January, 24, 2011

W. W. Phelps: Instructing the Children

William Wines Phelps, often known as W. W. Phelps, is commonly recognized by Latter-day Saints as an experienced printer, editor, and composer.  Less known, however, was Phelps’s devotion to the education of children.

A well-educated newspaper editor in New York, it was Phelps’s study of a book, The Book of Mormon, that introduced him to the restored gospel.  He said, “By that book I found a key to the holy prophets; and by that book began to unfold the mysteries of God, and I was made glad. Who can tell his goodness, or estimate the worth of such a book?”

In June 1831, shortly after his baptism, Phelps received instruction from the Lord through a revelation to Joseph Smith.  In this revelation, Phelps was instructed to help Oliver Cowdery, a former schoolteacher, “do the work of printing, and of selecting and writing books for schools in this church, that little children also may receive instruction before me as is pleasing unto me” (D&C 55:4).

Phelps also saw the importance of teaching the children in his own family.  Even while away in Missouri he wrote to his wife, Sally, who was still in Kirtland, of his anxiety to be with his family and teach their children.

Remaining a champion of children’s education throughout his life, Phelps later wrote, “We are preparing to go out from among the people, where we can serve God in righteousness; and the first thing is, to teach our children; for they are as the Israel of old. It is our children who will take the kingdom and bear it off to all the world.”