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George Q. Cannon’s Journal Published Online

SALT LAKE CITY—The Church Historian’s Press today announced the online publication of the journal of influential Latter-day Saint leader George Q. Cannon. For the first time, a transcript of this key record is available for free to the public at churchhistorianspress.org/george-q-cannon.

The Journal of George Q. Cannon is the latest in a line of Church Historian’s Press publications aimed at increasing access to materials related to the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Previous publications include a dozen volumes of Joseph Smith’s papers and a collection of documents chronicling the history of the Relief Society in the nineteenth century. Covering 1849 to 1901, Cannon’s journal provides an unfiltered look not only into Cannon’s remarkable life but also into central Latter-day Saint leadership at a time when the church was undergoing great change. 

The journal is unusually extensive and detailed, consisting of fifty volumes. It provides rich description of and insight into many significant events in Latter-day Saint history. The first three volumes of Cannon’s journal, covering 1849 through 1854, were previously prepared for publication by the Church History Department and published by Deseret Book in two print volumes: The Journals of George Q. Cannon: To California in ’49 and The Journals of George Q. Cannon: Hawaiian Mission, 1850–1854. The initial online release of Cannon’s journal from the Church Historian’s Press starts where those books left off, beginning with the entry of May 10, 1855, and extending through 1875. Transcripts of additional portions of the journal will be released in later stages. Eventually, all volumes of the journal will be transcribed and published on the Church Historian’s Press website.

In contrast with the press’s previous projects, the Cannon journal is being made available only online, with only a few document images and without historical annotation aside from some introductory material. Such an approach allows the press to make this crucial historical record available quickly and more economically. Another difference in the publication of Cannon’s journal is that some passages of the original journal will be withheld in accordance with policies of the Church History Library (where the journal is housed) to redact sacred, private, and confidential information (such as information about temple ceremonies and names of individuals involved in church disciplinary councils). As with other Church Historian’s Press publications, meticulous attention has been paid to produce an accurate and reliable transcript.

“The George Q. Cannon journals are among the most important sources of Latter-day Saint history during the latter half of the nineteenth century,” said Richard E. Turley Jr., assistant church historian and recorder and coeditor of the previously published volumes of Cannon’s journals.

“We are delighted as a department to make these remarkable records available to church members and historians at this time,” said Reid L. Neilson, assistant church historian and recorder.

Cannon began his journal during his mission to Hawaii as a young man and continued writing until nearly the end of his life. His record covers half a century, a period in which he served as a church editor and publisher, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a territorial delegate in Congress, and a counselor to church presidents Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Lorenzo Snow.

A skilled writer and editor, Cannon 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. Many events were recorded right after they happened, such as an interview in June 1862 with United States president Abraham Lincoln. The fifty-year time span 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 congressmen and senators; his participation in founding 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 defense of the church to which he was determinedly devoted.

George Q. Cannon kept his journal during a period when the church 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 church leaders governed the church and led its growth.

A short-term exhibit, “George Q. Cannon: A Mighty Instrument,” will be on display at the Church History Library from April 12 to May 13. The exhibit will share information about Cannon’s life and his important contributions to the church and will feature original journals, photographs, and other historical documents. Visit the Church History Library website for information about the library’s hours and location.

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.