Q: William Huntington. is mentioned in D&C 124:132. What was his occupation and what part did he play in the building of the Nauvoo temple?
A: William Huntington was born in 1784 in New Hampshire. He united with the Presbyterians for fourteen years, but in 1832, he withdrew from Presbyterianism as he questioned some of the doctrine being taught.
In 1833, William was given a Book of Mormon and believed it was true. At the time of his conversion, William owned a two-hundred acre farm and was nearly out of debt. He and his wife, Zina, had ten children. In August 1836 William sold his farm for $3,500 and joined the Saints in Kirtland. There his home was used as a hiding place for the Egyptian mummies and for Joseph Smith Sr.’s family.
Due the financial difficulties in Kirtland, William was reduced to poverty. In 1838 he moved to Missouri and endured the persecution there before moving to Illinois. His wife, Zina, died in Nauvoo from chills and fever, and William was nurtured at the Prophet’s home. In 1840 William married Lydia Partridge, the widow of Edward Partridge.
During his Nauvoo years, William served on the high council, was captain of the Silver Greys, and was a member of the Nauvoo Legion Band. He supported his family as a stonemason and assisted in laying the first foundation stone of the Nauvoo Temple. On April 6, 1841, William assisted in laying the four corner stones of the temple. He worked all summer as a mason building the basement walls. In January 1842, William began working as a stone cutter for the temple. After the Martyrdom, William was one of the sixteen men asked to help bury the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.
William continued to labor on the Nauvoo Temple day after day. On February 25, 1845 he penned, “I finished cutting stones for the body of the temple. I finished one of the stars.” "The last work I done was to finish the west chimney top on the south side of the temple." Two months later he witnessed the last stone being placed on the temple. On July 5 he cut his last stone. In July 29, 1845 William began work on the Nauvoo House. Starting in December 1845, he administered endowments in the temple until it closed.
Upon leaving Nauvoo in February 1846, William was put in charge of a company of Saints. With little provisions and terrible weather conditions, the company made it to the Mt. Pisgah encampment. William was made Presiding Elder at Mt. Pisgah with Ezra T Benson and Charles C. Rich as his counselors. He presided over this encampment until his death on August 19, 1840 from fever and chills at the age of sixty-two.
William was the father of six sons and four daughters, and at the time of his death, two daughters and four sons were members of the Church. In life he was beloved by all the Saints. His love and zeal for the cause of God were unsurpassed by any. His judgment was respected and his conduct never questioned. (LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. l, p.368)
It is interesting to note that Huntington, Utah, was named after his son, Dimick Baker Huntington. Also, when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints learned about the land with a cemetery on it where Mt. Pisgah, Iowa, was located, President John Taylor asked Oliver B. Huntington, son of William Huntington, to contact relatives of the deceased to see how they felt about the idea of purchasing the land The desire to remember and honor their loved ones was strong. The purchase was finalized on May 3, 1886. It became the Church’s first Historic Site.