America’s Founders and Other Famous People Were Baptized for the Dead in 1877-The Details

“Sunday Sermon” for July 4th

Founding Fathers Appear to Wilford Woodruff

Wilford Woodruff was a spiritual giant. He received more visitations, visions, promptings, and revelations than anyone in this dispensation other than the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Most members of the church have heard that the Founding Fathers appeared to Elder Wilford Woodruff in the St. George Temple, demanding that their temple work be completed.  

Here are some of the fascinating details:  

In August 1877, George Washington and the Signers of the Declaration of Independence waited on me [Wilford Woodruff] for two days and two nights.” They reprimanded him for not having performed the temple ordinances on their behalf, and insisted that their work be completed.

On August 19, 1877, Wilford Woodruff prepared a list of Founding Fathers and Mothers, and other “eminent” men and women for baptism.  

Starting August 21, the plan was to have John McCallister baptize Woodruff for 100 men, and then Woodruff would baptize McCallister for 21 men including George Washington, Washington’s relatives, and deceased U.S. presidents.  McAllister would then baptize Lucy Bigelow Young for Martha Washington and her family, and 70 “eminent” women and spouses of eminent men.

“Famous” People Baptized for the Dead

A total of 682 baptisms were performed. They include:

54 Signers of the Declaration of Independence, including:

  • John Adams
  • Samuel Adams
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Thomas Jefferson

46 “Eminent” Men, including:

  • John Wesley (Founder of Methodism)
  • Martin Luther (German theologian, Reformation leader)
  • Christopher Columbus (Italian explorer, connector of the New World and Europe)
  • Amerigo Vespucci (Italian explorer, cartographer, name “America”)
  • Admiral Lord Nelson (Royal Navy Admiral, Battle of Trafalgar)
  • Robert Burns (Scottish Poet)
  • Lord Byron (English Poet)
  • William Wordsworth (English Romantic Poet)
  • Michael Faraday (English scientist; “Father of Electronics)
  • William Seward (Secretary of State, Purchase of Alaska and Pacific Northwest)

81 “Eminent” Women, including:

  • Martha Washington (First Lady, “Mother of the Country”)
  • Abigail Smith Adams (First Lady, political advisor)
  • Dolley Paine Madison (First Lady, socialite)  
  • Jane Austen (English novelist)
  • Charlotte Bronte (English novelist)
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning (English Poet)

15 Presidents, including, my personal heroes:

  • George Washington
  • John Adams
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • James Madison
  • Abraham Lincoln

4 Ordained High Priests

Four men were given special recognition by being ordained High Priests.

  • George Washington
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Christopher Columbus
  • John Wesley

Wilford Woodruff’s Accounts

August 1877. “On the same day these ordinances were performed, President Woodruff records in his journal that he baptized brother McAllister for 21, including Gen Washington & his forefathers and all the Presidents of the United States that were on my list except Buchanan, Van Buren & Grant [living]…
“Sister Lucy Bigelow Young went Forth into the font and was Baptized for Martha Washington and her family and seventy (70) of the Eminent women of the world…     “There were Baptized in all totaled to day 682.” (Excerpts from Woodruff, Journal 7:367-69)

September 1877 Account: “… the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, ‘…  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 …
            “Straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McAllister 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 was baptized for every president of the United States except three; and when their cause is just, somebody will do the work for them.“ (Journal of Discourses 19:229, September 16, 1877.)

April 1898 Account: “I am going to bear my testimony to this assembly … 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 … General Washington and all the men that labored for the purpose were inspired of the Lord….
            “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….” (Conference Report, April 1898, p. 89-90.)

(Sources: “Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson,” p. 603-604; “Four Ordained: Wilford Woodruff Ordained These Men High Priests,” Steven Allen; “What You Didn’t Know About the Founding Fathers’ Temple Work Story,” Michael De Groote, May 15, 2015, LDS Living; “I have heard that the temple work for the founding fathers of the United States has been done. Is that true? If so, what about the work for their families?” Thomas E. Daniels, Church Family History Department, LDS Church website; “Visions of Freedom: Wilford Woodruff and the Signers of the Declaration of Independence,” by Michael De Groote, Ronald L. Fox))


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