Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Young was a counselor to Eliza R. Snow in the Relief Society General Presidency and succeeded her in 1888 to become the Relief Society’s third president. Many Latter-day Saints remembered these two leaders as complements to one another: Eliza as the Relief Society’s head, Zina as its heart.1 She was known as “Zina, the comforter” for her sympathy, tenderness, and personal ministering.2
Born in 1821 to a respected and deeply religious family about 100 miles northeast of Palmyra, New York, Zina sensed the truth of the Book of Mormon when she first saw it as a young woman. She joined the Church with her family in 1835.3 After her conversion, Zina was blessed with spiritual gifts, including the gift of tongues.4 Zina also learned from her mother how to minister to the sick, both through physical care and faith healing.5 With other Latter-day Saints, she lived in Kirtland, suffered in Missouri in 1838, found refuge in Nauvoo, and made the pioneer trek to Utah.
In Nauvoo, Zina became one of the first to be taught, to accept, and eventually to practice plural marriage. Her experience demonstrates the complexity of the relationships that sometimes existed during this early stage of the practice. In 1840 Joseph Smith privately taught her about plural marriage and proposed to her. Uncertain about the practice, Zina declined. In 1841 she married Henry Jacobs, but a few months later, after receiving personal revelation on plural marriage, she decided to be sealed for eternity to Joseph Smith.6 “I searched the scripture,” she recalled, “and by humble prayer to my Heavenly Father I obtained a testimony for myself.”7
After Joseph’s death, many of his plural wives were sealed to other Church leaders for this life only, including Zina, who was sealed to Brigham Young in 1846 while still civilly married to Henry. Zina later described her marriage to Henry as unhappy, and at some point they separated.8 In Winter Quarters, where the Saints first began to live openly in plural families, Zina joined the Young household. Close to the same time, Henry left on a mission, and he soon married another woman.9 Speaking of the complexities of these relationships, he wrote to Zina, “There will be shiftings in time and revisions in eternity and all be made right in the end.”10
Zina had two sons with Henry Jacobs and one daughter with Brigham Young. She also raised three children born to Clarissa Ross Young, another wife of Brigham Young, after Clarissa’s death in 1857.11 Zina was serving as the General President of the Relief Society in 1890 when President Wilford Woodruff announced the Manifesto, which led to the end of plural marriage in the Church.12
Zina was always active in her community. She sang in the temple choir in Kirtland.13 She taught school in Nauvoo, Winter Quarters, and Salt Lake City.14 In Salt Lake City, Zina studied midwifery and later led courses in obstetrics and nursing and served on the board of the Deseret Hospital. She learned to care for silkworms as part of an assignment to develop a local silk industry, and in 1876 she became president of the Deseret Silk Association. Zina actively promoted women’s suffrage, attending national conventions and serving as the vice president of the National Council of Women.
Through all her other activities, Zina was also deeply involved in the Relief Society. She became a member of the society in Nauvoo at its second meeting and then, beginning in the 1860s, assisted Eliza R. Snow in organizing local Relief Societies, traveling thousands of miles to visit sisters across Utah. The Church sustained Zina as Relief Society General President in the April 1888 general conference. One year later, Zina presided over the first Relief Society General Conference at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. “Sisters, let us be as one grand phalanx and stand for the right,” she taught at that meeting. “Let us be humble and firm, honor truth, and be valiant in sustaining it.”15 Zina taught by example the importance of temple service. She served in the Salt Lake Endowment House, in the St. George and Logan Temples, and as matron of the Salt Lake Temple when it was dedicated in 1893.
Zina died on August 28, 1901. One contemporary called her a woman who “was cheerful when only brave souls could smile.”16 Another remembered her as “an angel of hope and faith to thousands and thousands of the Latter-day Saints.”17