Personal Recollections of Those Who Knew the Prophet
The Gifts of the Spirit
By Mark L. McConkie
Editor’s Note: For years, Mark L. McConkie has combed the Church archives looking for those who knew Joseph Smith and left their recollections of him to produce a hefty treasure of a book. At over 500 pages with an accompanying CD containing more material, McConkie brings many voices together to tell us in their own words who Joseph was. It is the most complete collection of reminiscences of Joseph ever compiled, a landmark book. If you could sit around a fireside with a crowd of people who had all known Joseph personally and feel warmed and enlightened by their stories, this would be the equivalent of enjoying this remarkable work of love and scholarship. Meridian excerpted passages from the “Introduction” and the chapter titled “The Character and Personality of the Prophet Joseph Smith” in an earlier article which you can read by clicking here. Today we take excerpts from the chapter titled “The Gifts of the Spirit.”
“The Word of Knowledge”
While thus engaged [as Joseph Smith’s secretary], I had many very precious opportunities, great and small, [for] almost every day, [people] were calling on him, some for one thing, and some for another-politicians and preachers and of different persuasions-some with the view of testing the depth of his knowledge and, if possible, confounding him and putting [him] to shame. Well, what did I discover-that he was equal to every occasion, that he had a ready answer for all questions. I heard him say that God had given him the key of knowledge by which he could trace any subject through all its ramifications. I had heard it remarked that Joseph Smith was Sidney Rigdon’s cat’s paw. Soon after he returned from the East he came to see Joseph, and the thought went through my mind: “Now I will see, who the cat’s paw is.” Well, I did see. After passing the usual compliments, Rigdon said to Joseph: “When I was preaching in Philadelphia after I had finished my discourse a man stepped up to me and desired me to explain something in John’s Revelation,” mentioning at the same time what it was. “Well, I could not do it, how is it Joseph?” Joseph cited him at once right off hand to a passage in Ezekiel and something in some other book of the Old Testament, saying that they explained all about it. I thought to myself, “That don’t look much like Joseph’s being a cat’s paw” (1977, pp. 343-44).
Note: A “cat’s paw” is a nineteenth-century colloquialism meaning “dupe” or “fool; a person used by another to accomplish some purpose.”
The Gift of Faith
Caroline S. Callister
One time when his enemies were hounding him he came to her father’s house to get away from them. When the meal was ready he sat down to the table, bowed his head and said, “O God, may their bread never fail,” and it never did even in the scarce time in the Valleys, [Father] always had a little bread. One day [the Prophet] came in with a pint-cup of flour [and] said, “Father Smith I had a little flour and I wanted to divide it with you”
I attended many meetings where [Joseph Smith] presided; and can testify to the world that he was a true prophet of God. I call to mind one prophecy which I saw immediately fulfilled. It was in regard to the Saints who had assembled at the usual gathering place in Nauvoo grove. A severe storm arose. We grew very frightened and were preparing for home. Joseph told us to just arise to our feet, and the storm wouldn’t hurt us. We obeyed. The storm soon passed away, the sun shone warm and the President resumed his speaking.
Jedediah M. Grant
I used once to be troubled with dyspepsia, and had frequently to call upon the elders to administer, and on one occasion, Brother Joseph Smith says to me, “Brother Grant, if I could always be with you, I could cure you.” How is it that Brother Brigham is able to comfort and soothe those who are depressed in spirit, and always make those with whom he associates so happy? I will tell you how he makes us feel so happy. He is happy himself, and the man who is happy himself can make others feel so, for the light of God is in him and others feel the influence, and feel happy in his society (JD, 3:12).
John L. Smith
In my early years I used to often eat at the table with Joseph the Prophet. At one time he was called to dinner. I being at play in the room with his son Joseph, he called us to him, and we stood one each side of him. After he had looked over the table he said, “Lord, we thank Thee for this Johnny cake, and ask Thee to send us something better. Amen.”
The corn bread was cut and I received a piece from his hand.
Before the bread was all eaten, a man came to the door and asked if the Prophet Joseph was at home. Joseph replied he was, whereupon the visitor said, “I have brought you some flour and a ham.”
Joseph arose and took the gift, and blessed the man in the name of the Lord. Turning to his wife, Emma, he said, “I knew the Lord would answer my prayer.”
William Somerville served as a bodyguard to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and, with side arms in hand, lay on the floor of the bedroom in the Nauvoo House in which Joseph slept, placing his feet against the door, which opened inwards toward the bedroom, so that anyone entering would have to waken him before being able to reach the Prophet.
On one occasion, while on a guard duty assignment, the Prophet came to him and told him that on that particular night his guard service would not be needed, as it had been revealed to him that the little children had been praying for his welfare and the Lord had heard their prayers and would honor their faith by protecting him.
Mary C. Westover
I was very small when we lived in Nauvoo, but I must have seen Joseph Smith many times, for I always attended the meetings. The most striking thing I remember of him was a prophecy he made, which I saw fulfilled immediately. I was at the funeral service of King Follet [Follett], which was held in the Nauvoo Grove.
There was a heavy thunderstorm arose and as it increased the people became frightened and started to go home; but before anyone left the Prophet arose and told the multitude if they would remain still and pray in their hearts the storm would not molest them in their services.
They did as they were bidden, the storm divided over the grove. I well remember how it was storming on all sides of the grove, yet it was as calm around us as if there was no sign of a storm so nearby.
I thought as I sat there that the Lord was speaking through Joseph. My testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel has grown as my years have increased, and I hope to retain it till the end of my life and even till the end of the world. I can testify that I have seen Joseph Smith and he was a true prophet of God and the gospel he established is the same as that of Jesus Christ.
Faith to be Healed
Parley P. Pratt
After the gush of feelings consequent on our happy meeting had subsided, I accompanied Joseph Smith over the Mississippi in a skiff to visit some friends in Montrose. Here many were lying sick and at the point of death. Among these was my old friend and fellow servant, Elijah Fordham, who had been with me in that extraordinary work in New York City in 1837. He was now in the last stage of a deadly fever. He lay prostrate and nearly speechless, with his feet poulticed; his eyes were sunk in their sockets; his flesh was gone; the paleness of death was upon him; and he was hardly to be distinguished from a corpse. His wife was weeping over him, and preparing clothes for his burial.
Brother Joseph took him by the hand, and in a voice and energy which would seemingly have raised the dead, he cried: “BROTHER FORDHAM, IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, ARISE AND WALK.” It was a voice which could be heard from house to house and nearly through the neighborhood. It was like the roaring of a lion, or the heavy thunderbolt. Brother Fordham leaped from his dying bed in an instant, shook the poultices and bandages from his feet, put on his clothes so quick that none got a chance to assist him, and taking a cup of tea and a little refreshment, he walked with us from house to house visiting other sick beds, and joining in prayer and ministrations for them, while the people followed us, and with joy and amazement gave glory to God. Several more were called up in a similar manner and were healed.
Brother Joseph, while in the Spirit, rebuked the elders who would continue to lay hands on the sick from day to day without the power to heal them. Said he: “It is time that such things ended. Let the elders either obtain the power of God to heal the sick or let them cease to minister the forms without the power.”
On the 6th of May  I gave the parting hand to the brethren in Independence, and, in company with Brothers Rigdon and Whitney, commenced a return to Kirtland, by stage to St. Louis, from thence to Vincennes, Indiana; and from thence to New Albany, near the falls of the Ohio River. Before we arrived at the latter place, the horses became frightened, and while going at full speed Bishop Whitney attempted to jump out of the coach, but having his coat fast, caught his foot in the wheel, and had his leg and foot broken in several places; at the same time I jumped out unhurt. We put up at Mr. Porter’s public house, in Greenville, for four weeks, while Elder Rigdon went directly forward to Kirtland. During all this time, Brother Whitney lost not a meal of victuals or a night’s sleep, and Dr. Porter, our landlord’s brother, who attended him, said it was a pity we had not got some “Mormon” there, as they could set broken bones or do anything else.
I tarried with Brother Whitney and administered to him till he was able to be moved. While at this place I frequently walked out in the woods, where I saw several fresh graves; and one day when I rose from the dinner table, I walked directly to the door and commenced vomiting most profusely. I raised large quantities of blood and poisonous matter, and so great were the muscular contortions of my system, that my jaw in a few moments was dislocated. This I succeeded in replacing with my own hands, and made my way to Brother Whitney (who was on the bed), as speedily as possible; he laid his hands on me and administered to me in the name of the Lord, and I was healed in an instant, although the effect of the poison was so powerful, as to cause much of the hair to become loosened from my head. Thanks be to my Heavenly Father for His interference in my behalf at this critical moment, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen
Faith to Heal
My family, with myself, were also taken sick, and I laid so for two or three weeks. I was so far gone that I was quite senseless, and all thought I was dying. Doubtless I should have died, but one day Joseph Smith was passing by my door, for I had managed to procure a house, and was called in, and, as I was afterwards informed, laid his hands upon me,
and commanded me to rise and walk in the name of the Lord. The first thing I knew was that I found myself walking on the floor, perfectly well, and within ten minutes afterwards I was out of the house visiting my daughter, whom I had not seen for nearly a month. I felt so full of joy and happiness, that I was greatly surprised that everyone else was not as full of praise as myself. This was the second time that I had been healed instantly by the power of God, through his servants.
This man, Joseph Smith, was the one that the world says was an impostor, and a false prophet, and either deny that he ever performed any miracle, or, if any are too well attested to be denied, attribute them to the power of the imagination over the body. Was it the power of imagination over the body, that cured me, when I did not even hear Joseph’s voice or know that any operation on my behalf was going on, until I found myself well? The honest in heart will judge righteously.
Working of Miracles
About the month of August, 1856, William D. Huntington and I went into Hobble Creek Canyon to get a tree or log suitable for making drums. After we had finished our labor and started for home, both of us riding on the log, our conversation naturally turned upon the doctrines of the Church and experiences of the past, when the life and labors of the Prophet Joseph were touched upon. This subject aroused into more than usual earnestness the mind and conversation of my associate.
He said that in Nauvoo he lived in the family of and worked for Joseph Smith and the time the Prophet had such a wonderful time with the sick, when nearly everybody was stricken down and he himself was among the afflicted, and was one of those who were healed by Joseph. He said he had been sick some weeks and kept getting weaker, until he became so helpless that he could not move. Finally he got so low he could not speak, but had perfect consciousness of all that was passing in the room. He saw friends dome to the bedside, look at him a moment, and commence weeping, then turn away.
He further stated that he presently felt easy, and observing his situation found that he was in the upper part of the room near the ceiling, and could see the body he had occupied lying on the bed, with weeping friends, standing around as he had witnessed in many cases where people had died under his own observation.
About this time he saw Joseph Smith and two other brethren come into the room. Joseph turned to his wife Emma and asked her to get him a dish of clean water. This she did; and the Prophet with the two brethren accompanying him washed their hands and carefully wiped them. Then they stepped to the bed and laid their hands upon the head of his body, which at that time looked loathsome to him, and as the three stretched out their hands to place them upon the head, he by some means became aware that he must go back into that body, and started to do so. The process of getting in he could not remember; but when Joseph said “amen,” he heard and could see and feel with his body. The feeling for a moment was most excruciating, as though his body was pierced in every part with some sharp instruments.
As soon as the brethren had taken their hands from his head he raised up in bed, sitting erect, and in another moment turned his legs off the bed.
At this juncture Joseph asked him if he had not better be careful, for he was very weak. He replied, “I never felt better in my life,” almost immediately adding, “I want my pants.”
His pants were found and given him, which he drew on, Joseph assisting him, although he thought he needed no help. Then he signified his intention to sit in a chair at or near the fireplace. Joseph took hold of his arm to help him along safely, but William declared his ability to walk alone, notwithstanding which, the help continued.
Astonishment had taken the place of weeping throughout the room. Every looker-on was ready to weep for joy; but none were able or felt inclined to talk.
Presently William said he wanted something to eat. Joseph asked him what he would like, and he replied that he wanted a dish of bread and milk.
Emma immediately brought what he called for; as one may easily comprehend, every hand was anxious to supply the wants of a man who, a few moments before was dead, really and truly dead! Brother Huntington ate the bowl of bread and milk with as good a relish as any he ever ate.
In a short time all felt more familiar, and conversation upon the scene that transpired followed. William related his experiences, and the friends theirs.
Joseph listened to the conversation and in his turn remarked that they had just witnessed as great a miracle as Jesus did while on the earth. They had seen the dead brought to life.
At the close of his narrative to me William Huntington remarked:
“Now I have told you the truth, and here I am a live man, sitting by the side of you on this log, and I testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God” (1892, pp. 385-86).
“Given to Prophesy”
George Q. Cannon
The last time the Prophet addressed the people he predicted that peace should be taken from the earth, and that terrible calamities would come upon its inhabitants, and particularly upon our own nation. He predicted what the results would be of the spirit of mobocracy which then raged, and which had caused our expulsion from our homes, if allowed to prevail. Already, the prediction had been recorded by him, twelve years previous to his death, that there would be a rebellion break out in South Carolina, and a fratricidal war commence between the South and the North. The revelation upon this subject had been written [see D&C 87], it had been published. It was well known to the great bulk of the Latter-day Saints years previous to this. I, when quite a child, heard it and looked for its fulfillment until it came to pass. And this was the case with the body of the people who were familiar with the predictions which had been uttered by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
2004 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.