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The Family File

The Forgotten Missionary
The Story of Elder Ezra James Clark

Called to Serve

His call to serve came during the April 1865 conference. His name was one of 58 called to serve. Jensen's book notes that he "cheerfully" obeyed the call.

He was set apart on May 1, 1865 by either Elder John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Franklin D. Richards, George Q. Cannon or Pres. Brigham Young. 12

E. James left for the mission field, before the completion of the trans-continental railroad and so just making it to Great Britain would prove to be an adventure. Headed east in the summer of 1865, he stopped to visit an uncle, Barrett Clark, in Lockport, Illinois---near Joliet--and at the same time had a chance to see the old family homestead. A letter written to his parents from Illinois tells of the farm buildings erected since his father had visited the site nine years previous, on his return home from England.

Clash of beliefs with uncle

The family's link to the church also put Ezra in between a clash of two conflicting beliefs and lifestyles. Ezra James' dad had entered into a polygamous marriage since the last time Barrett Clark had seen his brother. Uncle Barrett, a non-member, said that the women folks were against it and said he could not understand how a man could get along with two wives. He also claimed that Timothy Baldwin Clark had become disaffected on the Mormon movement west. Of this Ezra James simply wrote of his grandfather: "I do not know what to make of this."

An account, written by Barrett Bass Clark, also said that Ezra James visited his cousin Alvera E. Clark who was married at the time with one child, during his eastward trek. 13

The Civil War was recently ended, but Alvera's husband was still away from home at the time of her cousin's visit, according to Clark's account.

Ezra James traveled to England from New York via ship and landed in Liverpool on Aug. 11, 1865. At that time he was appointed to labor in the Worcestershire conference as a traveling elder. Little is known of the specifics of his service during the early part of his mission in central England, because no journals were kept and there is little evidence of what he did.

Elder Clark's appointment to the Worcester Conference is shown in this Aug. 11, 1865 clip from the Millennial Star.

He apparently proved faithful in his initial thrust because he was appointed to preside over the Dorsetshire conference on Jan. 30, 1866. It was while in service in that conference that he purchased a pair of leather-bound journals in which he would detail his comings and goings---and later in his mission---some of his thoughts and impressions.

"In each of these positions he labored faithfully and with earnest zeal, gaining the confidence and esteem of the Saints among whom he labored and of those who presided over him in the British Mission," Jensen wrote. "His modest, unassuming manner, combined with his truthfulness and circumspect conduct, won for him the admiration and good will of his associates," Jensen added. 14

Eating, sleeping concerns

While there was some infrastructure in place to travel, most of Ezra James' mission travel was done by walking from one place to another, often over 20 miles a day. Mission life was difficult and vying for a place to sleep and something to eat was a daily concern. It would have an impact on him physically throughout his mission.

In Dorsetshire he presided over a conference of approximately 100 members who had little means. Most of the affluent saints or families had already emigrated leaving only the young and old in England. The conference was spread out over a vast area as well, and so he was continually on the move.

His mission journals seem to indicate that his main location, or residence was in Bridport, but that was seldom his stopping point. Preaching seemed to be mostly centered on meetings held in the homes of members or halls or locations where permission could be secured.

Journal entries during his Dorsetshire service are short and lack a lot of detail. On Aug. 11, 1866, he notes that he had been in England for a year and on Sept. 22 he noted that he baptized a Lucy Cormch and Lane Cormick "this being my first attempt." 15

His entries normally focused on where he traveled, how far he traveled, whom he visited and where he spent the night. Occasionally he would note an unusual event or describe his surroundings. Only when he went to London for conferences or met with some of the brethren, did he give more detail.

On Christmas Day in 1866 he notes that he wrote to Elder Orson Pratt out-lining how many Millennial Stars the saints in his conference would buy for the coming year and noting "spent a happy Christmas which was a rainy day."

Visiting London

His love of the theater and his desire to learn and explore come through in his mission entries. When in London for a few days of conference or meetings, he and other missionaries would often go to the theater, museums or other landmarks. He would note the details of those things and place, and must have shared them in letters to his family and friends in Zion as well. He would note correspondence at the end of his daily entries.

Ezra's faithfulness was evident to the saints and Elders with whom he worked. Pres. Franklin D. Richards assigned the Farmington elder in March to preside over the Kent Conference, just southeast of London. Elder Clark learned of the new call when reading about it in the Millennial Star.

The new responsibility with more saints and in an area of more historical importance to England, overwhelmed Ezra Thompson's eldest son.

In his journal entry of March 27, 1867, he wrote: "Found a Star on my arrival with releases and appointments and read of my appointment to the presidency of the Kent Conference to succeed Elder John Hubbard, released to return home. To be under the London District president and Bro. N. H. Felt. Knelt down and prayed that I might be able to do much good and keep faithful to my covenants."

Letter to his brother

A letter from Ezra James to his brother Timothy Baldwin also focuses on the call. The letter, dated April 8, 1867, includes the following: "I have a large and I believe good conference to repair to and did I not know that God will make me competent to fill the situation inasmuch as I put my trust in him and keep humble continually I should tremble in very deed. I know I have the prayers of God's people and hope to keep watchful and prayerful."

Ezra James handled this leadership position much the same way he had in Dorsetshire----traveling, working and holding meetings whenever possible.

On Aug. 10, 1867 Elders Platte Lyman and Joel Grover were appointed to labor in the Kent Conference under his leadership. Elder Grover, who was a frequent companion, was from Farmington, Utah. His base for his travels was in Faversham, a medieval market town built in the 18th century that was well known for its gunpowder mills.

If there was any doubt of his growing spiritual maturity and prowess, his journal indicate a more assertive and forceful missionary throughout his year plus of service in Kent----a region that includes Canterbury and Dover---both historic communities in England. He was clearly more bold and forthright in his teaching and in effort to spread the gospel.

On one occasion while in Northam, he was threatened by a policeman who said he would lock him up if he made any disturbance. But Ezra James wanted to hold an open meeting and pushed the matter with a shopkeeper and a group of youth in the region. The shopkeeper offered a local meadow for his outdoor chapel.

"I did not hope to get them to go to the meadow and so commenced informing the people, all men and boys, about Joseph the prophet's being only between the age of 14 and 15 years when he received his First Vision and the policeman came along with the ruff words 'move on lads.' At this the man who offered us the meadow, who was in his door, told the policeman that he would not be half so anxious to move a crowd at another time at this 2 or 3 shouted; Good, good. This made them quite willing with what they had already heard to go to the meadow. We went and had a good meeting." 16

Gentle like a lamb

Ezra James was more forceful in teaching the truth, his journals show, but he still had the disposition and gentleness of a lamb. He seemed to stew over every sick member and elder and his concern for the welfare of others, exceeded that which he had for himself. He would note any kindness or consideration shown him as well by members or strangers, whether it was a member who walked part of a distance with him or an officer who gave him information or treated him with respect. That concern for others, doubtless, made him easy to trust and befriend for the members and elders with whom he labored.

Leadership responsibilities are not all pleasant as he also noted. He was also forced to deal with some of the unpleasantries of a church body in which all are not faithful. On Aug. 14, 1867, he notes that he administered to a woman and then came back to hold a council meeting to resolve a difficulty between two sisters. "It commenced very good but soon gave way to a spirit of accusation more than to council and it was settled satisfactorily. However, it was a great lesson for all present if they make it so," he wrote.

His non-stop travel from one community to another and the inconsistency of his sleeping and eating habits took a toll on Ezra James. His journal entry of Sept. 12, 1867 is perhaps one of the most telling about his circumstances and the willingness of his heart to do his duty, in spite of them.

"We walked to Faversham. A letter was waiting or here from father containing one from mother, sister Mary and J. F. Smith. My parents were very anxious about me having heard of my having been poorly last May when Bro. Hubbard was here. I had not been sick but was thin in flesh as this country does not seem to agree with me as my mountain home used to, but I have been gaining, though slowly since May and I hope to do so and stand it till honorably released to return home to the mountain of the Lord's House in the top of the mountains." 17

His honorable release did come, in June of 1868, but it appears as though his health never was robust. When the daily journal entries stopped, there was still a page in the back of his second journal in which he scribbled some notes, among them the fact that he was not well upon his release.

This photo of the last page of Ezra James Clark's journal includes the note, to the right of 16 June, that he was not well. The note to the right of 17 indicates a letter to T.B.---his brother.

12 Doctrine History 1865:249 and JH May 1, 1865
13 Clark Family History by Barrett Bass Clark
14 Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. III
15 Missionary Journals of Elder Ezra James Clark, page 9
16 Missionary Journals of Elder Ezra James Clark, page 45.
17 Missionary Journals of Elder Ezra James Clark, page 62

Forgotten Missionary - Main Page
Bad News Dispels the Excitement of a Summer's Day
The First Clark Born in the New Covenant
Called to Serve
Making his way home
The final hours
Bringing the body home