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Zina Diantha Huntington Young

President Urged Sisters to Gain Personal Testimony of Gospel

The third general president of the Relief Society, Zina Diantha Huntington Young, taught the women of the Church the importance of personal testimony.

“Seek for a testimony, as you would, my dear sisters, for a diamond concealed,” she wrote. “If someone told you by digging long enough in a certain spot you would find a diamond of unmeasured wealth, do you think you would begrudge time or strength, or means spent to obtain that treasure? ... If you will dig in the depths of your own hearts you will find, with the aid of the Spirit of the Lord, the pearl of great price, the testimony of the truth of this work.”1

A close friend of her predecessor, Eliza R. Snow, Zina spent two decades organizing local Relief Societies with Sister Snow. That work expanded when Sister Young was called as general president in 1888, as she then went beyond Utah and emphasized health care skills among the women of the Church. Though having little training herself, Zina helped the sick regularly and delivered many babies. She eventually opened a nursing school and was head of the school of obstetrics.

In addition to her service in the Relief Society, Zina was matron of the Salt Lake Temple from its dedication in 1893 until her death in 1901. Sister Young also served as president of the Deseret Silk Association, cultivating silk worms to produce cloth.2

Born January 31, 1821, in Watertown, New York, Zina's family embraced the gospel in 1835 and went west with the Saints. In 1841, Zina married Henry Bailey Jacobs after being taught the doctrine of plural marriage by Joseph Smith and having been invited to become the prophet's plural wife as many as three times. After refusing the prophet's offer and marrying Henry Jacobs, Zina apparently had a change of heart and conceded to become Joseph's “celestial wife.”

“When I heard that God had revealed the law of Celestial marriage that we would have the privilege of associating in family relationships in the worlds to come, I searched the scriptures and by humble prayer to my Heavenly Father I obtained a testimony for myself that God had required that order to be established in his Church,” she wrote.3

In a rare instance of polyandry, Zina remained married to Henry Jacobs after being sealed to Joseph Smith. After Joseph's death, she married Brigham Young for time and went west with the Saints. Henry lived in California for several years, not coming to Utah until 1880. After Zina arrived in Utah in 1848, she lived as Brigham Young’s wife, eventually bearing a daughter, Zina Prescindia Young.4

Despite the trials and personal upheaval she faced, Zina always remained true to the testimony she gained as a 14-year-old girl, and even in her final days expressed a faithful optimism.

In 1901, Sister Young fell ill while visiting her daughter, Zina Young Card, in Canada and insisted on traveling home to Utah.

“After she had been placed on the [train] car, her daughter pained at having to see her mother subjected to the hardships of a long trip when so ill uttered a few words of sympathy, and the venerable sufferer smiled into her face and said, ‘Never mind, make the best of it.’ Those were the last audible words that ever escaped her lips.”

Zina Diantha Huntington Young died August 28, 1901, in Salt Lake City. An obituary in the Deseret Evening News remembered her as a woman who “was cheerful when only brave souls could smile.”5

Footnotes

[1] Zina Diantha Huntington Young, lds.org.

[2] Zina Diantha Huntington Young, lds.org.

[3] Allen L. Wyatt, “Zina and Her Men: An Examination of the Changing Marital State of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young,” FAIR.

[4] Allen L. Wyatt, “Zina and Her Men: An Examination of the Changing Marital State of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young,” FAIR.

[5] Charles Penrose, “Passed Into the Repose of Death,” August 28, 1901, Deseret Evening News, Church Archives, Zina Card Brown collection.