A frequently told story in Church history concerns the call of Artemus Millet to work on the Kirtland Temple.With variations here and there, historians have related the story as follows: Joseph Smith, in the company of other brethren, is walking where the Kirtland Temple will be built. He wonders aloud who could superintend its construction, and Joseph Young (or Brigham Young or Lorenzo Young) recommends an acquaintance named Artemus Millet, who lives in Canada. The Prophet then sends Brigham Young to Canada to baptize Millet and bring him to Kirtland with one thousand dollars. Historians then relate that Brigham Young fulfilled his mission with exactness, baptizing Millet in January 1832 (or 1833). Millet sells the family farm, takes his family to Kirtland, and labors on the temple from the laying of the cornerstone to the project’s completion, having full charge of the work. The differing details within the story depend upon the source cited by the historian—Millet’s diary, autobiography, biography, or family records and histories.
Our purpose in this article is to examine the existing sources on Millet’s conversion and his call to Kirtland in order to identify the elements of the story that can be historically corroborated and to demonstrate that Artemus Millet’s greatest legacies of faith are his conversion and his lifelong commitment to establishing Zion. While it is well established that Millet, a skilled mason, contributed significantly to the building of the Kirtland Temple (fig. 1), his life story has not been as thoroughly documented.We focus our analysis on the period between the April 1832 baptisms of Brigham and Joseph Young through the conversion of Artemus Millet, his call to work on the temple, and his April 1834 arrival in Kirtland. We will first examine the accounts Millet made of his own life and then compare them with the contributions that Millet’s son Joseph Millet Sr. made to the accounts. We next explore the complicated process of copying sources, noting the loss of original sources and the differences among surviving copies. Finally, we will juxtapose the accounts and the copies with known Church history events between April 1832 and April 1834. Following our analysis is an appendix with an annotated examination of the long-neglected holograph of Artemus Millet’s own reminiscence. While there are discrepancies between surviving acocunts, Millet’s firsthand account provides the clearest timeline of his conversion and call to Kirtland.
Artemus Millet’s Own Words
Any discussion of the life of Artemus Millet must begin with his own accounts. Millet apparently kept a diary or journal during his life, but, shortly after his death, his papers were accidentally burned by a woman who was attempting to help clean up the house.Many of his personal genealogical records had already been lost during an earlier period of his life, between October 1841 and May 1843, when he was without a wife or a permanent place of residence.
Explanation of Artemus Millet’s Accounts. What has survived are two reminiscent accounts. The first account, which we will call the 1855 Reminiscence, is quite detailed (1,769 words) and was recorded sometime after 1855, when Artemus was approximately sixty-five years old.The second account, dictated for a “High Priest’s Record Book” in 1872, is relatively short (313 words) and focuses primarily on genealogical events—Artemus’s birth, marriages, baptism, mission, and moves. Written when Artemus was eighty-two years old, this account is frequently called “Genealogy of Artemus Millet,” but we will refer to it as the 1872 Genealogy.
There are three discrepancies between the two accounts, two regarding the years in which his first two wives died and one regarding the month in which he married his second wife. But confusion arises because there are several copies of both accounts catalogued together under two different titles in the archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City and under a single title in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. One Church Archives copy is catalogued as “Reminiscences,” and the other as “Autobiographical Sketches,” though both have the same content. Furthermore, some copies of the 1872 Genealogy also bear the title “Record and Journal of Artemus Millet, Sen.” Despite such confusion, it is upon the basis of these sources that the life of Artemus Millet, as he recalled it, can be examined.
Artemus Millet’s Life. Artemus Millet was born on September 11, 1790, in Westmoreland, Cheshire County, New Hampshire, to Ebenezer and Catherine Dryden Millet. He lived in several towns in Vermont and New York state. In 1824 he settled in Earnestown,Upper Canada (located twelve miles west of Kingston on the St. Lawrence River) with his wife, Ruth Grannis, and their family. Artemus worked for the Canadian government as a mason, a trade he had learned at age nineteen. A few years later, Ruth became ill with consumption, and she died in 1831. In January or February 1832, Millet married Susanna Peters.
Millet’s early life was characterized by masonry and mishap. While very young, he cut his foot with an ax. At age twelve he fell from a horse and broke his arm. He contracted a fever the next year and later fell from a barn and broke his side, both times fearing he would die. In 1822, a stone fell on Millet’s head, fracturing his skull and laying him up for two months. Sometime between 1822 and 1829, Millet was “sick the most [part] of two years.”In 1829, a large stone fell on his leg, and he again feared for his life.
Millet linked his continual masonry mishaps with his first evidence of the truthfulness of the latter-day work. He recalled that in 1831, he “took cold which settled in my breast, and I did not get over it until the next August, when I received a witness of the latter day work in a manifestation of the healing power.”In January 1833, Millet was baptized by Brigham Young. Millet recalled that “in the Summer [of 1833,] Br[other] Hyrum Smith wrote to me that it was the will of the Lord that I should go and work on the Temple in Kirtland.” Millet went to Kirtland as soon as he was able, but when he arrived in October, the work had been suspended. Returning to Canada, Artemus collected his debts, sold his property on credit, and brought his family to Kirtland, arriving in April 1834.
In Kirtland, Millet once again suffered masonry-related mishaps, but now as a member of the Church he relied on divine protection. In 1835, he appeared before a council meeting because he desired to return to Canada and hoped to do so in safety. When the council assured him that he would travel safely, Artemus set out by wagon for Canada. He crossed Lake Ontario by ship, and arrived in Kingston “at 12 oclock at night, rainy, dark and cloudy weather.” The inclement weather conditions made the disembarking difficult; Artemus lost his footing and fell into the twenty-foot deep icy cold water. Artemus later related that “numbers had fallen in,” but the shoreline personnel “had never known of any one being taken out alive.” Artemus recognized the hand of the Lord in this experience, for he recorded that “in falling I claimed the promise of the Saints.”
After completing his business in Canada, Millet returned to Kirtland where he and Lorenzo D. Young contracted to do the exterior work on the temple for one thousand dollars. The pair began work on November 2, 1835, though Millet’s injured leg continued to bother him.While working Millet came down with cholera; the administration of Joseph Smith Sr. and his brother John did not have “the desired effect.” Millet recalled:
I suffered such excruciating pain that my groaning was heard at Joseph Smith, Junr’s, a distance of 250 yards. I was afterwards told that when in agony I called out let Joseph Smith, Jun., come and lay hands on me and I shall be healed and I know it not knowing what I said. He pressed his way through the crowd (for the house was filled with people) and came forward and laying his hands on my head asked God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ to heal me; the vomiting and purging ceased and I began to mend from that very moment.
After the temple was completed, Millet went on a mission with Oliver Granger.Financial difficulties in 1837 forced Millet back to Canada, but he failed to collect the debts owed him there. For the next few years, he worked on various masonry projects in Canada and Ohio before rejoining the Saints in Nauvoo in 1843. Millet worked on the Nauvoo Temple, but was “sick a considerable part of the time.” He was again sick during summer 1846, and he eventually arrived in Salt Lake City in 1850. Brigham Young sent Millet to Manti. Millet continued to apply his masonry skills toward the establishment of various settlements throughout the southern part of the territory.
As Artemus Millet recalled the events, the process of his conversion and his call to Kirtland spanned nearly twenty months, beginning with a priesthood healing in August 1832 and continuing through his January 1833 baptism, a call to labor on the temple the following summer, and his eventual establishment in Kirtland in April 1834. Along the way, Millet experienced a barrage of physical difficulties, in spite of which he accepted the gospel and fulfilled his Church assignments. Looking back on his life, Millet saw an overarching theme of continual preservation. Millet’s humility is evident. He never mentions any extraordinary efforts on the part of Church leaders to extend him special assignments, only that he did his best to fulfill them.
Joseph Millet’s Version of Artemus’s Conversion and Call
In addition to Artemus Millet’s firsthand accounts of his conversion and his call to work on the Kirtland Temple, several others exist among the writings of his posterity. The earliest account comes from the papers of Artemus’s son Joseph, who wrote after 1860:
The Prophet Joseph Smith[,] Joseph Young[,] and Brigham Young, were Standing upon the ground Where The Kirtland Temple was to be built. The Prophet said, who can we get to Superintend this work[?]
Joseph Young said I know a man that would be just the one and he is rich too. Who is he? [Asked the Prophet.] That is Brother Artemus Millet but he does not belong to the Church. The Prophet turned to Brother Brigham and said do you know this brother Artemus Millet? he said yes Sir. The Prophet said I give you a mission to go and baptise him and bring him here and tell him to bring a Thousand dollars with him.
They all 3 belonged to the Methodist Church before the Youngs joined the Church. That was why he called him brother[.] My Father was working on [a] big contract at the time in Canada.
The foregoing is true. I got it from
brotherPresident Brigham Young While I lived with him. I also got it from President Joseph Young, you know the part my Father took on the Kirtland Temple. I think if President Brigham Young had dictated his history it would have been mentioned. Artemus gave more than a thousand <dollars>.
Unfortunately, this statement is undated, and there is no surviving copy in Joseph’s hand.It contains details not found in extant accounts by Artemus Millet, such as a consultation on temple grounds, a charge to baptize Millet, and a request for financial assistance. In order to understand why Joseph Millet would relate this information, it is necessary to examine his life and his interest in verifying his father’s role in building the Kirtland Temple.
Joseph Millet’s Life. Joseph Millet was born to Artemus and Susanna Millet late in December 1832 in Earnestown, Upper Canada, one month before Artemus was baptized.When Joseph was only fourteen, his life was threatened because he was a Mormon, and later his half brother Nelson who was not a member of the Church, offered him a wife and 140 acres if he would give up his missionary labors. On both occasions, Joseph remained devoted to his faith.
Joseph served a mission to Nova Scotia from 1852 to 1856, where he married Sarah Elizabeth Glines.After his mission, Joseph and his wife settled in Manti, near Artemus. Joseph accepted a call from Brigham Young to settle in Dixie, and father and son moved their families there in 1866. He lived his life committed to the gospel. Always seeking to serve others, Joseph was often an answer to the prayers of those he assisted. When Joseph’s wife died in 1889, he moved in with his daughter Mary J. Millet Cox and her family. Joseph died on October 31, 1911. After his death, his son, Joseph Jr., paid this tribute to his father: “He lived a faithful life, was kind and benevolent to all, full of charity and sympathy, ever seeking who he might do good to the Poor & Fatherless, and to those in need.”
Throughout his life, Joseph Millet was deeply interested in maintaining family ties and preserving his family history.He lived either with or near his father for all but fourteen years of his life, being separated from him only from 1852 to 1866. Joseph recalled that before he departed on his mission, “My Father [Artemus Millet] Blessed me and said that I would live to do his work for the dead in the Temple.” On April 20, 1877, three of Artemus’s sons, including Joseph, went to the temple and were sealed to Artemus by Wilford Woodruff.
Besides performing temple work for his father, Joseph devoted significant time and effort verifying the events of his father’s conversion and his work on the Kirtland Temple. In the undated statement copied from Joseph’s papers, he indicated that he got his version of Artemus’s conversion and call “from
brother President Brigham Young While I lived with him” in Salt Lake City. According to Joseph’s diary, he “lived in President Youngs house near where the Temple is now” from 1859 to 1860. Joseph had close contact with President Young on other occasions as well. He traveled with him in May 1851, stopped in for a visit during summer 1851, and traded with him in July 1863. Joseph’s call to settle in Dixie came from President Young in January 1866, at Artemus’s request. Thus, Joseph Millet had several opportunities to hear Brigham Young’s version of Artemus’s conversion to the Church and call to Kirtland.
In 1882, the Sunday School, under the direction of George Q. Cannon of the First Presidency, published Lorenzo Young’s account of Artemus Millet’s call to Kirtland. Nearly fifty years had elapsed since the events at Kirtland, and Lorenzo recalled that after the temple had been enclosed in summer 1835, a meeting was held “to consult about its completion.” At this meeting
the Prophet desired that a hard finish be put on its outside walls. None of the masons who had worked on the building knew how to do it. Looking around on those present his eyes rested on Lorenzo and he said, “Brother Lorenzo, I want you to take hold and put this hard finish on the walls. Will you do it?” “Yes,” [Lorenzo] replied, “I will try.”
Lorenzo relates that the following day he went to Cleveland, where he met a “young man” who was looking for work. He hired him on the spot and took him to Kirtland, and they worked together on the temple.While the 1882 published account does not mention this “young man” by name, Lorenzo later identified him as Artemus Millet.
Unfortunately, Lorenzo Young’s account of Artemus’s call to work on the Kirtland Temple includes several discrepancies to known facts. Lorenzo recalled that he hired a “young man” to help him carry out the Prophet’s charge, but in 1835 forty-five-year-old Artemus was seventeen years older than twenty-eight-year-old Lorenzo. And while Lorenzo correctly remembered taking the contract in November 1835 with Artemus to finish the exterior of the building, he apparently forgot that both he and Artemus had been praised and blessed for their work on the temple the previous March.Lorenzo’s account was taken down nearly fifty years after the events in question, and this distance appears to have conflated the timing of events in his mind.
Correcting the Lorenzo Young Account. Lorenzo Young’s account of Artemus Millet’s call to Kirtland likely caught the attention of Joseph Millet. If so, like any faithful descendant, Joseph would have wanted to correct this account. Because the principal characters in the story—Artemus Millet, Brigham Young, and Joseph Young—had all passed away and because published histories of the Church were not easily accessible, Joseph sought out secondary substantiation.In possible response to Lorenzo’s story, he sought for affidavits that would show that his father had been in Kirtland before November 1835.
Benjamin F. Johnson and Edson Barney certified to Joseph in June 1885 that they “were personally acquainted with the construction of the Kirtland Temple from the laying of the corner stones to its completion.” According to them, “Artimus Millet did have the full superintendency and charge of all of the plastering and sementing [sic] of the Building both outside and inside.” Their statement was endorsed by John H. Ballard.The next month, Lisander Gee affirmed that Artemus “had the entire Charge of the Plastering of the outside of the Building making marter [sic] and all. While Jacob Bump had charge of inside. They were two distinct and seperate Jobs.”
These four recollections, like that of Lorenzo Young, were made nearly fifty years after the events occurred, but they were most likely significant to Joseph Millet for reasons other than timing.At first glance, they do not seem to verify the details of Artemus’s conversion and call, but they affirm that Artemus played an important role in the construction of the Kirtland Temple. If, as the affidavits state, Artemus had “full superintendency” of the building project, Joseph Smith must have had a great deal of faith in his skill as a mason, and it makes sense that the Prophet would take great pains to call him to the work. After all, the Prophet would not send Brigham Young to baptize a day laborer.
In any case, the central theme of Lorenzo Young’s story—the Prophet seeking for a mason while on the temple grounds and asking who could do the job—is similar to the account eventually attributed to Joseph Millet by his children. With every good intention, perhaps Joseph Millet modified Lorenzo Young’s story to conform to what he knew of his father’s account, taking the best from both.
Having lived close to his father for most of his life, Joseph was particularly qualified to provide additional insight into events of his father’s life and character. Clearly, he added details not found in the firsthand accounts of Artemus’s experiences. Although not an eyewitness to the events in question (he was less than a month old when Artemus was baptized, and the temple was dedicated shortly after Joseph’s third birthday), it is likely Artemus and Joseph, father and son, spent considerable time conversing about family events, and perhaps Artemus’s conversion and call to Kirtland. For these reasons, Joseph’s account may well be accurate. First generation relatives, like Joseph Millet, had the advantage of personal interactions, whereas historians are at the mercy of documents.
Interestingly, in the extant historical accounts, Joseph never says that he got his information from his father, though it is likely that Artemus shared his experience with his children many times. Why did Joseph not cite his father instead of citing Brigham and Joseph Young? Did Joseph’s interest in the story arise only after Lorenzo Young published his account or was the story so well known that Joseph felt no need to document it until after his father was gone? These unanswered questions make it difficult to reconcile the statement copied from Joseph’s papers with Artemus’s 1855 reminiscence. What is certain, however, is that, a half century after Artemus’s conversion and his call to Kirtland, his son supplied additional information to the story—information that is not found in existing accounts made by Artemus himself.
Copies and Condensed Versions of Artemus Millet’s Story
After Joseph Millet’s death, the stories of Artemus’s conversion and his call to Kirtland continued to be told. Over the next fifty years, however, the primary sources by Artemus, Joseph Millet, and Lorenzo Young were condensed and combined into copies that included more information but compressed the timeline of events into an increasingly shorter period of time. And, while the copies were maintained, the originals were lost in almost every case.
Mary Millet Cox’s Copies and Transcriptions. Nearly twenty-five years after Joseph Millet’s death, his daughter Mary J. Millet Cox made at least five copies of Artemus’s 1855 Reminiscence.As is common in family history records, Mary corrected punctuation, omitted sentences, miswrote dates, and added information that she thought could clarify Artemus’s words. But by July 11, 1936, she no longer knew where the original 1855 Reminiscence was. The original 1855 Reminiscence ended up in the Church Archives, but, of all the possible sources for this story, it is the only original holograph to survive. In addition, Mary made at least four copies of Artemus’s 1872 Genealogy and three copies of Joseph Millet Sr.’s statement about Aretmus’s conversion and call.
Joseph Millet Jr. and the 1872 Geneology. Mary was not the only one of Joseph’s children who preserved the family history. Beginning in 1927, her brother, Joseph Millet Jr., began to copy Artemus’s 1872 Genealogy.Yet, in so doing, he loosely united statements from Artemus’s 1872 Genealogy, the affidavits collected by his father, and other unidentified sources. Joseph Jr.’s earliest copy of Artemus’s 1872 Genealogy is marked by various corrections as well as a tendency to switch between first and third person references to Artemus. In this copy, Joseph Jr. reports that Artemus was baptized in 1833 and that Brigham Young announced a mission for him on that occasion. On a later, more polished copy, Joseph Jr. states that Artemus’s baptism occurred in 1834, and this time he added details about a consultation in Kirtland and a charge for Brigham Young to baptize Artemus. Joseph Jr. wrote that Artemus went directly to Kirtland, where he met the Prophet and immediately began work on the temple, supervising the work from the laying of the cornerstones to the completion of the project.
In addition to the apparent blending of sources and the errors of transcription, Joseph Jr.’s “copy” of Artemus’s own words displays various internal inconsistencies as well as several contradictions between his version and Artemus’s own account. The voice still switches from first to third person. At one point, Brigham Young announces the “mission” for Artemus before Artemus is baptized, while in the next paragraph Brigham waits until after Millet’s baptism to extend the call. Joseph Jr. also expands the narrative of Artemus’s conversion, adding that “Previous to this, Artemus new nothing of this Church.” Unfortunately, this idea directly contradicts Artemus’s testimony that he received a witness of the truthfulness of the gospel by way of a healing at least four months before his baptism.
But perhaps the most interesting error lies in the fact that somewhere along the line Lorenzo Young got into Joseph Millet Jr.’s copy as the person on the temple grounds who recommended Artemus Millet to the Prophet.As mentioned earlier, Lorenzo Young had remembered Artemus as an unemployed youth anxious for work, yet in Joseph Millet Jr.’s second copy Lorenzo had become the initiator of the Prophet’s charge to Brigham Young to seek Millet out. Although Lorenzo had been baptized in 1832, he did not arrive in Kirtland until April 1834, the same time that Artemus arrived with his family.
The errors that arose in Joseph Millet Jr.’s copies of Artemus’s 1872 Genealogy are highlighted by their discrepancy with his sister’s work. Mary’s transcriptions of Artemus’s writings make no mention of a “mission,” Lorenzo Young, or a consultation on temple grounds.It seems improbable that Mary, who was so alert for information about Artemus’s role in building the temple, would have left out such vital information.
A more plausible explanation is that Joseph Jr. added the information to his copy. Over time, Joseph Jr.’s copies of the 1872 Genealogy have been widely accepted as Artemus’s own account, while Mary’s more accurate transcriptions have been neglected. Thus, during the first decades of the twentieth century, the primary sources for Millet’s conversion and his call to Kirtland were expanded and blended through a gradual process of transmission and transcription. The addition of detail often contradicts what Artemus himself wrote, and the twenty-month conversion process he describes has been compressed into a single occasion in which he learned of the Church, was baptized, was called to Kirtland, and left immediately to fulfill his calling. The gradual distillation of detail that eventually occupied a century was by no means nefarious. Over time, the well-intended acts of retelling and recopying the story resulted in a compressed story that has been widely circulated in histories of the Church in Kirtland.
The Youngs: Missions, Mormonism, and the Kirtland Temple
The history of Artemus Millet’s conversion is intertwined with the conversion and missionary activities of the Young brothers. Revolutionary War veteran John Young and Abigail (Nabby) Howe raised eleven children, four of whom—Joseph, Phineas, Brigham, and Lorenzo (fig. 2)—would be directly involved in Millet’s conversion and his work in Kirtland.Before joining the Church, the Young brothers had each accepted Reformed Methodism. Brigham noted that by 1823 he had become “serious and religiously inclined.” In 1824, Phineas received his license to preach Methodism publicly. In 1828, the Young family (which had been separated by children marrying and moving away) began to settle in Mendon County, New York. They worked together, “opened a house for preaching,” and fanned each other’s faith. But they yearned to know more. Joseph wrote, “I was anxious about this period, to know something of the future existence, beyond this mortal life and labored for the knowledge of it incessantly.” In 1830, Brigham, Joseph, and Phineas Young each encountered the Book of Mormon in his own way.
In August 1830, Joseph and Phineas traveled to Canada to preach Reformed Methodism in Earnestown, Loborough, and Kingston, although Phineas “could think of but little except the Book of Mormon.”It is possible that Artemus heard the two preach at this time. After returning from Canada, the Young brothers visited an organized branch of the Church in Columbia, Pennsylvania, where Phineas was baptized on April 5, 1832, and Joseph, the next day. A little over a week later, in Mendon, Brigham was also baptized.
During summer 1832, the Young brothers set out to preach their newfound faith. Brigham and Joseph went first to surrounding areas, preaching the gospel in Genesee, Avon, and Lyonstown, New York.Later that summer, while Brigham remained in New York, Joseph and Phineas set out on their familiar preaching circuits in New York and Canada. They arrived in Earnestown just as the annual Methodist Reformed Church conference was coming to a close. Phineas had preached at the conference the previous year as a Methodist circuit preacher and was acquainted with most of the participants. Joseph and Phineas attended the Methodist meeting on the Sabbath, at the close of which Phineas “begged the privilege of preaching in their meeting-house at five the same evening, which they very reluctantly granted.” That first meeting was the start of a successful six-week stay:
Here thousands flocked to hear the strange news; even so that the houses could not contain the multitude, and we had to repair to the groves. Hundreds were searching the scriptures to see if these things were so. Many were partly convinced, and some were wholly, so, when we left.
During this visit, the first branch in Canada was established at Earnestown.Although the missionaries do not specifically mention administrations to the sick, it was possible during their visit that Artemus was healed and received a testimony of the gospel.
The Youngs in Kirtland. After a successful summer of preaching, Joseph Young joined Brigham and their friend Heber C. Kimball and set out for Kirtland, where they visited with the Prophet. According to Brigham, the trio left for Kirtland in September 1832 and returned home in October.However, Joseph Smith remembered the visit as being “about the 8th of November.” In either case, the visit has been much heralded, as it was the first meeting of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the first time the Prophet heard the gift of tongues, and the occasion for a prophecy that Brigham would one day preside over the Church. This visit is also significant to the Artemus Millet story because it was the only time that the Youngs and Joseph Smith were in Kirtland together before Millet’s baptism. Thus, it is the only time when a consultation between the Prophet and any of the Young brothers about temple construction could have occurred.
The Youngs stayed in Kirtland for “about one week,” but surviving accounts of their visit mention little about discussions they had with the Prophet. Brigham noted that they “held meetings nearly every night” and “conversed together upon the things of the kingdom” and that “the blessings of the Lord were extensively upon us.”Heber C. Kimball called the visit “a precious season.” Joseph Smith mentioned only Brigham’s manifestation of the gift of tongues, and Joseph Young’s account does not mention the visit at all.
The existing sources are vague in their descriptions of discussion content during the Youngs’ visit. None of them mention a charge to baptize the prospective supervisor of a temple construction project. There are additional circumstances, however, that can help establish the probability or improbability of such a discussion.
The Lack of Temple-Building Plans in Fall 1832. The first question is whether the Prophet was thinking about building a temple in Kirtland in fall 1832. Temples are mentioned in the Book of Mormon and in revelations from at least December 1830.In January 1831, when the Saints were commanded to gather in Ohio they were told by the Lord that “there I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high” (D&C 38:32). On September 22 and 23, 1832, Joseph Smith received a revelation directing that the city New Jerusalem should be built “beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri” (D&C 84:3).
These references may suggest that the Prophet was actively making specific arrangements for temple construction in Kirtland in November 1832. However, the command to build a temple in Kirtland was given to the Prophet on December 27, 1832, when he was instructed to “establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God” (D&C 88:119).This was at least one month after Brigham and Joseph Young left Kirtland.
But even this revelation may not have motivated the Prophet to seek out a supervisor for the project; six months later, in June 1833, the Lord rebuked the Saints for their tardiness and neglect in constructing the temple.Elder James E. Talmage connected this delay to the September 1832 revelation to build a temple in Independence, writing that “perhaps because their eyes were directed too steadily toward the ‘center place,’ and because the people were prone to contemplate too absorbedly the glory of the future to the neglect of then present duties, compliance with the requirement to proceed at once with the erection of a temple was not prompt.” Whatever the reason for delay, it appears unlikely that Joseph Smith was concerned with details of an imminent construction project in Kirtland in early November 1832.
Brigham Young’s 1833 Missions to Canada. After their visit in Kirtland, Brigham and Joseph Young headed home to New York and began preparations for a mission to Canada. Taking advantage of improved travel conditions, the Youngs crossed over to Kingston in late December 1832. Brigham records that they preached for “about one month,” baptizing forty-five people and establishing the West Loughborough Branch, among others.Though Brigham Young does not specifically mention baptizing Millet, his account corroborates Artemus’s recollection that he was baptized in January 1833. In February 1833, Brigham and Joseph Young returned home to Mendon, New York, where Brigham joined Heber C. Kimball and preached “in the neighboring country.” Brigham returned to Canada again in April. On the way, Brigham visited Lyonstown, Theresa, and Indian River Falls and preached in Ogdensburgh, Kingston, Earnestown, and West Loughborough. He did not return to Kirtland until July 1833.
Commencement of Work on the Kirtland Temple. While Brigham was away preaching, work began on the Kirtland Temple. On May 4, 1833, a conference was held “to take into consideration the necessity of building a schoolhouse, for the accommodation of the Elders, who should come together to receive instruction preparatory for their missions, and ministry.” Hyrum Smith, Jared Carter, and Reynolds Cahoon were appointed to form a building committee to raise funds for the project.Two days later, the Prophet received a revelation commanding the Saints to lay out a stake in Kirtland, “beginning at my house.” The revelation specified the dimensions of the building and confirmed the selected building committee (D&C 94:1, 2–15).
Despite these organizational advances, physical work on the temple did not commence until June 1833. On June 1, the Lord chastised the Saints, “for ye have sinned against me a very grievous sin, in that ye have not considered the great commandment in all things, that I have given you concerning the building of my house” (D&C 95:3). The Lord repeated the dimensions and revealed that the house would be used both as a place of worship and as a meeting place for the School of the Prophets (D&C 95).
That very day, the building committee sent out a circular letter requesting that all of the Saints “make every possible exertion to aid temporally, as well as spiritually, in this great work that the Lord is beginning, and is about to accomplish.”The temple site was formally selected, and, on June 5, Hyrum Smith and Reynolds Cahoon broke ground and began digging the foundation trenches, while George A. Smith hauled the first load of stone from the quarry. The following day a conference was held to counsel the building committee, and it was agreed that the committee should proceed “immediately to commence building the house; or to obtaining materials, stone, brick, lumber, etc., for the same.”
Summer 1833 was a time of increased action toward building the temple. Artemus’s account fits squarely into this setting, as he recalls that “in the Summer Br[other] Hyrum Smith wrote to me that it was the will of the Lord that I should go and work on the Temple in Kirtland.”Brigham Young returned to Kirtland in July 1833, perhaps providing the opportunity for a consultation and a decision to invite Millet to Kirtland. It seems appropriate that the building committee would contact Millet and that they would do so at this time.
Unfortunately, the letter from Hyrum Smith appears to have been lost. Perhaps it was among the genealogical papers that Artemus lost between 1841 and 1843 or among the papers burned in 1874. If someday discovered, this letter could shed light on Artemus’s version of the story. It could have been written as a follow up to Brigham Young’s January 1833 visit or as an introduction and invitation to Millet. Or it could tell a different story altogether. Hyrum Smith’s diary makes no mention of his letter writing, and, as far as known records show, neither Jared Carter nor Reynolds Cahoon kept a diary during summer 1833.
Work on the temple steadily progressed throughout summer 1833. Brigham Young arrived ten days before the cornerstones were laid on July 23, 1833, but Millet’s name is not mentioned in connection with any of the temple-building events that summer.As fall approached, work slowed and was eventually suspended. On October 5, 1833, the Prophet left on a mission to Canada; five days later it was decided that “the building of the Temple should be discontinued during the winter for want of materials” and that preparations should be made to recommence in the spring. Artemus must have arrived in Kirtland after October 10, for he recalls that “When I went the work was suspended, and I returned [to Canada,] sold out on credit and took my family in April 1834 to Kirtland.”
Uncertainties and Affirmations
This analysis has identified several key elements concerning the oft-told story of Artemus Millet’s conversion and subsequent call to Kirtland. First and foremost, Millet asserts that his baptism did not occur upon his first exposure to the gospel. His witness came after a priesthood manifestation in August 1832, and he was baptized by Brigham Young in January 1833. Secondly, the command to build a temple in Kirtland came one month after Brigham Young left Kirtland, and the exact site for the temple was not selected until four months after Millet was baptized. Third, it is appropriate for Millet’s call to work on the project to have come through the building committee, the established channel for such an assignment. Fourth, it is apparent that Lorenzo Young was not involved in Millet’s initial call to Kirtland.
The Ambiguity of the Thousand Dollar Contribution. One ambiguous element of this story is that Artemus brought one thousand dollars with him to Kirtland. Artemus does not mention the thousand dollars, and the only source for the story is his son Joseph. This detail is difficult to verify as there was no “accounts receivable” record book in Kirtland.On March 7, 1835, Joseph Smith blessed Reynolds Cahoon, Jacob Bump, and Artemus Millet “with the blessings of heaven and a right in the house of the Lord in Kirtland, agreeable to the labor they had performed thereon, and the means they had contributed.” The “means” contributed by Millet and the others could refer to a monetary donation or to labor, tools, or a substantial contribution of time. Whether it refers specifically to a one-thousand-dollar donation is difficult to determine.
Outside of family sources, Millet is not usually mentioned in lists of temple donors.While there is no record of a one-thousand-dollar contribution by Millet, there is a reference to Artemus Millet and Lorenzo Young receiving one thousand dollars for their work on the exterior of the temple. At first glance, it seems strange that Millet might have contributed the sum only to be paid it in return. On the other hand, this scenario is possible because the early period of construction occurred during a period of financial strain when money was desperately needed. Two years later, when the exterior work was contracted and completed, the Church would have had sufficient means to repay a loan of one thousand dollars.
Primary Sources Considered. While several elements of the story remain uncertain, it is important to distinguish the story’s elements from its sources. There is evidence that corroborates Artemus’s account, and circumstances that draw the account attributed to Joseph Millet Sr. into question. However, there is no evidence that suggests that Artemus’s account can be exclusively affirmed or that Joseph’s should be entirely dismissed. It is significant, however, that the existing account by Artemus, as well as those of Brigham and Joseph Young, do not mention an extraordinary call or a singular conversion, call, and departure-for-Kirtland event.
Having examined the uncertain elements of Millet’s history, we conclude by asserting that there is much about the life of Artemus Millet that can be historically and faithfully affirmed. We have carefully examined his call to Kirtland, focusing on the period from 1832 to 1834, and showed that the best source for this period is, in fact, Millet’s own account. It is certain that he accepted the gospel and was baptized by Brigham Young. His testimony and commitment are amply demonstrated by his willingness to take his family to Kirtland to assist in the Lord’s work. Likewise, it is well established that he played a significant role in building the Kirtland Temple.
In March 1835, when the Prophet praised all “who had distinguished themselves thus far by consecrating to the upbuilding of the House of the Lord, as well as laboring thereon,” Millet was among those honored. Sidney Rigdon was “appointed to lay on hands and bestow blessings in the name of the Lord,” and Artemus was one of the number “who were blessed in consequence of their labor on the house of the Lord in Kirtland.”
Perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned from the life of Artemus Millet is that he accepted the gospel and lived faithful to its teachings throughout his life. The years in Kirtland were filled with apostasy and disillusionment, spiritual maladies that afflicted even the highest councils of the Church. It is discouraging that those who stood with the Prophet and experienced miraculous manifestations of divine power could fall away. At the same time, it is inspiring that Artemus Millet and so many others could withstand such turbulent times. In truth, the history of the Church is not simply about great men and women and their miraculous experiences; it is also the history of ordinary people who accept the gospel with uncommon steadfastness and remain faithful in upholding the kingdom of God throughout their lives.
Artemus Millet not only followed the Prophet Joseph by moving to Kirtland and Nauvoo, but he also followed Joseph’s successor, Brigham Young, to Salt Lake City and obeyed Brigham’s call to settle in Dixie. Artemus remained faithful throughout his life and lived to be eighty-four years old. He “passed Peacefully away” on November 19, 1874, “with a satisfied expression on his face.” Millet’s grandson noted that Artemus had died “clean from any bad habits or profane language or foul expressions, prepared to meet those loved ones who had preceded him on that Journey in early life, and to meet the Prophets and apostles he had been so intimitely associated with.”The story of Artemus Millet is the story of a life frequently spared and faithfully lived.
Of the possible first-person accounts of Artemus Millet’s life, only one undated reminiscence, made sometime after 1855, remains extant.Millet was at least sixty-five years old when he wrote the reminiscence that covers his life up until 1855. The account provides significant insight into Millet’s life and is the best account from which to draw information about him.
Millet’s reminiscence is written in blue ink on both sides of four sheets of now-worn blue paper measuring 8” × 12⅛”. The pages are folded in half twice, and the document is especially worn along the folds and faded along the edges. Due to the presence of several holes, the document has been treated to ensure its preservation.Before undergoing preservation the document was microfilmed.
Archivists know nothing about the document’s provenance. After Millet recorded his reminiscence, the document must have been passed down through his posterity. Millet’s granddaughter Mary J. Millett Cox encountered the document in Short Creek, Arizona, and made a handwritten copy of it on April 2, 1935, but by July 1936 she no longer knew where the original was. Her handwritten copy is archived with Millet’s and is very helpful for filling in holes and faded spots that now exist in the original. However, hers is not an exact transcription. She corrected punctuation, misread several words and dates, ignored faded spots and holes, and omitted at least one crossed out passage. She also added information to her copy that does not appear in the original Millet holograph. For example, she titled pages 1–4 as “Artemus Millet’s Record,” and pages 5–8 as “Journal of Artemus, Sen., written by himself,” though no such indication appears on the original. She also added other details that she may possibly have gleaned from other sources. One possible source of additional information is Artemus Millet’s 1872 Genealogy. Mary Cox’s handwritten copy of this Genealogy is also archived with the Millet reminiscence in his own hand, and the Cox handwritten copy thereof.
We have noted in the footnotes where the 1872 Genealogy gives different or additional information and have likewise noted discrepancies with the Cox handwritten copy. All spelling, punctuation, and capitalization have been retained as they appear in the original manuscript. Where the original is unclear, current usage is given. Insertions in the text are enclosed in angle brackets < > at the place of insertion. Material that is crossed out in the original is retained with
strikeouts. Editorial insertions and comments are enclosed in brackets [ ]. Where holes or faded ink have rendered the document unintelligible, the missing words are indicated by [—].
Artemus Millet’s 1855 Reminiscence Artemus Millet, Son of Ebenezer and Catharine Millet, born in Westmorland, Cheshire Co. New Hampshire—Septbr 11th 1790. when I was 4 years old my Father moved to Brooklyn in Vermont where we resided until the Fall after I was 10 years old when we went to Stockbridge in Vermont. When Young I was very unfortunate in cutting my feet with the ax, when I was twelve years old I fell from a hors[e] and broke my right arm, when 13 I had a long and dangerous sickness, Fever, by which my life was despaired of—My father died of apoplexy at the age of 74 on the 22nd of November. After I attained my 17th year [—] responsibility of taking care of my Mother and two Sisters fell upon me. The following July I fell from a Barn and broke my side, and was taken up for dead—when I was nineteen I let out our farm and went to Shelbourn, Vt. to learn mason work. at twenty years of age went to Louisville N Y: where I employed myself Lumbering on the St. Lawrence [River]. the next year, I returned to Stockbridge
When I moved to Shelburn I gave up my Mother & Sister with all their property to my Brother. I then went to Mason work and continued laying stone for about two years during which time I accumulated $500; when I became a hucksterth May, 1815 I married a young woman named Ruth Grannis, daughter of Levi and Pir [hole in original text] Grannis of Milton, Vt. [—] Lake Champlain. where I also saw the Battle fought in Sept. 1814 —In March 1816 we had a daughter born in Milton [Vermont]—I followed masoning during the Summer. Next fall we moved into Volney, Oswego Co. N Y, and took up a Farm there—continued Mason trade, building bridges, laying foundations, &c., for six years—. about 1822, in Sept. I was stoning a well when the man [who] was attending on me let a Stone fall on my head and fractured my skull, which laid me up two months—Then not being able to pay for my land it was taken from Me, and I moved to Gravely Point  in N.Y. State, where I followed mason work again—Took a piece of land on Long Island the next Spring and worked in the State, built a large Stone Brewery; was
take sick the most of two years; My acquaintance administered to our wants, brought us many comforts of life and let us have hands to help us to work—
I kept a Genealogical chart of my family which I lost after we left Kirtland on our way to Nauvoo, in consequence probably of not having a wife to take care of things—but during the six years alluded to we had three more children born—Nelson, about 18 months younger [than] Calista, and two girls, Emily and Maria.br (fig. 3) my Son Alma was born there, on September 22nd and I worked on the Temple. In May, 1835, Calista died at the age of four years—. I was recommended to do a certain job of work for a British Officer in Canada where my work increased as my acquaintance increased and I put up Building after building built chimneys laid foundations &c, until it seemed I was to become a permanent resident and I became a citizen and bought a farm. We had two boys born, named George and Hyrum also a still born Son. My wife was taken sick of consumption and after lingering  two years died in Ernistown, U[pper] C[anada]: in March, 1831 —. In January 1832 I married Susannah Petters daughter of Joseph and Jemima Peters, of Ernistown, and in Dec 22 following we had a son named Joseph—. I omitted to state that in June 1829 I was building a large stone house for Joseph Peters and fell through the scaffolding and a large Stone fell on my leg and bruised my leg so that my life was despaired of in 1830 built two large flouring Mills three Stories high beside considerable other work and in [—] I took cold which settled in my breast, and I did not get over it until the next August, when I received a witness of the latter day work in a manifestation of the healing power— In January 1833 I was baptized by Brigham Young in Loughborough U[pper] C[anada] in the Summer Br. Hyrum Smith wrote to me that it was the will of the Lord that I should go and work on the Temple in Kirtland when I went the work was suspended, and I returned sold out on credit and took my family in April 1834 to Kirtland, & in Sept I called a [—] to know if I should go to Canada and return safe — it was sanctioned by the congregation— I started in my own wagon and proceeded as far as Niagara Falls then I went on board the Ship Great Britain the[n] we landed in Kingston at 12 o’clock at night, rainy, dark and cloudy weather— Men with lanterns came on board <from the office [—] > to escort the passengers off the ship
I collected in my debts, sold my property on credit, and returned to Kirtland, where I <continued> working on the Temple as much as could, my leg being occasionally troublesome—. My son Artemusr’s, a distance of 250 yards. I was afterwards told that when in agony I called out let Joseph Smith, Jun., come and lay hands on me and I shall be healed and I know it not knowing what I said. He pressed his way through the crowd; (for the house was filled with people) and came forward and laying his hands on my head asked God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ to heal me; the vomiting and purging ceased and I began to mend from that very moment— When Kirtland Bank broke I went again to Canada <to collect debts, failed, so I went> and worked two Seasons on arched bridges for government. I was overseer a part of the time—. In Nov 1839, my son William was born, and my wife died in Oct. 1841—. In 1842 I went back to Kirtland, leaving my children
who would not come along <not being able to take them with me>. I worked at mason work at Chagrin Falls in the Summer, and started for Nauvoo in the Fall, but did not arrive there until April 5th, 1843, just in time for conference—about the end of April I was married to the Widow Oakes by Brigham Young. I worked on the Nauvoo Temple more or less for two years, was sick a considerable part of the time. The Pioneers started for the Bluff.  [—] I was sick all Summer on the prairie near Bonaparte—. My wife was taken sick and I had her taken up on Fox River, Iowa, where she died in October —. The next October  I married Triphenia Booth, Sister to Brigham Young’s first wife after living with me a year, she left me at Council Point—. In March 11th, 1849, I was <married> to Nancy [Hamlet] Lemaster in Kanesville, by Orson Hyde, then went to Missouri in April and worked for an outfit, returned to Kanesville in July for my family and took them to Missouri where I continued working until <8th> June <1850> when we started from Oregon. My son Liberty was born Sept. 22nd, 1850, 11 miles this side Fort Bridger at 4 o’clock in the morning—. We arrived in G[reat] S[alt] L[ake] City on 2nd Oct—. Next day I went to see Brigham, who told me I must go to Manti, and after working four weeks on his barn, I left for San Pete. Br. John Smith blessed my son Liberty when he was four weeks old and ordained him a High Priest—. We arrived in Manti Nov 18th, 1850—. In 1852 built a stone house for B[righam] Young <and superintended the building of the little fort>. In 1853 Bishop [John] Lowry appointed me overseer over the Tithing House in the little Stone Fort and In 1855 he put me in Superintendent of the Council House. I labored m[ason] on the Fort Wall in 1854 & ’55.