Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
George Shepherd Taylor
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
George Shepherd Taylor was born on 16 July 1860 in Salt Lake City, Utah, to George Hamilton Taylor and Elmina Shepherd. At the age of eight, on 3 September 1868, he was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). George excelled as a student in his early years and studied at the University of Utah and the Brigham Young Academy after completing his elementary school education. He also worked as a clerk for his father in the Taylor, Romney, Armstrong Lumber Company factory in Salt Lake City. On 9 February 1882 George married Annie Kristine Smoot, Senator Reed Smoot’s sister, and they were blessed with six children, five of whom survived infancy.
Shortly after his first two children were born, however, George received a call to serve a mission to New Zealand. He left home on 20 October 1884 and served for over three years, chiefly among the Maori people. George’s diligence and righteousness helped him convert around three hundred people to the LDS Church before his return home in January 1888. The following year George moved his family to Provo, Utah County, Utah, where he opened the Provo Book and Stationary Company. Later he expanded and incorporated his operation and renamed it the Taylor Paper Company. He also became president of his father’s business, the George H. Taylor Investment Company, and vice-president of the Smoot Lumber Company. He was known by all as an astute businessman dedicated to progress and the economic development of Utah.
In 1903 his wife of twenty-one years, Annie, unexpectedly passed away, leaving five children to care for. On 25 October 1906 George married Priscilla Smith, but she died a year later after bearing a healthy child. A year later he married Amy Esther Smith, but she too passed away after giving birth and her baby did not survive. George entered his fourth marriage on 28 June 1911 with Ida Ann Alleman, with whom he shared the remainder of his life. In the church George served as bishop of the Pleasant View Ward, and as high councilman in the Utah Stake.
An unexpected turn in his life came in 1920 when he was called to serve as president of the New Zealand Mission. He accepted this opportunity, leaving home with his wife and two youngest daughters on 3 November 1920. He spent the majority of his time meeting with the elders and saints scattered around New Zealand, teaching them and admonishing them to righteousness, and addressing any problems or difficulties that had arisen. For example, he noted that one branch “is in rather a bad condition owing to the lax morality of some of the members.”1 Two days later he “spent the evening in talking over the affairs and condition of the Mahia Conference and advising on the trials, tribulations and difficulties of the elders and Church members.”2
George also revamped the Maori hymnbook, directed a monthly mission newsletter, and oversaw the construction of several new chapels in the land. An interesting anecdote occurred during one conference when two missionaries of another church made a public nuisance and refused to leave, so one man “picked one of them up and dropped him over the fence into the road and others drove his companion out.”3 After suffering a heart attack, however, George was released from his mission and the family returned to Utah in August 1923. Just prior to his departure he conducted a tour of the mission and, as he reported, “traveled 1963 miles, held 32 meetings and one funeral in 25 days and spoke at all of the meetings and in some of them twice.”4 This demonstrates both his undying work ethic and his love for the people of New Zealand. After arriving home, however, his failing health continued to deteriorate and on 16 January 1924 George Shepherd Taylor passed away at home in Provo.
1 George Shepherd Taylor, “Diary, 1920–1921,” 13 January 1921. MSS 167, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
2 Ibid., 15 January 1921.
3 Taylor, “Journal, 1921,” 22 April 1921. MSS 167, LTPSC.
4 Taylor, “Journal, 1923–1924,” 3 July 1923. MSS 167, LTPSC
Ancestry World Tree Project. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 9 February 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/trees/awt/main.htm
Carter, Kate, ed. Our Pioneer Heritage. Vol. 1. Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958.
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. 4. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Co., 1901–1936
Salt Lake Tribune. “Retired Merchant Dies Suddenly of Heart Disease.” 17 January 1924.
Taylor, George Shepherd. “Diaries, 1920–1924.” MSS 167, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University
United States Census, 1930. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 9 February 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/search
Warrum, Noble. Utah Since Statehood: Historical and Biographical. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1919