Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
Sidney James Ottley
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
Sidney James Ottley was born on 2 September 1890 in South Cottonwood, Salt Lake County, Utah, to Edward Ottley and Thirza Timbers, the eleventh of twelve children. He was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) on 6 August 1899. Tragically, Sidney’s mother died in 1903, and Edward soon remarried to Isabella B. Erekson, whom Sidney grew to love. In his early years he enjoyed reading and writing poetry and obtained an elementary education, but never graduated from high school. In his adolescence he worked many odd jobs, first in a smelter, then for a railroad company, and later in the agricultural and carpentry industries. During these teenage years he moved with his family to Delta, Millard County, Utah.
In 1912 Sidney received a call to serve a Church mission to New Zealand, an event he later described as “one of the happiest events of [his] young life.”1 After some preparation, Sidney left Utah on 12 November 1912 and journeyed to Auckland, New Zealand. He was immediately appointed to labor in the Hawkes Bay District, and began serving as a school teacher for poor Maori children, but on 27 February 1913 he became a faculty member of the Church-operated Maori Agricultural College. Of this calling he remarked: “This was indeed a great surprise as I had never suspected that I would be chosen when there were so many in the mission with far better education.”2 While visiting with other missionaries on one occasion during this time, Sidney heard a tune that he enjoyed, and later composed words in Maori to fit the tune. This resulting song, “The Land of Love, the South Sea Island,” became an instant hit among the members and missionaries of New Zealand and was included in the native hymn book.
After two years at the college Sidney was called to preside over the Hawkes Bay District. He immediately began to acquaint himself with the members of the district and worked to improve their testimonies of the gospel. He also preached to non-members and succeeded in converting and baptizing many into the LDS Church. In his journal he displayed sensitivity to the Holy Ghost, frequently noting that “the Spirit of the Lord was strongly manifested throughout the [meeting],” or simply that “a good spirit prevailed.”3 On 2 March 1916, after more than three years as a missionary in New Zealand, Sidney began his journey home to Utah.
Shortly after returning home from New Zealand, Sidney moved to Banida, Franklin County, Idaho, and engaged in carpentry, teaching, and farming. He also courted a long-time acquaintance, Alice Warren, and married her in Logan, Utah, on 3 January 1917. Three of the Ottley’s six children were born in Banida. On 8 September 1918, after several other callings in the Church in Idaho, he was set apart as bishop of the Banida Ward, a position that he held for four years. In 1922 Sidney moved his family to Oasis, Millard County, Utah, to work as manager of a lumber firm and in 1926 for the second time assumed the role of bishop. Four years later he relocated again, this time to Salina, Sevier County, Utah, where he worked as manager of a larger lumber yard.
Financial troubles in Salina led Sidney to move to Salt Lake City in the early 1930s where he opened and managed a paint store. The depression was hard on the Ottley’s, but gradually the business prospered and they were soon able to buy a comfortable house in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains. Sidney served for a time as president of the Sugar House Chamber of Commerce, and ecclesiastically fulfilled callings as bishop and high councilman. An unexpected turn in Sidney and Alice’s lives came in 1951 when Sidney was called to preside over the New Zealand Mission. They arrived on 24 October 1951 and Sidney became reacquainted with many locals he had known during his first mission to New Zealand, and noted: “We were very well received wherever we went and the love and respect shown us, gave us strength and confidence.”4 As president he oversaw a rapidly growing church, and was influential in organizing branches, developing leadership among the native saints, and constructing chapels and educational institutions. In 1955 they were released from their mission and returned home to Utah.
The Ottley’s served a final mission from 1964 to 1966, this time to London, England, where they officiated in the temple. After this Sidney and Alice spent most of their time managing the paint business and spending time with their children and grandchildren. Sidney James Ottley died on 12 July 1982 in Salt Lake City.
1 Sidney James Ottley, “Scrapbook, 1912–1978,” p. 320. MSS 1746, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
2 Ottley, “Diary, 1912–1913,” 27 February 1913. MSS 1826, LTPSC.
3 Ottley, “Diary, 1915–1916,” 21 February 1916. MSS 1826, LTPSC; Ottley, “Diary, 1915,” 2 May 1915. MSS 1826, LTPSC.
4 Ottley, “Diary, 1951–1952,” 1 November 1951. MSS 1826, LTPSC.
Ancestry World Tree Project. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 1 February 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/trees/awt/main.htm
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.
Ottley, Sidney James. “Papers, 1912–1978.” MSS 1826, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
________. “Scrapbook, 1912–1978.” MSS 1746, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
Salt Lake Tribune. Obituary of Sidney James Ottley. 13 July 1982.
United States Census, 1930. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 9 February 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/search