“Church Marks 200th Anniversary of Wilford Woodruff’s Birth,” Liahona, Mar. 2007, N5–N7
March 1, 2007, marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Wilford Woodruff, the fourth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Born on March 1, 1807, and raised in Farmington, Connecticut, Wilford Woodruff was a flour mill operator. He joined the Church in 1833 and served two missions before being ordained an Apostle in 1839.
As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he completed four additional missions; presided over the temple in St. George, Utah; and served six years as Church Historian.
He was sustained as President of the Church on April 7, 1889. He dedicated the Manti Utah Temple and the long-awaited Salt Lake Temple, oversaw the organization of the Genealogical Society of Utah, and reemphasized the value of historical record keeping.
President Woodruff was a faithful pioneer, participating in Zion’s Camp with the Prophet Joseph Smith. At age 40 he entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, and was with Brigham Young when he proclaimed, “This is the right place.”
“God Moves in a Mysterious Way” (Hymns, no. 285) was President Woodruff’s favorite hymn. “‘He loved [that hymn],’ remarked President Heber J. Grant [1856–1945], who served as an Apostle when Wilford Woodruff was President of the Church. ‘We sang it, I am sure, sometimes twice a month in our weekly meetings in the Temple, and very seldom did a month pass by when that song was not called for by Brother Woodruff. He believed in this work with all his heart and soul, and labored with all the power that God gave him for its advancement’” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff , xv).
President Woodruff is remembered for being an avid journal keeper. He kept a journal for most of his adult life, “making his final entry on August 31, 1898, two days before he died” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church, 125).
In one meeting, he taught a principle that can be applied to journals as well as to official Church records: “While walking in a rapid stream we cannot tread twice in the same water. Neither can we spend twice the same time. When we pass out of that door, the work of this meeting will be closed to us forever. We shall never spend the time of this evening again. Then should we not keep a record of our work, teachings, and counsel which we give in this meeting? We should” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church, 127).
He encouraged children to start keeping journals early in their lives: “If my young friends will begin to do this and continue it, it will be of far more worth than gold to them in a future day,” he said (Teachings of Presidents of the Church, 132).
After much pondering and prayer, President Woodruff received a revelation that the Latter-day Saints should cease the practice of plural marriage. In 1890 he wrote the Manifesto, testifying that the Church had ceased teaching the practice of plural marriage. In addition to being the Lord’s mouthpiece for that revelation, President Woodruff also left a legacy that emphasized missionary and temple work.
President Woodruff died in San Francisco, California, USA, on September 2, 1898, at age 91.
In 2006 members across the world learned of this prophet’s testimony from the manual Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff. In the manual are many stories from President Woodruff’s life and ministry.
While searching for the truth, President Woodruff felt a need to see a modern-day prophet: “In my early manhood I prayed day and night that I might live to see a prophet. I would have gone a thousand miles to have seen a prophet, or a man that could teach me the things that I read of in the Bible. I could not join any church, because I could not find any church at that time that advocated these principles” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church, xix–xx).
President Woodruff taught the importance of modern revelation: “The Church of God could not live twenty-four hours without revelation” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church, 47).
He also emphasized personal revelation through the Spirit: “You may have the administration of angels; you may see many miracles; … but I claim that the gift of the Holy Ghost is the greatest gift that can be bestowed upon man” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church, 49).
President Woodruff frequently exhorted his fellow Saints to partake of the blessings available in the temple. He said, “I consider that the building of temples is one of the important things required by the Lord of the Latter-day Saints in the dispensation of the fulness of times, that we may go into those temples and not only redeem the living but redeem our dead” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church, xxix). With characteristic diligence, he set an example of temple work, ensuring that temple work be done for thousands of his ancestors.
Like other prophets of his day, President Woodruff prophesied that the time would come when there would be temples all over the world.