Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
Albert Robison Lyman
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
Albert Robison Lyman was born on 10 January 1880 in Fillmore, Utah to Platte D. Lyman and Adelia Robison. Albert’s early life was spent in Bluff, San Juan County, Utah, which his parents helped settle. In 1884 the family moved to Scipio, Utah, where he was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 2 April 1888. Three years later they returned to live in Bluff “in a very small log house with a mud roof.” 1 As a youth he assisted his father in tending their cattle and also engaged in making shoes. Life was difficult for the Lymans and Albert described himself as a firm atheist who could not understand why God let people and animals suffer and who believed that “this is just a world of meaningless, merciless chance.” 2 This changed, however, after a miraculous prayer on the banks of the Colorado River. He later expressed the change of heart that occurred: “Now I know there is a God, for He has shown me His power in a way I can not deny.” 3
Albert received a call to serve a mission to the Southern States in February 1899. After arriving in Salt Lake City to be set apart for this calling, however, it was changed to the British Isles so that he could serve under his father, then president of the European Mission. Upon arriving in Liverpool, England in April 1899, Albert was assigned to labor in the Leeds Conference. Still struggling with his testimony he studied and prayed until one day while preaching he felt “with uncompromising testimony that the ancient gospel had been restored from heaven to an apostate world.” 4 On his mission Albert also developed a love for education and literature and frequented the libraries of England. Due to poor health, however, Albert was released from the mission field after only a year and a half. Of this he lamented: “It seemed that every organ of my body was seriously out of gear and the dismal thot of having to return home passed like a doleful spectre [sic] thru my mind.” 5 He returned home on 13 November 1900 weak and discouraged.
After several long months recovering from his ailments Albert finally felt well enough to resume some semblance of a normal life. Once again he tended cattle and looked after his family while his father was still in Europe. He also began to court Mary Ellen Perkins, known by all as Lell, with whom he had corresponded during his mission. They were married on 26 June 1902 in Salt Lake City. Lell would eventually bear fifteen children. In spring 1905 the young couple and their first child, Casse, became the first settlers of Blanding, San Juan County, Utah. During this time he was Stake Superintendent of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association for the San Juan Stake, a calling that took him all over southeastern Utah and into Colorado and New Mexico.
In Blanding, Albert cultivated a farm, operated a small mercantile establishment, and started a record of every important thought or impression that came into his head. This record, aptly named “Thots” eventually occupied seventy volumes. Albert was active both professionally and ecclesiastically; in 1908 he was appointed as County Superintendent of Schools for San Juan County and on 13 November 1910 he was called to serve as second counselor to President Redd in the San Juan Stake. Two years later he became first counselor, a calling he held until December 1928; he also fulfilled numerous ward callings during these years, primarily in a teaching capacity. From 1928 to 1930 he worked as a seminary teacher in Huntington, Utah, but in 1930 he returned to Blanding and became postmaster.
Tragedy struck in 1935 when Lell became seriously ill and was forced to relocate to Salt Lake City to receive medical treatment. In 1938 Albert moved his family there to be with her until the end. Just before her death, on 13 May 1939, Lell instructed him to marry her widowed sister, Gladys, so she could watch over him and the children. He acted accordingly, and they married on 14 June 1939. In October 1940 he was called to be patriarch of the Salt Lake Stake; however, he yearned for the wilderness of Southern Utah, and in 1942 moved back to Blanding. In 1944 and 1945 he and Gladys were called on a short-term mission to the Native Americans in the Navajo-Zuni Mission. The following year they were called on a permanent basis to serve the Indians communities around Blanding, where they were influential in establishing schools for the Indian children until their release in 1949. He was also influential with the youth of Blanding as a seminary teacher until 1954.
Throughout his life Albert thirsted for knowledge in all fields of study. He also obviously enjoyed writing as a form of personal expression: besides his “Thots,” he recorded his life in an autobiography and forty-one volumes of diaries. He also wrote several biographies, two histories of San Juan County, a history of Blanding, and even a few works of fiction. Poetry also interested him and his daughter Ellen published a 336-page collection of his verses after his death. He was known as an eloquent speaker and people frequently asked him to give church sermons and funeral eulogies. In 1973, at the age of 93, he moved to Provo, Utah, to live with his daughter Ellen. There Albert Robison Lyman passed away on 12 November 1973 and was buried in the Blanding cemetery.
1 Karl R. Lyman, The Old Settler: A Biography of Albert R. Lyman (Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, c1980), 10.
2 Albert R. Lyman, The Great Adventure: A Story with a Preamble and Told in the First Person Singular (Blanding, Utah: A. R. Lyman, [196-?]), 23.
3 Ibid., 32.
4 Ibid., 67.
5 Albert R. Lyman, “Journal, 1899-1900,” 25 September 1900, MSS 1425, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
Ancestry World Tree Project. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 1 December 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/trees/awt/main.htm.
Bluth, John. A Register of the Albert R. Lyman Collection: MSS 1425. Provo, Utah: Division of Archives and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, 1979.
Jensen, Andrew. Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Publishing Co., 1941.
________. 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. 4. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Co., 1901-1936.
Lyman, Albert R. “Journals, 1893-1973.” MSS 1425, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
________. The Great Adventure: A Story with a Preamble and Told in the First Person Singular. Blanding, Utah: A. R. Lyman, [196-?].
Lyman, Karl R. The Old Settler: A Biography of Albert R. Lyman. Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, c1980.
United States Federal Census, 1880, 1920. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 6 December 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/census/usfedcen/main.htm.
Warrum, Noble. Utah since Statehood: Historical and Biographical. Vol. 4. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1919.