How Wilford Woodruff's Records Help Us Understand Other Historical Figures

by Steven C. Harper

Part of the pleasure of reading the Wilford Woodruff Papers is that we not only receive access to Wilford’s personal thoughts and visions, but we also obtain a secondhand account of other historical figures like Brigham Young, whom Wilford knew and personally interacted with.

Wilford was a meek listener to many prophetic speeches, and he recorded them in his journals for his own personal instruction. That instruction is now ours, as well. Our modern lens can sometimes cause figures like Brigham Young to appear harsh or formidable. But through Wilford, who was much “in company with Elder Brigham Young,” we can see better the kind of man that Brigham Young was and what he taught.1

We can see that he understood Heavenly Father. Once, in instructing the Twelve, Brigham Young said, “When I meet the god I worship I expect [the] personage with whom I have been acquainted, upon the same principle that I would meet with my earthly father after going on a journey and returning home.”2 Of God’s origin, Brigham said, “I will tell you the god which you and I worship; it is a Being that was on an earth like this. He has been clothed in mortality the same as we have been, and he has had devils to fight the same as we…. That god says I am your God and there is none else. Let us worship him and none else.”2

Taking part in this historic project gives us the opportunity to uncover theological gems from not only the words of Wilford Woodruff, but of Brigham Young, Sidney Rigdon, Orson Pratt, John Taylor, Heber Kimball, Lorenzo Snow, Joseph Smith, and countless others. We are thrilled to be involved in such an important work!

[1] Wilford Woodruff’s Journals, April 20, 1844. Punctuation modified.

[2] Wilford Woodruff’s Journals, January 27, 1860. Punctuation modified; spelling standardized.