Saturday, October 29, 2011

John Tanner

Probable John Tanner in later years.

John Tanner was born on August 15, 1778 in Hopkinton, Washington, Rhode Island to Joshua and Thankful Tefft Tanner.

John Tanner Birth Record

John Tanner married Tabitha Bentley in January 1800 and she died on April 1, 1801.  He then  married Lydia Stewart in 1801 and she died in 1825.  He then married Elizabeth Beswick in 1825.  I descend from Elizabeth Beswick.

John Tanner was a Bible reading Baptist who heard that Mormons were in town.  He went to the meeting to protect his fellow Baptists.  For some months, John's leg had been afflicted with open sores, a condition apparently without remedy.  He drove to the meeting and listened to the two elders, Simeon and Jared Carter.  He brought a Book of Mormon home, telling his Baptist friends that, "they had better not fight against the truth."  A few days later, Jared Carter visited John at his home and administered to him.  He commanded John to rise and walk in the name of the Lord.  John never used crutches again.  John and Elizabeth were baptized on September 17, 1832.

 Probable John Tanner and Elizabeth Beswick

John was a wealthy man with a large family. In the fall of 1834 he had a dream that he was needed in Ohio. He left shortly thereafter, arriving in Kirtland in time to loan the Prophet Joseph $2000 dollars (John came to Kirtland with $10,000 in gold and silver), which was needed to stop the impending foreclosure on the farm upon which the temple was being built. He also loaned the temple committee $13,000 in merchandise (which was worth considerably more there on the frontier in Ohio); in addition, he later gave money directly for the building of the Kirtland Temple. Further, he signed a note with the Prophet Joseph for $30,000 in goods purchased in New York (meaning he was financially responsible, in part, for the loan). Just for the money he directly loaned (he forgave some of the loans and did not get any of the other money back), its estimated worth in 2009 U.S. dollars is anywhere from $500,000 to millions of dollars. The $2000 in cash he directly loaned Joseph for the mortgage of the temple lot is the equivalent of roughly $50,000 today.

Just before he left on a mission in 1844. John Tanner met Joseph Smith on the streets of Nauvoo. He gave the Prophet his note for $2,000, signed in Kirtland in 1835 to redeem the temple land. The Prophet asked what he wanted him to do with it, and Father Tanner said, “ ‘Brother Joseph, you are welcome to it.’ The Prophet then laid his right hand heavily upon Father Tanner’s shoulder and said: ‘God bless you, Father Tanner, your children shall never beg bread.’

John loved the Prophet Joseph and the church. John invested much of his money in the Kirtland Safety Society bank in order to support it and give it better financial grounding; the bank failed (along with a lot of other banks at the time) and John, who had gone to Kirtland with many thousands of dollars in cash and merchandise, left for Missouri with a “borrowed team and one old broken down stage horse, and an old turn pike cart, a cag of powder, and $7.50 in cash.” John remained faithful. Many left the church after the Kirtland bank failed but John did not. He had participated in the glorious events of the Kirtland Temple dedication and knew and loved the Prophet Joseph. He had a testimony of the gospel and made the sacrifices he was asked to make.

John Tanner Home before leaving for Ohio

An article about John Tanner was published in the March 1979 Ensign. It was written by Leonard J. Arrington and is titled "The John Tanner Family". I was able to get a copy of the Ensign magazine when I found out that my neighbor has been saving church magazines for many years. She was happy to give me her copy of the Ensign. You can also read the article on-line at here.  Photographs of the article are at the end of the blog.

A short movie was recently produced about John Tanner.  The movie is called "Treasure in Heaven, The John Tanner Story."  If you have not seen the movie, I would highly recommend purchasing the DVD. 

A book was also written in 1974 about John Tanner called “John Tanner and his Family".  This is a rare book and a few used copies are available at The cost of the book ranges from $100 to $300.  I haven't broken down and purchased a copy ... yet.
John Tanner died April 13, 1850 in South Cottonwood, Utah.  This obituary is a great source for information about his family.

He is buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery and the coordinates of his headstone are N 40° 46.547 W 111° 51.691 and is marked on the map with a green arrow.  When my family was visiting the SLC Cemetery, we were not looking for John Tanner's headstone, but we stumbled across it.  I was really excited to find it without having any information of its location.  It is interesting that he is not buried near any of his wifes.  Elizabeth Beswick is buried in Payson.  John Tanner is my Third Great Grandfather on the Goodman side of the family. 

View Larger Map

March 1979 Ensign, Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Pages 46-51



  1. Thanks just saw the movie online last night

  2. Thanks just saw the movie online last night