Elizabeth Ann Whitney (1800-1882)

I’m on vacation for a few days, but I can’t resist sharing this note.

At boap.org many of you know we keep a collection of autobiographies and journals of people connected in some way (as contemporaries) to Joseph Smith. At the present time, we have only a short selection from Elizabeth Whitney, wife of Newel K. Whitney. The Whitney’s were among the early converts to Mormonism in Kirtland, Ohio. Elizabeth left a rather extensive reminiscence of her years in Mormonism and we are going to include it in the collection as we (I mostly now) get time to put it there. But to start with, I wanted to give you some flavor of the Woman. Below I insert her very touching opening salvo in her “Women’s Exponent” series in 1878. Take note of her final paragraph. I give you Elizabeth Ann Whitney.

A LEAF FROM AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY

To those who may read this simple history of the private life of an individual, I would say before entering upon any details, or portraying incidents, can you understand, my kind readers, what it is to be truly, emphatically and undeniably old?

To have the whole landscape of your past life spread out to view; to trace in and out, through the weary winding ways, watch where the shadows fell and darkened; to catch sometimes the dawn of unbroken light, to rest after all, to feel you have become unequal to the contest of life’s struggles, save as faith sustains you; to wait patiently, with a strong and ever growing trust and perfect secrity, relying upon the promises of Him “Who sees not as we see.”

To feel you have acquired a little insight into the purposes of God in your creation; with a firm hope and an unswerving faith in the recompense of a fulness of glory through obedience, more complete than any earthly power can give; to rest contented, waiting His time? Can you realize that these things are worth living for, worth suffering for? Can any sacrifice be too great through which we are called to pass, if we would follow in our Master’s footprints?

In looking back over the years that are past, and recalling vividly the incidents of my earliest days, tracing the dim outlines of the years now vanished, ere the powers of life are to enfeebled, I feel attracted to sit down and delineate some of its most intricate mysteries, without any effor to embody myself as a heroine, but clearly to give a consise account of my unpretentious life; beginning with its morning, representing myself truthfully, as I have lived, through three quarters of a century, having seen many of my contemporaries and some of my dearest friends pass out of sight. In looking back, if there are any principles which have given my strength, and by which I have learned to live more truly a life of usefulness, it seems to me I could wish to impart this joy and strength to others; to tell them what the Gospel has been and is to me, ever since I embraced it and learned to live by its laws. A fresh revelation of the Spirit day by day, an unveiling of mysteries which before were dark, deep, unexplained and incomprehensible; a most implicit faith in a divine power, in infinite truth emanating from God the Father, the fountain from which we must never depart: into labyriths of of our own, or other’s seeking, if we mean to conquer as individuals.

Our own little histories are replete with this occasional darkness, which has been left unexplained, through misunderstandings, discord and wrongs unrighted, and which we learn to endure through much forbearance and forgiveness of injuries.

Human character is not immutable, but capable of perfecting to an infinite growth; do we not need, in such a world, faith in God–a hope for man that has its foundation in the principles of eternal truth?

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3 Responses to Elizabeth Ann Whitney (1800-1882)

  1. J. Stapley says:

    Elizabeth Ann Whitney is one of my favorites. Good stuff.

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