In this excerpt of Chapter 43 of The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother (edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor) a council is called to discuss the matter of building the house of the Lord. Joseph gives the plan of the Lord. Account of the struggles to build the temple in poverty and guarding it against the mob. Sophronia taken very sick and healed by the power of the priesthood. Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith move into Joseph and Emma’s home. Lucy falls down the stairs, receives a severe injury, later catches a cold and loses her eyesight. She is healed by the blessing of the priesthood and never uses glasses again.
This excerpt is of great value as the reader receives the insider’s view of establishing the plan and the thoughts of building the first temple in this Dispensation. This chapter also gives great insight into the powerful character traits of Emma Smith, wife of the Prophet Joseph.
The ensuing summer after Joseph’s return from Missouri,1 the brethren called a council to discuss the subject of building another meetinghouse, as the first was now rather small to afford room for the increased congregation.
In this council Joseph requested each of the brethren to rise and give his views, and when they were through, he would give his opinion concerning the matter. They all spoke. Some thought that it would be better to build a frame house. Others said that a frame house was too costly, and the majority concluded upon putting up a log house and made their calculations about what they could do towards building it. Joseph rose and reminded them that they were not making a house for themselves or any other man, but a house for God. “And shall we, brethren, build a house for our God of logs? No, I have a better plan than that. I have the plan of the house of the Lord, given by himself. You will see by this the difference between our calculations and his idea of things.”
He then gave them the full plan of the house of the Lord at Kirtland, with which the brethren were highly delighted, particularly Hyrum, who was twice as much animated as if it were designed for himself, and declared that he would strike the first blow towards building the house.2
Before the meeting closed, they resolved upon laying the cornerstone one week from the succeeding Wednesday. “Now, brethren,” said Joseph, “let us go select a place for the building.” They all went out, and when they came to a certain field of wheat, which my sons had sown the fall before, they chose a spot in the northwest corner. Hyrum ran to the house and caught the scythe and was about returning to the place without giving any explanation, but I stopped him and asked him where he was going with the scythe. He said, “We are preparing to build a house for the Lord, and I am determined to be the first at the work.”
In a few minutes, the fence was removed, the young wheat cut, and the ground in order for the foundation of the wall, and Hyrum commenced digging away the earth where the stones were to be laid. This was Saturday night. Early Monday morning, the brethren were out with their teams, laboring with great ambition at digging a trench for the wall, quarrying stone and hauling it to the place where they were to be used. Although there were but thirty families in Kirtland at that time (as many of the brethren had gone to Jackson County), the work never stopped nor stood still for the want of means or laborers. But they suffered much pain, fatigue, and uneasiness, for as soon as the work was commenced, our enemies began to swear that we should not finish it. Still, the brethren were faithful to their charge, and they took turns keeping guard upon the walls every night.3 My sons also took their turns, standing upon the walls as often as three nights in the week. How many of those affectionate brethren spent days and nights watching for the enemy, lest they should steal into the town unawares and murder the Prophet and his council and tear down the foundation! But they clung fast by the walls and “gave no quiet sleep to their eyes, nor peaceful slumber to their eyelids, until they found a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.”4
Many of those who once stood guard lie full low, and their bodies are moldering to dust, but their spirits have returned to God, and their works have followed them, for they did not turn therefrom, but continued faithful to the end; while others, alas, are buried in far more gross and dreadful darkness, for they have forsaken the truth and taken to themselves the god of this world and given heed to vanity and lies, things wherein there is no profit. The Savior said, “If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”5
Mary Bailey6 and Agnes Coolbrith were then boarding with me. They devoted their whole time to making and mending clothes for the brethren who worked on the house. There was but one mainspring to all our thoughts, and that was building the Lord’s house.
I often wonder to hear brethren and sisters murmur at the trifling inconveniences which they have to encounter in living in a little less stylish establishment than they have been accustomed to, and I think to myself, salvation is worth as much now as it was in the beginning of the work. But I find that “all like the purchase, few the price will pay.” And although they all speak frequently of being of that people whom the Lord will try in all things, yet when they find by experience that they have been preaching a doctrine which is literally true, they feel as though those who carried them the message of eternal life had injured them, and reflect on those who brought them into the Church as though they had acted the part of an enemy. I often find that even those who have been with us from almost the outset are, some of them, still clinging to their property as if life depended upon close economy.
How often I have, with my daughters and daughters-in-law, parted every bed in the house for the accommodation of the brethren, and then laid a single blanket on the floor for my husband and myself, while Joseph slept upon the same hard floor, with nothing but a cloak for both bed and bedding, Emma placing herself by his side to share his comfort-and this was our rest for two weeks together, while we labored hard every day.
But those who were accommodated by our privations did not know how we fared, for neither Emma nor I suffered them to know that we took unwearied pains for them, and when the Lord’s house was being built, how our brethren at Kirtland watched and toiled.
A short time after the work on the temple was commenced, my husband’s brother John Smith, who had been lying very low with the consumption, determined to be baptized, notwithstanding he was unable to walk into the water.
He was baptized and soon healed. Shortly after, he came to Kirtland with his family in order to assist in the work to which they had been called.7 Not long after Brother John arrived, my daughter Sophronia Stoddard was taken very sick, and her symptoms soon became so alarming that her husband started for a physician, who, after attending upon her some time, pronounced her beyond the reach of medicine and discontinued his visits, because he said that he could be of no service to her. In a short time, she became so weak that she could not speak nor turn herself in bed for several days, and many thought that she was dying. About this time Jared Carter8 returned from a preaching mission. He was a man of great faith, and I thought that if I could get him to administer to her with my husband and our sons, by their united faith she might be healed. I mentioned this to Mr. Smith and he called our sons and Brother Carter together, and they laid hands on her, and in one-half an hour she spoke to me and said, “Mother, I shall get well-not suddenly, but the Lord will heal me gradually.” The same day she sat up for an hour, and in three days she walked across the street…
…In 1835 we were still living on the farm and working with our might to make comfortable the droves of company which were constantly coming in from the country, both those who were in and out of the Church. But when Joseph saw how crowded we were, and that we were breaking ourselves down with hard work, he told us that it would not answer for us to carry on a public house at free cost any longer, and by his request, we moved into an upper room of his house, where we lived very comfortably for a season.
I thought as my time had been so taken up with business, I now devoted the principal part of it to reading, and I studied the Bible and Book of Mormon and the recent revelations constantly until a circumstance occurred which deprived me of the privilege. One day upon going downstairs to my dinner, I incautiously set my foot upon a round stick which lay near the top of the stairs. This, rolling under my foot, pitched me forward down the steps, and I bruised my head sadly, for my right arm was lame at the time and I could not use it to any advantage. I was much hurt, but thinking I should be better soon, I said nothing about it at that time.
Brother Cahoon came in the afternoon and requested Mr. Smith to go to his house and give a patriarchal blessing to some of his friends who had just arrived from the East. My husband invited me to accompany him, but I told him that I was afraid that I should take a cold that would affect me seriously on account of my fall. But, as he refused to go without me, after much persuasion on the part of Brother Cahoon, I went. In spite of all the care which I could take, I took cold, and an inflammation settled in my eyes which increased until I was not able to open them. The distress which I suffered for a length of time surpasses all description.
Everything that was supposed to help in the least degree was faithfully tried by my daughters and daughters-in-law, but in vain. I called upon my husband, sons, and other elders to administer to me by prayer and the laying on of hands. I desired that I might receive my sight, even that I might be able to read without ever putting on spectacles again. They did pray for this with fervent spirit, and when they took their hands off of my head, I opened my eyes and read two lines in the Book of Mormon. I am now sixty-nine9 and I have not worn glasses since. This was done by the special power of God, and I felt to adore his name for the same.
1. This was sometime after Joseph’s 1832 trip to Missouri and would actually mean the summer of 1833.
2. Joseph and his counselors were given a vision of the yet-to-be-designed temple. “We went upon our knees,” said Frederick G. Williams, “called on the Lord, and the building appeared within viewing distance. . . . Then all of us viewed it together. After we had taken a good look at the exterior, the building seemed to come right over us, and the makeup of this hall [standing in the then completed temple as he said this] seemed to coincide with what I there saw to a minutia.” (Quoted in Truman O. Angell, Journal, Manuscript, Harold B. Lee Library Special Collections, Brigham Young University, p. 4.)
3. Brigham Young described work on the Kirtland Temple as “a mere handful of men, living on air, and a little hominy and milk, and often salt or no salt when milk could not be had; the great Prophet Joseph, in the stone quarry, quarrying rock with his own hands; and the few then in the Church, following his example of obedience and diligence wherever most needed; with laborers on the walls, holding the sword in one hand to protect themselves from the mob, while they placed the stone and moved the trowel with the other” (in JD 2:31).
4. See Ps. 132:4Ps. 132:5
5. See Matt. 6:23
6. Mary Bailey, daughter of Joshua and Hannah Boutwell Bailey, was born December 20, 1808, in Bedford, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire. She was baptized on June 26, 1832, and married Samuel Harrison Smith on August 13, 1834. Together they had four children: Susanna (October 27, 1835); Mary (March 27, 1837); Samuel Harrison (August 1, 1838); and Lucy (January 1841). Mary Bailey died on January 25, 1841, from health complications in consequence of the expulsion from Missouri.
7. John Smith was baptized January 9, 1832, and arrived in Kirtland on May 25, 1833, about the time of the commencement of the building of the temple (see Cook, Revelations, p. 208).
8. Jared Carter, born June 14, 1801, served a mission in the East, during part of which he labored with Sophronia Smith Stoddard’s husband, Calvin (see Cook, Revelations, pp. 73-74). Clearly his closeness with Sophronia’s husband from their mission together was one reason why Mother Smith called Brother Carter to give the blessing.
9. Lucy would turn seventy years old on July 8, 1845, not many months after the first dictation of her history.