His Closest Friend Was a Prophet
Contributor: SydneyW Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
They built a friendship that time can only enhance.
Wilford Woodruff and Ezra Thompson Clark were more than fellow saints in the household of God, they were friends after the order of Jonathan and David of the Old Testament. They built a bond of friendship that grew with the years, and quite likely will grow with the eternities.
An avid journal writer, Woodruff once described Ezra T as a “bosom friend” in an 1864 account of his visit to Farmington, Utah. (Wilford Woodruff, His Life and Labors by Matthias F. Cowley, page 440)
The level of that friendship is perhaps best defined by the following:
“It would perhaps be here a little discriminating to speak of any individual friendships of his life. There is one, however, that was so strong and lasting that it illustrates with great clearness the character of the man. Ezra T. Clark of Farmington was a man of simple habits and devoted to industrial life. He loved the soil whose very particles awakened within him a satisfaction and an enthusiasm. These two men developed throughout many years of intimate association a loving regard for each other that was as striking as it was beautiful. Whenever Elder Woodruff could steal away from the duties and responsibilities of life some leisure hours, he sought an evening’s pastime in the home of his friend. Their devotion to each other grew with years; and it may be truthfully said that nothing ever came up in life to disturb their confidence and love.” (Wilford Woodruff, His Life and Labors by Matthias F. Cowley, page 646)
IN HIS HOME AT FAR WEST
Exactly when the two first met has never been clearly defined, but it was probably a short time after Timothy Baldwin Clark and his wife, Polly Keeler, joined the church and moved to Independence, Mo. Ezra was a teen-ager in the years of persection in the Show Me State. It is known that Woodruff, a native of Connecticut like Ezra’s ancestors, was in the Clark home in Far West the morning before the fulfillment of the commandment issued by the Lord in Doctrine and Covenants 115 to meet at the temple site and go from there on a mission to the world. It was at that time that Woodruff was called to the Council of the Twelve.
When Ezra moved to the Nauvoo region and got married, it was his home that provided a haven for Woodruff’s wife while the apostle went on a mission. She had a baby in the Clark home.
How much contact the two had between one another is not known. It is known, however, that Bro. Woodruff had extensive contacts with some of the Clarks while in England. His mission journals in the 1840s speak of the Clarks and contain numerous references to correspondence. Who, what, where and when are not always specified in regards to which Clarks.
TO LIVE ACROSS THE STREET
The two families may have had extensive contact during the pioneer trek from Nauvoo to Winter Quarters. At Winter Quarters, however, Bro. Brigham asked Ezra to stay behind an extra year to prepare food stuffs for the saints who would be coming. Ezra Thompson and Mary Stevenson Clark arrived in Salt Lake a year later than Bro. Woodruff and his family and established a temporary residence in the North Canyon, in the region now known as Bountiful. In 1850 he secured some property in Farmington, which he intended to lease out to another family while he built a home and residence in Salt Lake City---across the street from the Woodruffs. That lease agreement did not work out and so Ezra moved his family to Farmington where he became a fixture/
It is interesting to speculate whether Bro. Woodruff had any hand in the naming of the community where his friend lived. Woodruff had come from Farmington, Ct. and felt a special affinity for his hometown. Initially Farmington was known as North Cottonwood.
As Ezra’s family grew and prospered, his contact with the brethren increased. Brigham Young and the brethren were frequent visitors in the Clark home and it was Ezra Thompson Clark who provided teams for Brigham and the brethren, including Wilford Woodruff, to attend the St. George Temple dedication and the ground-breaking of the Manti and Logan temples.
They seemed to share many sacred things together as well. When he went to the temple with his two wives, on March 8, 1867, it was Wilford Woodruff who wrote the following in his journal “This is Mrs. Woodruff Birth day. She is 60 years old today. I met at 2 o’clock at the prayer room today at 2 o’clock I gave (Ezra Thompson Clark and 2 wives) their second Anointing and attended the Theater in the Evening.” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal)
WAS A WITNESS
Years later, when Ezra T. and his wife, Mary, acted as proxies at the sealing of their eldest son Ezra James’ sealing to a deceased Farmington woman, Bro. Woodruff was one of the witnesses.
When Ezra Thompson and Mary celebrated a golden anniversary and threw a party on May 18, 1895, Wilford Woodruff and his wife were among the guests. “In company with Emma I rode to Farmington to attend the 50 years golden wedding. A single thing took place. William O. Clark married his brother 50 years ago and for some cause he wanted to perform the same ceremony again out of curiosity I suppose which was done. Speeches were made until midnight. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal)
Ezra Thompson Clark also provided a reliable resource to his friend, who became the fourth president of the church. Ezra donated liberally to the building of the Salt Lake Temple and one week before its dedication, when Pres. Woodruff called a special leadership meeting of people in the region, it was Ezra T. who was called on to speak.
The two shared many bonds, but one of them was loyalty to the Lord’s church. “When doubt and uncertainty were in the minds of some, even members of his own family, as to where was the rightful leadership, where was to be found the right road to follow, father never faltered but declared, ‘Where you find the majority of General Authorities of this Church, there you will find the truth,” Joseph Smith Clark said of his father. (Family Reunion address of Joseph S. Clark, 1944)
Given their association, it is not a surprise that one of Ezra T’s grandchildren would marry into the Woodruff family. Hyrum’s eldest child, Avery, married A.O. Woodruff, who was an apostle under his father’s leadership.