John Taylor, third president of the Church, was so bold and powerful in his defense of truth that he was designated "The Champion of Right," an honorary title the saints bestowed on him long before he was sustained on Oct. 10, 1880, as Church president.
A native of England, John Taylor immigrated to Canada, where he was baptized in 1836 at age 28, having been taught the gospel by Elder Parley P. Pratt. He was soon set apart as presiding elder in upper Canada. During a visit of Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Thomas B. Marsh to Toronto in 1837, Elder Taylor was ordained a high priest.One of the first incidents in which John Taylor became a defender of truth occurred in Kirtland, Ohio. In LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Elder B. H. Roberts recorded:
"During the great apostasy of 1837, when many leading men turned away and became so embittered against the Prophet that the lives of men who defended him were endangered, Elder John Taylor stood up boldly in the Kirtland Temple in the midst of foes, and with that eloquent power which came from God, and which ever characterized Elder Taylor's speech, declared that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of the living God and had not fallen, as alleged by apostates."
On Oct. 5, 1838, he was sustained and ordained an apostle at a conference in Far West, Mo. While a resident of Missouri, he suffered in the persecutions heaped upon the saints, and boldly denounced the wicked actions of the enemies of truth.
While Joseph was imprisoned in Missouri, Elder Taylor was selected by the saints of Caldwell County as one of a committee to draft a document to the state legislature asking for a redress of the wrongs imposed upon them. Elder Taylor was also one of those who wrote a petition to the federal government.
After he had served missions in the British Isles and France (see related article), he was called to preside over the Church in the Eastern States. He published a paper called "The Mormon," and established Church headquarters in the East near the office of the writer and editor who launched the heaviest attacks against the Church.
Elder Roberts noted that Elder Taylor replied to the attacks "in such a vigorous manner as to surprise the anti-Mormon element in that city. His arguments were unanswerable, and as usual the opponents of the truth resorted to falsehood and buffoonery."
In 1857, he was called home from his mission when the U.S. government threatened war against the saints during the administration of U.S. President James Buchanan.
"Elder Taylor was fearless in defending the rights of the saints and denouncing the preachers and politicians who were industriously circulating falsehoods," wrote Elder Roberts. "His replies . . . exhibit the fearless character of the man, as well as the clearness of his mind in penetrating the right and wrong side of every proposition under consideration."
Elder Taylor actively worked to have the State of Deseret admitted into the Union. He served several terms as a member of the Legislature and speaker of the House, and served as probate judge of Utah County.
He died July 25, 1887.
Articles on this page may be used in conjunction with the gospel doctrine course of study.
Information compiled by Gerry Avant
Sources: LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, by B. H. Roberts; Presidents of the Church, by Preston Nibley; Essentials in Church History, by Joseph Fielding Smith.