Monday, August 16, 2010

John Moon Clements

John Moon Clements  

This short biography of one of my third great grandfathers, John Moon Clements I hardly dare type. The reason being that he kept his own meticulous daily journal for most of his life. I am humbled to try and share tidbits of his life,  since his journal is several hundreds of pages long.

From his words, I can easily discern that he was fastidious, conscientious, studious and loving. And for some reason, I wonder how the people in his community looked towards him. Was he different from other men of the time and place? We may never know, but what would it matter now. 

Here is what I have gleaned from his journal and a short history written by his youngest daughter, Sarah Ann Clements Dalton.

John Moon Clements was born 17 October 1823 in Canterbury, England and reared in Deal in the county of Kent, England. His mother, Mary Ann Moon, was kind and loving. She taught John righteous principles--at least he claims as far as she had the knowledge. Mary Ann died when John was just six years old. His paternal grandmother, Sarah Wiley Clements, lived with them for a while helping with John's younger two sisters and brother.

Thomas Clements, John's father, remarried Mary A.. Willey with a few years. Thomas was a music teacher by trade. He also was hired to play the organ for the Church of England, and he did this for many years until he became crippled with gout. John said of his father, "Although he attended the Church of England, playing the organ for them was the only thing that influenced him to attend church." During the time of the services, John remembered seeing his father reading books he had taken with him. Thomas drew the curtains around the organ so no one would see him reading.

At the age of 14, John thought he might like to go to sea. His father gave his consent, and through the help of a step uncle serving in the English Navy, he got a job as a cabin boy. John worked on ships for almost 14 years, sailing on many--two that sank. It was while docked in New Orleans that his life changed forever.

Being a serious thinker and a man of great faith, John had thought for some time that he did not have the right religion. He fasted and prayed for light. On one of his trips to New Orleans, he met Joseph Couzins a Mormon who had just docked in New Orleans coming from England with his family and other Mormon saints. After hearing Brother Couzins speak of the Gospel, John was convinced that he had met a man of God with the right religion. 

John was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 8 April 1851 in New Orleans--just one day after listening to Brother Couzins. John was preparing to return to England on his ship when he met Elder Orson Pratt who had just returned from a mission to England. Elder Pratt encouraged John to sail with him to meet with the Saints in St. Louis and then on to Council Bluffs, so he did. After a very difficult time crossing the plains, his company arrived in Salt Lake City on 7 October 1851.

John lived with Elder Pratt's family for a while until he met a girl from Lincolnshire, England named Sarah Ann Reynolds. In a short time, they were married by Elder Orson Pratt on 30 January 1852 and shortly thereafter were sealed in the Endowment House.

The couple bought a lot and built a small house in Salt Lake City. Sarah gave birth to a daughter they named Sarah Ann on 23 November 1852, but she lived only 8 days. Four days after the baby died so did his wife.

John lived alone very sad and unhappy until he met Elizabeth Gabbitas at the home of Heber C. Kimball where she was employed. They were married on 8 November 1855 by Jedediah M. Grant and lived in Salt Lake City. While there John helped built the tabernacle and the temple.

John attended and recorded the proceedings of many Church meetings in Salt Lake City including those held in the original bowery and others at the tabernacle. His journal contains the names and talks of almost all of the early prophets, apostles, etc.

John, Elizabeth and their children lived in poverty while in Salt Lake City. John often traveled by foot to Ogden and Bountiful, then known as Sessions Settlement, looking for work. Usually finding none, he would walk back stopping door to door asking for food. Many others of that time and place were in similar circumstances.

In the year 1859, they sold their little home in Salt Lake City and moved south. They stayed a short time in Springville then moved as far south as Nephi. They returned soon to Springville where they made their home the rest of their lives.

In Springville they firstly lived in the north part of town until 1873 then they moved to what was referred to a the First Ward--probably on 400 South and about 400 East. It was the family home until 1912 when it was torn down to build a high school.

John employed himself with a garden and orchard. He also was the town sexton for over thirty years--burying people in both the Springville City Cemetery and the Evergreen Cemetery. His burial records are impecable--probably the best in the state of Utah.
He and Elizabeth had seven children and enjoyed their company very much. It seemed he was very much concerned for his children's welfare not only while they were young but also after they had their own families. His journal notes many times his praise of their good traits.
John had a strong testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and this never wavered. He served wherever he was called:  in his priesthood quorums, as a music director, ward teacher and even as a Sunday school teacher of small children for a time. From his writings, I think he attended every meeting held in every organization of his ward, stake and region. He was called upon almost daily to give priesthood administrations to people in Springville who were ill. He had great compassion to those who suffered and were in need.
The Clements never had much money. I have seen no evidence that they even owned a horse, buggy or wagon, etc. John never served a mission as many in his area nor did he live the law of polygamy although he stated that he did not disagree with the practice.
He always longed that his family in England would join the Church. He bore his testimony to them in letter often, but none followed his path. In 1893 when he was quite old, he asked the brethren in Salt Lake City to set him apart as a missionary, and then he sailed to England to collect his genealogy from relatives. I am sure he tried to persuade his family in person of the truthfulness of the gospel.
John spent free time studying any written materials he could get. One journal entry noted that he was studying a book on mathematics. He left quite a variety of books to his family after his passing in Springville, Utah on 16 August 1897.
The following is a page from his journal. It begins by stating that he has cautioned his family not to tear any more pages from his journal, because he wants to keep the book and hand it down to them. He hopes that his journal will not be destroyed but preserved for his children's children to read that they may have, "some little hint of who and what their pregenitors were and what sort of lives they led."

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