In 1882, President John Taylor blessed George Q. Cannon (1827–1901) that he would be “a mighty instrument to accomplish much good for Israel.”
George Q. Cannon was born in Liverpool, England, and first heard the gospel in 1840 from his uncle John Taylor, then an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Cannon was baptized and later immigrated to the United States with his family, arriving in Nauvoo in 1843. He experienced the hardship of crossing the plains and establishing a life in Utah. Cannon eventually served as counselor to four Church Presidents and was widely regarded, both in and out of the Church, as the greatest Latter-day Saint statesman of his time.
Throughout his life, Cannon put the Lord first and was instrumental in building the kingdom through his Church service, through his professions, and in his family, setting an enduring example of faith and commitment.
Cannon served several missions, including one to Hawaii, which was then called the Sandwich Islands. While on his mission, he gained a deeper appreciation for the Book of Mormon. He wrote:
“It was then that I found the value of the Book of Mormon. It was a book which I always loved. But I learned there to appreciate it as I had never done before. If I felt inclined to be lonely, to be low spirited or home-sick, I had only to turn to its sacred pages to receive consolation, new strength and a rich outpouring of the Spirit” (My First Mission , 58).
The native Hawaiians wanted to learn more about the Book of Mormon, so with the help of Jonathan Napela, Cannon translated it into their language.
On August 26, 1860, at age 33, George Q. Cannon was ordained an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Thirteen years later, he was called as an additional counselor in the First Presidency to Brigham Young. He continued his service in this calling and was a loyal and trusted counselor to Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Lorenzo Snow.
Cannon had a long career in publishing and used his skills to support the Church. His contributions included:
• Assisting in the publication of the Times and Seasons and the Nauvoo Neighbor in Nauvoo.
• Serving a mission to California to publish Ka Buke a Moramona and a newspaper called the Western Standard.
• Creating, editing, and publishing the Juvenile Instructor.
• Editing and managing the Deseret News.
He also wrote numerous books and articles about the Church, helping to teach the youth of the Church and to educate the general public about the “Mormons.”
In 1862, George Q. Cannon was chosen to represent Utah in Washington, D.C., during the bid for statehood. From 1873 to 1881, Cannon served as Utah’s sole delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives and continued to work for statehood until Utah’s admittance to the Union in 1896, earning him the title “father of Utah statehood.” His acquaintance with U.S. presidents and politicians made Cannon one of the most recognized members of the Church and gave him many opportunities to defend the Church and its beliefs on a national stage.
Among Cannon’s most important roles was that of husband and father. A committed polygamist during a time when plural marriage was practiced within the Church, he had 6 wives and 43 children. Although he often had to be away from his family, his family brought him great joy. He wrote:
“The Lord has thus far blessed me exceedingly in my family, to a much greater than I dared to expect, and it is my prayer that He will continue to do so, and that my appreciation of his kindness and mercy will continue to increase from this time forward” (journal entry, Mar. 3, 1859).
On September 17, 1888, after several years of living in hiding, Cannon was arrested for polygamy. He served five months in the Utah territorial prison as a “prisoner for conscience’s sake”—one who chose to be true to his or her beliefs even if it meant imprisonment. Cannon showed his continued commitment and obedience to the gospel by supporting the Manifesto, which started the Church on a path toward ending plural marriage when it was introduced in 1890.
On January 31, 1869, George Q. Cannon bore this testimony:
“I know for myself that God has spoken from the heavens and restored the everlasting gospel in its purity to the earth; that He has ordained His servants and given them the power and authority which were held and enjoyed in ancient days. I know that He has restored to the earth the ordinances of the gospel and the Holy Ghost with its gifts and blessings. These things I have received and have enjoyed them myself, hence I know they are true. I know God is the same yesterday, to-day and for ever and bestows His blessings upon all who will humble themselves before Him, and seek unto Him in the name of Jesus.
“May God help us all to live so as to secure and preserve this testimony is my prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen” (“Discourse,” Deseret News, Mar. 10, 1869, 56).