|Chapter 43 A council is called to discuss the matter of building the house of the Lord. Joseph gives the plan of the Lord. Account of the struggles to build the temple in poverty and guarding it against the mob. Sophronia taken very sick and healed by the power of the priesthood. Letter from Joseph the Prophet to his uncle Silas Smith outlining the reasons for modern-day revelation. Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith move into Joseph and Emma’s home. Lucy falls down the stairs, receives a severe injury, later catches a cold and loses her eyesight. She is healed by the blessing of the priesthood and never uses glasses again.
Summer 1833 to spring 1835
The ensuing summer after Joseph’s return from Missouri, the brethren called a council to discuss the subject of building another meetinghouse, as the first was now rather small to afford room for the increased congregation.
In this council Joseph requested each of the brethren to rise and give his views, and when they were through, he would give his opinion concerning the matter. They all spoke. Some thought that it would be better to build a frame house. Others said that a frame house was too costly, and the majority concluded upon putting up a log house and made their calculations about what they could do towards building it. Joseph rose and reminded them that they were not making a house for themselves or any other man, but a house for God. “And shall we, brethren, build a house for our God of logs? No, I have a better plan than that. I have the plan of the house of the Lord, given by himself. You will see by this the difference between our calculations and his idea of things.”
He then gave them the full plan of the house of the Lord at Kirtland, with which the brethren were highly delighted, particularly Hyrum, who was twice as much animated as if it were designed for himself, and declared that he would strike the first blow towards building the house.
Before the meeting closed, they resolved upon laying the cornerstone one week from the succeeding Wednesday. “Now, brethren,” said Joseph, “let us go select a place for the building.” They all went out, and when they came to a certain field of wheat, which my sons had sown the fall before, they chose a spot in the northwest corner. Hyrum ran to the house and caught the scythe and was about returning to the place without giving any explanation, but I stopped him and asked him where he was going with the scythe. He said, “We are preparing to build a house for the Lord, and I am determined to be the first at the work.”
In a few minutes, the fence was removed, the young wheat cut, and the ground in order for the foundation of the wall, and Hyrum commenced digging away the earth where the stones were to be laid. This was Saturday night. Early Monday morning, the brethren were out with their teams, laboring with great ambition at digging a trench for the wall, quarrying stone and hauling it to the place where they were to be used. Although there were but thirty families in Kirtland at that time (as many of the brethren had gone to Jackson County), the work never stopped nor stood still for the want of means or laborers. But they suffered much pain, fatigue, and uneasiness, for as soon as the work was commenced, our enemies began to swear that we should not finish it. Still, the brethren were faithful to their charge, and they took turns keeping guard upon the walls every night. My sons also took their turns, standing upon the walls as often as three nights in the week. How many of those affectionate brethren spent days and nights watching for the enemy, lest they should steal into the town unawares and murder the Prophet and his council and tear down the foundation! But they clung fast by the walls and “gave no quiet sleep to their eyes, nor peaceful slumber to their eyelids, until they found a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.”
Many of those who once stood guard lie full low, and their bodies are moldering to dust, but their spirits have returned to God, and their works have followed them, for they did not turn therefrom, but continued faithful to the end; while others, alas, are buried in far more gross and dreadful darkness, for they have forsaken the truth and taken to themselves the god of this world and given heed to vanity and lies, things wherein there is no profit. The Savior said, “If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”
Mary Bailey and Agnes Coolbrith were then boarding with me. They devoted their whole time to making and mending clothes for the brethren who worked on the house. There was but one mainspring to all our thoughts, and that was building the Lord’s house.
I often wonder to hear brethren and sisters murmur at the trifling inconveniences which they have to encounter in living in a little less stylish establishment than they have been accustomed to, and I think to myself, salvation is worth as much now as it was in the beginning of the work. But I find that “all like the purchase, few the price will pay.” And although they all speak frequently of being of that people whom the Lord will try in all things, yet when they find by experience that they have been preaching a doctrine which is literally true, they feel as though those who carried them the message of eternal life had injured them, and reflect on those who brought them into the Church as though they had acted the part of an enemy. I often find that even those who have been with us from almost the outset are, some of them, still clinging to their property as if life depended upon close economy.
How often I have, with my daughters and daughters-in-law, parted every bed in the house for the accommodation of the brethren, and then laid a single blanket on the floor for my husband and myself, while Joseph slept upon the same hard floor, with nothing but a cloak for both bed and bedding, Emma placing herself by his side to share his comfort-and this was our rest for two weeks together, while we labored hard every day.
But those who were accommodated by our privations did not know how we fared, for neither Emma nor I suffered them to know that we took unwearied pains for them, and when the Lord’s house was being built, how our brethren at Kirtland watched and toiled.
A short time after the work on the temple was commenced, my husband’s brother John Smith, who had been lying very low with the consumption, determined to be baptized, notwithstanding he was unable to walk into the water. He was baptized and soon healed. Shortly after, he came to Kirtland with his family in order to assist in the work to which they had been called. Not long after Brother John arrived, my daughter Sophronia Stoddard was taken very sick, and her symptoms soon became so alarming that her husband started for a physician, who, after attending upon her some time, pronounced her beyond the reach of medicine and discontinued his visits, because he said that he could be of no service to her. In a short time, she became so weak that she could not speak nor turn herself in bed for several days, and many thought that she was dying. About this time Jared Carter returned from a preaching mission. He was a man of great faith, and I thought that if I could get him to administer to her with my husband and our sons, by their united faith she might be healed. I mentioned this to Mr. Smith and he called our sons and Brother Carter together, and they laid hands on her, and in one-half an hour she spoke to me and said, “Mother, I shall get well-not suddenly, but the Lord will heal me gradually.” The same day she sat up for an hour, and in three days she walked across the street.
After Brother John moved to Kirtland, Joseph wrote a letter to his Uncle Silas which I think would be interesting to my readers, and shall therefore give it insertion in this place:
Kirtland Mills, Ohio, September 26, 1833.
Respected Uncle Silas:-It is with feelings of deep interest for the welfare of mankind, which fill my mind on the reflection that all were formed by the hand of Him who will call the same to give an impartial account of all their works on that great day to which you and myself, in common with them, are bound, that I take up my pen and seat myself in an attitude to address a few, though imperfect, lines to you for your perusal.
I have no doubt but that you will agree with me, that men will be held accountable for the things they have done, and not for the things they have not done. Or that all the light and intelligence communicated to them from their beneficent Creator, whether it is much or little, by the same they, in justice, will be judged. And that they are required to yield obedience, and improve upon that, and that only, which is given, for man is not to live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.
Seeing that the Lord has never given the world to understand, by anything heretofore revealed, that he had ceased forever to speak to his creatures, when sought unto in a proper manner, why should it be thought a thing incredible that he should be pleased to speak again in these last days for their salvation? Perhaps you may be surprised at this assertion, that I should say for the salvation of his creatures in these last days, since we have already in our possession a vast volume of his word, which he has previously given. But you will admit that the word spoken to Noah was not sufficient for Abraham, or it was not required of Abraham to leave the land of his nativity, and seek an inheritance in a strange country upon the word spoken to Noah, but for himself he obtained promises at the hand of the Lord, and walked in that perfection, that he was called the friend of God. Isaac, the promised seed, was not required to rest his hope alone upon the promises made to his father Abraham, but was privileged with the assurance of his approbation, in the sight of Heaven, by the direct voice of the Lord to him. If one man can live upon the revelations given to another, might I not with propriety ask, why the necessity, then, of the Lord’s speaking to Isaac as he did, as is recorded in the twenty-sixth chapter of Genesis? For the Lord there repeats, or rather, promises again to perform the oath which he had previously sworn to Abraham; and why this repetition to Isaac? Why was not the first promise as sure for Isaac as it was for Abraham? Was not Isaac Abraham’s son? and could he not place implicit confidence in the veracity of his father as being a man of God? Perhaps you may say that he was a very peculiar man, and different from men in these last days, consequently, the Lord favored him with blessings, peculiar and different, as he was different from men of this age. I admit that he was a peculiar man, and was not only peculiarly blessed, but greatly blessed. But all the peculiarity that I can discover in the man, or all the difference between him and men in this age, is, that he was more holy and more perfect before God, and came to him with a purer heart, and more faith than men in this day.
This same might be said on the subject of Jacob’s history. Why was it that the Lord spake to him concerning the same promise, after he had made it once to Abraham, and renewed it to Isaac? Why could not Jacob rest contented upon the word spoken to his fathers? When the time of the promise drew nigh for the deliverance of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt, why was it necessary that the Lord should begin to speak to them? The promise or word to Abraham, was, that his seed should serve in bondage, and be afflicted, four hundred years, and after that they should come out with great substance. Why did they not rely upon this promise, and when they had remained in Egypt, in bondage, four hundred years, come out, without waiting for further revelations, but act entirely upon the promise given to Abraham, that they should come out?
Paul said to his Hebrew brethren, that God being more abundantly willing to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, he confirmed it by an oath. He also exhorts them, who, through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Notwithstanding, we (said Paul) have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us, which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast and which entereth into that within the veil, yet he was careful to press upon them the necessity of continuing on until they, as well as those who then inherited the promises, might have the assurance of their salvation confirmed to them by an oath from the mouth of him who could not lie; for that seemed to be the example anciently, and Paul holds it out to his Hebrew brethren as an object attainable in his day. And why not? I admit that by reading the Scriptures of truth, the saints, in the days of Paul, could learn, beyond the power of contradiction, that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had the promise of eternal life confirmed to them by an oath of the Lord, but that promise or oath was no assurance to them of their salvation; but they could, by walking in the footsteps, continuing in the faith of their fathers, obtain, for themselves, an oath for confirmation that they were meet to be partakers of the inheritance with the saints in light.
If the saints, in the days of the apostles, were privileged to take the saints for example, and lay hold of the same promises, and attain to the same exalted privileges of knowing that their names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and that they were sealed there as a perpetual memorial before the face of the Most High, will not the same faithfulness, the same purity of heart, and the faith, bring the same assurance of eternal life, and that in the same manner to the children of men now, in this age of the world? I have no doubt, but that the holy prophets, and apostles, and saints in ancient days were saved in the kingdom of God; neither do I doubt but that they held converse and communion with him while they were in the flesh, as Paul said to his Corinthian brethren, that the Lord Jesus showed himself to above five hundred saints at one time after his resurrection. Job said that he knew that his Redeemer lived, and that he should see him in the flesh in the latter days. I may believe that Enoch walked with God, and by faith was translated. I may believe that Noah was a perfect man in his generation, and also walked with God. I may believe that Abraham communed with God, and conversed with angels. I may believe that Isaac obtained a renewal of the covenant made to Abraham by the direct voice of the Lord. I may believe that Jacob conversed with holy angels, and heard the word of his Maker, that he wrestled with the angel until he prevailed, and obtained a blessing. I may believe that Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire with fiery horses. I may believe that the saints saw the Lord, and conversed with him face to face after his resurrection. I may believe that the Hebrew church came to Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. I may believe that they looked into eternity, and saw the Judge of all, and Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant. But will all this purchase an assurance for me, and waft me to the regions of eternal day, with my garments spotless, pure and white? Or, must I not rather obtain for myself, by my own faith and diligence in keeping the commandments of the Lord, an assurance of salvation for myself? And have I not an equal privilege with the ancient saints? And will not the Lord hear my prayers, and listen to my cries as soon as he ever did theirs, if I come to him in the manner they did? Or, is he a respecter of persons?
I must now close this subject for the want of time; and, I may say, with propriety, at the beginning. We would be pleased to see you in Kirtland; and more pleased to have you embrace the New Covenant.
I remain, yours affectionately,
Joseph Smith, Jun.
In 1835 we were still living on the farm and working with our might to make comfortable the droves of company which were constantly coming in from the country, both those who were in and out of the Church. But when Joseph saw how crowded we were, and that we were breaking ourselves down with hard work, he told us that it would not answer for us to carry on a public house at free cost any longer, and by his request, we moved into an upper room of his house, where we lived very comfortably for a season.
I thought as my time had been so taken up with business, I now devoted the principal part of it to reading, and I studied the Bible and Book of Mormon and the recent revelations constantly until a circumstance occurred which deprived me of the privilege. One day upon going downstairs to my dinner, I incautiously set my foot upon a round stick which lay near the top of the stairs. This, rolling under my foot, pitched me forward down the steps, and I bruised my head sadly, for my right arm was lame at the time and I could not use it to any advantage. I was much hurt, but thinking I should be better soon, I said nothing about it at that time.
Brother Cahoon came in the afternoon and requested Mr. Smith to go to his house and give a patriarchal blessing to some of his friends who had just arrived from the East. My husband invited me to accompany him, but I told him that I was afraid that I should take a cold that would affect me seriously on account of my fall. But, as he refused to go without me, after much persuasion on the part of Brother Cahoon, I went. In spite of all the care which I could take, I took cold, and an inflammation settled in my eyes which increased until I was not able to open them. The distress which I suffered for a length of time surpasses all description.
Everything that was supposed to help in the least degree was faithfully tried by my daughters and daughters-in-law, but in vain. I called upon my husband, sons, and other elders to administer to me by prayer and the laying on of hands. I desired that I might receive my sight, even that I might be able to read without ever putting on spectacles again. They did pray for this with fervent spirit, and when they took their hands off of my head, I opened my eyes and read two lines in the Book of Mormon. I am now sixty-nine and I have not worn glasses since. This was done by the special power of God, and I felt to adore his name for the same.