Grampa Bill's General Authority Pages
John A. (Andreas) Widtsoe

1872 - 1952

  • Born 1872 Daloe, Island of Frya, Norway
  • Baptized 1884
  • Immigrated to United States 1884
  • Married Leah Eudora Dunford 1898; seven children
  • Noted Author, Scientist, and Academician
  • Ordained Apostle and sustained to Twelve 1921-1952
  • Died 1952 Salt Lake City, Utah

    Adapted from LDS Biographical Encyclopedia
    John A. Widtsoe was a prominent Educator in the state of Utah and Elder in the Church, even before being called to serve in the Council of the Twelve. The resident of Logan, Cache county, Utah, was the son of John A. Widtsoe and Anna C. Gaatden, and was born Jan. 31, 1872, on the island of Frya, Trondhjem amt, Norway.

    He was baptized April 3,1884 by Elder Anthon L. Skanchy, and in 1884 he emigrated to Utah, together with his mother and younger brother, and located in Logan, Cache county. From the time he first became connected with the Church, he took an active part in its affairs, and was always a zealous worker in whatever capacity he has been called to serve.

    Brother Widtsoe was from early youth possessed of a keen desire for knowledge, and at an early age he became a student in the Brigham Young College at Logan, from which school he graduated in 1891. He then entered Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., and in 1894 graduated with the highest honors. During 1894-98 he gave instructions as professor of chemistry in the Agricultural College, Logan.

    Aug. 5, 1898, he was ordained to the office of a Seventy and set apart to do missionary work in connection with his studies in Europe. He entered the University of Goettingen, Germany, and after applying himself diligently to his studies he graduated from that institution, with the degrees of A. M. Ph.D. in 1899. Elder Widtsoe also made trips to Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and France in the interests of his studies while abroad.

    On his return to Utah, in 1900, he was made director of the experiment station of the State Agricultural College, Logan. His special branch of study was chemistry, and he earned a splendid record in that field. A number of his experiments and researches attracted the attention of many scientific men at some of the leading institutions of learning.

    Professor Widtsoe acted as director of the Utah Experiment Station from 1900 to 1905, director of the Department of Agriculture in the Brigham Young University at Provo from 1905 to 1907, president of the Utah Agricultural College from 1907 to 1916, and became president of the University of Utah in 1916. He organized and conducted the first farmers' institutes in the State of Utah, served as president of the International Dry Farming Congress at a session held at Lethbridge, Canada, and was chosen as an officer at various times of the Irrigation Congress. He was the senior member of the State Board of Education, was a member (and was for several years president) of the State Board of Horticulture, was a member of the Utah State Conservation Commission from the time of its organization, acted as chairman and member of the Utah Committee to Commemorate irrigation.

    During World War I he was a member of the Utah State Council of Defense, chairman of the Food Production Committee of Salt Lake City and of the Irrigation Committee of the Food Administration. Dr. Widtsoe contributed much to literature; thus he was the author of "Principles of Irrigation Practice," 'Concordance" to the Doctrine and Covenants (published in 1906), "Joseph Smith as a Scientist" (published in 1908), "Dry Farming" (published in 1911), and "Rational Theology" (published in 1915). He wrote several manuals and popular articles on gospel subjects, besides numerous technical and popular articles on scientific subjects, upwards of forty bulletins on irrigation, dry farming, soils, etc.

    In a Church capacity Dr. Widtsoe acted as secretary of a Priests quorum, counselor in the presidency of an Elders quorum, Stake secretary of Elders, member of a Stake Sunday school board, president of local Y. M. M. I. A., teacher, officer and superintendent of Ward Sunday schools and teacher and president of a Seventies quorum. For many years he acted as a member of the General Board of Y. M. M. I. A. Dr. Widtsoe ranked as one of Utah's foremost educators, and was one of the best informed Elders in the Church on doctrine and Church organization.

    On June 1, 1898 Elder Widtsoe married Leah Eudora Dunford (daughter of Alma Dunford and Susa Young), who was born Feb. 24, 1874, in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is a grand-daughter of President Brigham Young. Seven children were born to them, namely, Anna G., John Andreas, Karl Marcel, Mark Adriel, Helen, Mary and Leah Eudora.

    Elder Widsoe was called as President of the British Mission from 1927 to 1928. He was named one of the directors of the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1921,

    At the age of forty-nine, Elder Widsoe was Ordained an Apostle and set apart as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve on March 17, 1921 by President Heber J. Grant. He served with honor and distinction in that body bringing his academic and intellectual credentials along with a great spiritual depth and theological understanding.

    In 1939 Elder Widtsoe compiled and wrote Priesthood and Church Government under the direction of the First Presidency. This work was a compilation of statements and policies concerning the operating organization of the Church and the functioning of the Priesthood therein. For over a generation it was the most authoritative work available to the public and most priesthood bearers had a copy in their homes. It remains one of the all-time best sellers in the field of LDS publishing.

    Elder Widtsoe died November 20, 1952 at Salt Lake City, Utah. He was eighty years of age.

    Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p.768
    Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p.735
    Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.4, Appendix 1
    Lawrence R. Flake, Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation, p.453
    2005 Church Almanac, p.66

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