John Murdock was a faithful member of the early Mormon Church for all of his life. In 1831 his first wife died after giving birth to twins. He gave these twins to Joseph and Emma Smith to raise who had just suffered the loss of newborn twins themselves. John Murdock was a humble, spiritual man who had a vision of the Savior. He served several church missions, as a bishop in Nauvoo and Salt Lake City, and as a patriarch.
1830 Conversion to Mormonism
Source: John Murdock Journal, BYU Special Collections (5-8)
Early life, John Murdock began an intense search for the true church of Jesus Christ. He had studied may religions but became convinced that they all lack proper authority to act in the name of God. His personal journal excellently describes his concerns (as he discussed them with a friend, Mr. Covey) and then his conversion to join a new church called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This incident takes place in late 1830 when he was living on his farm in Warrensville, Ohio, not far from Kirtland, Ohio during the famous Western Indian mission of Elder Oliver Cowdery and his companions.
Where is the man to commence the work of baptizing? or where shall he get his authority? Can he go to those who are out of the way (not in the true church) and obtain authority? I told him (Brother Covey) no. If they are out of the way as we believe; they have lost all authority, and I said to him, the only way the authority can be obtained is, the Lord must either send an angel to baptize the first man, or he must give a special command to someone to baptize another.
About one month after this interview with Brother Cover, word came to me that four men had arrived at Kirtland from the state of New York, who were preaching, baptizing, and building up the church after the ancient order; it was one Sunday morning as I was going to attend an appointment to preach, that I was informed on this. I was also told that Elder Rigdon, with many others of the Campbellite Church were baptized by them. I replied to (Brother Covey) that it was an insinuation of the devil but I was immediately checked in my feelings, and I made no more harsh expressions respecting them.
I attended my appointment and got along with my meeting as easy as I could and went home, and went to reading my Bible and frequently heard of the new preachers until Thursday the same week. I went to see for myself, a distance of about twenty miles, I heard the sayings of many people by the way, some for the new preachers and some against, but I observed the Spirit that stimulated those for, and those against. I met Squire Waldo, who was a Campbellite who was bitterly opposed. He tried to have me take another road, and not go to Kirtland, but I told him I was of age, and the case was an important one, of life and death, existing between me and my God, and I must act for myself, for no one can act for me. I rode about three miles further and met another man of the same order, I had about the same kind of discourse with him and passed on.
I arrived at father Isaac Morley (1786-1865)'s about dark, and was soon introduced to those four men from New York, and presented with The Book of Mormon; I now said within myself, I have items placed and having a book professing to have come forth by the power of God, containing the fullness of the gospel; I said if it be so their walk will agree with their profession, and the Holy Ghost will attend their ministration of the ordinances, and before me that will prove to me whether it be of God or not; four men professing to be servants of the most high God, authorized to preach the gospel, and practice the ordinances thereof, and build up the Church after the ancient order; the Book of Mormon will contain the same plan of salvation as the Bible. I was sensible that such a work must come forth, but the question with me was, are these men that are to commence the work. I did not ask a sign of them by working a mieracle, by healing a sick man, by raising a dead man, or by casting out a devil; only I desired to know whether the Spirit would attend their ministration if the Book of Mormon was not true, neither if they were not sent forth by God.
Accordingly, that night was held the first confirmation meeting that was held in Ohio. And I said within myself it is a good time for me. For thought I this night must prove it to be true, or false, I did not find out respecting the meeting till about ten o'clock at night. And at that time they had all left but three men; and I found they wanted to go to the meeting and did not want those in, that had not been baptized. I said to them go, for if you wish to be alone, I do not blame you. The case is one of importance. They went and I stayed alone, and read the Book of Mormon.
During the evening previous to the meeting, a Nathan Goodwell, a Campbellite came and conversed with Elder Oliver Cowdery for he was the principal one of the four, and I watched the Spirit of each one of them in their conversation, and I found that Goodwell bore down with warmth (argumentative), where as Cowdery wished not for contention, and endeavored to evade controversy.
I read till it was late and went into Father Morley's chamber to bed and had not been long in bed, before they returned, and some half dozen or more came into the same house, and as soon as they came into the house, although I was in bed up chamber, the spirit of the Lord rested on me, witnessing to me of the truth of the work. I could no longer rest in bed but got up and went down and found Elder Rigdon among the number, and he said to me I might go back to bed, for he would not talk to me that night, but I sat in a chair and conversed with them, and I found they appeared very tender in their feelings and I retired to bed again. I could not help secretly rejoicing on the occasion.
The next morning I conversed with about half a cozen men separately who had been confirmed in the meetinghouse the night before. I found their testimony agreed on the subject that there was a manifestation of the spirit attened the ministration of the ordinance of laying on hands, and I found the items placed before me, that I before noticed, all testified that it was of God.
About ten o'clock that morning, being November 5th, 1830, I told the servants of the Lord that I was ready to walk with them into the water of baptism. Accordingly, Elder P. Pratt baptized me in the Chagrin River and the spirit of the Lord sensibly attended the ministration, and I came out of the water rejocing and singing praises to God and the Lamb.
An impression sensibly rested on my mind that cannot, by me, be forgotten. It appeared to me that notwithstanding all the profession of religion that I had previously made and all that I had done, that by my act of now being baptized I had just escaped a horrible pit of destruction. This was the third time I had been immersed, but I never before felt the authority of the ordinance, but I felt it this time and felt as though my sins were forgiven. I continued with the brethren till Sunday at which time they preached in Mayfield and baptized a number, and on Sunday evening they confirmed about thirty. I was one of the number. Elder Oliver Cowdery was administrator. I was also ordained an elder; an dit was truly a time of the outpouring of the spirit...
I endeavored to bear testimony to my neighbors whom I met by the way, but they would not believe. At length I arrived home. My family gladly received me and my words, thank the Lord. And my wife (pregnant with twins) and Brother Covey both believed the Book of Mormon, for I brought it home with me, and read it to them, and I was filled with the spirit as I read.
At length the first day of the next week arrived and the New York brethren held meeting in Warrensville, four miles west of my house, and I bore testimony to the truth, my wife, Brother Covey, and 3 others were baptized.
D&C 50 Revelation
Parley Parker Pratt (1807-1857), who had baptized John Murdock earlier, returned from his mission west to Kirtland in the spring of 1831 and found John and several other members struggling to understand the difference between the influence of the Holy Ghost and the power of Satan's spirits. From Pratt's Autobiography (pg 48):
Feeling our weekness and inexperience, and lest we should err in judgment concerning these spiritual phenomena, myself, John Murdock, and several other elders, went to Joseph Smith and asked him to inquire of the Lord concerning these spirits or manifestations. After we had joined in prayer in his translating room, he dictated in our presence the following revelation (Doctrine & Covenants #50).
1831 Adopted Twins
On 30 April 1831, the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith and his wife, Emma Hale (1804-1879), gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, who lived for no more than three short hours. About the same time, Julia Clapp (1796-1831), John's wife gave birth to a set of twins, also a boy, Joseph Murdock Smith (1831-1832), and a girl, Julia Murdock Smith (1831-1880). Julia died very shortly afterwards. By May 9th, John brought the two babies over to Emma to nurse and raise. These twins were adopted by the Smiths.
But just 11 months later a terrible tragedy would strike this family. Late on a cold March night, Joseph was in the front room holding baby Joseph who was terribly sick at the time when an angry mob stormed the house and dragged the Prophet outside where he is cruelly treated, his life threatened and he was tarred and feathered. During this incident, baby Joseph was left exposed to the cold weather and suffered greatly. The baby would die just a few days later (29-Mar-1832).
1831 Early Church Missions
Bro. Murdock was ordained a High Priest at Kirtland, June 6, 1831, by Joseph the Prophet. At this event Joseph received a revelation Doctrine & Covenants 52:8 which included instructions for John Murdock, in company with Hyrum Smith (1800-1844) to begin a missionary trip to Missouri by way of Detroit. On this mission he was sick for five months and returned to Kirtland in June, 1832, in company with Elder Parley P. Pratt. In 1832 he sent his three oldest children to Bishop Partridge in Missouri with some means for their support.
Thus he was prepared to preach the gospel. He preached, baptized, and built up a branch of the Church that fall and winter in the east part of Geauga county, received instructions and the washing of feet in Kirtland, and beheld the face of the Lord, according to the promise and prayer of the Prophet.
Doctrine & Covenants Section 99 is a revelation in the canon scripture of the Mormon church, recorded on 29 Aug 1832 and directed to John Murdock instructing him to serve a mission to the Eastern States.
In April, 1833, he started into the Eastern country on a preaching mission, on which he built up a small branch of the Church in Delaware county, N. Y., the place of his birth; he returned west in December, 1833, and after visiting Livingston county, N. Y., he arrived at Kirtland early in 1834.
Zions Camp Participant
One of the most interesting episodes in the early history of LDS Church was the march of Zion's Camp (1834). The members of the Church in Missouri were being persecuted, and the Prophet Joseph made it a matter of prayer and received a revelation on February 24, 1834. The Lord instructed the Prophet to assemble at least one hundred young and middle-aged men and to go to the land of Zion, or Missouri. (See D&C 130:19–34.)
Zion’s Camp, a group of approximately one hundred and fifty men, gathered at Kirtland, Ohio, in the spring of 1834 and marched to Jackson County, Missouri. By the time they reached Missouri, the camp had increased to approximately two hundred men.
John Murdock went to Missouri as a member of Zions Camp in 1834, suffered with sickness. His six year old daughter Phebe Murdock (1828-1834) traveled with him (not wanting to stay with strangers). But she died from the cholera epidemic that struck the camp.
He started on another mission March 5, 1835, to the East, visiting New York and Vermont, and returned to Ohio early in 1836. He married Amoranda Turner Feb. 4, 1836, and went on foot to Kirtland, where he arrived Feb. 24th. He received his washings and anointings in the Kirtland Temple, March 3, 1836.
1836 Missouri Persecutions
His wife arrived at Kirtland May 28, 1836, and they soon afterwards started for Missouri, where they passed through the persecutions at De Witt, Far West, etc. Bro Murdock was the oldest member of the High Council at Far West. His wife Amoranda died of fever Aug. 16, 1837, and Bro. Murdock left Missouri in 1839.
1842 Nauvoo 5th Ward Bishop
Bro. Murdock left Missouri in 1839. After stopping temporarily at Quincy he settled at Nauvoo, Ill. Here he was ordained and set apart as Bishop Aug. 21, 1842, and he presided over the Fifth Ward at Nauvoo till Nov. 29, 1844, when he was called to travel, visit and set in order branches of the Church abroad. He continued in this calling till March, 1845. In October, 1845, his wife Electa Allen, whom he had married May 3, 1838, died.
1847 Utah Migration
He emigrated to Salt Lake Valley in 1847, arriving on the site of Salt Lake City Sept. 24, 1847. Here he acted as a High Councilor and he was set apart as Bishop of the 14th Ward Feb. 14, 1849. In December, 1849, he took his seat in the legislative body for the State of Deseret and acted as such and as Bishop til Feb. 6, 1851, when he resigned to go on a mission to the Pacific Islands.
1852 Pacific Islands Mission
He traveled with Parley P. Pratt to the Pacific coast, starting on this mission from Salt Lake City March 12, 1851, with others and traveled to San Francisco; he was then called by Apostle Parley P. Pratt to open up a mission in Australia. Together with Charles W. Wandell he landed at Sydney, Australia Oct. 30, 1851, as the first Latter-day Saint missionaries to that land and Bro. Murdock labored in Australia till June 2, 1852, when he left for home, leaving Elder Wandell to preside.
On his return to Utah he found his family at Lehi, Utah county, and at the April conference, 1854, the Saints voted for his ordination to the office a Patriarch. At Lehi he presided over the High Priests and filled other important positions. In his last days he was feeble and lived with his children. He received his second anointings June 7, 1867, and died Dec. 23, 1871, at Beaver, Utah.
Marriages & Families
1st Marriage: J Clapp
John's first wife, Julia Clapp (1796-1831), followed him in embracing the Mormon Religion when they were living in Ohio. She died immediately after giving birth to twins in early May 1831.
- Orrice Clapp Murdock (1824-1915)
- John Riggs Murdock (1826-1913) - Mormon pioneer who led a number of down-and-back wagon companies. Served in Mormon Battalion and was 1st President of LDS Beaver Utah Stake.
- Phebe Murdock (1828-1834) - died at age six while traveling with her widowed father from the cholera epidemic that struck Zion's Camp (1834).
- Joseph Murdock Smith (1831-1832) Twin - Mother died after childbirth, both twins were given to the Mormom Prophet, Joseph Smith (1805-1844) and his wife to adopt after their own twins both died. Joseph died of exposure when mobbers attacked their home 11 months later.
- Julia Murdock Smith (1831-1880) Twin - Mother died after childbirth, both twins were given to the Mormom Prophet, Joseph Smith (1805-1844) and his wife to adopt after their own twins both died.
2nd Marriage: A Turner
After the death of his first wife, John married Amoranda Turner (1810-1837) in 1836. She died one year later.
3rd Marriage: E Allen
After the death of his second wife, John married Electa Allen (1806-1845) in 1838 in Far West MO. She died 7 years later.
- Gideon Allen Murdock (1840-1925) - who acted for many years as Bishop at Joseph, Sevier co., Utah, and is now (1914) a resident of Minersville, Beaver county, Utah.
- Rachael Murdock (1843-1843) - died young
- Hyrum S Murdock (1844-1846) - died young
4th Marriage: S Zufelt
After the death of his third wife, John married Sarah Zufelt (1804-1884) in 1846 in Nauvoo IL. She would travel with him across the Great Plains to help settle with the Mormon Saints in Utah.
- Brigham Young Murdock (1849-1853) - died young
5th Marriage: M MeEwen
After his arrival into the Utah Valley, John Murdock followed the Mormon tradition of taking a plural wife, [[May McEwen (
|Offspring of John Murdock II and Electa Allen (1806-1845)|
|Gideon Allen Murdock (1840-1925)||1 August 1840 Lima, Adams County, Illinois||14 November 1925 Beaver, Beaver County, Utah|| Lucinda Elvira Howd (1850-1943)|
|Rachael Murdock (1843-1843)||1843 Hancock County, Illinois||1843 Hancock County, Illinois|| |
|Hyrum S Murdock (1844-1846)||8 January 1844 Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois||19 September 1846|
|Offspring of John Murdock II and Sarah Zufelt (1804-1884)|
|Brigham Young Murdock (1849-1853)||20 August 1849 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah||4 January 1853 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah|
|Offspring of John Murdock I and Eleanor Riggs (1767-1796)|
|James Savage Murdock (1786-1851)|| |
|Edward Riggs Murdock (1787-1864)|| |
|Infant Murdock (1790-1790)|| |
|Polly Murdock (1791-1792)|| |
|John Murdock (1792-1871)||15 July 1792 Kortright, Delaware County, New York||23 December 1871 Beaver, Beaver County, Utah|| Julia Clapp (1796-1831)|
Amoranda Turner (1810-1837)
Electa Allen (1806-1845)
Sarah Zufelt (1804-1884)
Margrey May McEran (1804-1889)
|Samuel Murdock (1794-1848)|
|Offspring of John Murdock I and Betsey Shepherd (1763-1813)|
|Betsy Murdock (1799-)|| |
|Eleanor Maria Murdock (1801-1887)|| |
|Jesse Shepherd Murdock (1803-1826)|| |
|Emeline Murdock (1807-)|| |
|Mary Ann Murdock (1818-1870)|| |
|Jefferson Murdock (1822-)|
1870 US Federal Census
Recorded in Beaver City, UT. This shows John living with the family of his son John R. Several of the older women are plural wives of John R. The Lott's are all family of John R's first wife.
- Elvira Murdock - f/40
- Julia A Murdock - f/17
- John C Murdock - m/19
- Joseph R Murdock - m/10
- George C Murdock - m/8
- Horace A Murdock - m/3
- May Murdock - f/32
- John Sew Murdock - m/78
- Peter Lott - m/30
- Sarah Murdock Lott - f/25
- Caroline Lott - f/4
- Baby Lott - m/1
- Several Family History records incorrectly show John as married to wives of his sons.
- Life of John Murdock - Wikipedia
- D&C 99 Commentary - Study Manual Analysis of Mormon Scripture and the Life of John Murdock
- Samuel Murdock Family Ancestry - grandfather of John Murdock - connection to Royal European Ancestry
- Hezekiah Murdock Immigrant Ancestors - uncle to John Murdock - Famous New England Ancestors of Hezekiah.