George Reynolds papers
L. Tom Perry Special Collections is pleased to announce the availability of a new digitized collection: George Reynolds papers (Vault MSS 10). This collection contains correspondence to and from George Reynolds from various church, civic, and business leaders, a number of certificates relating to Reynolds ecclesiastical and civic duties and positions, and some family correspondence, as well as a history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints written by Reynolds. Many of these items relate to Reynolds’ conviction and imprisonment for practicing polygamy in the 1870s and 1880s, though some items date from as early as 1863 to as late as 1909. This collection also contains a handwritten biography of Reynolds written in approximately 1920 by his daughter, Alice Louise Reynolds. Dated approximately 1863-1920.
George Reynolds was born on January 1, 1842, in Marylebone, England. His parents were George and Julia Ann Tautz Reynolds. As a youth he became acquainted with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was baptized at the age of fourteen. In 1865, Reynolds immigrated to Utah and settled in Salt Lake City. He there became Brigham Young’s secretary and would continue to serve as the secretary to the First Presidency throughout the remainder of his life. He likewise served as a member of the municipal council of Salt Lake City from 1875 to 1879.
In 1874, George Reynolds was chosen by both Mormon and civil leaders as a test case for the constitutionality of the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862. Reynolds was convicted of bigamy the following year and his conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1879. He was imprisoned briefly in the Nebraska State penitentiary before being transferred to the Utah Territorial penitentiary where he served out the remainder of his sentence of two years. He thus became the first of many Mormons to be imprisoned for practicing polygamy.
Reynolds was actively involved in the Mormon Sunday School system and served on the Board of the Deseret Sunday School Union. Throughout his life Reynolds was a noted author of Mormon polemics and he frequently wrote for the Deseret News and the Juvenile Instructor. He is best remembered for his works on the Book of Mormon. In April 1890, Reynolds was sustained as a member of the First Council of the Seventies, a position he held until his death on August 9, 1909.