Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
Alma Greenwood was born on 18 October 1854 in American Fork, Utah County, Utah, to William Greenwood and Alice Houghton. He spent his early years tending his father’s cattle, working on the farm and playing with his thirteen brothers and sisters. In his youth he also excelled in his studies, which led to his admission into the Brigham Young Academy in Provo, Utah, where he received his education under the tutelage of Karl G. Maeser. Alma graduated from the academy in 1878 in the first graduating class and was encouraged by Dr. Maeser to pursue a career in education. He heeded this counsel and accepted a position as head administrator and teacher for the district schools in Fillmore, Millard County, Utah. There he met Florence Melissa Brown, a teacher and musician, whom he married on 12 June 1879; this union produced four children, three of whom survived infancy.
In early 1882 Alma received a call to preach the gospel as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Zealand. On 2 May 1882, leaving his wife and first child, Samuel, in Fillmore, Alma traveled across the Pacific Ocean and began performing his labors. Administratively, he served in the presidencies of the Auckland Branch and Wellington District. But much of Elder Greenwood’s energies were spent proselytizing among the indigenous Maori people, who embraced the Church much more readily than those of European descent. As he declared in early 1883, “The time has arrived for the Gospel to go to the Maoris.”1 This stirred up much opposition among the New Zealanders, and Alma wrote several newspaper editorials defending the teachings and actions of himself and his companions. Alma’s mission proved very successful: he baptized 110 people and helped convert an additional 120, most whom were Maoris. As he proclaimed in a letter to his wife: “The work is opening up all around us. The people are wanting us to go to many places. The harvest is great and the laborers are few.”2 After being released from his mission he journeyed home, arriving in December 1884.
After returning to Fillmore, Alma established and presided over the Millard Stake Academy, the first academy of higher education in the church educational system. Many of his pupils were immigrants from Europe who needed to learn English in addition to other important subjects. Alma advised his students: “Every adult must know how to converse with knowledge on any subject important to a community. You live in America; learn its ways and language.”3 In 1888 he was called to move to Ephraim, Sanpete County, Utah, to establish and preside over the Sanpete Stake Academy, which in 1902 became Snow College. He vigorously encouraged the locals to enroll in classes and gain a proper education. Alma was known by fellow educators as possessing excellent organizational skills and as “a man of wonderful influence with his students.”4 Job-related stress, however, led to a series of illnesses that forced him to retire as an educator in 1891.
The Greenwoods moved back to Fillmore where Alma began farming and merchandising to support his family. Tragedy struck the family on 18 June 1893 when Alma’s beloved wife Florence suddenly passed away. The next year, on 19 January 1894, he married Evelyn Olsen, but she died in childbirth on 7 October 1894, leaving a healthy infant for Alma to raise in addition to his three other children. After five years alone he married Annena Sorensen, an immigrant dressmaker from Denmark, and in 1908 the family moved to American Fork. From 1917 to 1919 Alma, a staunch Democrat, served as a representative from Utah County to the Utah Legislature. He was known for his long, powerful speeches, and soon became a member of several important legislative committees. After his term expired he engaged in real estate and farming in Salt Lake City. Soon thereafter he moved his family to Delta, Millard County, Utah, where he spent his last years. Alma Greenwood suddenly died of an unknown illness on 21 March 1929.
1 Alma Greenwood, “Journal, 1883,” 3 January 1883, MSS 336, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
2 Alma Greenwood to William and Alice Greenwood. 22 August 1884. MSS 336, LTPSC.
3 T. Earl Pardoe, The Sons of Brigham (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Alumni Association, 1969), 77.
4 Salt Lake Tribune, “Utah School Leader Dies,” 22 March 1929.
Carter, Kate, ed. Heart Throbs of the West. Vol. 11. Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1947.
Bitton, Davis. Greenwood, Alma. “Diary and Scrapbook.” MSS 336, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
Pardoe, T. Earl. The Sons of Brigham. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Alumni Association, 1969.
Salt Lake Tribune. “Utah School Leader Dies.” 22 March 1929.
United States Census, 1920. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 28 January 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/search.