Phebe Whittemore Carter Woodruff

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Phebe Whittemore Carter was the first wife of Wilford Woodruff. She was born on March 8, 1807, in Scarborough, Maine. She was baptized in 1834 and moved to Kirtland, Ohio, around 1835.

She met Wilford Woodruff on January 28, 1837, and married him on April 13, 1837. They were later sealed in Nauvoo by Hyrum Smith. They eventually had nine children—five of whom died before their third birthday. She joined her husband on his mission to the Fox Islands in Maine from 1837 to 1838. She also accompanied him on missions to England (1845–1846) and the eastern states (from about 1848 to 1850).

In December 1838, while traveling through Ohio with Wilford on rough roads in the cold weather, Phebe was dying of brain fever. Wilford writes, “She called me to her bedside in the evening and said she felt as though a few moments more would end her existence in this life. She manifested great confidence in the cause she had embraced, and exhorted me to have confidence in God and to keep His commandments.”

Despite Wilford fervently praying for her recovery, she died the next day, December 3, yet Wilford blessed her and she revived. Phebe told her husband about what she experienced while he was standing over her body, which, of course, he recorded in his journal,
“While this operation was going on with me (as my wife related afterwards) her spirit left her body, and she saw it lying upon the bed, and the sisters weeping. She looked at them and at me, and upon her babe, and, while gazing upon this scene, two personages came into the room carrying a coffin and told her they had come for her body. One of these messengers informed her that she could have her choice: she might go to rest in the spirit world, or, on one condition she could have the privilege of returning to her tabernacle and continuing her labors upon the earth. The condition was, if she felt that she could stand by her husband, and with him pass through all the cares, trials, tribulation and afflictions of life which he would be called to pass through for the gospel’s sake unto the end. When she looked at the situation of her husband and child she said: ‘Yes, I will do it!'”

Phebe was a member of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo in 1842.

After migrating to the Salt Lake Valley in 1850, she was appointed as a ward Relief Society president and joined the Ladies’ Cooperative Retrenchment Society in 1870; she served as a board member of the General Retrenchment Society.

She served on the Deseret Hospital Association board of directors from 1882 to 1885.

Phebe died on November 10, 1885, in Salt Lake City. She had seen her husband for the last time on 9 November 1885, after Wilford had been in hiding off and on since late in 1879, for practicing polygamy. Wilford was not able to attend her funeral but watched from the president’s office.