Notes from the 2009 Eborn Book Event: Dennis Horne on Abraham Cannon and Other Projects

By August 12, 2009

Here are my notes from Dennis Horne’s presentation. As always, these are imcomplete notes and not a complete transcript.

[I missed the first few minutes, he was talking about Abraham Cannon?s journal, which he edited in a book entitled: An Apostle?s Record: The Journals of Abraham H. Cannon, Member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, 1889-1896.]

Of 4000 pages [of the Cannon Journal], only a small part that was important enough to include [in the book].  There is a lot of mundane material. Abram Cannon said things like: went to a play and the plot was this?; I don?t care about old play plots; maybe a film student would be interested, but I?m not. Discussion of manifesto, lots of polygamy stuff, lots of items pertaining to politics, lots of doctrinal discussion. Here is a key question, when a person is called to be an apostle, after they?re ordained an apostle, they are given an apostolic charge in a meeting of the 12 and FP; They are told you have to have a testimony that Jesus is the Christ, second key thing said is that while you are in these meetings of the first presidency and 12, you are free completely free to speak your mind and give your opinion on what should happen or how things are, what you think the doctrine is, but once the president of the church says, I think it is this way, all who will support me raise their hand, they are to receive a unanimous vote. That?s how it is, and if your opinion was different, you change your opinion, that?s part of the charge, the unity.

When it comes to doctrine, that?s interesting, because the doctrine of the church is formulated and interpreted and solidified by The FP and 12, in their meetings, if a question arises of a doctrinal nature sufficiently important to come before the brethren, in those meetings the doctrinal interpretation is decided for the church. Even if a certain GA might have had a different view, once a unified decision becomes a minute entry, it can be taught to the church. You can see what a powerful thing this apostolic charge is.  Because not only the policy and direction of the church is decided, but where there are questions about interpretations, that?s where it happens, that becomes the position of the brethren. I was just reading the other day, there was an incident where one of the apostles around 1900, did something he should not have done. He told his son of a decision that had been made concerning a stake in a meeting of the q of 12, this apostle was not present later when that decision was reversed, but he told his son, the son was at a meeting where another apostle announced the decision that was different, that son made a fuss; this was an instance where one of the brethren did what should not have been done, leaked it out, and it created some difficulty; this is a reason why they don?t talk about it today, you just don?t hear about meetings of the FP and Q of 12.

The contacts I have in high places, one or two of them, try as I might, I can?t dig any thing out of them about what was deliberated in these meetings, you just can?t get it out of them, and I think that?s the way it should be, but I think that?s how it should be now, not how we look at things a hundred years ago, just my opinion. Maybe these old minutes might disturb a few weak people, but if written in context with annotation and proper editorial tools, in a book like mine where there is an introduction, context, explanation, it seems to be in my opinion, that it ought to be something we can find out about.  What really went on, what was really said, why things were done the way they were done. Abraham Cannon?s journal is literally one of the finest historical documents that unfolds church history that we have from the late 18th century.  In detail it often beats Wilford Woodruff?s journal, which is considered one of the finest if not the finest, but there are plenty of days with only one sentence in Woodruff?s. But Abraham Cannon will go on for pages and give the whole talk given in the quorum of 12 meeting.

You don?t get anything about meetings today–I have to correct myself because there are exceptions to everything–if you?ve read Marion G. Romney?s biography closely, Bruce R. McConkie?s bio closely (by his son), Hinckley?s bio closely, if you check the footnotes there are journal entries from these brothers? journals that have material from meetings of the First Presidency and 12, but everything was approved before it went out by Hinckley and Pres Romney. I didn?t send my book by anyone, I used my own judgment which is tricky. There is another publisher that has let the word out that they have someone working also on the Abram Cannon journals, under the impression that this other publisher whether or not the other edition ever comes out, it is subject to some question now because of the economy. Mine may end up being the only one out, but a side question brought up is well, what didn?t you put in that they might put in as far as more sensitive stuff, there has been vigorous argument and discussion on chat sites and so forth. I want to answer that real quick.

In the original Abram Cannon journals there?s a page dealing with higher blessings, I took that out of my publication. There is a sentence or two dealing with instructions to temple workers that I omitted; I took out a word for word rendition of the temple marriage ceremony when Abram Cannon did a sealing for a relative; that is not in there. In the original journals there are a few pages where the Adam-God theory is referenced and George Q. Cannon talks about it–I took it out of my book; that?s the one item at this point I would have put that back in.  I refused to betray confidences about the temple. Right now that?s the best my memory tells me. In conclusion, I did want to mention that six months ago, I had this book published, ?Faith to Heal and Be Healed?, published through CFI. Even with this group who?s familiar with historical sources, I guarantee there are things in there, accounts of GAs being blessed and blessing that you haven?t seen. If any of you have already seen all that?s in there, I?d fall over in amazement. If you want more info on the First Presidency minutes and 12, there is a section in my ?Determining Doctrine? that talks about that. This is not another Mormon Doctrine type book. It has hundreds of quotations from the brethren talking about how to determine if a doctrine is correct or not.  If anyone in here has seen everything in it I?d be shocked and amazed.

Lastly, if all goes well, hopefully by October, there will be a second edition of the Bruce McConkie book, enlarged. What happened, when the first edition came out, I had a lot of fans contact me with wonderful McConkie materials. I was able to collect that, put together 70 more pages that will largely not be found in either my first book or Joseph?s [Joseph McConkie?s] book. After he [Bruce R. McConkie] died, in some circles he was considered controversial by some people; because of that, as I wrote the book and got peer review, ran it past people in CES and correlation, and got suggestions, I took some of the things out that seemed a little too difficult for some weak people back then. He?d only been dead for 7 or 8 years and was a lighting rod; it?s now been 25 years and so many people don?t care any more. Most of the membership of the church says, ?Bruce Who?? It hurts my stomach. They should care but they don?t, but the kind of people who are in here today do care. I think that you will find the material I put in the second enlarged edition is choice material, more about Mormon Doctrine, the revelation on Priesthood, Eugene England, the George Pace incident, goes into those things and explains them in context and not white washed, McConkie would probably see that stuff in himself, but who knows, he might slap me around, I don?t think so.

I?m also working on a book on Lorenzo Snow; Brent Ashworth had another document, he acquired the Lorenzo Snow prison diary, an account of letters he wrote and were sent to him in prison and his doings, I?m at the beginning of that, one of the items I ran into, I got a tip from one of Bret?s associates that runs the Ogden Eborn Books, that there is a manuscript of Lorenzo Snow, a biography. I did some research that Orson F. Whitney while working as an employee at the office of the Church Historian wrote a lengthy sequel to the Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow by Eliza R. Snow, you probably all have that. It is titled: ?Latter Leaves from The Life of Lorenzo Snow?, I?m in the middle of getting copyright permission for that, it could be a 500-600 page book talking about Snow?s arrest, trials, imprisonment, and some events before and after that. For those of us who love these books and documents it is choice material.  Both of these?the prison diary and the biography sequal–will be published if things go according to plan.  Any questions?

Q: Interaction with Joseph Fielding McConkie over your McConkie biography?

A: I talked with Amelia, Bruce?s wife, twice; I felt I obtained enough consent to move forward, but Joseph wasn?t pleased. The book came out, the book was good, a lot of people feared I would have a Signature Book slant on it. It did not have that, and it saved my bacon because I have heard some of the brethren liked it. I believe that when people  approached him [Joseph F. McConkie] and asked, What do you think of the Horne book?–that kind of question basically forced him to write his. Bruce told his family ?you will not write a bio about me?. That?s why it didn?t happen for so long, but my book pushed him to do his own, and I?m glad he did because his is a great book.

Q: [Bret Eborn] On Abram Cannon, did you have trouble finding a publisher?

A: [chuckles] I went to an idiot publisher that turned me down [referring to Eborn, laughingly] I had to self publish that because Bret was worried about the sensitive material. You don?t want to get blacklisted for ignorantly publishing sensitive things.  How do you know if you drew the content line in the right place and the publisher might not know either. Maybe I should have taken out more or left more in, it?s a tough judgment call, but so far it looks like it went well.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. How good is the Cannon journal? anything of interest to people not that curious about fin-de-siecle Utah Mormonism?

    Comment by smb — August 12, 2009 @ 7:40 am

  2. There is some good stuff about death, or near death, in there, Sam, like this clip from 1891:

    “Attended the 17th Ward Fast meeting at 10 a.m. and heard some good testimonies borne. Bro. J.C. Sandberg told about his daughter who had been sick. She was nigh unto death, and while they were expecting her death she gave a scream and then asked her father to drive the three bad men away from her bedside. He came to her and seemed to see three persons standing by her bed. He prayed for her and she was relieved. She asked to be taken to the door that she might watch them leave the yard. After they had left the yard Bro. Sandberg?s ministering spirit, which has been with him on many trying occasions, came and told him to boil some water and stir salt in it till it was sufficiently strong to float an egg. He should then wash his child all over with this water and she would recover. He did as told and the result was as promised.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 12, 2009 @ 8:05 am

  3. Or this, also from 1891: “My youngest child, Gene, 7 days old, by Mamie, died a few minutes after 7 o?clock this morning. I had scarcely expected it to live. After receiving word of its death I went down to Mamie?s and talked about its burial. I also saw Joseph E. Taylor and arranged with him to have the body deposited in my cemetery lot under the name of Gene Crawford from Farmer?s ward. It is thought best to dispense with funeral services, as such would place me in jeopardy.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 12, 2009 @ 8:07 am

  4. It’s good smb. It’s good.

    Comment by SC Taysom — August 12, 2009 @ 8:16 am

  5. Those are outstanding,Ardis, thanks for educating me.

    Comment by smb — August 12, 2009 @ 8:26 am

  6. I agree, the journal is a real jewel.

    Comment by Jared T — August 12, 2009 @ 9:20 am

  7. Interesting stuff here. I find the casual willingness to push stuff under the carpet a bit disconcerting. I also found his Determining Doctrine to be quite skewed, so this doesn’t give me a lot of confidence. That said, he seems bullish, so I have now purchased his volume on healing and we will see how it stacks up.

    Aside from any particular editorial method, as many have said, I have found the AH Cannon diaries simply amazing. I also look forward to his father’s diaries, which some have said are even better.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 12, 2009 @ 9:36 am


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