From the Fortress of Solitude
I'm writing to you tonight from my desk at the Space Education Center in Pleasant Grove. If its a Friday, then I'm most likely here at the Center engaged in another of our weekly Space Camps. I've got 43 campers aged 10 to 14 and a staff of 23 roaming around the school engaged in various activities. My staff are well trained, giving me a bit of down time to write this continued post on our 9th Great Grandfather, the Rev. John Lathrop. Yesterday I posted the first article on John Lathrop (scroll down to the previous blog post). Today I introduce the Mormon connection to our Great Grandfather.
John Lathrop was Joseph Smith's 5th Great Grandfather. He is our 9th Great Grandfather. After doing a bit of calculating, I can report that Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, is our 6th cousin- 4 times removed. Yes, I know that's kicking the can down the road a bit, but still a very interesting family connection.
The following is from Kevin Owen's keynote address given at the BYU-Idaho Family History Conference on 8 November 2003. In his speech, Mr. Owen discusses John Lathrop and his connection to the LDS Church and its founder, Joseph Smith.
I would like to tell you the story of a man who was born over 400 years ago. His name was John Lathrop and he was born 20 Dec 1584 at Etton, Yorkshire, England. He decided at an early age to follow in the footsteps of his father who was a minister in the Church of England. He began his studies at Christ Church College, Oxford University at the age of 18 years. He later transferred to Queens College at Cambridge, England where he received his Bachelor of Art at age 21 years and his Masters of Art at age 25 years.
At age 23 years he began his church service as a Deacon in the Church of England at Bennington, Hertfordshire. After graduation at age 25 years he moved to Kent where he became curate or minister over the Parish church of Egerton – just 48 miles SE of London. He served 11 years as clergyman at this parish where the record shows he christened over 200 children, married the youth and presided over burials. It was here that he married Hannah Howse – the daughter of an Anglican minister of a neighboring parish. It was here that four of their children were born.
Religious circumstances at this time were such that all Anglican ministers would have had to take the “Oath of Supremacy” which denounces all Papal authority and acknowledges the King of England as the head of the Church. Additionally John Lathrop would have had to teach and abide by the “Act of Uniformity” which establishes the Anglican Prayer Book as the only legal form of worship.
By the year 1624, at age 39 years, John Lathrop broke with the Anglican Church and moved back to London to become Pastor of the First Independent Congregation in the Southwark part of London. In the church of England John Lathrop had security and status, but he gave this all up in an effort to follow the more simple forms of worship. He came to deplore the pomp and ceremony of his former church and questioned the authority of his own ordination. The Bishop of London was made aware of his actions and he pursued John Lathrop and the Puritans with zeal. John Lathrop and his congregation were forced to meet in secret. John was at the heart of the Puritan reform and was tried and imprisoned for his actions. He spent two years in prison, enduring terrible conditions, but would not renounce his beliefs or agree to cease his preaching. John’s family bargained for his release – that he be freed on the condition that he emigrate to New England – never to return.
This was agreed upon and John and his family along with at least thirty of John’s original congregation took their journey in 1634 and settled in Barnstable on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Here John Lathrop became a prominent colonial minister teaching the scriptures and the simpler forms of worship. He was instrumental in bringing about Christian reform and died at age 69 in the year 1653.
Notable Descendants: John Lathrop helped pave the way for the restoration of this Church. His humility, dedication and faithfulness had far reaching effects. Many of his descendants are found among the early members of the LDS church. It is estimated that some 25% of the original church membership descend from John Lathrop. Most notable is Joseph Smith. John Lathrop is Joseph Smith’s 5th great-grandfather! Other prominent members include: Parley P. Pratt and his brother Orson, Wilford Woodruff, Fredrick G. Williams, Joseph F. Smith, Harold B. Lee, N. Eldon Tanner, Marion G. Romney and H. Burke Peterson. You will be interested to know that our current President of the United States, George W. Bush, is also a descendant of John Lathrop.
There may be some within the sound of my voice who also are descendants of this good man. Each of us descends from a line of perhaps equally notable ancestry. Each of us has a great-great-grandfather or perhaps a 5th great-grandfather who lived an honest life but was not able to embrace the gospel in its fullness because it was not to be found upon the earth.
Ours is a great responsibility to seek out these ancestors, to spend the time and effort to discover their names and their stories, and to see that they receive the blessings of the gospel through temple ordinances performed vicariously on their behalf.