Sickness and a Day of God’s Power
In the summer of 1839 the swamp area on the Nauvoo peninsula had not yet been drained. While the Saints gathered, cleared, drained, built, and planted, they were oblivious to the danger of the Anopheles mosquito. This tiny insect, which bred profusely in the swampland and along the Mississippi riverbank, transmitted parasites to the red blood cells of humans by its bite. The disease this caused, characterized by periodic attacks of chills and fever, is now known as malaria, but people in the nineteenth century called it and diseases with similar symptoms the ague (pronounced `a gyu).
Eventually Joseph Smith also became ill, but after several days confinement he was prompted to arise and extend help to others. The day of 22 July was, in the words of Wilford Woodruff, “a day of God’s power” in Nauvoo and Montrose. 12 That morning the Prophet arose and, being filled with the Spirit of the Lord, administered to the sick in his house and in the yard outside. More sick people were down by the river, and there too he administered with great power to the faithful. One such, Henry G. Sherwood, was near death. Joseph stepped to the door of Brother Sherwood’s tent and commanded him to rise and come out; he obeyed and was healed. Elder Heber C. Kimball and others accompanied the Prophet across the river to Montrose. One by one they visited the homes of the Twelve and administered to those who needed a blessing. Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Orson Pratt, and John Taylor then joined Joseph in his mission of mercy.
| Elijah Fordham (1798–1879) accepted the gospel in 1833 in Michigan. In 1835 he was ordained a seventy by Joseph Smith in Kirtland. Following his miraculous healing at the hands of Joseph Smith in Montrose, Iowa, Elijah moved to Nauvoo and worked on the temple until the Saints were forced from Illinois in 1846. He went to Utah in 1850 and continued faithful in the gospel the remainder of his life.
Courtesy of Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City
One of the most memorable of the healings in Montrose was that of Elijah Fordham. When the brethren arrived he was lying in bed unable to speak.
“Brother Joseph walked up to Brother Fordham, and took him by the right hand. . . .
“He saw that Brother Fordham’s eyes were glazed, and that he was speechless and unconscious.
“After taking hold of his hand, he looked down into the dying man’s face and said: ‘Brother Fordham, do you not know me?’ At first he made no reply; but we could all see the effect of the Spirit of God resting upon him.
“He again said: ‘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 it 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 the Godhead: ‘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 from 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.” 13
They next visited Joseph B. Noble, who was also healed. Wilford Woodruff remembered this as the “greatest day for the manifestation of the power of God through the gift of healing since the organization of the Church.” 14
14. Woodruff, Leaves from My Journal, p. 65.