Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Electing the Bishop

Electing the Bishop

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 01, 2010

Early in November 1894, my great-grandfather, Jared Taylor, was thrown from his horse. The internal injuries were serious enough to kill him, but with near-daily visits from the town doctor and careful nursing by my great grandmother, he lingered for six weeks before passing away on January 30, 1895.

This post really has nothing to do with my great grandfather or his final illness – it’s just that when I have a tenuous family connection to some event, I like to pin that down. It helps me feel like I have a place in history.

Besides his young widow, a daughter, and two young sons, Jared was survived by members of the Marysvale Branch. Marysvale, a silver and gold mining camp in central Utah, had been settled for 25 years by the time Jared died. It was mostly a Gentile settlement. There were a few Mormon farmers, like Jared, and there were quite a few Mormon women, the wives of Gentile miners, and their children, but priesthood bearers were thin on the ground. Marysvale had never had a ward organization, and even its branch status was tenuous at times – sometimes it was connected to Sevier Stake in the county to the north, and sometimes to Panguitch Stake in the county to the south. Mostly, though, the Saints at Marysvale hung on the best they could by themselves, and for some of those years Jared Taylor was their presiding elder.

When Jared died, though, the little flock was without a shepherd, and President William Seegmiller of Sevier Stake, in cooperation with President Jesse Crosby of Panguitch, decided to give Marysvale its first ward organization. They called a meeting for March 24, 1895, in the school house (Marysvale had no chapel in 1895 – they wouldn’t have one until 1906, and only then because the First Presidency took pity on the ward and sent down funds from their own account).

From the minutes:

Agreeable to appointment and notice previously given, the L.D.S. residing in Marysvale Branch met in the School House on Sunday March 24″ 1895 at 11 a.m. Pres. Seegmiller & Counselor Horne being present. Meeting opened by singing “Let those who would be Saints indeed” &c. Prayer by Elder Joseph Howes; singing “Great God: attend while Zion sings” &c. Jeremiah Dennis, the Supt. of Sunday School, who presided, turned the meeting over to Stake Pres. Wm. H. Seegmiller; who, alluded to the action of the people here & of Sevier Stake, relative to this Branch becoming a part of said Stake.

He also made a few remarks about the early history of this Stake. In becoming acquainted with each other, he hoped we would get along well in our respective positions. We seek after truth, no matter whence it comes, nor where it is found, we like to have our rights – religious & otherwise, and allow others the same privilege. We believe that our Father in Heaven designs to place us in happier conditions and it is His right to introduce such changes as may suit His purposes.

President Crosby – delayed by bad roads – spoke briefly, stressing the need for unity and sustaining leaders:

Prest. Jesse Crosby [was] glad to be here at your organization. Do I need charity so I should be charitable. We have much to learn, and we must be diligent in the discharge of our duty. When persons are called to responsible positions they are watched & criticised. He who leads should talk with others, and get the benefit of their ideas. Showed the necessity of union.

Then the women and children were dismissed. “The Priesthood,” says the minutes, “were invited to remain for special session.”

What followed is so different from how bishops are appointed today that the story is best told from the minutes:

Pres. Seegmiller stated that our aim is to organize this Ward with a Bishopric &c and we invite you to join in making a selection. Coun. Horne offered prayer. Pres. Seegmiller asked those who desire to have a Ward Organization to raise their hands. All hand were raised. He then asked the brethren to nominate someone whom they can sustain as Bishop. Bro. Jos. Howes motioned that we have Bro. Charles Archibald Pinney for Bishop of Marysvale Ward.

Bro. Isaiah Howes motioned that Bro. Joseph Howes be our Bishop.

Charles Nelson motioned that we have Bro. Wm. Howes Jr. for our Bishop.

The vote was A. Pinney – 5, Joseph Howes – 8

Bro. Howes, when asked how he felt about the matter, said he felt disqualified in various ways to assume an important place. He violates the Word of Wisdom, cannot write, and would much prefer assisting to leading; but did not like to shirk.

Bro. Pinney did not feel to shirk from duty but was not seeking for office. He does not use tobacco nor strong drink.

Some remarks were made by Prests Seegmiller and Crosby & Coun. Horne, leaning towards selection Bro. Pinney for Bishop. After which the vote was recalled, the boys not voting, when Bro. Pinney received 6 votes and Bro. Howes 3. It was proposed that the vote be made unanimous for Bro. Pinney. All but Wm. & Isaiah Howes favored the proposition. Bro. Pinney made a short speech and nominated Bro. Joseph Howes & Jeremiah Dennis [as counselors]. These Brethren expressed themselves as willing to serve.

The vote to sustain the nominations was unanimous except one.

The Priesthood session was adjourned and Sacrament Meeting was called.

Sacrament was administered by Elders J. Dennis & A. Pinney after which Pres. Seegmiller made a few explanatory remarks, then presented the name of Archibald Pinney as Bishop of Marysvale Ward. While several did not vote, a large majority of those who did, voted to sustain Bro. Pinney as Bishop. Joseph Howes & Jeremiah Dennis were presented as Counselors to the Bishop, and sustained by unanimous vote.

And thus was Marysvale’s first bishopric chosen and sustained.



  1. Thanks for the story. I hope the experience didn’t ruin the testimony of the Howes brothers.

    In today’s Church, certain procedures are so cut-and-dried that it’s sometimes difficult to believe it was ever done any other way, but stories like this prove otherwise.

    I recently learned that upon the passing of John Taylor, W. Woodruff and L.Snow offered the presidency to J.F. Smith (as they felt he was entitled to the position through patriarchal succession.) As history shows, he declined– but it’s just another illustration like the OP of how high-ranking church leaders have at times departed from “modern policy.”

    Comment by Clark — June 1, 2010 @ 10:13 am

  2. Wow. My mind is blown. Wish I could see when and how the transition occurred.

    Comment by Matt W. — June 1, 2010 @ 10:14 am

  3. The Howes family was the backbone of the Marysvale branch/ward for a long time, and they have a large and faithful posterity. I hope none of them would be embarrassed by this — I think it’s a wonderfully candid evaluation of their lives, done on the spur of the moment. How many of us would be willing to publicly admit violation of a major lifestyle commandment, and yet be willing to serve as Joseph Howes was? He certainly had the support of his brethren.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 1, 2010 @ 10:27 am

  4. Embarrassed? I LOVE this story. Joseph Howes comes off looking great. It’s impossible to know if the Howes disliked Tinney or were simply fiercely loyal to Joseph, but I suspect the latter.

    To me, the whole thing smacks of a big family counsel where unity was necessary for success, and the SP approached it accordingly. I’ve served in a bishopric, and I accept that callings come in various valid ways.

    Comment by Martin — June 1, 2010 @ 10:50 am

  5. I agree, Ardis. Joseph Howes’ humble confession combined with his willingness to serve, as well as the members’ willingness to sustain him (and Archibald Pinney), are wonderful examples of the kind of mutual support and nourishing that a ward can offer.

    Comment by Dane — June 1, 2010 @ 10:53 am

  6. This is terrific, Ardis.

    Sometimes I think I would like a more “popular” approach to selecting leaders. I think I might have escaped some of the responsibilities I’ve had.

    Comment by Mark B. — June 1, 2010 @ 10:58 am

  7. We still do have a popularity contest when picking certain leaders. Unless you think that calling YW and primary counselors all being of a similar type (and friends of the presidents) is purely a mistake…

    On a serious note – I like the way we call leaders today. I like sausage and don’t always want to know how it’s made.

    Comment by queuno — June 1, 2010 @ 11:31 am

  8. How were Isaiah and Joseph Howes related?

    Ardis, would you say that this procedure was the standard procedure for selecting bishops in the church during this time period?

    Comment by Justin — June 1, 2010 @ 11:40 am

  9. Isaiah and John (and the William, Jr. mentioned) were brothers, emigrants from England, in their 40s.

    While I doubt very much that this was the only episcopal election (nobody seems to blink at it, which suggests to me it was something familiar), it’s actually the only case I’m aware of. Not that I’ve hunted — if it weren’t for my family connection and a good bit of luck, I wouldn’t have *these* minutes.

    (The Marysvale chapel burned in 1946, taking with it virtually all of the earlier records. I suppose some version of what I’ve quoted here probably appeared in the ward’s formal minutes, but if so they were destroyed. I found a rough draft of the minutes on a tiny scrap of paper tucked between the pages of an accounting book for the Sevier Stake United Order. I brought it to the archivists’ attention — after carefully transcribing it myself, of course! [in those days I was naive enough to think that unorthodox records would “vanish”] — because it seemed such a significant scrap of history. They agreed, and it’s separately cataloged in the archives now. But I was searching for family and Piute history when I found the minutes, not surveying the methods by which bishops were called, and I don’t have a grasp of that at all.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 1, 2010 @ 12:37 pm

  10. As I read the post I thought of my great grandfather who lived in Kanab Utah and his call to be bishop. What follows is a transcript of the events of his calling as bishop in 1877.
    Our quarterly conference commenced at 10 AM. A large number of visitors from the various wards in the Stake. Bro. E. Snow and others did not arrive as expected.
    Sent word would be at Kanab at 1 PM and to go on with the conference and not waite. Pres. J.L. Bunting called the conference to order at 10 AM, had a good time. 12:30 oclock Pres. E. Snow arrived bringing with him Bro’s Eyring, Hendricks and Farnsworth. Attended afternoon meeting and acted as conference clerk, went to Priesthood meeting in the evening. The case of Bro. ************ about his tithing and disobeying counsel brot up and settled, and other items of interest about temple donations and paying our tithing. Bro. Snow reproved the brethren for backbiting.
    DEC. 9, SUNDAY
    Went to meeting all day. The general impression among the people is that Bro. Lester J. Hendricks has been brot to be appointed as Bishop of Kanab. Bro. Snow said in the forenoon meeting that if the people were ready to unite upon some one for Bishop that he would give us one in the afternoon.
    In the afternoon when the general church authorities had been presented and also the Stake officers down to Bishop of Kanab, Bro. Snow arose and asked the people who they wanted. Spoke about our general condition and the state we were in and how we came so and then asked the brethern for nominations. When Bro. Elijah Averett said we want Bro. W.D. Johnson Jr. as bishop which seconded and then voted upon, which was unanimious, as I have been told, for not expecting the office it made me feel, I can not explain how. Bro. Snow asked me who I desired as my counselors and after due consideration I chose Bro’s J.G. Brown, Sr. and B.Y. Baird whose names were presented and 5ustained by the conference. How I felt and do feel no one but my self can ever tell. I feel as though the burden is more than I can carry unless I have the faith and prayers of my brethren. I pray God that I may remain faithfully true to the trust imposed upon me and that I may be faithful humble and meek so that the spirit of my calling may be upon me and that I may prove a blessing to Kanab. I ask it in the name of Jesus Amen.”

    So from at least a second account the practice of local nomination for bishop was not that unusual. There is also some related events noted in the journals of Jesse N. Smith as he served as stake president in Snowflake, AZ.

    Comment by Dan S. — June 1, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

  11. Fascinating!

    This sounds like a previous Keepa post about the election of a bishop up in Summit county. Or am I just imagining things?

    Comment by Hunter — June 1, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

  12. Not something I wrote about Hunter, but it’s possible a commenter mentioned something that I have forgotten. Anybody?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 1, 2010 @ 4:59 pm

  13. Jeez Louise, I’m getting senile and it’s time to close up shop. Hunter pokes around a little and discovers that not only did I tell this story exactly 13 months ago, here, but I even used the same title!

    Sorry, folks. I thought I’d been hanging on to this one rather than expose my original source to poachers.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 1, 2010 @ 6:47 pm

  14. It is still a wonderful story, well worth revisiting. It was also fun to go back and read the comments on the older post.

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 1, 2010 @ 8:31 pm

  15. This is just excellent. Though I can see why we have shifted over time I think this type of process today would be really valuable, esp. for Bishops and SP. Matt W. I think D. Michael Quinn suggests some of the reasons for a transition away from this type of practice in his essay on ‘The Sacral Power Structure’ in Dialogue.

    Comment by Aaron R. — June 2, 2010 @ 6:48 am

  16. My grandmother, Evelyn Hamel, was raised in Marysvale. I’m not certain whether I had ancestors there at the time of this story, but it’s fun to imagine that perhaps some of my contrariness was passed down from someone who, for example, was willing to vote against a new bishop.

    Comment by Ariel — June 2, 2010 @ 11:43 am

  17. Ariel! You’re a Hamel!! Your ancestors were most certainly there! Evelyn’s grandfather Frederick was one of the very first Marysvale settlers (our two families knew each other from waaay back). I wrote about your uncle Mack’s POW experiences recently.

    Don’t know how they voted at this meeting, but they were there.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 2, 2010 @ 12:21 pm

  18. I have been studying the branches of the church in Pottawattamie County, Iowa between 1848 and 1860. All of the branch presidents were nominated and voted on. Then his counselors were nominated and voted on.

    Comment by Maurine — June 3, 2010 @ 12:07 am

  19. Ardis, you know I love this story. Jared Taylor was the priesthood leader during the last six months of my ancestor’s life. Perhaps you recall Curtis E. Bolton, who died in Marysvale? I sometimes wonder if Jared would have been a speaker at the funeral. Anyway, I was pleased to learn through this string of messages that you are related to Jared!

    Comment by Brett Bolton — September 13, 2010 @ 6:34 pm

  20. Small world, isn’t it Brett? I do wish there were more records from the early Marysvale days. The 1946 chapel fire burned more than the superstructure, unfortunately.

    And of course I remember Curtis Bolton! Good man.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 13, 2010 @ 7:20 pm

  21. Ardis, your recent comments drew my attention to this post (and the earlier one). Thanks for your work.

    Comment by Stephen Taylor — September 14, 2010 @ 10:40 am

  22. I don’t have a problem with this old approach — there are two important keys; namely, that one is called by someone having authority and that he is sustained by the priesthood or congregation. In this case, as long as the stake president accepted the deliberations and votings, and adopted the outcome as his own decision, he was then free to present the name for a sustaining vote.

    Comment by ji — September 14, 2010 @ 11:46 am

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