Hosea Stout was one of the most prolific, down-to-earth, and insightful of the early Mormon diarists. He also composed short autobiographical pieces which related the story of his life prior to 1844 when he began his diaries, and he then wrote in the diaries continuously until 1870.
Stout was born 18 September 1810 at Pleasant Hill, Mercer County, Kentucky, to Joseph and Anna Smith Stout, who had been married in 1797 and subsequently had a very large family. When they experienced financial setbacks, the children were temporarily put in Shaker schools. Hosea remained in such a school from 1814 to 1818, at which time his father came to reclaim him. In the years following, the family moved to Ohio, and from this time on Hosea was let out to other families to work. In September 1828 some of Hosea's family moved to Stout's Grove, Indiana, which was named after an uncle. In 1830 Hosea began to feel a need for religion, and became interested in the Methodists, as well as becoming involved in the temperance movement for a short time. In 1832, moving to Pekin, Illinois, Hosea enlisted as a ranger in the Black Hawk War, fulfilling a military inclination which lasted most of his life.
It was at this time that Hosea was exposed to Mormonism at Farm Creek, Illinois, and was proselyted by C.C. Rich, who later became an apostle. Hosea wrote, "I could not forego the idea of joining the church for aside from the disgrace which would follow I was fearful least I should not live up to its precepts. . . . I wanted confidence in myself." Hosea retained an association with Mormonism until August 1837, when he sold his business interest to move to Caldwell County, Missouri, "for the purpose of being gathered with and associating with the Latter-day Saints." There he became acquainted with Samantha Pack, and married her on 7 January 1838. On 26 August of that year Stout was baptized by Charles C. Rich. This was during the height of the Mormon persecutions, and on 26 October Hosea was asked to go with the company of David Patten to engage a mob under Samuel Bogart. The engagement was known as the Battle of Crooked River, and on 31 October twenty-seven Mormon militiamen made their escape to Iowa, where Hosea's wife joined him ten months later. Samantha Stout died from exposure there on 29 November 1839. And a year later, on 29 November 1840, Hosea remarried, this time to Louisa Taylor, who was to die in childbirth in 1852. In 1841 Louisa gave birth to a daughter, Lydia Sarah, who was first of Hosea's nineteen children.
By this time, Stout had joined the main body of the church in Nauvoo. There he became active in civil and religious affairs. In February 1841 he was elected captain of one of the companies of the Nauvoo Legion, and was promoted to brigadier general in 1845 as hostilities with the surrounding communities escalated. He later helped to write a history of the Legion. Ecclesiastically, Hosea had been set apart as president of the eleventh Quorum of Seventies in October 1844.
Hosea Stout left Nauvoo with his family on 9 February 1846. Prior to that, he had entered into polygamy, marrying Lucretia Fisher, who deserted him one year later, and also Marinda Bennett, who died in childbirth in 1846. Brigham Young asked Stout to help set up and be in charge of a guard of the companies leaving Nauvoo, and he retained this responsibility through the period of 1846-47 at Winter Quarters.
In organizing for the journey west in 1847, Stout was asked to travel with the company in April and then with the one in June, but for various reasons did not. One month after the first company left, Hosea was put in charge of ten rangers to guard the grazing livestock of those left at camp. And on 8 October he was asked to accompany a group west to meet the returning pioneer company.
In May 1848 Hosea and his family left Winter Quarters, and they arrived in Great Salt Lake City on 23 September 1848. Stout built a house in the northeast section of the city and quickly was chosen or elected to several political and legal positions. In 1849 he was a member of the House of Representatives; in 1850 he was attorney general, and in 1851 he was admitted to the bar as one of the first practicing attorneys in the territory. He also served as States Attorney, in which position he took the laws passed by the assembly, clarified them, and prepared them for printing.
In 1853 Hosea was called on the first mission to China. He was gone from Utah a little more than a year, but stayed in the Far East only two months, because, in his words, "we find that no one will give heed to what we say, neither does anyone manifest any opposition or interest but treats us with the utmost civility, conversing freely on all subjects except the pure principles of the gospel."
After returning, Hosea married Alvira Wilson, with whom he had eleven children. He continued to work in politics and law. He was Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1856; chairman of code commissioners, codifying national laws applicable to Utah; state prosecutor; and U.S. Attorney. For the church, he collected debts owed to the Perpetual Emigrating Fund; went to the rescue of a snowbound handcart company in November 1856; and worked at preparing defenses in Echo Canyon against the incoming U.S. Army in 1857.
In 1861 Hosea and his family were called to the Cotton Mission, where he lived for four years. He then moved back to Salt Lake City and resumed the legal profession. Stout was arrested in 1871 on a trumped-up charge of the murder of Richard Yates during the Utah War, and was confined for six months at Camp Douglas. He was later released and acquitted.
Stout basically retired from public life in 1877 due to ill health, moving to Holladay with his wife, Sarah Jones, whom he had married in 1868. He remained there until his death on 2 March 1889.
At the LDS general conference in 1858, Hosea had forthrightly (as usual) expressed his views on religion: "I always feel that it is my duty to look to myself, for I am in as much danger of apostatizing as any in the Church. If I ever do get led astray and depart from the principles of the gospel of salvation, it will be because I led myself off from the path; it was not my brethren who led me away, it was my own doing." He always remained faithful.