John Jaques

John Jaques

John Jaques was born to Thomas Jaques and Mary Ann Heighington at Market Bosworth, Leicestershire, England on January 7th 1827. John attended grammar school until he was fourteen years of age, winning a reputation for diligence and thoroughness in his studies, and then spent seven years as an apprentice to a cabinetmaker. Always a thoughtful and religious youth, he was attracted to the gospel in 1845 and was baptized that autumn.

 He immediately became an active member, preaching the gospel in Stratford-on-Avon.  During this time, John contemplated Pilate’s question to Jesus Christ “What is truth?” The poem was included in the first (1851) edition of the Pearl of Great Price, and was set to music by Ellen Knowles Melling, who Jaques baptized while preaching in Scotland. The resulting hymn, “Oh Say, What is Truth?” is included in the hymnal of the LDS Church. The last stanza reads:

Then say, what is truth? ‘Tis the last and the first,

For the limits of time it steps o’er.

Though the heavens depart and the earth’s fountains burst,

Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,

Eternal, unchanged, evermore.

John met Zilpah Loader and they were married in Liverpool, Lancashire, England on October 31st 1853. In 1856 they boarded the Horizon to make the journey across the Atlantic. After landing in Boston, John and his family proceeded by train to Iowa City, where they joined the Martin Handcart Company.  Winter hit early on their journey across the plains: it came all in one day, pounding the pioneers with fierce snow, rain, and wind. The harsh conditions took the lives of many, including John and Zilpah’s oldest daughter, Flora. Because of long days of pulling the handcarts and low provisions, the pioneers became extremely weak. To lighten the load, they burned up many of their clothes. Despite the treacherous conditions and trials, they continued on.

John wrote, “The 28th of October was the red letter day to this handcart expedition. On that memorable day Joseph A. Young, Daniel W. Jones and Abel Garr galloped unexpectedly into camp amid the cheers and tears and smiles and laughter of the emigrants [… ]All was now animation and bustle in the handcart camp, everybody was busy at once in making preparations for a renewed start in the morning.”

In Utah, John was at one time Assistant Editor of the Daily Telegraph, and later of the Deseret News. He served a second mission in his native land in 1869-1871, acting as assistant editor of the Millennial Star. For the last eleven years of his life he was an assistant Church Historian. He was one of the thirteen original members of the Genealogical Society. John died on June 1st 1900 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Of his life, John wrote, “I always had the highest regard for truth and virtue…no matter who is the tempter nor what is the temptation, your virtue is worth more than them all, it is the pearl of great price. It is beyond all price…No offer involved is worth a moment’s consideration. The unfailing motto should be ‘Never surrender.’”


John Jaques (Mormon),

John Jaques,

John Jaques (Mormon),

Writings 1 of John Jaques, Treasures of Pioneer History, Vol 5, p. 262

J[acqes], J[ohn], “Some Reminiscences,” Salt Lake Daily Herald, 15 Dec. 1878,

John Jaques,