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Charles Lambert

Question: What part did Charles Lambert play in the building of the Nauvoo Temple?

Answer: Charles Lambert was born August 30, 1816 in Kirk Deighton, Yorkshire, England, to Charles Lambert and Sarah Greaves. He learned the trade of a stone cutter and began working for his uncle, Thomas Lambert. Later he went to Leeds to learn quarrying and slate riving. He commenced to work on the London and Birmingham Railroad when nineteen years of age.

      Lambert home in England

Subsequently, he was a contractor and builder on the York and North Midland Railroad.

Charles was deeply religious and of a discerning mind and spirit. A friend who had heard the Mormon elders preach, and had embraced the new religion, recognized its similarity with Charles’ declared beliefs, so wrote him about the Mormon elders. Through this letter, Charles located the Mormons, heard their doctrines, and was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on July 12, 1843. A few weeks later he was ordained to the office of a priest. As a priest, he held meetings and preached in the town of Wetherby. The townspeople and his own family were much opposed to his religious activities. He determined to leave England to join his fellow Church members in America. The following year he started for Nauvoo, Illinois, crossing the Atlantic in the ship “Fanny,” which sailed from Liverpool, England, on January 23, 1844.

After his arrival at Nauvoo, he made the acquaintance of Joseph the prophet, his brother Hyrum, and other leading men of the church. He applied for work on the temple, showing his credentials from master workmen under whom he had served in England. He was informed that there was plenty of work for him to do, but no pay! He said he had come to Nauvoo with a determination to help build the temple, and he proposed to do so if he never received any pay.

Late in 1844, Charles proposed marriage to a young sixteen-year-old girl who was facing overwhelming problems. Charles was then twenty-nine and working as a stonecutter on the Nauvoo Temple. When Charles proposed to Mary Alice Cannon, she was very burdened with major family responsibilities. Mary, born in England, was the daughter of George Cannon and Ann Quayle (and younger sister of George Q. Cannon, who later served in the First Presidency). During the Cannon family’s voyage to America in 1842, Mary’s mother had died at sea. Mary’s father was a carpenter, and in June 1844 he made the coffins for Joseph and Hymn Smith. A few weeks later, while doing business in St. Louis, he died suddenly of sunstroke and was buried in a grave his family never found. Without warning, young Mary became an orphan who, being the oldest sister in the family, needed to take care of three younger siblings.

Her friend Charles, who had in mind marrying her when she was older, offered to help ease her burden by marrying her immediately to support her and the children. “She had told him that she could not marry him if it meant that she must leave her little sister Leonora,” a Cannon family history records; “his prompt reply was, he would do better than that–she could bring along not only little Leonora [about 4], but the boys Angus [about 10] and David [about 6] also, and he would find a home and support them all.” Mary accepted Charles’ proposal. Her uncle-by-marriage, Apostle John Taylor, performed their marriage ceremony on November 28,1844. The newlyweds then tried to provide for the five people in their new family.

Elsewhere in Nauvoo, Lucius and Lucy Scovil’s fourteen-year-old son, Joel Franklin Scovil, died on May 10, 1844. Lucius and Lucy buried Joel in the Nauvoo Cemetery. Then, in mid-or late-1845, they decided that they should place a headstone on their son’s grave. Charles later told the story with marked reverence, as the agreement with Lucius Scovil was a direct answer to his and Mary’s urgent prayer. Here is how Charles wrote it:

“I must mention a circumstance that took place a short time previous to finishing the Temple. I was going home when my wife met me at the door and began crying. Said she could stand anything but this (that was the children crying for bread and she had none to give them). I replied ‘why do you not go and ask the Lord to send you some?’ We went into our bedroom and there made our request.

“In about an hour after, Br. Lucious Scovil came and. after some little talk. said he would like me to make a grave stone to mark the place where his son was buried, I told him I would do it. He said he was in no hurry, but wanted it done. I told him I had a family depending on me. He said he did not have anything to pay with. But in a while [he] told me he could let me have some wheat if I wished it. I told him I would be pleased to get some. He wished me to go with him and he would let me have it. I went, got the wheat, 4 or 4.5 bushels. I got it, took it to the [K]Night’s mill, and returned home with the grist. Thus our prayers were answered.’

Charles recorded in his journal, “I was present when the Prophet Joseph preached his last sermon from the house top near the Mansion…The Prophet used to hold meetings in a Log house of his sometimes twice a week. I do not remember missing one when I had a chance.’ Charles was ordained an elder in the church shortly after his arrival in Nauvoo. He was also ordained a seventy and became one of the original members of the 11th quorum and in 1845 became a president of the 23rd quorum of the Seventy.

Charles completed his work on the Nauvoo temple and subsequently received his endowments in that building. For the two years he worked on the temple, he received only the meager provisions needed for sustenance and one fifty-cent piece in cash. Charles recorded: “I worked on the Temple by day, at night was guarding the City. Our living was poor. I worked and finished the first Capital (Sunstone) and part of (11) eleven others. I coveted with Br Wrn Player that I would stick to the Temple pay or no pay until finished, and I did quarry and worked the last stone called the Capstone in which was deposited coins, books. This was laid one morning before breakfast and a good time we had.’ (The Nauvoo Sunstones were carved by three English convert emigrants–William Warner Player, Charles Lambert, and Harvey Stanley.)

Charles participated in the Nauvoo battle in September 1846, and was with the company that used the famous steamboat shafts, after first helping to make them into cannons. After assisting in getting all the sick and poor across the river, Charles traveled to Winter Quarters. He built a small house in Winter Quarters and then went to St. Joseph, Missouri, where he worked at stone cutting and building until the spring of 1849. That summer Charles joined with the Allen Taylor Company, and Charles was appointed captain over ten wagons. For the journey, Charles and Mary had their two small children, ages 3 and 1, as well as Mary’s three siblings–ages 15, 11, 8.

They arrived in Salt Lake on October 10, 1849, where Charles built one of the first adobe houses erected in Salt Lake City. He and Richard Ballantyne started a Sunday School in the Lambert home, which grew so large it had to be moved to the bigger Ballantyne house where it was recognized as the first Sunday School in the Church. Charles spent much time quarrying stone for the Salt Lake Temple and built several bridges in Salt Lake County as well as hearthstone and tombstones for the Salt Lake Cemetery.

Charles served a mission to England in the fall of 1870, and Charles and Mary served a mission together to England in 1882. He enjoyed his missions very much. Charles died May 4, 1892, and his wife Mary died on September 7, 1920. They are buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Source: Excerpts from “History of Charles Lambert,’ Biography written by Lurena Eldredge Warnick and excerpts taken from the book, Cannon Family Historical Treasury, published 1967 by George Cannon Family Association;;

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