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Pioneers in our families: A legacy of defending the Church and the Prophet

After participating in the Election Day Battle at Gallatin, John Lowe Butler joined the Nauvoo Legion and was appointed as a bodyguard to the Prophet Joseph Smith

Some Latter-day Saints have pioneer ancestors going back almost 200 years. Other Church members are themselves the pioneers in their families. In the weeks surrounding Pioneer Day July 24 — the annual celebration of the first wagon company entering the Salt Lake Valley — Church News staff members share stories of pioneers in their families, some from the 1800s and some from the 1900s. This is the ninth in the series.

I always wondered why, when I went to Kentucky last year on a spur-of-the-moment trip, I felt a pull — as though I had come to a special place.

At first I thought it was because of how beautiful Kentucky was, and then I learned that one of my ancestors had deep roots there. John Lowe Butler, my fourth-great-grandfather, was born in Simpson County, Kentucky, in 1808, and found the Church just 26 years later in what began a legacy of defending the Church.

A photo of John Lowe Butler.
A photo of John Lowe Butler. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

After leaving Kentucky, and at nearly 30 years old, my fourth-great-grandfather was one of the principal participants in the Election Day Battle at Gallatin in Daviess County, Missouri, on Aug. 6, 1838.

“Our [brethren fought] like tigers ... the principal men who [fought] so bravely were John L Butler, Hyram [Hiram] Nelson.” Joseph Smith said of my great-grandfather.

John Lowe Butler had recorded his experiences in a biography that he wrote in 1860. Of the Gallatin fight he said, “I remembered that I never in my life struck a man in anger had always lived in peace with all man ... I did not want to kill anyone but merely to stop the affray and went in with the determination to rescue my brethren from such miserable curs at all hazards.”

He had truly believed that the Lord was with him during the battle: “And the lord did strengthen my body far beyond the common strength of man so much so that the enemy could not stand before me it was the power of god that was with me to my own astonishment.”

After the Gallatin fight, John Lowe Butler continued to aid the Church by serving three missions  — one to Illinois in 1839 and two to the Sioux tribes in 1840. As animosity increased towards the Church, he went on to serve in the Nauvoo Legion and as one of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s bodyguards before the Prophet’s martyrdom in 1844.

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