Question: Wilford Woodruff is mentioned in D&C 118:6; 124:129; 136:13; 138:53; Official Declaration–1. How many years did Wilford Woodruff keep a journal of the history of the church and many of its leaders? What is his connection with the Founding Fathers of the United States?
Answer: Wilford Woodruff was born 1 March 1807 in Farmington, Connecticut. Wilford’s youth was marred by several severe accidents, of which Wilford wrote that it seemed as if “some invisible power were watching my footsteps in search of an opportunity to destroy my life.”
In the winter of 1833, Wilford listened to the preaching of Zera Pulsipher, and the spirit bore witness of the truth of his teachings. When Wilford read the Book of Mormon, “the spirit bore witness that the record which it contained was true.” On 31 December 1833, Wilford was baptized by Zera Pulsipher. Not long after, Wilford made his way to Kirtland,Ohio, where on the 25 April 1834 he met the Prophet Joseph. When the Zion’s Camp march began a week or so later, Wilford was a part of it. From Missouri he went on a mission to the southern states. In 1836 he was back in Kirtland.
In 1837 Wilford left on a mission to the East to share the gospel with family and friends. On this mission he organized a branch of the Church at Fox Island before receiving word that he had been appointed to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He was ordained to that calling on 26 April 1839, at the age of thirty-two, at Far West, Missouri.
As an apostle, his first assignment was to fulfill a mission to England. Although ill and with only a dollar that Heber C. Kimball had given him, Wilford left the Nauvoo area for the East and then voyaged across the Atlantic Ocean. In about three months after arriving on British shores, Wilford had baptized over two hundred people. During the next eight months that number rose to eighteen hundred.
Upon returning to Nauvoo at Christmas time in 1841, Wilford visited with other Apostles in the Prophet’s home, where the Prophet Joseph showed him and others the Urim and Thummin. In 1844 he was again called on a mission to the east. While he was gone, the Prophet Joseph was martyred. Wilford returned to Nauvoo, and by the end of August, he made preparations to leave for yet another mission to England, where he served as the British Mission president. When he returned to the United States, the Saints had begun their exodus to Iowa Territory. He joined them and helped organize a company to cross the plains.
For the remaining decades of his life, Wilford played a vial role in the frontier settlements of the West. One of his many callings was to keep a journal of the history of the Church as well as the story of many of the leading men in the Church, which he did for sixty-three years. In 1877 he gave the dedicatory prayer at the St. George Temple and then he stayed there for a few years to preside over the temple.
While serving as the St. George Temple President, Wilford Woodruff recorded in his journal, “Everyone of those men that signed the Declaration of Independence, with General Washington, called upon me as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St. George, two consecutive nights, and demanded at my hands that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the House of God for them.” He also recorded the names of prominent women and Native Americans that also visited him and requested their work to be completed for them.
In 1879 religious persecution against plural marriage caused Wilford to go into exile. At the death of President Taylor, Wilford became the president of the Church. He was sustained at the April conference in 1889.
On 6 October 1890, President Wilford Woodruff had the Manifesto, abolishing plural marriage in the Church, presented to the assembled Saints in the Tabernacle. During his presidency, the Salt Lake Temple was dedicated, and Utah became a state. President Woodruff died 2 September 1898 at age ninety-one, in San Francisco, California.
He was buried in the Salt Lake City Cementary.
Wilford Woodruff’s Journal Entry
“Two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.”
“Everyone of those men that signed the Declaration of Independence, with General Washington, called upon me as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St. George, two consecutive nights, and demanded at my hands that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the House of God for them.
“I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McCallister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others. When Brother McAllister had baptized me for the 100 names I baptized him for 21, including General Washington and his forefathers and all the Presidents of the United States–except three. Sister Lucy Bigelow Young went forth into the font and was baptized for Martha Washington and her family and 70 of the ’eminent women’ of the world.
“In the April 1898 General Conference, President Woodruff again recalled this sacred experience: ‘I am going to bear my testimony to this assembly, if I never do it again in my life, that those men who laid the foundation of this were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits, not wicked men. General Washington and all the men that labored for American government and signed the Declaration of Independence the purpose were inspired of the Lord. Another thing I am going to say here, because I have a right to say it. Everyone of those men that signed the Declaration of Independence, with General Washington, called upon me, as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St. George, two consecutive nights, and demanded at my hands that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the House of God for them. Men are here, I believe, that know of this, Brother J. D. T. McAllister, David H. Cannon and James S. Bleak. Brother McAllister baptized me for all those men, and then I told these brethren that it was their duty to go into the Temple and labor until they had got endowments for all of them. They did it. Would those spirits have called up on me, as an Elder in Israel to perform that work if they had not been noble spirits before God? They would not.’
“On the night of March 19th, 1894, he [Wilford Woodruff] had a dream which followed his meditations upon the future life and the work that he had done for the dead. In his dream there appeared to him Benjamin Franklin for whom he had performed important ceremonies in the House of God. This distinguished patriot, according to his dream, sought further blessings in the Temple of God at the hands of his benefactor. President Woodruff wrote: “I spent some time with him and we talked over our Temple ordinances which had been administered for Franklin and others. He wanted more work done for him than had already been done. I promised him it should be done. I awoke and then made up my mind to receive further blessings for Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.” The appearance, therefore, in his dream of Franklin was to him a satisfying conclusion that he had at least received joyfully the blessings that came to him from the ordinances of the Lord’s House.” (Source)