Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
James Gledhill Duffin
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
James Gledhill Duffin was born on 30 May 1860 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, to Isaac Duffin and Mary Fielding. Two years later the family relocated to Toquerville, Washington County, Utah, where Isaac labored as a farmer. Here James received his primary education and on 25 June 1871 he was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). By 1880 the Duffins had moved to Springdale, Kane County, Utah, where James found employment as a miner. On 19 January 1881 he married Mary Jane Grainger in St. George, Washington County, Utah; they were blessed with twelve children over the next twenty years. Desiring to further his education, James attended the Brigham Young Academy in Provo, Utah County, Utah, from 1882 to 1884. After returning to Washington County he worked as an elementary school teacher in the small community of Rockville.
On 13 June 1887 Duffin unexpectedly received a call to serve the LDS Church as a missionary in the Southern States Mission. Upon leaving home two weeks later he recorded in his journal, “It was one of the most trying times in my life. But I feel that God has called and desires my time and labors, for how long, I will leave with Him, for I only desire to do His will.”1 Upon arriving in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the location of mission headquarters, he was assigned to the North Carolina Conference. James experienced many trials during the next two years, such as threats of mob violence and other opposition to his message. On one occasion he received word to not hold a scheduled meeting, “as the mob said they would be there, armed with shot guns and a barrel of whiskey.”2 But in spite of this and news of the death of his son at home, Duffin persevered and continued to rely on and show gratitude towards the Lord. In September 1888 he was made president of the North Carolina Conference, continuing to serve in this capacity until the end of his mission in April 1889.
After returning home James engaged in farming and homesteading and continued to play an active role in his local religious and civic community. He served as Washington county commissioner and also represented the county in the Utah legislature. On 12 October 1899, however, he embarked on a second full-time mission, this time to the Southwestern States. He labored faithfully in the North Texas Conference and on 4 March 1900 he was appointed president of that conference. After only a short time, however, he received a call to serve as mission president. He expressed his feelings regarding this assignment in his diary: “This is a very great responsibility placed upon me…I pray my Father in heaven that he will qualify me for every duty pertaining to this holy and responsible calling in the work of the Lord.”3
As president James enacted several changes in the operations of the mission. He began to discourage the emigration of Church members to Utah, preferring that they remain and strengthen each other in their home states. To help accomplish this goal he established several exclusively LDS communities in Texas. He also purchased land throughout the mission and built chapels to solidify the presence of the Church in these states. Prior to the renaming of the mission to the Central States Mission, James transferred mission headquarters from St. John, Kansas, to Kansas City, Missouri. In a more controversial move, Duffin married a polygamous wife, Amelia Carling, apparently during a 1901 trip to the LDS colonies in northern Mexico. At least one child was born of this union. But James’ major focus was on spreading the gospel to as many people as possible; during his tenure as president his missionaries distributed over one million tracts and held over 43,000 meetings, and he commissioned 11,500 copies of the Book of Mormon to be published specifically for his mission.4
In 1906 James obtained an official release from his mission due to failing health associated with malaria. During his mission he had moved his family to Provo, and he returned there in October after his friends in Kansas City presented him with a departure gift consisting of “a gold ring, [and a] set of gold cuff buttons and collar buttons.”5 In 1915 Duffin moved to Salt Lake City to serve as a representative in the Utah legislature. After the expiration of his term he remained in the capital city and opened a real estate business, Duffin & Stone Company. On 20 May 1921 James Gledhill Duffin died at the age of sixty-one after an extended battle with throat cancer.
1 James G. Duffin, “Diary, 1887–1888,” 27 June 1887. MSS 1696, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University
2 Ibid., 27 August 1887.
3 Duffin, “Diary, 1899–1900,” 16 April 1900. MSS 1696, LTPSC.
4 Noble Warrum, ed., Utah Since Statehood, vol 4 (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1919), 553.
5 Duffin, “Diary, 1905–1906,” 28 October 1906. MSS 1696, LTPSC
Ancestry World Tree Project. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 7 April 2004 available from http://www.ancestry.com/trees/awt/main.htm
Daughter of Utah Pioneers. Under Dixie Sun: A History of Washington County. Rev. ed. St. George, Utah: Washington County Chapter, DUP, 1978.
Duffin, James G. “Diaries, 1887–1906.” MSS 1696, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
Jenson, 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. 1. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Co., 1901–1936.
Salt Lake Tribune. “Former Mission President Dies.” 21 May 1921.
Warrum, Noble, ed. Utah Since Statehood. Vol. 4. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1919