Luke Samuel Johnson (1807–1861) (commonly known as Luke Johnson and Luke S. Johnson) was a leader in the church and an original member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1835 to 1838. He served in the Quorum with his younger brother, Lyman E. Johnson and Orson Hyde, his brother-in-law.
Luke Samuel Johnson was born November 3, 1807, in Vermont, a son of John Johnson and Elsa Jacobs. He wrote of his family in an autobiographical sketch:
- "My grandfather, Israel Johnson lived in Chesterfield, New Hampshire, and was much respected by his neighbors for his honesty, integrity and industry. My father, John Johnson, was born in Chesterfield, New Hampsire, April 11th, 1779. He followed the occupation of farming on a large scale, and was noted for paying his debts and living independently. He moved from Pomfret, Vermont, to Hiram, Protage county, Ohio. He was connected with the Methodist church for about five years previous to receiving the Gospel. My father was satisfied in regard to the truth of "Mormonism" and was baptized by Joseph Smith, Jun.(sic), in the winter of 1830-31, and furnished him and his family a home, while he translated a portion of the Bible." (see Ludlow, p. 357)
Johnson was an educator and a physician. He married Susan Harminda Poteet on November 1, 1833. This marriage produced six children, Elisa Mary, Fanny, Eliza, Vashata, James and Solomon. Later in life he practiced plural marriage, marrying America Morgan Clark in the Kirtland LDS Temple, and had additional children. This family included Susan Marinda, Orson Albert, Mark Anthony, Charlotte Elizabeth, Lovinia Ann, Phebe W. and Luke.
Church Membership and Service
Luke Johnson was baptized into the church on May 10, 1831 by Joseph Smith, Jr. By October of 1831, he had been ordained an Elder and went on a mission to southern Ohio with Robert Rathburn. Later in 1831, he joined Sidney Rigdon in preaching the gospel in areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio. Their efforts brought about fifty new members into the young church, including Elder Rigdon's mother and other members of the Rigdon family.
Johnson was ordained to the office of high priest by Joseph Smith, Jr. on October 25, 1831. With Seymour Brunson and Hazen Aldrich, he served as an LDS missionary in Ohio, Virginia, and Kentucky in 1832-33, baptizing more than a hundred persons on their journey. He was a member of the Kirtland LDS high council which was formed on February 17, 1843. On June 26, 1834, Johnson marched with Zion's Camp, suffering with cholera on the journey. At age 27, Johnson was chosen and ordained one of the original members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles on February 15, 1835. Shortly after the Council was formed, the new Apostles were sent on missions. Johnson served in the Eastern United States, New York and Upper Canada. He returned to Kirtland, Ohio in late 1836.
Luke Johnson defended the Prophet Joseph Smith from criticism on several occasions. But, in 1837, he became alienated from Joseph Smith, perhaps because of financial losses suffered in the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society. He was disfellowshipped at Kirtland, Ohio on September 3, 1837. Johnson was later received back into fellowship for a short time, but was excommunicated and dropped from the Twelve at Far West, Missouri on April 13, 1838. After leaving the church, Johnson taught school and then studied medicine, ultimately setting up a medical practice in Kirtland.
In 1846, after the death of Joseph Smith, Johnson requested permission to address an assembly of the saints in Nauvoo, Illinois. He said: "I have stopped by the wayside and stood aloof from the work of the Lord... But my heart is with this people. I want to be associated with the saints, go with them into the wilderness and continue with them to the end." Johnson's brother-in-law, Apostle Orson Hyde rebaptized him on March 8, 1846. However, he never again served in the higher councils of the Church.
Johnson traveled with Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff to Utah, serving as a captain of ten, as part of the first group of 143 pioneers in July 1847. He also served as a Captain of Fifty in the Daniel A. Miller/John W. Cooley Company (1853), while traveling with members of his family. Johnson settled in St. John, Tooele County, Utah where he served as Bishop of a local LDS congregation. He is the only man in this dispensation that served as a Bishop after having served as an apostle. He died December 9, 1861 in the home of Orson Hyde.
- Allen, James B. and Leonard, Glen M. The Story of the Latter-day Saints. Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, UT, 1976. ISBN 0-87747-594-6.
- Jenson, Andrew. editor. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia; Vol. 1 and Vol. 4.
- Ludlow, Daniel H., A Companion to Your Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, UT, 1978. ISBN 1-57345-224-6.