Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Remembering James E. Talmage

February 13th, 2014 by Vader

James E. TalmageI am reminded of this story.     

In the spring of 1892 diptheria ravaged Utah communities. Talmage had returned home on Memorial Day from ministering to people when he learned of the plight of the non-Mormon Martin family, who had been unable to get anyone to go to the house to help for fear of catching the disease. James immediately left for the Martin home. He recorded:

One child, two and a half years old, lay dead on a bed, having been dead about four hours and still unwashed. Two other children, one a boy of ten and the other a girl of five, lay writhing in the agonies of the disease. A girl of 13 years is still feeble from a recent attack of diptheria. The father, Mr. Abe Martin, and the mother, Marshia Martin, are dazed with grief and fatigue; and the only other occupant of the house, a man named Kelly who is a boarder in the family, is so ill and weak as hardly to be able to move about.

He cleaned the house and prepared the young child for burial. Food and clothing had been donated by the Relief Society. The soiled clothing and rags had to be burned. A woman came by and offered to do the work for $5 a day, which she then lowered to $4.50, still a large sum for a family so destitute. Talmage dismissed her as a “vulture.”

When he returned the next day, he found that the ten-year-old boy had died during the night. The five-year-old girl was now near death. Talmage took her in his arms. “She clung to my neck, ofttimes coughing bloody mucus on my face and clothing, and her throat had about it the stench of putrefaction, yet I could not put her from me. During the half hour immediately preceding her death, I walked the floor with the little creature in my arms. She died in agony at 10 a.m.”

The three children were placed in wooden coffins and buried in a local cemetery. Talmage delivered the graveside blessing. After seeing to the well-being of the grieving family, he bathed in a zinc solution, burned his soiled clothing, and quarantined himself from his family for several days to prevent spread of the disease.

I was sick, and ye visited me…

Comments (2)
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February 13th, 2014 12:22:08

John Mansfield
February 14, 2014

Thanks for repeating this. I heard this account told by Henry B. Eyring when an addition to the BYU Talmage building was dedicated. It is a haunting story, and I often wondered about the source and thought I should seek it out, but I never heard it again in the decades since until now.

Bruce Charlton
February 14, 2014

It was from Talmage’s Article of Faith (my university library has a first edition) that I first felt I understood Mormonism (having tried and failed utterly to learn about it from the Book of Mormon, and not knowing about the resources on lds.org – or maybe there weren’t any web resources in early 2008? I think I have read it at least three times. I am currently in the midst of reading his Jesus the Christ which I got free on Kindle.

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