Apostle Joseph Luff
Joseph Luff, son of John and Ann Garbutt Luff, was born October 31, 1852. His early childhood was spent in Toronto, Canada, the city of his birth, and the circumstances were such as to deprive him of opportunities to gain an education only to a limited extent. Through unfortunate circumstances his support devolved upon his mother, by whose labor himself and brother and sisters were sustained.
In relating the circumstance of his mother nursing and caring for sick and dying at the time of the great cholera scourge and small-pox epidemic, he pays the following tribute to her, which we record here as an evidence of his affection and love for his mother:
What son would not feel his blood course more warmly through his veins as he listened to the recital of his mother’s bravery? The thought of that mother moving to and fro among the dead and dying, performing the humble services that looked toward an alleviation of human agony, facing the deadly peril that threatened, without a single thought of self, while thousands of stronger women and men were fleeing for life before the face of the stalking pestilences, was an inspiration that gave birth to holy resolve within me. Others may point with greater assurance to distinguished names and titles along their ancestral lines and boast of honored lineage; but to me my mother’s self-sacrificing devotion to humanity’s interests during those perilous months is evidence enough of royal blood. I say it unhesitatingly, that a hundred times in my early life I have been kept from doing improper things by the thought that I bore that mother's name.
Extreme poverty rendered it necessary that Joseph should labor as soon as he was old enough, to help support the family; and he saw many hardships and endured many privations in the days of his childhood.
Being very mischievous, he often got himself into difficulties; and though from reports we have we think he never was to a great extent immoral, though he fell into some pernicious habits.
On May 24, 1873, he was married to Miss Janet Parker, daughter of John and Elizabeth Parker, of London, Canada.
He had previous to this learned the printer’s trade, and, in connection with a partner, had established quite a prosperous business. He had also been converted and had united with the Methodist church, and had become quite a popular local preacher, with many solicitations to enter the regular ministry, but for reasons had not done so.
Sometime after, his wife’s parents, who were in London, while his business and residence were in Toronto, had united with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, sent to their daughter, Mrs. Luff, a leaflet containing an epitome of the faith of the church. This was carefully read. Other tracts followed until Mr. and Mrs. Luff became considerably interested. They were also visited by William Clow, whose wife was a sister of Mrs. Luff, and who had become identified with the church. In relating the conversation which occurred between them, Elder Luff says:
I tried to oppose the doctrine mildly. He allowed me to select my own scripture, and then seemed to take delight in applying it for me.
Subsequently Mrs. Luff went on a visit to her parents, and while in London became convinced of the truth of the doctrine, taught by the church, and wrote her husband for consent to be baptized. Mr. Luff wrote her to be sure she was right, and then act, as she was her own agent. She was accordingly baptized, and a short time after Mr. Luff went to London, and began an investigation of the doctrine which had been espoused by his wife. He relates that he procured a Book of Mormon and shut himself up in the parlor to read it; and while thus engaged says,
I was visited several times by as peaceful an influence as ever pervaded my frame. The words before me seemed to be filled with a something that in an indescribable way took hold of my intelligence and elicited my approval in frequent ejaculations.
Still he was not satisfied and continued his investigations. He relates that at one time during a prayer-meeting he mentally prayed that if this was the church of God, and it was his duty to unite with it, that it might be made known to him, and that he might know whether the peculiar influence which attended him in his investigations was really the Holy Spirit. He entreated further, that the revelation might come through his wife’s brother, Robert, only ten years old. He says that no mortal heard that prayer. The result is related by Elder Luff in the following language:
When the number so desiring had prayed vocally, the company rose and was seated, and the singing and testimony were resumed. Soon Robbie, as he was familiarly called, stood up and began to speak as any child of that age would in testimony. He had not uttered many words till his face became waxen and the tears started from his eyes and flowed profusely down his cheek, and turning till he faced me, he raised his hand and said, as nearly as I can remember: "Verily, thus saith the Lord God unto you, O son of man, Go now and obey my gospel, for this is indeed my church. It is my will that you shall be baptized at the hands of one of these my servants, for you have received of my Spirit, saith the Lord."
Here was just what I had asked for. It had come through the channel I had designated. It had brought the very information I had desired. I knew the lad was not aware that I had asked for it, and I believed he had not power in himself to frame the answer as it was given, even though the question had been known to him.
He accepted this; and on the 22d of May, 1876, he was baptized by Elder J. J. Cornish. He returned to Toronto and continued his business, resigning his position with the Methodist Church, and meeting much opposition in consequence of his withdrawal from that connection.
Elder John S. Patterson visited Toronto; but conditions were not favorable and but little was done. Subsequently a branch was raised up through the especial instrumentality of Elder Luff.
August 8, 1876, he was ordained an elder at Toronto, Canada, by Elder John S. Patterson, and at once became a zealous defender of the faith. Though sorely tried at times because of difficulties existing in the church in Canada, he continued faithfully to contend for the right.
In March, 1879, he left his home in Canada, and attended the annual conference of that year at Plano; and during the summer of that year worked in the Herald Office at Plano, preaching in Plano and vicinity as opportunity offered. In the autumn of that year his family joined him at Plano; and at the semiannual conference, he was appointed in connection with others to Utah. Having had but little experience, the wisdom of his going to that field was questioned by several. Nevertheless he went, and acquitted himself creditably.
He continued in the active ministry the principal part of his time from that on, and quickly took rank among the best preachers of the church.
In October, 1879, prior to his starting to his Utah field, he removed his family to Independence, Missouri, which has been his home ever since. He labored in the office of elder until 1887, when by the revelation of that year he was called to the office of apostle. He was ordained to this office April 13, 1887, by Joseph Smith and William H. Kelley, and at the present time is still occupying in that position.
For several years he also served as assistant secretary of that quorum. At his own request he has been released from the latter position.
He has performed other important services for the church, too numerous to speak of in detail, including acting as editor of the Saints' Advocate for a season; editing Zion’s Ensign for some time; and serving on the editorial staff of the Herald at different times.
His health has not always permitted him to be as active in a ministerial way as he otherwise might have been; but his interest in the truth and its success has not waned.
(RLDS History of the Church 4:712–716)