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Bennett, John Cook (03 August 1804–05 August 1867), physician, religious leader, and entrepreneur, was born in Fair Haven, Bristol County, Massachusetts, the son of John Bennett, a shipowner, and Abigail Cook. At his father’s death in 1817, he moved with his mother to Ohio to stay with relatives. In 1825, after a three-year apprenticeship with a physician and an oral examination by an Ohio medical society, Bennett received his M.D. and a license to practice. That year he married Mary Barker; they had three children. There is no evidence supporting his claim to have attended Ohio University or McGill College in Montreal; he did, however, become a Freemason in 1826....

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Benson, Ezra Taft (04 August 1899–30 May 1994), president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) and U.S. secretary of agriculture, president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) and U.S. secretary of agriculture, was born in Whitney, Idaho, the son of George Taft Benson, Jr., and Sarah Sophia Dunkley, farmers. Benson was the great-grandson and namesake of Ezra T. Benson, one of the early leaders of the Mormons who entered the Great Salt Lake valley in 1847 with ...

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J. Reuben Clark. Being sworn in as undersecretary of state by William McNeir. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98312).

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Clark, Joshua Reuben, Jr. (01 September 1871–06 October 1961), diplomat and church leader, was born near Grantsville, Utah, the eldest of the ten children of Joshua Reuben Clark, Sr., and Mary Louisa Woolley, Mormon farmers. Although the family was poor, Clark showed great promise early on and was encouraged to pursue an education. He graduated from the University of Utah in 1898 and went on to Columbia University Law School in 1903. While there he came to the attention of both ...

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Cowdery, Oliver (03 October 1806–03 March 1850), Mormon leader, was born at Wells, Vermont, the son of William Cowdery, Jr., and Rebecca Fuller, farmers. When Oliver was three, his mother died, and the family moved to Poultney, Vermont, where his father remarried. Oliver lived and worked on the farm until joining his brothers in western New York in 1825. In New York he worked successively as a general store clerk, a blacksmith, and a farmer before embarking on the course that would lead him into the midst of the formation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and thereby the beginnings of Mormonism....

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Goldsmith, Joel Sol (10 March 1892–17 June 1964), writer and lecturer on spirituality, was born in New York City, the son of Sol Joel Goldsmith, a prosperous lace importer, and his wife (name not available). Both parents were nonpracticing Jews. As a young man, Goldsmith became interested in Christian Science through his acquaintance with a woman whose father was a Christian Science practitioner. After himself being healed, he believed, of a serious illness through Christian Science, Goldsmith became a practitioner in 1928. About 1930 he married Rose Robb. Increasingly successful in Christian Science, in 1933 he set up an office in Boston across the street from the Mother Church. In 1943 he moved briefly to Florida. His wife died the same year....

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Heber Jeddy Grant, 1920s. Left, shaking hands with Reed Smoot outside U. S. Senate office building. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-95919 ).

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Grant, Heber Jeddy (22 November 1856–14 May 1945), seventh president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), seventh president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, the son of Jedediah Morgan Grant and Rachel Ridgeway Ivins. Grant’s father, mayor of Salt Lake City and one of ...

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Ivins, Anthony Woodward (16 September 1852–23 September 1934), businessman, rancher, and church leader, was born in Toms River, New Jersey, the son of Israel Ivins, a pioneer physician and farmer, and Anna Lowrie. Shortly after Ivins’s birth, his family converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). They moved west to the Salt Lake Valley, and in 1861 Israel Ivins was assigned by ...

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Kane, Thomas Leiper (27 January 1822–26 December 1883), lawyer, soldier, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and defender of the Mormons, was born in Philadelphia, the son of John Kintzing Kane, a jurist, and Jane Duval Leiper. He attended school in Philadelphia and from 1839 to 1844 traveled in England and France, studying and visiting relatives. While in Paris he served for a time as an attaché of the American legation. Small in stature and never robust, he would spend most of his life struggling with ill health. In Paris he met Auguste Comte and others who surely encouraged his social conscience, which would be manifested later in his concern for philanthropic causes. In 1844 Kane returned to Philadelphia, where he studied law with his father. Although he was admitted to the bar in 1846 and clerked briefly for his father, who was a federal judge, his interests and activities generally moved in other directions....

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Kimball, Heber Chase (14 June 1801–22 June 1868), religious leader and businessman, was born near Sheldon Village, Franklin County, Vermont, the son of Solomon F. Kimball, a blacksmith and farmer, and Anna Spaulding. Poorly educated, he farmed, herded sheep, blacksmithed, and manufactured potash during his youth. Crushed by the Jeffersonian embargo and the War of 1812, Kimball’s father resettled the family in West Bloomfield, New York. In 1820 Kimball moved to nearby Mendon to work in his older brother’s pottery business. In November 1822 he married Vilate Murray; they had ten children. Revivalism in Western New York led Kimball and his wife to join the Baptists in 1831....

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Kimball, Spencer Woolley (28 March 1895–05 November 1985), Mormon apostle and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church), Mormon apostle and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church), was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, the son of Andrew Kimball, a carpenter, farmer, and salesman, and Olive Woolley. His father presided over an LDS “stake” (similar to diocese) in Arizona. Until he was forty-eight, Kimball lived in Thatcher, Arizona, the periphery of what geographers call the Mormon Cultural Region centering on Salt Lake City. He completed one semester at the University of Arizona in 1917 and during that same year married Camilla Eyring; they had four children....

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Lee, John Doyle (12 September 1812–23 March 1877), Mormon pioneer executed for his role in the Mountain Meadows massacre, was born in Kaskaskia, Randolph County, Illinois, the son of Ralph Lee, a carpenter, and Elizabeth Doyle Reed. At age three, Lee’s mother died, and, abandoned by his father, he spent four years under the care of an African-American nurse who spoke only French. In 1819 his mother’s sister and her husband, James and Charlotte Conner, became his guardians. At age nineteen he fought in the ...

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McKay, David Oman (08 September 1873–18 January 1970), ninth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was born in Huntsville, Utah, the son of David McKay and Jennette Evans, farmers. Both parents were the children of Mormon converts who immigrated to Utah from Great Britain; the paternal grandparents of David McKay were among the first Mormon converts in Britain. When his son was eight years old, David McKay, Sr., received a call from the church to minister as a missionary in Scotland, leaving his son, as the eldest male in the household, in nominal charge of the family farm. Educated at the Weber Stake Academy in Ogden, Utah, McKay read widely in English literature in his free time. He became principal of the community school in Huntsville at age twenty but, feeling the need for better preparation for a career in education, enrolled soon after at the University of Utah, from which he graduated in 1897 as class valedictorian....

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Orson Pratt. Engraving by Charles Bryan Hall, late nineteenth century, from an 1852 daguerreotype. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90031).

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Pratt, Orson (19 September 1811–03 October 1881), Mormon religious leader, was born in Hartford, Washington County, New York, the son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson, farmers. At age nineteen Pratt joined the recently organized (1830) Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), being baptized by his brother ...

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Pratt, Parley Parker (12 April 1807–13 May 1857), author and church leader, was born in Burlington, Otsego County, New York, the son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson, farmers. Pratt spent most of his youth working on his father’s farm and had very little schooling. At the age of nineteen he went to Ohio, where he started his own farm. In September 1827 he married Thankful Halsey; they had one son. Shortly thereafter he met ...

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Rich, Charles Coulson (21 August 1809–17 November 1883), Mormon apostle and colonizer, was born in Campbell County, Kentucky, the son of Joseph Rich and Nancy O’Neal, pioneers and farmers. Shortly after his birth, Rich’s parents purchased land across the Ohio River in Indiana. His early family life typified the hard existence of antebellum midwestern farmers: perpetual grinding labor punctuated by religious camp meetings, contending sects, Indian conflicts, modest education (Rich got more than some—three months each year until age seventeen), temperance crusades, and abolition and antiabolition strife. Following the family’s move to Illinois in 1829, Rich became less typical when in 1832, along with his mother, father, and sister, he embraced the proclamations of Mormon missionaries then passing through Tazewell County. From that point on his existence was inexorably enmeshed with the emerging drama of the Latter-day Saints....

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Rigdon, Sidney (19 February 1793–14 July 1876), restoration preacher and early Mormon leader, was born in St. Clair Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, the son of William Rigdon and Nancy Briant, farmers. Rigdon learned to read in a rural schoolhouse but taught himself grammar and constantly borrowed books from neighbors, in particular books on history; these, along with the Bible, he liked best. In 1817, after a conversion experience that a local congregation found convincing, Rigdon joined the United Baptists and began to preach as a skillful orator. In 1919, his widowed mother having sold the farm and gone to live with her daughter, Rigdon set out on his own. From 1919 until 1921 he lived in the home of Adamson Bentley, a Baptist minister in Warren, Ohio, and during this period became an ordained minister. Also while living with Bentley, Rigdon met and in 1820 married Bentley’s sister-in-law, Phebe Brooks; the couple had at least ten children....

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Roberts, Brigham Henry (13 March 1857–27 September 1933), Mormon leader, writer, and politician, was born in Warrington, Lancashire, England, the son of Benjamin Roberts, a blacksmith and ship plater, and Ann Everington, a seamstress. The year of his birth, Roberts’s parents converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon or LDS church). An alcoholic, Benjamin Roberts later abandoned the family, but when Roberts was five his father sent his mother money that she used to take two of their children to Utah. Roberts and a sister remained in England under cruel conditions until April 1866 when, assisted by the LDS Perpetual Emigrating Fund, they left Liverpool for Utah. In July they joined a wagon team in Nebraska and proceeded to walk, for much of the way barefoot, to Salt Lake City, where they were met by their mother....