Elizabeth Ann Whitney (1800-1882)

Elizabeth Ann Whitney, 1800-1882
Cited in Edward W. Tullidge,
The Women of Mormondom
New York, 1877
pp. 32-35, 41-42
I was born the day after Christmas in the first year of the present century, in the quiet, old-fashioned country town of Derby, New Haven County, Conn. My parents names were Gibson and Polly Smith. The Smiths were among the earliest settlers there, and were widely known. I was the oldest child, and grew up in an atmosphere of love and tenderness. My parents were not professors of religion, and according to puritanical ideas were grossly in fault to have me taught dancing but my father had his own peculiar notions upon the subject, and wished me to possess and enjoy, in connection with a sound education and strict morals, such accomplishments as would fit me to fill, with credit to myself and my training, an honorable position in society. He had no sympathy whatever with any of the priests of that day, and was utterly at variance with their teachings and ministry, notwithstanding he was strenuous on all points of honor, honesty morality and uprightness.

There is nothing in my early life I remember with more intense satisfaction than the agreeable companionship of my father. My mothers health was delicate, and with her household affairs, and two younger children, she gave herself up to domestic life, allowing it to absorb her entire interest, and consequently I was more particularly under my father’s jurisdiction and influence; our tastes were most congenial and this geniality and happiness surrounded me with its beneficial influence until I reached my nineteenth year. Nothing in particular occurred to mar the smoothness of my life’s current and prosperity, and love beamed upon our home.

About this time a new epoch in my life created a turning point which unconsciously to us, who were the actors in the drama, caused all my future to be entirely separate and distinct from those with whom I had been reared and nurtured. My father’s sister, a spinster, who had money at her own disposal and who was one of those strong-minded women of whom so much is said in this our day, concluded to emigrate to the great West,–at that time Ohio seemed a fabulous distance from civilization and enlightenment, and going to Ohio then was as great an undertaking as going to China or Japan is at the present day. She entreated my parents to allow me to accompany her, and promised to be as faithful and devoted to me as possible, until they should join us, and that they expected very shortly to do; their confidence in aunt Sarah’s ability and self-reliance was unbounded, and so, after much persuasion, they consented to part with me for a short interval of time; but circumstances, over which we mortals have no control, were so overruled that I never saw my beloved mother again. Our journey was a pleasant one; the beautiful scenery through which our route lay had charms indescribable for me, who had never been farther from home than New Haven, in which city I had passed a part of my time, and to me it was nearer a paradise than any other place on earth. The magnificent lakes, rivers, mountains, and romantic forests were all delineations of nature which delighted my imagination.

We settled a few miles inland from the picturesque Lake Erie, and here in after years, were the saints of God gathered and the everlasting gospel proclaimed. My beloved aunt Sarah was a true friend and instructor to me, and had much influence in maturing my womanly character and developing my home education. She hated the priests of the day, and believed them all deceivers and hypocrites; her religion consisted in visiting the widow and the fatherless and keeping herself unspotted from the world.

Shortly after entering my twenty-first year I became acquainted with a young man from Vermont, Newel K. Whitney, who, like myself had left home and relatives and was determined to carve out a fortune for himself. He had been engaged in trading with the settlers and Indians at Green Bay, Mich., buying furs extensively for the eastern markets. In his travels to and from New York he passed along the charming Lake Erie, and from some unknown influence he concluded to settle and make a permanent home for himself in this region of country and then subsequently we met and became acquainted; and being thoroughly convinced that we were suited to each other, we were married by the Presbyterian minister of that place, the Rev. J. Badger. We prospered in all our efforts to accumulate wealth, so much so, that among our friends it came to be remarked that nothing of Whitney’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 to 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 this church, which to us was the nearest pattern to our Saviour’s teachings, until Parley P. Pratt and another elder preached the everlasting gospel in Kirtland.

We had been praying to know from the Lord how we could obtain the gift of the Holy Ghost. My husband, Newel K. Whitney, and myself, were Campbellites. We had been baptized for the remission of our sins, and believed in the laying on of hands and the gifts of the spirit. But there was no one with authority to confer the Holy Ghost upon us. We were seeking to know how to obtain the spirit and the gifts bestowed upon the ancient saints.

Sister Eliza Snow was also a Campbellite. We were acquainted before the restoration of the gospel to the earth. She, like myself, was seeking for the fullness of the gospel. She lived at the time in Mantua.

One night- it was midnight- as my husband and I, in our house at Kirtland, were praying to the father to be shown the way, the spirit rested upon us and a cloud overshadowed the house.

It was as though we were out of doors. The house passed away from our vision. We were not conscious of anything but the presence of the spirit and the cloud that was over us.

We were wrapped in the cloud. A solemn awe pervaded us. We saw the cloud and we felt the spirit of the Lord.

Then we heard a voice out of the cloud saying:

Prepare to receive the word of the Lord, for it is coming!

At this we marveled greatly; but from that moment we knew that the word of the Lord was coming to Kirtland.