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Stout was born in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky into the large family of Joseph Stout and Ann Smith, both strict Quakers. As a child, Stout was temporarily put in a Shaker school due to his family's financial hardships. However, after four years in the school, his father's circumstances improved and removed him from the school.
In 1832, Stout enlisted with a group of rangers to fight in the Black Hawk War. During this time, he became acquainted with Mormonism and was taught by later apostle Charles C. Rich. In 1837 he sold his business and move to Caldwell County, Missouri where the Latter-day Saints had gathered after their expulsion from Jackson County, Missouri and Kirtland, Ohio. Here he married Samantha Peck. Shortly after this he was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
During the Mormon War of 1838, Stout was a member of the Danites, a Mormon militia, and fought in the Battle of Crooked River. After the Latter Day Saints were forced to leave Missouri and moved to Nauvoo, Illinois, Stout served as a bodyguard for Joseph Smith, Jr. During this period he was also a commander in the Nauvoo Legion and the Chief of Police of Nauvoo. He was further set apart as President of the eleventh Quorum of Seventies and made a member of the Council of Fifty, an organization created by Joseph Smith in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ.
Shortly after the murder of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum in 1844 at the hands of a unit of the Illinois State Militia, their brother Samuel H. Smith also died under allegedly suspicious circumstances. Samuel Smith's daughter and William Smith, who was the only surviving Smith brother, later claimed that Stout had poisoned Samuel under orders from Brigham Young and Willard Richards, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. However, Stout was never tried for this alleged crime and Smith's claims are disputed.
After the Mormons were forced to leave Nauvoo in 1846, Stout served as the chief of police in Winter Quarters, Nebraska when the Latter Day Saints migrated there. An early Mormon pioneer, Stout arrived in the Salt Lake Valley as a member Heber C. Kimball's company in September 1848.
In Utah, Stout started a long career in both law and politics. He was elected to the Utah Territory's House of Representatives in 1849 and was a part of the delegation to create a constitution for the proposed State of Deseret. Stout served as the first Attorney General of Utah Territory, and in 1851, he was one of the first lawyers admitted to the bar of Utah. From 1856 to 1857, he served as the speaker of the House. Later, he was chairman of the code commissioners, a territorial prosecutor, and U.S. Attorney.
In 1852 Stout was called on the first Mormon mission to China along with three other individuals: Chapman Duncan, James Lewis, and Walter Thompson. However, these missionaries did not meet with much success and soon returned home.
In November 1856, Stout helped rescue a snowbound handcart company caught in Wyoming. During the Utah War of 1857-1858, Stout helped build and maintain fortifications in Echo Canyon meant to deter federal forces from entering Utah Territory. In later years, "Wild Bill" Hickman admitted to murdering one Richard Yates during this period at the mouth of Echo Canyon. In a deal for immunity from prosecution, Hickman implicated Stout and other Mormon leaders in the murder. Stout was arrested for the crime in 1871 and was incarcerated for six months at Fort Douglas before being released and acquitted. In 1877, he retired from public life due to poor health and died 11 years later near Salt Lake City.
One of Stout's greatest contributions was as a diarist. The "Diary of Hosea Stout" has become an invaluable resource for historians of the Latter-day Saints in the nineteenth-century.