ABOUT GEORGE Q. CANNON AND HIS JOURNAL
Next to Brigham Young, George Q. Cannon was arguably the best-known Latter-day Saint in the last half of the nineteenth century. His remarkable journal, contained in fifty one physical volumes, is one of the most insightful and detailed records in Mormon history. His record spans five decades, a period in which he served as an editor and publisher, a businessman, an educator, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a territorial delegate in Congress, and a counselor in the First Presidency, the highest council in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The vast majority of Cannon’s journal has never been publicly available before. The online publication of Cannon’s journal will eventually include roughly 2.5 million words and will open up new insight and understanding into the Mormon past. The journal, however, should not be seen just from the vantage point of Mormon history—it ranks as one of the most voluminous and valuable journals in American religious history. Cannon’s broad interests, extensive connections with people both within and outside of the Latter-day Saint faith, and cogent observations will also make his journal of particular interest to scholars and students of western U.S. history and U.S. political history. With journal entries covering the mundane to the miraculous, the interactions of his large family to the dynamics of Congress, and his private religious practices to his leadership in a variety of ecclesiastical settings, Cannon’s record deserves deep study.
Born in Liverpool, England, in 1827, Cannon was baptized a Latter-day Saint in 1840 and then emigrated with his family to the United States, arriving in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1843. Until his death in 1901, Cannon remained a dedicated Latter-day Saint, traveling widely as a missionary, including as a “gold missionary” in Gold Rush California where his earnings went to the church, as a proselytizing missionary in the Sandwich Islands for four years, and as president of the European Mission for an additional four. Following his calling as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1860, Cannon was a member of the church’s highest councils for the next four decades, most of that time as a counselor to church presidents Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Lorenzo Snow. He was deeply involved in writing and publishing throughout his adult life, writing books, editing newspapers and magazines, and running a publishing company and bookstore.
Orphaned as a teenager, Cannon apprenticed in a print shop and was largely self taught. He had a gift of working with words and considered writing and record keeping to be part of his divine calling. Cannon employed secretaries to help him keep the journal, and extensive portions of it were typed rather than written by hand. The journal entries became much more detailed over time as Cannon increasingly dictated entries to secretaries.
The half century covered in the journal allows readers to see wide-sweeping change not only in the church but also in politics, technology, travel, and other areas. For instance, the journal mentions arduous travel by team or horseback in the early period and ends at the turn of the century with rapid travel by rail. Topics found in the journal include Cannon’s many travels in the United States and Europe; his counsel to and relationships with his family, which consisted of six wives and forty-three children; his meetings with political leaders, including U.S. president Abraham Lincoln, congressmen, and senators promoting Utah statehood and battling anti-Mormon legislation; his participation in founding and leading schools and universities; his involvement with temple construction; his close relationships with church leaders and his counsel to church members; his financial dealings; his life in prison after being arrested for practicing plural marriage; and his deep faith and defense of the church to which he was determinedly devoted.
George Q. Cannon kept his journal during a period when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was establishing itself in the western United States and beginning to expand in other areas of the world. Now that the journal is widely available, readers have unprecedented access to the thoughts and insights of this key figure as well as a window into how central church leaders governed the church and led its growth.
ABOUT THE CHURCH HISTORIAN’S PRESS
The Church Historian’s Press was announced in 2008 by the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Joseph Smith Papers was the first publication to bear the imprint. The press publishes works of Latter-day Saint history that meet high standards of scholarship. For more information, visit the Church Historian’s Press website.