Zina D. H. Young

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Zina D. H. Young
Photo of Zina D. H. Young
3rd Relief Society General President
April 8, 1888 (1888-04-08) – August 28, 1901 (1901-08-28)[1]
Called byWilford Woodruff
PredecessorEliza R. Snow
SuccessorBathsheba W. Smith
First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency
June 19, 1880 (1880-06-19) – April 1888[1]
Called byEliza R. Snow
PredecessorSarah M. Cleveland
SuccessorJane S. Richards
Personal details
BornZina Diantha Huntington
(1821-01-31)January 31, 1821
Watertown, New York, United States
DiedAugust 28, 1901(1901-08-28) (aged 80)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Resting placeSalt Lake City Cemetery
40°46′38″N 111°51′29″W / 40.7772°N 111.8580°W / 40.7772; -111.8580 (Salt Lake City Cemetery)
Spouse(s)Henry B. Jacobs
Joseph Smith
Brigham Young
Children3, plus 4 adopted.
ParentsWilliam Huntington
Zina Baker
WebsiteZina D. H. Young

Zina Diantha Huntington Young (January 31, 1821 – August 28, 1901) was an American social activist and religious leader who served as the third general president of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1888 until her death. She practiced polyandry as the wife of Joseph Smith, and later Brigham Young, each of whom she married while she was still married to her first husband, Henry Jacobs.[2]

She is among the most well documented healers in LDS Church history (male or female), at one point performing hundreds of washing, anointing, and sealing healing rituals every year.[3]

Family and conversion[edit]

Zina Huntington was born in Watertown, New York, the eighth child of William Huntington and Zina Baker.[4] Her father's family was descended from Puritan Simon Huntington, who died at sea in 1633 on the voyage to America. Her father was a veteran of the War of 1812, her grandfather a soldier in the Revolutionary War,[5] and his brother, Samuel Huntington, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.[6] She was taught household skills, such as spinning, soap making, and weaving, and received a basic education.[4] She developed musical talent by learning to play the cello.

Religion had always been important to her parents, and as a youth during the Great Awakening, Zina grew up in a home where matters of spiritual importance were consistently included in the family dialogue.[7]:86 In 1835, when Zina was fourteen, her family was contacted by Hyrum Smith and David Whitmer, missionaries of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. With the exception of her oldest brother, the entire family joined the church. Zina was baptized by Smith on August 1, 1835.[5]

After receiving advice from Joseph Smith, Sr., Zina's father sold their property and relocated to the church's headquarters in Kirtland, Ohio. Zina was a member of the Kirtland Temple Choir.[5] Nineteen months later, the family moved again to Far West, Missouri. They arrived in Far West at a time of violence between Missouri residents and the newly arrived Mormons. After Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs issued the Extermination Order, Zina's father helped coordinate the evacuation of church members to Illinois. In 1839, when Zina was only eighteen years old, there was a cholera epidemic in Nauvoo, Illinois; Zina and her mother became ill. Her mother died, but Zina recovered after receiving care in the home of Joseph and Emma Smith.[7]

Spiritual gifts[edit]

Young was noted among the new converts of the church for her somewhat remarkable spiritual gifts. Not long after the family arrived in Kirtland she exhibited the gift of tongues and of the interpretation of tongues,[8] gifts she continued to exhibit throughout her life.[5] She also later exhibited the gifts of prophecy and healing.[9] :126 Emmeline B. Wells later wrote of her, "in all spiritual labors and manifestations, she was greatly gifted, and no woman in Israel was more inspirational in prayer .... Her whole life was one of untiring devotion to her Heavenly Father."[10]:47

As General Relief Society President, Young traveled throughout the church performing hundreds of healing blessings every year, and is possibly the LDS Church's most well documented healer, male or female.[3] Though healing rituals are strictly a function of the male priesthood in the contemporary LDS Church, up through the presidency of Joseph F. Smith female healing blessings were part of the orthodoxy.[3] She would carefully wash, anoint, and seal healing blessings, even in the presence of her husband Brigham Young and other church leaders.[3] She taught and encouraged other women to heal as well, preaching at the 1889 General Relief Society Conference, "it is the privilege of all Sisters living as they should to administer the ordinances to their Sisters in sickness & the little ones in faith & humility."[11]

Marriages and children[edit]

Painting of Zina Young by John Clawson

Zina recorded in her autobiography that when she was eighteen she was courted by Henry Bailey Jacobs. During this time, Joseph Smith, also taught her about plural marriage in private conversations; he proposed that she become his spiritual wife on at least three different occasions.[7]:90[12]:77–79 Zina declined the proposals out of her respect for Emma Smith and for traditional Christian monogamy, and because such a union would require secrecy.[7]:90 On March 7, 1841, she married Jacobs, believing she had thus avoided future proposals from Smith.[7]:93 Nauvoo mayor John C. Bennett conducted the ceremony. Her journal from the day of the wedding reads:

I was Married to Mr. Henry Bailey Jacobs. He had been a missionary preaching the Gospel for some time. His Father Henry Jacobs was one of the first elders in the Church, faithful and true until the last.[7]:94

Zina became pregnant shortly after her marriage. However, she continued to feel concern that she had rejected God by rejecting Joseph, whom she considered a prophet and God's spokesperson. Later she recorded, "I received a testimony for myself from the Lord of this work, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God before I ever saw him, while I resided in the state of New York, given in answer to prayer. I knew him in his lifetime, and know him to have been a great true man and a servant of God."[7]:94 Smith wrote to her in October 1841 that he had "put it off till an angel with a drawn sword stood by me and told me if I did not establish that principle [plurality of wives] upon the earth I would lose my position and my life."[7]:95 [12]:80–81[13] She and Smith were married on October 27, 1841.[12]:81–82 [14] Her brother Dimick performed the ceremony. By that time, Joseph was married to five other women, besides his first wife Emma: Fanny Alger, Louisa Beaman, Lucinda Pendleton Morgan, Nancy Marinda Johnson Hyde, and Clarissa Reed Hancock.[7]:96

Zina was about seven months pregnant with a Jacobs's child (Zebulon William Jacobs), as confirmed by DNA evidence,[15] when she married Smith.[16] It is not clear when Jacobs was made aware of the wedding to Smith, however, he believed in Smith's prophetic counsel.[7] Zina and Henry Jacobs continued to live together as man and wife,[12]:81–82 and Zina's "connubial relations with Joseph Smith, if any occurred at all, [were] certainly infrequent and irregular."[7]:104 She never had any children with Joseph, but she and Jacobs had another son, Henry Chariton Jacobs, on March 22, 1846. Her husband Henry was constantly called on missions (he served at least eight between 1839 and 1845)[9]:177 and was thus often absent from the house. In the face of such absences, Zina did not turn to Joseph but rather sought relief from female kin. Her marriage to Henry, riddled with absences as it was, was the only time in her life that she would have a full-time husband.[9] Though many 19th and early 20th century Mormon biographers painted her marriage to Henry as "not proving a happy union"[8]:33 to justify her subsequent marriages to Smith and later to Brigham Young, evidence from her diaries suggests this assertion is unfounded.[12]:81

After Smith's death in 1844, Jacobs stood by while Zina was sealed to Smith in the Nauvoo Temple.[16] Later in life, she called herself Joseph's "widow."[5]:698 Zina was present at the meeting at which Brigham Young was chosen to lead the church, after Young spoke with the voice and appearance of Smith.[17] Because she believed him to be God's chosen leader, she consented when Young, 20 years her senior, claimed he acted as Smith's proxy, proposed they be married for time (as many other members of the Quorum of the Twelve did with Smith's other plural wives). They were married February 2, 1846, and at the same time she was re-sealed to Smith for eternity.[7]:103 At this point, Young and other church leaders considered her civil marriage to Jacobs canceled, superseded by the spiritual marriages, though no formal divorce was ever documented.[7] In October 1861, Brigham would go on to assert, "There was another way—in which a woman could leave a man—if the woman preferred—another man higher in authority and he is willing to take her. And her husband gives her up—there is no Bill of divorce required in the case it is right in the sight of God."[7] In May 1846, Young called Henry Jacobs to serve a mission to England. During Jacobs's absence, Zina began living openly in a marital relationship with Young and continued to do so for the rest of her life.[12] :84,88,90–91[18] She had one child with Young, Zina Prescinda Young, in 1850.[2]

Jacobs struggled with the arrangement, still very much feeling that Zina was his wife, and, in later years wrote to Zina, "the same affection is there .... But I feel alone .... I do not Blame Eny person .... [M]ay the Lord our Father bless Brother Brigham .... [A]ll is right according to the Law of the Celestial Kingdom of our God Joseph".[12] :81–82 Henry would eventually remarry and settle in Utah, though it appears that he and Zina did not keep correspondence or contact.

Zina Young joined the Mormon Exodus to the Rocky Mountains, arriving in the Salt Lake Valley in September 1848. In Utah Territory, she would raise her two Jacobs sons, her daughter, and the four children of Brigham Young and Clara Ross with fierce independence and strength.[19] She resisted the loss of her independence as Brigham drew her, physically and socially, into his vast household, and found herself very lonely once there.[20]:87–89 She relied heavily upon kinship ties to her brothers and sister for the rest of her life.

Relationship to polygamy[edit]

In order to understand Zina's decisions regarding plural marriage, it is pivotal to examine her relationship to the practice of polygamy. Though initially she struggled to understand the morality practice, she accepted it, not because she found virtue in the practice itself, but because it came from Joseph Smith, and he was the prophet. Her "unwavering obedience and unquestioning faith" ultimately determined her decision to be married to Smith and later to Brigham Young.[9]:128 To her, the decision became a test of the integrity she would show to her faith; she later wrote in her journal, "could I compromise conscience ... lay aside the sure testimony of the Spirit of God for the Glory of this world?".[7] This principle of total obedience and submission to male church leaders came to define her faith. In her last conference of the Relief Society in October 1900 in the Salt Lake Assembly Hall, Zina advised, "Sisters, never speak a word against the authorities of this church."[10]

In time, however, Zina accepted polygamy as a lifestyle. On one occasion, she proclaimed, "The principle of plural marriage is honorable. It is a principle of the gods, it is heaven born. God revealed it to us as a saving principle: we have accepted it as such and we know it is of him, for the fruits of it are holy. ... We are proud of the principle because we know its true worth." [5]:698 When, in 1890 church president Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto that led to the end of the practice of polygamy in the church, she lamented, "Today the hearts of all were tried but looked to God and submitted,"[21] relying on the same determined obedience to disavow polygamy that she once needed to accept it.

In later life, Zina commented that women in polygamous relationships "expect too much attention from the husband and ... become sullen and morose". She explained that "a successful polygamous wife must regard her husband with indifference, and with no other feeling than that of reverence, for love we regard as a false sentiment; a feeling which should have no existence in polygamy."[12] :108,466–67 She came to rely primarily on relationships with kin and other women in the community for support and friendship.

Civic leadership and church service[edit]

Zina ca. 1887

Contributions to public health. In Utah, once her children were raised, Zina became involved in a number of public service activities. She became a school teacher and studied obstetrics under Willard Richards. As a midwife (Zina learned midwifery from her mother in New York) she "helped deliver the babies of many women, including those of the plural wives of Brigham Young. At their request, she anointed and blessed many of these sisters before their deliveries. Other women in need of physical and emotional comfort also received blessings under her hands." [1]:654 In 1872, she helped establish Deseret Hospital in Salt Lake City and served on its board of directors and for twelve years as president. She also organized a nursing school, with courses in obstetrics. In 1876, Zina was appointed president of the Deseret Silk Association,[22] a group which for 30 years attempted to cultivate silk worms and mulberry trees for the local production of cloth.

Women's suffrage. Zina was active in the temperance and women's suffrage movements, and, in the winter of 1881–82, attended the Women's Conference in Buffalo and a National Woman Suffrage Association convention in New York.[4]

Church service. When the LDS Church's Relief Society was reorganized church-wide in 1880, Zina was selected as first counselor by president Eliza R. Snow.[5] The new presidency was active in refining the society's organization and functions, and helped develop additional church auxiliaries, including the Young Ladies' Retrenchment Association and the Primary Association for children. She was remarkable as Snow's right-hand and compliment; it was later remarked that "Sister Snow was keenly intellectual, and she led by force of that intelligence. Sister Zina was all love and sympathy, and drew people after her by reason of that tenderness."[23] In addition to Snow, Zina counted other prominent women in the Relief Society as her friends, including Bathsheba Smith and Emmeline B. Wells.[24]:197

As a leader among women, she was beloved for her nurturing character. Not long after her death, Susa Young Gates remarked, "Sister Zina was all love and sympathy, and drew people after her by reason of that tenderness."[25] She embraced the "feminine sphere" of her time, spending her life in Utah serving and influencing other women. Her "hallmark was intimate care: nursing, midwifery, attendance at the sickbed, radiance in the blessing circle, and powerful spirituality as she spoke in or interpreted tongues."[24]:215

In 1888, following the death of Snow, Zina succeeded her as the Relief Society's third general president and served until her death in 1901. In 1891, she was a vice president for the Utah National Council for Women. She was also matron of the Salt Lake Temple until her death.[9]:121 Zina died on August 28, 1901, at age 80.


Gravestone of Zina D.H. Young in Salt Lake Cemetery

The legacy of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young is one of obedience, diligence, and service. She was a member of an elite circle of early Latter Day Saints, sealed to two presidents of the church and a remarkable leader of Mormon women in Utah. She met with the diametric ideals of the tough, independent frontierswoman and the Victorian ideals of "piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity" and was an example to the early Saints in the valley of a faithful Mormon woman.[20] :88 Above all, her legacy is the strength she found in communities of women where she found "the Spirit of God is, and when we speak to one another, it is like oil going from vessel to vessel."[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Ludlow, Daniel H, ed. (1992). "Appendix 1: Biographical Register of General Church Officers". Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan Publishing. p. 1651. ISBN 9780028796055. OCLC 24502140.
  2. ^ a b Allen L. Wyatt (August 2006). "Zina and Her Men: An Examination of the Changing Marital State of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young". 2006 FAIR Conference. FairMormon. Retrieved 2014-10-29.
  3. ^ a b c d Stapley, J. A. (2018). The power of godliness: Mormon liturgy and cosmology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. page 79
  4. ^ a b c Woodward, Mary Firmage (1992). Ludlow, Daniel H. (ed.). "Young, Zina D. H." Encyclopedia of Mormonism. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 9780028796055.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Jenson, Andrew (1941). "Zina Diantha Huntington Young". Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia. Salt Lake City: Deseret News. 1: 697–699. ISBN 9781589580312.
  6. ^ Whitney, Orson F. "Zina Huntington Young." History of Utah. Salt Lake City, Utah : G. Q. Cannon & Sons Co, 1892. 576-578. Print. Page 576.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Bradley, Martha Sonntag; Woodward, Mary Brown Firmage (1994). "Plurality, Patriarchy, and the Priestess: Zina D. H. Young's Nauvoo Marriages". Journal of Mormon History. 20 (1): 84–119. JSTOR 23286315.
  8. ^ a b Crockwell, James H (1887). Pictures and Biographies of Brigham Young and his Wives. Salt Lake City, Utah.
  9. ^ a b c d e Beecher, Maureen Ursenbach (1993). "Each in Her Own Time: Four Zinas" (PDF). Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 26 (2): 119–135.
  10. ^ a b Wells, Emmeline B. (1901). "Zina D. H. Young:A Character Sketch". Improvement Era. 5 (1): 43–48.
  11. ^ Stapley, J. A. (2018). The power of godliness: Mormon liturgy and cosmology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. page 93
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Compton, Todd (1997). In Sacred Loneliness. pp. 77–91, 108, 466–467.
  13. ^ Zina Young, "Joseph the Prophet His Life and His Mission as Viewed By Intimate Acquaintances", Salt Lake Herald Church and Farm Supplement, January 12, 1895.
  14. ^ Bushman 2005, pp. 439–40; Brodie 1971, pp. 465–66; Quinn 1994, pp. 633.
  15. ^ Perego 2005.
  16. ^ a b Brodie 1971, p. 465.
  17. ^ Firmage, Mary Brown. "Great-Grandmother Zina: A More Personal Portrait," Ensign, March 1984.
  18. ^ Van Wagoner, Richard S. (1989). Mormon Polygamy: A History. pp. 44–45. ISBN 9780941214797.
  19. ^ Beecher, Maureen Ursenbach (1979). "All things move in order in the city: The Nauvoo diary of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs". BYU Studies. 19 (3): 285–320.
  20. ^ a b Higbee, Marilyn (1993). ""A Weary Traveler": The 1848-50 Diary of Zina D. H. Young". Journal of Mormon History. 19 (2): 86–126.
  21. ^ "The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage". LDS Church.
  22. ^ Charity Never Faileth at lds.about.com
  23. ^ Black, Susan Easton; Woodger, Mary Jane (2011). Women of Character: Profiles of 100 prominent LDS Women. American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications. p. 379. ISBN 9781680470185.
  24. ^ a b Bradley, Martha Sonntag; Firmage Woodward, Mary Brown (2000). 4 Zinas: A Story of Mothers and Daughters on the Mormon Frontier. Salt Lake City: Signature Books. ISBN 9781560851417.
  25. ^ Gates, Susa Young (1911). History of the Young Ladies' Mutual Improvement Association. Salt Lake City: Deseret News. p. 21. ISBN 9781175683991.
  26. ^ Madsen, Carol Cornwall (1994). In Their Own Words: Women and the Story of Nauvoo. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book. p. 30. ISBN 9780875797700.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
Preceded by
Eliza R. Snow
Relief Society General President
April 8, 1888 (1888-04-08)–August 28, 1901 (1901-08-28)
Succeeded by
Bathsheba W. Smith
Preceded by
Sarah M. Cleveland
First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency
June 19, 1880 (1880-06-19)–April 1888
Succeeded by
Jane S. Richards