Arnold Potter was born 11 January 1804 in Salisbury, Herkimer County, New York, United States to David Potter (1760-1838) and Elizabeth Vaughan (1762-1831) and died 28 April 1872 Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie County, Iowa, United States of unspecified causes. He married Almira Smith (1804-1832) 1822 in St. Lawrence County, New York, United States. He married Elizabeth Ann Birch (1823-1899) 10 December 1843 in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois.


Arnold Potter was a self-declared Messiah and a leader of a schismatic sect in Latter Day Saint movement. Potter referred to himself as Potter Christ.

Early Years

Potter was born in Herkimer County, New York. At age 19, he married Almira Smith. By 1835 Potter had moved with his wife and children to Switzerland County, Indiana. On November 10, 1839, Potter and his family were baptized by missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

In April 1840 Potter and his family moved to Nauvoo, Illinois to join the main gathering of Latter Day Saints. On April 24, 1840 Potter was given the Melchizedek priesthood and ordained to the priesthood office of elder by Joseph Smith (1805-1844). On June 1, 1840 Potter received a patriarchal blessing from church patriarch Joseph Smith (1771-1840). Potter settled in Sand Prairie, Iowa, where Potter was the presiding elder of the church. In January 1845 Potter became a seventy in the church.

In 1848 Potter traveled to the Salt Lake Valley as a Mormon pioneer. By 1856, he had moved from Utah Territory to San Bernardino, California.

1856 Australia Mission

On March 16, 1856 Potter received a call to serve as a missionary in Australia from LDS Church president Brigham Young. Later that year, Potter left California for Australia on the ship Osprey.

Potter later claimed that during his trip to Australia, he underwent a "purifying, quickening change" whereby his own spiritual body, called "Christ", entered into his body and he became "Potter Christ, Son of the living God". During his time in Australia, Potter wrote a book which he said was dictated to him by angels; it was described by Potter as the book from which all people were to be judged at the Final Judgment.

Potter returned to California by October 1857. A Latter-day Saint observer described Potter's re-appearance in the community:

Wednesday 21 October 1857—Arnold Potter, who calls himself Potter Christ, appeared in our streets today with a brand on his forehead which had been put in with India ink. The words which can be read at quite a distance, are “Potter Christ—The Living God—Morning Star”. To the right of the inscription is a star, below a cross. He appears very desirous of winning followers. It is said there are several apostates about to join him.

Messianic Preacher

By 1861 Potter and some of his followers had left California with the intention of settling near Independence, Missouri, the traditional location of Zion for the Latter Day Saints. They settled at Saint Marys in northwest Mills County, Iowa. When Saint Marys was destroyed by flooding in 1865, they moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Potter spent his days wandering the streets in Council Bluffs wearing a long white robe and became a local oddity. Potter's followers in Council Bluffs were described as "few but devout". The men wore black robes and the women eschewed normal grooming practices. Potter and his followers held enthusiastic prayer meetings which would often culminate in Potter declaring a new revelation from God.

In 1872 Potter announced at a meeting of his church that the time had come for his ascent into heaven. Followed by his disciples, Potter rode a donkey to the edge of the bluffs, whereupon he leapt off the edge intending to 'ascend,' but instead fell to his death. His body was collected and buried by his followers.

Marriage & Family

1st Marriage: Almira Smith

Potter first marriage was to Almira Smith (1804-1832). The history above implies that she lived to maybe the year 1842 and joined him in his conversion to Mormonism and move to Nauvoo IL. Their last child of record together was born in 1832 however.

  1. Harriet Orselia Potter (1823-1850)
  2. William Potter (1826-1859)
  3. Ann P Potter (1828-1907)
  4. Sarah Delight Potter (1828-1905)
  5. John H Potter (1832-)

2nd Marriage: Birch

Married to Elizabeth Ann Birch (1823-1899), a English Mormon Convert, in the Mormon Community of Nauvoo, Illinois after the death of his first wife. In 1853 they moved to the Mormon Colony in San Bernardino, California. She divorced him circa 1858 and left with all of the children, shortly after his transformation into a Messianic Preacher.

  1. John Potter (1844-) - died prior to 1849 family migration to Utah.
  2. Wallace Edwin Potter (1850-1909)
  3. George A Potter (1852-1909)
  4. Mary Adeline Potter (1854-1874)' - first anglo child born at the Mormon Colony of San Bernardio. She md at age 16 and died one week after the birth of her second child at 19. Her first child lived to age 101.
  5. Elizabeth Ann Potter (1858-1931)


Offspring of Arnold Potter and Almira Smith (1804-1832)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Harriet Orselia Potter (1823-1850)
William Potter (1826-1859)
Ann P Potter (1828-1907)
Sarah Delight Potter (1828-1905) 9 September 1828 Salisbury, Herkimer County, New York, United States 9 June 1905 Smoot, Lincoln County, Wyoming, United States William Mangum (1811-1888)
John H Potter (1832-)

Offspring of Arnold Potter and Elizabeth Ann Birch (1823-1899)
Name Birth Death Joined with
John Potter (1844-)
Wallace Edwin Potter (1850-1909) 14 April 1850 Millcreek, Salt Lake County, Utah, United States 30 September 1909 Glines, Uintah County, Utah, United States Harriett Susan Kempton (1856-1948) Harriett Susan Kempton (1856-1948) Olive Anderson Andelin (1868-1936)
George A Potter (1852-1909)
Mary Adeline Potter (1854-1874) 7 September 1854 San Bernardino, San Bernardino County, California, United States 7 March 1874 Murray, Salt Lake County, Utah, United States Welcome Chapman (1849-1900)
Elizabeth Ann Potter (1858-1931)


Published Works

Vital Records

1849 Mormon Pioneer Overland Travels

Silas Richards 1849 Pioneer Company - About 100 wagons were in the company when it began its journey from the outfitting post at Kanesville, Iowa (present day Council Bluffs). Depart 10 July 1849 / Arrival 25-29 Oct 1849. Note: This survey is missing their son John born in 1844.

  • Potter, Arnold 45 11 January 1804 2 April 1872
  • Potter, Elizabeth Ann Birch 29 2 November 1822 22 October 1899

1850 US Federal Census

Taken in Great Salt Lake Valley:

  • Arnold Potter - m/46 - bn: New York
  • Elizabeth Potter - f/26 - bn:England
  • John Potter - m/17 (from first marriage / bn: New York
  • Wallace Potter - m/1 - born in Deseret

1860 US Federal Census

With cult followers in Lewis, Holt Co, Missouri

  • Wm Kimball - m/25 - bn: Delaware
  • Arnold Potter - m/56
  • Sarah Potter - f/52 - bn: New York (3rd wife / Ficticious person ?)
  • Wm Wilson - m/16 - bn: Penn

1870 US Federal Census

With cult followers in Kane Twp, Council Bluffs, Ward 6. Note: William Kimball (age 42) and family is living in household next door (See 1860 Census listing above)

  • Thomas Wilson - m/66 - bn: Delaware - ocp: Laborer
  • Susanna Wilson - f/66 - bn: Delaware - ocp: Keeping House
  • Arnold Potter - m/56 - bn: NY - ocp: Laborer


  • David Potter Immigrant Ancestors
  • Manuscript History of the San Bernardino Settlement, LDS Church archives.
  • Steven R. Parkes. Arnold Potter: From L.D.S. Convert to Pioneer to Missionary to Sect Leader (unpublished manuscript)
  • Russell R. Rich (2d ed. 1967). Those Who Would Be Leaders: Offshoots of Mormonism (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University)


Footnotes (including sources)