Sunday, September 14, 2014

Wilford Woodruff and His Encounter With the Prince of Darkness

In 1840, Wilford Woodruff was serving a mission in England. He had tremendous success at the well-known Benbow Farm early in the year, but in the fall, he was in London and was feeling quite a different spirit. Along with fellow apostles Heber C. Kimball and George A. Smith, he encountered great opposition in the city; finding sincere people willing to listen to the preaching of the brethren was almost impossible.

After having labored for about three months in the city with only very limited success, Elder Woodruff recorded the following in his journal on October 18, 1840:

"The prospect in London at that time was the darkest it had ever been in since entering the vineyard; but the Lord was with us, and we were not discouraged. On Sunday we met with the Saints three times at Brother Corner's, read the Book of Mormon, gave instruction, and broke bread unto them. We had a good time, though there were only about half a dozen present. I felt the spirit bear testimony that there would be a work done in London.

"Having retired to rest in good season, I fell asleep and slept until midnight, when I awoke and meditated upon the things of God until 3 o'clock in the morning; and, while forming a determination to warn the people in London and by the assistance and inspiration of God to overcome the power of darkness, a person appeared to me, whom I consider was the prince of darkness. He made war upon me, and attempted to take my life. As he was about to overcome me I prayed to the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, for help. I then had power over him and he left me, though I was much wounded. Afterwards, three persons dressed in white came to me and prayed with me, and I was healed immediately of all my wounds, and delivered of all my troubles."

This was apparently Elder Woodruff's first personal encounter with the power of evil in such a dramatic way; it must have been very comforting to know that the powers of the Lord were greater than those that opposed him.

(See Matthias F. Cowley, _Wilford Woodruff, His Life and Labors_, p. 130)

Compiled and written by David Kenison

"Don't Flinch. Die Like Men."

Do you have the faith and continuing commitment to demonstrate the principles of the gospel in your own lives, consistently? You have served well, but do you, like the pioneers, have the courage and the consistency to be true to the faith and to endure to the end?

Here I recall a pioneer example of faith, commitment, and courage by some young men just about the age of our missionaries. A few months before the Prophet Joseph Smith was murdered at Carthage, some of his enemies plotted to kill him. As part of their plan, they sought to enlist others in their conspiracy. Among those they invited to a meeting in Nauvoo were two young men still in their teens, Robert Scott and Dennison L. Harris. Dennison’s father, Emer, was the older brother of Martin Harris, one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon. Being loyal to the Prophet, these young men immediately reported the invitation to Dennison’s father, who advised the Prophet Joseph and sought his advice. Joseph asked Emer Harris to request that the young men attend the meeting, pay strict attention to what was said, make no commitments, and report the entire matter to the Prophet.

As events proceeded, there were three meetings. They began by denouncing Joseph as a fallen prophet, proceeded to considering how Joseph could be overthrown, and concluded with specific planning to kill him. All of this the two young men reported to the Prophet Joseph after each meeting.
Before the third meeting, the Prophet foresaw what would happen and told the young men this would be the last meeting. He warned them that the conspirators might kill them when they refused the required oath to participate in the murderous scheme. He said he did not think the conspirators would shed their blood because they were so young, but he called upon their loyalty and courage in these words: “Don’t flinch. If you have to die, die like men, you will be martyrs to the cause, and your crowns can be no greater.”  He renewed his original caution that they should not make any promises or enter into any covenants with the conspirators. Then he blessed them and expressed his love for their willingness to risk their lives.

As Joseph had foreseen, the third and final meeting required all present to unite in a solemn oath to destroy Joseph Smith. When the two boys refused, explaining that Joseph had never harmed them and they were unwilling to participate in his destruction, the leaders declared that since the boys knew the group’s plans, they must agree to join them or they must die on the spot.  Knives were drawn.
Some protested killing the boys, especially since their parents knew of their presence, so their failure to return would cast suspicion on some of the conspirators. By the barest margin, the most cautious course was chosen, and those who opposed killing prevailed. The boys were threatened with certain death if they ever revealed what had transpired in the meetings or who had participated, and they were then allowed to leave unharmed.

As the boys passed beyond the view of the guards, they were met by the Prophet, who was anxiously watching and praying for their safe return. They reported everything to him. He thanked and praised them, and then, for their safety, counseled them not to speak of this to anyone for 20 years or more.

Dallin H. Oaks, “Following the Pioneers,” Ensign, Nov. 1997

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Henrietta Cox: Recollection of Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith, Jr., was born on December 23, 1805. In the midst of the Christmas season, it is good to pause to remember his great contributions to our dispensation, second only to the Savior Himself.
Gordon B. Hinckly once said:

"This is a season for giving and a time for gratitude. We remember with appreciation the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith, which is celebrated this same month of December, two days before Christmas.
"How great indeed is our debt to him....
"Let us not forget him. Let not his memory be forgotten in the celebration of Christmas. God be thanked for the Prophet Joseph."

The following recollection of the Prophet was written by Henrietta Cox:

"In the spring of 1841 my parents were both baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and soon after started for Nauvoo in company with some other Saints. After reaching their destination the company camped for a few days on the bank of the Mississippi until they had opportunity to find homes, a Brother Sherwood kindly giving them the use of one small log house which he owned.

"While the Saints camped here the Prophet visited them. A meeting was held in the aforementioned log house. I remember that when the Prophet came into the room he shook hands with all, old and young, who had assembled. I cannot remember much that was said that day in meeting, as I was so very young, but one incident of the day's proceedings fastened itself so firmly upon my mind that I have never forgotten it.

"Brother Joseph was sitting with his head bent low, as if in deep thought, and had not spoken for a few minutes, when one of the elders present began to chide him for being bowed in spirit, and said, 'Brother Joseph, why don't you hold your head up and talk to us like a man?'
"Brother Joseph presently answered the elder by calling his attention to a field of ripening grain, saying that many heads of grain in that field bent low with their weight of valuable store, while others there were which, containing no grain to be garnered, stood very straight.

"Proof of the correctness of his words was given shortly after, as the elder to whom they were addressed soon after apostatized and went back east.
"I know of a surety that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, and have had abundant testimony that the work which he established is the work of our Father in Heaven."

(Henrietta Cox, "Recollections," _Juvenile Instructor_ 27:203, April 1, 1892)

Compiled and written by David Kenison

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Amasa Lyman's Vision of a Heavenly Host

On July 19, 1857, Amasa Lyman preached to a gathering of Saints in the bowery on temple square. He recalled a vision that he had in Nauvoo in 1845:

"When we were in Nauvoo, at the beginning of the last winter we spent in Illinois, about the time the clouds were gathering so thick, and the last storm began to break upon us, we heard the thunders and threatenings of our enemies wherein they stated that we were to be driven away.

"At that time I was confined to my bed with sickness, but I heard the report of the proceedings day after day; but I could not come out to see the face of the heavens, to judge what the issues would be. To get away was impossible with me at that time, and we knew that the longer we stayed the more we should be oppressed by our enemies.

"After I had commenced to recover my health, one morning, while lying in my bed in open day, as wakeful as I am at this moment, the surrounding objects which I could see when in my natural condition all in an instant disappeared, and, instead of appearing to keep my bed, I found myself standing in a place where those acquainted with Nauvoo and the location of the Printing Office, subsequent to the death of the Prophets, will remember. There was a vacant lot in front of the Printing Office; I stood there, and I heard a rumbling noise something like that which attends the moving of a mass of people. I turned round to look in the direction of Main street, and behold! the whole country was filled with one moving mass of people that seemed to be travelling directly to the point where I stood. As they approached somewhat nearer, they seemed not to be travelling on the ground, but somewhat near the altitude of the tops of the buildings.

"At the head of the company were three personages clothed with robes of white, something like those which many of us are acquainted with. Around their waist was a girdle of gold, and from this was suspended the scabbard of a sword, -- the sword being in the hand of the wearer.

"They took their places with their faces directly west; and as they stopped, the individual in advance turned and looked over his shoulder to me with a smile of recognition. It was Joseph; and the others were his two brothers, Hyrum and Carlos.

"I contemplated them for a few moments; but to tell my feelings would be impossible. I leave you to guess them; for it would be futile to attempt a description.
"After contemplating the scene a few moments, I was again in my bed as before, and the vision had disappeared. This was my assurance, in the commencement of our troubles there, that I received of the guardianship that was around us and the protection that we were receiving from the hosts of heaven."
(_Journal of Discourses_, 5:59-60)

Amasa Lyman had been ordained an apostle in 1842 and was part of the first company led by Brigham Young to the Salt Lake valley; he also led a large company west himself in 1848, helping to witness the fulfillment of that vision in Nauvoo.    

*Compiled and written by David Kenison

Zebedee Coltrin's Visions in Kirtland

Zebedee Coltrin was born in 1804 in New York. He joined the Church in January 1831, and was a part of many of the early events in Church history such as Zion's Camp. He was ordained a seventy by Joseph Smith in 1835, and was one of the first seven presidents of the Seventy.
Later, Brother Coltrin was part of the first company to come to Utah with Brigham Young in 1847. He settled with his family in Spanish Fork, and was ordained a patriarch in his later years.

In 1883, Brother Coltrin met with the "School of the Prophets" in Salt Lake City and related to them some of his remembrances of the Prophet Joseph:

"Once Joseph gave notice to the school for all to get up before sunrise, then wash themselves and put on clean clothing and be at the school by sunrise, as it would be a day of revelation and vision. They opened with prayer. Joseph then gave instructions to prepare their minds. He told them to kneel and pray with uplifted hands."

Brother Coltrin then gave an account of the appearance of the Father and Son as given in the minutes of the meeting of the 3rd inst:
Jesus was clothed in modern clothing, apparently of gray cloth. When he saw Him in the Kirtland Temple, on the cross his hands were spiked to the wood and he had around him what appeared like a sheet.
Coltrin had also seen Joseph giving revelation when he could not look on his face, so full was he (Joseph) of the glory of God, and the house was full of the same glory.

About the time the school was first organized some wished to see an angel, and a number joined in the circle and prayed. When the vision came, two of the brethren shrank and called for the vision to close or they would perish; they were Brothers Hancock and Humphries. When the Prophet came in they told him what they had done and he said the angel was no further off than the roof of the house, and a moment more he would have been in their midst.

Once after returning from a mission, Zebedee Coltrin met Brother Joseph in Kirtland, who asked him if he did not wish to go with him to a conference at New Portage. The party consisted of Presidents Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery and [Zebedee Coltrin. Next morning at New Portage, he noticed that Joseph seemed to have a far off look in his eyes, or was looking at a distance and presently he, Joseph, stepped between Brothers Cowdery and Coltrin and taking them by the arm, said, 'Let's take a walk.' They went to a place where there was some beautiful grass and grapevines and swampbeech interlaced. President Joseph Smith then said, 'Let us pray.' They all three prayed in turn -- Joseph, Oliver, and Zebedee. Brother Joseph then said, 'Now brethren, we will see some visions.' Joseph lay down on the ground on his back and stretched out his arms and the two brethren lay on them. The heavens gradually opened, and they saw a golden throne, on a circular foundation, something like a light house, and on the throne were two aged personages, having white hair, and clothed in white garments. They were the two most beautiful and perfect specimens of mankind he ever saw. Joseph said, 'They are our first parents, Adam and Eve.' Adam was a large, broad-shouldered man, and Eve as a woman, was large in proportion."

(From "Zebedee Coltrin Minutes, SLC School of Prophets," 11 Oct 1883, pp. 66-67; see also _Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah_, p. 816; and Jenson, _LDS Biographical Encyclopedia_, 1:190, 4:697)

Compiled and written by David Kenison