Home » History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, Chapter 40
|Chapter 40 Lucy recounts her mission with niece Almira Mack, son Hyrum, and others to Detroit and Pontiac, Michigan. Teaching the Book of Mormon aboard ship. Meeting with various relatives (all from the Stephen Mack family). Confrontation with the Reverend Mr. Ruggles of Pontiac. Lucy gives a prophecy to the reverend concerning the missionary work and his congregation. It is all fulfilled. Samuel serves a mission with William McLellin, then an eleven-month mission with newly baptized Orson Hyde.June 14, 1831 to December 22, 1832
I will now return to the time when the elders set out for Missouri. The reader will recollect that Hyrum Smith, my eldest son, was directed to go by the way of Detroit. I thought it would be a good opportunity to visit the family of my brother Stephen Mack, who had been dead some four or five years, this being 1831, and my brother died in 1826. Hyrum was very anxious to have me accompany him, and as my niece Almira Mack was about returning home, this was another inducement for me to undertake the journey. I accordingly set off in the month of June with Hyrum, Almira, Brother Murdock, Lyman Wight, and Brother Corrill.
When we went on board the boat, we held a consultation to determine whether it was best to say much concerning the gospel. At first, it was concluded that we should be entirely still as to religion, but finally Hyrum said that Mother might say what she was disposed to, and if a difficulty arose, the elders should assist her out of it. We had not been long on board when, as I was sitting one day at the door of the cabin very much engaged reading the Book of Mormon, a lady accosted me thus, “What book have you, madam? You seem very much engaged.”
“The Book of Mormon,” I replied.
“The Book of Mormon,” said she. “What work is that?” I then gave her a brief history of the discovery and translation of the work. This delighted her, and when I mentioned that it was a record of the origin of the Indians of America, she exclaimed, “Is it possible? Why, my husband is a missionary out now among the Indians, and I am going too. How I do wish that I could get a book to carry to him!”
Just then another lady, who was a doctor’s wife, came up very near us with the appearance of wishing to hear our conversation. She paced to and fro before us for some time, carrying herself daintily, I assure you. She was sumptuously dressed, and in seeming absence of mind, she allowed her rich scarf to fall down from one shoulder and thus displayed a neck and bosom so splendidly decorated with jewels as almost to dazzle the eyes. After a while she turned sharply upon me, saying, “Now, I don’t want to hear any more about that stuff or anything more about Joe Smith either. They say he is a Mormon prophet, but it is nothing but deception and lies. There was one Mr. Murdock who believed in Joe Smith’s doctrine; and the Mormons all think that they can cure the sick and can raise the dead. So when Mr. Murdock’s wife was sick, he refused to send for a doctor, although the poor woman wanted him to do so, and so by his neglect, his wife died.”
I told her I thought she must be a little mistaken in regard to that matter, for my son had taken the twins which she left, and I had an idea that I knew something near the truth of the affair.
“I know all about it,” said the lady.
“Well, now, perhaps not,” said I. “Just stop a moment and I will explain a little.”
“No, that I won’t,” she said.
“Then I will introduce you to Mr. Murdock himself and let him tell the story,” I said, turning to Elder Murdock, who stood near. Just before this, however, the chambermaid, who was very friendly, went downstairs and complained to the lady’s husband of his wife’s unbecoming behavior. And before she had heard a dozen words from our brother, her husband came bustling upstairs and said, “Here, they tell me you are abusing this old lady,” and, taking her hand, drew it within his arm and marched her off at an unusually quick pace. But by this time, a large number of the passengers had gathered round, and the subject being introduced, the elders continued it, and they preached most of the time, except while they were sleeping, until we arrived in Detroit. The impression upon the minds of the passengers was very favorable, and we could have disposed of a quantity of books but we had none with us.
When we landed in Detroit, it was dark, and my niece thought it would be advisable for us to put up at a tavern, as her sister, Mrs. Cooper, the only one of my brother’s family who lived in Detroit, was in very ill health with a nervous affection, which she had been under the influence of for several years. The next morning Almira Mack and myself went to her sister’s house. Mrs. Cooper was in her room when we arrived, lying on the bed. Almira went to her, but I remained in the sitting room, as her housekeeper thought that our both going in at once would agitate Mrs. Cooper so much that it might be an injury to her. When the usual salutations had passed between the sisters, Almira told Mrs. Cooper that I had come to Detroit and was waiting to see her. She requested the privilege of inviting me into her room.
“Stop, sister,” said the elder of the two. “I am so nervous I cannot see her, but I am glad she is here, and I will be happy to have her come in as soon as my nerves are settled again.”
“Well, Mrs. Cooper,” said Almira, “there is another thing I want to mention to you. Aunt Lucy has some three or four elders with her, who are yet at the tavern, and she wishes to have them invited here also.”
“Oh dear, no. I am so nervous that I never could endure it in the world. It would kill me. Do not think of it.”
Almira saw that it was in vain to urge the matter, and when Mrs. Cooper’s husband thought that she was composed enough to meet me, she directed Almira to call me to her room, but Almira’s heart was full to overflowing. She knew that Lovisa-that is, Mrs. Cooper-had received as much of my attention when she was a child as either of my own had received, and that my feelings for all my brother’s children were unusually tender. On this account, she felt disagreeable to be the bearer of her sister’s refusal to meet her cousin and my son. But after giving vent to her feelings in a flood of tears, she came to me and gave me to understand the situation.
I went into Lovisa’s room, and she seemed very much pleased to see me. After some light remarks on both sides, I said, “Lovisa, I have four of my brethren with me. One of them is your cousin Hyrum, and I want to have them invited here if I stay.”
“Oh! no, no, no!” she exclaimed. “I never can consent to it! Why, I am so nervous that I am not in a proper situation to see anyone. Company does so agitate me.”
“Now, Lovisa,” I said. “Do you know what it is that ails you? I can tell you exactly. There is a good spirit and an evil one operating upon you, and the bad spirit has almost got possession of you, and when the good spirit is the least agitated, the evil one strives for the entire mastery and sets the good spirit to faltering, just ready to leave you, because it has so slight a foothold. You have been sick a long time, and you may yet live many years. These men who are with me are clothed with the authority of the priesthood, and through their administration, you might receive a blessing; and even should you not be healed, do you not wish to know something about your Savior before you are called to meet him? Furthermore, if you refuse to receive my brethren into your house, I shall leave it and go myself to the tavern.”
She finally concluded to have a sumptuous dinner prepared and have the brethren all invited to dine with her. The necessary directions being given, I told her that I would like to have her calm her mind as much as possible, and when the elders came have them lay hands on her and pray for her. To this she consented, and it was done after dinner. She went to her room again, being a little fatigued. I asked her if she wished them to pray for her again. She answered very readily that she did, for she had been better since they had administered to her. They complied with her request and, bidding her farewell, left the house.
After they were gone, and she found that they were not to be coming again, she seemed very much distressed that she had not urged them to stay and preach. The next morning I set out in the stage for Pontiac, whither the brethren had gone the day before, and where my brother Stephen’s wife and her son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Whitermore, lived. As soon as I had settled myself at Mr. Whitermore’s, I broached the subject which lay nearest my heart and began to explain to them why the elders visited them and the nature of their mission. Mr. Whitermore paid great attention to what I advanced, as did also my brother’s widow, Sister Mack, until near tea time. Then Sister Mack arose and said, “Sister Lucy, you must excuse me, for I find my nerves are so discomposed that I cannot bear conversation any longer. As the subject is an entirely new one, it confuses my mind.”
“Stop a moment,” I said, and she sat down. I then repeated to her the same, in substance, which I had told her daughter two days before, “but,” I added, “if a company of fashionable people were to come in now and begin to talk about parties, balls, and the latest style of making drapes, do you think that would agitate you?”
She smiled, saying, “I do not know as it would, Sister Lucy. You know, those are very common things.” I told her that I would excuse her freely now to walk where she liked, but requested her to think of what I had said to her. I then concluded to say no more upon the subject of religion, unless she desired me to do so. Finding that she and I were to occupy the same bed, I even determined to desist from my usual habit of praying at my bedside but retired to another place and besought God to soften her heart to the influence of the truth. A short time after we lay down to rest, my sister said, “Everything is still now and I would be glad to hear you talk, if you are not too much fatigued.”
“I should have no objections if you do not think that the subject of religion would make you nervous,” said I.
“Oh, not in the least,” she replied. “There is no other noise now to confuse my mind.” Accordingly we commenced a conversation which lasted till daylight in which she heard and believed the gospel and never after lost her faith.
In a few days Mr. Whitermore accompanied me to the house of another niece, named Ruth Stanly, sister to Mrs. Whitermore. Soon after we arrived, Mr. Whitermore introduced me to the Reverend Mr. Ruggles, the pastor of the Presbyterian church to which he belonged. “And you,” said Mr. Ruggles, upon shaking hands with me, “are the mother of that poor, silly, foolish boy, Joe Smith, who pretended to translate the Book of Mormon.”
I looked him steadily in the face and replied, “I am, sir, the mother of Joseph Smith, but why may I ask do you call him a foolish, silly boy?”
“Because,” said his reverence, “that he should imagine he was going to break down all the churches with that simple Mormon book.”
“Did you ever read that book?” I inquired.
“No,” said he, “it is too far beneath me to be worthy of my notice.”
“Then I think, sir,” I said, “you do not abide by that scripture which saith ’search these things’; and now, sir, let me tell you boldly that the Book of Mormon contains the everlasting gospel, and it was written for the salvation of your soul by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost.”
“Pooh,” said the minister, “nonsense, but I have no fears of any members of my church being led away by such dogmatism, for they have too much intelligence.”
“Now, Mr. Ruggles,” said I, and I spoke earnestly, for the Spirit of God was upon me, “mark my words: as sure as God lives, before three years we will have more than one-third of your church, and sir, whether you believe it or not, we will take the very deacon too.”
This produced a hearty laugh from the company at the expense of the reverend minister.
Not to be tedious, I will say that I remained in this section of the country about three weeks after our brethren left me, making my whole stay four weeks, during which time I labored incessantly for the truth’s sake and gained the hearts of many believers, among whom was David Dort and his wife. These were anxious to have me use my influence to have an elder sent into that region of the country, and they pledged that the man who came should not lack for anything. Just as I embarked for home, Mr. Cooper, my nephew of Detroit, said if we would dress our elders in broadcloth instead of homespun, it would add greatly to their influence. I promised him that the next one who came to preach to them should be more genteel.
I arrived home in a few days in perfect health and safety, finding my family well, and at the first opportunity mentioned the state of things where I had been to Joseph. He seemed pleased that I had succeeded in preparing the way for a minister of the gospel, and sent Brother Jared Carter to labor in that country, but not until we had him fitted out, as I promised Mr. Cooper, with a suit of superfine broadcloth. He went into the midst of Mr. Ruggles’s church and converted seventy of his best members, and as I said he took the very deacon too. For although I did not know anything about the situation of his church, he had a very intelligent deacon by the name of Samuel Bent, who is now a high councilor in Nauvoo, and he told me the last time I saw him, which was not a week since, that he had never forgotten my prophecy upon his head.
In less than a month after my arrival, Samuel returned home from Missouri and remained until the next October, when a revelation was given commanding him and William McLellin to go to the town of Hiram, which was about thirty miles distant, and warn the people in the name of the Lord. He began to make preparations to set out on this mission, but before he was ready to start, he heard a voice in the night which called to him, saying, “Samuel, arise immediately and go forth on the mission which thou wast commanded to take to Hiram.” He arose and took what clothing he had in readiness and set out without eating.
He traveled fifteen miles that day, warning the people by the way, and the next day he arrived at Hiram, where he met William McLellin according to previous appointment, for they had not gone the same route. They held a meeting at noon as they could make arrangements to do so, and being tolerably well received, they continued to preach in Hiram and the surrounding country. They had not been in this place long until they were sent for by a woman who had been sick many months and had prayed much that the Lord would send some of the Mormons into that country, that she might have hands laid on her for the recovery of her health. Samuel went immediately to her and administered to her by the laying on of hands in the name of the Lord, and she was healed and was also baptized.
After finishing this mission, he returned home on December twenty-seventh. However, Samuel was not long permitted to remain at home in quiet; on the first of January he was sent with newly baptized Orson Hyde on a mission into the eastern country. They set out on this mission without delay, calling at public houses as much as possible and warning the people to flee from the wrath to come, until they got to Boston. They preached from city to city, continuing their labors until they were called home by a revelation in which the Lord declared that they should receive the ordinance of the washing of feet, for their skirts were clean of the blood of this generation.