Zina Huntington was Joseph Smith's fourth plural wife.
This is a video summary of Zina.
Zina is one of the best documented wives of Joseph Smith. She kept a diary and wrote a number of autobiographical sketches.
Zina was born on January 31, 1821 (keep in mind Joseph Smith was born in 1805) in Jefferson County, New York. She had seven older siblings (two of them died before she was born). She had two younger siblings, born in 1823 and 1827, her older sister died in 1829 when Adaline was eleven and Zina was five.
Zina grew up in large story-and-a-half farmhouse with a dairy behind it and two hundred acres of farm surrounding it. Her mother taught her her how to spin and weave wool and sew clothes.
She once wrote: “I used to muse while watching the consuming bark log in our old fashion fireplaces why I could not have been born in a day when something was going on in the nations of the Earth. Not that I wished to see distress but some enterprise [beyond] that sabbath meeting schools. My relatives were mostly close by, as all I ever anticipated to see.”
Finding the Mormons
In 1831, Zina’s father decided to study the bible more fully. He came to realize that none of the church’s were right because none of them had prophets, apostles, or spiritual gifts.
When her father heard the word “prophet” he was at once anxious to meet Joseph Smith. Because of his farm duties, her father William was unable to go, but his neighbor went and visited Joseph Smith and brought back a Book of Mormon. Before even reading the book, Zina felt deeply impressed that the book was true.
Zina’s testimony of the Book of Mormon
“I saw the Book of Mormon, that strange, new book, lying on the window sill of our sitting room. I went up to the window, picked it up, and the sweet influence of the Holy Spirit accompanied it to such an extent that I pressed it to my bosom in a rapture of delight, murmuring as I did so, ‘This is the truth, truth, truth!’”
Meeting Joseph Smith
Zina remembers seeing Joseph Smith for the first time: “He was 6 feet light auburn hair [and a heavy nose] blue eyes the eyeballs full and round rather long-favored when he was filled with the spirit of revelation or inspiration -to talk to the saints his countenance would look clear and bright.”
Pattern of Living in the Same House
In 1839, much of the family became ill almost to the point of death. Zina’s mother passed away on July 8th. Zina recalls that Joseph and his adopted daughter Julia tended to them in their sicknesses. Eventually Joseph told them that if they remained in their home, they would all die. Joseph offered for them to stay at his house.
Ironically, while she was staying with the Smith’s, Zina met her first husband, Henry Jacobs (he was 23 and she was 18 when they met). Henry was a returned missionary (he’d gone on his first mission in January 1839; it was a short mission). After Zina recovered she moved in with her brother Dimick and she and Henry continued courting.
Zina marries Joseph Smith
During 1840 Joseph taught Zina concerning polygamy. But because Zina was most likely in love with Henry Jacobs and polygamy was not the Christian way and that Joseph was already married to Emma, nineteen year Zina turned down Joseph Smith’s polygamous proposal. She seems to have felt conflicted about turning down the prophet of God.
In early 1841, Zina made her choice in that she would marry Henry. According to family tradition, as the day of marriage approached, Henry and/or Zina asked Joseph to perform the marriage, and he agreed. On March 7th Henry and Zina, with the friends and family, arrived at the place designated for the marriage, but Smith did not appear. Instead they turned to John C. Bennett, mayor of Nauvoo, and asked him to officiate. Zina must have felt relieved that she had avoided a polygamous union with Joseph.
According to family tradition, she and Henry saw Joseph soon after the marriage and “asked why he had not come …he told them the Lord had made it known to him she was to be his celestial wife.” Joseph told her that God had commanded him to marry her. He, apparently told them that they could continue living together as husband and wife (which was another pattern whenever Joseph married already married women). According to tradition, Henry accepted this, but Zina struggled.
Pattern of Male Intermediary
In October, Joseph sent Dimick (Zina’s brother) to send a message to Zina. The message was that an angel with a drawn sword had stood over Joseph and told him that if he did not establish polygamy, he would lose “his position and his life.” Zina finally agreed to become a polygamous wife of the prophet. She records the marriage as taking place October 27, 1841. Zina was seven months pregnant with Henry’s son.
Although Zina recorded later that the reason for her marriage to Joseph was because “I was married to Mr. Jacobs, but the marriage was unhappy and we parted” this hardly seems accurate as she had married Henry just seven months earlier. Additionally, her journals and his letters to her, indicate a different reality for the relationship between Zina and Henry. (Zina gave birth to Zebulon Jacobs on January 2, 1842.)
Did Joseph’s marriage with Zina include physical relations?
While there is no formal record of a sexual relationship with Zina, Joseph sent Henry on a number of missions that would put him out of the way for such a relationship to take place.
Two weeks after their first son Zebulon was born, Henry was sent on a mission to Chicago, Joseph sent him personally (this would have been his second mission). A year later in in 1843, Henry was sent on another mission (2-3 months). While there, his companion, John D. Lee, records that Henry would brag about Zina and “almost worship her.” (This was his third mission.) Later that year, Henry was sent on another mission to western New York. He was sent on another mission to Tennessee in early 1844 (so five missions total).
Zina marries Brigham Young
After Joseph Smith’s death, Brigham Young promised Zina that if she married him she would have a higher glory in the celestial kingdom. Though it is unclear why being sealing to Brigham for TIME was better than simply being sealed to Joseph for time AND eternity. Brigham never explained.
After her sealing to the new prophet, Brigham sent Henry on three additional missions (making eight total). While he was gone Brigham lived openly with Zina as his wife in Winter Quarters. While Henry was serving his mission he wrote beautiful and romantic letters to Zina. He even wrote in one of them that Zina should tell Brigham that “I have no feelings against him nor never had, all is right according to the Law of the Celestial Kingdom of our God Joseph.”
What became of Henry?
After he returned from his mission he went with his companion Oliver Huntington (Zina’s brother) to visit his wife Mary who had recently received a letter from Zina. Zina expressed in the letter that she was no longer married to Henry and that she was only Brigham’s wife.
Henry eventually married a woman named Aseneth Babcock, but he seems to still have continued loving Zina. They ended up traveling west with the saints. Henry wrote letters to Zina (which she preserved) but never got any letters in return. Family tradition tells us that Henry was eventually excommunicated because “he proceeded to try to win Zina back.” In her own diary, Zina continued to record Henry’s birthday for years after they were separated.
Henry divorced Aseneth, married two other women, and eventually married Sarah Taylor in 1860. Sometime in all of this, Henry left Utah, but returned just before he passed away and reportedly lived in a bedroom of Zina’s house and was cared for by a hired woman. Zina may not have been living there as she often rented out the house. Henry died on August 1, 1886 and was buried in his temple clothes in Salt Lake City.
What became of Zina?
Like many of the wives, Zina struggled with polgyamy, not in belief but in being. Zina had to work to provide for herself, she relied on her siblings to help in her day to day life, she essentially raised her children alone. After her two sons with Henry, she had a daughter with Brigham (named her Zina) and then afterward adopted four of Brighams children after their mother passed away.
Zina once recorded that a polygamous wife “must regard her husband with indifference, and with no other feeling than that of reverence, for love we regard as a false sentiment; a feeling which should have no existence in polygamy.”
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