Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
James Lovett Bunting
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
James Lovett Bunting was born on 5 October 1832 at Attleborough, Norfolk County, England, to Thomas Bunting and Early Lovett. As a young man he was apprenticed to a boot-maker and soon mastered that trade. In 1853 missionaries converted him to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and he received the ordinance of baptism on March 7. Soon thereafter he was ordained an elder and called to labor as a missionary in his homeland. He served in the Norwich and Manchester Conferences, and in 1857 became president of the latter. Many of the church members in England at this time were completely destitute, a situation described by James in his journal: “Many of the saints are in the depths of poverty and I scarce know where or how to obtain bread for the day.” 1 Despite this, he kept a positive attitude, often writing that he “felt unspeakably happy and filled with the spirit of our God.” 2
Due to the approach of Johnston’s Army on Utah, many elders from Utah were called home to defend the territory. James decided to emigrate to Utah in company with some of these returning missionaries. They departed from Liverpool, England aboard the ship Empire on 16 February 1858. Of this voyage he recorded: “I was appointed cook, but my labors were very light for several days, as most of the passengers were seasick.” 3 After arriving in New York City, he traveled to Florence, Nebraska, and joined the John W. Berry Company to make the overland trek to Utah. The company arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on 21 June 1858. After peace was negotiated with Johnston’s Army, James worked as a policeman in Salt Lake City and established his own tannery there. He also served as a captain in the militia during the Black Hawk War in 1866.
In Salt Lake City on 15 May 1859, James married Harriet Dye, also of Norfolk County, England. She bore him thirteen children, ten of whom lived to maturity. In 1870 the Buntings were called, with twenty-five other families, on a settlement mission to Kanab, Kane County, Utah. Accordingly, James immediately took his wife and four young children and made the four-week journey to Kanab, arriving on 2 December 1870. There he engaged in farming, tanning, and shoemaking, and also captained the militia and served on the school board. In the church he labored as bishop’s clerk and as the first choir director in Kanab. As there were no hotels in Kanab for several years, James frequently opened his home to passing travelers. On 18 April 1877 Lorenzo Snow ordained James a high priest in the church. That same year he was also appointed to be Stake Superintendent of Sunday Schools and second counselor in the presidency of the newly-formed Kanab Stake.
James received a call to return to England as a missionary on 6 April 1878. On 18 May 1878 Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith set him apart and ordained him for the work. After arriving in England his mission president appointed him to preside over the Liverpool Conference. He was instrumental in establishing a Relief Society and Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association in Liverpool, the first time either of these Church organizations had been established in Great Britain. James spent much time and energy collecting his genealogy and preaching to his relatives, bearing “a faithful testimony to them.” 4 Although homesick at times, he firmly believed that he was in God’s service, stating: “The faith of the everlasting gospel still burns in my bosom and although far away from those dear to me…I feel to rejoice in my labors and to thank God for the privilege of coming on this mission.” 5 After two years in Great Britain, James was released and he returned home in May 1880.
Upon his return from Great Britain, James married Ann Ashurst as a plural wife in 1881. James continued to serve in the Kanab Stake as second counselor in the stake presidency until 1884 when he was called to be a high counselor. After the death of his first wife Harriet, on 26 January 1893, James returned to his homeland a final time to conduct genealogical research. In 1896 he married Hester Mayer and was called to work in the St. George Temple. He also served as city councilman of St. George. James Lovett Bunting died at the age of ninety-one on 20 November 1923 in Provo, Utah, and was subsequently buried in Kanab. He was remembered as being “strictly honest, an indefatigable worker, and a man who would never betray a trust.” 6
1 James Lovett Bunting, “Diary, 1857–1877,” 8 December 1857, MSS 738, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
2 Ibid., 8 December 1857.
3 Kate B. Carter, Ed., Our Pioneer Heritage (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958), 2:42.
4 Bunting, “Diary, 1878,” 14 July 1878, MSS 738, LTPSC.
5 Ibid., 4 October 1878.
6 Washington County News, “A So. Utah Pioneer Dies at an Advanced Age.” 6 December 1923.
Ancestry World Tree Project. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 17 December 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/trees/awt/main.htm.
Bitton, Davis. Guide to Mormon Diaries & Autobiographies. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977.
Bradley, Martha Sonntag. A History of Kane County. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1999.
Bunting, James Lovett. “Diaries, 1857-1920,” MSS 738, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
Carter, Kate B., ed. Heart Throbs of the West. Vols. 3, 4. Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1947.
________, ed. Our Pioneer Heritage. Vols. 2, 15, 16. Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958.
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. 3. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Co., 1901–1936.
Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847-1868. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2003. 31 October 2003 available from http://www.lds.org/churchhistory/library/pioneercompanysearch/.
Robinson, Adonis Findlay, ed. History of Kane County. [Kane County, Utah]: Kane County Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1970.
Trails of Hope: Overland Diaries and Letters, 1846–1849. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 2003. 17 October 2003 available from http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/Biographies/image/2.html.
United States Census, 1880. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 17 December 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/census/usfedcen/main.htm.
Washington County News, “A So. Utah Pioneer Dies at an Advanced Age.” 6 December 1923.
Yonugberg, Florence C., ed. Conquerors of the West: Stalwart Mormon Pioneers. Vol. 1. [Sandy, Utah]: Agreka Books, 1999.