Grampa Bill's General Authority Pages
Levi Gifford Levi Gifford

1789 - 1860

  • 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 1835
  • 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 saying to-night.'

   '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 and apostasy.

    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

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