Zera Pulsipher (or Zerah) was a First Seven Presidents of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). In that capacity, he provided leadership to the early Mormon community, most notably in the exodus of a large group of Saints from Kirtland, Ohio. He was also an active missionary who baptized Wilford Woodruff (1807-1898) into the LDS Church.
Zera Pulsipher was born 24 June 1789 in Rockingham, Windham County, Vermont, United States to John Pulsipher (1749-1827) and Elizabeth Dutton (1752-1838) and died 1 January 1872 Hebron, Washington County, Utah, United States of unspecified causes. He married Mary Randall (1789-1812) 1810 in Rockingham, Windham County, Vermont. He married Mary Ann Brown (1798-1886) 1812 in Rockingham, Windham County, Vermont. He married Prudence McNamara (1803-1883) December 1854 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah. He married Martha Ann Hughes (1843-1907) 18 March 1857 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah.
Pulsipher was born in Rockingham, Vermont, to John and Elizabeth Pulsipher. He came from a heritage of New England settlers and patriots, including a father and grandfather who fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill. He spent much of his childhood working on his parent's farm. During his early twenties, Pulsipher attempted to study to become a doctor, but decided to return to farming. He married Mary Randall in 1810 and they had a daughter together. Mary died after a year of being married. Pulsipher married Mary Brown a few years later and they raised a large family together.
Move to New York 1823
Zerah Pulsipher and his second wife, Mary Ann Brown, moved to Onondaga County, New York, in 1823. There he built a mill and a Baptist meetinghouse. As a minister in his mid-thirties, Zerah was no stranger to spiritual things. He frequently discussed the gospel of Jesus Christ, the condition of departed loved ones, and the signs of Christ’s Second Coming.
Given Zerah’s position as minister, it was not surprising that, in the summer of 1831, word of “an ancient record or Golden Bible in Manchester near Palmyra” should get his attention. Zerah succeeded in securing a copy of the Book of Mormon that fall. He read it twice, gave it a “thorough investigation,” and believed it was true. When a missionary arrived, Zerah and many of his parishioners attended a public meeting. After listening to Jared Carter’s message, Zerah arose and told the assembled crowd that, since Brother Carter claimed he had “got his knowledge from heaven and was nothing but a man,” that he, Zerah, “had just as good a right to obtain that blessing.” Zerah sought that privilege in fervent prayer.
A week passed before Zerah’s answer came—and in a most compelling fashion. Zerah was granted a vision of angels “so open and plain” that he rejoiced, crying “Glory Hallelujah!” When Zerah calmly told his congregation what had happened, a large body of his church went with him into the waters of baptism.
Move to Ohio 1833
The new convert was unwavering in faith and strong in spirit. Zerah was ordained an Elder and served a mission to New York (baptizing Wilford Woodruff (1807-1898). future president of the Church). He then moved to Kirtland, Ohio and assisted in building the temple, where he received his “first endowment” in 1836. The next year, he served a mission to Canada. When he returned, Zerah was ordained to the “Council of First Presidency of Seventies.” He then served a third mission south of the Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers, establishing new Church branches.
Zions Camp 1834
One of the most interesting episodes in the early history of LDS Church was the march of Zion's Camp (1834). The members of the Church in Missouri were being persecuted, and the Prophet Joseph made it a matter of prayer and received a revelation on February 24, 1834. The Lord instructed the Prophet to assemble at least one hundred young and middle-aged men and to go to the land of Zion, or Missouri. (See D&C 130:19–34.)
Zion’s Camp, a group of approximately one hundred and fifty men, gathered at Kirtland, Ohio, in the spring of 1834 and marched to Jackson County, Missouri. By the time they reached Missouri, the camp had increased to approximately two hundred men.
Many men in this camp were called shortly afterwards to important church positions. Zera became one of the first Seven Presidents of the Seventy.
Move to Missouri
Returning to Kirtland, Zerah discovered the Saints were passing through a “hell of persecution.” The Saints (numbering more than 500) felt a need to leave Kirtland and head for Missouri. But they were poor, almost destitute. A group met in the attic of the Kirtland Temple to make the situation a matter of prayer.
While Zerah was on his knees, a messenger dressed in white robes with white hair to his shoulders appeared. He looked on the faithful Saints and then spoke directly to Zerah: “Be one and you shall have enough.” With great joy, those who had met in prayer advised their brethren to scatter and work for anything they could get. By July, the Kirtland Camp was able to head for Adam-ondi-Ahman. That fall, they were greeted by Joseph and Hyrum Smith some five miles from Far West, Missouri.
Move to Illinois
Of course, more difficulties awaited the Saints in Missouri—and Zerah, like others, soon faced mobs, thieves, and scoundrels. He passed a grueling winter. In the spring, Zerah took his family and headed for Illinois. There he built three homes, cleared thirteen acres, and put in crops. And then Zerah found he had nothing to live on until the harvest. Furthermore, due to the hardships he had endured, he was unable to do “a day’s work.” He did not know where he would obtain food. Zerah prayed for inspiration.
In answer, Zerah was given a dream. In it, he saw his wife and children making baskets to be sold. The next morning, Zerah went and found suitable timber. He instructed his family how to make the baskets he had seen in the dream, which they did. And the family sold the baskets—for every kind of provision and for money! They got along fine until the crops were ripe.
Within two years, Zerah was asked to go to Nauvoo and help with the temple. Following Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, Zerah was present when the Prophetic mantle fell upon Brigham Young. When the Saints moved West, Zerah was assigned to be a captain of 100 and to make roads. He arrived in the Valley in September of 1848. There, Zerah endured more “hard seasons,” but these did not trouble him. Zerah had already established a pattern of petitioning God in fervent prayer and receiving spiritual manifestations. It is not surprising, therefore, that Zerah closed his History by admonishing his posterity to: “Pray mighty to God; let your thoughts be raised in prayer day and night, that you may have the Spirit of the Lord to be with you.”
Pulsipher and his family followed the main body of the church membership as they settled in Far West, Nauvoo, Winter Quarters, and Salt Lake City. He also helped settle Southern Utah in his later years. In each of these areas, Pulsipher provided leadership including helping to locate the settlement of Garden Grove, Iowa; leading a company of 100 to Utah; serving as a city counselor in Salt Lake City for a number of years; and presiding over the settlement of Hebron, Utah, from 1863 to 1869.
Pulsipher misused the sealing authority by performing two unauthorized polygamous marriages for William Bailey during the years 1856 and 1861, and was brought to answer before the First Presidency on April 12, 1862. At the meeting, Pulsipher was instructed to be rebaptized, released as one of the Seven Presidents of the Seventy, and was given the option to be ordained a high priest. Pulsipher was later ordained a patriarch, and died in Hebron, Utah, in early 1872 as a member in full fellowship in the church.
Marriage and Family
Pulsipher married four wives over the course of his life and had 17 children:
- Mary or Polly Randall (1789–1812), married November 6, 1810. One child: Harriet Pulsipher.
- Mary Brown (1799–1886), married August 1815. Eleven children: Mary Ann, Almira, Nelson, Mariah, Sarah, John, Charles, Mary Ann, William M., Eliza Jane, and Fidelia.
- Prudence McNanamy (1803–1883), married July 12, 1854. No known children.
- Martha Hughes (1843–1907), married March 18, 1857. Five children: Martha Ann, Mary Elizabeth, Zerah James, Sarah Jane, and Andrew Milton.
|Offspring of Zera Pulsipher and Mary Randall (1789-1812)|
|Harriet Pulsipher (1811-1878)|
|Offspring of Zera Pulsipher and Martha Ann Hughes (1843-1907)|
|Martha Ann Pulsipher (1858-1936)||21 December 1858 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, United States||8 September 1936 Mesquite, Clark County, Nevada, United States||Asahel James Barnum (1861-1937)|
|Mary Elizabeth Pulsipher (1861-1925)|
|Zerah James Pulsipher (1863-1879)|
|Sarah Jane Pulsipher (1865-1865)|
|Andrew Milton Pulsipher (1867-1939)|