Marriner Wood Merrill

Lawrence R. Flake, Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2001), 411–13.

Marriner Merrill portrait

Born: 25 September 1832, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada

Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: 7 October 1889 (age 57)

Died: 6 February 1906 (age 73), Richmond, Utah

As a boy of only nine growing up in New Brunswick, Canada, Marriner Wood Merrill experienced the first of many spiritual events in his life. He beheld a vision of his future as a member of the restored Church. Although he did not understand the things he saw, he later realized that he had been shown the prophets Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the journey of the Saints to Utah in covered wagons, vehicles that were unknown to him at the time of the vision, and some of his friends with more than one wife. So strong an impression did this last sight have upon him that he asked his mother why plurality of wives was not practiced as in biblical times. She tried to probe into the origin of his question, but because a voice had instructed him to maintain secrecy, he could not tell her of the vision.

In 1852, as a young man of nineteen, Marriner was baptized a member of the Church by missionaries in New Brunswick. He began immediately to travel to Zion, and after some difficulties arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in September 1853. His journey across the plains was the scene of another miracle in the young Latter-day Saint’s life. As he was swimming the Platte River in an attempt to recover some cattle, he lost his strength in the heavy current and went down several times. Just at the point of drowning, he found himself stabilized on a sandbar; he stood there until a fellow traveler came to his rescue, when suddenly the sandbar was gone. The two men managed to make it safely to shore, and Marriner felt very strongly that the Lord had preserved his life for a purpose.

Brother Merrill’s life was also miraculously preserved when he was laboring in North Mill Creek canyon. Established in the valley and married to Sarah A. Atkinson, he earned his livelihood by bringing down enough wood to make about four dollars’ worth of shingles each day. One particularly cold morning, Brother Merrill was the only man bold enough to venture into the canyon for his usual load of logs. He was hurrying to load his wagon when an accident occurred that pinned him against the ice under one of the heavy logs. In this predicament he lost consciousness. When he revived, Brother Merrill found himself about a half mile down the canyon from where he had been, sitting atop the five carefully loaded logs. His oxen were rambling along toward home, his overcoat was laid neatly beside him, and his ax was stuck in one end of the log as he usually placed it himself. He showed his deep faith in the divine power that performed this service for him in these words: “I can truthfully testify in all soberness, that some power which I did not see assisted me from the position which doubtless would have speedily cost me my life. As I was preserved for some purpose known to my Heavenly Father, so do I also believe that God will bless and preserve the lives of His faithful children . . . and He will, if necessary, send angelic visitors to sustain and preserve those who put their trust in Him.” [1]

The Lord did have a mission and purpose for this great man. He served as bishop in Richmond, Utah, for eighteen years, where he had moved from Salt Lake and established himself very successfully in farming, stock raising, and the milling industry. He prospered enough to support his family of forty-five children.

In 1884 Marriner W. Merrill became president of the Logan Temple. During this time another miracle took place. He was grieving exceedingly over the death of his oldest son, his namesake, who died in the prime of life. One day while he was returning to Richmond from the temple, the boy appeared to his father, explained to him the important mission to which he had been called, and admonished him to be comforted. It was a great consolation to Brother Merrill to know that his son’s death was truly the Lord’s will.

In 1889 Marriner Wood Merrill became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He was a marvelous example of industry in his material life and of deep spirituality in his religious life. Bryant S. Hinckley wrote, “He was recognized as a man of worldly wisdom and good judgement, possessing unusual spiritual insight and understanding. His faith in God and his directing influence in the affairs of man was simple and flawless.” [2]


[1] Edwin F. Parry, “Apostle John W. Taylor,” Lives of Our Leaders: Character Sketches of Living Prophets and Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1901), 175.

[2] Bryant S. Hinckley, The Faith of Our Pioneer Fathers (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1956), 185. See also Matthias F. Cowley, Prophets and Patriarchs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Chattanooga, TN: Ben E. Rich, 1902), 1:279–85; Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia (Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson History, 1901), 1:156–61.