Born July 1, 1855 in Salt Lake City, Orson F. Whitney had a varied career. Employed in journalism, politics, education, history, literature and theology, Whitney was called to serve in The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1906 at the age of fifty. His writings include hymns, histories, and poetry.
His most ambitious work was Elias: An Epic of The Ages. He wrote the following about it: "I reflected, and my thoughts took this form: I would like to write a poem embodying all that I have learned, thought or felt respecting the divine plan know as 'The Everlasting Gospel.' I would love to tell in heroic verse the sublime Story of God. 'Mormonism,' historically, doctrinally, prophetically-be that my theme, my task, with whatsoever else the Lord has for me to do.
"No sooner had I come to this conclusion, than the first lined of the poem formed in my mind, and weak as I was I sat up and wrote them down. Thus the work began.
"I took years to complete it, for I could not, of course give all my time to poetry. I was still a Ward Bishop and an Assistant Church Historian. But I worked upon the great theme whenever I could, and found much delight in so doing. It burned like fire in my brain, and I felt that I must get it out or it would consume me. Day after day-sometimes twelve hours or more at a stretch-month after month, and year after year, I toiled on in the intervals of office work and outside engagements, till the poem, if not finished, was ready for a trial reading.1
In 1888 while serving as a bishop, Whitney gave an address at the Y.M.M.I.A. [Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association] Conference entitled " Home Literature." A seminal lecture on Mormon Literature, Whitney claims "we will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own. God's ammunition is not exhausted. His brightest spirits are held in reserve for the latter times. In God's name and by his help we will build up a literature whose top shall touch heaven, though its foundations may now be low in earth."
Whitney died on May 16, 1931.
1 Whitney, Orson F. Through Memory's Halls. Independence: Press of Zion's Printing and Publishing, 243-4.