Question: Who was Daniel H. Wells? What role did he play after joining the Church in 1846?
Answer: Daniel H. Wells was born October 27, 1814, in Trenton, New York, a member of the sixth generation of his family in America. His original immigrant ancestor was Thomas Welles (1590–1659), who arrived in Massachusetts in 1635 and was the only man in Connecticut’s history to hold all four top offices: governor, deputy governor, treasurer, and secretary.
A few years after the death of his father in 1826, Daniel H. Wells left New York with his mother Catherine Chapin Wells and his younger sister Catherine C. Wells and moved to Illinois.
Wells arrived in Hancock County, Illinois, in 1835. He lived in Commerce, Illinois—later renamed Nauvoo—and was a major landowner and justice of the peace there prior to the arrival of large numbers of Latter Day Saints in 1839. The Nauvoo Temple was built on land he offered to Joseph Smith.
Battle of Nauvoo
Although not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Wells was considered friendly to and defended the Latter Day Saints. In Nauvoo, he served on the city council and as a judge. When mobs invaded Nauvoo after the assassination of church founder Joseph Smith in 1844, Wells defended the city and fought as a Lieutenant General of the Nauvoo Legion, and also provided shelter for evacuees.
Wells was not baptized into the LDS Church until August 9, 1846. He was baptized by Almon W. Babbitt. He emigrated to the Salt Lake Valley with the Mormon pioneers in June 1848 in Brigham Young’s Company.
Wells, respected for his integrity and loyal service, was elected Attorney General of the State of Deseret in 1849. When Jedediah M. Grant died in 1856, Wells was ordained an apostle of the LDS Church and set apart as Second Counselor to Brigham Young in the First Presidency of the church. Although serving as an apostle, Wells was never sustained as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. Upon Young’s death in 1877, Wells was sustained as a Counselor to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a position he held until his death.
On behalf of Brigham Young, Wells dedicated the St. George Temple on April 6, 1877. From 1888 to 1891, he was the first president of the Manti Utah Temple.
From 1848 until 1863, Wells was superintendent of public works for the LDS Church and presided over the continuing construction of the Salt Lake Temple (completed 1893) and the Salt Lake Tabernacle (completed 1867). When Wells was no longer in the position, the operation of the church’s public works program was placed under the supervision of the Presiding Bishopric.
In 1866, Wells was elected mayor of Salt Lake City as a member of the newly formed People’s Party; he was re-elected in both 1872 and 1874. In 1871, he was arrested by U.S. marshals on charges related to polygamy. Wells served twice as president of the European Mission of the LDS Church, first in 1864–65 and again in 1884–87.
Wells married Eliza Rebecca Robison in 1837 and with her had one son, Albert Emory Wells. His wife refused to accompany Wells to Utah in 1848 and later divorced him. Between 1849 and 1852, Wells married additional wives in polygamy. In 1852, Wells married the future Relief Society General President Emmeline B (Blanche Woodward) Wells. She bore him four children. Emmeline had lived in Nauvoo, where she lost her first child and was abandoned by her husband–all by the age of sixteen. Her second husband, Newel K. Whitney, with whom she had two children, died in 1850. She was a great supporter for women’s rights and pushed for the right for women to vote in Utah. On February 12, 1870, with Brigham Young’s backing, the Utah territorial legislature granted women the right to vote. She also was a strong supporter of polygamy, stating that it gave women more freedom to pursue their own talents and abilities.
The people of Salt Lake City elected Daniel H. Wells mayor for several years. Church members honored him as a counselor in the First Presidency for twenty years, and president of the Endowment House for nine. He presided over the European Mission twice and served as first president of the Manti Temple. Daniel H. Wells died March 24, 1891 in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, at age 76, and was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Source: Wikipedia; FamilySearch.org.; The Joseph Smith Papers, Wells, Daniel Hanmer; FindAGrave.