Researching Wilkins Jenkins Salisbury, a brother-in-law
of the Prophet, is a frustrating and ultimately dissatisfying quest. He
was born in 1809 or maybe it was 1813 on the sixth day of January or was
it June? The birth took place in Lebanon, New York, or was it Lebanon,
New Hampshire, or perhaps Rushton, New York? The original records, wherever
they might be must abound with ambiguity for the several researchers
are unable to agree on the nativity of Brother Salisbury. It s known that
he practiced the occupation of a blacksmith.
Jenkins Salisbury must have joined the Church at
a very early date, Perhaps through the teaching of William B. Smith, who he knew from his early youth. It is known that he married
Catherine Smith, sister of the Prophet Joseph
Smith on January 8, 1831. Whether his baptism predated his marriage
is not known. The union would produce eight children.
Jenkins Salisbury was ordained a High Priest and
called to a mission to the east on March 12, 1833. On December 12 of the
same year, he was called to a Bishop's court to answer complaints. However
the complainant not being present, the charges were dismissed. It would
not be the last time Jenkins would face a disciplinary council.
Returning to Kirtland, in 1834 he joined the Prophet
and some two hundred others on Zion's Camp, a relief expedition intended
to succor the victims of the Missouri persecutions. George Smith kept a
journal of the Camp's movements and leaves us with an incident involving
Jenkins Salisbury: "During the day being very much fatigued with carrying
my musket I put it into the baggage wagon, which was customary, and when
I arrived at camp in the evening my gun could not be found. This circumstance
was exceedingly mortifying to me and many of the brethren accused me of
carelessness and ridiculed me about losing my gun. Jenkins Salisbury took
the most pleasure in ridiculing me for my carelessness. I afterwards learned
on passing that way that my gun was pawned for whiskey by one of our company,
and have always believed that Jenkins Salisbury, who was very fond of the
good creature [whiskey] disposed of it in that way."
Nevertheless, Jenkins must have displayed a degree
of valor and faithfulness or have evidenced repentance for he was selected
to be ordained a Seventy and called to the First Quorum of the Seventy
in early 1835, an interesting ordination given that he had already been
ordained a High Priest.
However, in 1836 we read disquieting news of
Elder Salisbury in the History of the Church: "President Oliver
Cowdery having preferred, to the High Council, a charge of unchristianlike
conduct against Wilkins J. Salisbury, the Council assembled in the Lord's
House, when it was proved that he had so conducted himself as to bring
unnecessary persecution on me; that he had neglected his family, leaving
them without wood, without provisions, or telling them where he was going,
or when he would return; that he used strong drink and had been intimate
with other women.
Elder Salisbury confessed his propensity for tale-bearing,
and drinking strong liquor, but denied the other charges. The Council decided
that he could no longer be an Elder or member in the Church until there
was a thorough reformation."
It does not appear that Wilkins Jenkins Salisbury
ever rejoined the Church.
Following the martyrdom of the prophet, there was
a dispute concerning leadership of the Church. Jenkins' wife Catherine
seems to have taken no sides in the matter despite her brother William
B. Smith being a disputant. It is known that she remained in good standing
in the Church for she afterwards received her endowments in the Nauvoo
However when the saints headed west, Catherine was
persuaded by William to remain behind along with Emma, the prophet's wife,
and Lucy Mack Smith, his mother. Catherine was the last survivor of the
Prophet's siblings and died in 1900. Despite her estrangement with the
Church, she remained cordial with her Utah relatives over the years. Wilkins'
position in all this is not known.
Wilkins Jenkins Salisbury died November 27, 1853
in Plymouth, Illinois.