|The Memoirs of President W. W. Blair
Compiled by Elder Frederick B. Blair
From Saints' Herald
With a Preface by President Joseph Smith, an Obituary by Elder Mark H. Forscutt, and a Statement by Frederick B. Blair
Herald Publishing House
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The contents of the following pages are the reproduction in print of the daily record of many years of the ministerial labor of one of the most noble, faithful, benevolent, and self-sacrificing men to be found in the long list of those called into the field during the years of present occupancy of the restored gospel.
William Wallace Blair was of an intellectual and sturdy Scotch family. Strong in conviction, quick in disposition, diligent and persistent in action, of a genial temperament, he was cheerful and courteous in manner, yet dignified and honorable in deportment to both his friends and opponents; he was kind, even sympathetic towards those whom he met in the various forensic discussions which the advocacy of the angelic message of the restoration has persistently provoked in the field of religious controversy. Too noble to envy another's success, too generous to gloat over a defeated antagonist, he left no bitterness of spirit to follow him and carried none out of the field of conflict.
Elder Blair was a man of good business ability, and at the time the gospel message reached him wag in active business life. He came from the ranks of the unbelieving; but when the Spirit of truth touched his intellect, brain and heart were fired by its power, and abandoning business, a careless and unbelieving life, he became at once a consistent and fearless advocate of the gospel principles and the ethics of Christian philosophy.
He was for a time disheartened by the lapse in the teaching of the gospel by William Smith, brother of -the Martyrs, Joseph and Hyrum; which lapse from the virtue and integrity of the truth he met by exposure and denunciation, upon its discovery, though at the time it seemed to be the entire overthrowing of the hopes and the faith of himself and those who joined in withstanding the attempted departure from the way of truth.
It was after this strange and mischievous hiatus, and the consequent lull and depression in spiritual activity, and dur-ing Elder Blair's renewed business energy, that the news of the Reorganization among the scattered members of the church reached him. The new demand which this made upon him was met with the characteristic self-abnegation of his nature, and he entered into the. work without reservation, and again became an uncompromising advocate of the gospel, and an equally. uncompromising opponent to the rule of false-hood in doctrine and evil in human conduct.
Not long after this, under "the providence which shapes our ends," the writer became acquainted with Elder Blair. This acquaintance began by virtue of the call and direction given the writer under which he met with the little band of reviving members at Amboy, Illinois, April 6, 1860. After the writer had been received into fellowship by the act of conference, and had been ordained to the high priesthood in obedience to the sustaining voice of the body, and was chosen to preside over the church, by direction of the supervising and ever present Spirit of the Master, the writer chose Elder William Marks, a high priest under the presidency of the Martyr, and Elder William W. Blair as counselors, to form the quorum required by the revealed law of the church.
From that day and hour of choosing, approval, and ordination, until the testimony of each, borne in lives of consistent self-sacrifice and unswerving devotion to principle, truth, and personal integrity, was sealed, the writer knew both men in close association and intimacy as colaborers in the' cause of the New Evangel.
Elder Marks' labors ceased on May 22, 1872, at Plano, Illinois, at the age of seventy-nine. He had remained true to the original faith at the expense of wasted substance, the failure of his family to abide with him in the truth, with the exception of an elder son and a daughter. The writer watched with the dying veteran and aided in caring for him in his last hour, and in closing his eyes after the light of the valiant spirit had departed from them. The testimony of the disciple was true to the last.
From 1860 to the spring of 1896, a period of thirty-six years, the closest of personal friendship and association in church service and spiritual affairs, between Elder Blair and the writer, continued unmarred and unbroken.
Elder Blair was Democratic in political affiliation, the writer was Republican. Notwithstanding this difference in political preference there was ever the sincerest regard each for the other, and at no time during the long years of labor together was there the shadow of ill-feeling, or a word of warm discussion of political affairs. Each refused offers of political preferment, believing that political strife' and partisan office to be improper for men holding the position of leaders in the field of religious thought, and incompatible with the peace and dignity of our association. Neither belonged to any secret order, and hence not under obligation to the, claims or dictation of oath-bound associates for time, talents, or money; believing as each did, that the obligation involved in the gospel baptismal vow was all the bond needed to bind men to do for their fellow men all that lies in their power temporally and spiritually.
No two men constituted as were Elder Blair and the writer, holding so different and radical views on many things, ever wrought more harmoniously and with a better confidence than obtained between these two. He was a counselor indeed, an assured supporter on mutual agreements, and an honorable conservator of peace upon points of difference, demanding no compromise of others and yielding none.
The early days of the struggle for reorganization were stormy, sometimes perilously so; but, though sometimes tried unto humiliation spiritually, and almost to the limit of for-bearance temporally, Elder Blair never wavered, nor abated his vigilance and duty. Always in the forefront, he was the longest in point of consecutive and continued service in the field of any of the band of missionaries up to the time of his death. From first to last his was a life call and a life service. He had a faithful and efficient helper and spiritual coadjutor in his companion, Sr. Elizabeth Blair, who, with her sons and daughter, survive him, and they are still giving good tribute to the laborer's virtues and memory.
Knowing the author of these memoirs so well, and for so long a period of mutual service, the writer is gratified by the request of Elder F. B. Blair, youngest son of Elder Blair, who is the compiler and publisher of his father's diary, to write this preface in tribute to the worth of the man, the missionary, the citizen, and Saint, and as a token of the personal love and Christian regard born of spiritual commendation and continued by close association during the years of spiritual struggle and the fostering graces in Christian triumph. He was what the gospel made him, and as the writer has been and can be only that, mutual esteem was the bond of unity in time and may be the guarantee of association "in the beyond."
The writer has omitted dates and personal incident, thus leaving detail to be developed in the story of the life and missionary service to be told in the memoirs themselves.
The Reorganized Church has had no more self-sacrificing or conscientious and faithful advocate, defender, and missionary than Elder W. W. Blair; and these memories are commended to the reading of the Saints and others who may choose to read them, in the confident trust that as men shall read of the events of a busy life and the scenes of spiritual conflict with their fluctuating periods of threatening defeat, or promising victory, they may feel that the hero whose life is depicted in his writings, like one of old, "though he be dead, yet speaketh."
He was stricken down, at the front, as a soldier in the discharge of his duty, leaving a fragrant memory as a heritage to his sons, and encouragement to the Saints, on April 18, 1896, as he was returning home from the conference held that year at Kirtland, Ohio, his last labors and testimony being borne in the Temple first dedicated to the service of God on Joseph's land, by the Saints under the restored gospel dispensation.
Of such as he it may be safely written:
"Rest, tired hands, thy weapons faileth; Past, the need of warfare now;
Gone thy strength-thy faith prevaileth; God, himself, will speed the plow."
TORONTO, Ontario, July 21, 1908. JOSEPH SMITH.
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Chapter 1 of WW Blair Memoirs