Elizabeth Ann Whitney

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Elizabeth Ann Whitney
Photo of Elizabeth Ann Whitney
ca. 1870
Second Counselor in the general
presidency of the Relief Society
1866 – December 5, 1887 (1887-12-05)
Called by Eliza R. Snow
Predecessor Dormant
Successor Bathsheba W. Smith
Second Counselor in the general presidency of the Relief Society
March 17, 1842 (1842-03-17) – 1844
Called by Emma Hale Smith
Predecessor Founding Member
Successor Dormant
Personal details
Born Elizabeth Ann Smith
(1800-12-26)December 26, 1800
Derby, Connecticut, United States
Died February 15, 1882(1882-02-15) (aged 81)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Resting place Salt Lake City Cemetery
40°46′37″N 111°51′29″W / 40.777°N 111.858°W / 40.777; -111.858 (Salt Lake City Cemetery)
Spouse(s) Newel K. Whitney
Parents Gibson Smith
Polly Bradley

Elizabeth Ann Smith Whitney (December 26, 1800 – February 15, 1882) was an early Latter Day Saint leader, and wife to Newel K. Whitney, another early Latter Day Saint leader. She went by her middle name, Ann.[1]

Early life and marriage[edit]

Elizabeth Ann Smith was born in Derby, Connecticut to Gibson Smith and Polly Bradley.[2] She was the couple's oldest child.[3] Her parents weren't members of any church, although they were Christian. As a child, she was taught dancing.[4] She left her parents at about age 18 and moved to Kirtland, Ohio with her aunt Sarah Smith, who was a spinster.[3] When she was 20 she met her future husband, Newel K. Whitney. The couple was married on October 20, 1822.[2] They quickly accumulated wealth and status in their community.[3] They had eleven children together and adopted several homeless children.[5]


In Kirtland, Ann and her husband joined the Disciples of Christ, called the Campbellites at the time, led in the area by Sidney Rigdon. This group denied it had power to give the gift of the Holy Spirit.[3] This, along with vague answers to Whitney's questions, caused her and her husband couple to pray for direction.[6] In response to that prayer, the couple claimed to have seen a vision and a voice stating, "Prepare to receive the word of the Lord, for it is coming!"[3]

Sidney Rigdon converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which had been established by Joseph Smith in April 1830. In 1830, Whitney heard of his conversion and of the missionaries who were in the area. She went home after hearing them speak to share with her husband that she felt it was the right church. She and her husband chose to be baptized in November 1830.[7]

Joseph and Emma Smith arrived at Newel K. Whitney's store in Kirtland in December 1830. Joseph said, "I am Joseph the Prophet; you have prayed me here; now what do you want of me?"[7] Joseph then stayed in their home.[5] While there, he received revelations that are recorded in Doctrine and Covenants.[7]

Whitney and her husband hosted a three-day feast for the poor in January 1836. They lost some of their wealth when the Kirtland Safety Society Banking Company collapsed and people began persecuting members of the church.[6]

Traveling Westward[edit]

Whitney and her family traveled with the members of the church. They left Kirtland to move to Far West, Missouri in the fall of 1838 due to persecution.[8] However, when they reached St. Louis, they were informed that Latter-day Saints were being kicked out of Missouri. They settled in Carrollton, Illinois during the winter of 1838–1839. They then moved to Quincy, Illinois during the next winter. By the spring of 1840, they had reached Nauvoo, Illinois, then called Commerce.[2] When the family reached Nauvoo, most of them were sick, and Whitney had her ninth child.[8] The couple received their endowments and were sealed in the Nauvoo Temple by Joseph Smith.[5]

The family continued moving with the Saints, and went to Winter Quarters in February, 1846 before migrating to the Salt Lake Valley. They arrived in Salt Lake City on September 24, 1848.[2] Two years later, her husband died.[6]

LDS Church service[edit]

In March 1842, Whitney became one of the original leaders of the Relief Society, with Emma Hale Smith, Sarah M. Cleveland, and Eliza Roxcy Snow (who had been her acquaintance in Kirtland). Whitney served as the second counselor under Emma Smith.[9][10] Whitney presided over many of the Relief Society's last meetings in Nauvoo, as Emma Smith was away travelling, ill, or struggling with Joseph Smith's doctrine of plural marriage.[1] Ann and Newell Whitney consented for Joseph Smith to marry their daughter in 1842. Shortly after Joseph Smith's death in 1844, Newel took another wife. Ann wrote that she was "more favorably disposed to women as a class" since she had a sister wife.[1]

After the Nauvoo temple was completed, Whitney was the second woman to receive her endowment (after Emma Smith).[1] Whitney worked there daily during the winter of 1845-46 to help other members receive their endowments.[5][10] In 1850, Brigham Young called her to be in charge of the women's department of the Endowment House.[10] Whitney also served as second counselor to Eliza R. Snow in the Relief Society presidency from 1880–1882.[6]

Beginning in August 1878, Whitney's autobiography was published in a series called A Leaf from an Autobiography in Woman's Exponent.


Elizabeth Whitney was affectionately called "Mother Whitney" by members of the church for her service and compassion.[5] It is noted that she had the gift of tongues, and that she even sang in tongues.[6] Whitney also used seer stones.[11] She died in Salt Lake City in 1882[2] and was buried in Salt Lake City Cemetery. At the time of her death she was the second oldest member of the LDS church.[12] A residence hall at Brigham Young University was named after her in 1957.[13]

Elizabeth Ann Whitney's grave marker



  1. ^ a b c d Tolman, Jan De Hoyos. Turley, Richard E.; Nash, Brittany Chapman, eds. "I Have Been a Living Witness": Elizabeth Ann Smith Whitney (1800-1882) (digital ed.). Deseret Book Company. pp. 596–606. OCLC 871316993.
  2. ^ a b c d e Whitney, Elizabeth Ann Smith. The Joseph Smith Papers. The Church Historian's Press. 18 March 2014. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e Tullidge, Edward W. (1877). The Women of Mormondom. New York. pp. 32&ndash, 42. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  4. ^ Wells, Emmeline B, ed. (15 Aug 1878). "A Leaf from an Autobiography". The Woman's Exponent. 7 (6): 41. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e Quinn, D. Michael (December 1978). "The Newel K. Whitney Family". Ensign. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e Black, Susan Easton; Woodger, Mary Jane (2011). Women of Character. American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications. pp. 365–368. ISBN 9781680470185.
  7. ^ a b c Wells, Emmeline B, ed. (9 Sep 1878). "A Leaf from an Autobiography". The Woman's Exponent. 7 (7): 51. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  8. ^ a b Wells, Emmeline B, ed. (15 Nov 1878). "A Leaf from an Autobiography". The Woman's Exponent. 7 (12): 91. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  9. ^ Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book, p. 8
  10. ^ a b c Madsen, Carol Cornwall (1994). In Their Own Words: Women and the Story of Nauvoo. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company. pp. 196–198. ISBN 0875797709.
  11. ^ Staker, Mark (2003). ""Thou Art the Man" Newel K. Whitney in Ohio". BYU Studies. 42 (1): 101. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  12. ^ "Mother Whitney Dead". The Daily Herald. 16 February 1882. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  13. ^ "Historic Dedication Conducted on Y Campus". The Daily Herald. 7 May 1957. p. 9. Retrieved 3 October 2016.closed access publication – behind paywall

External links[edit]

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints titles
First Second Counselor in the general
presidency of the Relief Society

March 17, 1842 (1842-03-17) – 1844
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
Dormant Second Counselor in the general
presidency of the Relief Society

1866 – December 5, 1887
Succeeded by
Bathsheba W. Smith