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John A. Widtsoe letters to Orson F. Whitney, 1916-1930

 File — Box: 3, Folder: 19
Identifier: MSS 15 Series 1 Sub-Series 2
Image of John A. Widtsoe letters to Orson F. Whitney
Image of John A. Widtsoe letters to Orson F. Whitney

Scope and Contents

Materials include correspondence sent to Orson F. Whitney from John A. Widtsoe, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Widtsoe compliments Whitney on his series of books about Utah history, his book "Saturday Evening Thoughts", and his tract collection "The Way, The Truth, The Light". He also informs him that his only son will be serving in the British Mission while Whitney is the mission president there. Dated 1916-1930.


  • 1916-1930


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from Orson F. Whitney papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical / Historical

Orson F. Whitney (1855-1931) was an apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a writer, poet, and editor.

Orson F. Whitney was born on July 1, 1855, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Horace K. Whitney and Helen Mar Kimball Whitney. As a young man, Whitney wanted to be an actor and he spent many hours preparing for the stage by studying elocution, fencing, and grammar. However, during General Conference in 1876, Whitney was called to serve in the Eastern States Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His mother sold her land and used the money to fund Whitney's mission. While on his mission, Whitney discovered his interest in the Gospel as well as in writing and speaking. He started a regular column of his missionary experiences in the "Salt Lake Herald" under the pen name Iago. In 1878, twenty-three-year-old Whitney was called to serve as the bishop of the Eighteenth Ward, a calling he held for 28 years. In 1906, Whitney was called to be an Apostle in the Church. He also completed three more missions for the Church, including being the president of the European Mission in 1921.

In 1879, Whitney married Zina Beal Smoot and they had 9 children together. Whitney also had two more wives: Mary Minerva Wells and Emma Whitney Wells. During his life, Whitney edited the "Salt Lake Herald," served on the city council, participated in the Home Dramatic Club, engaged in politics, and wrote poetry and books. In 1890, he published his first book, a biography of his grandfather Heber C. Kimball. That same year, Wildford Woodruff and John O. Williams commissioned Whitney to write "History of Utah"; he produced two volumes of the work by 1894 and the third in 1898. He also published a biography of Lorenzo Snow, an autobiography, and several books of poetry including his lengthy epic poem "Elias: An Epic of the Ages."

Whitney died on May 16, 1931, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Biographical / Historical

John Andreas Widtsoe (1872-1952) served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and worked in agriculture and education during his life.

John Andreas Widtsoe was born January 31, 1872 on the island of Frøya in Norway. He was baptized in 1884 at the age of twelve. In 1888, he immigrated to Utah with his mother and brother. There he married Leah Dunford, a granddaughter of Brigham Young, on June 1, 1898 in Salt Lake City, Utah. They had seven children together. John graduated from Harvard University in 1894 and with his Ph.D. from University of Goettingen, Germany, in 1899. He then taught in the agricultural colleges at Utah State University and Brigham Young University. He was president of the Utah Agricultural College from 1907 to 1916 and president of University of Utah in 1916.

During World War I he was a member of the Utah State Council of Defense and chairman of the Food Production Committee of Salt Lake City and the Irrigation Committee of the Food Administration. He was called into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1921 and served in that capacity until his death. As part of his work as an apostle, Widstoe wrote “Priesthood and Church Government,” a popular manual about the workings of the priesthood.

He died November 29, 1952, in Salt Lake City, Utah.


1 folder

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Existence and Location of Copies

Transcription available in Box 5.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States