- Born March 1, 1807
- Baptized December 31, 1833
- Ordained Priest in 1834
- Received Melchizedek Priesthood and ordained Elder
- Mission to Tennessee and Arkansas
- Ordained Seventy 1837
- First Quorum of Seventy 1837-1838
- Ordained Apostle; Quorum of the Twelve 1839-1889
- President of the Quorum of the Twelve, 1880-1889
- President of the Church, 1889-1898
- Issued Manifesto suspending Plural Marriage 1890
- Dedicated Salt Lake Temple 1893
- Died September 2, 1898
Wilford Woodruff was the
Fourth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He
was born March 1, 1807 in Farmington, Hartford County, Connecticut, one
of eight sons and one daughter born to Apheck Woodruff and his wife, Beulah
Thompson Woodruff. By trade, he followed his father and became a miller
and later a farmer. Wilford became interested in religion at an early age
and spent many hours in study and prayer. Living in Richland, Oswego County,
New York, he was visited by two Elders who were tracting the area. The
Gospel's message resonated with Wilford, and after attending a meeting
that night he was baptized December 31, 1833. By April of the following
year, he was in Kirtland where he met the Prophet Joseph
Smith for the first time.
Scarcely had he arrived in Kirtland when he was recruited
to serve in Zion's Camp, a military company called to help the Saints who
had been driven from their homes in Missouri, which he did with honor.
Arriving back in Kirtland, he was ordained a Priest and called to a mission
in which he labored in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky. [On April 4,
1835 he wa ordained an elder by Warren Parrish,
near Memphis, Tennessee. Then on April 21, 1836, while on his mission learned
from David W. Patten that he has been
called to membership in the Second Quorum of Seventy. Scarcely a month
later on May 31, he was actually ordained a seventy by D. W. Patten and
Warren Parrish. He became a General Authority as he was called and ordained
to First Quorum of Seventy at Kirtland, taking his place January 3, 1837.
It is interesting that President Woodruff does not appear on the lists
of the First Quorum of the Seventy but the call is unequivocably mentioned
in the frontispiece of his Journal of Discourses.]
Another mission sent him to the Fox Islands off the
coast of Maine. His mission there was ended when in 1838 he was called
to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It was, however, April 26, 1839 before
Young ordained him to the Apostleship replacing William
E. M'lellin, who had apostatized. Shortly after his ordination he began
the first of two missions to England where he enjoyed considerable success.
Wilford Woodruff escaped numerous accidents and assaults
by demonic powers. On one occasion he was assaulted by an evil spirit that
almost choked him to death. He was freed by "three personages dressed in
white." He also suffered at divers times broken bones in his arms and legs.
He split his foot with an ax, was bitten by a rabid dog, and was
pinned under and crushed by falling trees. He suffered from blood poisoning
occasioned while skinning an ox that had been killed with poison. He survived
a train wreck, He was nearly drowned, was frozen and scalded. Truly the
hand of the Lord is visible in preserving Wilford's life.
An inveterate writer and diarist, Wilford Woodruff's
journals are invaluable to the historian of the early days of the restoration.
He served many years as historian and clerk to the Council
of the Twelve. He was appointed to the Council of Fifty.
Wilford Woodruff was a member of the Pioneer Company
of Saints who arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake on July 24,
1847. He served in the Utah Territorial Legislature for twenty-two years.
With the death of death of President Brigham Young
in 1877, the Quorum of the Twelve assumed the leadership of the Church
with John Taylor as President of the Quorum. When, three years later in
1880, President John Taylor became President
of the Church, Wilford Woodruff became President of the Twelve.
When John Taylor died in 1887, Wilford Woodruff began
a two year period during which he led the Church as President of the Quorum
of the Twelve. At the April Conference of 1889, Wilford Woodruff was sustained
as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It was a crucial period of Church history. The Saints
were being prosecuted severely because of Plural Marriage. Indeed, John
Taylor had died while in hiding or "exile" from federal officers. President
Woodruff himself was in seclusion. President Woodruff "wrestled mightily
with the Lord" before receiving a vision showing the consequences of preserving
Plural Marriage. On September 24, 1890, he issued the famous "Manifesto"
which announced the end of Plural Marriage as a practice of the Church.
The general conference of 6 October 1890 was an emotionally charged and
dramatic event. For years, Church authorities had publicly and privately
expressed the conviction that the Latter-day Saints would not vote to sustain
a document like the Manifesto, and George Q. Cannon’s diary indicated that
President Woodruff was afraid they would not do so today.
To prepare the way, he had them first sustain officially
the familiar Articles of Faith, written by Joseph Smith, with its now particularly
significant twelfth article that previously had been honored more in the
breach than the observance: "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents,
rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law."
As the Manifesto was next read to the capacity crowd in the Salt Lake Tabernacle,
tears streamed down Wilford Woodruff’s cheeks, nearly everyone in the audience
wept, and the women "seemed to feel worse than the brethren."
President Woodruff was privileged to dedicate the
Salt Lake Temple in 1893. The great expenses of the federal persecution
and the building of the temple combined in 1893 to place the Church's
finances in extreme jeopardy. It was while laboring under the yoke of the
Church's debt and destitution that President Woodruff died on September
Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p.20 (principal source)
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.4, WOODRUFF, WILFORD
Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.235
Lawrence R. Flake, Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation, p.43
2005 Church Almanac, p.53
Selected Discourses and Writings
Proclamation to the Nations
Note: Issued by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, apparently in conformity to the revelation given in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 124; verses 1-11, this writing was, however, neither authored nor issued by Joseph Smith. Rather, it seems to have been penned by Elder Wilford Woodruff, and issued by the Twelve.
22 October 1845
Blessings. Trials, and Obedience
Note: This is the earliest address by Elder Wilford Woodruff that the Grampa has been able to locate. It was delivered in the Bowery in what was then called Great Salt Lake City. The occasion seems to be the return of numerous missionaries from the eastern states, Canada, and Europe.
Great Salt Lake City
27 September 1857
Dealings of God with Man
Note: This discourse was delivered by President Wilford Woodruff on 7 April 1889 immediately after the Solemn Assembly of the 59th Annual General Conference had sustained him as President of the Church. He had, of course, by this time, already led the Church for two years as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
The Great Mormon Tabernacle
7 April 1889
The Maifesto: Presentation and Commentary
Note: President Wilford Woodruff is, perhaps, best known as the Prophet who issued the Manifesto (Also known as Official Declaration -1) Presiding Bishop Newell K. Whitney read the Manifesto to the 61st Semiannual General Conference of the Church. Then Lorenzo Snow, Second Counslor in the First Presidency, moved that the Conference accept it "as authoritative and binding." The motion was carried unanimously.
President George Q. Cannon, First Counselor in the First Presidency and President Wilford Woodruff then addressed the Saints on the matter. Both of their addresses are presented here.
The Great Mormon Tabernacle
6 October 1890
A Grand Slam
Note: Yup; it's a four-bagger! At the 68th Annual General Conference, President Wilford Woodruff delivered four discourses, remarkable for their power and intensity. They would be the last he ever delivered in a General Conference setting as he died five months later. Here, then, are the four. Look for historical insights, the power of his testimony, and spiritual gems strewn along the way!
The Great Mormon Tabernacle
6-10 April 1898