A Book of Mormons
by Richard S. Van Wagoner and Steven C. Walker
1808. Wakara was born on the banks of Pequirarynoquint (“Stinking River”—the Spanish Fork) near the present Spanish Fork, Utah, to Timpanogos Ute parents. His name, which means “yellow,” was anglicized to “Walker.” Wakara’s father, a member of the band that had welcomed Spanish explorers Escalante and Dominquez to Utah Valley in 1776, was killed early in Wakara’s life during a tribal feud.
Walker tried to kill his own aged mother when she became a burden, but “she was a quick, wiry, plucky little creature and though well advanced in years, after receiving several severe cuts, and bruises at his hands, any one of which would have ended a common mortal’s career, made good her escape, and remained hidden among the bullrushes of Sanpitch swamps.”
“Hawk of the Mountains”
Wakara earned the name “Hawk of the Mountains” and his position as chief through his skills as a horse thief. His legendary raiding parties into California and Mexico also won him the nickname “Napoleon of the Desert.”
He looked the part, “attired in a suit of the finest broadcloth, cut in the latest fashion,” and complemented by “a cambric shirt and a beaver hat.”
White settlers viewed Wakara as “a fine figure of a man … a crack shot, a rough rider, and a great judge of horse flesh. He is very clever, in our sense of the word. He is a peculiarly eloquent master of the graceful alphabet of pantomime, which stranger tribes employ to communicate with one another. He has picked up some English, and is familiar with Spanish and several Indian tongues.”
Friend of Brigham Young
1847. When Brigham Young declared Salt Lake Valley “the right place” for Mormon pioneers, Wakara’s band was camped seventy miles southeast in Spanish Fork Canyon. Ute tradition holds that Wakara attempted to incite a band of [p.373]young firebrands to oppose white settlement; his elder brother, the wise Sowiette, needed a horsewhip to drive home the finer points of his argument opposing violence.
Mormon tradition has it, however, that Wakara had envisioned the coming of white people: “He died and his spirit went to heaven. He saw the Lord sitting upon a throne dressed in white. The Lord told him he could not stay, he had to return to earth, that there would come to him a race of white people that would be his friends, and he must treat them kindly.”
1849. When Wakara and Brigham Young met, the Ute chief invited the Mormons to move south to settle on his lands. One year later, Wakara was baptized by Manti settler Isaac Morley. In 1851 Wakara and other chiefs were brought to Salt Lake, ordained elders, and told they now had “power and authority from the Great Spirit.”
1851. Wakara was given a “talking paper” by George A. Smith, certifying “that Captain Walker and Peteetneet of the Eutah Indians and their band have resided here about 3 weeks and as they have showed themselves friends and gentlemen and are now leaving to visit your settlements it is my desire that they should be treated as friends, and as they wish to Trade horses, Buckskins and Piede children, we hope them success and prosperity and good bargains.”
The endorsement of child slavery did not last long. The Ute band had been preying on weaker tribes, stealing their children or buying them with horses, which were prized as food. On the Mexico-California market, young boys were worth $100; girls brought as much as $200. Shortly before the territorial legislature passed an anti- slavery bill, Brigham Young declared in the Deseret News, January 10, 1852, “Human flesh to be dealt in as property is not consistent or compatible with the principles of government.”
1853. Wakara’s disaffection over the slavery issue festered into open rebellion during a ten-month war. The “Walker War” resulted in the massacre of twenty white men, including Captain John W. Gunnison and seven members of his U.S. government survey team near Fillmore. After the fledgling territorial government expended some $200,000 in an attempt to quell the outbreak, Governor Young sent a letter proposing peace to “Capt. Walker”:
“I send you some tobacco for you to smoke in the mountains when you get lonesome. You are a fool for fighting your best friends, for we are the best friends, and the only friends that you have in the world. Everybody else would kill you if they could get a chance. … When you get good natured again I would like to see you. Don’t you think you should be ashamed? You know that I have always been your best friend.”
Wakara replied, “Tell Brother Brigham, we have smoked the tobacco he sent us in the pipe of peace; I want to be at peace, and be a brother to him.”
“That is all right,” Brother Brigham responded. “But it is truly characteristic of the cunning Indian, when he finds he cannot get advantage over his enemy, to curl down at once, and say, I love you.”
Peace was arranged in May, 1854. At the war’s conclusion, Wakara denied ever personally killing a white man. President Young officially exonerated “Indian Walker” of responsibility for “the foundation of the difficulties,” stating in general conference that he personally could vouch that at the “very commencement of the fuss, he [Wakara] was not in favour of killing whites.”
George A. Smith claimed that before the Walker war “Walker himself … teased me for a white wife; and if any of the sisters will volunteer to marry him, I believe I can close the war forthwith. … If any lady wishes to be Mrs. Walker, if she will report herself to me, I will agree to negotiate the match.”
The “Potato Saint” had no takers. At the conclusion of [p.375]the war Wakara approached Brigham Young, who advised, “If you can find one that will give her consent you may marry her.” Rejected by two Manti women, the sulking chief retreated to his winter campground, lamenting that “Brigham did not know how to use a chief like him for when he came down [to Salt Lake City] Brigham would not allow him a squaw to sleep with like the Moquintches and Navajos.”
1855. Wakara wintered on Meadow Creek near Fillmore, Utah. During a heated tribal gambling session, the chief ruptured a blood vessel in his neck. This led to a general weakening and ultimately the development of “lung fever”—probably pneumonia.
Brigham Young, on hearing of the illness, sent David Lewis to deliver a letter to the Ute camp. Wakara was so sick he had to be supported on his horse to receive the emissary. Lewis promised to return the next day to read President Young’s letter. But during the night the forty- four-year-old chief died.
Horrified settlers discovered the next day that his death had triggered ritual slaying of Piede slaves. At least two women and two children, plus twelve or fifteen of Wakara’s best Spanish horses, were killed to accompany him to the spirit world.
Wakara was entombed with blankets, rifles, robes, buckskin clothing, cooking utensils, and bows and arrows, high on a mountainside above his winter camp. The unread letter from Brigham Young was placed on his body.
Most accounts of the burial agree that a slave boy was sealed alive in the tomb of aspen logs and boulders, with instructions to “watch Wakara.” Three days later a group of Wakara’s braves, inspecting the area, ignored pleas of the thirst-crazed boy, who complained that Wakara was “beginning to stink.”
The authors rediscovered the gravesite on Walker Mountain above Meadow, Utah, in 1979. It had previously been found by Charles Kelly in 1946, whose Indian guide related the grave had been robbed in 1909 of every “single bead.”
Bailey, Paul. Wakara: Hawk of the Mountains. Los Angeles: Westernlore Press, 1954.
Brooks, Juanita. “Indian Relations on the Mormon Frontier.” Utah Historical Quarterly 12 (January 1944):6.
Gottfredson, Peter. Indian Depredations. Salt Lake City: Skelton Publishing Company, 1919.
Kelly, Charles. “We Found the Grave of the Utah Chief.” The Desert Magazine, October 1946.
Neff, Andrew Love. History of Utah: 1847 to 1869. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1940.
Salt Lake City, Utah. LDS Church Archives. Journal History, 26 March 1850, 9 June 1851, 6 April 1854.
_____. Sanpitch Stake Historical Record.
_____. Brigham Young Office Journal, 29 January 1855.
Van Wagoner, Richard, and Walker, Steven C. “Chief Walker Revisited.” Utah Holiday, September 1981, pp. 57-63.
1814. October 27: Born Daniel Hanmer Wells in Trenton, New Jersey. He married Eliza Rebecca Robinson in 1837, and plural wives Louisa Free Lee (1849), Martha Harris (1849), Hanna Free Hotchkiss (1851), Lydia O. Alley (1851), Susan H. Alley (1852), Emmeline B. Woodward Harris Whitney (1852), Clara Gorder (1863), Sarah Gomber (1869), Sarah C. Nielson (1870), Elizabeth Harper (1871), Jane Smith (1871), Charlotte Foreman (1871), Caroline C. Raleigh (1879), and Eliza Foscue Lee (1889). Two of his wives were sisters of wives of Brigham Young and John D. Lee. He often reminded his thirty-seven children that they “should be very grateful to me for providing them with such good mothers.”
Son-in-law Orson F. Whitney described the Wells families in a parody of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Bells”:
Ho the gathering of the Wells,—
Heaps of Wells,—
What a world of census-takers
This family foretells …
A lot of little Wells,
Youngsters counted by the score
Knee-deep on the parlor floor.
1834. He moved with his widowed mother to Commerce (later Nauvoo), Illinois, where he was elected town constable and subsequently justice of the peace.
1839. When Mormon refugees began to arrive in Commerce, Wells sold them his land cheaply. It was on his property that the Nauvoo Temple was eventually built.
1841. A non-Mormon, Wells was elected commissary general of the Nauvoo Legion and made a trustee of the University of Nauvoo.
1846. August 9: Baptized by Almon W. Babbitt in the Mississippi River. His wife Eliza would not join the Church.
When the Saints vacated Nauvoo in the spring of 1846, Wells remained. During the “Battle of Nauvoo” in September he urged surrender: “There is no use of the small handful of volunteers trying to defend Nauvoo against such an overwhelming force. What interests have the Saints to expect from its defense? Our interests are not identified with it, but in getting away from it. Who could urge the propriety of exposing life to defend a place for the purpose of vacating it?”
September 17: Wells crossed the Mississippi with the remaining Saints. In a “one-horse buggy” he dashed a message to Brigham Young in Winter Quarters apprising him of the situation in Nauvoo. The Wells family spent the winter of 1846-1847 in Burlington, Iowa, then moved to Galesburg, Illinois, until the spring of 1848. Unable to convince his wife to join the main body of Saints in Winter Quarters, he wrote to Brigham Young, “I see no prospect short of a complete sacrifice of everything I hold dear on earth.” Wells left his wife and young son in Nauvoo and headed west, never to see them again.
Superintendent of Church Public Works
1848. Named to the Council of Fifty in Salt Lake Valley. In 1849 he was appointed attorney general of the “Provisional State of Deseret.” As superintendent of public works, Wells supervised construction of the Council House (1850), the Old Tabernacle (1852), the Church Office Building (1852), the Beehive House (1852), the Social Hall (1853), the Endowment House (1855), the Lion House (1856), Salt Lake Theatre (1862), Salt Lake Tabernacle (1867), and Salt Lake Temple (1893).
One of the most well-read men in Utah, Wells served on the University of Deseret’s first board of regents, and as chancellor of the school for nine years.
Commander of the Nauvoo Legion
1849. Made commander of the Nauvoo Legion—the territorial [p.379]militia. He was responsible for protecting settlers against Indian depredations, and commanded the Echo Canyon Expedition against the Utah Expeditionary Force (1857).
His daughter Emmeline recalled, “Father had the finest uniform that could be made here. His long sash was of heavy yellow silk and his wonderful steel sword was engraved half-way down the blade; he had a large black hat with a beautiful black feather dropping over the rim.”
Member of the First Presidency
1857. Ordained an apostle and named Brigham Young’s second counselor after the death of Jedediah M. Grant.
Brigham Young’s Statesman
A self-trained lawyer, Wells served as chief justice of Utah, administering the oath of office to Governor Brigham Young. He labored for statehood throughout his life, serving in four constitutional conventions and for many years in the territorial legislature. Brigham Young called Wells “my statesman.”
1864. Served for a year as president of the European Mission. He presided over the same mission from 1885 to 1887.
Salt Lake City Mayor
1866. February 12: Elected mayor of Salt Lake City, serving ten turbulent years of increasing anti-Mormon hostility.
1871. October 28: Charged with Hosea Stout and William H. Kimball for the 1857 murder of Richard Yates. The three were confined at Camp Douglas, east of the city. William Hickman apparently killed the man, but no one ever came to trial.
1874. When U.S. marshals attempted to interfere with a municipal election, an unruly mob gathered at the polling place. Mayor Wells “commanded the crowd to disperse [p.380]and leave the entrance clear. … Some of the leaders, now more or less intoxicated, when the order was given to disperse, instead of obeying, made an attack on the mayor. … Mayor Wells resisted this move. Several others now caught hold of him, tearing his clothes.”
Counselor to the Twelve
1877. Daniel H. Wells was never a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, but on the death of Brigham Young, John Taylor called Wells to be a counselor to the Quorum.
1879. Presiding over the Endowment House, Wells married John H. Miles to Caroline Owen. The new Mrs. Miles alleged that on the same day, just prior to her marriage, Wells had married her husband to Emily Spencer. Following a quarrel between the two wives, Caroline swore out a complaint of polygamy against her husband.
When asked to testify about the endowment ceremony in court, Wells refused to answer. “I consider any person who reveals the sacred ceremonies of the Endowment House a falsifier and a perjurer; and it has been and is a principle of my life never to betray a friend, my religion, my country or my God. It seems to me that this is sufficient reason why I should not be held in contempt.” Wells was sentenced to two days in the penitentiary.
On his release, a large, well-planned parade escorted him home. The anti-Mormon Salt Lake Tribune reported the event on May 7: “Never has such a crowd thronged the streets, nor such a cavalcade of human beings and brutes in point of numbers, promiscuous and motley confusion, been witnessed before, as that presented on our public streets on the occasion of the triumphal entry into town from the Penitentiary of Daniel H. Wells, First Counsellor in the Mormon Church. … Hundreds of poor dupes were forwarded by all the trains centering in this city, to participate in a celebration, which in spirit and substance, was designed as a public defiance of the national judicial authorities.”
1888. Appointed president of the Manti Temple.
1891. March 24: Died of pleuro-pneumonia in Salt Lake City at age seventy-seven. His epitaph in the Salt Lake City Cemetery reads:
It is interwoven into my character
Never to betray a friend or brother,
My country, my religion, or my God.
Conference Reports, October 1941.
Deseret News, 3 May 1879.
Hinckley, Bryant S. Daniel Hanmer Wells. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1942.
Quinn, D. Michael. “Organizational Development and Social Origins of the Mormon Hierarchy, 1832-1932: A Prosopographical Study.” Master’s thesis, University of Utah, 1973.
1828. February 29: Born Emmeline Blanche Woodward in Petersham, Massachusetts. While she was attending boarding school in New Salem, her mother joined the Church; Emmeline was baptized on a visit home in 1842.
A fifteen-year-old school teacher, Emmeline married James Harvey Harris and moved to Nauvoo, where she gave birth to a son. He died within the month. Shortly after, her husband left her, seeking fame in New Orleans.
The desertion was devastating: “Last night there came a steam boat up the river. O how my youthful heart fluttered with hope. … Not all that has yet been said can shake my confidence in the only man I ever loved. … I saw a person approaching. My heart beat with fond anticipation. It walked like James. It came nearer and just as I was about to speak his name, he spoke and I found I was deceived by the darkness.”
1845. James never returned. Two years later, she became Bishop Newel K. Whitney’s second wife. He was fifty, she sixteen; they had two children before he died in 1850.
1852. Some time after Whitney died in 1850, she wrote his friend Daniel H. Wells, asking him to “consider the lonely state” of his friend’s widow. She asked him to “declare his feelings” for her, for she had often seen herself “united with a being noble as thyself.”
Wells married her as his sixth plural wife. They had three children, but it was a disappointing, unhappy union for Emmeline. “O, if my husband could only love me even a little and not seem to be perfectly indifferent to any sensation of that kind,” she wrote in her 1874 diary. “He cannot know the craving of my nature; he is surrounded with love on every side, and I am cast out. … O my poor aching heart when shall it rest its burden only on the Lord Every other avenue seems closed against me.”
[p.384]1874. On their twenty-second anniversary she wrote, “Anniversary of my marriage with Pres. Wells. O how happy I was then how much pleasure I anticipated and how changed alas are all things since that time, how few thoughts I had then have ever been realized, and how much sorrow I have known in place of the joy I looked forward to.”
Daniel H. Wells was a busy man, and Emmeline did not blend well with his other wives. She was not an efficient homemaker, preferring to spend her time reading and in pleasant conversation. She also dressed differently than most women, preferring pastels to the usual dark colors. The other wives are said to have made fun of Emmeline’s love poems to Daniel.
1877. Emmeline B. Wells edited and published the Woman’s Exponent for thirty-eight years. Her editorials covered a broad range of women’s issues—equal pay for equal work, women’s voting rights, even equality in athletic programs.
Upset at women who allowed themselves to be placed on pedestals, she complained, “See the manner in which ladies—a term for which I have little reverence or respect—are treated in all public places! … She must be preserved from the slightest blast of trouble, petted, caressed, dressed to attract attention, taught accomplishments that minister to man’s gratification; in other words, she must be treated as a glittering and fragile toy, a thing without brains or soul, placed on a tinselled and unsubstantial pedestal by man, as her worshipper.”
1879. Church leaders encouraged Emmeline B. Wells and Zina Young Williams to attend a meeting of the National Women’s Suffrage Association. There they petitioned Congress to recognize the rights of the children of plural marriages.
1882. Wells and her close friend Zina D. H. Young traveled to a National Women’s Suffrage Association convention, where Emmeline delivered a paper on Mormon life in Utah. In 1899 she attended the Women’s International Council [p.385]and Congress in England and was received by Queen Victoria.
Fifth President of the Relief Society
1910. Set apart as president of the Church Relief Society by Joseph F. Smith. Since 1888 she had been a member of the general board; she also assisted in the organization of the YLMIA and the Primary Association.
In 1895, as general Relief Society Secretary, she wrote a history of the organization, defining its main objectives: “The care of the needy, the sick, the helpless and the unfortunate, to visit the widow and the fatherless, to administer comfort and consolation as well as temporal relief of physical wants, to see that none are left to suffer … also to care for the dying and the dead, to be at the bedside of the lonely ones when death is near, to robe the body neatly and properly for burial when all is over, and to perform those kindly deeds with tenderness and grace.”
1921. April 25: Died at the age of eighty-four in her home at 1354 South 900 East in Salt Lake City; buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery near her husband Daniel.
Bushman, Claudia, ed. Mormon Sisters. Cambridge: Emmeline Press Limited, 1976.
Eaton-Gadsby, Patricia Rasmussen, and Dushku, Judith Rasmussen. “Emmeline B. Wells.” Sister Saints. Edited by Vicky Burgess-Olson. Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1979.
Woman’s Exponent, 1 July 1872, p. 29; 1 October 1895, pp. 59-60.
1805. January 7: Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, David was the brother of fellow Book of Mormon witnesses Peter, Jacob, John, and Christian Whitmer. His sister Catherine married Hiram Page, and another sister, Elizabeth, married Oliver Cowdery.
Of “Pennsylvania Deutsch” heritage, Whitmer still spoke with a “German twang” in his eightieth year. His family moved to a farm near Seneca Lake, New York, when he was a boy. He was elected sergeant in the local militia, the “Seneca Grenadiers,” at age twenty. In 1830 Whitmer married Julia A. Jolley; they had two children.
Book of Mormon Benefactor
1829. June: Whitmer first heard of Joseph Smith and the “gold plates” from his friend Oliver Cowdery in 1828. After receiving a sample of the Book of Mormon translation and several letters from Cowdery, Whitmer made a two-hundred-mile wagon trip to bring Joseph and Oliver from Harmony, Pennsylvania, to his home in Fayette, New York.
The Whitmer family was close to the translation process as the Book of Mormon manuscript increased day by day. Whitmer even served briefly as a scribe in June. His 1887 account relates:
“I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.”
[p.388]Book of Mormon Witness
1829. June: Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris reported a visitation from the angel Moroni. In 1878 Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith recorded an interview with Whitmer in which he said that Moroni had shown the Three Witnesses the “plates of the Book of Mormon, also the sword of Laban, the Directors—i.e., the ball which Lehi had—and the Interpreters. … I heard the voice of the Lord, as distinctly as I ever heard anything in my life, declaring that the records … were translated by the gift and power of God.”
For many years Whitmer maintained possession of the “printer’s copy” of the Book of Mormon manuscript (in Oliver Cowdery’s handwriting). This document is now in the possession of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Whitmer was baptized, confirmed, and ordained an elder by Joseph Smith in June, 1829. In April of the following year he became one of the six original members of the Church.
Joseph Smith’s Nominated Successor
1834. July 3: Whitmer was sustained as president of the high council in Missouri. Later in the year he was ordained as Joseph Smith’s successor “on condition that he [Joseph Smith] did not live to God himself.”
1838. Whitmer was sustained as “President of the Church” in Far West, Missouri—the modern equivalent of stake president.
According to a March, 1829, revelation, Joseph Smith was given “a gift to translate the [Book of Mormon], and I have commanded him that he shall pretend to no other gift, for I will grant him no other” (Book of Commandments 4:2). Whitmer opposed Joseph Smith as president of the Church, feeling that the Prophet’s only gift was to [p.389]translate the Book of Mormon. The revelation was revised in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants to read, “I have commanded that you should pretend to no other gift until my purpose is fulfilled in this; for I will grant unto you no other gift until it is finished.”
Whitmer also objected to high priest ordinations, though he himself had been so ordained by Oliver Cowdery at the age of twenty-six. “This error was introduced at the instigation of Sidney Rigdon. The office of high priests was never spoken of, and never thought of being established in the church until Rigdon came in. … Rigdon … would persuade Brother Joseph to inquire of the Lord about this doctrine and that doctrine, and of course a revelation would always come just as they desired it.”
Jealous of Rigdon’s popularity, Whitmer wrote, “Rigdon was a thorough Bible scholar, a man of fine education, and a powerful orator. He soon worked himself deep into Brother Joseph’s affections, and had more influence over him than any other man living. … Brother Joseph rejoiced, believing that the Lord had sent to him this great and mighty man Sidney Rigdon, to help him in the work. Poor Brother Joseph! He was mistaken.”
February 5: A Far West meeting of the “whole Church in Zion” voted to remove David Whitmer, John Whitmer, and W. W. Phelps from their positions as “Presidents of the Church” in Missouri. David Whitmer was accused of persisting “in the use of tea, coffee, and tobacco.” All three men allegedly encouraged the sale of Jackson County lands, a transgression which Joseph Smith had earlier declared “a denial of our faith, as that is the place where the Zion of God shall stand, according to our faith and belief in the revelations of God.”
April 13: Found guilty of “possessing the same spirit with the dissenters,” David Whitmer was excommunicated for failure to observe the Word of Wisdom, neglecting meetings, writing unfavorable letters about Joseph Smith, and signing his name to official Far West documents after being removed from the presidency there.
Fifty years after the fact, Whitmer said, “If you believe my testimony to the Book of Mormon; if you believe that God spake to us three witnesses by his own voice, then I tell you that in June, 1838, God spake to me again by his [p.390]own voice from the heavens, and told me to separate myself from among the Latter-day Saints for as they sought to do unto me, so should it be done unto them.”
Whitmer left Far West after his excommunication and settled in Richmond, Missouri, where he operated a “Livery and Feed Stable,” advertising that “customers may rely on promptness, good turnouts, safe horses, and moderate charges.” The Whitmer business, as described by a great-granddaughter, “filled hauling contracts, rented out carriages and buggies, and met two trains a day at Lexington Junction with a beautifully decorated yellow bus.”
1839. Spring: When the Mormons were expelled from Far West in the spring of 1839, Whitmer recalled, the local militia “pressed me and my team into service, and I was forced to go and drive a wagon load of baggage to Far West. I told them if I had to go I would take no gun. They said ‘all right’; and I took no gun.” During the confusion of the evacuation of the city, “he was handed a musket by the soldiery and ordered to shoot Joseph Smith, but threw the musket down, declaring he ‘would not harm the Lord’s anointed.'”
Whitmer became involved in the leadership of several “reorganizations.” In 1848 he gave approval to organize a church in Kirtland around his name and former ordinations, but the collapse of that effort embarrassed him. Thirty years later, he ordained his nephew to organize a new “Church of Christ,” claiming an identical organization to the 1829-1830 Church. After his death adherents of this group continued to publish materials supporting his claims.
1860. During a Richmond political meeting at which non-secessionists were urged to leave Missouri, Whitmer walked to the platform and delivered a short speech declaring that “no resolutions or threats would cause him to run away. … He was a citizen of the United States, and should remain such. He proposed to live or die under the [p.391]old flag. If anyone desired to shoot him, then was a good time.” He walked away a respected man.
During the last years of his life, constantly interviewed about his experiences with the Book of Mormon, Whitmer never denied his testimony. When the Book of Mormon manuscript was examined in 1884 by a committee from the Reorganized Church, Joseph Smith, III, said that a skeptical Richmond military officer suggested to Whitmer that he possibly “had been mistaken and had simply been moved upon by some mental disturbance or hallucination, which had deceived him into thinking he saw” the angel, plates, and Urim and Thummim:
“Elder Whitmer arose and drew himself up to his full height—a little over six feet—and said, in solemn and impressive tones: ‘No sir! I was not under any hallucination, nor was I deceived! I saw with these eyes, and I heard with these ears! I know whereof I speak!'”
1888. January 25: Died at the age of eighty-three in Richmond, Missouri, the last surviving witness to the Book of Mormon. Buried in the “new” Richmond Cemetery.
Anderson, Richard L. Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981.
Blankmeyer, Helen Van Cleave. David Whitmer: Witness for God. Springfield, Illinois, 1955.
Chicago Times, 26 January 1888.
Chicago Tribune, 17 December 1885.
Durham, Reed C., and Heath, Stephen H. Succession in the Church. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1970.
Millennial Star, 43:421.
[p.439]Richardson, Ebbie L. V. “David Whitmer: A Witness to the Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon.” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1952.
Smith, Mary Audentia, ed., condensed by Vertha Audentia Anderson Hulmes. Joseph Smith III and the Restoration. Independence: Herald House, 1952.
Whitmer, David. An Address to All Believers in Christ. Richmond, Missouri, 1887.
_____. “Letter to Joseph Smith III, 9 December 1886.” Saints’ Herald 34 (1887):89.
1872. January 31: Born John Andreas Widtsoe in Froen, Norway. In 1879 his widowed mother took a pair of his shoes to a Mormon cobbler, who stuffed the toes with Mormon pamphlets when he returned them. Anna Widtsoe read the pamphlets, then attended a Mormon meeting. Two years later the family was baptized, and in 1883 emigrated to Logan, Utah.
In 1898 John married Leah Eudora Dunford, daughter of Susa Young Gates. Susa, who had met Widtsoe in Boston, was so impressed by him she “wooed” him for her daughter. The Widtsoes had seven children.
Widtsoe graduated from Brigham Young College in 1891 and from Harvard, with high honors, in 1894. Returning to Utah, he became the first Mormon faculty member at Utah Agricultural College (Logan), where he taught chemistry.
Awarded the Parker Traveling Scholarship shortly after his wedding, he took his new bride to Europe. In 1899 he was awarded a Ph.D. with high honors from the University of Goettingen, Germany.
Back at Logan, Widtsoe became director of the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station, which did research work in crop, soil, and irrigation techniques. In 1905 he went to Brigham Young University.
His phenomenal success at BYU prompted the Utah Agricultural College to offer him its presidency. He accepted in 1907. Ten years later he became president of the University of Utah. His administration brought the school to full university status.
1921. Called to the Quorum of the Twelve and appointed [p.394]commissioner of education, president of the Utah Historical Society, and director of the Genealogical Society. In addition he was elected to the Victoria Institute in England, an honor received by only one other Mormon scholar—James E. Talmage.
Widtsoe’s sermons stressed the search for truth: “The doctrine of the Church cannot be fully understood unless it is tested by mind and feelings, by intellect and emotions, by every power of the investigator. Every Church member is expected to understand the doctrine of the Church intelligently. There is no place in the Church for blind adherence.”
“The essential thought must ever be that a man does not, except in his spiritual infancy, accept a statement merely because the Church or someone in authority declares it correct, but because, under mature examination, it is found to be true and right and worthwhile. Conversion must come from within.”
1935. After six years as president of the European Mission, Widtsoe served for several years as editor of the Improvement Era.
He wrote more than thirty books. His Church works include Joseph Smith as Scientist, Discourses of Brigham Young, Priesthood and Church Government, Evidences and Reconciliations, and his autobiography, In a Sunlit Land. Among his professional publications are Dry Farming Principles of Irrigation Practices, Arid Farming in Utah, and How the Desert Was Farmed.
His interest was “to help the common man”: “Hence have come teaching young people, taking the problems of the toiler, notably the farmer, and lifting all into a spiritual realm, hence my devotion to the spread of Gospel knowledge.”
1952. November 29: Died in Salt Lake City at age eighty; buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Cornwall, Rebecca Foster. “Susa Young Gates: The Thirteenth Apostle.” In Sister Saints, edited by Vicky Burgess-Olson Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1978.
Improvement Era, July 1948.
Pardoe, T. Earl. The Sons of Brigham. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Alumni Association, 1969.
Parkinson, Raymond Bramwell. “The Life and Educational Contributions of John Andrus Widtsoe.” Master’s thesis, University of Utah, 1955.
The Gospel in Principle and Practice: An Abstract or Conspectus of Readings. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965.
Widtsoe, John A. In a Sunlit Land: The Autobiography of John A. Widtsoe. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1952.
Wilkinson, Ernest L., and Skousen, W. Cleon. Brigham Young University: A School of Destiny. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1976.
1807. March 1: Born in Farmington, Connecticut. He married Phoebe W. Carter in 1837, and later wed Mary Ann Jackson (1846), Mary Caroline Barton (1846), Mary Meek Giles (1852), Clarissa Hardy (1852), Sarah E. Brown (1853), Emma Smith (1853), and Sarah Delight Stocking (1857). Two of his plural wives divorced him: Mary Jackson (1848) and Clarissa Hardy (1853).
He was the father of sixteen daughters and seventeen sons, including Apostle Abraham Owen Woodruff. He was a father-in-law of President Lorenzo Snow.
Wilford Woodruff recorded that he was involved in twenty-seven serious accidents during his lifetime, breaking every bone in his body except his spine and neck. He fell into a cauldron of scalding water, fell on his face from a barn beam, was gored by a bull, kicked in the stomach by an ox, nearly drowned in a river, split his instep with an ax, nearly froze to death, and was bitten by a mad dog.
1833. December 29: Wilford Woodruff attended a meeting in Richland, New York, where Zera Pulsipher proclaimed the restoration. “I thought it was what I had long been looking for. I could not feel it my duty to leeve the house without bearing witness to the truth before the people. I opened my eyes to see, my ears to hear, my heart to understand, and my doors to entertain him who had administered to us. Brother Pulsipher continued labouring with us for several days and on the 31th of December I with my Brother—Azmon Woodruff with two yong females which had been healed by the laying on of hands went forward in baptism.”
A Freewill Baptist minister and several of his congregation followed the next day, and on January 2, 1834, Elder Pulsipher established a branch, ordaining [p.397]Azmon Woodruff and the former minister elders, and Wilford Woodruff a teacher. “I truly felt that I could exclaim with the servant of God that it was better to be a door keeper in the house of God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
1834. April 1: Parley P. Pratt arrived in Richland to recruit members for Zion’s Camp. Ten days later Wilford Woodruff sold his sawmill and gristmill and moved to Kirtland, Ohio, where he and the rest of the camp began the two-thousand-mile march May 1.
December 31: Wilford Woodruff consecrated “myself together with all my properties and affects unto the Lord.” The inventory consisted of “One Due Bill payable in one year, One trunk and its contents principly books, Hat Boots and clothing, One Valiece, One english watch, One rifle and equpments, One sword, One pistol, Also Sundry articles, And Notes which are doubtful and uncertain”—total value $240.00.
1835. January 13: A priest, Woodruff began a two-year mission to Arkansas and Tennessee, where he was ordained an elder by Warren Parrish. During 1835 he “traveled 3,248 miles, baptized forty-three people, held one hundred seventy meetings, and organized three branches.”
1836. Ordained a seventy, he served a mission to the Eastern States and the Fox Islands (now Vinalhaven, off the coast of Maine.)
1840. As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Wilford Woodruff served on the mission to Great Britain. During an eight-month period in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, and Gloucestershire, he converted 1800 people, including a 600-member United Brethren congregation.
He later presided over the European (1844-1845) and Eastern States (1848-1850) missions.
[p.398]“Wilford the Faithful”
1838. Ordained an apostle in Missouri by Brigham Young while Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail.
1842. As business manager for the Nauvoo Times and Seasons, he was dubbed “Wilford the Faithful” by the Prophet.
1847. July 24: A member of the pioneer company, Wilford Woodruff viewed the Salt Lake Valley for the first time and wrote, “We gazed with wonder and admiration upon the vast rich fertile valley.”
1856. Appointed Church historian. Throughout his life Wilford Woodruff kept a detailed journal which has provided extensive records of the early history of the Church.
A Woodruff eulogizer, J. M. Tanner, said, “He loved to work. … To sweat, was a divine command, as much so as to pray.” Whenever he could escape his responsibilities, however, he went fishing in the Jordan River.
In 1895 President Woodruff recorded that since he had joined the Church he had traveled 172,369 miles, attended 7,655 meetings, including 75 semi-annual conferences and 344 quarterly conferences, given 3,526 discourses, confirmed 8,952 people, received 18,977 letters and written 11,519.
1877. Called to be the first president of the newly completed Saint George Temple, where it was revealed to him that work for the dead could be performed by persons not related. August 21, “I, Wilford Woodruff, went to the temple of the Lord this morning and was baptized for 100 persons who were dead,” including the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Napoleon Bonaparte, Christopher Columbus, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, and William Wordsworth. The only U.S. presidents excluded were Ulysses S. Grant (who was still alive), Martin Van Buren (who declined to intervene on behalf of Mormon losses in Missouri), and James Buchanan (who sent federal troops to Utah in 1857).
[p.399]As president of the Church, Woodruff presided over the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple on April 6, 1893.
President Woodruff changed the policy of “adoption,” whereby many individuals had sealed themselves to prominent Church leaders, in 1894. “When a man receives the endowments, adopt him to his father; not to Wilford Woodruff, nor to any other man outside the lineage of his fathers.”
Woodruff himself, according to the March 28, 1894, journal of Abraham H. Cannon, had previously had four hundred unmarried female ancestors sealed to him in a single day.
Fourth President of the Church
1889. April 7: Sustained as fourth president of the Church, with George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith as counselors. Wilford Woodruff had served as president of the Quorum of the Twelve since 1880.
1890. September 25: “I have arrived at a point in the history of my life as the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” he wrote, “where I am under the necessity of acting for the temporal salvation of the Church. The United States government has taken a stand and passed laws to destroy the Latter-day Saints on the subject of polygamy, or patriarchal order of marriage; and after praying to the Lord and feeling inspired, I have issued the … proclamation [Wilford Woodruff Manifesto] which is sustained by my counselors and the twelve apostles.”
The Church had been disincorporated and all its property in excess of $50,000 confiscated by the federal government; more than a thousand men had been sentenced to prison for unlawful cohabitation. In February the Supreme Court had upheld the Idaho law which disfranchised anyone unwilling to take an oath denouncing plural marriage.
1891. October 19: Church leaders hoped that the manifesto would unlock the door to statehood for Utah and provide relief from federal legislation. But testifying before the [p.400]Master in Chancery for the return of escheated Church property, President Woodruff extended the Manifesto beyond its original intent. When asked if the Manifesto prohibited “living or associating in plural marriage by those already in the status,” he replied, “I intended the proclamation to cover the whole ground—to obley the laws of the land entirely.”
He had been “placed in such a position on the witness stand,” he told the Twelve, “that he could not answer other than he did.” But according to Abraham H. Cannon, it had previously been agreed that “any man who deserts and neglects his wives or children because of the manifesto, should be handled on his fellowship. … Men must be careful to avoid exposing themselves to arrest or conviction for violations of the law, and yet they must not break their covenants with their wives.”
A few days later, President Woodruff reasoned with the Saints in northern Utah: “Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue—to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage with the laws of the nation against it and the opposition of sixty millions of people, and at the cost of the confiscation and loss of all the Temples, and the stopping of all the ordinances therein, both for the living and the dead, and the imprisonment of the First Presidency and Twelve and the head of families in the Church, and the confiscation of personal property of the people … or after doing and suffering what we have through our adherence to this principle to cease the practice and submit to the law …?
“The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it … all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church, and we should have been compelled to stop the practice.”
For thirteen years the Manifesto was frequently interpreted as an inspired expedient. Though some, like Lorenzo Snow, ceased living with their plural wives, most continued to violate the unlawful cohabitation statute, and, until 1904, hundreds of new plural marriages were authorized in Mexico, Canada, and the United States.
[p.401]Political differences among leading Church officials induced President Woodruff and his counselors to issue a “political manifesto” which stipulated that “men called to spend all their time in the ministry shall not run into politics to the neglect of their spiritual calling without being properly released for that purpose.”
During the final two years of his administration Wilford Woodruff changed Fast Day from Thursdays to Sundays, ordained his son Abraham Owen Woodruff to the Quorum of the Twelve, became the first president of the Church to make a voice recording, and officiated at the Pioneer Jubilee celebration, dedicating the Brigham Young Monument on South Temple Street [Brigham Street] in Salt Lake City.
1898. Wilford Woodruff suffered from severe insomnia in his later years because of asthma. Occasionally he traveled to the Pacific Coast, where he could sleep better. He died in San Francisco from asthmatic complications at the age of ninety-one on September 2. Buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Cowley, Matthias F. Wilford Woodruff. Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1909.
Jenson, Andrews. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. 4 vols. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Company, 1901-1936.
Knight, Newell. Journal. Cited in Pearl Wilcox, The Latter Day Saints on the Missouri Frontier. Independence, Missouri: By the Author, 1972.
Quinn, D. Michael. “Organizational Development and Social Origins of the Mormon Hierarchy, 1832-1932: A Prosopographical Study.” Master’s thesis, University of Utah, 1973.
Salt Lake City, Utah. LDS Church Archives. Abraham H. Cannon Journal, 28 March 1894.
_____. Wilford Woodruff Journal.
West, Emerson R. Profiles of the Presidents. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1973.