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John D. Nutting and the Utah Gospel Mission

John D. Nutting (1854-1949) was an evangelist to Mormons and the founder of Utah Gospel Mission.

This Old House (source)
by Nelson Knight

Rev. John D. and Lillis Nutting House
160 W. 400 North

“With the recent demolition of Washington School, this house is now the only building currently standing on this block in Capitol Hill. It stands, seemingly precariously, at the top of 400 West and Quince Street in the Marmalade District. 400 North was originally known as Plum Street but for the sake of uniformity was given a numerical appellation by an act of the City Council in 1897. The original owners, Reverend John D, Nutting and his wife, Lillis R.M. Nutting, built the house in 1894. “Historic Buildings on Capitol Hill” by the Utah Heritage Foundation attributes the design of this house to Utah’s first professional architect, Richard K.A. Kletting. Kletting is better known for another Capitol Hill work, the State Capitol, but he also was responsible for a number of buildings in the community, including the original West High campus and the Gibbs-Thomas House at 137 N. West Temple.”

“Reverend Nutting, an Oberlin Theological Seminary Graduate, came to Utah with his wife in 1892. He was pastor of the Plymouth Congregational Church, conveniently located down the hill at 293 West 400 North (now demolished). As part of his ministry, Nutting founded the Utah Gospel Mission, and traveled widely throughout the mountain west as the Mission’s secretary. Nutting published a newspaper, “Light on Mormonism,” and was the author of many pamphlets and books, including “Why I Could Never Be a Mormon” and “Mormonism Today and its Remedy.” The Gospel Mission used many of the same tactics as LDS missionaries, knocking on doors, distributing literature, and conducting meetings. Nutting left Utah for Cleveland in 1898, but remained active in his missionary efforts (and as a lightning rod for controversy resulting from those efforts) until his death in 1949. His collection of papers and photographs is now located at Bowling Green State University, and form an important historical resource documenting small town Mormon life. The Utah Gospel Mission still exists and was a plaintiff in the recent Main Street Plaza lawsuits.”

“Mrs. M.P. Peters Broadhead purchased the house from the Nuttings in 1904. She sold the house to her daughter, Laura E. Peters, in 1924. In 1974, John and Christine Norman were the first owners to take advantage of the Utah Heritage Foundation’s Revolving Loan Fund. The Revolving Fund Loan Program provides property owners low-interest loans to restore and rehabilitate significant historical or architectural properties throughout the state. Initially, the fund focused on the Marmalade neighborhood, which had been targeted for demolition and redevelopment as a high density apartment neighborhood. The Heritage Foundation moved its headquarters to Quince Street, and through its financial and advocacy efforts assisted in saving numerous buildings on the surrounding blocks. In 1995, the house was rehabbed yet again, by Scott and Laurel McCagno, further anchoring its prominence as a neighborhood preservation success story, despite its seemingly precarious location.”

Rev. John D. Nutting Home (source)

One might wonder how the “brothers and sisters” of the neighborhood reacted when a Gentile (non-Mormon) missionary moved into their midst. Rev. John D. and Lillie Nutting built this Victorian Eclectic “gingerbread” home in 1894 after they had immigrated to Utah, to become pastor of the Plymouth Congregational Church. The Nuttings located their frame home, built of shiplap siding, on the east end of the lot to insure a good view of the city below. The house is a basic ”T” plan individualized by wall dormers and ornamental trim.

“Rev. Nutting began to study Mormonism shortly after his arrival in an attempt to combat the difficulty of reaching his LDS friends with the Protestant message. At the tum of the century, he helped organize the Utah Gospel Mission and became its secretary.

“Traveling missionaries began to criss-cross the intermountain states throughout the year, knocking on doors, distributing literature and Bibles, publishing a newspaper, LIGHT ON MORMONISM, and conducting meetings – virtually fighting the Mormons with their own tactics. In 35 years, they had worked the region seven times, made 351,510 house calls and distributed over 40,000 pages of literature and Bibles. Their missionary success was moderate but their legacy of 100 glass negatives, now housed at the University of Ohio, is invaluable.”

“In 1974, John and Christine Norman were the first to take advantage of the Utah Heritage Foundation’s Revolving Fund plan to restore the home. State Register.”

“Utah Gospel Mission, organized in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1900, operated for half a century with the sole purpose of evangelizing Utah’s rural towns. Unlike the earlier Protestants who provided the Mormons with a useful service—quality education—the Gospel Mission provided only its anti-Mormon message. Paid by Nutting through contributions he raised, his missionaries worked in teams of three for a year each, systematically combing small Mormon communities and holding meetings. The Gospel Mission received a predictably cold reception in Sanpete, a Mormon stronghold. Reece Anderson of Mount Pleasant recalls that Nutting’s meetings in the 1920s, “would really get to be something. The more the old gentleman and his followers attacked the Mormons, the more they reacted to it, . . . and some rather bitter episodes would take place.” Anderson observed that the mission’s fervent efforts had the opposite effect intended. Finding their beliefs attacked, initially curious, lukewarm Mormons responded by attending their own church in greater numbers. Few permanent converts were won and the net effect may have been a strengthening of the local LDS church.” (source)

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