Grampa Bill's General Authority Pages
Theodore B. Lewis Theodore B. (Belden) Lewis

1843 - 1899

  • Born 1843 Saint Louis, Missouri
  • Fought to defend the Sacred Soil of Dixie 1861 until captured
  • Moved to Utah 1865
  • Baptized 1866
  • Mission to Southern States 1868-1870
  • Married Martha Jane Coray 1870; practiced plural marriage; seventeen children
  • Ordained High Priest about 1874
  • Sustained Seventy and member of First Council of Seventy, 1882, but not set apart. (See text.)
  • Died 1899

    On the splash page of this web site the following words appear: "The value of this site is that it has gathered data on every General Authority of the Latter-days, nearly 500 men... and on a few whose inclusion in this august assemblage might be questioned." Theodore B. Lewis is one whose inclusion herein might be questioned. Read on and decide for yourself.

    Theodore Belden Lewis, an energetic Church worker and one of Utah's foremost educators, was born Nov. 18, 1843, in Saint Louis, Missouri, the son of Thomas Anderson Lewis and Martha Jane Otway Byrd, and a grandson of Judge Henry Lewis of Howard County, Missouri. He lost both parents when he was quite young, but was left with sufficient means to rear and educate himself. He lived with his mother's parents (William Norman Byrd and Mary Fitzgerald) in Saint Louis, until 1855. He then he went to live at his grandfather Lewis's house where he had spent his childhood vacations. He there attended Central College in Howard County, Missouri and later the Fairview Academy.

    When the War of Northern Agression broke out, he joined the Army of the West under Confederate Major General Sterling "Pap" Price. He was in the battle of Booneville, June 17, 1861, and in a number of engagements later. Being captured in battle December 19, 1861, he was taken to Gratiot Street prison and later to Alton, but was finally paroled in the spring of 1862 and commenced reading law.

    In 1865 he came to Utah and commenced teaching school in the Mill Creek Ward. Becoming a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he was baptized in May of 1866. In 1868-70 he filled a mission to the Southern States, laboring principally in Kentucky and Virginia; he traveled without purse or scrip and much of the time alone. Elder Lewis was greatly blessed in his labors, baptized 108 souls, and made many friends for The Church by his great faith and upright life. It is reported that he was especially powerful and successful in administering to the sick.

    After his return to Utah in 1870 he lived in Provo, Utah county, and became a teacher in the Brigham Young Academy. On August 19.1870 Professor Lewis married Martha J. Coray, daughter of Howard Coray and Martha J. Knowlson. Theodore and Martha became the parents of ten children, six girls and four boys. Evidently Theodore was highly pleased with Martha, for when he was called upon to embrace the principle of plural marriage he selected Ephrina Sarepa Coray, a sister of his first wife. She became the mother of seven children.

    In 1871 he moved to Payson, Utah to teach school. From 1872 to 1876 he resided at Nephi, Juab county, where he was ordained a High Priest and acted as superintendent of district schools and justice of the peace. He taught school there and organized a large improvement association.

    In May, 1876, he moved his family to Salt Lake City and began to teach a school in the Twentieth Ward, previously taught by Karl G. Maeser. In 1879 he was elected county superintendent of Salt Lake county. Not content with his studies in education, and his sucesses in teaching, Theodore returned to his own studies and earned a law degree.

    He worked earnestly for free schools in Utah. In November, 1885, he became principal of the Ogden High school, which position he held for twelve years. In August, 1894, he was appointed territorial commissioner of public schools by the supreme court, which position he filled with ability until Utah became a State.

    When the Sunday schools in Ogden were graded he conducted the very large theological department in the Second Ward until his death. The department was visited by many non-Mormons, to whom he bore a strong testimony of the truth of the gospel as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Many young men who studied under him filled honorable missions and ascribed their success in life to the impressions received under his instructions.

    On October 8, 1882 in General Conference he was sustained to be ordained a Seventy and to fill a position in the First Council of the Seventy, it being the custom in those days to issue surprise callings to individuals without a previous interview. The next day, on October 9, when he was to be set apart, he reported that he was already a High Priest, so he was not set apart and did not serve in this position. This places him in the unique position of having been called and sustained as a General Authority but not having been ordained or set apart as such. This is the very opposite of William B. Smith, the Prophet's brother, who was set apart as Patriarch to the Church and functioned as such but was never sustained. President Joseph F. Smith argued forcibly that for a calling to be efficacious, all the steps must be followed.

    Elder Lewis did, however, labor as a home missionary many years. He was an earnest, broad, deep and clear-headed thinker and a powerful and convincing orator. In both public and private life he exhibited the characteristics of a fine cultured Southern gentleman of the noblest type of his Virginian ancestors.

    He passed to his final rest July 20, 1899. The following is an excerpt from his dying testimony: "I wish to add my testimony to my children and for all the world. I testify my faith in and knowledge of the gospel of salvation as revealed to Joseph Smith and as established in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which I dearly love. Through obedience to its sacred principles and the observance of its holiest ordinances the most endearing ties are formed and sanctified and all the rational hopes of the human soul may be realized, if not in this life, then in the great beyond. Let my family in all its entirety seek earnestly the light which has guided my footsteps and walk in it. God bless you all! God bless mankind!"

    On a personal note: Grampa Bill is pleased to report a blood relationship of fourth cousin one generation removed to Elder Theodore Belden Lewis. We share the common ancestry of Colonel Robert Lewis and wife Jane Meriwether, parents of the famous explorer, Meriwether Lewis.

    Andrew Jenson; LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p.148
    Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.4, Appendix 1;
    1999-2000 Church Almanac; p.66

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