One of the best things to do when in Salt Lake City is visit the The Church History Museum. The museum is located across the street from the Salt Lake Temple and it is free! It is a great place for families, and anyone interested in in learning about different aspects of the Church. The Museum is filled with artifacts and stories to remember people of the past of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It is defiantly worth the time to go over read and learn about Church History through the stories and preserved artifacts.
While walking through the Church History Museum this past weekend there was a handkerchief in a cabinet and a nice, young missionary asked if we were interested in hearing the story of that handkerchief. That handkerchief displayed in the Church History Museum was once owned by the Prophet Joseph Smith. The prophet had given the handkerchief to the future prophet Wilford Woodruff to heal the sick in Nauvoo, and that handkerchief is preserved for us to see today.
Nauvoo Malaria Outbreak
In 1839, the early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had been driven from their homes in Missouri and were left homeless. Heavenly Father did not abandon His children, but watched out for the Saints, through generous people living in Iowa and Illinois. These wonderful people were willing to take the Saints in, give them shelter and provide for their immediate temporal needs. The Saints could not live off the generosity of others for long and needed their own place to live, and quickly. The Church purchased land in Commerce Illinois, which was re-named “Nauvoo” meaning, “Beautiful” in the Hebrew Language, by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Ultimately Nauvoo did end up being the “Beautiful City”, the prophet Joseph Smith had predicted, but it was not the case when the Saints first arrived in Commerce. In fact, Nauvoo was probably the opposite of beautiful when the Saints first arrived to the area.
When the first Latter-Day Saints arrived in Nauvoo it was a muddy swam land that needed to be drained to be livable. It was not possible to build on the swampy, muddy land of Nauvoo, and it was going to take hard work and time to get the place livable, and it was long way from ‘beautiful’.
The members of the Church were encouraged to gather in Nauvoo, and many were coming every day. This made for a lot of people, and not a lot of shelter. This was not uncommon for the Saints, they had left from multiple locations before needing up in Nauvoo. They did watch out and care for one another, but Nauvoo had more problems than the lack of houses. The area was swampy and muddy it was a breeding ground for mosquitos. These mosquitos carried Malaria! Hundreds of Saints fell ill, it was a difficult time for members of the Church.
The prophet Joseph Smith and his wife Emma opened their home to the sick Saints in need. The numbers of sick was so great they put tents out in front of their home, to help more.
Wilford Woodruff recalled, “The large number of Saints who had been driven out of Missouri, were flocking into Commerce; but had no 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.”
The illness was everywhere even the prophet Joseph Smith become ill, but after several days he rose from his bed, feeling prompted to minister to those who were suffering.
Brigham Young said:
July 22 1839- Joseph arose from his bed of sickness, and the power of God rested upon him. He commenced in his own house and door-yard, commanding the sick, in the name of Jesus Christ, to arise and be made whole, and they were healed according to his word. He then continued to travel from house to house from tent to tent upon the bank of the river, healing the sick as he went until he arrived at the upper stonehouse, where he crossed the river in a boat, accompanied by several of the Quorum of the Twelve, and landed in Montrose.
What an amazing sight this would have been. Seeing the prophet of the Lord going from house to house, from wagons to tents and calling sick people to rise! Joseph had just been sick himself, and he was healed and left to go heal others. It is beautiful how the Lord works.
After Joseph had spent some time healing Wilford Woodruff recorded this:
A man came to [Joseph] and asked him if he would go about three miles and heal two of his small children, who were twins, about three months old, and were sick nigh unto death. He was a man of the world, he had never heard a sermon preached by a Latter-day Saint. Joseph said he could not go, but he would send a man. After hesitating a moment, he turned to me and said, “You go with this man and heal his children,” at the same time giving me a red silk handkerchief, and said, “After you lay hands upon them, wipe their faces with it, and they shall be healed; and as long as you will keep that handkerchief, it shall ever remain as a league between you and me.” I went and did as I was commanded, and the children were healed.
Wilford Woodruff kept the handkerchief that Joseph had given him that day. It was a reminder of Joseph Smith, his compassion and the Lords power. This is the handkerchief preserved in the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Even with the miraculous healings, the plague of Malaria did not dissipate that day. The Saints still had to struggle with the disease until it got colder, the mosquitoes died off and the swamp was drained. Sometimes we wish to see everything end it and neat little lesson, but life seems to be more complicated than this. The Lords miracles were there, and they were truly amazing, and people still struggled, both are real outcomes of that summer.
Every person chooses where to focus their sights. It is where we focus our attentions that make the difference in our lives. I choose to see the Miracles of the Lord that day, and hopefully every day. The challenges of Malaria and sickness were not over for the Saints, but lessons were learned from this difficult experience and miracles were seen, and they are pretty darn awesome!
Places to Visit:
Church History Museum Salt Lake City, Utah
Liberty Jail, Missouri