Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
Joseph Wilford Booth
by Brian A. Warburton
Joseph Wilford Booth was born 14 August 1866 in Alpine, Utah. He was the son of Richard T. Booth and Elsie Edge, and was the ninth of ten children. Joseph was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) at the age of eight on 14 August 1874. While growing up he helped work on the family farm, but his father also encouraged all the children to read and become educated. In 1887, at the age of 21 he attended Brigham Young Academy in Provo, Utah, and graduated nine years later in 1896, with a major in pedagogy.1 The graduation was delayed because of his marriage to Mary Rebecca “Reba” Moyle 28 May 1890 in the Logan, Utah Temple of the LDS Church. The Booth’s moved around and lived in Pleasant View and Castle Rock, Utah and Montpelier, Idaho. Eventually they moved back to Alpine, Utah, where Joseph taught school and operated a general store.2 Unfortunately the Booth’s were never able to have children.
Joseph and Reba also served together as Mutual Improvement Association (MIA) officers in the Pleasant View Ward (Provo, Utah), before Joseph was called to serve his first mission to Turkey 5 August 1898. During this mission, which he served until 22 May 1902, he contracted smallpox and nearly died. After returning home he and Reba were called 8 August 1903, to serve a second mission together to Turkey. Joseph was later made mission president in 1904, and he and his wife traveled throughout the Middle East, Egypt and Greece; dedicating Greece for the preaching of the gospel while visiting Mars Hill with his wife on 6 October 1905. “When we at 7:05 p.m. on the same day were on Mars Hill near the city of Athens. Just at that time we kneeled on the highest point of the elevation and offered a prayer (for 15 minutes) to the Lord. It was a prayer dedicating this land of Greece and all her people preparatory to the preaching of the Gospel to the souls of men in this country.”3
Joseph and Reba returned home to Utah 9 November 1909 and Joseph resumed teaching school in Alpine. Twelve years later, on 13 September 1921 Joseph was called on his third and final mission. This call came as a result of Joseph’s visit to the First Presidency of the LDS Church, where he asked them about providing aid for the saints in war ravaged Turkey. Joseph had kept in touch with these saints in Turkey, and they had sent letters to him asking for help. President Heber J. Grant agreed to help and also called Joseph to be the Armenian (formerly Turkish) Mission President. His main duty was to distribute aid and supplies to the people in the mission area. This time his wife stayed at home until 1924, when she joined him in the Middle East. In 1925, while serving as mission president Joseph wrote a book entitled Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice that emphasized the important role of prophets in all ages and especially of Joseph Smith in our day. Booth continued to serve as mission president until he died of heart failure 5 December 1928 in Aleppo, Syria.
Joseph had many highlights on his mission but also faced much opposition and persecution from governments and individuals. The Armenian mission was never a great success. There were only about 200 church members, at any one time, and only about sixty total missionaries ever served in the mission. All these factors combined could make it appear that Booth’s accomplishments were minimal, but Apostle David O. McKay was quite complimentary of the progress the members in Syria had made under Booth’s direction. “Two years ago, very few of the Saints could muster courage to speak in meeting-very few could take part on the program. Today every member responds not only willingly, but intelligently. They sing, they pray, they bear testimony, give addresses, and participate in all appropriate exercises most enthusiastically…Truly, a mighty work has been accomplished.”4 Joseph Booth left a lasting impression of love and respect with the members in Syria. After his death it was decided that Booth’s body ought to be buried in Syria, among the people he had loved and served. A monument now stands, in his honor in Aleppo. Part of the engraving on that monument reads; “Though dead he lives in the hearts of a host who hold him in honorable and loving remembrances.”5 The monument was dedicated in 1933 by President John A. Widtsoe of the first presidency of the LDS church.
1 James A. Toronto, “From Alpine to Aleppo: The Booth Journals as Chronicle and Catalyst of LDS Growth in the Middle East” (presented at Alice Louise Reynolds Lecture, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, April 3, 2002).
3 Joseph Wilford Booth, “Diaries and Poems, 1885–1916,” October 6, 1905, MSS 155, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
4 David O. McKay, “A man who loves his fellow-men,” Millennial Star, 86 (February 28, 1924): 137-38, quoted in James A. Toronto, “From Alpine to Aleppo: The Booth Journals as Chronicle and Catalyst of LDS Growth in the Middle East” (presented at Alice Louise Reynolds Lecture, April 3, 2002).
5 Merle S. Foote, Pleasant Views: A History of the Early Pleasant View Area of Northeast Provo, Utah. (Utah?: n.p., 1975), 137.
p>Booth, Joseph Wilford. Diaries and Poems 1885–1916. L.Tom Perry Special Collections, Lee Library, Brigham Young University, MSS 155.
_____, Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice. Aleppo (Syria): Sabatt, 1925.
Foote, Merle S. Pleasant Views: A History of the Early Pleasant View Area of Northeast Provo. Provo: [n.p.,] 1975.
Garr, Arnold K, Donald Q. Cannon, Richard O. Cowan. ed. Encyclopedia of Latter-day History. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000.
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.
Toronto, James A. “From Alpine to Aleppo: The Booth Journals as Chronicle and Catalyst of LDS Growth in the Middle East” (presented at Alice Louise Reynolds Lecture, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, April 3, 2002).