Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
Abraham Hoagland Cannon
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
On 12 March 1859 Elizabeth Hoagland gave birth to Abraham (Abram) Hoagland Cannon in Salt Lake City shortly after her husband, Elder George Q. Cannon, had left for a mission to the eastern states. Abraham was well educated as a youth, graduating from the Deseret University and learning the carpenter’s and architect’s trades. He also worked for some time in his boyhood for the Deseret News, where his father was the chief editor. On 16 October 1878 he married Sarah Ann Jenkins, and the next year on 15 October 1879 he married his first cousin, Wilhelmina M. Cannon. They bore him four and six children, respectively.
Shortly before his second marriage Abraham was called on a mission to Europe in October 1879 at the age of 20. He left that month for England, leaving his two wives in Utah, and was assigned first to the London Conference, then to the Nottingham Conference. In December the call was extended to him to serve in the Swiss and German mission. He served in various cities in Germany, teaching, preaching, baptizing, and arranging emigration for the German saints until serious opposition from the German police in Manheim forced him to relocate to Switzerland in June 1880. Here he began to master the German language and was soon able to return to Germany.
During this time he wrote several German hymns that became widely used throughout the country. In his mission journal he writes of the joy and importance of missionary work, the importance of love in the home, and need of comfort from Heavenly Father. On 28 April 1881 he recorded: “With the Lord’s help I will do my utmost for the work, so that I may lay up treasure in heaven.” 1 In June 1882, Abraham returned home to Salt Lake City.
On 9 October 1882, Abraham was called as one of the First Seven Presidents of the Seventies. During this year he became the manager of the Juvenile Instructor and also assumed other managerial positions such as director of the State Bank of Utah, and vice-president of the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce. In addition he owned bookstores in Salt Lake City and Ogden and was involved in many other business endeavors. Throughout his life he was a prolific writer, authoring many books and articles.
In the 1880s, government persecution of polygamists was becoming nearly unbearable. The Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882 made polygamy a felony and when it could not be proven the misdemeanor of ‘unlawful cohabitation’ could be used. During this time Abraham was involved in providing hiding places for his father and other apostles. On 17 March 1886 Abraham was convicted of unlawful co-habitation. At his sentencing he pleaded guilty, exclaiming, “I acknowledge a higher law than that of man, which is the law of God.” He served six months in the state penitentiary and paid a $300 fine, the customary punishment for co-habitation, “cheerfully praising God that he was worthy to suffer in His cause.” 2 In 11 January 1887 he married his step-sister, Mary E Croxall, in Mexico, where polygamy was still legal. She bore him six children.
On 7 October 1889, Abraham was ordained a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Soon thereafter he became the general manager of the Deseret News and in 1892 he assumed the position of editor and publisher for the Contributor. Abraham also busied himself with numerous other business involvements. He was known as a tireless worker and wise beyond his years. He also proved himself as possessing excellent managerial skills.
Abraham H. Cannon unexpectedly died of meningitis on 19 July 1896 at the age of 37 at his home in Salt Lake City. The editor of the Deseret News wrote upon his death that “he was a true disciple of Christ, essentially a servant of God…[who] will ever live in the hearts of the Latter-day Saints, by whom he was greatly beloved.” 3 President Woodruff further added that he was “one of the very purest and best of the Apostles of the Lamb.” 4
1 Abraham H. Cannon, “Diaries, 1859-1896,” vol. 2, 28 April 1881, Vault MSS 62, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
2 Lawrence R. Flake, Mighty Men of Zion: General Authorities of the Last Dispensation (Salt Lake City: Karl D. Butler, 1974), 235.
3 Andrew Jensen, Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vol. 1 (Salt Lake City: The Andrew Jensen History Co., 1901-1936), 168.
4 Matthias F Cowley, Prophets and Patriarchs (Chattanooga: Ben E. Rich, 1902), 290.
Ancestry World Tree Project. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com, 2003. 31 October 2003, available from http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/frameset_search.asp.
Bitton, Davis. Guide to Mormon Diaries & Autobiographies. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977.
Cannon, Abraham H. “Diaries, 1859-1896”. Vault MSS 62, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
Cowley, Matthias F. Prophets and Patriarchs. Chattanooga: Ben E. Rich, 1902.
Flake, Lawrence R. Mighty Men of Zion: General Authorities of the Last Dispensation. Salt Lake City: Karl D. Butler, 1974.
Jenson, Andrew. Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Vol. 1. Salt Lake City: The Andrew Jenson History Co., 1901-1936.
Seifrit, William C. Index to the Journal of Abraham Hoagland Cannon (1859-96). Salt Lake City: Special Collections Department of the University of Utah Libraries, 1988.
Van Wagoner, Richard S., and Steven C. Walker. A Book of Mormons. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1982.