An article about Brig. Gen. Alexander William Doniphan, written by Calvin N. Smith, a professor of speech-communications at Eastern Illinois University, was published Jan. 10, 1987, in the Church News. Highlighted in that account was the fact that in 1838, Gen. Doniphan saved the lives of Joseph Smith and several other Church leaders when he refused to carry out the order of Maj. Gen. Samuel D. Lucas to execute them.
Doniphan later stepped in to help Mormon Battalion members, released for health reasons, make their way back to the main body of saints to rejoin the trek to the Salt Lake Valley. Finally, the article noted that when Doniphan visited Salt Lake City in 1874, he was warmly welcomed by the grateful saints there.Smith of the Mattoon Ward, Champaign Illinois Stake, assumed that since Doniphan had played such a key role in the history of the Church, surely his temple work would have been completed.
A letter from a Church News reader to Smith inquiring about Doniphan's work triggered efforts to discover if all the general's temple work had, indeed, been done. Surprisingly, only the endowment work had been completed for Doniphan, and nothing for his family.
Smith started working on it. After a year of effort, the records were finally cleared and permission was received to perform ordinance work for Doniphan's wife and their two sons, both of whom had died in tragic accidents while young boys, and to do family sealings.
On Jan. 16, 1988, - a few months after the 100th anniversary of Doniphan's death - Smith and his wife, Lucille, performed work for the Doniphan family in the Chicago Temple. Sister Smith did the baptism, initiatory and endowment work for Elizabeth Jane Thornton, Doniphan's wife, and Smith did the initiatory and endowment work for the two boys. (Their baptisms were performed earlier by a youth group.) That same day, the Smiths knelt in proxy as the family was sealed together.
"How fitting that this work has been done in Gen. Doniphan's home state of Illinois," said Thomas R. Abbott, temple sealer.
And Smith added, "While surrounding the altar, a powerful witness was given of the acceptance of that work by those beyond the veil. While the Doniphan family's line is not completely done, we know that they can now enjoy the happiness of an eternal sealing; surely, a great privilege and a fitting one for the family of the man who stoutly defended the Prophet Joseph Smith and proved to be a faithful friend all of his life."