Elizabeth Ann Whitney

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The Relief Society was organized on March 17, 1842, and Elizabeth Ann Whitney was one of the original twenty women present. She served as Emma Smith’s second counselor. Later she served as second counselor to Eliza R. Snow.

Ann was born on December 26, 1800, in Derby, Connecticut. She left home and moved to Ohio in 1819, following her unmarried aunt to Kirtland. She married Newel K. Whitney on October 20, 1822, in Kirtland. They had eleven children together and adopted several homeless children.

She considered herself religious and joined the reformed Baptist (later Campbellite) movement, which was led then by Sidney Rigdon. Ann and Newel were taught the gospel of Jesus Christ by Parley P. Pratt and were baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in November 1830 by Sidney Rigdon, who had also been converted. One month later, in December, Joseph and Emma Smith came to the Whitney store and Joseph said, “I am Joseph the Prophet; you have prayed me here; now what do you want of me?”[1]

Ann Whitney felt that the Joseph and Emma's coming was fulfillment of a vision she and Newel had previously witnessed, in which "a cloud of glory rested upon [their] house." They lodged with the Whitneys for a number of weeks. Joseph noticed the quality of Whitney's singing voice and accordingly dubbed her "the sweet songstress of Zion.”[2]

Ann and Newel followed the Saints first to Missouri and then to Illinois. They were sealed in the Nauvoo Temple by Joseph Smith. They emigrated to the Salt Lake Valley and arrived on September 24, 1848. Two years later she was widowed.

Ann is said to have had the gift of tongues.[3] She was known as “Mother Whitney” by members of the Church. Her autobiography was published in a series in the Woman’s Exponent. She died in Salt Lake City in 1882.