James E. Talmage

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James E. Talmage
James E. Talmage.JPG
ca. 1875–1890
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
8 December 1911 (1911-12-08) – 27 July 1933 (1933-07-27)
Called by Joseph F. Smith
LDS Church Apostle
8 December 1911 (1911-12-08) – 27 July 1933 (1933-07-27)
Called by Joseph F. Smith
Reason Death of John Henry Smith; Charles W. Penrose added to First Presidency
at end of term
Charles A. Callis ordained
Personal details
Born James Edward Talmage
(1862-09-21)21 September 1862
Hungerford, Berkshire, England, United Kingdom
Died 27 July 1933(1933-07-27) (aged 70)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Resting place Salt Lake City Cemetery
40°46′37.92″N 111°51′28.8″W / 40.7772000°N 111.858000°W / 40.7772000; -111.858000
Nationality English
Spouse Merry May Booth
Children 8

James Edward Talmage (September 21, 1862 – July 27, 1933) born in Hungerford, Berkshire, England, was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1911 until his death.

Early life[edit]

Talmage grew up in Hungerford, England. He was baptized into the LDS Church at age 10 on June 15, 1873. He moved with his family to Provo, Utah in 1877. In Provo, he studied the Normal Course at Brigham Young Academy, with Karl G. Maeser as one of his teachers. He graduated in 1880.

In 1881, Talmage received a collegiate diploma from the Brigham Young Academy Scientific Department, the first such diploma to be issued.

His early predilection was for the sciences, and in 1882-1883 he took selected courses in chemistry and geology at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Though a special student and not a candidate for a degree, he passed during his single year of residence nearly all the examinations in the four-year course and later graduated; and in 1883-1884 he was engaged in advanced work at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.


Talmage married Merry May Booth (1868–1944), who was normally called May, on June 14, 1888. May was a native of Alpine, Utah and the daughter of immigrants from Lancashire, England.[1] She started studies at the normal school connected with Brigham Young Academy (BYA) in 1885, when she was 16. It was there she met Talmage, who was one of her instructors. While at BYA, May was secretary of the Polysophical Society. After completing her course of normal study, May took a job as a teacher in Kaysville, Utah. A few months later, Talmage undertook a project to study the waters of the Great Salt Lake, since such matters at least theoretically related to mineralogy. Talmage's main reason for this journey, though, was to pursue a relationship with May, and five months later they were married.

The Talmages had eight children. Among their children was John, who wrote a biography of his father. Another of their children, Sterling B. (1889–1956), followed his father's interests and became a geologist.[2]

Academic career[edit]

Talmage studied chemistry and geology at Lehigh University and Johns Hopkins University. He received a B.S. degree from Lehigh University in 1891. Talmage received a Ph.D. from Illinois Wesleyan University for nonresident work in 1896.[3]

In the spring of 1884, while at Johns Hopkins, he journaled about laboratory experiments involving the ingestion of hashish, reporting that interviews with users conducted by himself and two colleagues yielded very different accounts of the experience.[4] Talmage noted that the ill effects of opium were very unpleasant and had been well-documented, "[b]ut the ill effects are reported very low in the Haschich or Hemp administration; and we have concluded to try effect of a small dose upon ourselves. . . . though I very much dislike the idea of doing such a thing, for as yet I have never known what it is to be narcotized either by tobacco, alcohol, or any drug."[4] Thus, on three occasions, March 22, April 5, and April 6, 1884, Talmage ingested increasing doses; on the first two occasions he felt no effect, but on the third he reported simply, "Continued my experiment by taking 20 grains Cannabis Indica and the effect was felt in a not very agreeable way."[4]

Talmage was elected to life membership in several learned societies, and for many years was a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society (London), Fellow of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (Edinburgh), Fellow of the Geological Society (London), Fellow of the Geological Society of America, Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Associate of the Philosophical Society of Great Britain, or Victoria Institute, and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[citation needed]

Talmage taught science at Brigham Young Academy both before and after he went to study in the eastern United States. He was the president of Latter-day Saints' University until 1894 and then was president of the University of Deseret, now known as the University of Utah, from 1894 to 1897.[5] From 1897-1907 Talmage was a professor of geology at the University of Utah.

In 1909 Talmage was serving as the director of the Deseret Museum. He went to Detroit in November of that year to participate in diggings connected with general Scotford-Soper-Savage relics craze that involved the finding of supposed ancient relics in much of Michigan.[6] Talmage would go on to denounce these findings as a forgery in the September 1911 edition of the Deseret Museum Bulletin in an article entitled "The Michigan Relics: A Story of Forgery and Deception".

Religious writings[edit]

He was the author of several religious books including The Articles of Faith, The Great Apostasy, The House of the Lord, and Jesus the Christ. These volumes remain in print and are still widely read by Latter-day Saints. Other books include treatises on the origins of the Book of Mormon, a dictionary of the Book of Mormon, and a brief history of Mormonism.

In 1911, the church's First Presidency learned that a photographer had gained unauthorized access to the Salt Lake Temple, had taken numerous photographs of the interior, and was holding those photographs for ransom. Talmage suggested that the First Presidency commission its own photographs of the temple. Joseph F. Smith, then church president, authorized Talmage to write an apology on the subject of the temple to accompany the publication of the photographs. Shortly thereafter the book titled "The House of the Lord" was published.[7]

Religious offices[edit]

Talmage became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1911. From 1924 to 1928 he served as president of the church's European Mission.[8]


Talmage died at Salt Lake City at age 70. He was buried at Salt Lake City Cemetery.


The Mathematics and Computer Sciences Building at Brigham Young University is named after Talmage. The University of Utah College of Science is housed in the James E. Talmage Building.

Published works[edit]

Grave marker of James E. Talmage.
Headstone of James E. Talmage.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Biography of Merry May Booth Talmage from the BYU Register of the BYU Special Collections collection of the M. M. B. Talmage papers
  2. ^ Sterling B. Talmage Papers
  3. ^ Andrew Jenson. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. Vol. 3, p. 787
  4. ^ a b c Rowley, Dennis. "Inner dialogue : James Talmage's choice of science as a career, 1876-1884." Dialogue 17, no. 2 (June 1, 1984): 112-130
  5. ^ University of Utah Alumni Association e-newsletter, U-News & Views, August 2007
  6. ^ Richard B. Stamps, "Tools Leave Marks: Material Analysis of the Scotford-Soper-Savage Michigan Relics" in BYU Studies Vol. 40 (2001) no. 3 p. 212.
  7. ^ see 1912 Preface by Talmage. House of the Lord. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1968 edition. This story appears in "Church History in the Fullness of Times" and also is recounted in Talmage's biography by his son.
  8. ^ Garr et al., Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History. p. 1217.

External links[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
Preceded by
Joseph Fielding Smith
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
December 8, 1911–July 27, 1933
Succeeded by
Stephen L Richards
Academic offices
Preceded by
Joseph T. Kingsbury
President of the University of Utah
Succeeded by
Joseph T. Kingsbury