Lorenzo Barnes – One of the Many – One of a Kind

Among the Charles Finney’s, Lyman Beecher’s, Alex Campbell’s and Joseph Smith’s of early American religion stood the nearly anonymous men and women who were followers or advocates. For the most part in this age of improvement, Americans seemed to be moving on from one idea to a better one, just as they moved from one place to another. But for the Mormons, a core of dedicated people made up a missionary cohort that converted the thousands who formed the Latter-day Saints into a history-making wedge of Americana.

One of these focused souls in Mormonism was Lorenzo Barnes (spelled Barns in the 1820 US census). Born in 1812 in Massachusetts, Barnes’ family was part of the westward movement of America. Settling in Ohio, the family came into contact with Ohio Latter-day Saints in 1833. Lorenzo heard and accepted the Millennial message and never looked back.[1] Almost immediately he took to the missionary trail, returning to the family home in winter snows to teach school until spring. Barnes joined “Zion’s Camp,” in 1834: the hopeful group of Joseph Smith-led Saints who wished to protect those Mormons who had been ejected from their Zion in Jackson County, Missouri the previous year. Missouri governor Daniel Dunklin found little to recommend the idea however, and rejected the plan of his attorney general to escort the displaced Saints back to the Independence area (now an eastern suburb of Kansas City). Dunklin saw the makings of civil war in the move.

Hence the “Camp” was disbanded and with many others, Lorenzo returned to Ohio. When members of the camp found themselves a part of new Mormon leadership groups in 1835, Lorenzo was among them. Barnes became a member of the first quorum of “Seventy,”[2] a group tasked especially with the missionary effort of the church. Sent off to proselyte in the eastern states, Barnes moved through Kentucky and Virginia. He was a consistent worker who overcame a stuttering problem to become one of the most highly regarded Mormon leaders in his field of labor. Barnes stayed in the region until 1838 when he followed Mormon leaders who vacated Ohio for Far West, Missouri in 1838. Lorenzo didn’t last long in the community building efforts there before he was again sent to the east to make converts. He remained in missionary service until 1841 when he came to the new church center of Nauvoo with a group of converts.

Barnes had been chosen for missionary service in 1839 to travel to Britain in the wake of the LDS Apostles. He headed slowly for England, spending quite a number of months in the Pennsylvania area. When it seemed that he was staying too long, church leaders wrote to remind him of the point of his journey and Barnes finally boarded ship for England in January of 1842. Barnes was a pillar of church leadership in Pennsylvania in the early 1840s and wrote “licenses”[3] for other Mormon leaders who were passing through the region.

Lorenzo Barnes was no Parley Pratt, but he did publish some missionary tracts, one of which was well respected by his fellow messengers of Mormonism, titled References. Barnes composed a poem on the ship to Liverpool, discussing his task. Called The Bold Pilgrim, he published it in England.

Lorenzo died in December after a short illness in Idle, Yorkshire, England. He was buried in Idle. Two years later Wilford Woodruff visited the grave site and made arrangements for a headstone and epitaph. (Woodruff took excerpts from his journal about the incident and put them in a letter to John Taylor for publication. See Times and Seasons for May 15, 1845.)

The fact that Lorenzo Barnes[4] was buried in England forms the basis for his relationship to this blog.

When Joseph Smith heard of Barnes’ death via letter from British mission leader Parley Pratt, he offered remarks in Nauvoo in praise of Barnes and particularly on the matter of his burial in England.
A few of these remarks as reported by Willard Richards:

When I heard of the death of our beloved bro Barns it would not have affected me so much if I had the opportunity of burying him in the land of Zion. I believe, those who have buried their friends here their condition is enviable. Look at Joseph in Egypt how he required his friends to bury him in the tomb of his fathers

The reason for this kind of gathering came in these words:

would you think it strange that I relate what I have seen in vision in relation [to] this interesting theme. those who have died in Jesus Christ, may expect to enter in to all that fruition of Joy when they come forth, which they have pursued here, so plain was the vision I actually saw men, before they had ascended from the tomb, as though they were getting up slowly, they took each other by the hand & it was my father & my son . my mother my brother & my sister & my daughter [5]

Lorenzo was a bachelor until late 1841. During his short stay in Nauvoo, he initiated a romantic relationship with one Susan Conrad, a 16(?) year old girl. But upon leaving (again) for his assignment in England there is some evidence that he went first to Norton, his Ohio hometown, and married an Amanda Wilson.[6] Whether this foreshadowed an intended polygamous relationship is impossible to tell. But given that Joseph thought so highly of Barnes, it’s not out of the question I suppose.

However the interesting point, given Joseph’s emphasis on being buried with family and friends, is that Barnes’ body was exhumed after nearly a decade and delivered to Salt Lake City where he was buried again. The story behind that is also interesting, but this is already too long.
[1] Barnes apparently had quite a number of siblings. His parents, Phineas and Abagail, remained in Ohio until their deaths.

[2] Similarly named groups in the LDS church now function as general jurisdiction and regional officers. In these early times however, it was only the “presidents” of the Seventy that were classed with the general hierarchy of Mormonism in a practical sense despite the entire quorum having nascent high authority apparently.

[3] The idea of “license” was borrowed from Methodism. It functioned in Mormonism as a kind of letter of recommendation, but also as badge of authority.

[4] Various records list Lorenzo’s middle name as Dow or Don.

[5] Among JS’s funeral sermons, this one was unique in that we know that he reviewed Richards’ copy the following day. Hence there is considerable confidence that the Richards report accurately represents JS’s thoughts.

[6] Barnes exchanged letters with Conrad while in England. They wrote love poems to each other among other correspondence. I have not found any correspondence with Wilson. Barnes was not sealed posthumously to Conrad, but was sealed to three other women, one dead, two living, at the time of sealing. As for Conrad, she married in 1846. Woodruff stated she was 16 in 1841, however other records make her older, at least one gives a birthdate of Dec. 5, 1818. There is an Ohio marriage record for Amanda Wilson and a Lorenzo D. Barnes for October 3, 1841. They were sealed posthumously in 1980. But I have difficulty with this marriage. I rather doubt that no evidence for this spouse would be found among his personal effects beyond perhaps a gold ring. Was there another Lorenzo D. Barnes? Woodruff never lost track of Barnes in a way — he found Conrad years later to converse with her about Barnes but apparently never knew about Wilson, if indeed she was this Lorenzo’s wife. While in England (1845), Woodruff had vowed that the sealing powers would be used in Barnes’ behalf. They were, but perhaps not in the way Woodruff intended.

9 Responses to Lorenzo Barnes – One of the Many – One of a Kind

  1. Christopher says:

    Thanks for the brief bio of Barnes. A couple of notes:

    1) I assume you mean Charles Finney, not Albert Finney, in your first sentence.

    2) Re: footnote #4. His middle name is Dow. He was, like thousands of other nineteenth century American males, named after the famed independent Methodist itinerant Lorenzo Dow.

    • W. V. Smith says:

      Ha! yes. Charles. I changed the name in the post. Writing and talking at the same time. And of course it makes sense on the Lorenzo Dow, but some docs say Don, so what are you going to do? Thanks.

    • W. V. Smith says:

      By the way, did you get the images I emailed? They weren’t too large so I thought they would go through, but gmail might edit.

  2. J. Stapley says:

    Much like Lorenzo Dow Young, Brigham’s brother.

    Nice post, WVS. I think Joseph’s emphasis on burial close to kin is essential in understanding the events of 1842-1846. Sam treats this quite abit in his forthcoming volume.

    I wasn’t aware of Barnes history, thanks for making us aware.

    • W. V. Smith says:

      Right! As Chris notes, lots of people got the name. Looking forward to Sam’s book. When’s that going to happen?

  3. J. Stapley says:

    I think he is scoping out publishers now.

  4. Robert Barnes says:

    Thanks for the great information. Lorenzo Dow Barnes is My GG Uncle.

    • W. V. Smith says:

      You’re welcome Robert. Any family legends about Lorenzo? The Conrad girl was probably one of his Pennsylvania converts and came to Nauvoo with Lorenzo in the group of Saints he led there.

  5. Pingback: The Spirit — The Meaning in Small Changes « Boap.org's Blog

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