Tuesday, October 24, 2017

John Rowe Moyle the Stone Cutter

John Moyle Stone Cutter Story

From the Primary Manual #5 Lesson #44:

"John Moyle was one of the stonemasons who worked on the temple. Every Monday morning he walked twenty miles from his home to the temple site. He worked on the temple all week, and then on Friday he walked twenty miles home to take care of his farm. Brother Moyle was injured in an accident and his leg had to be removed, but he made himself a wooden leg. He practiced walking on the leg until he could endure the pain it caused. Then he walked on his wooden leg to Salt Lake City to continue working on the temple. He carved the words Holiness to the Lord on the east side of the temple."      (Underlines and highlighting added)

There is no question that John Moyle was a valiant pioneer, a hard worker and a gifted stone cutter.  
The problem I have is that the LDS Church cannot help but twist a great story and make into a lie.  Either that, or they need to check their facts. 

20 Miles or 26.3 Miles?
The lesson says that Moyle walked 20 miles to get to the temple.  Walking 20 minutes / mile that would take 6 hours.  OK Maybe.  

A Deseret News Article says Moyle walked 22 miles, leaving at 2:00 AM to arrive at work at 8:00 AM.  If it is 22 miles in  6 hours that is about 16 minutes and 20 seconds per mile.  OK....  Walking pace for someone super fit.  

But the 22 miles is "As the Crow Flies". The reality is that using today's roads, the shortest distance to the Salt Lake Temple it is 26.3 miles.  Just more than a marathon.  When you look at the photo above showing the Draper Temple, you realize why you can't to a straight path.  Alpine is on the back side of that mountain.  The area is super mountainous, and today is a mountain biking havenSee image at the bottom.

So why does the lesson manual say 20 miles when it's really 26.3 miles?  20 miles is perhaps digestible over mountain roads, across creeks, over dusty paths, but 26.3 miles is not.  They are avoiding investigation.  26.3 miles in 6 hours would be 13 minutes 30 seconds / mile.  This for a 50 - 70 year old, who then would work a very physical 8 hour day.  

Wooden Leg Story
Again, there is no question that John Moyle was a tough guy.  A classic pioneer in every way, but the lesson tells about his leg being broken and then implies that he kept working in the same way he always had.  

A talk by Elder Dieter Uchtdorf in 2008 said, " In spite of the crude surgery, the leg started to heal. Once John could sit up in bed, he began carving a wooden leg with an ingenious joint that served as an ankle to an artificial foot. Walking on this device was extremely painful, but John did not give up, building up his endurance until he could make the 22-mile (35-km) journey to the Salt Lake Temple each week, where he continued his work. "  according to this article he was 77 years old at the time.  

Is Uchtdorf really saying that at age 77 that Brother Moyle made the 22 miles (26.3 mile?) journey to the temple on a crude wooden leg?

The Timeline
John Moyle was born in 1808.  He turned 77 years old in 1885.  Not only is it extremely unlikely that a 77 year old with a crude peg leg could walk 26 miles, it is even stranger that nobody thought to loan him a horse or buggy or that the LDS church didn't provide transportation for him.  By 1872 (15 years before his peg-leg adventure) there was a railroad going from Lehi to Salt Lake City.  Source  Why didn't he walk the 8 miles from Alpine to Lehi and catch the train?
John Moyle seems like a great man.  He did so much, provided for his family and left a great legacy of faith.  Unfortunately embellishments have made his story seem like a myth and diminish his greatness upon inspection. 

Edit:  The Wheat and Tares site did some additional research on this work and for the most part confirmed my conclusions.  You can read their work here.  

From Their Work:

That Utah Enquirer blurb about him crushing his leg with a log was published June 12, 1888. The Deseret News article was published June 27, 1888.Unless this guy had a habit of crushing his legs, he wouldn’t have started wearing a prosthetic limb until much later in life, at the age of 80. And since he passed away in February 1889, he only got to wear that wooden leg a maximum of 8 months. Not a lot of time to recover and make a whole bunch of weekly trips to Salt Lake. 


At the time the “Holiness to the Lord” inscription was installed, Moyle was still about three years away from losing his leg. (In case you’re wondering, the completion date was engraved on the inscription stone just prior to the dedication in 1893, four years after Moyle died.) 

-Wheat and Tares 

More Sources

Wikipedia - John Moyle

Great - Grandson - Henry D. Moyle

Deseret News - John Moyle

Primary Lesson # 44 - S.L. Temple

Trail Map Between Draper and Alpine

LDS.org - Temple Walk Challenge

Great Story - Wise Question

I sent this letter to The Church History Department and got this response:

This response is in relation to CH80355
The question or suggestion was:

I have questions about the provenance for the story of John Rowe Moyle the stonecutter found in the current Church History Primary Manual as well as a 2008 talk by Elder Uchtdorf. As it is found in the primary manual lesson #44 it implies that Mr. Moyle walked between 20 - 27 miles many times from Alpine, Utah to Salt Lake City to work on the temple, and then after a leg amputation, he continued to make the same commute week after week.

For multiple reasons I found the story false as written. It is unfortunate that a great pioneer like Mr. Moyle has his life made into folklore rather than fact, and that it is printed in a document called "Church History".

Where can I go, or who can I contact to discuss this issue, and am I wrong in trying to point our errors in the Church History Manual?

My father and john Parry built in 1869 the old Walker Brothers 
Building on South Main. While erecting that building, Father had 
to go to Alpine to help my grandfather, John Rowe Moyle. He had 
injured his leg and the favorably known physician of Provo, Dr. 
Pike, had done his best to save the leg but gangrene had set in. 
Consequently, Father took Mother, me, and Dr. Ormsby, the 
leading surgeon in Utah, to Alpine to amputate Grandfather’s leg 
below the knee. 
From:  Moyle Biography

Once when he was home on the weekend, one of his cows bolted during milking and kicked Brother Moyle in the leg, shattering the bone just below the knee. With no better medical help than they had in such rural circumstances, his family and friends took a door off the hinges and strapped him onto that makeshift operating table. They then took the bucksaw they had been using to cut branches from a nearby tree and amputated his leg just a few inches below the knee. When against all medical likelihood the leg finally started to heal, Brother Moyle took a piece of wood and carved an artificial leg. First he walked in the house. Then he walked around the yard. Finally he ventured out about his property. When he felt he could stand the pain, he strapped on his leg, walked the 22 miles to the Salt Lake Temple, climbed the scaffolding, and with a chisel in his hand hammered out the declaration “Holiness to the Lord.”8

From Talk by Jeffery Holland

The Following Quote called "Family Traditions" by Theodore Burton

The second story involved his work on the Temple. On one of these occasions when he had returned home for the weekend, he was taking care of milking his cow when, perhaps impatiently or with his hands too cold, or being too rough, he hurt the cow and she kicked him and broke his leg. It was a nasty fracture of a compound nature and the bone stuck through the flesh. In those days there was not much that could be done for people in the way of anesthesia even though they decided the only thing they would do under the circumstances was to cut off his leg. The story goes that they gave him a big drink of whiskey and a leaden bullet to bite his teeth on, tied him to a door and then with a bucksaw, 203 sawed off his leg, bound the flesh over the stump and allowed it to heal. It is a wonder he didn't die of infection, but the Lord blessed him and the would healed over. while it was healing, he got himself a piece of wood and carved out a peg-leg. He fastened some leather to the top of the wood, padded it and fitted it to his leg. As soon as the wound had healed sufficiently, he walked around the farm on that stump until he was able to stand the pain and had formed a callous over the stump. when it had healed, he walked into Salt Lake as was his custom to take up his work, for he had been called as a work missionary on the Temple. And there, the story goes, he climbed up the scaffolding on the east side of the Temple and carved "Holiness to the Lord," as his contribution to the Temple building. Mother told me that great grandfather was a very skilled mason, much more skilled than some and hence grandfather, who was then superintendent of the masonry work on the Temple, asked him to carve the stones which made the spiral stone staircases in the corners of the Temple. This required meticulous cutting and couldn't be trusted to ordinary stone cutters. Mother said this was his major contribution to the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. These are the stories, as I remember them, from family tradition.


  1. My question is why do you want to disprove and "expose" this church so much?

    1. I'm just calling out lies and myth. The church historians know this is all B.S. but they continue to promote it. If they call it "history" it should be.

  2. A family history tradition that has been repeated for six or seven generations and is noted by one or more prominent leaders in the Church is not evidence of any fault on the part of the Church. There is no claim here of divine intervention or miraculous healing, only of faith and perseverance. If the details are exaggerated by family retelling, John R. Moyle's legacy of faith and perseverance are only affected by degree. Did he travel weekly to Salt Lake from Alpine to do hard physical work on the temple for twenty-plus years late in his life? Yes, absolutely, completely documented. Did he walk on a wooden leg after his accident in 1869? Yes. Did he ever walk on the wooden leg for 26 miles? Did he do it once, or many times? No one now can say for sure, but he was still a stronger, more dedicated man than I would have been under those circumstances. And none of this has anything to do with the question of whether or not the LDS Church is "true." John R. Moyle believed it, and that is what matters.

    1. I quote my own words above, "John Moyle seems like a great man. He did so much, provided for his family and left a great legacy of faith. Unfortunately embellishments have made his story seem like a myth and diminish his greatness upon inspection."

    2. Not sure if it would help or not. Truth is key to make informed decisions. He is my great great great grandfather on my dad’s side. I could look through all the stuff that’s posted on his bio thing in Family Tree and see if there’s anything of substance that may confirm one thing or the other