Ordinances Performed by Wilford Woodruff in the St. George Temple, August 21-22 1877 (Visitations on the 19th & 20th)

Table of Contents

The occasion is described by

… In August 1877, Woodruff had what he called two “night visions,” a scriptural way of describing dreams. But these were more than just ordinary dreams—he recognized them as inspired visions. The experience was so vivid that he spoke about them as if they were visits. In them, he said, the Signers of the Declaration of Independence gathered around him and “demanded” and “argued” that he get their temple work completed. He later said George Washington was also present in that request.

“You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years,” the Signers said to him, “and yet nothing has ever been done for us.”

In other words, the sticking point in this accusation wasn’t baptisms for the dead, but endowments—the higher temple ordinances.

In fact, the proxy baptisms for the Signers had been completed in stages by various people starting in Nauvoo and ending in 1876. John D. T. McAllister, who helped Woodruff in the temple, had even participated in doing some of the Signers’ work six years earlier.

Even though there were no temples in Utah until the 1877 dedication of the St. George Temple, members of the Church were able to have their own, live endowments in the temporary “Endowment House” on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Endowments for the dead were only first performed in St. George beginning on Jan. 11, 1877.

By August 1877, endowments for the dead had been going on for months, yet nothing had been done to complete the Signers’ temple work. Woodruff determined to do it himself.

Woodruff discovered that all of the temple work for Signers John Hancock and William Floyd had already been performed in the St. George Temple prior to the vision. This left 54 Signers who still needed to have their temple endowments completed.

He decided he would inaugurate their temple work by redoing their baptisms. (It was standard practice at the time for people to be re-baptized before they went through the temple for their endowments.) He also decided that he would choose 46 other men to make it an even 100.

The plan was to have McAllister baptize Woodruff for the 100 men. Then Woodruff would baptize McAllister for Washington, Washington’s relatives, and other deceased presidents of the United States. McAllister then would baptize Lucy Bigelow Young for 70 eminent women.

Woodruff was very clear in his accounts of the vision that only the Signers and Washington appeared to him. To find the extra 46 men, Woodruff turned to a set of books titled Portrait Gallery of Eminent Men and Women of Europe and America by Evert A. Duyckinck. The popular two-volume set was a compilation of biographies of famous people.

With only a few exceptions, Woodruff took the names of the 46 from these books. The biographies are in the same non-alphabetical order in the books as they are in his listing of names in his journal. Most of the eminent women are also either in the books under their own biographies or are wives of those men he copied from the books. Christopher Columbus and John Wesley are two examples, however, of the few names that he chose not from these books.

Scholars have scratched their heads over Woodruff saying he was baptized for 100 men, because his journal listed only 99. Some have searched the St. George Temple records to see if there was another famous man baptized around that same time. Others saw that he had crossed out one name he had written twice, Francis Lightfoot Lee, and assumed he had just counted Lee twice. Others thought he just miscounted.

And even though a whole book was written on the eminent men and other researchers and historians have looked closely at Woodruff’s journal, the mystery of the 99 eminent men and the missing man remained.

The solution, however, was quite simple. The popular published version of Woodruff’s journal made a transcription error—missing one person.

The result was that the man who ran the first commercially successful steamboat, Robert Fulton, was omitted from the journal transcript. Woodruff didn’t make a mistake. The 100 men he was baptized for were all written and accounted for in his own handwriting in his original journal.

Woodruff most likely knew when he was browsing through the biographies that he had more than 46 eminent people to choose from. As he skimmed the names, he had to make choices. Inevitably, he had to skip some names.

Some of the names he skipped over, for whatever reason, were Edmund Burke, Napoleon Bonaparte, William Wilberforce, Thomas Moore, Samuel Morse, Charles Dickens, and Robert E. Lee. Other names he skipped, such as Benjamin Disraeli, Florence Nightingale, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow were logical to pass over since they were still alive in 1877.

Woodruff’s vision of the Signers and his own inauguration of the temple work for them and the other eminent men has also overshadowed the fact that he prepared a list of eminent women as well, including people such as Marie Antoinette, Jane Austen, Dolley Madison, and Charlotte Bronte.

However, one of the eminent women Woodruff compiled was a mistake. After he chose Benito Juárez for one of the 100 men, he skimmed Juárez’s biography for his wife’s name. On page 125, he saw the phrase, “He had been for some years married to the Princess Charlotte, daughter of King Leopold of Belgium” and assumed this was Juárez’s wife. She was not. The paragraph was about Juárez’s enemy, Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico. Princess Charlotte was Maximilian’s wife and went by the name “Carlota of Mexico.” Princess Charlotte died in 1927, and since she was alive in 1877, she was a poor candidate for proxy temple work. Juárez’s real wife was Margarita Maza Juárez, whose temple work was done correctly in the Salt Lake Temple in 1921.

The visit of the Signers to Woodruff began a process of changing the way Latter-day Saints thought about the scope of temple work. Not only did they begin to understand the necessity of performing all ordinances of the gospel for those who were dead, but also they began to see that the temple and its ordinances were meant for all people.

Today, the Church strongly discourages Mormons from doing similar “celebrity” baptisms, but the legacy of Woodruff’s experiences shows the importance of reaching out to all God’s children.


The following information (until the horizontal bar below) is primarily from:, Eminent Spirits Appear to Wilford Woodruff, Accessed 8/7/2016. Additional notes, emphasis, and formatting have been added liberally.

View the scanned pages of the actual temple records here.


Ordinances Performed for Eminent Men and Women

Family of George Washington

  • George Washington (was ordained a High Priest at this time)
  • Mary Ball Washington, Mother of George Washington
  • Martha Dandridge, Wife of George Washington
  • Martha Parke Custis, Daughter of Martha Washington
  • John Washington
  • Wife of John Washington
  • Sir Henry Washington
  • Wife of Henry Washington
  • Lawrence Washington
  • Anne Fairfax, Wife of Lawrence Washington
  • Wife of Lawrence Washington
  • Augustine Washington
  • M. Washington, father of Augustine
  • Mildred Warner, Mother of Augustine Washington
  • Jane Butler, Wife of Augustine Washington
  • Eleanor Calvert, Wife of John Parke Custis
  • Parke Custis

Signers of the Declaration of Independence

New Hampshire
  • Josiah Barlett
  • Matthew Thornton
  • William Whipple
  • John Hancock
  • John Adams
  • Abigail Smith, Wife of John Adams
  • Samuel Adams
  • Robert Treat Paine
Rhode Island
  • Elbridge Gerry
  • Stephen Hopkins
  • William Ellery
  • Roger Sherman
  • Samuel Huntington
  • William Williams
  • Oliver Wolcott
New York
  • William Floyd
  • Philip Livinston
  • Francis Lewis
  • Lewis Morris
New Jersey
  • Richard Stockton
  • John Witherspoon
  • Francis Hopkinson
  • John Hart
  • Abraham Clark
  • Robert Morris
  • Benjamin Rush
  • Benjamin Franklin (was ordained a High Priest at this time)
  • John Morton
  • George Clymer
  • James Smith
  • George Taylor
  • James Wilson
  • George Ross
  • Caesar Rodney
  • George Read
  • Thomas M’Kean
  • Samuel Chase
  • Thomas Stone
  • William Paca
  • Charles Carroll, of Carrollton
  • George Wythe
  • Richard Henry Lee
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Martha Wales, Wife of Thomas Jefferson
  • Benjamin Harrison
  • Thomas Nelson, Jr.
  • Francis Lightfoot Lee
  • Carter Braxton
North Carolina
  • William Hooper
  • Joseph Hewes
  • John Penn
South Carolina
  • Edward Rutledge
  • Thomas Heyward, Jr.
  • Thomas Lynch, Jr.
  • Arthur Middleton
  • Button Gwinnett
  • Lyman Hall
  • George Walton

President of the United States

George Washington (already listed)

John Adams (already listed)

Thomas Jefferson (already listed)

  • James Madison
  • Dorothy “Dolly” Madison, Wife of James Madison (America)
  • James Monroe
  • John Quincy Adams
  • Andrew Jackson
  • Rachel Donelson, Wife of Andrew Jackson (America)

Martin Van Buren (NOT INCLUDED)***

  • William Henry Harrison
  • John Tyler
  • James Knox Polk
  • Zachary Taylor
  • Millard Fillmore
  • Franklin Pierce

James Buchanan (NOT INCLUDED)***

  • Wikipedia – “Utah War

    In March 1857, Buchanan received conflicting reports from federal judges in the Utah Territory that their offices had been disrupted and they had been driven from their posts by the Mormons. He knew that the Pierce administration had refused to facilitate Utah being granted statehood and the Mormons feared the loss of their property rights. Accepting the wildest rumors and believing the Mormons to be in open rebellion against the United States, Buchanan sent the Army in November of that year to replace Brigham Young as governor with the non-Mormon Alfred Cumming. While the Mormons’ defiance of federal authority in the past had become traditional, some question whether Buchanan’s action was a justifiable or prudent response to uncorroborated reports. Complicating matters, Young’s notice of his replacement was not delivered because the Pierce administration had annulled the Utah mail contract. After Young reacted to the military action by mustering a two-week expedition destroying wagon trains, oxen, and other Army property, Buchanan dispatched Thomas L. Kane as a private agent to negotiate peace. The mission succeeded, the new governor was shortly placed in office, and the Utah War ended. The President granted amnesty to all inhabitants who would respect the authority of the government, and moved the federal troops to a nonthreatening distance for the balance of his administration.

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Andrew Johnson
  • Ulysses S. Grant still alive, died July 23, 1885
  • Rutherford B. Hayes (current President)

***Baptisms for every President of the United States were performed with the exception of three; “and when their cause is just, somebody will do the work for them.” (JD 19:229, September 16, 1877.)

Other Eminent Men and Women (organized according to occupation)

  • David Garrick (1717-1779) English Actor and Director
  • Eva Maria Veigel, Wife of David Garrick (England)
  • John Phillip Kemble (1757-1823) English Shakespearean Actor, Director
  • Pricilla Hopkins, Wife of John Phillip Kemble (England)
  • Sarah Kemble Siddon, English Actress (Wales)
  • Sir Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) English Historian
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) Father of German Literature
  • Christiane Vulpius, Wife of Goethe (Prussia)
  • Washington Irving (1783-1859) Father of American Literature
  • Matilda Hoffman, Betrothed of Washington Irving (America)
  • Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English Moralist, Writer, Lexicographer
  • Sarah Ford, Mother of Samuel Johnson (England)
  • Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English Historian, Essayist, Politician
  • Lydia Huntley, Author (America)
  • Emily Chubboch Judson, Author (Pen Name: “Fanny Forester”) (America)
  • Hannah More, Religious Author (England)
  • Anna Murphy, Author/Archeologist (Ireland)
  • George Stephenson (1781-1848) English Father of the Railway
  • Frances “Fanny” Henderson, Wife of George Stephenson (England)
  • Robert Fulton (the missing man from the popular list, recorded in Wilford’s journal)
Military Leaders
  • Admiral David Glasgow Farragut (1801-1870) American Naval Officer
  • Frederick the Great (1712-1786) King of Prussia
  • Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson (1824-1863) American Confederate General
  • Mary Anna Judkins, Wife of “Stonewall” Jackson (America)
  • Lord Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) British Naval Hero
    • Possible records of his ordination to be a high priest located in the appendix (pdf) 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. according to
  • Frances “Lady Nelson” Herbert, Wife of Lord Horatio Nelson (England)
  • Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) Swiss-American Naturalist
  • Michael Faraday (1791-1867) English Scientist–Father of Electronics
  • Sarah Barnard, Wife of Michael Faraday (England)
  • Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) Father of Physical Geography
  • Baron Justus von Liebig (1808-1873) Father of Organic Chemistry
  • Mary Fairfax Somerville, Mathmatician (Scotland)
  • Christopher Columbus  (1451-1506) Discover of the New World (was ordained a High Priest at this time)
  • Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512) Italian Navigator
  • Baron Edward George Lytton-Bulwer (1803-1873) English Novelist, Politician
  • Oliver Goldsmith (1763-1846) Irish/English Poet, Playwrite, Novelist
  • Sir Walter Scott (1771-1836) Poet, Novelist
  • Charlotte Margaret Carpenter, Wife of Sir Walther Scott (England)
  • William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863) English Humorist, Satirist, Novelist
  • Isabella Shaw, Wife of William Makepeace Thackeray (England)
  • Jane Austen, Novelist (England)
  • Charlotte Bronte, Novelist (England)
  • Maria Edgeworth, Novelist (England)
  • Lady Sydney Morgan, Novelist (Ireland)
  • Catherine Maria Sedgewick, Novelist
  • Francis “Fanny” Burney (Madam d’Arblay) (England)
  • Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) English Painter
  • David Livingstone (1813-1873) Scottish Missionary, Physician
  • Mary Russell Miford, Playwrite/Novelist (England)
  • Robert Burns (1759-1796) Scottish Poet
  • Jean Armour, Wife of Robert Burns (Scotland)
  • Lord George Gordon Byron (1788-1824) English Poet
  • Anna Isabella Milbanke, Wife of Lord Byron (England)
  • Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805) German Poet, Dramatist, Historian
  • Charlotte Von Lingefeld, wife of Fredrick Schiller (Prussia)
  • William Wordsworth (1770-1850) English Poet
  • Mary Hutchinson, Wife of William Wordsworth (England)
  • Felecia Barrett Browne, Poet (England)
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Poet (England)
  • Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Poet (England)
  • Francis Locke, Poet (America)
  • Hiram Powers (1805-1873) American Sculptor
  • Euphrosyne Parepa, Opera Singer (England)
  • Countess Demetrius Parepa, Mother of Euphrosyne Parepa (England)
Social Reformer
  • Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) Scottish Divine, Reformer
  • George Peabody (1795-1869) American Philanthropist
  • John Wesley (1703-1791) Divinity Scholar (was ordained a High Priest at this time)
  • Sarah Margaret (Ossoli) Fuller, Social Reformer (America)
  • Elizabeth Gurney, Religious Social Reformer (England)
  • Martin Luther (1483-1546) Leader in Protestant Reformation
  • Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleon III (1808-1873) Emperor of France, nephew to Napoleon Bonaparte
  • Lord Henry Brougham (1778-1868) Statesman/Lord Chancellor of England
  • Mary Ann Eden, Wife of Lord Henry Brougham (England)
  • Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Irish/English Statesman, Political Author
  • Jane Nugent, Wife of Edmund Burke (England)
  • John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) American Statesman
  • Count Camillo de Cavour (1810-1861) Italian Statesman, Diplomat
  • Richard Cobden (1804-1865) English Leader of the Free Trade
  • Henry Clay (1777-1852) U.S. Statesman, “The Great Compromiser”
  • John Filpot Curran (1750-1817) Irish Statesman
  • Henry Grattan (1746-1820) Irish Statesman
  • Henrietta Fitzgerald, Wife of Henry Grattan (Ireland)
  • Pablo Benito Juarez (1806-1872) Mexican President, Statesman
  • Margarita Maza, Wife of Benito Juarez (Mexico)
  • Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847) Irish Statesman
  • Mary O’Connell, Wife of Daniel O’Connell (Ireland)
  • Dimitrius Parepa (ca. 1800’s) Baron Georgiades de Boyescu, Romania
  • William Henry Seward (1801-1872) American Statesman
  • Daniel Webster (1782-1852) American, Defender of the Constitution
  • Abigail East an, Mother of Daniel Webster (America)
  • Grace Fletcher, Wife of Daniel Webster (America)
  • Charlotte Corday, French Patriot (Normandy)
  • Marie Antoinette, Queen (France)
  • Empress Maria Theresa, Mother of Marie Antoinette (Austria)
  • Mary (Moore) Philipse, English Patriot (America)

Misc. Women

  • Martha Caldwell, Mother of Patrick Calhoun (America)
  • Elizabeth Christiana, Wife of Frederick IV (Prussia)
  • Sarah Creagh, Wife of John Curran (Ireland)
  • Emily Lamb Melbourne, Lady Palmerston, Wife of Lord Palmerston (England)
  • Lady Catherine Pakenham, Wife of the Duke of Wellington (England)
  • Elizabeth Dykes, Wife of Thomas Moore, Poet (Ireland)
  • Sarah Van Burgh Livingston, Wife of John Jay (America)

(Anderson, Vicki Jo (1994), The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff, Cottonwood, AZ: Zichron, ISBN 0-9642524-0-6.)


Excerpts from Wilford Woodruff’s Journal

19 Sunday Met at the Tabernacle at 11 oclok. Prayer By Wm Smith. Augustus Hardy spoke 10 Minuts, Thomas Hall 10 M, B F Pendleton 14 Minuts. Afternoon. Prayer By James Nixon. Frank B. Woolly spoke 2 M, Moroni Snow 2 M, Seth Pimm 1. Erastus B Snow spoke 6 M, W Woodruff 35 M D. H. Cannon 35. I wrote 2 Letters to Bulah & Emma.

I spent the Evening in preparing a list of the Noted Men of the 17 Centaury and 18th including the signers of the declaration of Independance and the Presidents of the United States for Baptism on Tuesday the 21 Aug 1877.

20 I sent a letter to Presidet Young, L J Nuttall, Nellie Asahel Clarie and Owen. 6.

Aug 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:

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 in 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 Independance, 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.

Sister Lucy Bigelow Young went forth into the font and was Baptized for Martha Washington and her famaly and seventy (70) of the Eminent women of the world. I Called upon all the Brethren & Sisters who were present to assist in getting Endowments for those that we had been Baptized for to day.

I wrote Letters to D D MCArthur. I wrote to Susan Dunford. There were Baptized in all to day 682.

22 We gave Endowments to 88. /WW/ Ordained 2 High Priest for George Washington and John Wesley, and 4 Elders. Total Ordained 40. W Woodruff sealed 9 Couple and 7 Children to their parents. D H Cannon sealed 26 Couple.

23 W Woodruff ordained Brother Ellis Sanders a High Priest for Benjamin Franklin and got Endowments for him, also ordained 6 Elders. We gave 138 Endowments. Ordained 60. W Woodruff sealed 3 Couple J McAllister 18, D H Cannon 3.

24 We gave Endowments to 130. W Woodruff Ordained 2 High Priest One for Christopher Columbus. Ordained 60. W Woodruff gave 2d Anointings to 3 Persons 1 Living & 2 dead. J. McAllister Sealed 12 Couple D. H. Cannon 18 and Sealed 10 Children to parents.

25 I spent the day in a variety of Business.(Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 7, p.366-369, August 18, 1877-August 25, 1877).

More from the journal of Wilford Woodruff:

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Living in Idaho, graduated in Financial Economics from BYU-Idaho, and getting ready to launch several civic education projects.

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