1839

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Wilford Woodruff-Call To England

 

"Before starting on our mission to England, we were under the necessity of locating our families. A place called Commerce, afterwards named Nauvoo, was selected as the site on which our people should settle. In company with Brother Brigham Young and our families, I left Quincy on the 15th of May, arriving in Commerce on the 18th. After an interview with Joseph, we crossed the river at Montrose, Iowa. President Brigham Young and myself, with our families, occupied one room about fourteen feet square. Finally Brother Young obtained another room and moved into it; then Brother Orson Pratt and family moved into the same room with myself and family.

"While I was living in this cabin in the old barracks we experienced, with the Prophet Joseph, a day of God's power. It was a very sickly time; Joseph had given up his home in Commerce to the sick, and had a tent pitched in his dooryard and was living in that himself. The large number of Saints who had been driven out of Missouri were flocking into Commerce, but had no homes to go to, and were living in wagons, in tents, and on the ground; many, therefore, were sick through the exposure to which they were subjected. Brother Joseph had waited on them until he was worn out and nearly sick himself.

"On the morning of the 22nd of July, 1839, he arose, reflecting upon the situation of the Saints of God in their persecutions and afflictions. He called upon the Lord in prayer, the power of God rested upon him mightily, and as Jesus healed all the sick around Him in His day, so Joseph, the Prophet of God, healed all around on this occasion. He healed all in his house and dooryard; then, in company with Sidney Rigdon and several of the Twelve, went among the sick lying on the bank of the river, where he commanded them in a loud voice, in the name of Jesus Christ, to rise and be made whole, and they were all healed. When he had healed all on the east side of the river that were sick, he and his companions crossed the Mississippi River in a ferry-boat to the west side, where we were, at Montrose. The first house they went into was President Brigham Young's. He was sick on his bed at the time. The Prophet went into his house and healed him, and they all came out together.

"As they were passing by my door, Brother Joseph said: 'Brother Woodruff, follow me.' These were the only words spoken by any of the company from the time they left Brother Brigham's house till they crossed the public square, and entered Brother Fordham's house. Brother Fordham had been dying for an hour, and we expected each minute would be his last. I felt the spirit of God that was overpowering His Prophet. When we entered the house, Brother Joseph walked up to Brother Fordham and took him by the right hand, his left hand holding his hat. He saw that Brother Fordham's eyes were glazed, and that he was speechless and unconscious.

"After taking his hand, he looked down into the dying man's face and said: 'Brother Fordham, do you not know me?' At first there was no reply, but we all could see the effect of the spirit of God resting on the afflicted man. Joseph again spoke. 'Elijah, do you not know me?' With a low whisper Brother Fordham answered, 'Yes'. The Prophet then said: 'Have you not faith to be healed?' The answer, which was a little plainer than before, was: 'I am afraid it is too late; if you had come sooner, I think I might have been.' He had the appearance of a man waking from sleep; it was the sleep of death. Joseph then said: 'Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ?' 'I do, Brother Joseph,' was the response. Then the Prophet of God spoke with a loud voice, as in the majesty of Jehovah: 'Elijah, I command you, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, to arise and be made whole.'

"The words of the Prophet were not like the words of man, but like the voice of God. It seemed to me that the house shook on its foundation. Elijah Fordham leaped from his bed like a man raised from the dead. A healthy color came to his face, and life was manifested in every act. His feet had been done up in Indian meal poultices; he kicked these off his feet, scattered the contents, then called for his clothes and put them on. He asked for a bowl of bread and milk, and ate it. He then put on his hat and followed us into the street, to visit others who were sick.

"The unbeliever may ask, 'Was there not deception in this?' If there is any deception in the mind of the unbeliever, there was certainly none with Elijah Fordham, the dying man, or with those who were present with him; for in a few minutes he would have been in the spirit world, if he had not been rescued. Through the blessing of God he lived up till 1880, when he died in Utah; while all who were with him on that occasion, with the exception of one (myself), are in the spirit world. Among the number present were Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, George A. Smith, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, and Wilford Woodruff.

"As soon as we left Brother Fordham's house, we went into the home of Joseph B. Noble, who was very low. When we entered the house, Brother Joseph took Brother Noble by the hand, and commanded him, in the name of Jesus Christ, to arise and be made whole. He did arise, and was healed immediately.

"While this was going on, the wicked mob in the place, led by one Kilburn, had become alarmed, and followed us into Brother Noble's house. Before they arrived there, Brother Joseph called upon Brother Fordham to offer prayer. While he was praying, the mob entered, with all the evil spirits accompanying them. As soon as they entered, Brother Fordham, who was praying, fainted, and sank to the floor. When Joseph saw the mob in the house, he arose and had the room cleared of both that class of men and their attendant devils. Then Brother Fordham immediately revived, and finished his prayer.

"The case of Brother Noble was the last one of healing upon that day. It was the greatest day for the manifestation of the power of God through the gift of healing since the organization of the Church. When we left Brother Noble's the Prophet Joseph, with those who had accompanied him from the other side, went to the bank of the river, to return home.

"While waiting for the ferry-boat, a man of the world, knowing of the miracles which had been performed, came to Joseph and asked him if he would not go and heal twin children of his, about five months old, who were both lying sick nigh unto death. They were some two miles from Montrose. The Prophet said he could not go; but, after pausing some time, said he would send some one to heal them; and he turned to me and said: 'You go with the man and heal his children.' He took a red silk hankerchief out of his pocket, gave it to me, told me to wipe their faces with the handkerchief when I administered to them, and they should be healed. He also said to me: 'As long as you will keep that handkerchief, it shall remain a league between you and me.' I went with the man, did as the Prophet commanded me, and the children were healed. I have possession of the handkerchief unto this day.

"On the first of July, 1839, Joseph Smith and his counselors, Sidney Rigdon and Hyrum Smith, crossed the river to Montrose, to spend the day with the Twelve, and to set them apart and bless them before they started upon their missions. There were twelve of us who met there, and we dined in my house.

"After dinner we assembled at Brother Brigham Young's house for our meeting. Brother Hyrum Smith opened by prayer; after which the Presidency laid their hands upon our heads and gave each of us a blessing. President Rigdon was mouth in blessing me, and also blessed Sisters Young, Taylor, and Woodruff. The Prophet Joseph promised us that if we were faithful we would be blessed upon our mission, save many souls as seals of our ministry, and return again in peace and safety to our friends; all of which was fulfilled.

"Brother Hyrum advised me to preach the first principles of the gospel; he thought that was about as much as this generation could endure. Then Joseph arose and preached some precious things of the Kingdom of God unto us, in the power of the Holy Ghost, some of which I here copy: 'Ever keep in exercise the principle of mercy, and be ready to forgive your brethren on the first intimation of their repentance and desire for forgiveness; for your heavenly Father will be equally merciful to you. We ought also to be willing to repent of and confess our sins, and keep nothing back. Let the Twelve be humble and not be exalted, and beware of pride, and not seek to excel one another, but act for each other's good, and honorably make mention of each other's names in prayer before the Lord and before your fellowmen. Do not backbite or injure a brother. The elders of Israel should seek to learn by precept and example in this late age of the world, and not be obliged to learn by sad experience everything they know. I trust the remainder of the Twelve will learn wisdom, and will not follow the example of those who have fallen. When the Twelve, or any other witnesses of Jesus Christ, stand before the congregations of the earth, and preach in the power and demonstration of the Holy Ghost, and the people are astonished and confounded at the doctrine and say, "those men have preached powerful sermons," then let them take care that they do not ascribe the glory unto themselves, but be careful to be humble, and to ascribe the glory to God and the Lamb; for it is by the power of the Holy Priesthood and the Holy Ghost that they have the power thus to speak. Who art thou, O man, but dust! and from whom dost thou receive they power and blessings, but from God! Then let the Twelve Apostles and elders of Israel observe this key, and be wise: Ye are not sent out to be taught, but to teach. Let every man be sober, be vigilant, and let all his words be seasoned with grace, and keep in mind that it is a day of warning, and not of many words. Act honestly before God and man; beware of sophistry, such as bowing and scraping unto men in whom you have no confidence. Be honest, open, and frank in all your intercourse with mankind. I wish to say to the Twelve, and to all the Saints: profit by this important key, that in all your trials, troubles, temptations, afflictions, bonds, imprisonments, and deaths, you do not betray Jesus Christ, that you do not betray the revelations of God, whether in the Bible, Book of Mormon, or Doctrine and Covenants, or in any of the words of God. Yea, in all your troubles, see that you do not this thing, lest innocent blood be found upon your skirts, and ye go down to hell. We may ever know by this sign that there is danger of our being led to a fall and apostasy when we give way to the devil, so as to neglect the first known duty; but whatever you do, do not betray your friend.'

"The foregoing are some of the instructions given by the Prophet Joseph, before the Apostles started upon their missions.

"Inasmuch as the devil had been thwarted in a measure by the Twelve going to Far West and returning without harm, it seemed as though the destroyer was determined to make some other attempt upon us to hinder us from performing our missions; for as soon as any one of the Apostles began to prepare for starting he was smitten with chills and fever, or sickness of some kind. Nearly all of the quorum of the Twelve or their families began to be sick, so it still required the exercise of a good deal of faith and perseverance to start off on a mission.

"On the 25th of July, I was attacked with chills and fever, for the first time in my life; this I had every other day, and whenever attacked, I was laid prostrate. My wife, Phoebe, was also taken down with the chills and fever, as were quite a number of the Twelve.

"I passed thirteen days in Montrose with my family, after I was taken sick, before I started on my mission. The 7th of August was the last day I spent at home in Montrose. Although sick with the chills and fever most of the day, I made what preparations I could to start on the morrow on a mission of four thousand miles, to preach the gospel to the nations of the earth; and this, too, without purse or scrip, with disease resting upon me, and an attack of fever and ague afflicting me once every two days.

"Early upon the morning of the 8th of August, I arose from my bed of sickness, laid my hands upon the head of my sick wife, Phoebe, and blessed her. I then departed from the embrace of my companion, and left her almost without food or the necessaries of life. She suffered my departure with the fortitude that becomes a saint, realizing the responsibilities of her companion. I quote from my journal: 'Phoebe, farewell! Be of good cheer; remember me in your prayers. I leave these pages for your perusal when I am gone. I shall see your face again in the flesh. I go to obey the commands of Jesus Christ.'

"Although feeble, I walked to the banks of the Mississippi River. There President Young took me in a canoe (having no other conveyance), and paddled me across the river. When we landed, I lay down on a side of sole leather, by the postoffice, to rest. Brother Joseph, the Prophet of God, came along and looked at me. 'Well, Brother Woodruff,' said he, 'you have started upon your mission.' 'Yes,' said I, 'but I feel and look more like a subject for the dissecting room than a missionary.' Joseph replied: 'What did you say that for? Get up, and go along; all will be right with you.'

"I name these incidents that the reader may know how the brethren of the Twelve Apostles started upon their missions to England in 1839. Elder John Taylor was going with me; we were the first two of the quorum of the Twelve who started upon that mission. Brother Taylor was about the only man in the quorum who was not sick.

"Soon a brother came along with a wagon, and took us in. As we were driving through the place, we came to Parley P. Pratt, who was stripped to his shirt and pants, with his head and feet bare. He was hewing a log, preparatory to building a cabin. He said: 'Brother Woodruff, I have no money, but I have an empty purse, which I will give you.' He brought it to me, and I thanked him for it. We went a few rods farther and met Brother Heber C. Kimball, in the same condition, also hewing a log to build a cabin. He said: 'As Parley has given you a purse, I have got a dollar I will give you to put in it.' He gave me both a dollar and a blessing.

Woodrow Woodruff, His Life and Labors by Matthias F. Cowley, pgs. 103-110