Orson F. Whitney

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Orson F. Whitney
Orson F. Whitney2.JPG
ca. 1870-1875
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 9, 1906 (1906-04-09) – May 16, 1931 (1931-05-16)
Called by Joseph F. Smith
LDS Church Apostle
April 9, 1906 (1906-04-09) – May 16, 1931 (1931-05-16)
Called by Joseph F. Smith
Reason Resignation of Matthias F. Cowley and John W. Taylor from the Quorum of the Twelve; death of Marriner W. Merrill[1]
at end of term
Joseph F. Merrill ordained
Personal details
Born Orson Ferguson Whitney
(1855-07-01)July 1, 1855
Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, United States
Died May 16, 1931(1931-05-16) (aged 75)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Resting place Salt Lake City Cemetery
40°46′37.92″N 111°51′28.8″W / 40.7772000°N 111.858000°W / 40.7772000; -111.858000
Orson F. Whitney Signature.JPG

Orson Ferguson Whitney (1 July 1855 – 16 May 1931) born in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from April 9, 1906 until his death.

Early life[edit]

Whitney was the son of Horace K. Whitney and Helen Mar Kimball. Whitney's father, Horace, had set type for the original publication of the Deseret News[2] and worked as a printer with the Deseret News for 21 years.[3]


Whitney was a politician, journalist, poet, historian and academic. In 1878, as a young man, Whitney began a career in writing with the business office of the LDS newspaper, the Deseret News, later becoming a reporter and the city editor. During a mission in Europe for the LDS Church from 1881 to 1883, he acted as editor of the church publication Millennial Star. In 1896–1897, Whitney taught English and Theology at Brigham Young College, in Logan, Utah.

In 1899, Whitney accepted the position of Assistant Church Historian and served in that position until he was called as an apostle.

Whitney was also involved in the politics of Salt Lake City and Utah. He served on the Salt Lake City Council in 1880, acted as City Treasurer from 1884 to 1890, and served as a State Senator in 1898, and again in 1901.


Whitney produced the lyrics to LDS Church hymns, including "The Wintry Day, Descending to Its Close", (music composed by Edward P. Kimball) and "Savior Redeemer of My Soul" (music by Harry A. Dean) appearing as hymns #37 and 112, respectively, in the 1985 edition of the LDS Church hymnal.

Whitney's historical works, although detailed, well researched and presented, are admittedly written by Whitney from a Mormon perspective[4][5] and are considered by many to be "locked in the ironclad orthodoxy" of Mormonism.[6]

In June 1888 (and published the following month in The Contributor), Whitney delivered a speech entitled "Home Literature"; the speech is widely credited with proving both permission and impetus for Mormon literature and is the source of the sentence, "We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own."

Publications include:

  • The Life of Heber C. Kimball (1888) online
  • Poetical Writings (1889–90)
  • History of Utah (4 Volumes) Vol. 1 Vol. 2 Vol. 4
  • Elias: An Epic of the Ages (1904) online
  • Love and the Light: An Idyll of the Westland (1918)


In 1905, two members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles resigned over a dispute with church doctrine and policy. John W. Taylor disagreed with the manifesto forbidding plural marriage; Matthias F. Cowley felt that it should apply only to the United States. In February of the next year, Marriner W. Merrill died, leaving three vacancies in the quorum.

At a general conference of the church, Whitney was called on April 8, 1906, and ordained the following day, along with George F. Richards and David O. McKay.

Grave marker of Orson F. Whitney.


Whitney died in Salt Lake City after being hospitalized for influenza.[7] He was buried at Salt Lake City Cemetery.[8]

Published Works[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ George F. Richards and David O. McKay were called at the same time as Whitney to fill the three vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve.
  2. ^ Andrew Jenson. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. Vol. 4, p. 722
  3. ^ Short bio of Horace Kimball
  4. ^ Whitney, Orson. Life of Heber C. Kimball (online). 
  5. ^ Whitney, Orson (November 1888). Life of Heber C. Kimball. Preface: Zion's Camp Books. 
  6. ^ Topping, p. 8.
  7. ^ State of Utah Death Certificate
  8. ^ Find A Grave


  • Topping, Gary. Utah Historians and the Reconstruction of Western History. 2003, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma. ISBN 0-8061-3561-1

External links[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
Preceded by
George F. Richards
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 9, 1906–May 16, 1931
Succeeded by
David O. McKay