The Bowery, Salt Lake City
Sunday, September 6th, 1857
[In September of 1857,
Marsh came to Salt Lake City seeking forgiveness from Church
leaders. President Brigham Young invited him to speak to those of
the Church. The following is a record of those proceedings.]
formerly the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has now
come to us, after an absence of nearly nineteen years. He is on
the stand to-day, and wishes to make a few remarks to the congregation.
You will comprehend the purport of the remarks he wishes to make, by my relating a part of his conversation with me yesterday. He came into my office and wished to know whether I could be reconciled to him, and whether there could be a reconciliation between himself and the Church of the living God. He reflected for a moment and said, I am reconciled to the Church, but I want to know whether the Church can be reconciled to me.
He is here, and I want him to say what he may wish to. [Brother Marsh then arose, and the President continued.] Brethren and sisters, I now introduce to you brother Thomas B. Marsh. When the Quorum of the Twelve was first organized, he was appointed to be their President. (Journal of Discourses, Vol.5, p.207)
[The Remarks of Thomas B. Marsh:]
I do not know that I can make all this vast congregation hear and understand me. My voice never was very strong, but it has been very much weakened of late years by the afflicting rod of Jehovah. He loved me too much to let me go without whipping. I have seen the hand of the Lord in the chastisement which I have received. I have seen and known that it has proved he loved me; for if he had not cared anything about me, he would not have taken me by the arm and given me such a shaking.
If there are any among this people who should ever apostatize and do as I have done, prepare your backs for a good whipping, if you are such as the Lord loves. But if you will take my advice, you will stand by the authorities; but if you go away and the Lord loves you as much as he did me, he will whip you back again.
Many have said to me, "How is it that a man like you, who understood so much of the revelations of God as recorded in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, should fall away?" I told them not to feel too secure, but to take heed lest they also should fall; for I had no scruples in my mind as to the possibility of men falling away.
I can say, in reference to the Quorum of the Twelve, to which I belonged, that I did not consider myself a whit behind any of them, and I suppose that others had the same opinion; but, let no one feel too secure: for, before you think of it, your steps will slide. You will not then think nor feel for a moment as you did before you lost the Spirit of Christ; for when men apostatize, they are left to grovel in the dark.
I have sought diligently to know the Spirit of Christ since I turned my face Zionward, and I believe I have obtained it. I have frequently wanted to know how my apostacy began, and I have come to the conclusion that I must have lost the Spirit of the Lord out of my heart.
The next question is, "How and when did you lose the Spirit?" I became jealous of the Prophet, and then I saw double, and overlooked everything that was right, and spent all my time in looking for the evil; and then, when the Devil began to lead me, it was easy for the carnal mind to rise up, which is anger, jealousy, and wrath. I could feel it within me; I felt angry and wrathful; and the Spirit of the Lord being gone, as the Scriptures say, I was blinded, and I thought I saw a beam in brother Joseph's eye, but it was nothing but a mote, and my own eye was filled with the beam; but I thought I saw a beam in his, and I wanted to get it out; and, as brother Heber says, I got mad, and I wanted everybody else to be mad. I talked with Brother Brigham and Brother Heber, and I wanted them to be mad like myself; and I saw they were not mad, and I got madder still because they were not. Brother Brigham, with a cautious look, said, "Are you the leader of the Church, brother Thomas?" I answered, "No." "Well then," said he, "Why do you not let that alone?"
Well, this is about the amount of my hypocrisy--I meddled with that which was not my business. But let me tell you, my brethren and friends, if you do not want to suffer in body and mind, as I have done,--if there are any of you that have the seeds of apostacy in you, do not let them make their appearance, but nip that spirit in the bud; for it is misery and affliction in this world, and destruction in the world to come. I know that I was a very stiff-necked man, and I felt, for the first four or five years especially, that I would never return to the Church; but towards the latter part of the time, I began to wake up and to be sensible that I was being chastised by the Almighty; and I felt to realize the language of Jeremiah concerning Ephraim in the last days, where he says, "Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy on him, saith the Lord."
Thinks I, this language suits my condition. I then thought, I will go back and see if the Lord will heal me, for I am of the seed of Ephraim, and I felt troubled from that day, and my soul was vexed with the filthy conversation of those Sodomites. . . .
I have given you some items of my apostasy. I will now relate some of my recent experience.
When I got to
Florence, or Winter Quarters, where I
to stay, waiting for an opportunity to cross the Plains, I read many of
the publications and works of the Church, and became strengthened and
in regard to the Priesthood of the Son of God. Although I knew
about the Priesthood before, so far as the theory was concerned, yet I
discovered that I had never properly understood it; and hence I feel
my faith is greatly strengthened. I wanted to get posted up and see
the "Mormons" had learned since I left them; and I learned very much by
reading the discourses that had been preached here. (Journal of Discourses, Vol.5, p.207
I, Thomas B.
Marsh, do hereby, this day, Sept. 7th
AD 1857, consecrate and dedicate myself soul, body and spirit with all
I possess on earth, to the Lord praying to the God of Abraham Isaac and
Jacob to set me apart or sanctify me to be exclusively his to do
whatsoever he should require of me and to give me Grace to sanctify the
Lord of hosts in my heart that I might Love him with all my heart soul
mind, strength and understanding Amen.
Thomas B. Marsh 7
September 1857, Brigham Young Collection, Church Archives)
One month after his arrival in Salt Lake Valley, Thomas was married to Hannah Adams (4 October 1857), and the couple soon settled in Spainish Fork, where they acquired a small adobe house. Here Brother Marsh attempted, without success, to establish a school. Though having received some financial help from Bishop John L. Butler, the Marshes were scarcely able to sustain life. By late fall of 1859, meager circumstances prompted Thomas to request further assistance. His petition reflected his penitent spirit:
"[I write] not in a spirit of complaining of any person neither of murmuring against the providence of my Heavenly Father; no! It is good enough for me for I have sin[n]ed and made many crooked paths and I would rather kiss the chastning hand and thank Him that it is as well with me as it is for He in his providence has brought me to the Valies of these mountains! fed and clothed me and kept me alive untill now, given me a name and place among his people and restored me, vile as I have been, [to] His Everlasting Priesthood, notwithstanding I so foolishly and so ignominiously once threw it away and cast it behind my back."
request did not go
11 March 1859, Thomas
B. Marsh was re-ordained an elder, and by November 1861 he had been
ordained a high priest. In the Endowment House on 1 November 1862, he
received his endowment and was sealed to his wife, Hannah. It was about
this same time that the couple opted to settle near Ogden. Thomas was
placed in the care of David M. Stuart, Ogden First Ward. Though almost
wholly supported by the Church until his death in January 1866 at
Ogden, Thomas Baldwin Marsh "died in good faith," having once again
accepted the principles he had espoused nearly thirty-six years earlier
in Fayette, New York. He had learned by sad experience the hazards of
aspiring to the honors of men, the dangers of exercising unrighteous
dominion, and the consequences of uncontrolled criticism of those in
(Lyndon W. Cook, " 'I Have Sinned
Against Heaven, and Am Unworthy of
Your Confidence, But I Cannot Live without a Reconciliation' ": Thomas
B. Marsh Returns to the Church," BYU
Studies, Vol. 20, No. 4, p.400)
President Gordon B. Hinckley
“Small Acts Lead to Great Consequences,”
Ensign, May 1984, pp. 81-83
Now we are ready to return to our homes. We have been counseled by the Brethren and have been strengthened in our faith. As we are about to separate, I should like to emphasize the importance of watching the little things in our lives. Have you ever noticed a large gate in a farm fence? As you open it or close it there appears to be very little movement at the hinge. But there is great movement at the perimeter.
Speaking to the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1831, the Lord said: “Out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” (D&C 64:33.) It is so with good or evil, my brothers and sisters. Small, kind acts can grow into mammoth good institutions. The Boy Scout movement is an example of this as is known by anyone acquainted with the history of this great institution. It is so likewise with evil things. Small acts of dishonesty, small acts of an immoral nature, small outbursts of anger can grow into great and terrible things.
There stood once on the grounds right here, before ever this building was constructed, a bowery—a rather crude structure in which the Saints met in those days of their poverty. In September of 1857, there was presented in that old bowery on a Sunday afternoon, what was really the concluding act of a drama of great tragedy.
On that Sunday Brigham Young was conducting a meeting and introduced to the congregation a man who appeared to be old and infirm and weary of life.
Said President Brigham Young to the congregation:
“Brother Thomas B. Marsh, formerly the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has now come to us, after an absence of nearly nineteen years. He is on the stand to-day, and wishes to make a few remarks to the congregation. …
“He came into my office and wished to know whether I could be reconciled to him, and whether there could be a reconciliation between himself and the Church of the living God. He reflected for a moment and said, I am reconciled to the Church, but I want to know whether the Church can be reconciled to me.
“He is here,” said President Young, “and I want him to say what he may wish to. … Brethren and sisters, I now introduce to you Brother Thomas B. Marsh. When the Quorum of the Twelve was first organized, he was appointed to be their President.”
Brother Marsh rose to the pulpit. This man, who was named the first President of the Council of the Twelve Apostles and to whom the Lord had spoken in so marvelous a manner, as recorded in section 112 of the Doctrine and Covenants—which I wish you would read—said to the people:
“I do not know that I can make all this vast congregation hear and understand me. My voice never was very strong, but it has been very much weakened of late years by the afflicting rod of Jehovah. He loved me too much to let me go without whipping. I have seen the hand of the Lord in the chastisement which I have received. I have seen and known that it has [page 82] proved he loved me; for if he had not cared anything about me, he would not have taken me by the arm and given me such a shaking.
“If there are any among this people who should ever apostatize and do as I have done, prepare your backs for a good whipping, if you are such as the Lord loves. But if you will take my advice, you will stand by the authorities; but if you go away and the Lord loves you as much as he did me, he will whip you back again.
“Many have said to me,” he continued, “ ‘How is it that a man like you, who understood so much of the revelations of God as recorded in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, should fall away?’ I told them not to feel too secure, but to take heed lest they also should fall; for I had no scruples in my mind as to the possibility of men falling away.”
He continued, “I can say, in reference to the Quorum of the Twelve, to which I belonged, that I did not consider myself a whit behind any of them, and I suppose that others had the same opinion; but, let no one feel too secure; for, before you think of it, your steps will slide. You will not then think nor feel for a moment as you did before you lost the Spirit of Christ; for when men apostatize, they are left to grovel in the dark.” (Journal of Discourses, 5:206.)
Speaking in a voice that was difficult to hear, and appearing as an old man when he was actually only fifty-seven years of age, he spoke of the travails through which he had passed before he had finally made his way to the valley of the Great Salt Lake and asked that he might be baptized again into the Church.
I wondered, as I read that story so filled with pathos, what had brought him to this sorry state. I discovered it, in the Journal of Discourses, in a talk given to the [page 83] Saints in this same bowery the year before by George A. Smith. I think, if you’ll bear with me for a minute or two, it is worth the telling to illustrate to all of us the need to be careful in dealing with small matters which can lead to great consequences.
According to the account given by George A. Smith, while the Saints were in Far West, Missouri, “the wife of Thomas B. Marsh, who was then President of the Twelve Apostles, and Sister Harris concluded they would exchange milk, in order to make a little larger cheese than they otherwise could. To be sure to have justice done, it was agreed that they should not save the strippings (to themselves), but that the milk and strippings should all go together.
Now for you who have never been around a cow, I should say that the strippings came at the end of the milking and were richer in cream.
“Mrs. Harris, it appeared, was faithful to the agreement and carried to Mrs. Marsh the milk and strippings, but Mrs. Marsh, wishing to make some extra good cheese, saved a pint of strippings from each cow and sent Mrs. Harris the milk without the strippings.”
A quarrel arose, and the matter was referred to the home teachers. They found Mrs. Marsh guilty of failure to keep her agreement. She and her husband were upset and, “an appeal was taken from the teacher to the bishop, and a regular Church trial was had.” President Marsh did not consider that the bishop had done him and his lady justice for they (that is, the bishop’s court) decided that the strippings were wrongfully saved, and that the woman had violated her covenant.
“Marsh immediately took an appeal to the High Council, who investigated the question with much patience, and,” says George A. Smith, “I assure you they were a grave body. Marsh being extremely anxious to maintain the character of his wife, … made a desperate defence, but the High Council finally confirmed the bishop’s decision.
“Marsh, not being satisfied, took an appeal to the First Presidency of the Church, and Joseph and his counselors had to sit upon the case, and they approved the decision of the High Council.
“This little affair,” Brother Smith continues, “kicked up a considerable breeze, and Thomas B. Marsh then declared that he would sustain the character of his wife even if he had to go to hell for it.
“The then President of the Twelve Apostles, the man who should have been the first to do justice and cause reparation to be made for wrong, committed by any member of the family, took that position, and what next? He went before a magistrate and swore that the ‘Mormons’ were hostile towards the state of Missouri.
“That affidavit brought from the government of Missouri an exterminating order, which drove some 15,000 Saints from their homes and habitations, and some thousands perished through suffering the exposure consequent on this state of affairs.” (Journal of Discourses, 3:283–84.) Such is George A. Smith’s account.What a very small and trivial thing—a little cream over which two women quarreled. But it led to, or at least was a factor in, Governor Boggs’ cruel exterminating order which drove the Saints from the state of Missouri, with all of the terrible suffering and consequent death that followed. The man who should have settled this little quarrel, but who, rather, pursued it, troubling the officers of the Church, right up to the Presidency, literally went through hell for it. He lost his standing in the Church. He lost his testimony of the gospel. For nineteen years he walked in poverty and darkness and bitterness, experiencing illness, and loneliness. He grew old before his time. Finally, like the prodigal son in the parable of the Savior (see Luke 15:11–32), he recognized his foolishness and painfully made his way to this valley, and asked Brigham Young to forgive him and permit his rebaptism into the Church. He had been the first President of the Council of the Twelve, loved, respected, and honored in the days of Kirtland, and the early days of Far West. Now he asked only that he might be ordained a deacon and become a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord.