by Harry A Dean

Joseph Henry Dean 1855-1947

Joseph H. was the oldest son of Joseph Dean and Catherine Knott, born in Taunton, Somerset, England, October 16,1855.

Joseph Henry Dean married Sarah Arnold October 11, 1876, in the Endowment House before the Salt Lake was finished. He also married Florence Ridges in the Logan Temple June 11, 1885. He was the father of twenty-two children, eleven by each of his wives…. Because of his entering into this principle [of plural marriage, he] was imprisoned in the for six months, along with many others.

‘[Joseph H.] was a very spiritual man by nature. He was intelligent, loyal to his families and his Church, and to those over him in authority. He was never heard criticizing one of his leaders. He maintained that continual fault finding with the authorities was the first step to apostasy.

‘He filled three missions—one to the Hawaiian Islands, and two to the Samoan Islands, where he opened the Samoan Mission in 1888. He was intimately associated with the leaders of the Church, including two presidents, Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant.

While he was in the Penitentiary, two of his associates there were apostles, Wilford Woodruff (later President of the Church) and Rudger Clawson. When father moved from Salt Lake City to Mancos, Colorado in 1898, he lost direct contact and association with these brethren. He held many important positions of responsibility in the Church, the last being that of Patriarch, which position he held during the last fifteen years of his life.

‘[Joseph H.] worked as a stonecutter [for eight years off and on], cutting granite stones to be used in the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. And, after the dedication of the Temple, he was appointed to be custodian, and worked for years as an ordinance worker.

‘During the latter part of father’s life, he wrote considerable poetry and some (including the hymn ‘Before Thee Lord I Bow My Head’).’1

A life calling

‘For Joseph Henry Dean, a man who served as a for the temple working continually into the last months of construction prior to the dedication, the temple became the true center of his life and his life’s work.

‘As work on the temple drew to a close, many of the workers were slowly released from their commissions as their work finished. Dean, thinking he too would be let go, wrote in his journal nearly every day during the last year of the temples construction that he felt he would be the next one to be let go. But he never was, Olmstead said.

‘Dean was one of the few who was kept on to work on interior details after the dedication, like the stained- glass windows in the domed ceiling of the Holy of Holies. And later, when Dean found out about the possibility of a temple custodian position, a long-term caretaker for the temple, he wrote in his journal that such a position was the secret wish of his heart.

“So one day he is walking in the street and he runs into Lorenzo Snow… the first temple president of Salt Lake, and … member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles…. He comes up to [Dean] in the street and essentially says,‘I want you to know, if you so choose, we’re going to give you this position as custodian of the temple, and you can go on and spend your remaining days, nights, and life in the temple.’ “The offer was an answer to Dean’s prayers, and in his diary he attributed the blessing as a result of his willingness to donate more than a month’s worth of his salary to the temple in the final year of its construction. It had been a time when the Church was in great need of money, more so than for volunteers or laborers, and he noted that because of his decision,’the Lord has seen fit to bless me with this opportunity to spend the rest of my life in serving at the temple.”2 

1 Harry A. Dean,’Joseph Henry Dean”, online

2 Excerpts from Aubrey Eyre,’Lesser-Known Facts about Salt Lake Temple’s Construction Illustrate Pioneers’Commitment, Sacrifice,’ Church News, 17 May, 2019

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