Our Sunday School blog post for today involves a lesser-known person from LDS Church history, Zerah Pulsipher. He has the claim of fame of being the missionary who brought the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to Wilford Woodruff, who became the fourth president of the LDS church. He is also my fifth great grandfather.
Here is what a web site, moroni10.com, has to say about him:
Zera Pulsipher was born in Vermont on June 24, 1789, to John and Elizabeth Pulsipher. His father, John, and his grandfather, David Pulsipher, were veterans of the Revolutionary War. His father and grandfather fought side by side together at the battle of Bunker Hill. When Zera turned 21 he married Polly Randall and had one daughter. Unfortunately, his wife died less than a year after they married.
Zera was a very spiritual person and had several notable experience. One such experience occurred shortly after the death of his wife in 1811. According to his account:
“After the death of my wife I had some anxiety about her state and condition, consequently in answer to my desires in a few weeks she came to me in vision and appearing natural looked pleasant as she ever did and sat by my side and assisted me in singing a hymn – beginning thus: “That glorious day is drawing nigh when Zions Light Shall Shine.” This she did with a seeming composure. This vision took away all the anxiety of my mind concerning her in as much as she seemed to enjoy herself well.”
In 1815, he met and married Mary Brown, with whom he reared eleven children.
Zera was first introduced to the Book of Mormon in 1831. He was living in Pennsylvania, and was attending a Baptist church. He heard the pastor say something about a “gold bible” that had been discovered. He said that the words hit him like a shock and he had a desire to learn more about it. In the fall of that same year a missionary came to his area with a Book of Mormon and preached to groups. Zera interviewed the missionary about the book and about the Gifts of the Spirit. The missionary told the group that he had prayed and received a confirmation about the truth from the Holy Spirit and that all were entitled to the same. He prayed fervently for seven days to learn the truth. He gives this account on what happened on the seventh day:
“I think about the seventh day as I was thrashing in my barn with doors shut, all at once there seemed to be a ray of light from heaven which caused me to stop work for a short time, but soon began it again. Then in a few minutes another light came over my head which caused me to look up. I thought I saw the angels with the Book of Mormon in their hands in the attitude of showing it to me and saying “this is the great revelation of the last days in which all things spoken of by the prophets must be fulfilled.” The vision was so open and plain that I began to rejoice exceedingly so that I walked the length of my barn crying Glory Hal-la-lu-ya to the God and the Lamb forever.”
Okay, so he didn’t actually see the plates, but I think seeing angels holding the Book of Mormon and bearing testimony of it is close enough. Following his experience he shared the experience with the people of his church and declared that he was going to join the “Church of Latter-day Saints”. A large body of the congregation followed and were baptized along with him.
In 1833 he went on a mission converting and baptizing several people, including Wilford Woodruff, who would later become the 4th President and Prophet of The Church. Zera followed the church from New York, to Ohio, to Missouri, and all the way to Utah. He was ordained and set apart as the President of the Quorum of Seventy in Kirtland, Ohio, and would later become a patriarch in Utah. He died January 1, 1872, in full membership in the church.
Zera Pulsipher Autobiography, BYU Special Collections
Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.270