2. Joseph Leg Surgery

In 1811, when Joseph Smith Jr. was six years old, the Smith family moved to Lebanon, New Hampshire. The family finally had the funds to enroll the children in school, and were making plans for the future. Hyrum Smith began attending school at an academy in Hanover and the other children went to the common school in the village. However, the schooling stopped in 1813, because typhus fever broke out and all the children caught it.  The plague felled thousands in the valley and was extremely serious.Joseph was only sick for a short time when he began to recover. One day, he suddenly cried out in pain, and told his family that his shoulder hurt. The family called for the doctor, who told the family that Joseph had sprained his shoulder. Joseph protested, saying that he had done nothing to his shoulder, but the doctor treated it as a sprain. The pain in Joseph’s shoulder did not stop but rather continued for another two weeks, when the doctor was called for again.Joseph Smith MormonThe doctor examined the shoulder and found a fever sore. He lanced the sore and Joseph reported that the pain immediately left his shoulder and moved to his left shin. Just a short time later, the leg began to swell and Joseph suffered another two weeks of almost constant pain. During this time, Joseph’s mother often carried him, and was exhausted from caring for all the ill children. She became ill as well, so Joseph’s older brother Hyrum took over the care of his brother.A surgeon was called for and Joseph’s leg was opened and drained. The pain stopped, but as soon as the wound began to heal the pain came back. The surgeon came again and repeated the procedure, this time cutting into the leg all the way to the bone, but the results were the same as the first time.Multiple surgeons then examined Joseph’s leg and concluded that the infection had made its way all the way to the bone and that the only way to save Joseph’s life was to amputate the leg. Joseph’s mother protested and begged the surgeons to try a new surgery they’d mentioned. This new surgery would remove the dead bone and infected flesh. The hope was that the bone that was left would regenerate. The surgeons had never performed this surgery before.They decided to attempt the surgery. Joseph requested that he not be bound during the surgery, but would have his father hold him instead. Joseph also refused liquor to deaden the pain. He asked his mother to go somewhere where she would not hear his cries of pain, because he was concerned at how exhausted she was and knew that she could not stand it. The surgery was performed and Joseph immediately began to recover. There was no sign of the infection, but the leg took a long time to heal and Joseph was on crutches for three years. He limped for the rest of his life.The cost of doctors and treatment left the family destitute again.  Their destitution limited the educational opportunities of all the children and forced the Smith family to relocate again.  However, their poverty caused them to end up in Palmyra, very close to where the gold plates (Book of Mormon) were buried, so the hand of God can be seen in the family’s afflictions.

See the next article in the timeline sequence.

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