A monument to John Benbow, who helped lay the foundation for the spread of the gospel in the British Isles, and his wife, Rosetta Wright Benbow, was erected by their descendants and dedicated at the city cemetery here April 13.
Three General Authorities were present and spoke to family members attending the dedication. Attending were President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Ruth; Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Patricia; and Elder Alexander B. Morrison of the Seventy.The monument is located at the Benbow gravesite at the cemetery in Murray, an area that was in the Benbows' day called South Cottonwood, Utah. John Benbow died in South Cottonwood, May 12, 1874, and Rosetta died in Salt Lake City on March 17, 1894.
Arthur B. Erekson, 91, eldest great-grandson of John and Rosetta, dedicated the monument. William S. Erekson, a great-grandson, conducted the program, and John Arion Erekson, a great-grandson, gave the story of the monument, which was funded by family donations.
John Benbow was introduced to the Church at his home in Herefordshire, England, by Elder Wilford Woodruff on March 4, 1840. Of that meeting, Elder Woodruff recalled: "I found Mr. Benbow to be a wealthy farmer, cultivating 300 acres of land, occupying a good mansion, and having plenty of means. His wife, Jane, had no children. . . . He and his wife received me with glad hearts and thanksgiving . . . [and] rejoiced greatly at the glad tidings which I brought to them." (Quoted in Truth Will Prevail, the Rise of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the British Isles, 1837-1987, ed. V. Ben Bloxham et al).
It was John Benbow who introduced Elder Woodruff to the United Brethren, an off-shoot group of Wesleyan Methodists, who had been searching for light and truth. To them, he preached his first sermon in southwest England at the Benbow home. He converted the group en masse.
With his wife, Jane, who died Nov. 27, 1846, John Benbow was baptized into the Church March 6, 1840, by Elder Woodruff. He funded printing of the Book of Mormon and Church hymnbook in England in 1840. Gathering with the Saints to America, John and Jane paid for passage of at least 40 other Church members.
In 1844, when the Prophet Joseph Smith was falsely arrested, John Benbow pledged all his holdings as bail. He also supported the Nauvoo Legion and the building of the Nauvoo House and the Nauvoo Temple.
Having relocated with the Saints in the Salt Lake Valley, John married Rosetta Sept. 3, 1851. For six years, they sent a team, wagon and driver yearly to assist in transporting Church members from the Missouri River to Salt Lake City.
In contrast to his spacious Herefordshire home, John and Rosetta lived in a small, windowless log home for 11 years in South Cottonwood. They lived frugally so they could assist the immigrating Saints.
"There's a principle in the gospel which ever will be with us if we're going to be God's people, and that is the principle of consecration," President Faust told the assembled group. "John Benbow and his family were a perfect example of that. When the Church was impoverished, the Prophet Joseph in difficulty, the Prophet Joseph went to John Benbow for a loan in Nauvoo. And it's recorded by the Prophet Joseph that they got in the buggy and went out to call on John Benbow and repay the loan which the Prophet Joseph had borrowed from him. Now if ever we have an example of devotion to that principle of consectration, it has to be in the life of this man."
He said the old writing on the Benbow gravestones had weathered away, and "there needs to be this suitable monument to memorialize John Benbow along with the other distinguished pioneers who are here."
President Faust said he wished to speak to the descendants of John Benbow and his wives "not in terms of what has passed and their heroic deeds and great accomplishments but in terms of how that heritage is going to be memorialized in terms of the principles and the faith to which they were so devoted in the future. I would expect and hope they would have the same commitment devotion to the principle of consecration that John Benbow had. I invoke upon all of you a blessing and commend you for your faithfulness, for your devotion and for your good works," he said.
Elder Holland said he is not a descendant of John Benbow but is descended from Thomas Benbow, his oldest brother, who died when his baby daughter Ellen was just 10 years old. "In that circumstance John and Jane Benbow . . . took [ Ellen], who would be my grandmother, into their home and raised her. Jane was never able to have children, but they raised her as their own. So I say, in my own Benbow heritage, where would I be if it had not been, in that case for John and Jane Benbow?"
With such "convolutions," the Church "makes a very small world for us," he commented.
"In not the least of the convolutions, I need to pay tribute to my beloved wife. None of us would be here today if it hadn't been for Zera Pulsipher, who baptized Wilford Woodruff, who baptized John Benbow. And my beloved Pat is the great-great granddaughter of Zera Pulsipher. So life just keeps making those little circles that link us together."
Elder Holland noted that one week from that hour, he and Sister Holland would be with President and Sister Faust at the pond at the Benbow farm where John and Jane were baptized. "We're on our way to England and assignments beyond, but if we can work a little bit of extra time before we start our meetings at noon, we're going to have the Fausts on that property for the first time for them."
He said John Benbow was from the hour of his baptism to today the closest person to aristocracy that has ever joined the Church in all of Great Britain. "No one has ever been as close to gentry as John Benbow. . . . I'm grateful that he would give and give and give, and gave everything for the Kingdom of God."
Elder Morrison, Utah North Area president, said: "President Hinckley mentioned to us the other day something which struck a resonant chord in my heart because I suppose I had felt that way for a long time. It is the concept of believing blood, that there are some people and some families who are just naturally believers. They seem to have a gene of belief or faith as part of their spiritual DNA. And because they are the natural believers and have the blood of Israel in them, they do whatever is asked of them. . . . Nowhere else in the world, I think, is the blood of Israel purer and richer than in the British Isles. And John Benbow had that believing blood. When he heard the gospel message, not only did he embrace it but he embraced it with a fervor and a dedication which sustained him for the rest of his days. His life from that point on was irretrievably connected with the fortunes of the Latter-day Saints."