Bios Articles

John Whitmer: Church Historian and Witness of the Book of Mormon

John Whitmer: Church Historian and Witness of the Book of Mormon

by Terrie Lynn Bittner John Whitmer was a member of the famed Whitmer family who played important roles in the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which church is often inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon Church”). Although all but the mother of the Whitmer family, who died early, eventually either officially left the church or simply stopped participating in it, the family members are still respected for their early and essential contributions and for consistently confirming their testimonies even after they left. John Whitmer was born on August 27, 1802, in Pennsylvania. His parents, Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman, were members of the German Reformed Church, which was a Presbyterian church, in New York, where they moved just before 1810. John was the third child and, like his brothers, grew up working the family farm. John was confirmed a member of the German Reformed Church on April 5, 1822, with his brothers... Read the rest of this article »

William W. Phelps: Printer unto the Church

William W. Phelps: Printer unto the Church

by Bruce A. Van Orden Bruce Van Orden is a retired professor of Church History and Doctrine in Religious Education at Brigham Young University. In addition to volunteer work with needy individuals, he is writing a biography of William W. Phelps. William W. Phelps is most well-known in Mormon history for his uplifting hymns. Less appreciated is his calling soon after he joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be “a printer unto the Church.” It was prophesied that “the world [would] receive his writings” and that he, Phelps, would “obtain whatsoever he can obtain in righteousness, for the good of the saints” (D&C  57:11-12). W. W. Phelps fulfilled this revealed duty as he published the Church’s first periodical, The Evening and the Morning Star; helped publish early editions of the Doctrine and Covenants; served as Joseph Smith’s scribe for the Book of Abraham and many other documents; helped publish the first hymnbook... Read the rest of this article »

David Whitmer: Struggled in Faith but Did Not Deny the Book of Mormon

David Whitmer: Struggled in Faith but Did Not Deny the Book of Mormon

by Terrie Lynn Bittner David Whitmer was born January 7, 1805, near Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. While he was young, his parents, Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman, moved to western New York. A reporter who met his father in 1885 wrote that Peter raised his family as “a hard-working, God-fearing man, a strict Presbyterian [who] brought his children up with rigid sectarian discipline” (Chicago Tribune, 17 Dec. 1885). David Whitmer The Whitmer family were active Church goers in the German Reformed Church. David’s mother was born in Germany. David’s three older brothers were confirmed members of that church. However, in 1829, the family began to hear of a young man named Joseph Smith, who was gaining attention for his teachings about a new book of religious scripture called the Book of Mormon. David, still living at home with his parents, met a man named Oliver Cowdery. Both men were curious about Joseph Smith and even more curious... Read the rest of this article »

Luke S. Johnson: Baptism, Service, Excommunication, and Rebaptism

Luke S. Johnson: Baptism, Service, Excommunication, and Rebaptism

Luke S. Johnson was one of the first Mormon missionaries. He was born in 1807 in Vermont, but moved to Ohio in 1826. His parents, who were Methodists, were introduced to the religion of the Mormons there and began studying the new faith. They invited Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, to live in their home during the years 1830 and 1831, as he worked on a new translation of the Bible. His mother was healed of her arthritis by Joseph Smith, who gave her a blessing of healing. This attracted some attention locally. Luke became a Mormon in 1831 and shortly thereafter left to serve a mission in Southern Ohio with Robert Rathburn. They were able to organize a branch (a small congregation) there and more  in New Portage, Ohio,  and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, working with Sidney Rigdon. He served missions to Ohio, Kentucky, and Virginia in 1832 and 1833, setting up many new church branches. He married in 1833 while in Virginia. The following year he became a... Read the rest of this article »

David W. Patten: Visionary, Apostle, and Martyr

David W. Patten: Visionary, Apostle, and Martyr

David W. Patten was an early Mormon apostle who lost his life during mob violence. David was born November 19, 1799, in Theresa, New York, to Benenio or Benonio Patten and Edith (Abigail) Cole. He had a strong interest in religion and in his early years had a number of dreams and visions in which he saw a number of future events, including the restoration of Christ’s true church in his own lifetime. In 1830, the year The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, he learned of and examined a copy of the Book of Mormon. Mormon is a nickname sometimes applied to members of the Church and the Book of Mormon is used by Mormons in addition to the Bible. In 1832, his brother John joined the Church in Indiana. He wrote to David W. Patten about the church. David decided to travel to Indiana to discuss it further with his brother. He gained a testimony of the gospel while there and was baptized in June by his brother. He immediately, as was common... Read the rest of this article »

Ziba Peterson: From Missionary to Apostate

Ziba Peterson: From Missionary to Apostate

Ziba Peterson was born about 1810 and was baptized and became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 18, 1830. He was baptized in Fayette, New York, and became an elder sometime in that year, being listed as one at the first conference of the Church. He worked, at various times, as a teacher, a lawyer, and a law officer. In October of that year, he was issued a call to serve as a missionary with Parley P. Pratt, Peter Whitmer, Jr., and Oliver Cowdery. Together, the four men walked more than 1500 miles to teach Native Americans near Buffalo, New York. They took a side trip to Ohio in what turned out to be a very inspired diversion. While teaching in Mentor, Ohio, they had the opportunity to share the gospel with many men who would later become important leaders in the church and who would play essential roles in Mormon history. They contacted Sidney Rigdon, who was then a Campbellite preacher. He would later become a counselor... Read the rest of this article »

Isaac Morley: Faithful through Many Trials

Isaac Morley: Faithful through Many Trials

Isaac Morley, an early member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was known by both the Mormons (a nickname for members of the Church) and by Native Americans as Father Morley. This was a title of affection, not a religious title. Morley became a Mormon in 1830, when the Church was new. He was a veteran in the war with Great Britain in 1812. Isaac Morley was named one of the first High Priests in the church at a special conference. Following this, he became an assistant to Bishop Whitney. The next day he was sent on a mission, through revelation, to Missouri. His missionary companion was Ezra Booth. In 1831, Isaac and his wife invited Joseph and Emma Smith, to live with them for a while. Joseph Smith was the first Mormon prophet. Later, a small home was built on the property for Joseph and Emma. The property became a gathering place for new converts arriving in the area. It was the site of the reception of a number of revelations and also... Read the rest of this article »

John Murdock: Finding Joy in the Gospel Despite Great Loss

John Murdock: Finding Joy in the Gospel Despite Great Loss

John Murdock was born 15 July 1792 in New York and suffered through a mostly unhappy childhood. He often turned to private prayer for comfort during that time. He had one year of formal schooling and was self-taught otherwise. He taught school for a time but was generally a farmer. John Murdock was married to Julia Clapp and they had five children.  He initially joined first the Baptists and then the Campbellites. He had become a Baptist because he wanted to be baptized by immersion, as Jesus had been baptized, but he still found himself unsatisfied with his religion. He kept searching his Bible and then looking for a church that practiced what the New Testament taught. The Campbellites attempted to recreate the New Testament Church and that appealed to him, but like many of that sect, he became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes nicknamed Mormons, when it was organized. He was baptized near the end... Read the rest of this article »

Edward Partridge: First Bishop of the Church, A Man without Guile

Edward Partridge: First Bishop of the Church, A Man without Guile

Edward Partridge was born August 27, 1793, in Massachusetts. He apprenticed as a hatter when he was young and then went into that profession. He became a successful hatter who owned a great deal of land and was considered an important member of his community. During his early years, he often prayed intensely, sometimes even being moved to tears. However, in his early twenties, he decided he was uncomfortable with organized religion as it then existed. He disliked the way many ministers portrayed God. He saw God as a loving and wonderful being, but felt modern religion portrayed Him as ugly and uncaring. He continued to study the Bible on his own, comparing any new faith he studied to the words of the Bible and its teachings about God, but chose not to join a church. He married Lydia Clisbee in 1819. Together, they, like many who would eventually become Mormon, joined the Campbellites, a small religious group that sought to live New Testament practices... Read the rest of this article »

Heber C. Kimball: Caring for Things of Eternity

Heber C. Kimball: Caring for Things of Eternity

Heber C. Kimball was born in 1801 in Vermont. In 1830 he became a Baptist, but soon after, he learned that some missionaries from a new faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were visiting the home of Phineas P. Young, brother of Brigham Young. He was curious about the Mormons, as the Church’s members were sometimes called, and asked to meet them. Wanting to know still more, he accompanied Phineas and Brigham and their wives as they returned to Pennsylvania. There he attended church meetings for six days and talked with local Mormons. In April, a church member visited him at his shop and Heber expressed a desire to join the Church. He was baptized in a small stream near his home. Two weeks later, his wife also chose to be baptized. Heber immediately began missionary work and baptisms with Brigham Young and Joseph Young. Early in April, he had the opportunity to meet Joseph Smith, the president and first prophet of the Church, for the... Read the rest of this article »

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