While traveling through New York In 1829, Thomas B. Marsh heard rumors of the restored gospel and was directed to find Martin Harris in Palmyra for further investigation. He found Harris at the Grandin Bindery where the Book of Mormon was in process of being published. He also met Oliver Cowdery and was given a copy of the first 16 pages of the sacred book.
Returning home, he studied those pages with his wife and after some correspondence with Cowdery and the Prophet Joseph, they moved to Palmyra in September of 1830. He was immediately baptized by David Whitmer and ordained an Elder by Cowdery. Soon after, the Prophet received a revelation calling Marsh “a physician to the Church.” Marsh moved with the Church to Kirtland, Ohio where he was ordained a High Priest and given a call to proselytize in Missouri.
In February of 1835, Marsh was called by the Three Witnesses to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. As seniority was first established by age. Marsh was thereby President of that Quorum. However, it has been discovered that David W. Patten was incorrect in accounting for his own age and should have been the first Quorum President.
Upon arriving back in Kirtland from a mission to the Eastern States, he found many of the Apostles had left for Great Britain and several others had apostatized. Marsh visited the Prophet Joseph who received revelation on Marsh’s behalf: “be ye faithful before me,” and for the Twelve to “exalt not yourselves; rebel not against my servant Joseph.” This was directed toward Marsh specifically. Often the Prophet Joseph would give the Quorum direction and assignments – which Marsh felt was his responsibility, not Joseph’s. In Marsh’s 1864 autobiographical account he wrote, “I got a beam in my eye and thought I could discover a mote in Joseph’s eye, though it was nothing but a beam in my eye; I was so completely darkened…”
After the infamous “milk strippings incident” in Far West, Missouri; the Marsh family left the Church and began actively opposing the Saints, describing acts of violence and destruction carried out by members of the Church against their “gentile” neighbors and caused increased persecution. The Prophet wrote of Marsh’s actions that he perpetuated “all the vilest calumnies, aspersions. Lies and slanders, towards myself and the Church that his wicked heart could invent.” Marsh was excommunicated in 1839.
After nearly twenty years and many personal losses; including his wife leaving him, a stroke causing him to become prematurely aged, and great financial distress; Marsh wrote to Heber C. Kimball: “The Lord could get along very well without me and He has lost nothing by my falling out of the ranks, But O what have I lost?!” Kimball responded by pleading with him to return to the fold. Marsh finally arrived in Salt Lake City in September 1857 whereupon President Brigham Young asked him to address the Saints. He lamented,
I have frequently wanted to know how my apostasy began, and I have come to the conclusion that I must have lost the Spiri t of the Lord out of my heart. The next question is, How and when did you lose the Spirit? I became jealous of the Prophet,.. . I felt angry and wrathful; and the Spirit of the Lord being gone, as the Scriptures say, I was blinded,
… I have learned to understand what David said when he exclaimed, “I would rather be a door-keeper in the house of God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” I have not come here to seek for any office, except it be to be a doorkeeper or a deacon; no, I am neither worthy nor fit; but I want a place among you as a humble servant of the Lord.
Marsh was re-baptized, settled in Spanish Fork, and later moved to Ogden where he died in January 1866.