The Testimony of Phoebe W. Carter Woodruff

Phoebe W. Carter Woodruff, 1807-1885

Autobiography in Edward W. Tullidge, The Women of Mormondom, New York, 1877 pp. 399-400, 411- 414.

SELECTIONS FROM THE WRITINGS OF PHOEBE W. CARTER WOODRUFF

[Phoebe W. Carter was born in Scarboro, in the state of Maine, March 8th, 1807. Her father was of English descent, connecting with America at about the close of the seventeenth century. Her mother, Sarah Fabyan, was of the same place, and three generations from England. . . . In the year 1834 she embraced the gospel, and, about a year after, left her parents and kindred and journeyed to Kirtland, a distance of one thousand miles–a lone maid, sustained only by a lofty faith and trust in Israel’s God.]

My friends marveled at my course, as did I, but something within impelled me on. My mother’s grief at my leaving home was almost more than I could bear; and had it not been for the spirit within I should have faltered at the last. My mother told me she would rather see me buried than going thus alone out into the heartless world. “Phoebe,” she said, impressively, “will you come back to me if you find Mormonism false?” I answered, “yes, mother; I will, thrice.” These were my words, and she knew I would keep my promise. My answer relieved her trouble; but it cost us all much sorrow to part. When the time came for my departure I dared not trust myself to say farewell; so I wrote my good-byes to each, and leaving them on my table, ran downstairs and jumped into the carriage. Thus I left the beloved home of my childhood to link my life with the saints of God.

When I arrived in Kirtland I became acquainted with the Prophet, Joseph Smith, and received more evidence of his divine mission. There in Kirtland I formed the acquaintance of Elder Wilford Woodruff, to whom I was married in 1836. With him I went to the “islands of the sea,” and to England, on missions.

Of Joseph, my testimony is that he was one of the greatest prophets the Lord ever called; that he lived for the redemption of mankind, and died a martyr for the truth. The love of the Saints for him will never die.

It was after the martyrdom of Joseph that I accompanied my husband to England, in 1845. On our return the advance companies of the Saints had just left Nauvoo under President Young and others of the twelve. We followed immediately and journeyed to Winter Quarters.

The next year Wilford went with the pioneers to the mountains, while the care of the family devolved on me. After his return, and the reorganization of the First Presidency, I accompanied my husband on his mission to the Eastern States. In 1850 we arrived in the valley, and since that time Salt Lake City has been my home.

Of my husband I can truly say, I have found him a worthy man, with scarcely his equal on earth. He has built up a branch wherever he has labored. He has been faithful to God and his family every day of his life. My respect for him has increased with our years, and my desire for an eternal union with him will be the last wish of my mortal life. . . .

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Wilford Woodruff’s Wife Has a Near-Death Experience

In October 1838, Wilford Woodruff began to lead 53 new Saints from his missionary labors in Maine to Nauvoo, Illinois.  It took them three months traveling in wagons.  Wilford took his wife and only child on this journey.  Early in his travels, he became sick as did his wife, their child, and several others.  In the afternoon of December 1st, it seemed as though his wife, Phoebe, would breathe her last breath.

Wilford cried to the Lord, and prayed that she might not be taken.  After settling her into a house on Sunday 2 December, it looked as though she had just a short time to live.  On the evening of 4 December, her spirit apparently left her body and according to Wilford she was dead.  Wilford recalls that “faith filled my soul” and he administered to her with oil.  He writes:

“I laid my hands upon her, and in the name of Jesus Christ I rebuked the power of death and the destroyer, and commanded the same to depart from her, and the spirit of life to enter her body.  Her spirit returned to her body, and from that hour she was made whole.

“While this operation was going on with me [as my wife related afterwards] her spirit left her body, and she saw it lying on the bed.  She looked at me and upon her babe, and , while gazing upon the scene, two personages came into the room carrying a coffin and told her they had come for her body.  One of these messengers informed her that she could have her choice: she might go to rest in the spirit world, or, on one condition she could have the privilege of returning to her tabernacle and continuing her labors upon the earth.  The condition was, if she felt she could stand by her husband, and with him pass through all the cares, trials, tribulations, and affliction of life which he would be called to pass through for the gospel’s sake unto the end.  When she looked at the situation of her husband and child she said: ‘Yes, I will do it!’

“At the moment that decision was made the power of faith rested upon me, and when I administered unto her, her spirit entered her tabernacle, and she saw the messengers carry the coffin out at the door.”

Phoebe W. Carter Woodruff went with Wilford to the Salt Lake Valley in 1850 and died there in 1885.

Wilford Woodruff, Leaves From My Journal, p. 66-67