Q: Titus Billings is mentioned in D&C 63:39. Who was this man who was among the first appointed by revelation to move to Jackson County, Missouri?
A: Titus Billings was born in 1793 in Massachusetts. On February 16, 1817 he married Diantha Morley. Diantha and her older brother Isaac Morley were members of Sidney Rigdon's congregation of Campbellites in Kirtland. When Sidney Rigdon joined the Church, he held a two-hour sermon explaining to his congregation why he was making the commitment. The next morning, November 15, 1830 he was baptized. Upon calling for more converts, Titus Billings stepped forward and was the second person baptized in Kirtland, Ohio.
Titus Billings was a stonemason and among the first appointed by revelation to move to Jackson County, Missouri. In August 1831 the Lord gave Joseph Smith the revelation contained in D&C 63:39, for Titus to sell his land in Kirtland and move to Missouri, the land of Zion.
In obedience to this revelation, Titus sold his acreage and led a small company of Saints from Kirtland to Jackson in the spring of 1832. Upon arrival he consecrated his property to the Church. His first calling in Zion came in June 1833, in a letter from the First Presidency. Parley P. Pratt and Titus Billings were appointed as counselors to Bishop Partridge.
Things did not go well in Jackson County for the Saints, and Titus was among those who were forced to leave by an armed mob. Titus did all he could to help the distressed Saints as they crossed the Missouri River into Clay County. Titus rented a small farm in Clay County, but was only there a few years. He then moved to Far West in Caldwell County, but violence broke out there at Crooked River. Titus wrote that bullets were flying all around him, and David W. Patten was killed. Titus returned to his home, but soon learned the mob was tracking down all the participants in that battle. His escape was plagued with starvation and frostbite.
Titus found safety in Lima, Illinois, where his family joined him in 1839. From 1839 to 1845 he served as president of the Lima Branch and as a colonel in the Sixth Regiment of the Silver Greys. In 1845 the burning of homes and small shops in Lima forced Titus and his family to flee the settlement. They moved to Nauvoo and then to Iowa. In Iowa Titus was selected to be the president of the small Running Water encampment until he migrated to the Salt Lake Valley, serving as a captain of fifty in the Heber C. Kimball company of 1848.
Soon after arriving in the Salt Lake valley, he accepted a mission call to help settle the Sanpete Valley. He is remembered for helping build the fort and one of the first two houses in the small settlement of Manti. In 1863, Titus moved to Provo where he died three years later at the age of seventy-two. He is buried in the Provo City Cemetery.