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Some Excerpts from the Early Life of Wilford Woodruff

David W. Allan

Wilford Woodruff was born in 1807 in Connecticut. He learned at a very early age to struggle for life's necessities. He had several life threatening accidents, but was preserved. He learned that the material things of this world counted but dross as compared with having his life right with God. He was a very giving man, and lost much of what he had because some did not pay back their debts.

One of the most important events in his life was getting acquainted with the Bible. He learned that it contained more of history and more of light than any book he had every found. Though he frequently attended, he could not find the same light from the various churches of the day. His study of the Bible caused him to say, "I believed every gift, office and blessing to be just as necessary now to constitute the true Church of Christ and Kingdom of God as in any age of the world." In contrast, his minister acquaintances told him that the Apostles, revelations and healings had "been done away" and "were no longer needed."

He believed this because of the Bible, but also because of a very dear old friend, Robert Mason, who had had an experience very much like Simeon of old. He was a man of great faith, and through his faith was able heal the sick and cast out devils--though he claimed no authority to officiate in the ordinances of the gospel.

Father Mason, as he came to be called, was given a vision, and when he asked the Lord for the interpretation, the voice of the Lord came to him saying, "Son of man, thou hast sought me diligently to know the truth concerning my Church and Kingdom among men, Church is not organized...but in the days of your children the Church and Kingdom of God shall be made manifest with all the gifts and blessing enjoyed by the Saints in past ages. You shall live to be made acquainted with it, but shall not partake of its blessing before you depart this life. You will be blest of the Lord after death because you have followed the dictation of my Spirit in this life." He was given this vision in 1800. He felt impressed to share it with Wilford in 1830.

At this same time, Wilford was now 23, and had found a new level of spirituality with the Lord. From his study of the Bible he became "convinced that no man could enjoy true happiness and obtain that which would feed the immortal soul, except God was his friend and Jesus Christ his advocate. I was convinced that man became their friend by doing the will of the Father, and by keeping His commandments. I made a firm resolution that from then I would seek the Lord to know His will, to keep His commandments, and to follow the dictates of His Holy spirit. Upon this ground I was determined to stand and to spend my future life in the maintenance of these convictions."

He was then working at a flour mill, and yet took every occasion to know the mind and will of the Lord. He said, "I prayed night and day, and the Lord blest me with much of His spirit. These began to be the happiest days of my life. I felt that the sun, moon , and stars; the mountains, hills, and valleys; and that all creation were united in the praise of the Lord." He further said, "I passed much of my time in reading, in meditation, and in prayer. I read the Bible and it was like a new book to me. I received much light in perusing its sacred pages. If I was cast down, tried, or tempted, I found in it relief in connection with the Spirit of God... The Lord blest me with joy and happiness such as I had never before enjoyed, doubtless because I was living up to the best light I had. I had no apostle or prophet to teach me the right way; so I had to do the best I could.

"I could plainly see by reading the Bible that baptism by immersion was a sacred ordinance." Two years later (1832) he saw for the first time an account of the "Mormons." They were described in a newspaper article in which the editor ridiculed them because they claimed to have new revelations and to be built upon the foundation of prophets and apostles the same as the ancient Saints. From that time Wilford desired to see these new people.

On Dec. 29th, 1833, two Elders came to their home. Wilford was then living with his brother Azmon. They were both out working when the elders came, but Azmon's wife knew enough of their conversations that she welcomed them and told them that her husband and his brother were anxious to hear them preach. As was the custom, a meeting was appointed at the schoolhouse and notices were circulated.

Wilford recounts, "Upon my arrival home my sister-in-law informed me of the meeting. I immediately turned out my horses and started for the schoolhouse without waiting for supper. On my way I prayed most sincerely that the Lord would give me his spirit, and that if these men were the servants of God I might know it, and that my heart might be prepared to receive the divine message they had to deliver.

"When I reached the place of meeting, I found the house already packed. My brother Azmon was there before I arrived...

"Elder Pulsipher opened with prayer... The spirit of the Lord rested upon me and bore witness that he was a servant of God. After singing, he preached to the people for an hour and a half. The spirit of God rested mightily upon him and he bore a strong testimony of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon and of the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I believed all that he said. The spirit bore witness of its truth. Elder Cheney then arose and added his testimony to the truth of the words of Elder Pulsipher.

"Liberty was then given by the elders to any one in the congregation to arise and speak for or against what they had heard as they might choose. Almost instantly I found myself upon my feet. The spirit of the Lord urged me to bear testimony to the truth of the message delivered by these elders. I exhorted my neighbors and friends not to oppose these men; for they were the true servants of God. They had preached to us that night the pure gospel of Jesus Christ."

As Azmon and Wilford were anxious to know more, they took the elders to their home and stayed up late that night conversing upon the principles of the gospel. Wilford began at once to read the Book of Mormon. "As I did so, the spirit bore witness that the record which it contained was true. I opened my eyes to see, my ears to hear, and my heart to understand."

Azmon and Wilford asked for baptism, and two days later Wilford records the event, "The snow was about three feet deep, the day was cold, and the water was mixed with ice and snow, yet I did not feel the cold." That evening at a special meeting they were confirmed members of the Church and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by the elders so ordained. The Holy Ghost fell upon us and we had a time of great rejoicing."

His old friend Father Mason had prophesied, "Wilford, I shall never partake of this fruit in the flesh, but you will and you will become a conspicuous actor in the new kingdom." Wilford relates, "...when I was baptized...almost the first person I thought of was this prophet, Robert Mason... I wrote him a long letter in which I informed him that I had found the true gospel with all its blessings; that the authority of the Church of Christ had been restored to the earth as he had told me it would be; that I had received the ordinances of baptism and the laying on of hands; that I knew for myself that God had established through Joseph Smith, the Prophet, the Church of Christ upon the earth.

"He received my letter with great joy and had it read over to him many times... He was very aged and soon died without having the privilege of receiving the ordinances...

"The first opportunity I had after the truth of baptism for the dead was revealed, I went forth and was baptized for him in the temple font at Nauvoo."

See also

Waiting for World's End : The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff
Wilford Woodruff, Wondrous Worker, Prophet of God, by Francis M. Gibbons.
List of other Book Reports by DWA
Spiritual writings index




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