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. . . .

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

A Remarkable Sign in the Heavens Seen by Wilford Woodruff

This event took place on the North Fox Island off the coast of Maine on 21 February 1838:

“On the evening of the 21st of February, as we came out of the schoolhouse, a light appeared in the northeastern horizon, and spread to the west and soon rolled over our heads.  It had the appearance of fire, blood, and smoke, and at times resembled contending armies.  The heavens were illuminated for the space of half an hour.  It seemed at times as thought the veil was about to rend in twin and the elements were contending with each other.

We looked upon it as one of the signs in the heavens predicted by the prophets of old, as to appear in the last days.  We were wading through deep snowdrifts most of the time while witnessing this remarkable scen.”

Wilford Woodruff,  Leaves From My Journal,  p.50

Miracles in Canada with Wilford Woodruff

“I felt impressed by the Spirit of God to take a mission to the Fox Islands, situated east of the Maine shore, a country I knew nothing about.  I made my feelings known to the apostles, and they advised me to go.

We crossed Lake Ontario on the steamer Oneida, to Kingston, Upper Canada, and from there also by steamer along the canal to Jone’s Falls, whence we walked to a place called Bastard, Leeds County. [near present-day Smith’s Falls, Ontario]

Here we found a branch of the Church, presided over by John E. Page and James Blakesly.  We accompanied them to their place of meeting, and attended a conference with them at which three hundred members of the Church were represented.

We ordained seven Elders, nine Priests, eleven Teachers and five Deacons.

We spoke to the people several times during this conference, and at its close we were called upon to administer to a woman who was possessed of the devil.  At times she was dumb, and greatly afflicted with the evil spirits that dwelt in her.  She believed in Jesus and in us as His servants, and wished us to administer to her.  Four of us laid our hands upon her head and commanded the devil, in the name of Jesus Christ, to depart out of her.  It was immediately done, and the woman arose with great joy, and gave thanks and praise unto God; for, according to her faith, she was made whole from that hour.

A child, also, that was sick, was healed by the laying on of hands, according to the word of God.

We walked thirty miles to visit another branch of the Saints at Leeds, where we met with John Gordon and John Snyder.  Here we held a meeting and bore our testimony to the people.

A Sister Carns here came to us and requested to have the ordinance for the healing of the sick performed for two of her children who were afflicted.  One was a suckling child, which was lying at the point of death.  I took it in my arms and presented it before the Elders, who laid their hands upon it, and it was made whole immediately, and I handed it back to the mother entirely healed.

We afterwards laid hands upon the other, when it was also healed.  It was done by the power of God, in the name of Jesus Christ, and the parents praised God for His goodness.”

Wilford Woodruff, “Leaves From My Journal” pp. 33-34

Wilford Woodruff’s First Missionary Year

“This brings the year 1835 to a close – the first year of my mission, during which time I had traveled three thousand two hundred and forty eight miles, held one hundred and seventy meetings, baptized forty three persons, assisted Elder Parrish to baptize twenty more, confirmed 35, organized 3 branches, ordained two Teachers and one Deacon, procured 30 subscribers for the Messenger and Advocate, 173 signers to the petition to the governor of Missouri, had three mobs rise against me – but was not harmed, wrote eighteen letters, received ten, and finally closed the labors of the year 1835 by eating johnny-cake, butter, and honey at Brother A. O. Smoot’s.

Wilford Woodruff – Humor in Adversity

We got up in the morning and walked in the rain twelve miles to the house of a man named Bemon, who was also one of the mob from Jackson County. They were about sitting down to breakfast as we came in.

18In those days it was the custom of the Missourians to ask you to eat even if they intended to cut your throat as soon as you got through; so he asked us to take breakfast, and we were very glad of the invitation.

18He knew we were “Mormons,” and as soon as we began to eat he began to swear about the “Mormons.” He had a large platter of bacon and eggs, and plenty of bread on the table, and his swearing did not hinder our eating, for the harder he swore the harder we ate, until we got our stomachs full; then we arose from the table, took our hats, thanked him for our breakfast, and the last we heard of him he was still swearing.

18I trust the Lord will reward him for our breakfast.

Leaves from My Journal: p. 18

by Wilford Woodruff

The Story of “Old Prophet Mason”

– as recounted by Wilford Woodruff.

The people of Connecticut in those days thought it wicked to believe in any religion, or belong to any church, except the Presbyterian. They did not believe in having any prophets, apostles, or revelations, as they had in the days of Jesus, and as we now have in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

5 – 6There was an aged man in Connecticut, however, by the name of Robert Mason, who did not believe like the rest of the people. He believed it was necessary to have prophets, apostles, dreams, visions and revelations in the church of Christ, the same as they had who lived in ancient days; and he believed the Lord would raise up a people and a church, in the last days, with prophets, apostles, and all the gifts, powers and blessings, which it ever contained in any age of the world.

6The people called this man, the Old Prophet Mason.

6He frequently came to my father’s house when I was a boy, and taught me and my brothers those principles; and I believed him.

6This prophet prayed a great deal, and he had dreams and visions and the Lord showed him many things, by visions, which were to come to pass in the last days.

6I will here relate one vision, which he related to me. The last time I ever saw him, he said: “I was laboring in my field at mid-day when I was enwrapped in a vision. I was placed in the midst of a vast forest of fruit trees: I was very hungry, and walked a long way through the orchard, searching for fruit to eat; but I could not find any in the whole orchard, and I wept because I could find no fruit. While I stood gazing at the orchard, and wondering why there was no fruit, the trees began to fall to the ground upon every side of me, until there was not one tree standing in the whole orchard; and while I was marveling at the scene, I saw young sprouts start up from the roots of the trees which had fallen, and they opened into young, thrifty trees before my eyes. They budded, blossomed, and bore fruit until the trees were loaded with the finest fruit I ever beheld, and I rejoiced to see so much fine fruit. I stepped up to a tree and picked my hands full of fruit, and marveled at its beauty, and as I was about to taste of it the vision closed, and I found myself in the field in the same place I was at the commencement of the vision.

6 – 7″I then knelt upon the ground, and prayed unto the Lord, and asked Him, in the name of Jesus Christ, to show me the meaning of the vision. The Lord said unto me: “This is the interpretation of the vision: the great trees of the forest repesented the generation of men in which you live. There is no church of Christ, or kingdom of God upon the earth in your generation. There is no fruit of the church of Christ upon the earth. There is no man ordained of God to administer in any of the ordinances of the gospel of salvation upon the earth in this day and generation. But, in the next generation, I the Lord will set up my kingdom and my church upon the earth, and the fruits of the kingdom and church of Christ, such as have followed the prophets, apostles and saints in every dispensation, shall again be found in all their fullness upon the earth. You will live to see the day, and handle the fruit; but will never partake of it in the flesh.’ “

7When the old prophet had finished relating the vision and interpretation, he said to me, calling me by my Christian name: “I shall never partake of this fruit in the flesh; but you will, and you will become a conspicuous actor in that kingdom.” He then turned and left me. These were the last words he ever spoke to me upon the earth.

7This was a very striking circumstance, as I had spent many hours and days, during twenty years, with this old Father Mason, and he had never named this vision to me before. But at the beginning of this last conversation he told me that he felt impelled by the Spirit of the Lord to relate it to me.

7He had the vision about the year 1800, and he related it to me in 1830—the same spring that the Church was or ganized.

7This vision, with his other teachings to me, made a great impression upon my mind, and I prayed a great deal to the Lord to lead me by His Spirit, and prepare me for His church when it did come.

8In 1832, I left Connecticut, and traveled with my eldest brother to Oswego County, New York; and in the winter of 1833, I saw, for the first time in my life, an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He preached in a schoolhouse near where I lived. I attended the meeting, and the Spirit of the Lord bore record to me that what I heard was true. I invited the Elder to my house, and next day I, with my eldest brother, went down into the water and was baptized. We were the first two baptized in Oswego County, New York.

8When I was baptized I thought of what the old prophet had said to me.

8In the spring of 1834, I went to Kirtland, saw the Prophet Joseph Smith, and went with him, and with more than two hundred others in Zion’s Camp, up to Missouri. When I arrived, at my journey’s end, I took the first opportunity and wrote a long letter to Father Mason, and told him I had found the church of Christ that he had told me about. I told him about its organization and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon; that the Church had Prophets, Apostles, and all the gifts and blessings in it, and that the true fruit of the kingdom and church of Christ were manifest among the Saints as the Lord had shown him in the vision. He received my letter and read it over many times, and handled it as he had handled the fruit in the vision; but he was very aged, and soon died. He did not live to see any Elder to administer the ordinances of the gospel unto him.

8The first opportunity I had, after the doctrine of baptism for the dead was revealed, I went forth and was baptized for him. He was a good man and a true prophet, for his prophecies have been fulfilled.

Leaves from My Journal: Faith-Promoting Series, no. 3

Wilford Woodruff

© 1881 Deseret Book Company