Sunday, October 11, 2009

Benjamin Erastus Rich

[Much of the below biography was taken from the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia]

Benjamin Erastus Rich was born Nov 7, 1855 in Salt Lake City Utah the son of Charles C Rich and Sarah D Pea. He was one of his father's fifty two children. He married Diana Farr Dec 27, 1877 and entered business for himself in Ogden. In 1881-83 he filled a mission to Great Britain and returned in charge of nearly 700 emigrating Saints. He also began activity in the effort being made at the time for statehood for Utah During the next few years he mingled religion politics and business in his career becoming prominent in each. In 1893 he removed to Rexburg, Idaho with his family. Here he purchased the Rexburg Press the name of which he changed to the Silver Hammer. He wrote a book, Mr. Durant of Salt Lake City, which gained great popularity, and later wrote numerous pamphlets and booklets which were distributed quite widely throughout the Church and the world. Later he removed the Silver Hammer office to St Anthony, Idaho. Both in Idaho and Utah he was active in local and national politics.

In June 1898 he was called to take charge of the Southern States Mission which position he filled until July 1908.

During his tenure in the Southern States Mission, President Rich attended the October 1900 general conference At the same time he chaired a political event at which Theodore Roosevelt spoke. The two developed a personal relationship. The two spent hours talking through night as they road the train back to Salt Lake City. Rich made such an impression on Roosevelt, that Roosevelt recognized Rich on the street two years later when a speaking tour took him to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Roosevelt stopped the walking parade to personally greet President Rich. This public recognition greatly helped the standing of the Church in Tennessee.

He was [then] called to the presidency of the Eastern States Mission, a position which he filled until the time of his demise. For nearly twenty years he was continuously engaged in missionary work hardly sparing time from his labors to make more than business visits to Utah or elsewhere. He was considered one of the most workers in the Church and one of the most fearless expounders of the gospel of Christ In his career as a missionary he met and debated with many anti Mormons of prominence and always left a strong impression upon his hearers. He also underwent various forms of persecution peculiar to the South and always bore it with manliness and patience During the first fifteen years of his missionary life he enjoyed excellent health. During the last two years or his life he suffered considerably with sickness and finally passed to the great beyond Sept 13, 1913 in New York.

A collection of his papers in at the University of Utah. A sample of what it is like when a publisher, like President Rich, makes missionary tracts can be seen here.


Ardis Parshall said...

Cool. The name "Ben E. Rich" is such a constant in early 20th century church history that I really should have learned more about him by now. Your post tells me more than I have ever read before. I especially like the anecdote about Roosevelt recognizing and stopping to talk with him.

Amy said...

Interesting to read about his publishing background which undoubtedly led to the publication of the mission newspaper, the Latter Day Saints Southern Star. Thanks for the bio.