Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
by Brian A. Warburton
Alma Butler was born 3 March 1888 in Marriott, Weber County, Utah, to Henry Harvey Butler and Agnes Susanna Andrews. Alma was the fourth child in a family of eleven children. His father engaged in farming and the family lived for many years in the Ogden Third Ward, Weber County.1
At the age of twenty-two Alma was called to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) to the Northwestern States Mission departing from Ogden with three other men on 21 April 1910. They traveled by rail to Boise, Idaho, where they were met by Melvin J. Ballard, the Northwestern States Mission President. The missionaries spent several days sightseeing and attending orientation meetings before they were assigned to their areas of labor. Alma was assigned to labor in Seattle, Washington, and began his journey to that city on 28 April 1910. Alma spent much of his time holding street meetings and tracting, or going door to door distributing tracts of Mormon literature. The evenings were mainly spent visiting with members of the church or those who were investigating the church. Alma recorded that most people treated them kindly and were polite, but there were always some that persecuted the missionaries. He heard many strange stories that people told about the Mormons, which he recorded in his journal. One old man told him that “a man told him that he had been through Salt Lake while Brigham Young was alive and Brigham took his wife that was young and handsome and made him take one of his old ones in her place.”2 Alma recorded much time spent dispelling such rumors.
The Seattle area at that time was split on the idea of prohibition of alcohol and Alma took interest in the controversy, attending several of the debates and recording that Bellingham, Washington voted for prohibition and became a “dry town” on 8 November 1910.3 On 9 June 1911 Alma was transferred to Vancouver, British Columbia, where he again found many people interested in listening to him, “In the evening Elder Dayley, Yergensen and I held a splendid street meeting after which we sold two Books of Mormon and distributed a great number of tracts and Liahonas.”4
Alma was transferred again in March 1912 to Portland, Oregon, arriving there on the 10th of that month. While in Portland he continued the usual missionary activities and finished out his mission, leaving to go home on 19 July 1912. He traveled by train to San Francisco and spent several days sightseeing, before continuing on to Los Angeles where he again spent several days. On 14 August 1912 he boarded a train for Salt Lake City, where he visited with relatives before returning to his home in Ogden, Utah, on 19 August 1912.
Less than one year after his return home Alma married Myrtle Ivy Stephens on 18 June 1913 in Salt Lake City. Alma and Myrtle had two sons, Alma and Wayne, and three daughters, Ina, Arleen and Barbara. They made their home in Ogden, where Alma began a career as a machinist for the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, where he continued for the rest of his life. Alma died at the young age of forty-five on 30 June 1933 in San Francisco, of complications suffered from a stroke.
1 U.S. 1900 and 1910 Federal Census, Ancestry.com, accessed 26 September 2007.
2 Alma Butler, “Diaries, 1910–1912,” MSS 790, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. 4 November 1910.
3 Ibid., 8 November 1910.
4 Ibid., 17 June 1911.
Butler, Alma. “Diaries, 1910–1912,” MSS 790, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
The Ogden Standard Examiner. July 1, 1933.