Like many other early Latter-day Saints, Presendia Lathrop Huntington descended from a rich New England and Revolutionary heritage. The fourth of ten children born to William and Zina Baker Huntington, Presendia was born on September 7, 1810, in Watertown, Jefferson County, New York. She remained in Watertown until her marriage to Norman Buell, on January 6, 1827.1
During the summer of 1835, while Presendia was living in Lorraine, New York, her mother, Zina, visited her. Earlier that year both of Presendia’s parents had joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Zina discussed the new religion with Presendia, testified of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and shared a copy of the Word of Wisdom. After reading the revelation, Presendia remembered, “I felt it was true, and thought I would keep the Word of Wisdom and obtain the blessings promised.”2
Believing her mother’s words, Presendia and her husband sold their property and moved to Kirtland, Ohio. On June 6, 1836, she was baptized by Uriah Powell and confirmed a member of the Church by Oliver Cowdery. Three days later her husband was baptized.
For the next ten years, Presendia witnessed many of the triumphs and tragedies of the Church. She experienced outpourings of the Spirit at the Kirtland Temple and heeded the call to gather to Missouri. While in Missouri, Presendia’s husband became disaffected with the Church; as a result, when most of the Saints left the state, Presendia remained. In the fall of 1840, Presendia and Norman moved to Lima, Illinois, allowing her to visit her family and friends in nearby Nauvoo.
Taught personally by the Prophet Joseph Smith, Presendia learned of and accepted the principle of plural marriage. In a ceremony performed by Dimick Huntington, her brother, Presendia was sealed to the Prophet Joseph on December 11, 1841. Notwithstanding, she continued to live with Norman and was known as Mrs. Buell.
After the martyrdom on June 27, 1844, Presendia openly grieved with the Saints over the murder of the Prophet and secretly mourned the death of her eternal husband, Joseph. Not many months later, she left her antagonistic husband, Norman. Impressed with the need to support the Prophet’s widows, Heber C. Kimball married Presendia in the spring of 1845. Nearly a year later, in January 1846, Presendia received her endowment in the Nauvoo Temple. A short time later she was again sealed to Joseph Smith, with Heber C. Kimball acting as proxy. Presendia left Nauvoo with the main body of the Saints and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on September 22, 1848.
Despite her trials and hardships, including the premature deaths of seven of her nine children, Presendia spent her life in the service of others. She blessed and comforted those who lay sick and dying and faithfully served in the temple performing ordinances in behalf of her deceased ancestors. On February 1, 1891, at the age of eighty-one, Presendia passed away at her home in Salt Lake City, Utah.
1. The biographical information for this chapter comes from three sources: Presendia’s own biographical sketches; Emmeline B. Wells, “A Venerable Woman: Presendia Lathrop Kimball,” Woman’s Exponent (published serially, 1883–84); Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 1997), 114–44.
2. Emmeline B. Wells, “A Venerable Woman: Presendia Lathrop Kimball,” Woman’s Exponent 11 (February 1, 1883): 131.