Lawrence R. Flake, Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2001) 439–41.
Born: 21 September 1862, Hungerford, Berkshire County, England
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: 8 December 1911 (age 49)
Died: 27 July 1933 (age 70), Salt Lake City, Utah
Several members of the Church gathered on the banks of a stream in the darkness of a summer night in England. The year was 1873, and two of the people were James E. Talmage, a boy of eleven, and his father. When young James was stricken that year with an inexplicable illness, his father felt that an unnecessary delay in the boy’s baptism might be the reason for the misfortune. And so on this warm evening they stole out quietly after dark, avoiding the hostile eyes of their anti-Mormon neighbors, to perform the ordinance. Suddenly a terrifying thing happened. Brother Talmage recalled, “We were veritably horror-stricken by a combined shriek, yell, scream, howl. . . . It seemed to be a combination of every fiendish ejaculation we could conceive of. I remember how I trembled at the awful manifestation. . . . Father, who was also trembling, . . . then asked me if I was too frightened to be baptized; I was too much terrified to speak, so I answered by stepping into the water.”  The Talmages were never able to discover any natural cause for this blood-curdling noise, nor did anyone else in the community report hearing it, though it was loud enough to have carried great distances. In analyzing Elder Talmage’s life and contemplating the massive influence he had for good, one could speculate that his baptism might well have brought forth such an outcry from the army of the adversary.
Three years later when James was fourteen, the Talmages emigrated to Utah, settling in Provo—a fortunate location for the boy, who was able to enter Brigham Young Academy under the inspiring tutelage of Karl G. Maeser. Brother Maeser recognized immediately the genius which was to set James E. Talmage in the top ranks of education, science, and theology. James obtained many degrees and scholastic honors—a bachelor’s and a doctor’s degree from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, a degree from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1896, and several honorary doctorates.
James began teaching at the early age of sixteen at Brigham Young Academy for a mere three dollars per week. He was soon offered a much more remunerative position with the Provo City schools, but upon counseling with the Lord in sincere prayer, as was his custom, he felt impressed to remain at the academy. He later became the president of two institutions of higher learning, LDS College in Salt Lake City and the University of Utah.
Eventually leaving his education career behind in favor of becoming a geological engineer and mining consultant, Dr. Talmage utilized the practical aspects of his chosen scientific field. However, this career was short-lived, for in 1911 he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve. While serving in this office, he continued to receive many lucrative offers in the field of science but gladly bypassed them to remain in full-time service to the Lord.
Besides a strong testimony and a brilliant mind, Brother Talmage had another great gift—marvelous fluency and remarkable precision in his mastery of the English language. He wrote numerous scientific and religious works, but his two monumental theological masterpieces, Articles of Faith and Jesus the Christ, are his greatest legacy to members of the Church. He could easily have become wealthy on the profits from these very popular volumes, but typical of Elder Talmage’s generosity, he endowed the Church with the royalties.
At the time of his death, a beloved fellow apostle, Melvin J. Ballard, noted that while Elder Talmage did not acquire much of this world’s goods, he retained in death his real treasures: “He takes with him the things that are worthwhile—a marvelous knowledge, his faith, his well-trained mind, and above all his right to the holy Apostleship which he will never forfeit, having honored that calling in this life.” 
 James E. Talmage, “An Unusual Accompaniment to a Baptism,” Improvement Era, June 1922, 675.
 Melvin J. Ballard, “Dr. James E. Talmage,” Improvement Era, September 1933, 648; see also John R. Talmage, The Talmage Story: Life of James E. Talmage—Educator, Scientist, Apostle (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1972).