Waiting for World’s End


Waiting for World’s End: The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff

The diaries of a man rife in contradictions: known simultaneously for his love of scientific discovery and his apocalyptic visions

June, 1993

SKU: 0-941214-92-3 Categories: , Tags: , , Author: Susan StakerProduct ID: 1510


From Connecticut, where Wilford Woodruff was born in 1807, to San Francisco, where he was befriended by the cosmopolitan Bohemian Club before dying in 1898, Woodruff’s life was unpredictable. The same man who consulted scientific texts for the cultivation of fruit trees for his personal garden was equally known for his apocalyptic vision on a Navajo mesa in Arizona in 1880. The man who balanced his ledger with penny-accuracy modeled buckskin temple robes to friends on his birthday and accepted from Brigham Young, as a birthday gift, one of Young’s daughters as a wife.

Woodruff became president of the Mormon church while hiding from federal marshals. Convinced that non-Mormons, or “gentiles,” would be smitten by the calamities promised in the Bible, he bided his time in exile until Mormonism prevailed. However, as the Parousia was delayed, he eventually decided to compromise with the United States.

To complement the exhaustive ten-volume Wilford Woodruff diary series and index published by Signature Books as a limited edition, Susan Staker has condensed the highlights of Woodruff’s revealing personal narrative into one readable volume, along with prefatory information, annotation, and appendices.

Susan Staker is an editorial director at Adobe Systems (Seattle, Washington), former editor at Sunstone magazine, co-author of Sisters and Little Spirits: One Hundred Years of Primary, editor of Waiting for World’s End: The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff, a contributor to The Prophet Puzzle and American Apocrypha, among others.

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2 reviews for Waiting for World’s End

  1. Diana H. Albosta, Library Journal

    Woodruff, who served as the fourth president of the Mormon Church, was a prolific diarist. He left written records for almost every day of his life after converting to Mormonism—the period of 1833 to 1898. Editor Staker has worked in the Latter-day Saints Historical Department and is the compiler of the index to Woodruff’s (nine-volume) unabridged diaries. In this new manuscript, she has done an excellent job of selecting entries that, though condensed, tell an intelligible, coherent story. Despite the “distinctive spelling, diction, and punctuation of the original,” Staker has made this a readable work of the major events in the life of both the president and his church, as well as the Utah Territory in the late 19th century. An important purchase for libraries with an interest in Mormon history or those with a need for well-edited primary source material of the time.

  2. M. Guy Bishop, Western Historical Quarterly

    Wilford Woodruff (1807-1898), fourth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), was a dedicated diarist. From his conversion to Mormonism in 1833, until his death sixty-five years later, Woodruff kept a daily record of his life. The complete Woodruff diaries (nine volumes) were edited several years ago by Scott G. Kenney (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Typescript [Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1983-1985]). Within these diaries, students of religious history have one of the best firsthand accounts of nineteenth-century Mormonism to be found.

    With that in mind, what, one might ask, could justify the need for this current volume? Yet, Susan Staker, compiler of the 300-page index to the larger work, has opted to focus on an interesting aspect of Woodruff’s psyche, his strong millennialist bent. This orientation casts a different light on Woodruff, at least for the lay reader. And, perhaps more importantly, set in this apocalyptic mode Wilford Woodruff becomes all the more representative of contemporary Mormons, most of whom shared his expectations of the nearness of the Lord’s Second Coming. When considered from the perspective of Waiting for World’s End, Wilford Woodruff, the Mormon, was not all that different from a host of other nineteenth-century millennialists.

    Following years of forced dislocation, persecution, and turmoil for the sake of his religion, it is no wonder that Woodruff looked forward to the anticipated millennial reign of Jesus Christ. According to Wilford Woodruff’s expectations, Christ was expected to come quickly, bringing a cataclysmic end to the suffering of the Latter-day Saints and revenge upon their enemies. As Staker observes in her introduction, “Wilford’s belief in the world’s imminent and violent end provided an animating energy for his sense of power and knowledge for himself, and for church” (p. xiv). This, it seems, should draw all who are interested in nineteenth-century Mormonism to take a close look at this book. If Staker’s judgement in this regard is correct, which it seems to be, then the words of Wilford Woodruff must speak vicariously for a large portion of an entire generation of believing Mormons.

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