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LDS Church History Library
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, circa 1880: left to right, first counselor George Q. Cannon, President John Taylor, second counselor Joseph F. Smith.

SALT LAKE CITY — Early Latter-day Saint apostle George Q. Cannon recorded in his journal that he lived long enough to turn a few enemies into friends.

Stemming from his time in politics, Elder Cannon wrote that a "Gen. Maxwell … used every means that a man of his type could use to disgrace and scandalize me in the eyes of the public," but in later years "expressed his gratitude for the manner in which I had returned good for evil."

"He was on the train and drunk, and he went through the cars, relating to all who would listen how fairly and handsomely I had treated him, and praising me in language more forcible than elegant," the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote on Aug. 30, 1896. "I had the opportunity afterwards of showing him kindness, and up to his death he never failed to speak highly of me, especially when under the influence of intoxicants."

The colorful, richly detailed entry was one of several that Elder Richard D. Rust featured in an hourlong presentation about Elder Cannon's journals, a collection that spans five decades (1849-1901). The presentation was given to a small gathering of employees and missionaries at the Church History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Wednesday.

Rust and his wife have served multiple full-time missions at the Church History Library since July 2012. Before his mission, Rust was a professor of English and American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he specialized in the works of writers Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Mark Twain and Henry James.

Rust's presentation came a week after the Church Historian's Press announced the online publication of Cannon's personal writings from 1876-1880, released on Jan. 11, the church leader's 190th birthday.

"The George Q. Cannon journals are among the most important sources of Latter-day Saint history during the latter half of the 19th century," said Richard E. Turley Jr., a co-editor of previously published volumes of Elder Cannon’s journals.

The online journal, found at churchhistorianspress.org/george-q-cannon, now covers Elder Cannon's writings from October 1849 to December 1880, with about 21 years still to go. The website features an engine for searching journal entries, photos, a timeline and other information.

"While Cannon's life has been told well by Davis Bitton in 'George Q. Cannon: A Biography,' carefully prepared online transcriptions of Cannon's journal give readers a window into Cannon's immediate world," Rust said. "They allow us unfiltered access to Cannon's thoughts and actions recorded essentially when they occurred. They give us insight into the life of a remarkable man."

Having studied Elder Cannon's journal, a friend asked Rust to identify three characteristics that he admired most of the man. Rust selected faithful endurance to the end, trust in the Lord, and caring about family and children. Rust then shared excerpts from Elder Cannon's journal that demonstrated these characteristics.

Faithful endurance

Born in Liverpool, England, in 1827, Elder Cannon was baptized in 1840 and emigrated with his family to America and arrived in 1843. His mother, Ann Quayle Cannon, died during the voyage. His father died in 1845. These circumstances give some context for an entry written on Jan. 11, 1887:

"My life, I feel, has been a very remarkable one; and in looking back, I can visibly perceive the hand of God and his overruling providence in my preservation, in my guidance and in the shaping of my destiny. I feel to dedicate myself anew to him and to his service."

Elder Cannon wrote another entry that depicts his faithful endurance while serving time in prison on charges of polygamy. The entry is dated September 1888:

"During these days I have felt very well. My cell has seemed a heavenly place, and I feel that angels have been there."

Trust in the Lord

In several entries, Elder Cannon referenced his prayers to the Lord during trials. He also rejoiced when prayers were answered, as he did an entry dated June 16, 1880:

"It is a blessed thing to know that the Lord hears and answers prayers when offered aright. This has been my comfort and support here. I have never applied to him in vain. No matter how thick the clouds of darkness have been, or how much Satan and his servants have raged, the Lord has been my rock of refuge. He has given me peace, joy and happiness and my life has been a great pleasure to me."

Caring about family

Elder Cannon was a man who cared about his family from his ancestors to the children. He wanted to be fair to his family members. He wanted the children to have the best possible education and fostered love and union in the family. The apostle's devotion was amplified through his service as a leader and writer, Rust said.

On April 7, 1901, five days before his death, Elder Cannon's legacy was described by his son, John Q. Cannon, who wrote of his father:

"Father seemed quite bright and cheerful, and desired to take the carriage ride, but was deterred by the physician's advice. We administered to him several times. During the afternoon when we were surrounding his bed he took us each by the hand in the following order: John Q., Frank, Hugh and Charles H. Wilcken, and bestowed upon us a blessing. … He spoke of the comfort and pleasure afforded him by our presence. … For all this he uttered blessings upon us, adding that these same blessings he felt to bestow upon all his family."