One can scarcely expect to understand the history of Mormonism without knowing George Q. Cannon. Although he was never president of the LDS Church, few surpassed Cannon as a leader, shaper, and
defender of nineteenth-century Mormonism.
An impressive human being, George Q. Cannon served faithfully in the efforts to build the kingdom. Among other things, he was a missionary to Hawaii;
a journalist, editor, and publisher; a delegate to the U.S. Congress for ten years; the husband of six wives and father of forty-two children; an apostle for more than forty years; and counselor to
three presidents of the Church.
Although George Q. Cannon's biography could take up volumes, author David Bitton's one-volume work is true to the remarkable achievements, spirit and life of anexceptional individual.
George Q. Cannon: A Biography is the winner of The 1999 Evans Biography Award. The award, given by the Mountain West Center for Regional Studies at Utah State University, is designed to encourage fine writing about the people who have shaped the growth and character of the West.
I just finished reading George Q. Cannon, by Davis Bitton having owned it since it first came out. I was hesitant to read the biography after scanning it, there seemed to be some major gaps. After reading the book I can say I don't hate the biography, but I have my problems with it that I will discuss. I think Bitton does a good job at giving us glimpses of GQC. Though it is not so much what Bitton writes but what he quotes from GQC's incredible journals. Examples of this can be found in GQC's description of the St. George Temple on page 201, his reflection on himself and intimate feelings towards woman on page 221, his recording conversations as found on page 223, his recording of the spike at Promontory Utah on page 157, GQC's loss at his son Abraham's death on page 409, or page on 401 when he writes about his relationship with the family farm. It is very sad that historians have not been allowed access to these incredible journals. Bitton must be quoting less than one percent of what Cannon wrote and GQC comes alive every time Bitton quotes him. Bitton also gives us glimpses into GQC's life when we read on page 155 where GQC brings his 18 year old bride Eliza to meet his first wife Elizabeth, GQC's love for the Hawaiians in chapter 1, or GQC's ability to compartmentalize truth, honesty, integrity, and values in politics depending on what side of the issue he was on. , I believe Bitton only gives us glimpses and not an accurate picture. I feel that D. Michael Quinn's Dialogue article on new plural marriages is much better at giving us an understanding of GQC, Quinn is sensitive to GQC when it comes to motivation and world view. Thomas Alexander in his biography of Wilford Woodruff is much better at presenting the business and hierarchy issues that GQC faced. 'Differing Visions' covers GQC and his son's struggles with care and understanding. Alternatively, Bitton does not touch on GQC's reasons for promoting new plural marriages, does not describe his difficult relationship with Frank J., his heart break with John Q., he white washes GQC's writing of 'Life of Joseph Smith', he does not give any real discussion of GQCs difficulties with Bullion Beck and Champion mining company, GQCs struggles with members of the Q of 12 and reorganization of the 1st Presidency, or GQC's difficulties with B.H. Roberts over the writing 'The Life of John Taylor' and editing the 'History of the Church'. Bitton buries Abraham Cannon's post-manifesto plural marriage and the reasons for this heart felt union. These are all significant events and episodes in George Q. Cannon's life that a responsible biographer would include. This causes me to question what else Bitton omits, distorts, or white washes. Bitton writes that his approach is to write the biography through GQC's eyes. I believe Bitton has failed by omitting these important issues of GQC's life. Bittons writing style is of a person walking on eggs. His writing about the Bullion Beck, Abraham Cannon marring Lillian Hamlin, and new plural marriages are cases in point. Bitton's lack of discussion about GQC's inter family relationships magnify this problem. , Having read biographies such as Lyndon Cook's 'Joseph Kingsbury', Newell Bringhurst's 'Fawn McKay Brodie', Boyd Peterson's 'Hugh Nibley', Stan Kimball's 'Heber C. Kimball', Donna Hill's 'Joseph Smith', Newell and Avery's 'Emma Smith', Mike Quinn's 'Reuben Clark', Levi Peterson's 'Juanita Brooks', Harold Schindler's 'Orrin Porter Rockwell' point out the failings of this biography and they are huge. I believe George Q. Cannon deserved better.