William Huntington, an early member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (whose members are often nicknamed Mormons) is an example of someone who faced hardship with courage and faith.
Born in 1784 in New Hampshire, William Huntington married Zina Baker in 1806. He did very well financially until 1811. Then he sold out. Unfortunately, when the country went to war in 1812, he suffered severe financial setbacks. He completed his military service in 1816 and then once again improved his financial situation. He began to study the Bible, trying to understand what God really taught. Huntington received personal inspiration that alcohol was not appropriate, so he stopped drinking. He became a Presbyterian.
William Huntington began to pray to know which church was true, even though he had already joined one. He received an answer that none were true, but that the true church would be restored in his lifetime. He learned that it would be the same church Jesus Christ established in New Testament times. Naturally, with this information, he left his church and began preaching what he had learned through prayer. He and his wife, who supported him, became social outcasts as a result.
As he continued to watch for the true church to develop, he came into contact with the Book of Mormon. He read it and believed it. He began teaching about the Book of Mormon as well. In 1835, he, his wife, and two of his children were baptized.
In 1836, two of his children and their families moved to Kirtland, Ohio, where the Mormons lived. The next year, he wrapped up his business and joined them. He purchased a farm for $3,000, but was cheated out of it by the owner, losing the money and not receiving the farm. He took on a regular job, but also lost $500 in a bank failure while living in Missouri. His family struggled financially, lacking many of life’s necessities. Unlike some who struggled however, he never seemed to expect that obeying God promised an easy life, and so he remained faithful to the church and to God.
As persecution in Missouri increased beyond the potential for survival, all three members of the First Presidency, who ran the church, were arrested on false charges. Brigham Young, as head of the apostles, began making plans to get church members out of Missouri. William Huntington was chosen to be the head of the committee to plan the move. His wife died during this time and a little more than a year later he married Lydia Partridge, widow of Edward Partridge.
William Huntington was called to the High Council in a revelation recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of modern revelation. During this time, he also helped to lay the cornerstone for the Nauvoo, Illinois temple and participated in building it.
In 1844, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were murdered. William Huntington helped to bury the bodies. The murder of the Mormon prophet sparked the need for the Mormons to again flee their own country and they began making plans to move to the Rocky Mountains. Brigham Young intended to send a group of unmarried men ahead to choose the location and to plant crops, in order to make the move easier for the church members. However, no one wanted to be left behind in this hostile environment, so Young instead began the complex task of figuring out how to move an entire city.
On February 9, William Huntington left the city and began the trip westward. He was appointed a captain. When he reached Mt. Pisgah, where some of the Mormons were encamped, he was appointed president of the camp, but he died that August after being ill for ten days.
This article is adapted from Every Person in the Doctrine and Covenants by Lynn F. Price, Cedar Fort, 2007.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.