About the Collection
John Thomas Giles
by Brian A. Warburton
John Thomas Giles was born 1 June 1865 in Provo, Utah, to John Giles and Elizabeth Giles. John was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) in August 1873. During his younger years John worked in his father’s brickyard and at the Smoot lumber yard as well as on the family farm. One of John’s early highlights was holding the plow that broke ground for the first building built for the Brigham Young Academy (B.Y.A.) which was located at 5th North and University Avenue, in Provo, Utah. John married Agnes Oberg Miller on 23 May 1889 in the Manti, Utah temple. Soon after their marriage John was called to serve a mission to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). John received the mission call on October 31, 1890, and after a very short preparation period, John left his home and new wife on 10 November 1890. The next day John was set apart as a missionary for the LDS Church by Elder John Morgan and was given a promise in this blessing that he would have a successful mission and that he would travel “safely both on my trip going and returning.” He was told that these blessings would “be fulfilled on my being faithful.”1 After being set apart, John traveled by train to San Francisco and then boarded a steamship bound for Hawaii.
John and his companions arrived in Honolulu 23 November 1890 after an eight day trip. John was assigned to live and work at a church owned sugar plantation near Laie. Much of his time was spent laboring at the plantation, attending church meetings and studying the language. John was assigned to start proselyting and on 21 April 1891 he left for his new area of missionary labor. John began to study the Hawaiian language in earnest and exhibited great faith that he would be able to learn quickly. “I commenced to study the language, for that is one of the lessons an Elder has to learn first here among this people. I place my trust in God, knowing he will bless me if I only fulfill my part.”2 Throughout his mission John spent a lot of time in administration of local branches of the church and teaching the new converts the proper ways in which the church was to be run. John was released from his mission and returned home in 1893. On 9 January 1906 John received a call to serve in the Sandwich Islands once again and he left his wife and parents on 22 January 1906. John’s second mission was also filled with administrative responsibility and strengthening of the new converts. He returned from his second mission in 1907. After his return home John got work at the Thomas Boardman lime kiln in the Provo area and returned to family life. He and his wife Agnes never had any children.
John was called to serve as the bishop of the Bonneville Ward in Provo. He filled that capacity from 1920–1921. During this time he continued to work for the lime kiln and also did some railroad work in 1922. He later taught Sunday School in his local ward and left behind many notes from the Sunday School lessons he taught. Agnes passed away on 5 March 1947 and shortly thereafter John died from symptoms of old age on 9 June 1948.
1 John Thomas Giles. “Diaries, 1890–1927”, MSS 994, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. 10 November 1890.
2 Ibid., 23 April 1891.
Deseret News (Salt Lake City), 11 June 1948.
Giles, John Thomas. “Diaries, 1890–1927.” MSS 994, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
Jensen, 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. Salt Lake City: Andrew nc., 1926.