“This Must be a Famous Mormon” The John Benbow Story.
Tuesday (2/10/15) was a funeral for my Uncle Cedric (My Fathers brother). My uncle George (My Mothers brother) came with us. George is Catholic. As the graveside service started they talked about how Cedric loved trucks. This topic became sore for George. His dad, who has passed away loved trucks as well. He started to get choked up. So he decided he would start wandering around and looking at tombstones.
At the end of the funeral, I noticed that my uncle was walking around instead of listening. So I went up to him and started talking to him. He invited me to “come see this” indicating a nearby tombstone… As we walked over to this tombstone he said you need to tell me the story of “John Benbow”. Confused I said who? When we arrived at the Tombstone he read it, and at the end he said, “This must be a famous Mormon”. I turned to my uncle and told him, “I have never heard of him before.”
My uncle looked at me in shock and said, “If nothing else, it was worth it to come here to see this today. It restores my faith in man, and that he can be good.” So now I’ve looked up all that I could about John Benbow. But first here is the Tombstone that started this.
He had perfect trust in the Prophet and apostles. When they needed money to publish the Book of Mormon he and his wife Jane Holmes gave it to them.
When the Prophet was falsely arrested, he pledged all his holdings as bail.
When President Brigham young called for every ward in the Church to provide a team, wagon and driver to go to the Missouri River and transport Saints to Zion, he was one who filled this request every year for six years. Each trip took six months.
He irrigated, farmed then harvested his hay and grain with a scythe, that he could feed his tired team through the winter to prepare for the next summers journey. He lived only six years after this strenuous labor.
He Fathered but one daughter who mothered a posterity of faithful Latter Day Saints.
“This is the testimony, last of all, which we give of Him.
That He lives! Doctrine and Covenants 76:22.
Here is the Story of John Benbow as far as I can gather it (This story is true, I have not embellished it. I’ve put it together from the many articles and papers I’ve read about John. The sources are at the end of this post.
John Benbow, a faithful disciple of Christ
At the age of 39, John was living in Herefordshire. March 4th of 1840 his Brother William came to his door seeking John. He wanted to introduce John to a man he had met. A man he claimed was an Apostle of The Lord Jesus Christ. John allowed his brother William and this man named Elder Wilford Woodruff in.
Of the day, Elder Woodruff wrote the following.
“Mr. John Benbow kindly entertained me for the night, during which time I spent several hours in laying before him an account of the origin, rise, and progress of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints, and like good old Cornelias the Spirit of God was upon him, and he received my testimony with all his heart, and opened his doors for preaching, and on the evening following, for the first time I preached the fullness of the gospel to a small congregation in that place, who manifested much interest in what they heard, and desired to inquire further into these things; on the evening following I met a still larger number at Mr. Benbow’s and preached unto them the first principles of the gospel, viz: faith in Christ, repentance and baptism for the remission of sins, and the gift of the holy ghost by the laying on of hands, after which I administered the ordinance of baptism unto six persons including Mr. and Mrs. Benbow, four of the six were preachers of an order called the United Brethren.”
With John and his family baptized, his brother William returned home, happy that his brother had accepted the Gospel. John could not have kids with his wife Jane. But they had been raising their niece (Ellen) and nephew (Thomas) as their own children for 4 years. (Children of Thomas Benbow John’s oldest brother who had passed away). Ellen’s Great-Great-Grandson is Elder Jeffrey R Holland.
With Elder Woodruff using John’s home and farm as a gathering place to teach, more and more of the members of John’s church wanted to listen. The church was the “United Brethren” a group of about 600 souls. They had been expelled from the Primitive Methodists a break off of the Methodists.
By Sunday, over 1,000 people had listened to Elder Woodruff. The following story relates the events.
By Sunday word of an American missionary had spread swiftly, and Elder Woodruff preached three sermons in three different locations to a total of nearly one thousand people. The local Anglican parish reported only fifteen attendees that same day. The rector, upset by the lack of attendance, sent a constable to arrest Wilford Woodruff as he preached his sermon at the Benbows’ home. When the constable came forward with a warrant at the beginning of the meeting, Elder Woodruff pointed out that he had a license to preach, just like the rector, but would be willing to speak to the constable after the meeting. He recalled, “The power of God rested upon me, the spirit filled the house, and the people were convinced.” At the end of the meeting, seven people presented themselves for baptism, including the constable who had planned to arrest Elder Woodruff.
The parish rector did not give up easily. He sent two clerks to listen to the next sermon, hoping that they could find something that he could use against the Apostle to stop him from preaching. After listening to the sermon, they too believed the message and desired to be baptized. After these events, the rector did not send anyone else to listen to Elder Woodruff’s preaching.
From the home of John Benbow the teaching of the restored Gospel commenced. The Benbow Farm pond was soon the baptismal site for over 100 baptisms. But it did not end there. The message spread to others in the area, the preaching of the Gospel had great effect and acceptance in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, and Gloucestershire. Elder Woodruff recorded
“The first thirty days after I arrived in Herefordshire I baptized forty-five preachers and several hundred members.”
Soon these areas would prove some of the most fruitful in all for the labors of the missionaries in Great Britain. All of the members of the United Brethren except 1), had received baptism, and joined the church.
By June, only 4 months later 32 Branches (small congregations) were organized in the surrounding areas. Church membership had reached over 500. By July 6th, membership in Herefordshire, and Gloucestershire had reached over 1,000. John was ordained to the office of “Elder”, and was serving as a Branch President.
Truly the Lord had opened a door unto Salvation for this people. And his faithful servants William and John Benbow were instruments in his hands to allow Elder Woodruff to personally baptize over 1,800 people, and to help bring over 2,000 converts in less than 8 months (including 200 preachers of varying denominations). Over 600 of the baptisms were performed in the pond at the Benbow farm.
Not only did his home and farm play a pivotal role in the conversion of the Saints in Great Britain. But when they needed money to print the Book of Mormon, John gave £300 (Pounds) to help print the first European edition of the Book of Mormon, and a hymnal.
September 8th, 1840. The time had come for John to migrate to Nauvoo. He left with his family (Jane, Ellen, and Thomas) from Liverpool, headed for New York. Other Saints who needed help immigrating to America, so John gives £100 to help pay the passage of 40 saints to the New York.
John gave over £400 in less than a year to help the work of the Lord in England (In today’s value it is over £23,628, or better put $36,383). He gave more than money, though. He gave the Lord his whole life as an offering.
October 11th, 1840 they Arrived in New York, and by November 24th, they had arrived in the City of Joseph, Nauvoo. They had traveled 5,000 miles in 11 weeks.
After Arriving in Nauvoo, he was ordained a high Priest in February of 1842 by Hyrum Smith.
In 1844 when Joseph was falsely arrested, he pledged all his holdings as bail.
He was a benefactor the Nauvoo Legion. The Nauvoo House, and Temple.
In 1846, his wife Jane passed away.
In 1848, He was appointed a “Captain of 50” Pioneers, later that year he arrived with his group into the Salt Lake Valley.
September 3rd 1851 John married Rosetta.
John settled south Cottonwood now known as Murray Utah.
John also helped many saints over 6 years make the journey across the plains.
John died on May 12th, 1874. Having given his all to the Lord. He was buried it what is now known as the Murray Cemetery.
Of John Benbow, Elder Holland said the following.
John Benbow was from the hour of his baptism to today the closest person to aristocracy that has ever joined the Church in all of Great Britain. “No one has ever been as close to gentry as John Benbow. . . . I’m grateful that he would give and give and give, and gave everything for the Kingdom of God.”