While I was living in this cabin in the old barracks, we experienced a day of God's power with the Prophet Joseph. It was a very sickly time and Joseph had given up his home in Commerce to the sick, and had a tent pitched in his dooryard and was living in that himself. The large number of Saints who had been driven out of Missouri, were flocking into Commerce; but had not homes to go into, and were living in wagons, in tents, and on the ground. Many, therefore, were sick through the exposure they were subjected to. Brother Joseph had waited on the sick, until he was worn out and nearly sick himself.
On the morning of the 22nd of July, 1839, he arose reflecting upon the situation of the Saints of God in their persecutions and afflictions, and he called upon the Lord in prayer, and the power of God rested upon him mightily, and as Jesus healed the sick around Him in His day, so Joseph, the Prophet of God, healed all around on this occasion. He healed all in his house and dooryard, then, in company with Sidney Rigdon and several of the Twelve, he went through among the sick lying on the bank of the river, and he commanded them in a loud voice, in the name of Jesus Christ, to come up and be made whole, and they were all healed. When he healed all that were sick on the east side of the river, they crossed the Mississippi River in a ferryboat to the west side, to Montrose, where we were. The first house they went into was President Brigham Young's. He was sick on his bed at the time. The Prophet went into his house and healed him, and they all came out together. As they were passing by my door, Brother Joseph said: "Brother Woodruff, follow me." These were the only words spoken by all the company from the time they left Brother Brigham's house till they crossed the public square, and entered Brother Fordham's house. Brother Fordham had been dying for an hour, and we expected each minute would be his last.
I felt the power of God that was overwhelming His Prophet.
When we entered the house, Brother Joseph walked up to Brother Fordham, and took him by the right hand; in his left hand he held his hat.
He saw that Brother Fordham's eyes were glazed, and that he was speechless and unconscious.
After taking hold of his hand, he looked down into the dying man's face and said:
"Brother Fordham, do you not know me?" At first he made no reply; but we could all see the effect of the Spirit of God resting upon him.
He again said: "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."
He had the appearance of a man waking from sleep. It was the sleep of death.
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.
His feet were done up in Indian meal poultices. He kicked them off his feet, scattered the contents, and then called for his clothes and put them on. He asked for a bowl of bread and milk, and ate it; then put on his hat and followed us into the street, to visit others who were sick.
The unbeliever may ask: "Was there not deception in this?"
If there is any deception in the mind of the unbeliever, there was certainly none with Elijah Fordham, the dying man, nor with those who were present with him, for in a few minutes more he would have been in the spirit world, had he not been rescued. Through the blessing of God, he lived up till 1880, in which year he died in Utah, while all who were with him on that occasion, with the exception of one, are in the spirit world. (Leaves from My Journal, pp. 62-65)
I accompanied Joseph Smith over the Mississippi in a skiff to visit some friends in Montrose. Here many were lying sick and at the point of death. Among these was my old friend and fellow servant, Elijah Fordham, who had been with me in that extraordinary work in New York City in 1837. He was now in the last stage of a deadly fever. He lay prostrate and nearly speechless, with his feet poulticed; his eyes were sunk in their sockets; his flesh was gone; the paleness of death was upon him; and he was hardly to be distinguished from a corpse. His wife was weeping over him, and preparing clothes for his burial.
Brother Joseph took him by the hand, and in a voice and energy which would seemingly have raised the dead, he cried: "BROTHER FORDHAM, IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, ARISE AND WALK." It was a voice which could be heard from house to house and nearly through the neighborhood. It was like the roaring of a lion, or the heavy thunderbolt. Brother Fordham leaped from his dying bed in an instant, shook the poultices and bandages from his feet, put on his clothes so quick that none got a chance to assist him, and taking a cup of tea and a little refreshment, he walked with us from house to house visiting other sick beds, and joining in prayer and ministrations for them, while the people followed us, and with joy and amazement gave glory to God. Several more were called up in a similar manner and were healed.
Brother Joseph, while in the Spirit, rebuked the Elders who would continue to lay hands on the sick from day to day without the power to heal them. Said he: "It is time that such things ended. Let the Elders either obtain the power of God to heal the sick or let them cease to minister the forms without the power." (Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 254-255)