Born July 1, 1855 in Salt Lake City, Jr., Heber C. Kimball. One of his earliest memories was the family moving as Johnson’s Army approached Salt Lake City. Which is a whole other story pertaining to Mormon History and is better told at another time.

Raised in Salt Lake City, a city flourishing with literature, art, drama, architecture and certainly, and more importantly, the gospel of Jesus Christ, Whitney showed a propensity for music and drama, and later showed latent talents for poetry, writing and preaching. He taught himself to play the flute early in life and his love of music and drama swirled in and around every part of that life.

Determined to pursue a life on the stage in New York City, Whitney’s mother offered to sell a tract of land to finance her son’s endeavor. It was to no avail, the land would not sell. It was not until he made the decision to serve a mission for the Lord that the land sold and financed his mission to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. At twenty-one he was called to serve a mission to preach in Pennsylvania, the first of his many mission fields over the years.

Elder Whitney admitted that during this time he was still not fully committed to the work of spreading the gospel. He wrote of a dream that completely turned him around:

“I thought I was in the garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior’s agony. I seemed to be standing behind a tree in the foreground of the picture, from which point I could see without being seen. The Savior, with the Apostles Peter, James and John, entered the garden through a little wicket gate at my right, where he stationed them in a group, telling them to pray. He then passed over to my left, but still in front of me, where he knelt and prayed also. His face, which was towards me, streamed with tears, as he besought the Father to let the cup pass, and added, ‘not my will but thine be done.’ Having finished his prayer, he arose and crossed to where the Apostles were kneeling fast asleep. He shook them gently, they awoke and he reproved them for their apathy. Again he bade them pray, and again crossed to his place and prayed, returning as before to find them sleeping. This happened three times, until I was perfectly familiar with his face, form and movements. He was much taller than ordinary men, and though meek, far more dignified than any being I had ever beheld; and he wore a look of ineffable tenderness and compassion, even while reproving His disciples. My heart went out to him as never before to anybody or to anything; I loved him with all my soul. I wept at seeing him weep, and felt for him the deepest sympathy.

“Then of a sudden the circumstances changed, though the scene remained the same. Instead of before the crucifixion, it was after. The Savior and the three Apostles, whom he had beckoned to him, now stood in a group at the left, and were about to take their departure, ascending into heaven. I could endure it no longer, but rushed out from behind the tree, fell at his feet, clasped him around the knees and begged him to take me also. With a look of infinite tenderness, as of a father or an elder brother, he stooped, lifted me up and embraced me, saying as he did so in the kindest and gentlest manner possible, while slowly shaking his head and sweetly smiling, ‘No, my son, these can go with me; for they have finished their work; but you must stay and finish yours!’ Still I clung to him, and the contact was so real that I felt the warmth of his bosom as I rested upon it. Gazing up into his face, I once more besought him, ‘Well, promise me that I will come to you at the last.’ Again he smiled sweetly, and there was a look as if he would have gladly granted my request had it been wise to do so. He then said, ‘That will depend entirely upon yourself.’ I awoke with a sob, and it was morning. This dream made a wonderful impression upon me, paving the way to my thorough conversion, which soon followed. Among the things it taught me was not to sleep at my post, and to regard first the duties of my mission, and not allow anything to interfere with them.” (Source: Jensen, Andrew, “Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,” Oct 2005)

His efforts redoubled, Orson F. Whitney served an honorable mission in Pennsylvania and Ohio before returning home to Salt Lake City. Fully committed to the faith now, Elder Whitney sought work which would not require him to work on Sunday, which killed the journalist job he’d been offered. He prayed diligently for a job and weeks later was offered a position at the Deseret News through the influence of Elder Brigham Young, Jr., an apostle at the time.

In 1878 he was called to the office of bishop at the age of 23 and unmarried, virtually unheard of, and became much beloved as Bishop Whitney. On December 18, 1879, he married Zina Beal Smoot in the Salt Lake City Endowment House. While serving as a bishop, and as a husband and eventually new father, he was called to serve on the city council. Nominated and elected without his knowledge, he found out the same way everyone else did, while reading his morning paper.

It wasn’t long before he was called to serve in the European mission as editor of the Millennial Star, a Mormon publication. He served throughout Europe, preaching of Jesus Christ and the restoration of His gospel for two years, from 1881 to 1883.

Upon his return, he accepted an appointment on the city council and remained in that office until 1890, being re-elected every two years. He declined nomination in 1890 and turned his efforts to other pursuits. Although, throughout the remainder of his life, he remained very active politically.

His first book, “The Life of Heber C. Kimball,” was published in 1888. His second, “Poetical Writings,” was released 1888/1889.

Through a very troubled time in Mormon Church history Whitney developed a close relationship with the prophet, Lorenzo Snow, and much of the preaching of the Church fell on his shoulders.

A defender of Womens Suffrage, Orson F. Whitney fought hard for the right of women to vote, and he won. It was written into the constitution of Utah, and he was one of the committee that rewrote the entire constitution before it was submitted to Washington, D.C.

Ever true to his deep and abiding love of the Savior, he taught theology and English at Brigham Young Academy in Provo, and was then elected to the state senate in the fall of 1898. In 1899 Whitney, still bishop, began work in the Church Historian’s office. “His duties comprised the keeping of the Church journal, the answering of correspondence, the writing of special articles for the press and such other service as may be necessary. In literary work, discourses, lectures, orations, funeral sermons and miscellaneous addresses, along with his ecclesiastical labors, his mind, tongue and pen were kept constantly busy.” (Ibid)

In April of 1906 he was called to the office of apostle and wept a little as he shed the mantle of bishop he’d held for so long. As an apostle, a special witness of Jesus Christ, he preached across America and Europe for years, again spreading the word of the restoration of the Savior’s gospel. Of this gospel he loved so much, he said:

“The spirit of the gospel is optimistic; it trusts in God and looks on the bright side of things. The opposite or pessimistic spirit drags men down and away from God, looks on the dark side, murmurs, complains, and is slow to yield obedience. We should honor the Savior’s declaration to be of good cheer. (In Conference Report, Apr. 1917, 43)

– and –

“To whom do we look, in days of grief and disaster, for help and consolation? … They are men and women who have suffered, and out of their experience in suffering they bring forth the riches of their sympathy and condolences as a blessing to those now in need. Could they do this had they not suffered themselves?

“… Is not this God’s purpose in causing his children to suffer? He wants them to become more like himself. God has suffered far more than man ever did or ever will, and is therefore the great source of sympathy and consolation.” (“A Lesson from the Book of Job,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1918, 7)

After a long and fulfilling life as a servant of God, son, husband, father and grandfather, Orson F. Whitney passed away May 16, 1931 in Salt Lake City, Utah and was finally, as he’d longed for during his mission, gathered into the arms of his Savior, Jesus Christ, and welcomed home.

About Candace

Copyright © 2021 LDS Blogs. All Rights Reserved.
This website is not owned by or affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called the Mormon or LDS Church). The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the position of the Church. The views expressed by individual users are the responsibility of those users and do not necessarily represent the position of the Church. For the official Church websites, please visit or