John Jaques – A life.

John Jaques, whose claim to continuing fame is his composition “Truth,” a poem which appeared in the first edition of The Pearl of Great Price and was later set to music, appearing in the present LDS hymnal under the title “Oh Say, What is Truth,” offered this summary of his life, near its end.

At age seven years old I went to public school. Was required to read the Bible fairly. Summers at seven o’clock to school. Winters at quarter to nine, Church of England school. Saints days and holidays and evenings had to work at home in the garden and other labor. Apprentice worker from six to seven summers, seven to eight winters, with little time for meals. Then worked over time at little jobs to earn a little money for myself.

Walked two miles on Sunday to meeting and six miles twice a month to council meetings. As traveling Elder was face sometimes with the privilege of sleeping in the streets occasionally, or walking about all night.

Traveled one of the hardest journeys across the plains by handcart, nearly worked to death, starved to death, and froze to death. [Martin handcart company – his oldest daughter perished in the storms.] All my life my lot to work steadily every day all the year round, at regular labor besides home chores. Perhaps if I had worked less and spent more time in looking for opportunities, I might have done better for myself, if not for others. If we elderly people had our lives to begin all over again with our present experiences, we could go better in many ways than we have done. But youth has not the experience of years and much of the wisdom thereof can be learned in no other way.

When I begin to think about religion, went to prayer meetings at 7 a.m., Sunday School, two Priesthood meetings, and prayer meetings after the Seventy Priesthood meeting, I am not much in favor of multiplying meetings. A multiplicity of meetings is not received good. I think good cause should be shown for a meeting before one is instituted, lest we weary the people, preach them to death, as the saying goes, and cause them to grow careless of attending any. If I were to go to conference every meeting, at the end I should be more tired than if I had been working at ordinary mechanical labor. All very well for people who have two or three hours labor in a day to want to go to meeting every night, but it is otherwise with my extra work all day every day. There is little advantage in trying to do more than you can. One good meeting over a month is better than half a dozen poor ones.

Notwithstanding what I have said, I give into no one in my earnest desire to see the practical principles of the Gospel developed in our daily life, which is after all, the sum and substance of our religion.

Now bordering on sixty years of age, it seems to me that the thickest of my share of the world’s work is about through with, and there is a craving in me for a little more restfulness, a still small voice whispers, “Take it a little easier.” That my health is as good as it is may be partly because I have not indulged in excesses, unless it be excess steady work. It seems to me that it would be right and good for me to let up on some of this work, such as can be.

Jaques wasn’t quite at the end, he had another 13 years. He served as senior president of the 8th quorum of seventy for another 11 years. John Jaques, poet, pioneer, practical churchman. RIP, brother.

8 Responses to John Jaques – A life.

  1. Tod Robbins says:


    What the source for that quotation?

  2. WVS says:

    I rather like his remarks on meetings. 😉 There is a sort of wistful regret in some of this. Perhaps regret is too strong. But it is interesting. Only the foolish wouldn’t reexamine their decisions and life-course I think.

  3. WVS says:

    A comment on Jaques from John Henry Evans is interesting: (from Gen. and Hist. Mag. July 1910)

    . . . you had to know him well to know him at all. [Otherwise] he was cold and reserved . . . associated with this characteristic was his natural diffidence . . . one cannot help thinking [that Jaques] would have been higher up . . . in the world had possessed even average self-assertion. Almost literally, his right hand did not know what his left hand did. It was sufficient with him to know that he had done thus and so. Whether any body else knew it concerned him not a wit. Most of us, while we would not particularly order our lives to suit our friends or the public, still experience a vague tremor of gratification when those friends [acknowledge our work or achievements.] [He] seemed to be altogether devoid of such feelings. Indeed, he took every precaution to keep his good actions from becoming known. He would take as great pains to hide from even his friends the fact that he had done you a good turn as he would have done had he burglarized you premises . . . A strange man . . . And yet he was a most independent soul. To put a man in office did not make him better than you . . . if a proposition were under consideration and you wanted his opinion, you got it no matter whose it conflicted with. [No matter who gave an opposing opinion] that cut no figure with him . . . a ready fireside talker and fluent with a pen, he was yet a poor preacher.

    Evans also notes that Jaques had published quite a bit of material under pseudonyms or as unsigned work.

  4. Reading says:

    A thoughtful man, but one clearly not stuck in or on his own thoughts. I liked this — thanks, WVS.

  5. J. Stapley says:

    A very interesting post, WVS. Peculiar even, but genuine and resonant. I think it is hard to find a book with more influence on nineteenth and early twentieth century Utah than his catechism.

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