July 22, 1839: “The Day of God’s Power”
When the Latter-day Saints first came in 1839 to that area along the Mississippi River that would become Nauvoo, it was anything but a beautiful situation. It was by Joseph Smith’s own description a swamp—“a deathly, sickly hole” full of mosquitos, misery, and death. It was ill-drained bottom land along the River; the kind of land that was least desirable for farming and settlement.
Nonetheless, the Saints began settling and building in the region by May 1839 and suddenly, in July, they began getting sick—so sick in fact, that funerals began to be commonplace. Most became sick and many died. They called it the ague, but it was malaria, and they knew no treatment.
Elizabeth Barlow described it thus, “O, my friends, you know nothing about the ague, how it prostrates and bewilders the mind and impairs the health.”
Joseph and Emma Smith took many into their home to care for them until it became, almost as it were, a hospital. Then Joseph too became ill and Emma cared for him along with all the others. Then came July 22, 1839. Joseph was frustrated at this illness and determined to act. He knelt prayed for deliverance. He then began going from house to house and saint to saint blessing and raising them from their beds of affliction. Wilford Woodruff was there and said, “Joseph went through the midst of them, taking them by the hand, and in a loud voice commanding them in the name of Jesus Christ to arise from their beds and be made whole. And they leaped from their beds, made whole by the power of God.”
Joseph came to Elijah Fordham, “‘Brother Fordham do you not know me?’ he said. “At first he made no reply;…. He said again, ‘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….’ 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.”
The Prophet then came into the home of Joseph Bates Noble and spoke as he approached his bedside. “Joseph,” he said, “you’ve been with me too long to be leaving me now.” Noble recorded this,
“As soon as I saw him, the tears of joy burst from my eyes. In a moment he was by my bedside, and took me by the hand. Without waiting for the other brethren to get to my bed, he commanded me, in the name of Jesus Christ, to arise and walk. I arose, and while putting on my clothes, I fainted. When I regained consciousness I was on the bed, and Joseph was standing close to me. As soon as my eyes met his, he said, “Wherefore didst thou doubt?” and again commanded me to arise. While he was speaking I felt the healing virtue flowing through every part of my system. I immediately arose and walked, rejoicing and praising the Lord with all my heart.”
And there were more. It was known as The Day of God’s Power.” A testament from the mouth of many witnesses that the power and miracles of Jesus’s day are still with us.
Note: For more on the story see, Season 7 Episode 6, July 22, 1839: The day of God’s Power” available soon at historyofthesaints.org
Artwork by Liz Lemon Swindle