- Born 1789 Conway, Franklin Co., Massachusetts
- Married Deborah Wing 1816; eleven children
- Baptized 1831
- Zion's Camp 1834
- Ordained a Seventy and Set Apart to First Quorum
- As a High Priest called to preside over a branch
of the Church 1844
- Died 1860 Moroni, Sanpete County, Utah
Levi Gifford was born August 15, 1789 in Conway, Franklin County, Massachusetts, one of nine children born to Noah Gifford and his wife Mary Bowerman. By 1816 Levi was in New York where he met and married Deborah Wing. Deborah and Levi would give birth to eleven children.
Levi was baptized in 1831. He was the brother of Alpheus Gifford
who baptized Heber C. Kimball. Levi,
himself baptized Eleazar Miller, who, in turn baptized Brigham
Young. Miller wrote of the occasion:
"The following May, Elder Levi Gifford came into the
neighborhood, and desired to preach. My brother, John, belonged to the
Methodist church, and had charge of their meeting house which was in the
neighborhood. I obtained from him permission for Elder Gifford to preach
in it. The appointment was circulated for a meeting the same evening.
This was on Saturday evening, and the circuit preacher
of that district was to hold a meeting there on Sunday. Elder Midbury,
the circuit preacher, attended the meeting. The house was crowded. As soon
as Elder Gifford had concluded his discourse, Elder Midbury arose to his
feet and said: 'Brethren, sisters and friends: I have been a preacher of
the gospel for twenty-two years; I do not know that I have been the means
of converting a sinner, or reclaiming a poor backslider; but this I do
know, that the doctrine the stranger has preached to us to-night is a deception,
that Joe Smith is a false prophet, and
that the Book of Mormon is from hell.'
After talking awhile in this strain, he concluded.
I immediately arose to my feet and asked the privilege of speaking, which
was granted. I said that Elder Midbury, in his remarks, entirely ignored
the possibility of more revelation, and acknowledged that he had been a
preacher of the gospel for twenty-two years, without knowing that he had
been the means of converting a sinner, or of reclaiming a poor backslider.
But still he claimed to know that the doctrine he had just heard was false,
that Joseph Smith was an impostor, and that the Book of Mormon was from
hell. 'Now, how is it possible,' I asked, 'for him to know these things
unless he has received a revelation?'
When I sat down a strong man, by the name of Thompson,
who was well known in the neighborhood as a belligerent character, stepped
up to Elder Gifford and demanded the proofs of the authenticity of the
Book of Mormon.
Elder Gifford replied, 'I have said all I care about
'Then' said Mr. Thompson, 'we will take the privilege
of clothing you with a coat of tar and feathers, and riding you out of
town on a rail.'
In the meantime, four or five others of like character
came to the front.
Acting under the impulse of the moment—true to the
instincts of my nature to protect the weak against the strong, I stepped
between Elder Gifford and Mr. Thompson. Looking the latter in the eye,
I said, 'Mr. Thompson, you cannot lay your hand on this stranger to harm
a hair of his head, without you do it over my dead body.'
He replied by more threats of violence, which brought
my brother John to his feet.
With a voice and manner, that carried with it a power
greater than I had ever seen manifested in him before, and, I might say,
since, he commanded Mr. Thompson and party to take their seats. He continued,
'Gentlemen, if you offer to lay a hand on Mr. Gifford, you shall pass through
my hands, after which I think you will not want any more to-night.' Mr.
Thompson and party quieted down and then took their seats."
We also know that Levi Gifford participated in Zion's
Camp and apparently did so with honor and distinction, for the following
year, he was ordained a Seventy and called to serve in the First Quorum
of the Seventy, thus entering the ranks of the General Authorities.
Levi Gifford, like so many others, invested in the
Kirtland Safety Society, and we may assume that he lost that investment
when the Society collapsed. Nevertheless, Grampa Bill finds no evidence
that he ever turned against the Prophet during that trying time of destitution
He then emigrated to Missouri, though we have not
found records giving actual dates. It is likely that he emigrated with the Kirtland Camp, in which those who remained true to the Prophet, and more especially the Seventies, left Kirtland en masse for Zion.
On the twenty-ninth of January, 1839 he covenanted
to use his means and property to assist the destitute saints in their egress
from Missouri. By December of the same year, he is listed among those who
petitioned to Congress for redress of the losses suffered in the Misouri
persecutions. Specifically, Gifford states that he had lost a house and
suffered other damages totalling Five Hundred Dollars.
On October 8, 1844, Elder Gifford, by then a High
Priest, was called by Brigham Young
to preside over a branch (or district) of the Church. The program to which
he was called attempted to send a presiding High Priest to every Congressional
District in the United Staets, and to there build up a Stake of Zion. The
History of the Church does not record the location to which Elder Gifford
was sent. Nor do we know how long he remained in his assigned location
nor the circumstances under which he left.
Grampa Bill is indebted to Sister Carole Jensen, a third
great granddaughter for information concerning Elder Gifford's migration west.
It seems he migrated as part of Benjamin Hawkins Company, a company of some 142,
departing June 5, 1850 and arriving three months later on September 9, 1850. This was
fairly typical for the trip.
On March 4, 1860 Elder Gifford died at Moroni, Sanpete County, Utah. Deborah survived him by
seventeen years dying March 15, 1877 at Weston, Franklin County, Idaho.
Grampa Bill is also indebted to Sister Debbie Gifford,
a 2nd great granddaughter-in-law of Levi Gifford, who graciously provided
the picture on this page.
History of the Church; multiple citations, see index
Church Chronology; March 4, 1860; compiled by Andrew Jensen
Messenger and Advocate; Mar 1837; Warren Cowdery, ed.; p.476
Mormon Redress Petitions; p. 301
Times and Seasons, Vol.5, p.696
Four Faith Promoting Classics, Fragments of Experience,; p.33
The Ancestral File