Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
Jesse John Bennett
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
Jesse John Bennett was born on 25 July 1869 in Meadow, Millard County, Utah, to Hiram Bell Bennett and Ellen Greenhalgh. At the time of his birth, Meadow was a small community consisting of fewer than two hundred people, all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Through the influence of his father, the bishop of the church in that community, Jesse was baptized at the age of eight, on 15 September 1877. As a youth he likely attended the small school that had been organized by his father’s first wife, Martha, and later took classes at the Millard Stake Academy in Fillmore. He also sang in the Sunday School choir and served as treasurer of the primary organization of the Church.
In 1889 Jesse became one of the first young men from Meadow to be called on a proselytizing mission for the LDS Church. He was appointed to labor in the Samoan mission, which had been established only a year previously. He left home on 20 May 1889, feeling “joyous…to know that [he] was going to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.”1 A faith-promoting experience occurred the day after Jesse and his three traveling companions arrived in Samoa on 16 June 1889: Elder Brigham Smoot drowned in the ocean while bathing and was healed by a priesthood blessing. Of this incident Jesse remarked in his diary: “We all thought it was a manifestation of the power of God.”2 The following day Jesse was assigned to Tutuila, the main island of what is now American Samoa, and Aunuu, a small adjoining island; he spent his entire mission laboring on these two islands.
The first months of Jesse”s mission were spent building a home, studying the language, and learning how to teach the gospel. During this time he frequently tired of having little to do, as he could not communicate with natives; one journal entry from this period reads: “I write a while study a while and eat a while and the day gradually wears away.”3 By the end of 1889, however, Jesse was able to preach, sing, and pray in Samoan, and commenced conducting tours of the islands, stopping to teach the gospel in villages and acquiring food and shelter from the local natives. In this manner Jesse was able to convert and baptize twenty people over the course of his mission. After three years in Samoa Jesse received his release to return home; he arrived in Meadow on 19 July 1892, noting that “it seemed as though everything had changed and there were very few of the old cows that I knew.”4
After returning home Jesse taught school in Meadow in the newly constructed schoolhouse along with a young lady named Rachel Beckstrand. They soon courted and married and Jesse engaged in farming in order to support his growing family that eventually included eight boys. He also worked for a time as principal of the local school and when the town of Meadow was incorporated in 1910 Jesse participated on the first town board. In the Church he served as first counselor of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association from 1906 to 1910, and as president of that organization for the following two years. He then served as bishop of the Meadow Ward from 1912 to 1927, overseeing the spiritual life of the approximately four hundred people of the community. Jesse John Bennett died at home in Meadow on 22 September 1949.
1 Jesse J. Bennett. “Diary, 1889,” 20 May 1889. MSS 1406, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
2 Ibid., 17 June 1889.
3 Ibid., 23 August 1889.
4 Bennett, “Diary, 1891–1892,” 19 July 1892.
Ancestral File. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2002. 10 March available from http://www.familysearch.org.
Bennett, Connie. Index for Milestones of Millard: A Century of History of Millard County, 1851–1951. Spanish Fork, Utah: J-Mart Publishing, .
Bennett, Jesse J. “Diaries, 1889–1892.” MSS 1406, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
Day, Stella H. Milestones of Millard: 100 Years of history of Millard County. Springville, Utah: Art City Publishing Company, 1951.
Jackson, Richard H. “Meadow, Millard County, Utah: The Geography of a Small Mormon Agricultural Community.” Master’s Thesis, Brigham Young University, 1966.
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., 1901–1934.
United States Census, 1920. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 17 February 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/census/usfedcen/main.htm.