One of my favorite apostles in this modern age is Elder John A. Widtsoe. Born January 31st of 1872 in Dalöe, Island of Fröyen, Norway, his mother, who worked as a seamstress, and siblings joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) and they emigrated from Norway to America in 1883, where he was baptized April 3, 1884.
Born with a deep hunger for knowledge, Elder Widtsoe became a renowned and well-respected scientist. He graduated from Brigham Young University and then Harvard, graduating from there with honors in 1894.
Married June 1st, of 1898, to a granddaughter of the prophet Brigham Young, Leah Eudora Dunford, Elder Widtsoe and his wife became a force to be reckoned with in the education and agriculture fields in the state of Utah. He taught the farmers more efficient farming skills and Leah taught the wives how to better use what they harvested.
Widtsoe taught at Utah State University, Brigham Young University, was the president of University of Utah (1918-1921) and taught a religion class at the University of Southern California. Respected for his grasp of science and theology, it was a given the Lord would call him into service in His kingdom.
From Wikipedia we learn a little more about Elder Widtsoe’s time in Europe after he was called as a seventy:
In 1898, he was ordained to the office of a seventy and set apart to do missionary work in connection with his studies in Europe. He entered the University of Goettingen, Germany, and after applying himself diligently to his studies he graduated from that institution, with the degrees of A. M. Ph.D. in 1899. For part of his time in Europe, Widtsoe lived in Switzerland. The police wanted proof that he and his wife were married, and since they had neglected to bring their wedding license they got married a second time. (Source: Widtsoe, John A. “In A Sunlight Land”)
Elder : Associate Editor of the Improvement Era (now split into two magazines, the Ensign and the New Era,) Genealogy Committee, President of the European Mission, and continue to preach across the world as a special witness of Jesus Christ.
I came to develop my deep love and appreciate of this apostle of the Lord through his teachings and writings. A prolific and inspiring author of numerous books, John A. Widstoe wrote:
- The Word of Wisdom: A Modern Interpretation
- Teachings of Brigham Young
- A Rational Theology as Taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (my favorite of all his books,)
- Evidences and Reconciliations
- Priesthood and Church Government
- The Message of the Doctrine and Covenant
- Seven Claims of the Book of Mormon: A Collection of Evidences
- Joseph Smith: Seeker After Truth Prophet of God
- Joseph Smith as a Scientist: A Contribution to Mormon Philosophy
- In the Gospel Net
- In a Sunlit Land
He also wrote a couple of volumes regarding agriculture and geography.
Elder Widtsoe has inspired me in so many ways, here’s just a little of what he taught as an Apostle of the Lord:
On Eve, the Mother of All Living:
:In life all must choose at times. Sometimes, two possibilities are good; neither is evil. Usually, however, one is of greater import than the other. When in doubt, each must choose that which concerns the good of others — the greater law — rather than that which chiefly benefits ourselves — the lesser law. The greater must be chosen whether it be law or thing. That was the choice made in Eden.” ~ Elder John A. Widtsoe (Beverly Brough Campbell, Eve and the Choice Made in Eden, Deseret Book, 2003 vii)
“Above the roar of cannon and airplane, the maneuvers and plans of men, the Lord always determines the tide of battle. So far and no farther does He permit the evil one to go in his career to create human misery. The Lord is ever victorious; He is the Master to whose will Satan is subject. Though all hell may rage, and men may follow evil, the purposes of the Lord will not fail.” (John A. Widtsoe, in Conference Report, Apr. 1942, p. 34.)
Elder John A. Widtsoe On Truth: “Truth, had always been my first love. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I had found, used, and enjoyed truth.” (Lawrence Cummins, “John A. Widtsoe—Master Teacher,” Friend, May 1990, 48)
“As I have come to fully realize; that, I am as weak as all other mortals—perhaps weaker than many; and realizing that happiness in life is only obtained by having a pure heart, a clear conscience; and fearing the Lord and keeping his commandments; also as I realize that happiness in old age consists of reviewing a life devoid from great sins; the gratification of noble desires manfully carried out; and finding that my life up to this time has not been as I should like it to have been: I lay down the following regulations by which I shall try to conduct my life hereafter; to which end may the Lord Almighty, my Creator, help me.” (G. Homer Durham, “Faith, the Greater Knowledge,” New Era, Aug 1978, 4)
On Patriarchal Blessings:
“In giving a blessing the patriarch may declare our lineage—that is, that we are of Israel, therefore of the family of Abraham, and of a specific tribe of Jacob. In the great majority of cases, Latter-day Saints are of the tribe of Ephraim, the tribe to which has been committed the leadership of the Latter-day work. Whether this lineage is of blood or adoption does not matter (Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 2:10.) This is very important, for it is through the lineage of Abraham alone that the mighty blessings of the Lord for His children on earth are to be consummated (Genesis 12:2-3; Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 2:11.)
“Then, the patriarch, looking into the future, enumerates the blessings and promises, some special, others general, to which the person of the proper lineage … is entitled; and through his authority seals them upon him, so that they may be his forever through faithfulness.” (John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, 3 vols. (1943–51), 1:73–74.)
I could go on and on, but I won’t. Being a writer by profession, the written word, especially the written word of the gospel, speaks so deeply to my heart, resonating deep inside where my spirit is forever touched by truth. Elder Widtsoe had a command of the gospel, science and the written word. His writings and teachings continue to instruct and inspire in Mormon homes across the world. I have seen the gospel through the eyes of Elder Widtsoe and it is a beautiful, beautiful thing.