by Martha Sonntag Bradley
and Mary Brown Firmage Woodward
The Final Years, 1892-1901
“… as one going to sleep, without pain …”
—Francis M. Lyman
[p.363] In January 1892, Zina Diantha turned seventy-one. The next month a dear friend and sister, Presendia Huntington Buell Kimball, died on 1 February. Zina Diantha had reached the age when the balance starts to tip from mortality to immortality. A decade earlier, Eliza R. Snow’s expressions of sympathy for the death of Zina Presendia’s son Tommy had been muted by her own feeling “that earthly joys are fleeting,” and Emmeline B. Wells had described Eliza as standing “so near the other shore that she can scarcely look upon our human life, as those do who are not so near the border of the ‘better land.’”1 Despite her attachment to her children—and especially to Zina Presendia—Zina Diantha was moving toward the border on which Eliza had stood.
Her own health was also failing. Almost three years later in the spring of 1889, Zina Diantha had all of her teeth pulled, the usual treatment as age, nutritional deficiencies, and poor dental hygiene took an inevitable toll. Zina Presendia, fussing about her mother’s slow recovery, scolded her for trying to carry on Relief Society work too:
You certainly cant talk till you get your teeth, and should take good care of yourself, that you can get restored in health, and used to your teeth be-[p.364]fore appearing before the public. … I have wished many times since I heard you had your teeth out, that you had got all your top teeth out when here, and had that much over before going home. And I have wished many times you were here with me till your poor mouth was healed up.”2
The loss of her teeth meant that Zina Diantha’s dietary habits changed, and not for the better. She did not eat as well as she had formerly, and was still struggling with her dentures three years later. In March 1892 Zina Diantha wrote to her brother John, then in the East, reporting both positively and negatively on her health:
I had a touch of Grip [influenza] this is the third winter I have been acquainted with this sad sad affliction … I can walk a mile & return the same day, when I went to see Sister [Presendia.] often rather [than] to stand & wate for the Cars[,] I walk on … I have had al my teeth out & stil ware [wear] a temporary set, but oft think I must go & get a better set, but putting it off until a more convenient Season … Zina my Daughter is spending the winter with me it is a great comfort to me.3
In June 1889 Charles had scolded Zina Diantha for habitual overwork: “You often cautioned us about rest and caring for ourselves. Please do not try to accomplish all this year. rest! rest!! rest!!! occasionally.”4
No one succeeded in persuading Zina Diantha to slow down. In December 1897, when Zina Diantha was visiting Zina Presendia in Canada for the winter, Emmeline disclosed concern to Zina Presendia about a long-standing pattern:
I do hope she will do very little administering etc., and confine her ministrations more to superintending in the Temple, where she sees constantly sisters from the various Stakes of Zion, and can say a comforting word, or give timely counsel; and direct others in the more laborious duties of officiating in ordinances. Even your father near to the Lord as he lived, and the inspiration he was in possession of through his leadership in the Church—did not make a practice of administering even in his own family,—and your mother does it all the time, for the sisters and frequently for those who do not need it half as much as she does. I have tried to make her see that it takes away her vitality, but she goes on just the same.5
[p.365] Even if she had been bedfast, Zina Diantha would have pulled herself together for the dedication of the Salt Lake temple on 6 April 1893. She had attended the laying of the cornerstone forty years earlier, and the completion of the sacred house was a precious moment. Mary Ann Burnham Freeze, later a member of the Relief Society General Board, saw her in the temple and recorded: “President [Zina] Young expressed her feelings in rapturous terms.”6 Charles, Zina Presendia, and his two other wives attended the solemn event. Charles recorded:
This was the eventful day at 8:30 A.M. I went to the Temple wall gate and was admitted with about 2200 others. We began our decent in the font room and passed through the working rooms & ordinance rooms as well as other Priesthood rooms up to the Audience room on the upper floor of the Temple and shortly after 10 O.C. The audience was called to order By Prest Woodruff. The choir sang then Prest Woodruff made some remarks stating the Lord has revealed to him years ago about the dedication of the Temple etc. Then he read the dedicatory prayer with a clear audible voice which took about one hour after which prest Cannon arose and was so filled with humility he could scarcely speak for a moment or so. I looked up to the stand & saw Prest Joseph F. Smith weeping like a child after remarks by Prest Cannon. Prest Joseph F. Smith arose & was full to over flowing. Said brethren & Sisters how can I help shedding tears in this Holy place for we are in the presence of God.
At t[w]o P.M. I entered with my wives Sarah J. Painter, Zina P. Young, and Lavinia C. Rigby and Sarahs 3 eldest children. Prest Cannon read the prayer prest Lorenzo Snow made some remarks also Prest Richards, Prest Woodruff. After the prayer both morning & evening all arose to their feet swinging their Handkerchiefs & shouted Hosanah.7
Charles, Zina Presendia, and Lavinia stayed at Zina Diantha’s house.
Two weeks later, weeks filled with friends and family, the Card family returned to the temple where they received special instructions in the Celestial Room with about 115 other Saints. They received the sacrament in the president’s room on the upper floor: “We partook and were filled not only with the food of the body, but of the Spirit & truly it was a pentecostal feast,” wrote Charles with gratitude. “God was with us and we felt to bless not only each other but the whole human family.”8
When they left Salt Lake City, they headed toward Great Falls, Mon-[p.366]tana, to view the nearby falls. Then Charles continued to Cardston and Zina Presendia caught the train for Chicago where she and her mother attended the World’s Fair as representatives of the Relief Society. (See Chapter 11.) Charles recorded proudly, “My little four-year-old daughter Zina has so far been just as happy as a lark & tells nearly everybody that mama has gone to the Worlds Fair & She is going to Canada with her pap & does not cry.”9
Three years later Zina Diantha was visiting in Canada for her birthday on 31 January 1896. Charles reflected,
When I arose this morning the first thing I thought was it was Mother Zina D. H. Young’s Birth day & that many people will do her honor this day & partially return the complement she has so many times carried in this life. This is a new feature and a departure from our traditions to gather together & speak of the faithful labors or good qualities of our fathers or mothers before death. It is the way with the world to garnish the Sepulchers of the dead. Well I worked in the store till t[w]o P.M. when we met in the Cardston hall Sister Mary L. Woolf presiding. Many of the sisters Spoke in High terms of Aunt Zina also the Presidency of the stake … One sister Rachel Gregson Archibald Spoke in tongues and blessed several sisters & one lady who did not belong to the church & told her she should yet belong to the church. We had a refreshing time & all enjoyed it. At 7 P.M. we met in the dance & had a very lively party which lasted till 12 O’Clock.10
Both Zinas were back in Salt Lake City that March, where Charles met them on the 10th after spending some time in Logan with his other families. In Salt Lake he “met with Sister Zina D. H. Young, my wife Zina & several other sisters & dedicated a house (41 East) as an office for the President of the Relief society (Sister Z. D. H. Young).” Then, four days later, he, Zina, her mother, and their children took a train to Ogden to attend a celebration in honor of her brother Chariton Jacobs’s fiftieth birthday. There they joined about thirty-five other relatives and friends in a surprise party. Charles recorded that they had a
fine supper & wound of[f] in songs, recitations from the young. Later in the evening the older ones made speeches of congratulations to Bro Jacobs. His son had been requested to take a mission to Europe. I felt to prophecy He would go & do a good work. Mother Young (Z. D. H.) [p.367] Blessed him in tongues & my wife Zina interpreted to the ef[f]ect he would go & do a good work & return [in] peace & safety & that would only be a beginning. She said to Chariton many comforting words, his wife behind the veil watched over him & that his present wife should bring forth many noble spirits, if I remember correctly among them prophets of the Lord.11
On the 18th they traveled to Provo for Susa Young Gates’s fortieth birthday. Again, recitations, songs, and dancing formed the night’s entertainment.
Difficult weather hampered their return to Canada. “We were all disappointed indeed. Particularly Zina who is anxious to see her Brother Sterling & his little baby Boy.”12 Just outside of Lethbridge, they camped near a flock of sheep among the “newly born lambs.”13 “When we arose this morning we found it Storming furiously, a kind of sleet which continued all day & we felt it wise to remain here as it was so wet & cold & our vehicle was open & we dare not expose the women & my little daughter Zina.”14 “Attended fast meeting to day fasting with the s[ain]ts. Many bore their testimony. A daughter of John Gregson’s about 15 years of age spoke in tongues which was interpreted by my wife Zina which was an exhortation to the sts to rise & bear their testimony though I am a child God can inspire me etc.”15
The endless round of meetings and outpouring of spiritual gifts continued. Charles notes these occasions in his journal. “At 10 A.M. To day we attended fast meeting at Cardston with a full house, brethren gathered from the Ranches & settlements. We were treated to the out pourings of the spirit of God in our testimonies & several of the sisters spoke in tongues & prophesied & I was blessed by sister Hammer also the apostles other interpreted & Prest Snow led in the shout of Hosanah, Hosanah, Hosanah to God & the Lam amen & amen & amen, repeated 3 times & all were profited thereby.”16 At yet another meeting: “I stepped in the adjoining room & attended the young Ladies meeting. Several spoke in tongues & prohecied [sic] & others Interpreted strongly & blessed each other & the Babe of Sister Minnie Snow wife of Elder L. Snow Prest of the 12 Apostles.”17 Zina and the children returned to Salt Lake City before the year’s end, leaving Charles to celebrate Christmas without them. He would join them the following February.
[p.368] At age seventy-four, Zina Diantha addressed a woman’s suffrage convention in Salt Lake City in mid-May 1896. While it may have seemed she had reached the pinnacle of her career, her private loneliness rarely left her. As she wrote her daughter on 23 May:
evry thing is lonely & silent just my old black shawl on the childrens hat rack, I am going to meet Sister [Lydia?] Alder to talk about the sisters in California at my room at 11 Thursday is the surprise on Martha Cannon I hope we will have a good time all wish you are coming, but Zina I try awful hard to keep the promis I made you, not to feel bad I am quite brave & do first rate. … I am the happiest when in my bed & put my hand on my side as you held yours before we ware up in the morning, the wether is fine sun shining birds singing. I will see Sister Smoot Wednesday she thought she would come to my house if so all right, … I had to fasten the gate firm, an old cow bunts it open, it is now safe.18
In a letter to Zebulon three months later, she wrote: “I get starved to be with [the grandchildren] it gets worse to be without them but I have to do my best.”
On 27 February 1897, Apostle Lorenzo Snow showed Charles and Zina Presendia through the Salt Lake temple with their children Joseph, Zina Brown, and Rega. They attended President Wilford Woodruff’s ninetieth birthday party and heard colorful adventuress Madam Mountford von Finkelstein tell the group about her childhood in Jerusalem.19 The next month Charles and his daughter Zina Brown returned to Logan for a few days, then went back to Canada.
On 10 June Charles received a telegram from Zina Presendia saying she would leave Salt Lake that night and be in Lethbridge Saturday morning. A week later he made an affecting entry in his journal:
This morning copied a letter in my large book. I had written to my wife Zina P[resendia] Young consenting to her appointment as secy [secretary] & aid to her mother who is Prest over all the Relief societies of the church. In this letter I consented to my wife going in a couple months although it would leave me alone to wage the [warfare] of this mission. I penciled this out on the 16th instant & when I handed to my wife to read she broke down & wept. Although it is hard to do I will not retard Gods work by with holding a member of my family that can aid it. I have had a [p.369] sad week at heart though I have kept it to myself & leave these few lines for Journal. I have been here now over 10 years apart from two of my families only visiting them occasionally & Seemingly close almost the sadest week of all. No hope of living with either family for several years. I would bring 1 of my other families here but I feel our enemies would take advantage of it & bring trouble here & now I leave all in the hands of God who over rules all for the best.20
Surely Zina Presendia’s reaction must have been confused—weeping for happiness at the chance to be with her mother but sadness at leaving her husband. Uncertain about where the children would stay, her future became cloudy as plans were made through letters between mother and daughter.
In February 1897 when Oliver Huntington visited Salt Lake City, he was startled at how feeble Zina Diantha had become. Zina Presendia was caring for her mother, and the three younger children—eleven-year-old Joseph, eight-year-old Zina Brown, and five-year-old Rega—were attending school in Salt Lake City. After April’s general conference, Zina Presendia took her mother back to Canada. Zina Diantha, weak and infirm, did not regain her health over the summer. On 24 November, according to Charles’s diary, she gave “a recital of early incidents of the Church history from personal experiences.”21 Emmeline B. Wells wrote to the two women while Zina Diantha was there, proposing to Zina Presendia that she encourage her mother to consider attending another national women’s meeting. “What would you think of your mother going down to Washington this winter to celebrate the semi-centennial of the first convention of the Woman’s Rights movement; all the great advocates of the cause are expected to take part—and as your mother disappointed the (Halls) last time in 1895—when the Council met—she would be heartily welcomed by them now. … Tell me what you think.”22 Zina Diantha returned to Salt Lake City the first week in December, her health even further depleted, a trip to Washington out of the question.
Again Zina Presendia and the children would stay in Salt Lake City all winter. It was clear that Zina Diantha could no longer care for herself. Oliver again visited in February 1898; and even though Zina Diantha gathered her strength so that she and Oliver could attend the temple together, Oliver recorded sadly in his diary: “Zina’s memory was very [p.370] much broken so that in many instances she appeared almost unsound—a little demented, so that my heart was melted with pity and grief.”23
For the next two years, Zina Diantha followed the same pattern of dividing her time between Salt Lake City and Canada, with Zina Presendia almost always at her side. On 5 June 1899, Zina Diantha wrote her daughter: “My ever blessed Zina I thank you so much for your precious letter I trust you wil pardon my neglect in writing. I never forget you in my prayers not a night I think[,] but often [when] I go to bed I think of you for a while thank Father in Heaven I ever had you …”
Zina Presendia took Rega with her to Salt Lake City in March 1900, where she continued to spend several months with her mother, returning periodically to Canada. That spring Annie Wells Cannon interviewed eighty-year-old Zina Diantha for the Woman’s Exponent. In Zina’s home, with brother Oliver visiting from Springville and Zina Presendia in attendance, the scene breathed domestic tranquillity:
A more perfect picture of a mother’s affection and a daughter’s devotion than is furnished by these two is seldom seen. … Our pleasant interview was closed by the arrival of a messenger who was to convey our hostess to the home of a young matron in need of blessing and comfort. Before departing, however, she showed us the copy of the Book of Mormon which long years before had brought such unspeakable joy to her heart. As she excused herself and was driven away we instinctively felt that we had been in the presence of a great woman.24
In June 1901, Zina Diantha left Utah to avoid the coming heat. It was her last journey north. As usual, she spoke to Relief Society sisters, meeting once in the Relief Society hall and twice in the Card home before Zina Diantha became too feeble for public meetings. Age had not dimmed her testimony, however, and she spoke unforgettably in the public meeting shortly before her death that August: “I well remember the noble and majestic look of the Prophet Joseph when he rose and spoke. I see how his words have been fulfilled and the way opened for the success and advancement of woman.” In her sweet and gentle way, she recognized the contribution of common women to the Kingdom of God. “Without the Spirit of God all are in danger. Women are blest who have husbands that seek to serve the Lord.” Zina Presendia then arose, [p.371] moved upon to speak in tongues, which her mother interpreted. Touchingly, “Aunt Zina [Diantha] gave the interpretation, but feeling she did not have it quite clear, humbly knelt by her chair and quietly offered a few words of prayer, then arising gave the interpretation fully and beautifully, to the blessing and comfort of all.”25
On 1 August, sixty-four women gathered in the Card home, their attention focused on their ailing president. It is fitting that Zina Diantha’s last few meetings were shared with her daughter and surrounded by the Relief Society. In the tender gathering in the parlor of her daughter’s home, Zina Diantha said how she “loved to hear the voices of the sisters and to see the Spirit of God beaming on their faces. What a privilege it is to live in this dispensation! We should meet together often and speak one to another. The Saints will receive great blessings through the word of the testimony and the power of the anointing.” She encouraged the women to seek harmony with their husbands and not to “find fault with the Priesthood or with one another, do not harbor a fault finding spirit, it is not of God.”26 In the last of the three gatherings, she encouraged the women to seek the Spirit. “I feel to exhort you all to live so you can claim the Holy Spirit to comfort you in times of trial, and inspire you in your daily vocations of life. It is a mother’s privilege to be inspired by the Spirit of God in the raising of her family.”27
A few days later, she was preparing to leave for Utah. Sitting at the breakfast table on the morning of her departure, she was talking amiably with her grandchildren when “on a sudden she turned red in the face and was falling from her chair, when her daughter caught her.” Zina Presendia begged her to stay in Cardston, but she “quietly but firmly” refused. Zina Presendia and Charles agreed that Zina Presendia must accompany her. After frantic last-minute preparations, Zina Presendia, her heart torn with anxiety, was ready. Zina Diantha had to be lifted into the wagon. Zina Presendia leaned over her mother, taking her hand into her own, tears running down her cheeks as she whispered words of love and comfort into her mother’s ear. Zina Diantha “smiled into her face and said, ‘Never mind, make the best of it.’ Those were the last audible words that ever escaped her lips. She sank into a deep sleep and the peaceful smile that settled upon her face remained there to the end.” At the depot, she had to be carried onto the train.
[p.372] Charles wrote anxiously in his diary that night about the complicated arrangements:
Aunt Zina D. H. Young left Cardston at 9 A.M. accompanied by my wife Zina Y & daughter Lavinia. Went by carriage to Spring Coulee about 16 or 17 miles. Thence left by Rail to Stirling on where they arrived to Leave at 9 P.M. Stirling Williams & Joseph Y. [Card] accompanied as far as Spring Coulee station & returned here at 7 P.M. We that were left behind were lonely indeed. Next day. We have all felt lonely all day. However Joseph Y. & I worked all day around to day. Wrote Zina Y. today of our loneliness & our prayers ascend on high to that end. August 23, 1901. “We all felt lonesome indeed to have Mother Young, my wife & little daughter Lavinia [leave] us all at once. Mother Young began to fail 3 Days ago & last night it was more apparent & we concluded to have my wife go rather than trust her to [someone else].28
As they left Canada, Zina Presendia wired ahead to Chariton: “Mother is very ill. Meet us at depot with carriage on Saturday night at 8:30.”29 Agonizingly, the train was delayed for ten hours by a wreck on the track near Butte, Montana. There Zina sent another dispatch: “Train delayed. Mother helpless. Meet us with ambulance.”30
A group of family and friends was waiting at the Ogden depot on 28 August. After the train arrived in Salt Lake City, she was brought to her home on Fourth Avenue. “Then it was a matter of watching and waiting.”
Apostle Francis M. Lyman blessed her: “You shall go as one going to sleep without pain even as a little babe. You are one of Heaven’s choicest spirits, yea and there is none greater on earth than thee for you have proven your integrity in all things and your salvation and exaltation are secured unto you. You have never complained and the Lord is pleased with thee.”31 The last sign of life was a slight movement of her lips, as if she were “making an effort to speak.”
The Deseret News described “Aunt” Zina’s funeral as an “outpouring of love and tender affection. It was a gathering of harvest. She had spent her whole life in sowing seeds of kindness and sympathy, and when her aged body was laid to rest her tomb was heaped high with the beautiful symbols of the tenderest human feelings.”32 The stand of the Assembly [p.373] Hall, next to the temple, was draped with white cloth; the interior was filled with flowers, friends, and devotees. Floral arrangements framed the casket on both sides: a portrayal of the temple in white and purple asters from the temple workers, an arrangement labeled “Gates Ajar” from the Relief Society General Board, and a sheaf of wheat and a sickle of roses with “Mother” written on it from her children.
The service began with one of Zina’s favorite hymns, “When First the Glorious Light of Truth.” The invocation was offered by Apostle Anthon H. Lund. The eight speakers included her counselors, Jane Snyder Richards and Bathsheba B. Wilson Smith, and secretary Emmeline B. Wells. Lund’s remarks captured the hearts of all:
All her life from the time she was a young woman had been spent in the service of the Lord. She was a woman in whom the spiritual nature was well developed, although she was very practical. She loved her neighbor; loved to do good to others. She was a blessing wherever she traveled. What a noble character she had. When the sons and daughters of God come up to receive their reward, “Aunt” Zina will be one of that happy throng on the right hand of God to whom it will be said, “I was sick and in prison and ye visited me.” “Aunt” Zina has laid up riches that are unfading. I believe that every unselfish act we perform will be counted as a treasure for us on the other side, and I believe that Sister Zina has laid up many, many treasures of this kind.33
After her funeral, Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young was buried in the Salt Lake Cemetery not far from Henry Bailey Jacobs on a “beautiful little hill that slopes to the South West.”34 Tributes to Zina appeared in virtually every church publication. Ellis Reynolds Shipp’s poem, “Aunt Zina’s Jewels,” captured their decades-old friendship:
Sisters, we have lost a Mother,
Honored president and friend;
She who bade us love each other,
And the cause of Truth defend.
She who ne’er was known to falter
In the days of sore distress,
Placing all upon the altar,
In the cause of righteousness,
[p.374] Let us follow her example,
Place her jewels in each heart,
Charity and Patience ample,
Courage to perform our part;
Valor, Faith and Trust in Father,
Purity, the white-winged dove,
Hope, Humility, together
With the greatest jewel, LOVE.35
Annie Wells Cannon memorialized Zina after her death: “O blessed mother in Israel! How green will ever be your memory in the hearts and homes of Zion, for the thousands of gentle ministrations to the sick, the afflicted, the desolate, the bereft. She it was who never wavered when she heard the cry for help, but came cheerfully and gave bountifully of her treasures.”36
Susa Young Gates characterized Zina as:
quick in her perceptions, and … keenly conscious of malicious conduct or slighting treatment; but her nobility prevented her from resenting ill-treatment, and she was ready to forgive long before asked to do so. It is related of her that on one occasion she was told that a certain woman did not like her. Aunt Zina looked quietly into the eyes of her informer and said, with simple dignity and sincerity: “Well, I love her, Sister, and she can’t help herself.”37
To Susa, Zina Diantha was “the soul of generosity, and yet not lavish; she was forgiving to a fault, and still she always knew when people assailed her. She was eloquent, and had a personal magnetism which attracted the merest stranger to her side. She was sweetly proud, and her soul was filled with an exquisite dignity.”38 She summarized simply: “There have been many noble women. But of all none was so lovely, so lovable, and so passionately beloved as was Aunt Zina.”39
For Zina Presendia, the death of her mother represented her greatest loss yet. Few photographs of the two survive, yet their physical resemblance is striking, their faces reflecting a gentle nobility, honest and direct. When apart, each held the other foremost in her mind. When together, they worked and talked in quiet harmony. The threads of devotion from mother to daughter connected them in unseen ways. Zina [p.375] Diantha, by example and during the long conversations that wove their lives together, helped Zina Presendia share her husbands with other women, adapt to the sacrifice and privation of life in a frontier community, and find opportunities to serve women in the building of the kingdom.