By Leo Lyman and Mark Gutglueck
Amasa Lyman was San Bernardino’s first mayor and one of the founders of the city.
It is noteworthy that on his substantial historical résumé, the role Amasa Lyman played in making San Bernardino a primary city in the region is not listed as his first or even second-most impressive accomplishment. That is reflected in the consideration that fewer than seven of Lyman’s nearly 64 years were spent in San Bernardino, and that after he departed the town, there is no indication he ever returned. In many of the brief and longer biographies about him written over the years, the descriptions of Lyman as a boatman, as a gunsmith, a farmer, an evangelist and as a religious dissident who engaged in a heresy the church excommunicated him for loom as large or larger than the reference to his having been one of the leaders of the first major expedition of settlers into San Bernardino and their political leader once they were established there.
Born in Lyman, New Hampshire on March 30, 1813, Amasa Mason Lyman was the third son of Roswell Lyman and Martha Mason. At the age of 19 in the spring of 1832, Lyman met two traveling Latter-day Saint missionaries, Orson Pratt and Lyman E. Johnson. Taken with Pratt’s and Johnson’s preaching with regard to the belief system Joseph Smith had built around his visions and the transcriptions of golden plates he said he had been directed to by an angel from on high which were inscribed with what he purported was the Judeo-Christian history of an ancient American civilization, Lyman consented to be baptized as a member of the Church of Christ, the original incarnation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on April 27, 1832, by Johnson. On April 28, 1832 Lyman underwent confirmation by Pratt.
Dedicated to his newfound religion and its church, Lyman sojourned some 380 miles to Palmyra, New York where he hoped to meet Joseph Smith and Martin Harris, the latter of whom claimed to have seen the golden plates from which the Book of Mormon was transcribed and who bankrolled the first publishing, by printer Egbert Bratt Grandin, of Smith’s rendering of those plates’ contents into English. Smith and Harris, however, after experiencing at the hands of the local population considerable disapproval, opposition and competition including threats of violence, arrest, legal challenges and conflicting claims of divine revelations, had moved on to Ohio in 1831. Without means in Palmyra, Lyman hired himself out for two weeks to Thomas Lackey, who had bought Harris’s farm. He used his pay from Lackey to book steerage on a ship from Buffalo, New York to Cleveland, Ohio. Disembarking at Cleveland, Lyman walked the 45 miles to Hiram, Ohio where he had been told Smith was living. In Hiram, Lyman learned that Smith had left that town to reconnoiter Jackson County, Missouri where he was contemplating establishing the headquarters of the church. The owner of the house in which Smith was living in Hiram, John Johnson, the father of the missionary who had baptized him, extended an invitation for Lyman to take up temporary residence at his house and work on his farm. Lyman did so. On July 1, 1831 Lyman met Smith upon his return from Missouri.
In August 1832, Lyman consented to serve as a missionary for the church after Smith informed him that “The Lord requires your labors in the vineyard.” Lyman was ordained as an elder by Smith and Frederick G. Williams on August 23, 1832. Thereafter, Lyman returned eastward with Zerubbabel Snow and William F. Cahoon in an effort to find converts, preaching as far east as Cabell County, Virginia, now part of West Virginia. On December 11, 1833, Lyman E. Johnson and Orson Pratt ordained Lyman as a high priest. In May 1835, Lyman returned to the church headquarters, which at that time had been established in Kirtland, Ohio. In the meantime, Smith had sought to establish Independence, Missouri as a second location in addition to Ohio where his church might flourish. But that effort foundered when church members left on their own grew to perceive Smith as having abandoned and neglected them and then non-Mormons forcibly evicted and expelled Smith’s followers from the state entirely, based on resentment of the church’s advocacy of polygamy. Shortly after Lyman’s re-arrival in Ohio, Smith called him to become a member of the newly organized First Quorum of the Seventy, and in 1836, Lyman received the church’s “Kirtland endowment” in the Kirtland Temple.
In 1835, Lyman married Louisa Maria Tanner in Kirtland. They would have eight children together.
Lyman served several missions for the church, preaching in Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Tennessee.
In January 1838, after a financial scandal in which a church-sponsored bank failed and charges surfaced relating to Smith’s sexual misconduct with a teenage girl, the church relocated once more to Missouri, this time to the extreme west end of the state. Within eight months, Missourians again made clear they did not want the Mormons settling there. In 1838, Lyman followed Smith to Far West, Missouri in Caldwell County, where Smith relocated the headquarters of the church. As tensions between the Mormons and the native population of Missouri mounted, there were again efforts to expel Smith and his legion. On October 25, 1838, just before the Mormons departed Missouri for the second and last time, the Battle of Crooked River took place, consisting of a skirmish the Latter-day Saints engaged in against a Missouri militia unit from Ray County.
Lyman, although appointed a militia captain by Governor Lilburn Boggs, at the Crooked River engagement, served more as a spy, reconnoitering off in the distance, than as a participant on the field of battle. Thereafter, Lyman was jailed because of the activities of the Mormon party. At one point, in an experience both he and Joseph Smith remembered all their lives, they were chained near each other at the Richmond, Missouri jail.
Lyman, despite being some seven years younger than Smith, remained throughout the Mormon prophet’s life one of his most intimate friends and closest non-family
associate right up to the time of Smith’s death.
In 1839, Smith and his considerable entourage departed Missouri for Nauvoo, Illinois.
In Nauvoo, Smith evinced further trust in Lyman, appointing him, in 1841, as a regent of the newly organized University of Nauvoo.
Among the positions of responsibility Lyman inhabited was being called upon to make a speech at Monmouth, Illinois which the then-jailed Joseph Smith could not give as he had planned and was given leave to do, because of threats of assassination if taken from his jail cell there to speak. Chosen as Smith’s replacement, Lyman addressed a large crowd, which included the man who would serve as Joseph Smith’s trial judge the next day, Stephen A. Douglas, who had been selected to preside over one of many of Smith’s Missouri-based trials that had been removed to Illinois. Douglas was sufficiently impressed with Lyman’s sermon the previous night that he released, without complications, Smiith from jail the next day, to Joseph’s enduring remembrance and appreciation.
On August 20, 1842, Smith called Lyman to serve as an apostle of the church. Apostle is the highest station within the church’s Melchizedek priesthood. The president of the Church is always an apostle, as are the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In practice, counselors in the First Presidency are almost always apostles as well.
Smith also had Lyman fill a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve created by the excommunication of Orson Pratt. Five months later, on January 20, 1843, Pratt was rebaptized and restored to his former position in the Quorum of the Twelve. As the most junior and “thirteenth” apostle, Lyman was excluded from the Quorum of the Twelve. On February 4, 1843, Smith called Lyman to serve as an additional counselor in the First Presidency. However, due to the turbulence of the years 1843 and 1844 for the Latter-day Saints, Lyman did not participate at a conference of the church in that capacity.
Amasa and Louisa’s life as a couple devoted exclusively to one another and their family lasted nine years. In April 1844, according to Lyman, Smith in what was to be one of their final encounters, pushed him toward what he said was God’s mandate of plural marriage. “As he warmly grasped my hand for the last time,” Lyman years later related that Smith told him, “Brother Amasa, go and practice on the principles I have taught you, and God bless you.”
Two months later, Joseph Smith was dead, shortly after a reformist movement in his church had formed and he had excommunicated the reformers. In June 1844, Smith, who had declared himself a candidate for U.S. President in that year’s election, was indicted on grounds of polygamy, perjury and being a general nuisance. After he was arrested for inciting a riot in the aftermath of the indictments, a mob rushed the jail where he was incarcerated and he was shot several times as he sought to climb out of a window.
Lyman at that point married his first and second plural wives, Carolyn Partridge and Diontha Walker, whose first name is also listed in some sources as Denicia and in others as Dionetia. In 1846, Lyman married four additional wives. One of those was Eliza Maria Partridge, one of Smith’s numerous widows and the 25-year-old sister of Lyman’s wife Carolyn. The three others he married that year were Paulina Eliza Phelps, Priscilla Turley, and Cornelia Leavitt. In 1851, Lyman married his eighth and final permanent wife, Lydia Partridge, a sister of his wives Carolyn and Eliza.
Amid the conflicting claimants to the role of leadership of the church, Young had pushed for the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to take control of the church and he was ultimately, through his strength of personality and the key support of a handful of others, ordained president of the church in December 1847, three and a half years after Smith’s death.
At several crucial points in the process of deciding how to replace the murdered Joseph Smith, Lyman played an important role in supporting Brigham Young’s claims that Smith had given the twelve Mormon apostles the rights and powers to preside over the church. The first time was some six weeks after Joseph Smith’s death during a combined outdoor conference of the church members at Nauvoo on August 8, 1844. During the morning session, Sidney Rigdon, who had been ordained by Smith as a “prophet, seer and revelator,” made an impassioned appeal and eloquent case that he deserved to be appointed as the “protector” of the church. Rigdon was supported in this by the president of the Central Stake, William Marks. At that point, most of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were scattered throughout the United States and Europe and were yet to return to Nauvoo in the aftermath of Smith’s death. Brigham Young, the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, opposed Rigdon’s ambition, and had asserted his own claim for the primacy of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and thereby the church itself. After Rigdon’s appeal, Brigham Young gave Lyman an opportunity to make his own claim to be chosen president and head of the church. Lyman, however, simply backed the apostles’ claims to lead the church. This was tantamount to Lyman supporting Young for the leadership of the church. The members of the quorum available in Illinois, in addition to a gathered assembly of the church’s members, voted to deny Rigdon his claim for church leadership.
Not quite two months after Smith’s death, on August 12, 1844, Brigham Young, as one of Smith’s most ardent followers, was steadily advancing his hold on the entire Mormon congregation when he restored Lyman as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Extensive external and internal conflict led Young and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to relocate as many of the Latter-day Saints who were prepared to follow them to the Salt Lake Valley, then part of Alta Mexico, sojourning in what was the largest mass migration in American History first to Winter Quarters, Nebraska, in 1846, then to the Salt Lake Valley.
As the Mormons were making their exodus from Nauvoo, Lyman may have married up to six women, including teen-aged girls who were at that point unattached to family. Only half of those stayed with him, asking to be released from their marriage ties within two years, mainly to marry other men, with Lyman’s approval, and sometimes with him paying for the legal changes required in court
By the time Young and the Mormon pioneers arrived at their ultimate destination in Utah on July 24, 1847, it had come under American control as a result of the Mexican American War, although U.S. sovereignty would not be confirmed until 1848.
In 1847, after Lyman, Young and others had led the initial companies of pioneers to found Salt Lake City earlier that summer, Amasa Lyman again provided Brigham Young with strategic backing that shored up his control over the church. In the fall of that year, a large contingent of the Mormons had returned to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where they held several days of council meetings. Lyman helped overcome the opposition of some other apostles to allowing Brigham Young to select two counselors to help him function as a new First Presidency, with Orson Pratt being the last to concede that should be done. After reaching agreement, this was sustained as well by the large gathering of church members in a conference at that time.
Because of the timing of the Mormon Exodus coming at the conclusion of the Mexican-American War, the presence of the Mormons in Salt Lake was welcomed by the federal government and President Millard Fillmore’s administration. Through his positive relationship from afar with Fillmore, Young was recognized as the founder of Salt Lake City and an American colonizer. Though Young petitioned the U.S. Congress to create the State of Deseret, that was not granted. Rather, the Compromise of 1850 created the Utah Territory and Young was appointed the territory’s first governor and superintendent of American Indian affairs by Fillmore. Young aggressively pushed for further Mormon expansion and directed the establishment of settlements throughout present-day Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, California and parts of southern Colorado and northern Mexico. Under his direction, the Mormons built roads and bridges, forts, irrigation projects; established public welfare; organized a militia; and made a tenuous peace with Native Americans in the areas they inhabited.
Jefferson Hunt, a member of the Mormon Battalion who was involved in the building of roads during the Mexican American War and who had traveled extensively throughout the Southwest, recommended that the church consider creating a major colony in Southern California. This was based in some measure on the potential Hunt saw for the place, which offered a ready supply of lumber from the nearby mountains, verdant soil and adequate water for irrigation and human consumption, as well as an offer by Isaac Williams, an American who had married into the Spanish-California aristocracy, to sell the Rancho Santa Ana de Chino to the Mormon Church on what were deemed “attractive terms.”
By 1849, Young, convinced of the wisdom and advantages of having immigrant converts traveling by sea who would land in California settle either in California or travel overland to the Utah Territory, resolved to establish a Mormon colony in the Golden State. In March 1851 Young instructed Amasa Lyman and six foot-four inch tall Charles C. Rich to lead an expedition to establish a Mormon foothold in southern California. Brigham Young called upon Hunt to serve as the principal guide of the westward-bound Mormon colony.
In 1849, Hunt, in the company of Mormon Missionary Addison Pratt, blazed a trail from Salt Lake City southward through present-day Las Vegas and onto San Bernardino and then northward to Sacramento.
The 1851 party, consisting of 147 wagons and 437 men, women and children, essentially retraced the route that Hunt had established two years previously all the way to San Bernardino. While several of Lyman’s wives accompanied him, Lydia and Eliza Partridge did not, remaining in Salt Lake City. En route, the wagon trains in crossing the desert were obliged, because of the scarcity of forage and water, to separate into three divisions, one led by Rich and piloted by Hunt, another with Lyman as its leader and directed by Captain David Seely and another captained by Andrew Lytle.
During the journey, as the pioneers progressed through very unforgiving territory, the overall party subdivided into 14 or 15 subgroups of approximately ten wagons each, traveling about a half hour apart, so that larger crowds of persons and livestock would not overload the sometimes slow-flowing seeps and springs essential for such desert crossings. Nevertheless, the travelers were sufficiently close to assistance that gunshot signals to other groups could effectively draw help.
During the crossing, one woman died during childbirth.
Luther Ingersoll’s Century Annals of San Bernardino County, published in 1904, relates that Captain Seely, whose name spelling includes the variant Seeley, and his party reached Cajon Pass on June 11 and camped in Sycamore Grove, what is now known as Glen Helen. According to Ingersoll, “The rest of the party arrived on June 20, and camped on the other side of Cajon Cañon. They remained in these camps while their leaders examined the country, visiting Chino and other ranchos.”
Based upon the offer that had earlier been made to Hunt and which was relayed by Hunt to Brigham Young, the intent had been that the Mormon settlement would establish itself on a significant portion of the 22,193-acre Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, at what is today the extreme southwest corner of San Bernardino County. The ranch was a land grant made in 1841 by Mexican Alta California Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado to Antonio Maria Lugo, who in turn had provided it to his son-in-law, an American, Isaac Williams, a fur trapper who had settled in Southern California. In 1843, Williams was the recipient of another three square league land grant from Alta California Governor Joseph Manuel María Joaquin Micheltorena y Llano relating to property proximate to the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino. It had been Williams who had offered to sell a large portion of the rancho to the Mormons when Hunt had come through California in 1849. By 1851, however, Williams had reconsidered his offer and withdrew it, having resolved to hang onto the property. Lyman, Rich, Hunt, Seeley and Lytle continued their discussions with Williams and his contacts in an effort to find property for the Mormon settlement after Williams reneged on his offer. Ultimately a deal was worked out for the purchase of the Lugo Family Rancho in and around present day San Bernardino, owned by Williams’ in-laws. On September 22, 1851, Lyman and Rich, representing Brigham Young, tendered a down payment of seven thousand dollars, leaving a balance of over seventy thousand yet to be paid. The deed to the property was in the names of elders Lyman and Rich.
The purchase of the San Bernardino Rancho, described as being bordered by the Sierra de Yucaipe on the east, the Arroyo de Cajon on the west, on the south by the Serrito Solo and on the north by El Faldo de Sierras, was completed in the spring of 1852 at a full price of $77,000.
The settlers had almost immediately set about raising crops, and fenced in a huge expanse of land between San Bernardino and the Santa Ana River, with each farmer paying a proportionate share of the cost of erecting the fence depending upon the size of the plot he was cultivating. Wheat was a primary crop, and initially it was delivered by wagon to a mill in La Puente, whereafter it was sold for $32 per barrel in Los Angeles. By the end of 1852, a grist mill was built in San Bernardino. Livestock were being raised and slaughtered. Tithes were paid by the church members on the proceeds of their agricultural operations. The church in short order surveyed the entirety of the settlement property and, upon its division into tracts, land was sold at roughly $16 per acre. In this way, the purchase of the Rancho was defrayed, using a combination of money from the church treasury that Brigham Young had entrusted to Lyman, Rich, Hunt, Lytle and Seeley and the capital the settlers were themselves able to generate from their own industry once they were in place.
In 1850, 1851 and 1852, the Utes, Chemehuevi and other desert Indian tribes had descended the Cajon Pass into the inland valleys and carried out raids, driving off livestock and looting existing settlements. A battalion of United States volunteers, led by General J.H. Bean from Los Angeles was only intermittently and limitedly effective in warding off the marauders and preventing losses. In the face of a threat by Indian Chief Antonio Garra to lead a multi-tribe force to drive out all white settlers from the area in November 1851, the Mormons, using lumber they hewed from trees in the area, built Fort San Bernardino, measuring 300 feet by 720, the largest and most elaborate log fort ever built in California.
J.C. Rolfe, who later served as a Judge in San Bernardino, related to Ingersoll for Century Annals of San Bernardino County that “The fort built by the San Bernardino colonists in the fall of 1851 was a palisade enclosure, or stockade on the east side and two ends, made by splitting the trunks of cottonwood and large willow trees in halves, roughly facing them on the split side, straightening the edges so they would fit closely as they stood upright side by side. These stakes were set some three feet into the ground and stood about twelve feet high – with the split sides facing in. This composed the outside of the stockade and was in the form of a parallelogram about three hundred feet in width by seven hundred feet in length. Small one-story houses of logs and adobes were built inside in long rows parallel with the stockade, leaving some sixteen or eighteen feet clear space between each. The west side of the enclosure was made up of houses which had been built in various places before the necessity of fortification was realized and which were moved and placed with their outside walls adjoining so as to form a tight wall. Where this could not be done, separate barricading walls of logs laid up in blockhouse fashion were constructed so as to complete the stockade.”
The settlers lived in the confines of the fort for over a year. When they sensed that the danger of Indian attack had passed, they began to make improvements and build abodes on their own tracts outside the fort, as well as making community improvements. The fort was eventually de-erected and the logs used for other purposes.
What is today San Bernardino County and most of Riverside County had shortly after California’s formation as a state originally been designated as falling within Los Angeles County. In 1853, Hunt, who was representing the eastern portion of Los Angeles County in the State Legislature, petitioned his law-drafting colleagues, who were at that time convening in Benicia City Hall in the north San Francisco Bay Area, to allow for the formation of San Bernardino County, which encompassed its current 20,105 square mile environs and most of what is today Riverside County, by removing itself from Los Angeles County, insofar as its population resided at a considerable distance from the Los Angeles County seat and was not being adequately looked after by its political leaders. The request was granted and San Bernardino County and what is today the northern four-fifths of Riverside County were given autonomy as San Bernardino County by a legislative act on April 26, 1853. David Seeley, Isaac Williams, John Brown and H.G. Sherwood were appointed as commissioners to oversee the new county’s elective process to select a county judge, county attorney, county clerk/recorder, county surveyor, county coroner, county sheriff, county treasurer and county assessor.
Lyman and Rich together constructed the Mormon Council House, which, according to Ingersoll, was “intended as the general office of the Mormon interest, both religious and secular.” It also served as the county’s first courthouse when D.M. Thomas was elected Working collectively and on a voluntary basis, several of the men in the colony, at the direction of Lyman and Rich, built a road up into the San Bernardino Mountains which led to the establishment of six sawmills, what was probably the largest manufacturing enterprise yet in southern California, the lumber product from which was used to construct much of both San Bernardino and Los Angeles.
In 1853, the townsite of San Bernardino was laid out in what Ingersoll described as the “Babylonian style – a miniature Salt Lake City. The town was one mile square, laid out in blocks containing eight acres, with wide streets running at right angles, each one bordered by a zanja, or irrigation ditch.”
According to Ingersoll, “A two-story Adobe building was erected by Amasa Lyman as a home for his family, which included five wives, Maria Tanner, Carolyn Partridge, Priscilla Turley, Cornelia Leavitt and Denicia Walker. Priscilla was the mother of the first white child born after the colonists reached San Bernardino Valley, Lorenzo Snow Lyman. Each of the wives with her children had separate apartments, while a common kitchen and dining room was provided, but it is said, was never used by the women, each preferring her own establishment. The house is described as having no windows, but lighted from skylights above.”
It was not until March 1855 that Page 52 in the Book of California Statutes mandated that all counties have boards of supervisors. Prior to that, however, in 1854, the town of San Bernardino held its first mayoral election, in which Lyman was elected to a one-year term.
The July 4, 1854 Independence Day holiday, was officially observed in San Bernardino by Amasa Lyman’s reading of an account in the Deseret News of an address by “an unnaturalized Englishman” to the congregation in the temple at Salt Lake City the previous year, July 4, 1853. That speech, according to Ingersoll, “in substance eulogized the founders of the Republic and Washington, but declared that in the latter days the government was being diverted from its original purposes and had become degenerate, etc.”
In 1857, relations between the Mormons and the United States, that is to say between Brigham Young and President James Buchanan, had deteriorated to the point that Army troops were dispatched to Utah in what was widely perceived to be the initial staging of a concentrated campaign to eradicate the Mormon settlements in Utah altogether.
Buchanan’s actions stemmed from reports from up to a half-dozen federal officials in Salt Lake City who wrote to the president and his cabinet to report that Brigham Young and others were not acting legitimately in some governmental affairs there. Buchanan in response sent to Utah a newly-appointed governor along with military backing to reassert federal government authority over the territory.
At that point, Young issued a call to all faithful Mormons to return to Salt Lake City. And indeed, loyalist Mormons everywhere, including some 2,000 of the 3,000 in San Bernardino, in the winter of 1857/58 simply pulled up stakes – abandoning everything, including roads, houses, farms, foundries, shops, public buildings, churches, all that the Mormon population of San Bernardino had so impressively created in just under seven years – and returned home.
Prior to Young having issued his edict calling for the return of the Mormon contingents to Utah, Lyman and Rich had already left San Bernardino, having been summoned to Salt Lake City, from whence they were to go on a mission to Europe. Their sojourn across the continent and then the Atlantic, given the rush of events, was postponed, as the church members readied for possible hostilities against their own country.
Buchanan and the nation as a whole were at that point beset with a myriad of other problems, including growing tension over slavery that would plunge the United States into the Civil War very shortly after Buchanan left office and was succeeded by Abraham Lincoln just over three years later. One way or the other, in the contretemps involving the State of Deseret and officials in Washington, D.C., cooler heads prevailed, and war did not break out between the Mormons and the United States.
There is nothing in the historical record to indicate that Lyman ever returned to San Bernardino after he left the town in October 1857.
In 1860, Brigham Young appointed Lyman, Rich and another of the Counsel of the Twelve Apostles – George Q. Cannon – to the presidency of the church’s European Mission. On March 16, 1862, Lyman preached a sermon in Dundee, Scotland, which garnered no immediate attention in America at the time, but which would redound to his considerable difficulty later. In his homily, Lyman disputed that atonement and remission from earthly sin was achieved through the mortal sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary in which the Christian savior’s blood washed away the sins of the world. This, it was subsequently held, ran contrary to a central tenet of the Christian element of faith upon which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was predicated. Nearly five years later, on January 21, 1867, Lyman was brought before his fellow Quorum of the Twelve Apostles members to answer for heresy, as had been propounded during his Dundee sermon.
Though Lyman was not personally convinced that his theological precepts were in error, he was outgunned and outflanked within the context of the church’s primacy with regard to its own doctrine, and he made an abject admission of error and apologized to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, thereafter penning a letter of apology to the general membership of the church that was circulated and published in the Deseret News.
By that summer, however, Lyman was again openly maintaining in his preachment that belief and faith in the intercession of Jesus Christ with the Lord Father on behalf of worldly inhabitants was not requisite for the earthly to gain admission to heaven. This was a repetition of his earlier heresy, and indication that he had failed to abide by his confession and atonement, according to the church elders, who on October 6, 1867 relieved him of his apostleship.
Thereafter, Lyman made an effort to show obeisance to the counsel of the quorum members, though he still felt his position was theologically defensible. By April 1869, he was seen regularly among the congregation attending Sunday service.
Within a relatively short time, however, Lyman came into close and continual contact with William S. Godbe, who was also an apostate Mormon, one with an interest in mysticism. In 1870. Godbe formed what outsiders called the Godbeite Church, and which Godbe called the Church of Zion, essentially an offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints comprised largely of Mormon dissidents who felt that religious truth was not confined to the Mormon church’s belief system, and that there existed value in all religions and belief systems, including mysticism.
Lyman associated constantly, preached, and even openly participated with the Godbeites in their rites and services. This gave rise to the widespread belief that Lyman was to assume the presidency of the Church of Zion. On May 10, 1870, three representatives from the Salt Lake Stake High Council came to Lyman’s residence to investigate his activism and the rumors. Following a frank question and answer session with Lyman, reports of the exchanges were reported to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints High Council. Thereupon, two days later, on May 12, 1870, the council excommunicated Lyman.
As a consequence of his excommunication, all three of the Partridge wives divorced Lyman, as did Dionetia Walker. Ever faithful to their husband, Louisa Tanner, Paulina Phelps and Priscilla Turley, stayed with him. Cornelia Leavitt was by that time deceased.
Lyman shuffled off his mortal coil in Fillmore, Utah Territory on February 4, 1877. He and seven of his eight wives were the parents of 38 children. Amasa Mason Lyman, who had spent over half his adult life on Latter-day Saint church missions and whose sermons were considered by his contemporaries to be far more inspiring and uplifting than those of Brigham Young and who died the same year he did, was never rebaptized into the church after his excommunication.
However, on January 12, 1909, by direction of Joseph Fielding Smith, Sr., the nephew of Joseph Smith who was then serving as the sixth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Lyman was posthumously reinstated as a church member and an apostle.
By Leo Lyman and Mark Gutglueck