Eminent Spirits Appear to Wilford Woodruff

In 1877, the Founding Fathers of the United States and other eminent men and women appeared in a vision to Wilford Woodruff, president of the St. George Temple, for the purpose of completing their temple work. President Woodruff, assisted by others, immediately went forth and had the ordinances performed for these men and women. A listing of those who appeared can be found below.

Date: 1877

Location: St. George Temple

Inspiring Narrative by Wilford Woodruff

Eminent Spirits Appear to Wilford Woodruff, Joseph Smith Foundation
Vision of Wilford Woodruff, by Ken Corbett

Two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet 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.

Everyone 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.

I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McCallister 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.

When Brother McAllister had baptized me for the 100 names I baptized him for 21, including General Washington and his forefathers and all the Presidents of the United States–except three. Sister Lucy Bigelow Young went forth into the font and was baptized for Martha Washington and her family and 70 of the ’eminent women’ of the world.

Wilford Woodruff, Conference Report, April 10, 1898; Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 160-61; Wilford Woodruff Journal, August 21, 1877.

In the April 1898 General Conference, President Woodruff again recalled this sacred experience:

I am going to bear my testimony to this assembly, if I never do it again in my life, 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, not wicked men. General Washington and all the men that labored for the purpose were inspired of the Lord. Another thing I am going to say here, because I have a right to say it. Everyone 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. Men are here, I believe, that know of this, Brother J. D. T. McAllister, David H. Cannon and James S. Bleak. Brother McAllister baptized me for all those men, and then I told these brethren that it was their duty to go into the Temple and labor until they had got endowments for all of them. They did it. Would those spirits have called up on me, as an Elder in Israel to perform that work if they had not been noble spirits before God? They would not.”
Wilford Woodruff, Conference Report, April 1989, pp. 89-90.

List of Eminent Spirits

These are the names recorded in the journal of Wilford Woodruff and on the Temple records as those who appeared to him for two consecutive nights requesting their ordinance work be completed:

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
  • . . . Others.

Signers of the Declaration of Independence

New Hampshire
Rhode Island

New York

New Jersey





Martha Wales, Wife of Thomas Jefferson

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

Presidents of the United States (except three)

  • James Madison
  • Dorothy “Dolly” Madison, Wife of James Madison (America)
  • James Monroe
  • John Quincy Adams
  • Andrew Jackson
  • Rachel Donelson, Wife of Andrew Jackson (America)
  • William Henry Harrison
  • John Tyler
  • James Knox Polk
  • Zachary Taylor
  • Millard Fillmore
  • Franklin Pierce
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Andrew Johnson

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)

Military Leaders







  • 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)



  • 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)



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)

Matthias E. Cowley

On the night of March 19th, 1894, he [Wilford Woodruff] had a dream which followed his meditations upon the future life and the work that he had done for the dead. In his dream there appeared to him Benjamin Franklin for whom he had performed important ceremonies in the House of God. This distinguished patriot, according to his dream, sought further blessings in the Temple of God at the hands of his benefactor. President Woodruff wrote: ‘I spent some time with him and we talked over our Temple ordinances which had been administered for Franklin and others. He wanted more work done for him than had already been done. I promised him it should be done. I awoke and then made up my mind to receive further blessings for Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.
The appearance, therefore, in his dream of Franklin was to him a satisfying conclusion that he had at least received joyfully the blessings that came to him from the ordinances of the Lord’s House.
Matthias E. Cowley, Wilford Woodruff–His Life and Labors, p. 585-9.

Comments by Ezra Taft Benson

Shortly after Spencer W. Kimball became president of the Church, we met together in one of out weekly meetings. We spoke of the sacred records that are in the vaults of the various temples of the Church. As I was soon to fill a conference assignment to St. George, President Kimball asked if I would go into the vault at the temple and check the early records. In so doing, I realized the fulfillment of a dream I had had ever since learning of the visit of the Founding Fathers to this sacred place. I saw with my own eyes the records of the work that was done for the Founding Fathers of this great nation, beginning with George Washington. I was deeply moved on that occasion to realize that these great men returned to this promised land by permission of the Lord and had their ordinance work done for them. If they had not been faithful men, if they had not been God-fearing men, would they have come to the elders of Israel to seek their temple blessings? I think not. The Lord raised them up, sanctioned their work, and proclaimed them “wise men.” Moreover, a president of the Church declared them to be the “best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth,” and testified that they were “choice spirits” and “inspired of the Lord.”
Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p 603-604.

The temple work for the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence and other Founding Fathers has been done. All these appeared to Wilford Woodruff when he was President of the St. George Temple. President George Washington was ordained a high priest at that time. You will also be interested to know that according to Wilford Woodruff’s journal, John Wesley, Benjamin Franklin, and Christopher Columbus were also ordained high priests at that time. When one casts doubt about the character of these noble sons of God, I believe he or she will have to answer to the God of heaven for it. Yes, with Lincoln I say: ‘To add brightness to the sun or glory to the name of Washington is . . . impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name and in its deathless splendor, leave it shining on.’
Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p 604; and This Nation Shall Endure, p 18.

It was agreed that I would go into the archives of that great temple [St. George] and review the sacred documents that were there. We were planning for the remodeling and renovating of the St. George Temple and thought that the records might possibly be moved to Salt Lake for safekeeping. And there in the St. George Temple I saw what I had always hoped and prayed that someday I would see. Ever since I returned as a humble missionary and first learned that the Founding Fathers had appeared in that temple, I wanted to see the record. And I saw the record. They did appear to Wilford Woodruff twice and asked why the work hadn’t been done for them. They had founded this country and the Constitution of this land, and they had been true to those principles. Later the work was done for them.
In the archives of the temple, I saw in a book, in bold handwriting, the names of the Founding Fathers and others, including Columbus and other great Americans, for whom the work had been done in the house of the Lord. This is all one great program on both sides of the veil. We are fortunate to be engaged in it on this side of the veil. I think the Lord expects us to take an active part in preserving the Constitution and our freedom.
Ezra Taft Benson in Sandy, Utah, on December 30, 1978; Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p 603.

James G. Bleak

“I was also present in the St. George Temple and witnessed the appearance of the Spirits of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. And also the spirits of the Presidents of the U.S. up to that time. And also others, such as Martin Luther and John Wesley, who came to Wilford Woodruff and demanded that their baptism and endowments be done. Wilford Woodruff was baptized for all of them. While I and Brothers J.D.T. McAllister and David H. Cannon (who were witnesses to the request) were endowed for them. These men that we did work for, were choice Spirits, not wicked men. They laid the foundation of this American Gov., and signed the Declaration of Independence and were the best spirits that the God of Heaven could find on the face of the Earth to perform this work. Martin Luther and John Wesley helped to release the people from religious bondage that held them during the dark ages. They also prepared the people’s hearts so long as they would be ready to receive the restored gospel when the Lord sent it again to men on Earth.”
Personal journal of James Godson Bleak, Chief Recorder in the St. George Temple.

Vicki Jo Anderson, author of the book, The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff

Vicki Jo Anderson is the author of the book, The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff. This book is the effort of her years of research to bring forth biographical sketches of the “other eminent men” mentioned by Wilford Woodruff who appeared to him in the St. George Temple, asking that their temple work be done. In the introduction to her book, she explains her reasons for compiling this book, as well as the Divine help she received throughout its compilation:

One day, while reading from the book “The Vision or The Degrees of Glory” (a compilation of talks and writings of the early brethren of the Church), she came across the testimony of President Wilford Woodruff regarding the appearance of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence in the St. George Temple in August 1877. Quoting from the introduction to her book, Sis. Anderson writes:

The purpose of their visit was to request their temple ordinances be done. . . . President Woodruff stated that not only was he baptized for the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, but also ‘fifty other eminent men.’

Fifty other eminent men–the phrase seemed to leap at me. I was struck with a great desire to know the names of these men . . . [I was told] that I could find their names in Wilford Woodruff’s journal. That summer we were able to visit Brigham Young University. My husband and I went to the Special Collections section of the library to see if we could locate the names. Because we had limited research time, we began anxiously searching through the many volumes of President Woodruff’s journals. At random we selected one from a group of four or five volumes . . . When I lifted the cover of my book, the pages seemed to turn themselves until they fell open to the page containing names of the signers, and the ‘other eminent men’! It was as if someone was at my shoulder, as anxious as I, to have these men’s names known.

President Woodruff said of these men in his journal that they were noted men of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; two exceptions were Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci. After recording the names of each of these eminent men and stating that he was baptized personally for them, President Woodruff wrote: ‘Sister Lucy Bigelow Young went forth into the font and was baptized for Martha Washington and her family and seventy of the eminent women of the world.’ This present volume contains only the biographies of the eminent men. The women will appear in a later volume.

Although President Woodruff gave the number as fifty men, he recorded only forty-five names. I believe that President Woodruff’s statement was not precise, but rather an estimate of the number of many men who appeared. In his journal he specified that there were one hundred men in all. The names of the signers total fifty-four; by adding the forty-five listed eminent men, the total number comes to ninety-nine. As we searched the temple records, we found in the endowments of these eminent men the name of Sir Edmund Burke, whose name was not listed in the journal. It is possible that a clerical error was made, omitting Burke’s name. I am including Edmund Burke, bringing the total number of eminent men to forty-six, matching President Woodruff’s journal total of one hundred. These one hundred names do not include the United States presidents whose names were also recorded in President Woodruff’s journal. . .

Without actually intending to write a book, I began to research the lives of these men and women. My sole object was to find the greatness in the lives of these men and women and use them in teaching my own children . . . As time passed, I began to sense the value of the information I was finding. A desire grew within me to share what I had found. The lives of each of these men carried such powerful messages that I knew their stories must be told.

. . . [my uncle Patriarch] gave me a blessing regarding this work. In the blessing he mentioned that these men and women had appeared to Wilford Woodruff and to others, and that this work would be written to edify and uplift. The blessing stated:

“You will not look upon that which tears down, finds fault, criticizes. They [the eminent men and women] fulfilled their measure and calling upon the earth. For that reason they were permitted after their death to come to Wilford Woodruff so rapidly and have their temple work done. It is the Lord who judges from the intent of the heart, not from the popular opinion of the day. Nor should we judge by only a few facts. As you write and study the intent of the hearts of these men and women you will find that they were uniform. They came to Wilford Woodruff and reminded him that they lad the foundations of freedom . . .

It is this approach that must be taken in compiling this history, so that the children of men, the faithful, the righteous children of our Heavenly Father, may realize that they too have a premortal life, that they have a calling. They have an assignment and it is for them to study and follow the feelings and promptings of the spirit in righteousness. You will write about the good things, the fine things, their accomplishments.”

These instructions gave me a new perspective, a perspective that is perhaps different from that of others who have previously written these men’s stories. My duty was to seek out and record that which was good and noble in the lives of these men and women who so much desired the blessings of the gospel in their post-mortal lives.

. . . We discovered in our years of historical research, that history written prior to 1920 was often written of great men and women who performed great deeds. After 1920, history has highlighted the miseries of men. As Brother Dean Belnap once stated: “Young people of our generation have been deprived of their birthright, which is to be conscious that they are the children of a high destiny in the line of great men who performed great deeds.” One cannot appreciate the future unless there is an understanding of the past. It is the intent of this book to illustrate from the lives of these eminent men, that one individual can make a difference. Hopefully this approach might give the reader the courage, determination, and hope needed to fulfill his or her own measure and calling upon this earth. We live in the greatest time history will ever be written. Therefore, we have the greatest measures and callings that have ever been given.

In writing this book I have received a great deal of help. Some of the research has come in truly miraculous ways. [The author then relates some of the miracles in her research–very fascinating stories.]

The lists of eminent men and women are not meant to imply that there were not other eminent people of the time nor that others were not great in the sight of the Lord. But those who appeared to President Woodruff helped lay the foundation for others in the spirit world to obtain their future blessings.1

Lessons of God’s Superintending Care

To fulfill the purpose of His omniscient design, our Heavenly Father foreordained certain valiant spirit children and assigned them to come to earth at specific times and places to fulfill their appointments. The greatest of these spirits He reserved to come as prophets and priesthood leaders in His kingdom. “Every man,” said the Prophet Joseph Smith, “who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of Heaven before this world was” 2.

Other good and valiant spirits were foreappointed to lay the foundation for man’s liberty through their service in political matters. The Founding Fathers of this American nation were in this category. President Wilford Woodruff said, “They are the best spirits the God of Heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits.” They were held in reserve to collectively come in the time and at the place when one of history’s greatest crises demanded their talents. 3

The foundation of the United States of America is spiritual. We must never forget this vital truth. This country was founded on a belief in the sovereignty of God, and He, not man, granted man his rights. This was possible because the Founding Fathers of this nation were God-fearing men disposed to deliberately acknowledge the hand of God in the events that brought about the nation’s independence.

The Lord raised up the founders of the United States, sanctioned their work, and designated them “wise men.” His approbation of their work is recorded in section 101 of the Doctrine and Covenants: “And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood” (D&C 101:80). 4

The restoration of the gospel and the establishment of the Lord’s Church could not come to pass until the Founding Fathers were raised up and completed their foreordained missions. Those great souls who were responsible for the freedoms we enjoy acknowledged the guiding hand of Providence. For their efforts we are indebted.5


Scanned Images of Temple Work

The following are some of the temple records noting work done for the eminent spirits of Wilford Woodruff.


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


Artist renditions of this event

Matthew David Grant


Harold Hopkinson (father, artist of original rendition now found in the St. George Temple


Glen Hopkinson (son, recently made his own version of this event)


  1. Vicki Jo Anderson, The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff, 1-7.
  2. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 365
  3. “The Crises of Our Constitution,” Salt Lake Valley Utah Central Area Special Interest Lecture Series, September 8, 1977; Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), 21.
  4. Ezra Taft Benson, “The Faith of our Founding Fathers,” in Faith, p. 20
  5. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 604; Bicentennial Ball, Salt Lake City, Utah, September 18, 1987.
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