Wilford Woodruff 1807–1898


“I have been numbered with those who are apparently the marked victims of misfortunes,” declared Wilford Woodruff. This remark was all too true. From the time he fell into a caldron of scalding water when he was three years old until he was impaled by a falling tree against another tree when he was grown, Wilford suffered an assortment of violent accidents.

One evening when young Wilford was feeding pumpkins to his father’s horned cattle, a surly bull left his own pumpkin and greedily snatched up one given to the boy’s favorite cow. Irritated by such selfishness Wilford grabbed up the pumpkin the bull had left to give it to the cow. But this action aroused the bull’s fury, and the enraged animal charged.

Wilford’s father noticed his terror-filled son, running with the pumpkin still in his arms and the thundering beast close on his heels. He called to Wilford to drop the pumpkin. “But (forgetting to be obedient),” wrote Wilford in his journal, “I held on, and as the bull was approaching me with the fierceness of a tiger, I made a misstep and fell flat upon the ground. The pumpkin rolled out of my arms, the bull leaped over me, ran his horns into the pumpkin and tore it to shreds. … This escape, like all others, I attributed to the mercy and goodness of God.”

Wilford Woodruff lived to be ninety-one years old, in spite of all his misfortunes. He had an iron constitution like his grandfather, who lived to be almost one hundred years old. His father was a miller for fifty years, usually working eighteen hours a day.

Of his baptism, the last day of the year in 1833, Wilford wrote, “The snow was about three feet deep, the day was cold, and the water was mixed with ice and snow, yet I did not feel the cold.”

On one occasion while on a mission to Arkansas and Tennessee, Wilford and his companion walked sixty miles from sunrise until ten o’clock at night “without a morsel of food of any kind.” During his missions to England, Elder Woodruff’s faith and hard work resulted in a remarkable number of baptisms—several hundred were performed personally by this valiant leader and servant.

In 1889, at eighty-two years of age, he became the fourth president of the Church.

[illustration] Illustrated by Howard Boughner