Q: Samuel Bent is mentioned in D&C 124:132. Who was this man that the Prophet Joseph trusted for his strict morality and honesty?
A: Samuel Bent was born in 1778 in Massachusetts. He was a respected member of the Presbyterian church. He moved from Massachusetts to New York and later to Pontiac, Michigan. Within a few months, Mormon elder, Jared Carter, was preaching in Pontiac.
In January 1833 Samuel was baptized and ordained an elder by Jared Carter, becoming the first man to join the Church and receive the priesthood in Pontiac. The day after his baptism he left on a mission to Huron, Michigan, where he organized a branch of the Church. Samuel joined Zion’s Camp with the Prophet Joseph, and served as a moderator or presiding officer. When the camp disbanded, Samuel was called to serve another mission.
After Samuel returned from this mission, he attended the School of the Prophets and was present at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. Samuel then moved to Liberty, Missouri, where he was a victim of religious mobocracy, being tied to a tree and whipped by a mob. When his wife Mary died, Samuel moved to Far West, Missouri, where he served in the Far West high council. Samuel was then imprisoned and confined in Richmond Jail for nearly three weeks. After being released on bail, Samuel left Missouri and traveled to Nauvoo, Illinois.
In 1841 the Prophet Joseph appointed Samuel by revelation to serve on the Nauvoo high council. Other assignments in Nauvoo soon followed as he served as a member of the Council of Fifty and colonel in the Nauvoo Legion. He served a mission in 1840 to Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio to collect needed funds for the printing of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and hymn books. In a signed affidavit, the Prophet and others wrote of their confidence in Samuel to care for the collected funds. They noted that Samuel Bent and George W. Harris were chosen for their “zeal for the cause of truth and their strict morality and honesty.’
In 1846, at the age of sixty-eight, Samuel died while serving as the presiding elder of the small encampment of pioneers located in Garden Grove, Iowa territory, while crossing the plains to Utah. When President Samuel Bent, passed away, his counselors, in a letter to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, described his passing as follows
Garden Grove is left without a president, and a large circle of relatives and friends are bereft of an affectionate companion and friend, and the Church has sustained the loss of an undeviating friend to truth and righteousness. The glory of his death is that he died in the full triumphs of faith and a knowledge of the truths of our holy religion, exhorting his friends to be faithful, having three days previous [to his death] received intimations of his approaching end by three holy messengers from on high. (Leland H. Gentry, “The Mormon Way Stations: Garden Grove and Mount Pisgah,’ BYU Studies, Fall 1981, Vol. 21, 453).