Edward Stevenson was one of the First Seven Presidents of Seventies (which was also designated as the First Council of the Seventy at that time) from 1894 to1897. He was a son of Joseph Stevenson and Elizabeth Stevens, and was born May 1, 1820, at the British Garrison at Gibraltar, Spain. In 1827 he came to America in company with his father's family, consisting of four sons and two daughters, Edward being the fourth son. When he was but eleven years of age his father died, and he went to live with a Dr. Richardson.
In 1833, being then thirteen years old, he heard Elders Jared Carter and Joseph Woods preach the gospel and believed their testimonies. He was baptized by Japhet Fosdick Dec. 20, 1833. His mother and others of the family also joined the Church. This was in Michigan. They afterwards joined the body of the Church and endured the hardships and persecution incident to life among the Saints in those trying times. At Far West, Missouri, Edward became quite intimately acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith, whom he first met in Michigan, and though so young, took an active part in the defense of that town.
After passing through the persecutions of Missouri, he became a resident of Nauvoo, where on April 7, 1845 he married Nancy Areta Porter.by whom he would father five children. Shortly afterward he was ordained a Seventy May 1, 1845, under the hands of Joseph Young and others. Subsequently he became a president of the 30th quorum of Seventies, and was for many years its senior president. Bro. Stevenson came to Utah in 1847; in crossing the plains and mountains he was a captain of ten in Charles C. Rich's company.
On October 28, 1855, Elder Stevenson entered into the practice of Plural Marriage by taking his second wife Elizabeth Jane DuFresne. The Ancestral File lists eight children for the couple. Two years later on April 20, 1857, he took as his third wife Emily Electa Williams. Eleven children would bless Edward and Emily's union. Six months after marrying Emily, Elder Stevenson married his fourth wife, Sarah Jane Porter, on September 11, 1857. Ancestral File lists no children of this marriage.
Subsequently, he crossed the plains eighteen times, and the Atlantic ocean nine times as a missionary for the Church. In 1857-58 he filled a mission to the United States, returning as leader of a large company of Saints. In 1869 he was called on another mission to the States from which he returned in 1870. In reporting his mission to Pres. Brigham Young, he spoke of Martin Harris, one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, who was still living in Kirtland, Ohio, and who had expressed a desire to come to Utah. Consequently Elder Stevenson was called on a special mission to bring Martin Harris to the headquarters of the Church. He responded willingly, and returned to Salt Lake City, accompanied by Martin Harris, Aug. 30, 1870.
Elder Stevenson took as his fifth wife Mary Ann DuFresne, the older sister of his second wife. The couple were married January 11, 1871 and had no children. On the same day Edward took his sixth wife, Elizabeth Remon. Like Mary Ann, Elizabeth was past child bearing age when the couple were married. Two years later on December 16, 1872, Edward took his seventh and final wife, Louisa Yates. She would bless Edward with three children.
From 1865 to 1877, when not away on distant missions, Elder Stevenson traveled as a special home missionary among the Saints in the mountains, during which time he visited nearly all the settlements of the Saints in Utah. In 1872 he was sent on a mission to the United States and Canada; in 1877-78 he filled a mission to the Southern States, and in 1883-84 another mission to the United States and Canada. In February, 1886, he was set apart for another mission to the United States and Europe,
In the course of his experience, Elder Stevenson made himself familiar with many scenes of early Church history, and in his public discourses and lectures imparted much information in relation thereto. Accompanied by Elders Andrew Jenson and Joseph S. Black, he visited nearly all the "waste places of Zion" in 1888, obtaining valuable historical information. Among those with whom he discussed events of vital importance were the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, and his record of what those witnesses testified to him was given wide publicity, so that all might know thereof and verify the accuracy of his declarations.
He said of Oliver Cowdery: "I have often heard him bear a faithful testimony to the restoration of the gospel by the visitation of an angel, in whose presence he stood in company with the Prophet Joseph Smith and David Whitmer. He testified that he beheld the plates, the leaves being turned over by the angel, whose voice he heard, and that they were commanded as witnesses to bear a faithful testimony to the world of the vision that they were favored to behold, and that the translation from the plates of the Book of Mormon was accepted of the Lord, and that it would go forth to the world, and that no power on the earth should stop its progress."
Elder Stevenson said of David Whitmer, in 1886, after recounting previous testimonies he had listened to from him: 'David Whitmer is now just past eighty-one years of age. In this his last testimony he said to me: 'As sure as the sun shines and I live, just so sure did the angel appear to me and Joseph Smith, and I heard his voice, and did see the angel standing before us, and on a table were the plates, the sword of Laban and the ball or compass.'"
Concerning Martin Harris, Elder Stevenson wrote: "In the year 1869, I was appointed on a mission to the United States. Having visited several of the Eastern States, I called at Kirtland, Ohio, to see the first Temple that was built by our people in this generation. While there I met Martin Harris, soon after coming out of the Temple. He took from under his arm a copy of the Book of Mormon, the first edition, I believe, and bore a faithful testimony just the same as I heard him bear thirty-six years previous.
- Aug. 19, 1870, in company with Martin Harris, I left Kirtland for Utah, and on the 21st he was with me in Chicago, and at the American Hotel bore testimony to a large number of people of the visitation of an angel, etc."
To fill a vacancy caused in the First Council of Seventy by the death of Elder John Morgan, Edward Stevenson was chosen and set apart as one of the First Seven Presidents of Seventy Oct. 9, 1894, by Apostle Brigham Young. From that time until his death he labored assiduously in preaching the gospel and attending to the duties of his calling.
He filled a special mission to Mexico, and was engaged in missionary labors in the Northwest, when he was taken sick, Sept. 11, 1896, at Walla Walla, Washington. After his return home his health improved so much that he was enabled to resume his ministerial labors; but he received a backset in December, 1896, after which he was confined to his house till Jan. 27, 1897, when he passed away.
The LDS Biographical Encyclopedia lists Edward as the husband of four wives and the father of twenty-eight children, namely twenty boys and eight girls. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism numbers his children at twenty-four. The Ancestral File counts seven wives and twenty-seven children. It should be noted that during the unconscionable and ungodly persecution of the Saints, marriages and children were not always publicly recorded.
Elder Stevenson was one of God's noblemen and one of the most faithful and energetic missionaries who ever preached the gospel in this dispensation. It is believed that he traveled and preached more on his own expense than any other Elder in the Church. He ranked high as a public speaker, and in private conversation he was untiring and entertaining. In his public and private life he was very exemplary; he was a strict observer of the Word of Wisdom, and partook of neither tea nor coffee during the last thirty years of his life.