Edna Harker Thomas

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Edna Harker Thomas
Bust photo of Edna Harker Thomas
Second Counselor in the general presidency of the Primary
1929 – 1933
Called byMay Anderson
PredecessorIsabelle S. Ross
SuccessorEdith H. Lambert
Personal details
BornEdna Harker
(1881-04-11)April 11, 1881
Taylorsville, Utah Territory, United States
DiedApril 29, 1942(1942-04-29) (aged 61)
Washington, D.C., United States
Resting placeSalt Lake City Cemetery
40°46′37″N 111°51′29″W / 40.777°N 111.858°W / 40.777; -111.858 (Salt Lake City Cemetery)
Alma materBrigham Young University
University of California, Berkeley
American University
Elbert D. Thomas (m. 1907)
ParentsBenjamin E. Harker
Harriet Bennion

Edna Harker Thomas (April 11, 1881 – April 29, 1942) was a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). She was the first wife of Elbert D. Thomas, a United States Senator from Utah. She was also the first woman in the LDS Church to travel around the world.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Edna Harker was born in Taylorsville, Utah Territory to Benjamin E. Harker and Harriet Bennion.[2] Harker studied at Brigham Young University, University of California, Berkeley and at the American University.[3] She attended the University of Utah, where she taught physical education after graduating.[2] She was also involved in the university's theater club and performed at the Salt Lake Theater.[4][5] The Truth called her "the University Bernhart."[6]


She was a teacher in the public schools of Salt Lake City. In 1904, she became a member of the general board of the Primary Association of the LDS Church.

Shortly after their marriage, Elbert and Edna Thomas were sent by the LDS Church to Japan as full-time missionaries.[2] They were missionaries in Japan until 1912;[2] during part of this time, Elbert Thomas was the president of the Japanese Mission. Edna learned traditional Japanese stories while on the mission, which she would tell later in the United States in "Japanese costume."[7] She would also later give lectures about Japan.[8] After completing the Japanese mission, she and her husband traveled through Korea, China, southern Asia, northern Africa and into Europe before returning to Salt Lake City in 1913.[1] The couple lived in California between 1922 and 1924 before again returning to Utah.[1]

Edna Thomas continued as a member of the Primary Association's general board and in 1929 she succeeded Isabelle S. Ross as the second counselor to May Anderson in the Primary's general presidency.[9] She served in this capacity until 1933, when she was released as a counselor and as a member of the Primary Association's general board to allow her to move to Washington, D.C. with her husband, who had defeated Reed Smoot in the 1932 election to be the United States Senator for Utah.

In 1934, the Senator and Mrs. Thomas traveled in Nazi Germany for ten weeks on a fact-finding mission sponsored by an Oberlander fellowship given to the Senator by the University of Utah. Thomas kept a diary of their trip in which she wrote, "We are doing just what President Roosevelt asked us to do, meet and talk with the educated people."[10]

Personal life[edit]

In 1907, she married Elbert D. Thomas in the Salt Lake Temple.[2] Edna Thomas died of a heart attack on April 29, 1942 in Washington, D.C.[1] She was the mother of three daughters, the eldest of whom was born in Japan.[2][11] She was buried at Salt Lake City Cemetery.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d "Senator Loses Wife in Death". The Ogden Standard-Examiner. 30 April 1942. Retrieved 2018-09-25 – via Newspapers.com. and "Senator Loses Wife in Death". The Ogden Standard-Examiner. 30 April 1942. p. 2. Retrieved 2018-09-25 – via Newspapers.com.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Mrs. Thomas' Funeral Set For Tomorrow". Washington Post. 1 May 1942. ProQuest 151568764.
  3. ^ Greear, Louisa Nuffer. "Sister Edna Harker Thomas: Missionary and Mother in the First Japan Mission". Religious Studies Center. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
  4. ^ "Dramatic Club University of Utah". The Salt Lake Tribune. 14 February 1904. Retrieved 2018-09-25 – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ "Miss Edna Harker of the Washington". The Salt Lake Tribune. 18 January 1903. Retrieved 2018-09-25 – via Newspapers.com.
  6. ^ "The University Dramatic club is". Truth. 24 March 1906. Retrieved 2018-09-25 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ "Costumed Story Teller to Hold Sway Wednesday Night". Salt Lake Telegram. 27 July 1926. Retrieved 2018-09-25 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ "Society". The Salt Lake Herald-Republican. 12 February 1916. Retrieved 2018-09-25 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ "Mrs. Thomas Made Second Counselor". The Ogden Standard-Examiner. 13 September 1929. Retrieved 2018-09-25 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ Nelson, David Conley (2015). Moroni and the Swastika: Mormons in Nazi Germany. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0806149745.
  11. ^ "Obituary (brief)". Hartford Courant. 1 May 1942. ProQuest 559647970.
  12. ^ "Tributes Paid Mrs. Thomas". Salt Lake Telegram. 6 May 1942. Retrieved 2018-09-25 – via Newspapers.com.


External links[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
Preceded by
Isabelle S. Ross
Second Counselor in the general
presidency of the Primary

1929 – 1933
Succeeded by
Edith H. Lambert