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Chapter 10–Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother
By Lucy Mack Smith

Lucy’s sickness and near death at Randolph, Vermont.

Fall 1802

We had lived in Randolph[1] but six months when I took a heavy cold, which caused a severe cough. A hectic fever set in which threatened to prove fatal and the physician believed my case to be confirmed consumption. My mother attended me day and night with much anxiety, sparing herself no pains in administering to my comfort, yet I grew so weak that I could not bear the noise of a footfall except in stocking feet, nor a word to be spoken in the room except in whispers.

The Smiths lived in a small home here in Randolph, Vermont.

One Mr. Murkley, a Methodist exhorter, heard of my afflictions and came to visit me. When he came to the door, he knocked in his usual manner, not knowing that I was so very weak and that the noise would disturb me. This agitated me so much that it was some time before my nerves were settled again. My mother stepped to the door and motioned him to a chair, informing him of my weakness in a whisper.

He seated himself and for a long time seemed pondering in his mind something he wished to say. I thought to myself, “He will ask me if I am prepared to die.” I dreaded to have him speak to me, for said I to myself, “I am not prepared to die, for I do not know the ways of Christ,” and it seemed to me as though there was a dark and lonely chasm between myself and Christ that I dared not attempt to cross.

I thought as I strained my eyes towards the light (which I knew lay just beyond the gloomy veil before me) that I could discover a faint glimmer.

Mr. Murkley left, and my husband came to my bed and caught my hand and exclaimed as well as he could amidst sobs and tears, “Oh, Lucy! My wife! You must die. The doctors have given you up, and all say you cannot live.”

I then looked to the Lord and begged and pled that he would spare my life that I might bring up my children and comfort the heart of my husband. Thus I lay all night, sometimes gazing gradually away to heaven, and then reverting back again to my babies[2] and my companion at my side, and I covenanted with God that if he would let me live, I would endeavor to get that religion that would enable me to serve him right, whether it was in the Bible or wherever it might be found, even if it was to be obtained from heaven by prayer and faith. At last a voice spoke to me and said, “Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Let your heart be comforted. Ye believe in God, believe also in me.”[3]

In a few moments my mother came in and looked upon me and cried out, “Lucy, you are better.” My speech came and I answered, “Yes, Mother, the Lord will let me live. If I am faithful to my promise which I have made to him, he will suffer me to remain to comfort the hearts of my mother, my husband, and my children.”

From this time forward I gained strength continually. I said but little upon the subject of religion, although it occupied my mind entirely. I thought I would make all diligence, as soon as I was able, to seek some pious person who knew the ways of God to instruct me in the things of heaven.

I was acquainted with one Deacon Davies, a man of exceeding piety, one who had known my situation and the miraculous manner of my recovery. When I had gained strength enough, I made him a visit, and here I expected the same that I heard from my mother: “The Lord has done a marvelous work; let his name have the praise thereof.” But no, from the time I came in sight until I left the house I heard nothing but, “Oh, Mrs. Smith is coming. Run. Build a fire. Make the room warm. Help her in. Fill the teakettle, get the great armchair,” etc., etc. Their excessive anxiety for my physical convenience, not tempered with one word pertaining to Christ or godliness, sickened and disgusted me, and I went home disappointed and sorrowful.

This may be the very church Lucy came to hear Deacon Davies.

In the anxiety of my soul to abide by the covenant which I had entered into with the Almighty, I went from place to place to seek information or find, if possible, some congenial spirit who might enter into my feelings and sympathize with me.

At last I heard that one noted for his piety would preach the ensuing Sabbath in the Presbyterian church. Thither I went in expectation of obtaining that which alone could satisfy my soul-the bread of eternal life. When the minister commenced, I fixed my mind with breathless attention upon the spirit and matter of the discourse, but all was emptiness, vanity, vexation of spirit, and fell upon my heart like the chill, untimely blast upon the starting ear ripening in a summer sun. It did not fill the aching void within nor satisfy the craving hunger of my soul. I was almost in total despair, and with a grieved and troubled spirit I returned home, saying in my heart, there is not on earth the religion which I seek. I must again turn to my Bible, take Jesus and his disciples for an example. I will try to obtain from God that which man cannot give nor take away. I will settle myself down to this. I will hear all that can be said, read all that is written, but particularly the word of God shall be my guide to life and salvation, which I will endeavor to obtain if it is to be had by diligence in prayer.

This course I pursued for many years, till at last I concluded that my mind would be easier if I were baptized. I found a minister who was willing to baptize me and leave me free from membership in any church, a course I continued until my oldest son attained his twenty-second year.[4]


[1] Randolph was a town located about seven miles west of Tunbridge and had a population at that time of about two thousand inhabitants. Randolph was situated between the Second and Third Branch of the White River, and the gentle-sloping geography allowed for greater growth than in many of the hill-locked villages in Vermont.
[2] It is likely the Smiths moved to Randolph in the spring of 1802 and Lucy became ill sometime in the fall of that same year. This means that Lucy’s “babies” were four years old (Alvin) and two years old (Hyrum). It is interesting to note that Lucy was in the first three months of her pregnancy with Sophronia, and this could have doubly weakened her during this severe illness.

[3] See Matt. 7:7 and John 14:1.

[4] Alvin attained age twenty-one on February 11, 1819; therefore he was in his twenty-second year from then until February of 1820. Lucy had been pursuing the fulfillment of her covenant for sixteen years.