William Warner Player

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Question: What part did William Warner Player play in the building of the Nauvoo Temple?

Answer: William Warner Player was born on March 3, 1793 in Chelsea, Middlesex, England. He was the youngest of the seven children of Charles Player and Ann Warner Player. William married Zillah Sanders Brown, a widow, on July 22, 1821. Zillah was the daughter of Benjamin and Hannah Hudson Sanders. Zillah was born in England, on July 15, 1788.

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In 1830, William moved to Staffordshire in England. In June of 1837, the first Mormon missionaries were sent to the British Isles. William and other members of his family were converted and baptized by Alfred Cordon. Wilford Woodruff closed his October 1, 1840 journal entry noting, “We [Woodruff, George A. Smith, and Heber C. Kimball] spent the night at [the home of] Mr William W. Player a Methodist preacher.”

In regard to Player’s conversion to Mormonism, George A. Smith told the following story:

“Monday, May 18, (1840) Mr. William W. Player, who was a local preacher of the Methodists, visited me, and said he wished to talk with me, being aware I had been insulted by preachers of his profession; he assured me that his intentions were both christian-like and honorable;...[After some discussion] Mr. Player replied, ‘I am president of the Temperance Society in this place and should be pleased if you would give a lecture in our hall..., to which I assented...The town being notified by the crier, the Hall was crowded and I addressed them at 4 o’clock in the afternoon... We continued our meetings there until the Branch numbered 100, and Mr. Player became the presiding Elder.”

Missionary George A. Smith recorded his missionary activities of 1840-41 in his journals which stated that he attended meetings with Brother Player and visited or slept at Player’s house. He noted on 7 January 1841 that W. W. Player was ordained an Elder.

Early in the year 1842 William was en route to America. The ship “Hanover” sailed from Liverpool to New Orleans on the 12th of March. Passengers listed were: Wm. Player 47 (49 correct), Zillah 50 (53 correct), Ann 18, Zillah 16, Charles 14, Wm. 11 (10 correct). The voyage was made in about 46 days.

William Clayton kept the temple building records and wrote the handwritten church history of the building of the Nauvoo Temple. It included: “The work on the walls did not commence til late spring of 1842 and there was but little done until Brother Wm. W. Player came in June. He had just arrived from England and came with full intention of working on the Temple. He commenced to work about the 8th of June and spent some time in regulating the stone work already set; which was not done very well. About the 11th of the same month he set the first Plinth (block beneath the base of a column) on the South West corner of the south side...By the fall, however, he got all the stone laid round as high as the window sills, and all the window sills, as well as the large sill on the East Venetian Window. He had also 2 courses of Pilaster stones on the Plinths all around...”

On 30 November 1843 William Clayton wrote to Brigham Young and “asked the Twelve, in behalf of the Temple committee, to provide help for the family of William Player, the chief stone setter, promising that he would give tithing credit to those who had furnished the means.” Members donated whatever their conditions permitted. On 24 November 1844 Wm. W. Player was ordained a High Priest.

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William Clayton’s History of the Nauvoo Temple continues to report on temple building in 1845:

“On the morning of Tuesday the 29th April the first upper circular window was finished setting by brother Player. On Friday May 16 a little after 2 o clock P.M. having been notified I went on the Temple and sat down on the top of the South West corner stair way on the highest part of the stone work. I there watched Brother Player set the last ‘Star’ being on the West end, and the second from the South West corner. It was set exactly at 3 o clock P.M.”

William Clayton continues: “On Saturday the 24 (May 1845) at quarter before six o clock A.M. being the time appointed for the laying, this the corner capstone of the Temple...At 8 minutes after 6 brother Wm. W. Player commenced spreading his mortar, perfect silence prevailing. Pres. Young stood on the wall immediately north of the corner stone with Br H. C. Kimball at his right hand. When the mortar was spread, the stone was lift to its place...He finished laying the stone with the assistance and direction of brother Player, precisely at 22 minutes after 6 o clock.”

The stonework was finished but there was still work to do before the temple was completed. In Clayton’s history we read: “During the last winter, the Twelve decided to take down the old wood font and put up a new one of cut stone. The men selected to cut the stone for the Font are Wm W Player . . . ( plus 11 additional men). By the end of 1845 the Nauvoo Temple, with some rooms dedicated, was completed to the extent that it could be used for the religious purposes for which it was being built.” The LDS Journal History records that William Warner Player and Zillah received ordinances of endowment in the Nauvoo Temple on that day (December 12, 1845). On February 6, 1846 William Warner Player and his wife Zillah were sealed to one another for time eternal by Brigham Young.

William left Nauvoo shortly after 25 July 1846. William and his extended family lived at Ferryville, Iowa, between 1848 and 1852. This settlement, where William was a Bishop, was apparently comprised of about twelve log cabins. In 1849 the Mormon Ferry which operated at the Ferryville terminus was a simple rope ferry with a flatboat big enough for two wagons.

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It was not until 1862 that the elder Players were able to join their children in the Great Salt Lake City. William believed that now that he had finally arrived in the Great Salt Lake City, it was his destiny still to help build another temple, even though he was 69 years of age. William worked May through September 1863 cutting stone on Temple Square.

Zillah Sanders Brown Player lived five years in the Valley of the Saints where she died on the morning of 3 December 1867. Six months later William Warner Player married widow Mary Capers Burrows. William chiseled Utah headstones between 1862 and 1873.

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William Warner Player died 23 February 1873. At his funeral, discourses were delivered by Elder Joseph F, Smith and John Taylor, President D. H. Wells and Elder W. Woodruff. During the snowy February of 1873 William Warner Player was laid to rest in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Source: “William Warner Player and Zillah Sanders,” Excerpts taken from The Legacy of William Warner Player 1793-1993, by Madelyn Player; FamilySearch.org; FindAGrave.com