President John Taylor

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Seminary Teacher Resource Manual, (2001), 247–49


“John Taylor guided the Church through one of its greatest trials. As never before, journalists, pastors, congressmen, and presidents combined to eradicate … polygamy, and, in the case of the Church’s enemies, to actually destroy the Church itself. John Taylor’s experiences as a missionary both in the United States and in the British Isles and Europe, as an editor of Church newspapers in Nauvoo and in New York City, as a member of the Utah legislature for over twenty years, and as a witness of the Martyrdom—all contributed to the skill and the conviction with which he guided the Church [from the death of Brigham Young on August 29, 1877, until his own death on July 25, 1887]. … Through this period of growth and trial he remained committed deeply to the vision of the kingdom of God he had shared with both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young” (My Kingdom Shall Roll Forth: Readings in Church History [1980], 46).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

  • Church members have a responsibility to magnify their callings and share the gospel with others (see “President John Taylor,” Student Study Guide, pp. 174–77, par. 2–9, 20, 26; see also D&C 4).

  • We must fear God and obey His laws, even when His commandments are unpopular (see “President John Taylor,” Student Study Guide, pp. 175–76, par. 13–18; see also Isaiah 51:7–8; Acts 4:16–21; D&C 3:7–8).

  • As we trust God and dedicate ourselves to Him, He will lead us on a path to eternal life (see “President John Taylor,” Student Study Guide, pp. 176–77, par. 19, 21–22, 25; see also Proverbs 3:5–6).

Additional Resources

  • Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, pp. 422–34.

Suggestions for Teaching

“President John Taylor,” Student Study Guide, pp. 174–77, par. 2–9, 20, 26. Church members have a responsibility to magnify their callings and share the gospel with others.

(15–20 minutes)

Share with students the following statement by Bishop Robert D. Hales, who was then the Presiding Bishop of the Church:

“As a young man, I had an opportunity to serve in the U.S. Air Force as a jet-fighter pilot. Each unit in our squadron had a motto that would inspire its efforts. Our unit motto—displayed on the side of our aircraft—was ‘Return with Honor.’ This motto was a constant reminder to us of our determination to return to our home base with honor only after having expended all of our efforts to successfully complete every aspect of our mission.

“This same motto, ‘Return with Honor,’ can be applied to each of us in our eternal plan of progression. Having lived with our Heavenly Father and having come to earth life, we must have determination to return with honor to our heavenly home” (in Conference Report, Mar.–Apr. 1990, 51–52; or Ensign, May 1990, 39).

Ask students what they believe they must do to return to their Father in Heaven with honor. If students do not mention it, point out that we must magnify our callings. Invite students to read paragraph 20 of “President John Taylor” in the student study guide (p. 176). Ask:

  • What duty does President Taylor speak of in this statement?

  • Why would missionary work be important in our effort to “return with honor”?

  • What can you do to participate in missionary work today?

Have a student read Jacob 1:18–19; Doctrine and Covenants 18:10–16 to the class. Discuss what those verses have to do with our responsibility to magnify our callings and share the gospel with others. Invite each student to choose someone and think of a way to help that person during the upcoming week.

Have students look through paragraphs 2–9 of “President John Taylor” and find an example of missionary work that impresses them. Invite several students to share the example they chose and why. Share the following statements. Elder Joe J. Christensen, who was then a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, said:

“Modern prophets have taught that every young man who is physically and mentally able should prepare himself to serve an honorable mission. The Lord did not say, ‘Go on a mission if it fits your schedule, or if you happen to feel like it, or if it doesn’t interfere with your scholarship, your romance, or your educational plans.’ Preaching the gospel is a commandment and not merely a suggestion. It is a blessing and a privilege and not a sacrifice. Remember, even though for some of you there may be very tempting reasons for you not to serve a full-time mission, the Lord and His prophets are counting on you” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 56; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 41).

President Gordon B. Hinckley taught:

“We need some young women [to go on missions]. They perform a remarkable work. …

“… Missionary work is essentially a priesthood responsibility. As such, our young men must carry the major burden. This is their responsibility and their obligation.

“We do not ask the young women to consider a mission as an essential part of their life’s program. … To the sisters I say that you will be as highly respected, you will be considered as being as much in the line of duty, your efforts will be as acceptable to the Lord and to the Church whether you go on a mission or do not go on a mission” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1997, 73; or Ensign, Nov. 1997, 52).

Encourage the young men to prepare to serve a full-time mission, and encourage all your students to look for missionary opportunities in their daily lives. Testify that we must follow the prophet’s counsel in order to “return with honor” to our Heavenly Father’s kingdom.

“President John Taylor,” Student Study Guide, pp. 175–76, par. 13–18. We must fear God and obey His laws, even when His commandments are unpopular.

(25–30 minutes)

Read the following statement by Elder Gary J. Coleman of the Seventy:

“Each of us faces many difficult times here in mortality. All sorts of voices are screaming at us from the stadiums of public opinion. Our course will never be the popular way of the world. There are obstacles strewn in our path upon which we may sprain an ankle or stub a toe. But we must keep going. We move on in the strength of the Lord, each accountable for our own performance at the end of our mortal race” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 62; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 44).

Discuss the following questions:

  • What evidence can you give in support of Elder Coleman’s statement?

  • Why do you think some of our beliefs or standards are unpopular with the world?

Show students a picture of President John Taylor (see Gospel Art Picture Kit, no. 508). Quickly go through “His Life” and “His Presidency” under “President John Taylor” in the student study guide (pp. 173–74). Ask: What were the Saints doing during President Taylor’s administration that was unpopular in the eyes of the world? Read paragraph 13 from “President John Taylor” to find an answer. Read paragraphs 14–18 and discuss the persecutions the Saints endured at this time. Ask: How might you feel if you received that treatment for practicing your beliefs? Refer to Isaiah 51:7–8; Acts 4:19; Doctrine and Covenants 3:7–8 to help your discussion.

Ask: Do you think being a member of the Church is more accepted now than in the days of President John Taylor? Why? Ask students to consider whether they have ever been criticized, shunned, or persecuted for practicing their religion. Invite a few students to share their experiences and how they successfully dealt with them. Discuss the following statements. Elder Robert D. Hales said:

“Prophets must often warn of the consequences of violating God’s laws. They do not preach that which is popular with the world. President Ezra Taft Benson taught that ‘popularity is never a test of truth’ (“Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” in 1980 Devotional Speeches of the Year [1981], 29)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 52; or Ensign, May 1996, 37).

Elder Joe J. Christensen said:

“For children and parents, standing up for what is right may be lonely at times. There may be evenings alone, parties missed, and movies which go unseen. It may not always be fun” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 13; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 11).

Share examples of President Taylor’s determination to stand for righteousness, even amid persecution (see Church History in the Fulness of Times, pp. 422–34). Encourage students to follow his example.

“President John Taylor,” Student Study Guide, pp. 176–77, par. 19, 21–22, 25. As we trust God and dedicate ourselves to Him, He will lead us on a path to eternal life.

(10–15 minutes)

Have students write five blessings they have received from the Lord recently, and invite some of the students to share what they wrote. Discuss the following questions:

Read paragraph 22 of “President John Taylor” in the student study guide (p. 177). Ask:

  • What did President Taylor say about our blessings in this statement?

  • What evidence can you give from your life that this is true?

Invite students to think about what an ideal day would be like for them. Read 3 Nephi 5:22 and discuss what students can do to help make their ideal day come true. Explain that the Lord’s blessings do not always come in material form nor are they always immediate. But keeping the Lord’s commandments always brings blessings in our lives that we could not otherwise enjoy. Read paragraphs 19, 21, 25 of “President John Taylor” in the student study guide, and discuss what these teachings have to do with the Lord’s blessings in our lives.