Q: Vinson Knight is mentioned in D&C 124:74–76, 141. Did Vinson Knight stay true to the Prophet Joseph Smith and to the Church?
A: Vinson Knight was born in 1804 in Massachusetts. He was the sixth cousin to Newel Knight, both having the same grandparents back in England in the 1600’s. He married Martha McBride in July 1826. They had a beautiful farm and a large frame home in Perrysburgh, New York.
Vinson’s life dramatically changed in March 1834 when two strangers, Joseph Smith and Parley P. Pratt, arrived at his home. Vinson and Martha listened to their message and were baptized soon after. Vinson then sold his farm and journeyed 135 miles to Kirtland, Ohio, to be with the Saints.
Vinson remained with the Saints in Kirtland and worked as a druggist. Vinson was told in his patriarchal blessing, “The Lord loves thee; he has looked upon all thy ways and brought thee thus far that He might make thee useful in His church…Thou art a chosen vessel unto the Lord, and if thou art faithful before Him, thou shalt be sanctified and enjoy a fulness of glory.’
Vinson was ordained an elder in 1836 and then a high priest and a counselor to Bishop Newel K. Whitney. He attended the School of the Prophets and the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. He had a charter membership in the Kirtland Safety Society. His defense of the Prophet was noted when an apostate declared he would throw Joseph Smith out of the temple. The Prophet turned to Vison and simply states, “Brother Knight, take this man out.’ Vinson caught the man by the legs and tossed him head downward over his shoulder and then carried him out of the building.
His loyalty to the Prophet was also manifest in Missouri. He traveled with Joseph to Far West in the fall of 1837 and was selected as acting bishop in Adam-ondi-Ahman in 1838. As religious persecution escalated, Vinson left his holding in Missouri, totaling ten thousand dollars. Vinson temporarily located at Quincy, Illinois, and in 1839 was appointed a Church agent, being authorized to purchase thousands of acres in Illinois and Iowa Territory on behalf of the Church. In May 1839 he was appointed to assume the full title of bishop. He served as bishop of the Lower Ward in Navuoo, and in January 1841 was designated Presiding Bishop of the Church.
In addition to his Church responsibilities, Vinson served on the Nauvoo City Council, as a member of the Nauvoo Agricultural and Manufacturing Association, and as a regent of the University of Nauvoo. He was also in the Nauvoo Legion. He reaffirmed his commitment to his mother in a letter in February 1842, but Vinson’s health began to fail. Joseph Smith penned on July 31, 1842, that “Brother Knight has been sick about a week, and this morning he began to sink very fast until twelve o-clock when death put a period to his sufferings.’
While speaking at his funeral, the Prophet Joseph declared, “There lies a man that has done more for me than my own brother would do.’ He is buried in the Old Nauvoo Burial Grounds.
Vinson was only thirty-eight years old when he passed away. He left Martha with their six living children. Her last baby son died just a month after his father. She had lost one baby son in Kirtland. In 1850 Martha went on to Utah with her remaining children and lived to be ninety-six years of age.