Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Illustrious ancestor

Descendants of Frederick G. Williams gather by hundreds
Published: Saturday, Aug. 19, 2006

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Early Church leader and confidant of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Frederick G. Williams is mentioned in several revelations of the Doctrine and Covenants, perhaps the most-quoted when he was chastised for not teaching his children "light and truth" (Doctrine and Covenants 93:41-43).

Photo by Marene Foulger
Three generations of descendants of Frederick G. Williams, who was second counselor to Joseph Smith, are from left, Frederick G. Williams IV, Frederick G. Williams V and Frederick G. Williams.

Evidently, he repented and "set in order his own house" because, 173 years later, he has a large descendancy of faithful Latter-day Saints who venerate their famous ancestor. Hundreds of these attended various events of a family reunion held Aug. 10-13 in Salt Lake City, including namesakes and direct descendants Frederick G. Williams, his son Frederick G. Williams IV and grandson Frederick G. Williams V.

According to great-great-grandson Frederick G. Williams, a Spanish and Portuguese professor at BYU and former mission president, a less well-known passage from the Doctrine and Covenants is also relevant today: A promise made to the original Frederick G. Williams and Oliver Cowdery that "inasmuch as they are faithful, I will multiply blessings upon them and their seed after them, even a multiplicity of blessings" (Doctrine and Covenants 104:33).

Professor Williams said the fulfillment of this blessing was evident at this reunion, the fifth of its kind. The reunion included a temple session, an address by Elder Joe. J. Christensen, General Authority emeritus; a visit to the Museum of Church History and Art to view artifacts and a painting of the progenitor, and attending the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's "Music and the Spoken Word" Sunday morning broadcast. Rex J. Allen, one of the founding directors of the Perpetual Education Fund, addressed the group, and a testimony meeting was held.

"It was really fun to be in a temple session and know that every one in the group was part of the family," he said.

Another of these descendants was Laurie Bird of the Parkway 2nd Ward, South Jordan Utah Parkway Stake, who called the reunion a "great endeavor." She said she was taught about her ancestor while a child by her mother, Velda Harward. She also taught her daughter, Alisha Olsen, about her heritage. The three attended the reunion together.

"I think it was really great to meet so many relatives," said Sister Bird. "We receive strength from each other, and we learn of the stories and sacrifices of our ancestors."

Frederick Granger Williams, a botanical physician, served 10 missions. His farm in Kirtland, Ohio, gave the fledgling Church a foothold in that location. He was the Prophet's scribe from 1832-36 that included recording 35 sections of the Doctrine and Covenants and most of the inspired translation of the Old Testament. His printing company published the first Doctrine and Covenants and the first hymnal in 1835 and three early newspapers. He wrote the history of Zion's Camp, and was present at many spiritual manifestations. He served as second counselor to Joseph Smith from 1833 to 1837. Excommunicated in 1839, he was restored to fellowship in 1840.

Professor Williams, who is writing a biography of his forebear, said that three of Frederick and Rebecca Williams' four children died before the westward trek. After the ancestor's death in 1842, his widow, Rebecca, married Heber C. Kimball. Rebecca and their son, Ezra, and his wife, Henrietta, came west in 1849, where Ezra founded the first hospital west of the Mississippi. Frederick's grandson, Frederick Salem Williams, was an early missionary and mission president in Argentina and, under the direction of the First Presidency, opened missionary work in Uruguay and Paraguay, and is closely linked with the opening of missionary work in Peru in 1956. His son, Professor Williams, presided over the Brazil Sao Paulo Interlagos Mission in 1991. They co-authored the book, From Acorn to Oak Tree, a history of the early Church in South America.

"I am grateful, of course, as we all are that Frederick was faithful and remained in the Church, because now we are as well," said Professor Williams at the reunion.

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