Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
William Benbow Erekson
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
William Benbow Erekson was born on 17 January 1879 in South Cottonwood, Salt Lake County, Utah, to Jonas Erekson and Isabella Markham Benbow. At the age of eight William was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). He attended public schools in the Salt Lake Valley, studied at the University of Utah for a year, and then earned his diploma from the Salt Lake Business College. Following graduation his family moved to Diamondville, Uinta County, Wyoming, where he found employment, most likely with Union Pacific, which operated a mine there. He also served as president of the Mutual Improvement Association of the LDS Church in Diamondville and enjoyed big game hunting.
On 27 October 1899 William received an invitation from the Church to serve a mission to New Zealand. He “answered a day or two later in the affirmative,” and on 14 December 1899 departed from Vancouver, British Columbia, for the South Pacific.1 After arriving in Auckland, New Zealand, on 15 January 1900, he was appointed to labor in the Bay of Islands District among the Maori people. William recorded in detail his progress in learning the language, and obviously possessed a great desire to acquire it swiftly, on one occasion writing: “Commenced a two days fast. Studied Maori all day…I now know 128 verbs and a few nouns.”2 Later that year he recorded: “I made my first Maori speech which I had not memorized. Made quite a lot of mistakes, but it is a starter in talking.”3
His labors were interrupted, however, in February 1901 when the mission president asked him to move to Auckland and become mission secretary. As such he was responsible for preparing mission statistical reports, taking minutes at conferences, overseeing mission correspondence, overseeing the finances for some forty-five missionaries in New Zealand, and completing other office-related duties. He recorded his feeling about this new responsibility in his journal: “I…regret…leaving the work among the Maoris as I had learned to love that kind and generous hearted people…I was willing, however, to do whatever the Pres. saw fit to call me to perform to the best of my ability.”4 William’s attention to detail and previous education helped him immensely with this new responsibility; on one occasion he noted: “I checked up several accounts in old ledger and found several errors.”5 During his year and half as secretary William also served for a time as president of the Auckland District. In this capacity he dedicated the city of Wellington to the preaching of the gospel on 27 May 1902. Later that year he was released from his mission and on 19 September 1902 William departed from Auckland and journeyed home to Utah.
Soon after returning home, William courted and married Esther Marie Young and they were blessed with five children over the course of their marriage. Initially, the young couple lived with William’s parents, and William in 1904 became bishop of the South Cottonwood Ward of the LDS Church at the young age of twenty-five. He retained this position until 1914 when he was sustained as first counselor in the Cottonwood Stake presidency; by then they had moved to Murray, Salt Lake County, Utah. Professionally, he succeeded both locally and nationally as a fish and fur farmer. William Benbow Erekson died in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 12 January 1947.
1 William Benbow Erekson, “Diary, 1899–1900,” 27 October 1899, MSS 1037, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
2 Ibid., 4 April 1900.
3 Erekson, “Diary, 1900–1901,” 21 October 1900, MSS 1037, LTPSC.
4 Erekson, “Diary, Jan 1901-Apr 1901,” 10 February 1901, MSS 1037, LTPSC.
5 Ibid., 26 April 1901.
Ancestry World Tree Project. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 1 February 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.
Cook, Maurine Stokes. Winder Ward History, 1904–1976. Provo, Utah: J. Grant Stevenson, 1977.
Erekson, William Benbow. “Diaries, 1899–1902.” MSS 1037, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
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.
Salt Lake Tribune. Obituary of William Benbow Erekson. 13 January 1947.