right time comes.” (Draft Letter, Oct. 26, 1903, Ann Mousley Cannon Papers, UU; Barth, “Needs,” 11.)