1831

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Elizabeth Ann Whitney on her History with the Mormons

 

To those who may read this simple history of the private life of an individual, I would say before entering upon any details, or portraying incidents, can you understand, my kind readers, what it is to be truly, emphatically and, undeniably old?

To have the whole landscape of your past life spread out to view; to trace in and out, through the weary winding ways, watch where the shadows fell and darkened; to catch sometimes the dawn of unbroken light, to rest after all, to feel you have become unequal to the contest of life's struggles, save as faith sustains you; to wait patiently, with a strong and ever-growing trust and perfect security, relying upon the promises of Him "Who sees not as we see."

To feel you have acquired a little insight into the purposes of God in your creation; with a firm hope and an unswerving faith in the recompense of a fullness of glory through obedience, more complete than any earthly power can give; to rest contented, waiting His time? Can you realize that these things are worth living for, worth suffering for? Can any sacrifice be too great through which we are called to pass, if we would follow in our Master's footprints?

In looking back over the years that are past, and recalling vividly the incidents of my earliest days, tracing the dim outlines of the years now vanished, ere the powers of life are too enfeebled, I feel attracted to sit down and delineate some of its most intricate mysteries, without any effort to embody myself as a heroine, but clearly to give a concise account of my unpretentious life; beginning with its morning, representing myself truthfully, as I have lived, through three-quarters of a century, having seen many of my contemporaries and some of my dearest friends pass out of sight. In looking back, if there are any principles which have given me strength, and by which I have learned to live more truly a life of usefulness, it seems to me I could wish to impart this joy and strength to others; to tell them what the gospel has been and is to me, ever since I embraced it and learned to live by its laws. A fresh revelation of the Spirit day by day, and an unveiling of mysteries which before were dark, deep, unexplained and incomprehensible; a most implicit faith in a divine power, in infinite truth emanating from God the Father, the fountain from which we must never depart into labyrinths of our own, or other's seeking, if we mean to conquer as individuals.

Our own little histories are replete with this occasional darkness, which has been left unexplained, through misunderstandings, discord and wrongs unrighted, and which we learn to endure through much forbearance and forgiveness of injuries.

Human character is not immutable, but capable of perfecting to an infinite growth; do we not need, in such a world, faith in God-a hope for man that has its foundation in the principles of eternal truth?

After having made this preface to my short narrative, I will introduce myself to the readers of the Exponent, by telling them I was born in the first year of the 19th century, (and must confess myself as being proud of my Yankee origin,) in one of the quaintest and most primitive little villages near the seashore opposite Long Island, in the state of Connecticut, ten miles only from the beautiful city of New Haven. The family from which I was descended, ranked as one of the oldest in the country.

I was the eldest child, and grew up in an atmosphere of love and tenderness. I received all the advantages of education, such as young ladies usually enjoyed at that time, and was taught dancing among other things, which, in the religious world in that day, was not considered orthodox. My parents were not members of any church, and they wished me to enjoy life, and thought dancing added grace and easiness to one's manner.

My father had no sympathy with any of the priests of the day, although he was honest, moral and upright in all his acts. In looking back over the long vista of years which have intervened since that time, there is nothing connected with my childhood and early girlhood upon which I dwell with more satisfaction than the companionship of my father. My mother was of a delicate, nervous temperament, and with household duties and younger children to occupy her, she allowed me to choose my own society, and I clung more closely to my father. Shortly after I became of age a new era of my life opened, and the whole current of my fortune changed. I was separated from my parents, and through a complication of circumstances which followed, was debarred from ever seeing my mother again.

A maiden aunt of mine, very independent and self-reliant, concluded to go to Ohio and make a home. It was then a new country, comparatively, and to undertake so long a journey was almost as remarkable then as to go round the world would be now. She entreated my parents to allow me to go with her, and after much interceding and many promises they at last consented, realizing that she would be faithful in her office as guardian and protector, and knew her to be competent to act for herself and her niece, and as she had property at her own disposal, felt I would be well off and should gain a new experience and see something of the world.

The journey was particularly pleasant, the scenery upon the way was a rich feast to me, who had never been far from home; New Haven and the seashore were to my mind beautiful indeed, but traveling over this wonderful country was like the land of enchantment.

We settled a few miles inland from Lake Erie; the country was new and wild, which added to its picturesqueness, and I was happy in my new home and surroundings. My beloved aunt was a true and affectionate friend to me, and had great influence over me in molding my character and developing my strongest attributes. We were sincerely attached to each other, and no young girl ever had a wiser or more judicious guardian than was this maiden aunt to me. My father made up his mind to come west, but circumstances not proving propitious, and my mother not desiring to change her residence, they concluded to remain at the homestead.

There is little occasion to dwell long upon the incidents which subsequently transpired previous to my becoming acquainted with one who afterwards became my husband [Newel K. Whitney]. Suffice it to say he was a young man, and had come out West to "seek his fortune." He had thrift and energy, and he accumulated property faster than most of his companions and associates. Indeed, he became proverbial as being lucky in all his undertakings. He had been trading at Green Bay, buying furs and skins from the Indians and trappers, for the Eastern market, exchanging them for goods suitable for the wants of the people in that locality. In his travels to and from New York he passed through the country where we resided, and "we met by chance," became attached to each other, and my aunt granting her full approval, we were married after a courtship of reasonable length, as in those days girls were not allowed to marry without the lover paying court for a certain length of time. Yet ours was strictly a marriage of affection. Our tastes, our feelings were congenial, and we were really a happy couple, with bright prospects in store. Our marriage was looked upon by our relatives and friends, according to the old Yankee phrase, as highly proper and decidedly respectable.

We prospered in all our efforts to accumulate wealth, so much so, that among our friends it came to be remarked that nothing of my husband's ever got lost on the lake, and no product of his exportation was ever low in the market, always ready sales and fair prices. We had neither of us ever made any profession of religion, but, contrary to my early education, I was naturally religious, and I expressed to my husband a wish that we should unite ourselves with one of the churches, after examining into their principles and deciding for ourselves. Accordingly, we united ourselves with the Campbellites, who were then making many converts, and whose principles seemed most in accordance with the scriptures. We continued in that church, which was to us the nearest pattern to our Savior's teachings, until Parley P. Pratt and another elder preached the everlasting gospel in Kirtland.

Sidney Rigdon was then a great Campbellite preacher. He received the gospel at the house of Isaac Morley, who was the first to embrace the truth in that vicinity. When I heard that these elders were preaching without money, or remuneration of any kind, and more especially when I knew Brother Morley had received them into his house and had united himself to their faith, and that they were opposed to all priestcraft, I felt an earnest desire to hear their principles proclaimed, and to judge for myself; accordingly, I went immediately to hear, and as soon as I heard the gospel as the elders preached it, I knew it to be the voice of the Good Shepherd, and went home rejoicing, to tell my husband the news; he was convinced that I was entirely sincere, and wished to hear them, that he might also receive with me a full assurance; he asked me if I would wait for him to become convinced, that we might together enter the fold through the waters of baptism; but a strong "impression bore witness in my heart, that now was the accepted time, and the day of salvation." I had then a babe in arms and two older children living, and two I had laid away until the resurrection. My convictions were so strong, that much as I desired my husband to participate in these blessings, I felt impressed that I must not wait, and I was baptized immediately. My husband, however, examined the doctrine and was himself baptized within a few days. This was in November 1830. Soon after this many false spirits began to manifest themselves, and many were deceived by these misrepresentations; the power of these spirits was terrible; some persons under their influence imagined they could read the word of the Lord out of their own hands in letters of gold; it was a terrible time of temptation.

In December of the same year [about 1 February 1831], Joseph Smith, with his wife, Emma, and a servant girl, came to Kirtland in a sleigh; they drove up in front of my husband's store; Joseph jumped out and went in; he reached his hand across the counter to my husband, and called him by name. My husband, not thinking it was anyone in whom he was interested, spoke, saying: "I could not call you by name as you have me." He answered, "I am Joseph the Prophet; you have prayed me here, now what do you want of me?" My husband brought them directly to our own house; we were more than glad to welcome them and share with them all the comforts and blessings we enjoyed. I remarked to my husband that this was the fulfillment of the vision we had seen of a cloud as of glory resting upon our house. And during the time they resided with us, and under our roof, were many of the revelations given which are recorded in the book of Doctrine and Covenants.

Just previous to the gospel being preached in Kirtland I had made all needful preparations for a visit to my parents in Connecticut; but after receiving the gospel I abandoned the idea, determining to devote my life, my energies and all that I possessed, towards sustaining and building up the kingdom of God upon the earth. My whole heart was in the great work of the last dispensation, and I took no thought of my own individual comfort and ease. Joseph and Emma were very dear to me, and with my own hands I ministered to them, feeling it a privilege and an honor to do so.

Aunt Sarah, who had always lived with me, and felt a sort of supervision of everything pertaining to my welfare and, happiness, and who had been a true and faithful friend to us, under all circumstances, was very much disconcerted by the turn things had taken; she looked upon Joseph like all other preachers, and did not like to see us made the dupes of priestcraft, which was her version of all religious doctrine and opinions; and acting upon her own theory and responsibility, when my husband was absent with the Prophet Joseph upon business, and I was in delicate health, and unable to attend to any domestic duties, she took the opportunity to rid herself and us of the family, considering it not only an incumbrance, but an entirely unnecessary inconvenience. I would have shared the last morsel with either of them, and was grieved beyond comparison when I found what she had done; but she had a good motive in it, and really thought she was consulting the best interests of those who were far dearer to her than her own life; her devotion and her power of self-sacrifice towards us individually were unlimited, but her efforts, like those of many other sincere and ardent friends, were misdirected.

My husband traveled with Joseph, the Prophet, through many of the Eastern cities, bearing their testimony and collecting means towards building a temple in Kirtland, and also to purchase lands in Missouri. During this journey the Prophet Joseph often prophesied of the destruction that would come upon the cities of the Eastern states, and especially New York, that in that city there would not be left a vestige of its grandeur. That wars would soon commence in our own land, which last has since transpired; he said to my husband if they reject us they shall have our testimony, for we will write it and leave it upon their doorsteps and windowsills; he prophesied of the desolation by fire, by storms, by pestilence and by earthquakes. After their return from the East they traveled together up to Missouri, and while upon this journey my husband had his ankle broken, and through the power of the administration of the gospel ordinance and faith, he was relieved from all pain; but by Joseph's counsel returned home. During all these absences and separations from my husband I never felt to murmur or complain in the least, and although heretofore my husband's time had been devoted to the business he was engaged in, and his hours of leisure to his family in private yet I was more than satisfied to have him give all, time, talents and ability into the service of the kingdom of God; and the change in our circumstances and associations which were consequent upon our embracing the gospel, never caused me a moment's sorrow. I looked upon it as a real pleasure to give all for the sake of my faith in the religion of Jesus, considering all as nought in comparison with the example of our blessed Savior. We had a very fine orchard and garden, all planned and arranged according to our own taste and skill, among other fruits we had a very great quantity of the red currants, from which we had ourselves manufactured wine of a very superior flavor and quality, although purely domestic, or homemade, this wine we had appropriated for the sacrament, and was the first wine used by our people for that purpose. It was about this time my husband was ordained a bishop by revelation and commandment from God [D&C 72:8]. He was willing to accept the position knowing, as he did, that Joseph was a true prophet, and that the only sure way to obtain blessings and promises was through obedience; yet he felt that if would require a vast amount of patience, of perseverance and of wisdom to magnify his calling. We had always been in the habit of entertaining our friends and acquaintances generously and hospitably, but after we received the gospel we did not feel like using our means and time in a way that would only benefit those who had an abundance of this world's means. According to our Savior's pattern and agreeably to the Prophet Joseph's and our own ideas of true charity and disinterested benevolence, we determined to make a feast for the poor, such as we knew could not return the same to us; the lame, the halt, the deaf, the blind, the aged and infirm.

This feast lasted three days, during which time all in the vicinity of Kirtland who would come were invited, and entertained as courteously and generously as if they had been able to extend hospitality instead of receiving it. The Prophet Joseph and his two counselors being present each day, talking, blessing, and comforting the poor, by words of encouragement and their most welcome presence; some are now living who were present at that feast, and many have passed behind the veil. The Prophet Joseph often referred to this particular feast, during his lifetime, and testified of the great blessing he felt in associating with the meek and humble ones whom the Lord has said "He delights to own and bless" [see HC 2:362-63]. He often said to me that it was preferable and far superior to the elegant and select parties he afterwards attended, and afforded him much more genuine satisfaction; and to me it was "a feast of fat things indeed; a season of rejoicing never to be forgotten." The temple in Kirtland being built and dedicated, the word of the Lord to the Saints was to build up Missouri, and the Saints repaired thither as fast as circumstances would permit.

Great manifestations of power were witnessed in the Kirtland Temple; it used oftentimes to seem as though it was illuminated, and many and powerful were the manifestations to those who were humble and participated in the ordinances bestowed upon the faithful Saints in that house. The first patriarchal blessing meeting over which Joseph Smith, Sen., presided was one of the most striking and noticeable features of that particular period of time. In this meeting I received the gift of singing inspirationally, and the first Song of Zion ever given in the pure language was sung by me then, and interpreted by Parley P. Pratt, and written down; of which I have preserved the original copy. It describes the manner in which the ancient patriarchs blessed their families, and gives some account of "Adam-ondi-Ahman."

In ancient days there lived a man,

Amidst a pleasant garden,

Where lovely flowers immortal bloom'd,

And shed around a rich perfume;

Behold, his name was Adam.

One of the nobles of the Earth,

Had mighty power in blessing;

Received the Priesthood, and went forth

And blessed his seed, and gave the earth

Blessings for their possession.

He sealed them for eternal life,

And all their generations,

Who should obey the Gospel plan.

Down to the latest years of man-

A multitude of nations.

Isaac and Jacob, they in turn

Had power to bless their children;

Hence, Jacob by his faith did learn,

And gave directions for his bones

To be conveyed to Canaan.

By the same spirit, Joseph gave

A great and mighty blessing

To Ephraim, and Manasseh too,

Whereby their seed were carried through

Long travels, though distressing.

By that same faith they built a ship,

And crossed the mighty ocean,

Obtain'd the choicest land of Earth

Foretold the great Messiah's birth,

And all the great commotion.

The Holy Priesthood long remain'd

In all its power and glory,

Until the Priests of God were slain,

Their records hid from wicked men

Within the hill Cumorah.

Their remnants sank in sorrow down,

Became a loathsome people,

To misery and sorrow doom'd,

Their pleasant fields o'erspread with gloom,

Ruled by a Gentile nation.

But now the Priesthood is restored,

And we partake its blessings;

Our parents and our children dear

With Joseph's remnants have a share

To latest generations.

As Adam blest his family

In Adam-ondi-Ahman,

So shall our aged father bless

His seed who dwell in righteousness

Upon the land of Zion.

The Prophet Joseph promised me that I should never lose this gift if I would be wise in using it; and his words have been verified.

My husband's partner [A. Sidney Gilbert] in business had been sent up to Jackson County, Missouri, and had opened a branch business there; and according to the best of my recollection about 1837, the Prophet Joseph called upon my husband to go up to Far West to preside; we set about making preparations for removal. My friends, who knew what delicate health I had, and how unaccustomed I was to any hardships, inconvenience, or privation, looked upon it as almost certain death for me to go into the wilderness, or what seemed little better than a desert, or wilderness among Indians. My friends tried to prevail on me to stay until my husband should go and prepare a comfortable place for me and my children; but I had unbounded faith in the promises of Joseph, that I should be able to go in safety, and my trust in God was firm and unshrinking. I bade adieu to my beloved home, where I had anticipated spending all my life, and where everything had been arranged according to my own ideas of taste and beauty; to my dear friends, and my kind and ever true Aunt Sarah, who had been a mother indeed to me and mine. I felt a tender yearning towards her, and had desired with all my heart to bring her into the faith of the everlasting gospel, but had never been even successful enough to get her to believe in the least; she looked upon me as one bereft of my senses; this was the hardest trial to me of all-to leave one so true and, faithful and devoted as she had ever proved herself to me and mine, alone, without children to comfort her; but I believed I was serving my Heavenly Father and the best interests of all my friends by so doing. My children were so imbued with the spirit of the gospel, that although they were disappointed in their hopes and expectations in regard to obtaining a superior education such as we had sought to stimulate them to obtain, previous to our embracing the latter-day work; yet they accepted this change in their worldly circumstances without a murmur. They were devotedly attached to Joseph, and were never weary of praying for him; and their faith seemed perfect. In their innocence and trust they believed truly the Lord would hear and answer them, and they firmly trusted in all the promises and blessings pronounced upon them. With the earnest confidence and assurance of these little children, I felt I could meet all opposition, and trusting in my Heavenly Father come off victorious.

In the fall of 1838 we left Kirtland, and with what we considered necessary for our immediate wants we commenced our journey to Far West. Our family then consisted of six children, the two youngest being very delicate in health. My eldest son was then fifteen years of age. While we were on our way, a report reached us that the Saints in Missouri were being driven, mobbed and persecuted in a most shocking and terrible manner; we were careful to investigate the matter, in order to ascertain its truth. We went on to St. Louis and waited there until we could obtain the facts in relation to the matter, which we soon learned were most startingly true. We considered it safest to go over into Illinois to spend the winter, and decided upon Carrolton, Greene County, Illinois. Here I remained with my children alone, while my husband returned to Kirtland to settle some business and wait further orders from the Prophet Joseph. We were informed the goods we had sent up to Missouri were thrown into the street, and the store burnt to the ground. My eldest son taught school while we remained there, and as the persecution was at that time most extreme, we kept quiet in regard to religion. We were kindly treated, but more particularly by two families who were our near neighbors. In the spring my husband returned, and shortly after, accompanied by my eldest son, went up to Commerce, since called Nauvoo. At that place they found that the Prophet Joseph and many others of the Saints had settled and commenced to reorganize and sustain each other and the doctrines in which they believed. Joseph then told my husband to return to his family and as quickly as practicable join the Saints there. Meantime a man named Bellows, who had formerly known my husband in Kirtland, recognized us as the Mormon Bishop's family, and determined to have us mobbed and driven from the town; but those two families who had all the time befriended us, offered to render us assistance in getting away, by crossing the river in the night. So in a neighborhood where we had been looked upon with the greatest respect, we were treated like outlaws, and compelled to flee for safety. My husband and son returned in time to cross the river with us; when we reached the opposite bank and felt comparatively safe from our immediate enemies, I shall never forget my husband's taking off his hat, wiping the perspiration from his brow, and thanking God for our deliverance. Strange how trifling incidents like these sometimes leave indelible impressions upon the memory which can never be effaced. From there we went up the river to Quincy, Illinois, where several families of the Saints who had been driven from Missouri were living; among these was the family of Titus Billings, one of our nearest neighbors in Kirtland; his wife [Diantha Morley] was the first woman baptized in Kirtland, and is still living. We found many other friends and their families. We remained in Quincy during the winter, and passed the time rather pleasantly; my eldest son was fond of music, and so were the Billings' boys, and they used to go out together to play for parties, and thus rendered some assistance in obtaining a living, for we had left our means in Kirtland.

Early in the spring of 1840 we went up to Commerce, as the upper portion of the city of Nauvoo continued to be called. We rented a house belonging to Hiram Kimball, whose widow and children are residents of this city. Here we were all sick with ague, chills and fever, and were only just barely able to crawl around and wait upon each other. Under these trying circumstances my ninth child was born. Joseph, upon visiting us and seeing our change of circumstances, urged us at once to come and share his accommodations. We felt the climate, the water, and the privations we were enduring could not much longer be borne; therefore we availed ourselves of this proposal and went to live in the Prophet Joseph's yard in a small cottage; we soon recruited in health, and the children became more like themselves. My husband was employed in a store Joseph had built and fitted up with such goods as the people were in actual need of.

One day while coming out of the house into the yard the remembrance of a prophecy Joseph Smith had made to me, while living in our house in Kirtland, flashed through my mind like an electric shock; it was this: that even as we had done by him, in opening our doors to him and his family when he was without a home; even so should we in the future be received by him into his house. We afterwards moved upstairs over the brick store, as it was designated. It was during our residence in the brick store that the Relief Society was organized, March 17, 1842, and I was chosen counselor to the president of the society, Mrs. Emma Smith. In this work I took the greatest interest, for I realized in some degree its importance, and the need of such an organization. I was also ordained and set apart under the hand of Joseph Smith the Prophet to administer to the sick and comfort the sorrowful. Several other sisters were also ordained and set apart to administer in these holy ordinances. The Relief Society then was small compared to its numbers now, but the Prophet foretold great things concerning the future of this organization, many of which I have lived to see fulfilled; but there are many things which yet remain to be fulfilled in the future of which he prophesied, that are great and glorious; and I rejoice in the contemplation of these things daily, feeling that the promises are sure to be verified in the future as they have been in the past. I trust the sisters who are now laboring in the interest of Relief Societies in Zion realize the importance attached to the work; and comprehend that upon them a great responsibility rests as mothers in Israel. President Joseph Smith had great faith in the sisters' labors, and ever sought to encourage them in the performance of the duties which pertained to these societies, which he said were not only for benevolent purposes and spiritual improvement, but were actually to save souls. And my testimony to my sisters is that I have seen many demonstrations of the power and blessing of God through the administration of the sisters, but they should be ever humble, for through great humility comes the blessing. The Lord remembers His daughters and owns and acknowledges, in a perceptible manner, those who are striving to be faithful. I could say much to my sisters on this subject, for it is one in which I am deeply interested. I have been a living witness to the trials, sacrifices, patience and endurance of thousands of them, and my heart goes out to all those who are seeking to walk the narrow way and keep fast hold of the iron rod. The Father has great blessings in store for His daughters; fear not, my sisters, but trust in God, live your religion and teach it to your children.

It was during the time we lived at the brick store that Joseph received the revelation pertaining to celestial marriage [D&C 132]; also concerning the ordinances of the house of the Lord. He had been strictly charged by the angel who committed these precious things into his keeping that he should only reveal them to such persons as were pure, full of integrity to the truth, and worthy to be entrusted with divine messages; that to spread them abroad would only be like casting pearls before swine, and that the most profound secrecy must be maintained, until the Lord saw fit to make it known publicly through His servants. Joseph had the most implicit confidence in my husband's uprightness and integrity of character; he knew him capable of keeping a secret, and was not afraid to confide in him, as he had been a Freemason for many years. He therefore confided to him, and a few others, the principles set forth in that revelation, and also gave him the privilege to read it and to make a copy of it, knowing it would be perfectly safe with him. It was this veritable copy, which was preserved, in the providence of God, that has since been published to the world; for Emma (Joseph's wife) afterwards becoming indignant, burned the original, thinking she had destroyed the only written document upon the subject in existence. My husband revealed these things to me; we had always been united, and had the utmost faith and confidence in each other. We pondered upon them continually, and our prayers were unceasing that the Lord would grant us some special manifestation concerning this new and strange doctrine. The Lord was very merciful to us; He revealed unto us His power and glory. We were seemingly wrapt in a heavenly vision, a halo of light encircled us, and we were convinced in our own minds that God heard and approved our prayers and intercedings before Him. Our hearts were comforted, and our faith made so perfect that we were willing to give our eldest daughter, then only seventeen years of age, to Joseph, in the holy order of plural marriage. She had been raised in the strictest manner as regarded propriety, virtue and chastity; she was as pure in thought, in feeling and in impulse as it was possible for a young girl to be. Yet, laying aside all our traditions and former notions in regard to marriage, we gave her with our mutual consent. She was the first woman ever given in plural marriage by or with the consent of both parents. Of course these things had to be kept an inviolate secret; and as some were false to their vows and pledges, persecution arose, and caused grievous sorrow to those who had obeyed, in all purity and sincerity, the requirements of the celestial order of marriage.

The Lord commanded his servants; they themselves did not comprehend what the ultimate course of action would be, but were waiting further developments from heaven. Meantime the ordinances of the house of the Lord were given, to bless and strengthen us in our future endeavors to promulgate the principles of divine light and intelligence; but coming in contact with all preconceived notions and principles heretofore taught as the articles of religious faith, it was not strange that many could not receive it; others doubted, and only a few remained firm and immovable. Among that number were my husband and myself; yet although my husband believed and was firm in teaching this celestial order of marriage, he was slow in practice. Joseph repeatedly told him to take a wife, or wives, but he wished to be so extremely cautious not to do what would probably have to be undone, that in Joseph's day he never took a wife. When he did do so, he did it to fulfill a duty due to the principles of divine revelation as he understood his duty, and believing sincerely that every man should prove his faith by his works; but he afterwards took several wives, and with one or two exceptions, they came into the same house with me, and my children; therefore, I believe I am safe in saying that I am intimately acquainted with the practical part of polygamy.

We learn to understand human nature by being brought into close connection with each other, and more especially when under trying and difficult circumstances; and we seldom think more unkindly of persons from gaining an insight into their real hearts and character. Instead of my opinion of women being unfavorable or my feelings unkindly in consequence of being intimately associated in family relationship with them I am more favorably disposed to women as a class, learning more of the true nature of womankind than I ever could without this peculiar experience; and I am willing and ready to defend enthusiastically those of my sisters who have been genuine enough and who possessed sufficient sublimity of character, to practically live the principles of divine faith, which have been revealed in these the last days, in the establishing of the kingdom of God upon the earth. It has required sterling qualities indeed to battle with the opposition on every hand, and not be overcome.

That this is God's work and not man's should be apparent to all those who are acquainted with the history of the Saints, their persecutions, their trials, their difficulties, and the marvelous means of their deliverance,-when dangerous and various untoward circumstances environed them.

My husband built a comfortable dwelling house on Parley Street in Nauvoo, but still we endured many privations, which in our own home in Ohio would probably never have fallen to our lot; but we always felt we must be thus tried to prepare us for future exaltation, and that we might be able to participate with those whom God had approved and owned, who "came up out of great tribulation."

Everyone acquainted with the history of our people know the terrible results of the apostasy of "Bennett, Foster and the Laws." Joseph Smith had no peace, his life was sought continually by his enemies, and this was the occasion of constant anxiety and trouble to the Saints.

The persecutions brought upon our people in Nauvoo and other places adjacent, by the wicked misrepresentations of such men as Dr. [John C.] Bennett, William and Wilson Law, and others who had been members of our Church, increased rapidly. Every now and then Joseph Smith was arraigned before the magistrates on some pretext or other, and the Saints were threatened with mobs, and they felt there was no security for them because of their betrayal by designing and treacherous men.

In January, 1844, my youngest daughter was born. She was the first child born heir to the holy priesthood in the new and everlasting covenant in this dispensation. I felt she was doubly a child of promise, not only through the priesthood, but through Joseph's promise to me when I gave him my eldest daughter to wife. He prophesied to me that I should have another daughter, who would be a strength and support to me to soothe my declining years; and in this daughter have these words been verified. My health was very poor, but I remained strong in the faith of the gospel, and full of courage to persevere in the latter-day work. My two youngest children were frail little tender blossoms and required the most constant care.

During the ensuing summer a fearful and continuous storm of persecution raged, until it led to the massacre of Joseph and Hyrum Smith: and John Taylor, who, although pierced with bullets until his life scarce hung by a single thread, afterwards recovered. After this horrible tragedy, the people sorrowed and mourned for their Patriarch and Prophet. Indeed, the terrible grief and consternation which were the result of the untimely death of these noble men was beyond description.

The Gentiles, our opposers, thought they had destroyed our religion, overthrown our cause, and destroyed the influence of our people, and actually had accomplished all that was necessary to do away with Mormonism.

But God's work cannot be thus ignored; another prophet, Brigham Young, was raised up to succeed Joseph, and the work rolled on. We were not allowed, however, to rest in peace; those who had apostatized from us and were filled with a spirit of rebellion against the work sought by all their power and influence to stir up the authorities of government in the state of Illinois, and to drive us from the bounds of civilization. At this time the people were energetically at work upon the [Nauvoo] temple, and President Brigham Young and his brethren of the Quorum of the Twelve, with the bishops and all the leading men, were pushing everything forward towards completing the temple, in order to obtain certain blessings and confirmations that had been promised to the Saints when the temple should be so far finished as to enable them to work in it. The people were most of them poor, and they denied themselves every comfort they possibly could to assist in finishing the Lord's house. In the latter part of the fall of 1845 we commenced work in the temple, and then I gave myself, my time and attention to that mission: I worked in the temple every day without cessation until it was closed.

We were making preparations to leave Nauvoo and go into the wilderness. I had a large family, and my household cares and my many other duties were indeed arduous; I worked constantly day and night, scarcely sleeping at all, so great was my anxiety to accomplish all that was necessary and go with the first company who left in February, 1846, crossing the Mississippi River on the ice.

Elizabeth Ann Whitney, "A Leaf From an Autobiography" Woman's Exponent 7 (1878): 33, 41, 51, 71, 83, 91, 105, 115, 191.