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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : 5 Years in the Life of Wilford » 5 Years in the Life of Wilford

5 Years in the Life of Wilford

Guest - July 28, 2009

Submitted by Jonathan Stapley

Wilford Woodruff kept an incredible diary — a treasure of the Restoration. [1] Really. He also had the delightful habit of making a summary of each year. I’ve taken summaries from five years of his life, each from a different period of the Church. Sometimes these summaries are in table format, others in narrative. What follows are an approximate representation…and sometimes there are some fun nuggets nestled in the texts, so read carefully:

Pre-Nauvoo (1830-1839)
IN 1836 I traveled 6,557 miles, held 153 meeting attended 4 conferences held 4 debates and Baptized 27 persons Ordained 2 Elders 3 Priest 1 Teacher and 2 Deacons, Blest 19 Children. 4 persons were healed under my hands in the name of JESUS CHRIST. I Procured 22 Subscribers for the M & Ad & $70 for the same. Also Procured $91 for building the house of the LORD in Kirtland. Wrote 34 letters & received 7 letters. I had 3 mobs rise against me.

Nauvoo (1839-1846)

Travelled Ten thousand & fifty miles 10,050 Miles
Held 53 Meetings
Attended 10 Conferens
Attended with the quorum of the Twelve 12 Councils
Attended with Joseph & Hiram Smith the prophet And Patriarch & quorum of the Twelve & other Brethren in the affairs of the kingdom of God 13 Councils
The Twelve in recieving our endowment 21 Councils
Was Baptized for dead friends 19 Persons
Baptized for the dead (P.W.W) 5 Persons
Baptized for the remission of sins 6 Persons
Ordained 1 Patriarch
" 3 High Priest
" 25 Elders
" 9 Priest
" 3 Teachers
" 2 Deacons
Confirmed 42 Persons
Blessed 6 Children
Married two coup 2 Couple
Administered to the sick 24 persons
Reported and recorded in my Journal The sermons of the Prophet Joseph Smith 11 sermons
Wrote 65 Letters
Received 11 Letters
Reported & recorded in my Journal Seventeen discourses from the Twelve &c 17 Sermons
Procured 10 subscribers for T & S & N N & 10 for N.Y. Prophet Total 20 Subscribers

The Exodus (1846-1847)

I Travelled 2,619 Miles
The above distance was mostly from Council Bluffs across the Rocky mountains to the great salt lake, great Bason, North America And back again.

I attended with the Twelve 56 Councils
With the High Council 15 Councils
I Preached to the Saints 33 times
I Baptized 3 Persons
I Confirmed 122 Persons
I Ordained 1 Bishop
Of the Quorum of Seventies 1
I Blessed 12 Children
I Administered unto 30 Sick Persons
I Wrote 14 Letters
I Received 6 Letters

Early Utah (1848-1890: pre-manifesto)

I travelled 2,172 Miles
I Attended 200 Meetings
I Preached 83 Discourses 83 discours
I Attended 2 general Conferences 2 Conferences
I Attended Prayer Circles with Presidency & 12 22 Meeting
I Attended Prayer Circle with W.W. Quorum 21 Meeting
Met In Council with Presidency & Twelve 5 Meetings
Met with the school of the Prophets 36 days
I Assisted in the organization of the school of the Prophets 2
I Attended 3 High Councils 3 H. Councils
I Baptized 2 Persons 2 Baptized
I Assisted in Confirming 226 Confirmed
Assisted in Blessing 219 Missionaries 219 Missionaries
I Attended 10 Funerals 10 Funerals
I Reported 12 Sermons 12 Sermons
I spent 14 days in the Endowment House 14
Assisted in giving Endowments to 861 Persons
I sealed at the Altar 305 Couple 305 Couple
I was Baptized for 32 Dead Friends 32 Dead
W Woodruff & Phebe W Woodruff sealed for 14 Couple
W. Woodruff & Phebe A. W. Snow sealed for 11 Couple
Assisted in ordaining 11 High Priest
& 12 High Council
Attended the dedication of 4 Meeting 4 Houses
Assisted in organizing one stake of 1 Zion
Administered unto 25 sick 25 sick
Wrote 66 Letters
Recieved 33 Letters
Blessed 3 Children

Post-manifesto (1891-1898)

I Travelled 1,843 Miles.

I wrote 82 Letters. Received 69 Letters.

I Attended 40 Meetings & 14 Conferences.

I met 30 times with the Board of Zions saving Bank.

I met 28 times with the board of Z.C.M.I.

Preached 21 Discourses. Administered to 7 sick.

I Attended 32 Councils with the Twelve Apostles.

I Ordained 1 Patriarch.

I was gone South to St George.

I had 170 persons Adopted to me & 36 sealing at the Altar.

I also had 36 of my relatives Adopted to Joseph Smith the Prophet.

I Attended 8 funerals.

I signed 47 Recommends for 2.

I Paid in 1892 $2,000 on Salt Lake Temple & $1,000 tithing.

I spend a good Deal of time in the Temple and labor hard to get it Prepard for Dedication By the 6 of April next.

I have spent this year mostly in the office Attending to the numerous Call of the Latter Day Saints which are vary numerous.

I have signed all the drafts sent abroad by Z.C.MI Also the drafts of the Church.

  1. The massive corpus is available as a typescript. Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833-1898, typescript, edited by Scott G. Kenney, 9 vols. (Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1983-85). All the excerpts in this post were taken from the electronic version of these volumes, available on the New Mormon Studies CD-ROM


  1. Blessed …Children

    No Count, maybe he wrote it down and never got around to adding them up?

    Comment by Matt W. — July 28, 2009 @ 7:09 am

  2. How interesting. I love that he kept track of how many letters he sent and received.

    Comment by Susan M — July 28, 2009 @ 8:20 am

  3. The amount of energy that the man had just boggles my mind. It would be a real task to try and keep up with him.

    Who is “Phebe A. W. Snow”?

    And all those adoptions. Since I don’t normally follow discussions on those adoptions, I’ll have to ask whether any temporal responsibility was assumed for adoptees?

    Comment by Researcher — July 28, 2009 @ 8:32 am

  4. Alas! He blessed 3 children that year. Also the last year is 1892.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 28, 2009 @ 8:32 am

  5. My favorite part is in Pre-Nauvoo section. After recounting such a routine thing as “[w]rote 34 letters & received 7 letters,” he adds almost offhandedly, “I had 3 mobs rise against me.” Ha!

    Believe me, if I had any mobs rise against me, it would have been recorded at the beginning of the paragraph, and in ALL CAPS. Oh my.

    Comment by Hunter — July 28, 2009 @ 8:35 am

  6. Researcher, it was Phebe [Phoebe] Amelia, his daughter by Phebe Whittemore Carter, and wife of Lorenzo Snow.

    Ritual Adoption is sort of a complex topic. Sam and I are writing a new history of it, but there is an introduction written by Irving in BYU Studies (1974), entitled, “The Law of Adoption: One Phase of the Development of the Mormon Concept of Salvation.” You may have heard old stories about folks in the 19th century being sealed to a church leader instead of their ancestors – this is adoption.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 28, 2009 @ 8:43 am

  7. Re: Adoption, a very brief explanation of adoption is in the Teaching of the Presidents: Wilford Woodruff manual as well.

    It says:

    Reaffirming the Eternal Nature of the Family

    About three months before the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred, he delivered a discourse to a large assembly of Saints. Elder Wilford Woodruff, who recorded a synopsis of the discourse, said that the Prophet spoke on “one of the most important and interesting subjects ever presented to the Saints.” 44 As part of this sermon, the Prophet testified of the eternal nature of families. He spoke of the need to be sealed to our parents and to continue that sealing ordinance throughout our generations:

    “This is the spirit of Elijah, that we redeem our dead and connect ourselves with our fathers which are in heaven and seal up our dead to come forth in the first resurrection, and here we want the power of Elijah to seal those who dwell on earth to those which dwell in heaven. … Go and seal on earth your sons and daughters unto yourself and yourself unto your fathers in eternal glory.” 45

    For the next few decades, the Latter-day Saints knew that there was to be “a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children” (D&C 128:18). However, their procedures were not completely set in order; as President Woodruff observed, the Prophet Joseph had not lived long enough to “enter any further upon these things.” 46 Acting according to “all the light and knowledge [they] had,” 47 they often had themselves sealed, or “adopted,” to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, or other Church leaders of their day rather than to their own fathers and mothers. As President of the Church, President Woodruff referred to this practice, saying: “We have not fully carried out those principles in fulfillment of the revelations of God to us, in sealing the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers. I have not felt satisfied, neither did President [John] Taylor, neither has any man since the Prophet Joseph who has attended to the ordinance of adoption in the temples of our God. We have felt that there was more to be revealed upon this subject than we had received.” 48

    That additional revelation came to President Woodruff on April 5, 1894. 49 Three days later, in a general conference address, he told of the revelation: “When I went before the Lord to know who I should be adopted to … , the Spirit of God said to me, ‘Have you not a father, who begot you?’ ‘Yes, I have.’ ‘Then why not honor him? Why not be adopted to him?’ ‘Yes,’ says I, ‘that is right.’ I was adopted to my father, and should have had my father sealed to his father, and so on back; and the duty that I want every man who presides over a temple to see performed from this day henceforth and forever, unless the Lord Almighty commands otherwise, is, let every man be adopted to his father. … That is the will of God to this people. I want all men who preside over these temples in these mountains of Israel to bear this in mind. What business have I to take away the rights of the lineage of any man? What right has any man to do this? No; I say let every man be adopted to his father; and then you will do exactly what God said when he declared He would send Elijah the prophet in the last days [see Malachi 4:5–6]. …

    “We want the Latter-day Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it. …

    “Brethren and sisters, lay these things to heart. Let us go on with our records, fill them up righteously before the Lord, and carry out this principle, and the blessings of God will attend us, and those who are redeemed will bless us in days to come. I pray God that as a people our eyes may be opened to see, our ears to hear, and our hearts to understand the great and mighty work that rests upon our shoulders, and that the God of heaven requires at our hands.” 50

    Comment by Matt W. — July 28, 2009 @ 11:16 am

  8. Wow, that was long. Sorry. If you want, almighty admins, replace it with this link.

    Comment by Matt W. — July 28, 2009 @ 11:17 am

  9. Wonderful, J. Now let’s see some graphs of Miles Traveled and Number of Babies Blessed vs. Year! ;)

    I’ve searched a bit, but I still don’t know what the W.W. Quorum is. (This post is already the 2nd Google hit.)

    Comment by Ben Pratt — July 28, 2009 @ 8:46 pm

  10. I imagine that it was the Wilford Woodruff Family Prayer Circle. Many of the leading patriarchs had Prayer Circle groups with presidents, secretaries, etc.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 29, 2009 @ 8:02 am

  11. Very cool, J. The end of year summaries in WW’s journal have long been among my favorite entries.

    Comment by Christopher — July 29, 2009 @ 8:19 am

  12. Thank you for the information on adoptions, J. and Matt W.

    I guess I was wondering how comparable the early practice was to the practice of families in other religious traditions selecting godparents for their infants at baptism. Sometimes additional responsibilities besides strictly religious ones were also assumed. If I understand correctly, for example, agreeing to be a godparent in some cultures could mean that an adult was willing to serve as legal guardian of the child if the need arose.

    I found the article J. cited here and will be very interested to read it when I have a minute. Thanks!

    Comment by Researcher — July 29, 2009 @ 8:59 am

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