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The Mormon Temple at Salt Lake City, under constructionDavid King Udall

(1851-1938)

Ida Hunt Udall

(1858-1915)

Among the last generation of Mormons to live in plural marriage, David King and Ida Hunt Udall suffered the persecutions and the personal anxieties that ultimately led their church to abandon this doctrine.

David King Udall was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1851 to English immigrant Mormon parents, who moved to Utah with young David the next year. Ida Hunt was born in the back of a covered wagon in 1858 in Hamilton's Fort, Utah, as her family journeyed back from California to help defend the church in the "Mormon War." Ida's grandparents had converted to Mormonism as young adults, and her parents had been missionaries in several Pacific islands.

As a young man, David Udall rose quickly to a leadership position in the Mormon church. Shortly after his first marriage, to Eliza "Ella" Stewart in 1875, he was sent to England for two years as a missionary. In 1877, he returned to Ella and Utah and was soon ordained a high priest. In 1880, only twenty-nine years old, he was appointed Bishop of Eastern Arizona's St. Johns parish, where he soon found himself supervising not only purely religious functions, but also the construction of irrigation ditches, a schoolhouse and several mills. Then, in 1882, despite increasing persecution of the practice, he entered plural marriage with Ida Hunt, the daughter of the Bishop of an adjoining parish, who had moved to Arizona the year before.

Many years later, David King Udall recalled this second marriage as a spiritual trial for himself and his two wives. All three had been raised in polygamous families and approached their union with happy memories of that experience as well as deep religious convictions. Yet all three felt emotional turmoil at taking this step. Asked by Ida to confirm her approval of the marriage, Ella could only say, "if it is the Lord's will I am perfectly willing to try to endure it." And David, riding to ask Ida's parents for their consent, remembered pausing at a fork in the road:

One road led to Snowflake where Ida was awaiting me; the other road led to St. John's -- to my home, my wife and baby. For a little time my mind was undecided and my soul in torment. I dismounted and on my knees prayed fervently that I might be guided aright. A calm assurance came over me and I knew it was my duty and privilege to enter into plural marriage. I whipped up my horse and rode to Snowflake as fast as the darkness would permit. From that day to this I have felt that in accepting plural marriage we have fulfilled the plan of Heaven for me and mine. It was the will of God to us.

Following his marriage to Ida Hunt, David Udall's family was placed under additional stress by reactions among their predominantly Hispanic and Catholic neighbors, who resented the Mormons at St. John's as newcomers occupying land that was not rightfully theirs. In 1884, a confrontation with some locals over the ownership of a city lot nearly erupted into violence, and David, along with nine other Mormons, was arrested for unlawful assembly. All were eventually acquitted, but later that year David was charged with perjury for testimony he had given in a fellow Mormon's land claim. This time he was convicted and sent to prison in Michigan.

At nearly the same time, David and six other Mormons of St. John's parish were indicted on federal charges of polygamy. By law, Ida could be forced to testify against her husband, and to avoid this she fled to Utah to live in the Mormon underground. For more than two years she traveled from one hiding place to the next, often using assumed names, and during this time gave birth to her and David's first child. The couple were finally reunited in 1887, after a pardon from President Grover Cleveland cleared David of perjury charges in 1885 and his prosecution for polygamy was dropped in 1886.

The rest of the Udalls' life together was hard if less dramatic. Time did not ease the tensions between Ida, Ella and their children, and the two women were further tested by the frequent economic troubles of their mutual husband. Ida died in 1910, following a series of strokes that began in 1905. David and Ella lived on to celebrate a golden wedding anniversary in 1925 and died within a year of each other, Ella in 1937, David in 1938.

David Udall's eleven children who survived childhood included two state supreme court justices and a mayor of Phoenix. Stewart Udall, Arizona Congressman and 1961-1969 Secretary of Interior, and his brother Morris Udall, also an Arizona Congressmen, were two of David Udall's many grandchildren.

For more information: David King Udall and Pearl Udall Nelson, Arizona Pioneer Mormon (Tucson, 1959).


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