Founding Fathers Temple Work Complete

Signers of the Declaration of Independence Appealed to Wilford Woodruff

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Wilford Woodruff. Wilford WoodrufPhoto courtesy of f© 2007 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Most LDS members know that the vicarious temple work for the founding fathers of the United States of America (U.S.A.) was completed after they appeared to former President and Prophet Wilford Woodruff in the St. George Temple and requested it be done for them. However, most do not know the particulars.

At the time, Wilford Woodruff was serving as an Apostle under President and Prophet Brigham Young.

He was also the President of the St. George Temple where all the ordinance work took place. Woodruff later became the Church's fourth President and Prophet.

Review the Declaration of Independence and all its signers.

Woodruff's Description Preserved in the Journal of Discourses

I will here say, before closing, that two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.” These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights. I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done, and yet nothing had been done for them. The thought never entered my heart, from the fact, I suppose, that heretofore our minds were reaching after our more immediate friends and relatives. I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon brother McCallister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others; I then baptized him for every President of the United States, except three; and when their cause is just, somebody will do the work for them.

Taken from the Journal of Discourses, 19:228–29. Discourse by Elder Wilford Woodruff, delivered in the New Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Sunday Afternoon, September 16, 1877. Reported By: Geo. F. Gibbs.

John Daniel Thompson McAllister was a counselor in the St. George Temple presidency. He is also remembered for writing the music for The Handcart Song.

Wilford Woodruff's Account in His Journal

Wilford Woodruff was a diligent journal writer. He carefully documented the work he did:

     August 21, 1877  I Wilford Woodruff, went to the Temple of the Lord this morning and was Baptized for 100 persons who were dead including the signers of the Declaration of Independance all except John Hancock and [William Floyd].  I was baptized for the following names:

After listing the names, he continues:

     When Br McAllister had Baptized me for the 100 Names, I Baptized him for 21, including Gen Washington & his forefathers and all the Presidets of the United States that were not on my list Except Buchannan Van Buren & Grant.

     It was a vary interesting day.  I felt thankful that we had the privilege and the power to administer for the worthy dead esspecially for the signers of the declaration of Independence, that inasmuch as they had laid the foundation of our Government that we Could do as much for them as they had done for us.

Taken from Wilford Woodruff's Journal: 1833-1898 Typescript, volume 7, 1 January 1871 to 31 December 1898, Edited by Scott G. Kearney, Signature Books, pages 367-69.

William Floyd had already been vicariously baptized by relatives.

Further endowment work for him was completed on August 22, 1877.

John Hancock's work had already been done by Levi Ward Hancock, his third cousin.

Much has been made of Woodruff not doing the work for Presidents Buchanan, Van Buren and Grant at that time. However, it could not be done for Grant because he was still living in 1877. Work for Buchanan, Van Buren and Grant was completed during Heber J. Grant's time as Prophet and President.

Joseph Smith met with President Martin Van Buren in 1829. Review a description and discussion of the meeting as well as a narrative of U. S. presidents and the LDS people.

Woodruff Described His Experience in a Conference Address in 1898

Brother Cannon has been laying before you something with regard to the nation in which we live and what has been said concerning it. I am going to bear my testimony to this assembly, if I never do it again in my life, that those men who laid the foundation of this American government and signed the Declaration of Independence were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits, not wicked men. General Washington and all the men that labored for the purpose were inspired of the Lord.

Another thing I am going to say here, because I have a right to say it. Every one of those men that signed the Declaration of Independence, with General Washington, called upon me, as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St. George, two consecutive nights, and demanded at my hands that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the House of God for them. Men are here, I believe, that know of this, Brothers J. D. T. McAllister, David H. Cannon and James G. Bleak. Brother McAllister baptized me for all those men, and then I told those brethren that it was their duty to go Into the Temple and labor until they had got endowments for all of them. They did it. Would those spirits have called upon me, as an Elder in Israel, to perform that work if they had not been noble spirits before God? They would not.

I bear this testimony, because it is true. The Spirit of God bore record to myself and the brethren while we were laboring in that way.

Taken from Conference Report, April. 1898, pages 89–90.

Other People Whose Work Was Also Done

From his journal entries, we know that Woodruff was compiling his list of founding fathers and other eminent persons on August 19, 1877, a Sunday evening.

Woodruff was assisted in performing the temple work by others. Woodruff was baptized for about 100 men. Lucy B. Young, a plural wife of Brigham Young, was baptized for the women. John Daniel Thompson McAllister was baptized by Wilford Woodruff for George Washington and his ancestors, a total of 21 names. Others did the subsequent endowment work for all the names.

Some of the notable people who may be familiar to a modern audience include:

Other Interesting Details From Historical Research

Also at this time, Wilford Woodruff was ordained to the office of High Priest in the Melchizedek Priesthood by proxy for the following four men:

For a brief explanation of all the genealogical work done for the founders and their families see I Have a Question in the October, 1991, Ensign magazine.

For comprehensive details of the vicarious temple work see the appendix of Collected Discourses Delivered By President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, The Twelve Apostles, and Others, Volume 3: 1892-1893, Compiled and Edited by Brian H. Stuy, pages 431-441.