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Zebedee Coltrin (7 September 1804 – 21 July 1887) was a Mormon pioneer and a general authority in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from 1835 to 1837. He served in later years as a patriarch in the church, from 1873 until his death.

Zebedee Coltrin
Photograph of Zebedee Coltrin
First Seven Presidents of the Seventy
March 1, 1835 (1835-03-01) – April 6, 1837 (1837-04-06)
Called byJoseph Smith
End reasonHonorably released because he had already been ordained a high priest
May 31, 1873 (1873-05-31) – July 21, 1887 (1887-07-21)
Called byBrigham Young
End reasonDeath.
Personal details
Born(1804-09-07)September 7, 1804
Ovid, New York, United States
DiedJuly 21, 1887(1887-07-21) (aged 82)
Spanish Fork, Utah Territory, United States


Origins in New York and OhioEdit

Coltrin was born — the fifth son of eleven children — to John Coltrin Jr. and Sarah Graham at Ovid, Seneca County, New York. In 1814, his family moved to Strongsville, Ohio, where he grew up on his father's farm.

Four years later, in October 1828, Coltrin married his first wife, Julia Ann Jennings (b. 1812, in Tioga, Pennsylvania), who bore him five children (all of whom, however, died in infancy).

Zebedee had belonged to the Methodist faith before his conversion to Mormonism and, indeed, had qualified to be a Methodist minister. No evidence exists, however, that Coltrin ever accepted his ministerial duties in the Methodist church.[1]

Mormon Missionary to Missouri and CanadaEdit

On 9 January 1831, Coltrin was baptized into the Church of Christ, or Latter Day Saint church (as it was later known), by Solomon Hancock at Strongsville, Ohio, and confirmed 19 January by Lyman Wight, who was also a recent convert. In order to be baptized, however, the ice, which was one foot thick, had to be cut, as was a common practice at the time: 'It was a cold day, but Zebedee implied that he was warmed with the fervor of his newfound faith. As he stepped out of the frigid water onto the ice, he bore his testimony to those who had come to watch the baptism.'[2]

Coltrin was ordained an elder of the church on 21 January 1831, by church historian John Whitmer (one of the Eight Witnesses to the Book of Mormon). Only weeks later, Coltrin was assigned to go to Missouri as a church missionary with Levi W. Hancock (Solomon's brother, who, in addition to being a future witness of the Book of Commandments, would be a fellow President of the Seventy), during which travel through Indiana the two elders baptized 'upwards of a hundred people' (Stephens, 1974, p. 18).

On 17 July 1832 Coltrin was ordained a high priest by Hyrum Smith and future Presiding Bishopric and Council of Fifty member Reynolds Cahoon at Kirtland, Ohio (which was then Church headquarters), and in 1834 he served another mission, this time to Upper Canada.

The School of the Prophets and Kirtland Temple manifestationsEdit

From January to April 1833, Zebedee participated with a few select Latter Day Saint leaders (referred to as 'the first elders of the Church') in what was called the 'School of the Prophets' at Kirtland — a gathering in brotherly fellowship for learning, instruction, and purification — all in preparation for what the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., had promised would be the exquisite, intensely sublime spiritual experiences that had been reserved, since the foundation of the world, for a Zion people: manifestations gifted only to those sufficiently 'pure in heart' among them. Zebedee became one of these blessed 'special witnesses' (and was also one of the elders present when the 'Word of Wisdom' was first revealed to the Prophet).

This preparatory 'School' for receiving a greater 'endowment of power,' even of apostolic power, was marked by fasting, solemn salutations, cleansing sacraments, sanctifying prayer unto God 'with uplifted hands,' angelic visions and other 'heavenly manifestations' (ibid, pp. 21-28). The School of the Prophets was convened in the upper room adjacent to the Newell K. Whitney Store.

Similar experiences three years later were had by Coltrin and others in a dedicated upper room of the Kirtland Temple in a like January-April setting antecedent to the Temple's dedication in 1836 — which itself, like the ancient 'day of Pentecost,' as Coltrin reported years later, was graced with 'cloven tongues as of fire' resting on the brethren 'as the Spirit gave them utterance [a gift of the Spirit in which Zebedee also took part] ... The angels of God rested upon the Temple and we heard their voices singing heavenly music' (ibid, pp. 33-36, 42).

New Portage blessing and Zion's CampEdit

On 19 April 1834, Joseph Smith, Jr., Sidney Rigdon, and Oliver Cowdery gave Zebedee a blessing at New Portage (now Barberton), Ohio, that he would live to see 70 years of age and be blessed with wisdom to preach the gospel.[3]

Also in 1834, Coltrin joined Zion's Camp (contributing financially all he had) and marched with the Prophet Joseph and more than 200 others — in that arduous, faith-testing crucible from Ohio to Missouri — for the purpose of assisting and protecting the Jackson County-expelled, mob-imperiled Latter Day Saints there. The Camp was divided into twelve companies, and Zebedee was appointed cook for Joseph Smith's company. An indicator of the great trust the Prophet had for Coltrin is found in Joseph's remark that he would 'not eat or drink anything but what Zebedee prepared' for him (Stephens, 1974, p. 50).

President of the Quorums of SeventyEdit

Coltrin became a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy on 28 February 1835 under the hands of the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr. and Oliver Cowdery, who promised him: 'You shall have heavenly visions and the ministry of Angels shall be your lot.'

The next day, on 1 March, Zebedee was appointed and ordained as one of the first Seven Presidents of the Seventy by Presiding Patriarch of the Church Joseph Smith, Sr., with his sons, the Prophet Joseph and Hyrum Smith; Assistant President of the Church Oliver Cowdery; First Presidency members Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams; and apostle David Whitmer (one of the Three Witnesses), laying their hands upon his head in the Melchizedek Priesthood circle. Rigdon, the mouthpiece for that ordination, ordained Coltrin 'to all that could be placed upon man upon the earth, and ... that it should ever be [his] desire to preach the Gospel to all the eternities of God,' and the blessing was 'sealed by all the Brethren by a Hearty Amen.'[4]

Two additional quorums of Seventy were organized by the Seven Presidents over the next two years, with Coltrin ordaining and setting apart many of their number, including, on 20 December 1836 in the Kirtland Temple, Elijah Abelone of the first African-Americans originally permitted by Joseph Smith to hold the Priesthood[5] — but also, on 4 April 1837, future Prophet and church President Wilford Woodruff.

When the church hierarchy realized that Zebedee had previously been ordained a high priest, Coltrin was released as one of the Seven Presidents of the Seventy on 6 April 1837 and took his place among his brethren of the high priesthood.

Zebedee was a charter member of, and owned stock in, the Kirtland Safety Society in 1837. He stood firm in his loyalty to the Prophet, to the Lord and to His Church, when many others (even those within the highest councils of the Church) faltered in their testimony and were carried away by the winds of apostasy that swept Kirtland in the wake of the bank's failure.

Kirtland Stake Presidency and 'Smith for President' electioneerEdit

Coltrin moved to Commerce (renamed shortly thereafter Nauvoo), Illinois, in 1839, but soon returned to Kirtland, Ohio. He was appointed second counselor to Almon W. Babbitt in the Kirtland Stake, 22 May 1841, and later (after returning to Illinois when the Kirtland Stake was dissolved, to help build the Nauvoo Temple and University of Nauvoo), was received into the Nauvoo High Priests' Quorum on 4 June 1843.

Zebedee was among the volunteers who, in late June 1843, rescued (albeit temporarily) the Prophet Joseph Smith from his brutal captors and from unlawful arrest (to stand trial in Missouri). Coltrin's continued loyalty brought him appointment to travel east to Michigan to electioneer for the Prophet in Joseph Smith's 1844 bid for the Presidency of the United States. And it was while thus 'stumping' for the Prophet in Michigan that Zebedee sadly learned of the martyrdom of their 'dear Brother Joseph' and Hyrum at Carthage Jail.

'Vanguard' Pioneer of '47 and Iowa-Wisconsin missionaryEdit

Coltrin was a Mormon pioneer and, endowed now with spiritual power obtained by holy temple covenants, traveled to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Leaving Nauvoo sometime after March 1846, by December of that year he was living at Winter Quarters, Nebraska, where, along with his brother Graham, he served as part of Hosea Stout's 30-man police force to safeguard the peace.

Coltrin was part of Brigham Young's vanguard company of 1847 that first entered Utah's 'Valley of the Mountains' (while enroute, camp clerk Thomas Bullock recorded that former apostle Luke Johnson gave him oil extracted from 'twelve rattles' of a rattlesnake that he'd just killed, which Bullock then rubbed 'on Zebedee Coltrin's black leg, which did it a great deal of good' — Coltrin seems to have been afflicted with 'black scurvy,' a vitamin-deficiency condition that was common among the pioneers: it often resulted from a lack of vegetables on a forced salt-meat diet; ibid, p. 68).

Within weeks of arriving in the Great Basin, however, Zebedee was made a 'captain of ten' (see D&C 138:3) and returned to Winter Quarters to retrieve his wife and family and also assist other pioneer Saints to continue their trek West. An official call issued by the President of the Quorum of the Twelve to Zebedee was cause for his remaining in Iowa (on the eastern side of the Missouri River, but also in Wisconsin) for four additional years as both a missionary and organizer for the Saints' trek West.

PEF return to Utah and settlement at Spanish ForkEdit

With the assistance of the Perpetual Emigration Fund (PEF), Zebedee returned to Salt Lake City with his family in 1851, settling on Main Street near to where the Joseph Smith Memorial Building now stands (while in Nauvoo, he had lived on Warsaw Street as a merchant).

In 1852, responding to a call by Brigham Young, Zebedee Coltrin sold his home and two city lots (which land-lot properties Young, in August 1847, had allowed the 'vanguard' Saints to select for themselves) to settle in Spanish Fork, in Utah Territory's fertile Utah Valley. There, he assisted in the construction of Palmyra Utah's sturdy 'Fort Saint Luke' for protection against attack by native Timpanogos Ute Indians and during Chief Walkara's 'Walker War' (in the campaign against Walker's braves, Coltrin acted as a 'lieutenant'). Years later, while standing guard in Utah's Antonga Black Hawk War, Zebedee nearly lost his life when an Indian-brave shot a hole through the rim of his hat.

Coltrin helped survey and lay out the town of Spanish Fork, where the city is today, and contributed much to its building and municipal improvements over the years. He and his family experienced and survived the locust- and grasshopper-induced Utah famine of 1855-56 (reminiscent of the 1848 scourge of crickets, and antecedent to the resultant 'Mormon Reformation') and went on to establish one of the first grape vineyards in Spanish Fork, as well as a peach orchard. Coltrin served for a time as a city councilman for Spanish Fork.

In his capacity as President of the Utah Stake High Priests' Quorum, Zebedee was a staunch supporter of the United Order organized there and was tireless in his exhortation of temple work 'for the dead': he foresaw a time 'when every stake will have its temple.' President Coltrin taught that each elder of the restored latter-day kingdom 'should continue to contend for the faith that should open unto him the revelations of the heavens' and promised that 'if we attend to our duties and the ordinances of God there is thrown around us by the Holy Priesthood a hedge like that around Job which the devil cannot break through' (Stephens, 1974, pp. 79-80).

Plural Marriage and Temple blessingsEdit

Zebedee Coltrin practiced plural marriage and had seven wives. Coltrin's first marriage to Julia Ann Jennings was a happy one, but as with the five children Julia ultimately bore him, she also died — at Kirtland in October 1841, at the still tender age of 29. Zebedee's familial sacrifice for the restored gospel's sake seems a precursor to many other such 'ultimate sacrifices' made by the Latter Day Saints in the difficult years that would follow (like those of stalwart Stillman Pond). Julia's death was sensitively mourned in the Latter Day Saint Times and Seasons newspaper:

She fell asleep in full faith of a glorious resurrection, saying to her husband, as her farewell address: 'Let me go! Let me go! Come Lord Jesus and take me.' Her exit was like the infant dropping to sleep in its mother's arms — Tis sweet to die in Christ.[6]

Zebedee's second wife, Mary Mott (b. 1820, in Bethany, New York, whom he, as a missionary, first saw lighting a church lamp), gave birth to ten more children. She and Zebedee were married 'for time' in February 1843, and later, on 20 January 1846, 'sealed for eternity,' in the Nauvoo Temple by Brigham Young — after which, apostle Parley P. Pratt conferred upon them additional endowment blessings (Stephens, 1974, pp. 9-10); Mary also stood as proxy that day in the sealing of first wife Julia to their husband.

Coltrin, who received his personal temple endowment on 22 December 1845, would later wed Hannah Husted and Sarah Oyler at Nauvoo (1846), and Lavinia Elizabeth Fullmer (1857) and Marriet Chaddock (1874) at Salt Lake City. Finally, noting that none of these additional wives bore him children, it is known that Coltrin found a seventh wife in Amanda Norwood.

A Patriarch with Apostolic foresightEdit

On 31 May 1873, in a meeting presided over by President Brigham Young, then-apostle John Taylor ordained Coltrin to be a church patriarch, a position he held for fourteen years until his death in Spanish Fork at the age of 82. In that solemn ecclesiastical capacity, he traveled widely and pronounced more that one thousand patriarchal blessings upon the heads of the Latter Day Saints.

When in early October 1883 President John Taylor again organized the School of the Prophets (upon the occasion of its 50th anniversary), he knelt within Salt Lake City's Endowment House on 12 October and 'washed the feet' of Zebedee Coltrin — the only surviving member of the original School of the Prophets at Kirtland. Coltrin then, according to President Woodruff, washed the feet of President Taylor, who then proceeded to wash the feet of his Counselors and of all the Twelve Apostles. The solemn memorial ended with a sharing of the sacramental bread and wine of the Lord's supper (Bradshaw, 2016, p. 175).

'Veteran' Zebedee was also a guest of honor at the May 1884 dedication of the Logan Temple in Cache Valley, staying at the home of Bishop Henry Ballard, father of future apostle Melvin J. Ballard and great-grandfather of apostle M. Russell Ballard. During Zebedee's stay, it was in a patriarchal blessing that he spoke prophetically to the young 13-year-old Melvin (who had polished the Patriarch's shoes in return for stories about the Prophet Joseph Smith). The patriarch declared to the bishop's son that he would one day sit in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Shortly after Melvin's call to the apostleship, while at a post-Conference banquet, then-apostle George Albert Smith entertained Elder Ballard at his home and commented on the startling coincidence that when he, too, was thirteen years of age, Zebedee Coltrin had likewise declared in a recorded patriarchal blessing that George Albert Smith himself would serve as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ (Stephens, 1974, pp. 84-85; indeed, George Albert Smith went on to serve as Prophet-President of the Church, rising higher in church leadership than both his father John Henry Smith, and grandfather George A. Smith, who both had served as Counselors in the First Presidency; see also Truman G. Madsen, The Presidents of the Church, Deseret Book, 2004).

Patriarch Coltrin, on Sunday, 18 May 1884, gave the benediction to the Logan Temple's concluding dedicatory services. The final years of his life were spent traveling frequently to Logan, to do 'temple work' there.

Death and CelebrationEdit

Zebedee Coltrin's funeral, at which apostle Orson F. Whitney spoke in a celebration of the grand Patriarch's rich and colorful life, was held on Utah's Pioneer Day, July 24th — an annual tradition celebrating the Mormon Pioneers' 1847 entrance into the Salt Lake Valley, which Coltrin had personally experienced. Zebedee, through the years, had been Spanish Fork's traditional orator for that commemorative occasion, or had ridden by military escort in the accompanying holiday parades (Stephens, 1974, pp. 80-82, 90). Salt Lake City's Deseret News gave joyful benediction to the life of this 'respected and venerable man' who left to future generations of Latter-day Saints 'an excellent record for faithfulness.'

The body of Zebedee Coltrin, who passed through death's veil firm in the faith and thus on to his eternal reward, was laid to rest at Spanish Fork City Cemetery, in Utah County.


  1. ^ Stephens, Calvin R. The Life and Contributions of Zebedee Coltrin (1974), Master's thesis, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah: Perhaps this can best be explained, says Stephens, by the fact that Coltrin believed at the time that the true church of Jesus Christ with its divine authority was not upon the earth (p. 8).
  2. ^ Ibid, p. 8.
  3. ^ The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Volume 1, 1832 -1839, pages 41 - 42
  4. ^ High Priests Record and Minute Book, 5 February 1870 (1866-1898), Spanish Fork Ward, Utah Stake
  5. ^ Smith, Joseph F. (c. 1879). "Joseph F. Smith biographical transcript for Elijah Able, Joseph F. Smith Papers" (PDF). The Joseph Smith Papers Project. Salt Lake City, Utah. With a vaguely Caucasian appearance, Abel, as per his predominantly Scotch-English heritage, is said to have been Octoroon, or eighth-part black; see also Stephens, 1974, pp. 52-56. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  6. ^ Times and Seasons 3:669 (15 January 1842), Nauvoo, Illinois

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