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Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner papers

Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner (1818-1913)

To continue in our celebration of women’s history this month, L. Tom Perry Special Collections is pleased to announce the availability of a newly digitized collection: Mary E. Lightner papers (Vault MSS 363).  Known to most Latter-day Saints by her maiden name, Mary Elizabeth Rollins, Lightner is most well-known for her role as a young girl, along with her sister Caroline, in the rescuing of the printed pages of the Book of Commandments after W. W. Phelps’ printing press was destroyed by a mob in July 1833.

Lightner’s papers relate more to her later years, including her sealing to the Prophet Joseph Smith as a plural wife. The collection includes handwritten originals and photocopies of correspondence including correspondence to Apostles in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and many prominent Mormon women while in Utah, including Eliza R. Snow, Emmeline B. Wells, and Zina Diantha Huntington Young. Also included are personal histories, autobiographies, speeches, articles pertaining to her life while in Minersville, Utah, along with patriarchal blessings and a statement relating to her marriage to Joseph Smith. Dated 1865-1980.

Mary Elizabeth Rollins was born in Lima, Livingston County, New York, April 9, 1818, daughter of John P Rollins and Keziah VanBenthuysen. In 1828 she moved with her family to Kirtland, Ohio, where they lived with her uncle Algernon Sidney Gilbert, and in October 1830 she was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Along with her mother, sister Caroline, and brother Henry, she moved to Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, where she encountered many of the persecutions suffered by the Latter-day Saints in Missouri. Mary E. Rollins married Adam Lightner of Liberty, Clay County, Missouri in 1835. Adam Lightner was not a Latter-day Saint, but he was a good friend to Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints all of his life. They moved from place to place in Missouri and later to Minnesota, and eventually went west arriving in the Salt Lake Valley in 1863. Mary was the first plural wife to Joseph Smith in 1842. The Lightners settled in Minersville, Utah, where Mary was one of the first school teachers and was asked to speak frequently to various groups including gatherings of General Authorities, prominent citizens, and the 1905 graduating class of Brigham Young University. Mary E. Lightner died in 1913, at the age of 95 in Minersville, Utah.

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