- Born about 1799 in Genesco (?), New York
- Married Clarissa Mary Bicknell about 1823; six children
- Baptized about 1833
- Participated in Zion's Camp 1834
- Named to First Quorum of the Seventy 1835
- Called to the Presidency the Seventy April 1845 but
never set apart to the Office
- Dropped from both Callings October 1845
- Died 1850 or 1851 in Lee County, Iowa
Grampa Bill finds Roger Orton an interesting but ultimately
frustrating character, one on whom much time was spent, more, indeed, than
his importance in Church history could justify. Still, little biographical
data was gleaned. Yet at the same time, a few incidents in his life
are illuminated in great detail.
Roger Orton was born about 1799, probably around
Genesco, New York to Roger Orton and Esther Avery. He was married
about 1823 to Clarissa Mary Bicknell by whom he fathered six children.
A few mathematical calculations back from known events
will indicate that he was baptized about 1833. He was faithful in following
the Prophet and on October 16, 1834, The Prophet Joseph Smith, along with Hyrum Smith, David Whitmer, Frederick G. Williams, Oliver Cowdery, and Roger Orton, left Kirtland, Ohio, to visit the Saints living in Pontiac, Michigan.
Again he was at the Prophet's side and marched to Missouri with Zion's camp. He was held in such esteem that he was appointed a Captain of the Camp
(probably a Captain of Ten). Yet his performance
left somewhat to be desired. On one occasion, during a sham battle (what
we might call war games) in the exuberance of the moment he sliced open
the hand of an opponent. Perhaps more revealing, through carelessness he
allowed several horses to run off, slowing the march of the camp. Rather
than expressing concern and attempting to catch the horses himself to right
the wrong, he merely informed the owners and the owners had to retrieve
the horses themselves. The horses were found some ten miles away. A day's
march was lost and accordingly the Prophet Joseph
Smith gave him a scathing rebuke.
Settling in Missouri, Roger Orton endured the infamous persecutions
and lost everything as a result.
A perusal of the History of the Church will
show him closely associated with the prophet. On several occasions it is
merely the Prophet, perhaps Oliver Cowdery
or Sidney Rigdon and Roger Orton taking
some action... leading a meeting, writing petitions of redress, and on
one occasion seeing a vision of the heavens, corroborated apparently, by
the Prophet himself.
By 1837 Orton was in Kirtland, Ohio where Daniel
S. Miles presented a complaint against him for "abusing Elder Brigham
Young, and for a general course of unchristianlike conduct." Orton
being notified of the complaint and refusing to respond, "the High Council
decided that he be cut off." Grampa finds no record of his restoration
yet it is certain that he was restored to full fellowship for eight years
later he was called as a member of the First Quorum of Seventy, indeed
to the Presidency of the Quorum.
Yet when he was called to the First Quorum of the
Seventy in April of 1845, he failed to function or even show up to be ordained.
Let us read the minutes of the Council which met in October to consider
Elder George A. Smith remarked that Roger Orton was
one of the `Old Camp' and was selected a year ago to be one of the seven
Presidents of the Seventy; but he had never received his ordination nor
done anything to magnify his calling. It is not to be expected that we
shall wait year after year for men to come forward and fill their offices.
Brother Orton was one of the Old Camp, and we love him on that account;
we always called him the `Big Major', and a first rate man; but he has
not come forward since his appointment to magnify his calling.
Elder Joseph Young said: `Last spring
I visited Roger Orton and apprised him of his appointment. He agreed to
come as early as convenient, and receive his ordination; and I gave him
to understand, if he did not come and act in his office, he would be dropped.
Brother Orton has always sustained Brother Joseph and the church, but he
has very little of the spirit; he has been in the church about twelve years,
but never has been active since his discharge from the camp that went up
to Missouri in 1834, It was by the counsel of the Twelve that he was appointed
one of the Presidents of the Seventy. I have no particular desire to plead
for him, but if his case can be laid over, I think he can be saved in that
office, but I will be subject to counsel. I have considerable feeling for
him; he lost all his property in Missouri, and has since addicted himself
to drinking whiskey; that seems to have ruined him, but he may be reclaimed.'
President Brigham Young arose and said, he would preach one of Dow's
short sermons:----"If you won't when you can, when you will you shan't'.
`I say if men will not act and magnify their calling, let more honorable
men be appointed. Roger Orton is keeping a public house at Augusta and
has had sufficient time to come and prove himself a worthy man in his office,
but has not done it; and I say let a more honorable man take the crown.
If he won't work now, when will he?'
It was then moved that we drop him; seconded and carried unanimously.
Roger Orton seems then to have fallen away
from the Church or at least from association with Church leadership and
the level of participation which would be recorded and annotated. He is
said to have died in 1850 or 1851 in Lee County, Iowa.
Smith, History of the Church, multiple citations, see index
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.4, Appendix 1
2005 Church Almanac, p.70