Excerpt – Things in Heaven and Earth

Wilford WoodruffChapter 2.
Scenes from a Spiritual Youth

A powerfully built man of twenty-six in 1833, Wilford Woodruff’s five-foot-six-and-one-half-inch body housed a paradoxical soul—both complex and single-minded. Hard working and committed to temporal and religious study and to hard physical labor, he devoted himself at the same time to the search for spiritual experience. Accident-prone, he had developed a strong sense of providential destiny in part because of his deliverance from mishaps; in part because of Robert Mason’s revelation; and in part because of his reflections on the scriptures, on the experiences of others, and on his own life. Decidedly disappointed when the spiritual enlightenment of others lay beyond his grasp, he had found in Mormonism the answer to years of searching and praying. Loathe to lose the spiritual and emotional fulfillment he found in the gospel, he eventually left the farm to commit his life to religious service.

Still, in early 1834, while Wilford’s and Azmon’s conversion to Mormonism led them to preach the restored Mormon gospel to their neighbors, it had little effect on their daily activities. During January, February, and March they continued to run their farm and mill in Richland.

But while their external lives remained relatively the same, their inner lives changed considerably. In this transformation they joined a host of other converts to the perfectionist religious movements that caught fire during the New Light Stir of the 1780s and early 1790s and during the Second Great Awakening of the first three decades of the nineteenth century. During the late eighteenth century, these churches included the Freewill Baptists, the Universalists, the Shakers, and the Methodists, though the latter came on the scene later and were somewhat more genteel than the others. (The American People, 2 vols. Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1975 [orig. ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972]), 1:529-30. Ahlstrom points out that from about 31,000 members in 1800 Methodism grew to more than a million in 1844.1

During the first three decades of the nineteenth century, a number of other perfectionist churches joined the earlier flowering. They included the United Brethren, the Christians (Disciples of Christ or Campbellites), and the Church of Christ (Latter-day Saints or Mormons). The United Brethren arose among a number of German Reformed and Mennonite groups who responded to Methodist perfectionist doctrines but had little affect outside the German immigrant community.2 The Disciples grew from separate movements originating in the preaching of Elias Smith in New England, Thomas and Alexander Campbell in Pennsylvania, Barton W. Stone in Kentucky, Tennessee, and southern Ohio, and James O’Kelly in Virginia.3 The Mormons followed Joseph Smith, a Vermont native living in western New York.4

The belief in the possibility of human perfection played an important role in the break with Calvinism each of these movements made. Epitomizing Disciple doctrine, Alexander Campbell preached that, “Perfection is . . . the glory and felicity of man. . . . There is a true, a real perfectability of human character and of human nature, through the soul-redeeming mediation and holy spiritual influence of the great Philanthropist.” Joseph Smith taught that human beings were co-eternal with God, were infinitely perfectible, and that God would reward with salvation all except a handful of Satan’s closest followers.in The American Quest for the Primitive Church, ed. Richard

T. Hughes (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1988), 220-31; Hatch, “The Christian Movement and the Demand for a Theology of the People,” 545-67. For general treatments of the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, see James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), and Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton, The Mormon Experience (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1979). On perfectionism in the Disciples’ doctrines, see Alexander Campbell, A Compend of Alexander Campbell’s Theology, ed. Royal Humbert (St. Louis: Bethany Press, 1961), 231-34. On Joseph Smith’s doctrine, see D&C 76, and Stan Larson, “The King Follett Discourse, a Newly Amalgamated Text,” Brigham Young University Studies 18 (Winter 1978): 193-208.5

For Wilford and Azmon, individual doctrines seem to have carried less weight than their perception that Mormon beliefs and practices coincided with the Bible. Mormons verified the scriptural authority of their message by offering evidence both similar and fundamentally different for their beliefs and practices than other churches. This evidence came in the form of signs such as healing and speaking in tongues and in direct revelation from God, something that Wilford and Azmon expected because of their reading of the Bible and their past experience with prophets like Robert Mason.

In this connection it is important to understand both the uniqueness of Joseph Smith’s experiences and teachings and their similarities with those of other restorationist religions. Following earlier patterns in Europe and America, ministers of other churches such as Freewill Baptists, Shakers, and even Universalists experienced personal revelations of God’s will as an aid in understanding doctrines. Moreover, religious people seeking understanding proclaimed their enlightenment from personal experiences with Jesus Christ. With some exceptions, these charismatics perceived their experiences as solitary though enlightening and not as a substitute for biblical teachings. In fact most restorationist movements rested their authority on the Bible as a key for interpreting doctrine and practice.time in western European tradition, see Clarke Garrett, Spirit Possession and Popular Religion: From the Camisards to the Shakers (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987). For specific information on the groups mentioned, see Marini, Radical Sects, 66, 48-49, 53, 73-74, 75-77, 86-87, 138, 153; Lambert and Cracroft, “Literary Form and Historical Understanding: Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” Journal of Mormon History 7 (1980): 33-35; Mark A. Noll, “The Image of the United States as a Biblical Nation, 1776-1865,” in The Bible in America: Essays in Cultural History, eds. Nathan O. Hatch and Mark A. Noll (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 39, 60-61, 64-67, 71-73; George M. Marsden, “Everyones’ Own Interpreter?: The Bible, Science, and Authority in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America,” in ibid., 84-85.6 When confronted with Mormon belief and practice, most other ministers and laymen—orthodox or restorationist—labeled Joseph Smith’s revelations blasphemy or delusion, in part because his theophany convinced him that the other churches were wrong.7

Thus as prophet of a new religious tradition, Joseph Smith broke decisively with the orthodox view of religious experience. He proclaimed an open scriptural canon, revised the Bible, announced new revelations, and added new scripture equal in status to the Old and New Testaments.8 For Smith the restoration of ancient things embraced all the old gifts including continuous revelation.

Joseph Smith came to these conclusions after a series of spiritual episodes. Following a profoundly moving personal theophany in which Christ told him not to join any of the existing Churches, he experienced during a four-year period visitations from an angel who led him to the Book of Mormon. In the late 1820s and afterward, he recorded various revelations. Shortly after publication of the Book of Mormon, he restored the primitive church in early April 1830.9

Wilford and Azmon responded favorably to this emphasis on the restoration of ancient spiritual gifts and the announcement of new revelations from God. For them the teachings of Mormon missionaries reflected what their study of the Bible had led them to expect in the restored church. Wilford said that Zera Pulsipher preached “the first gospel sermon that” he had ever heard. He “thought it was what I had long been looking for,” and he “felt much of the spirit of God bearing witness To the Book of Mormon.”10

For a short time Wilford and Azmon worked with visiting missionaries and other converts in spreading the gospel in the Richland, New York, area. In early January Pulsipher organized a Mormon branch in Richland. He also arranged for local leadership by ordaining Azmon Woodruff and Noah Holton as elders and Wilford as a teacher. The Woodruff brothers and Holton visited interested people in company with Harry Brown, James Blakesly, and other missionaries.11

After a series of events that took place early in April 1834, the two brothers moved in separate directions. Wilford devoted virtually the remainder of his life to church service, while Azmon continued farming in New York and withdrew from the church later that year. Although Azmon later rejoined the Saints and moved to Utah, he would never play the central role in Mormonism that his younger brother did.

The call that changed the direction of Wilford’s life came in April 1834 from Parley P. Pratt, an early convert from New York and Ohio and a former Campbellite minister. After this everything else became secondary. Just as his conversion had led him to shed his previous religious life, the experiences following 1834 unburdened him of his former temporal life. Wilford became in the most profound sense a completely new person.

The background for Wilford’s call lay three and a half years earlier in western Missouri. In August 1831 Joseph Smith and a group of Mormon converts originally from Colesville, New York, met near Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, to lay the foundation for an American Zion. Designated as a place of refuge where church members could escape the tribulations preceding Jesus Christ’s second coming, Jackson County was to be the location of a communitarian enterprise called The Law of Consecration and Stewardship or the United Order of Enoch and as a site for a temple for the most sacred rites associated with Mormon worship.12

Between 1831 and 1833 the Mormon community in the Independence area grew to about twelve hundred people.13 The church began publication of a newspaper under the editorship of William W. Phelps, a native of New Hampshire and former New York newspaper editor and politician. Members purchased and consecrated real and personal property to the church and received some of it in return as “inheritances.” They accounted for these to Bishop Edward Partridge, a Massachusetts native and former Campbellite who operated a store in Kirtland, Ohio, before becoming a Mormon. Joseph Smith’s revelations directed each member to return surplus property to Partridge at the end of each year for the creation of inheritances for poor Saints.

As the surge of Mormon converts swelled the Jackson County population, non-Mormon settlers became increasingly apprehensive. The three thousand people who lived in Jackson County before the Mormons came had built a thriving frontier community. Generally from the South and by culture Protestants or rough frontiersmen, these old settlers rejected as fanaticism or knavery the charismatic gifts and prophecy that had attracted the Woodruff brothers and others to the Mormon church. Believing in a closed canon of scripture, they condemned as blasphemous Mormon claims to divine revelation. They noted the absence of slaves among the northern-born Mormons and denounced the impoverished Saints, whom they called “the very dregs of that society from which they came, lazy, idle, and vicious.”14

Mormons defended their unorthodox beliefs and practices and their communitarian lifestyle. Trading with one another, acquiring inheritances, and practicing a new and unpopular restorationist religion, the Saints admitted their relative poverty but claimed that these facets of their religious lives merely provided further evidence of conformity with the New Testament.15

After holding a mass meeting on July 20, 1833, a committee of old settlers presented a list of demands to the Mormons. Insisting that the Saints sell their property and leave Independence, they ordered the newcomers to stop publishing their newspaper and to dismantle their other business enterprises.16 When Mormons refused the demands, the old settlers gathered as a mob. Trashing and demolishing the newspaper office, they destroyed the merchandise in a store owned by Algernon Sidney Gilbert, a Kirtland merchant, and tarred and feathered two men including Bishop Partridge. Between July and November additional vigilante activities led to the expulsion of Mormons from Jackson County, and the Saints fled north across the Missouri River into Clay County.17

Living in Kirtland, Ohio, more than nine hundred miles east of Independence, Joseph Smith and other church leaders relied for their information about Missouri conditions on infrequent correspondence, sketchy or inaccurate newspaper accounts, and delayed reports from travelers.18 On reports from John Corrill, a native of Massachusetts who had converted in Ohio and was then serving as a counselor to Bishop Partridge, Smith concluded that Missouri governor Daniel Dunklin would help them recover their property. Whether such help was forthcoming or not, letters such as Corrill’s and word brought from Missouri by Mormon missionaries such as Parley Pratt and Lyman Wight led church leaders to believe that the expelled Mormons might return to Jackson County and reclaim their inheritances if they could send a force from Kirtland large enough to protect the Missouri Saints.19

On February 24, 1834, at a meeting of the high council in Kirtland called to consider the crisis in Missouri, Joseph Smith received a revelation which provided the plan for a relief expedition, generally called Zion’s Camp.20 The revelation said he was to call eight men including Pratt, to recruit an army of one hundred to five hundred people to help their brothers and sisters in Jackson County.21

After hearing Smith’s announcement, recruiters began to contact Mormon converts throughout the east and midwest about joining the expedition. On April 1, 1834, Pratt came to Richland in the company of Harry Brown, with whom Wilford Woodruff had proselyted before. Wilford doubted at first whether his business interests would allow him to accept the call, but after Pratt advised him that it was his “duty to try to prepare” himself, Wilford “used every exertion to settle” his accounts, arrange his affairs, and equip himself for the march to Missouri. He left Azmon with power of attorney to dispose of the property he could not sell before leaving for Kirtland.22

Parting with Azmon, Elizabeth, and their children on April 11, 1834, he also said goodby to others in the area and hitched up his wagon to cross western New York and eastern Ohio to Kirtland. Traveling with Harry Brown and Warren Ingles, he became acquainted with the network of Latter-day Saints in New York and Ohio. On the way he visited with missionaries such as Pratt’s younger brother Orson and John Murdock, like so many of the early Saints, New York natives and former Campbellites.23

For Wilford this experience became a sacred adventure—a quest for the Holy Grail. One Sabbath on the road, he warmed to sermons by John Murdock and Orson Pratt. Another day the travelers visited a member who had a draft of a plat for the city of Zion, Joseph Smith’s plan for a model community.24

Arriving on April 25 in Kirtland, a village east of Cleveland, Ohio, Wilford spent his short stay immersing himself in the society of this rapidly growing Ohio town. Between November, 1831, when the first Mormon missionaries established a branch in Kirtland, and April, 1834, when Wilford arrived there, the town had grown by about 50 percent to a moderate-sized village of fifteen hundred. Located south of a wide loop in the east branch of the Chagrin River, Kirtland lay on a crossroads formed by the Mentor Road heading north, the Chillicothe Road ambling south, and the Chardon and Willoughby Roads running east and west. Buying farms from Mormons already living in the Kirtland area, the Latter-day Saints slowly occupied the region until in 1834 when approximately four hundred Saints lived there—perhaps one-third of the number of Mormons in Independence. Newell K. Whitney, who owned the main store at the crossroads, invited Joseph Smith and his family to move into part of the store in 1832, and the Mormon prophet was apparently living there when Wilford arrived.25

Wilford and the others soon met with the Mormon leaders. When the travelers arrived they found Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum shooting at targets with a brace of pistols. A handsome, open, and affable man, this prophet, seer, and revelator invited Wilford to stay with him while he remained in Kirtland preparing for the expedition. Joseph gave Wilford a wolf skin to tan, which the prophet planned to use to pad his wagon seat on the journey. The following day Wilford met Heber C. Kimball, a Vermont native who had converted to the church in New York, and Brigham Young, Kimball’s close friend, Vermont native, and former Methodist. Young gave Woodruff a butcher knife and asked him to put a handle on it.26 On Sunday, April 27, Wilford heard sermons from Orson Pratt; Sidney Rigdon, a Pennsylvania native, former Baptist, former Campbellite leader, and first counselor to Joseph Smith; and Orson Hyde, originally from New Haven and a former Methodist and Campbellite. Afterward Wilford remarked that “there was more light made manifest at that meeting respecting the gospel and Kingdom of God than I had ever received from the whole Sectarian world.”27

Although Joseph Smith wanted the entire party to leave Kirtland on May 1, 1834, most were not ready, and less than a tenth of the whole camp departed then. Wilford left with the advance party for New Portage, Ohio, about fifty miles southwest of Kirtland, where they stayed until the remainder of the troops arrived.28

Reaching New Portage on May 6, Smith used a combination of state militia and Old Testament patterns to organize the camp into companies of ten to twelve people. Originally numbering about one hundred men, the army swelled through the addition of recruits along the way and through a party of about twenty men gathered by Joseph’s older brother Hyrum and Lyman Wight in Michigan. At its largest, Zion’s Camp consisted of about 207 men, 11 women, and 11 children. A baggage train of some twenty-five wagons loaded with supplies for the camp and for the Missouri Saints accompanied the marchers. Like an American volunteer militia, each unit elected its own captain and assigned men as cooks, firemen, tentmakers, watermen, wagoners, runners, and commissary. Smith appointed Frederick G. Williams as paymaster or camp banker, entrusted with each recruit’s money. A counselor in the church’s First Presidency, Connecticut native, and physician, Williams owned some of the land in Kirtland that the early Saints settled on. Lyman Wight served as Smith’s second in command, and others were appointed to the prophet’s staff.29

Since Wilford owned his team, wagon, and personal armaments, he occupied a more prominent position than many of the impoverished recruits. Appointed teamster, Woodruff had charge of sixteen horses. Like the others Wilford furnished his own arms, but unlike some with antiquated weapons, Woodruff carried a rifle, sword, dirk, and pistol. Joseph asked for the sword, and Wilford gave it to him.30

Zion’s Camp took a generally straightforward route to Independence. Angling southwestward to Dayton, Ohio, they turned west through Indianapolis and Terre Haute, Indiana, to Springfield and Jacksonville, Illinois. They crossed the Mississippi River at Louisiana, Missouri, and headed north of the Missouri River almost directly west across the Salt River and Fishing River toward Clay County.31

Joseph Smith was immediately worried about securing the safe return of the Saints to Jackson County, and when the camp reached the Salt River he sent Parley Pratt and Orson Hyde to Jefferson City to meet with Governor Dunklin. Waffling on his earlier promise to assist the refugees, the governor refused to call out the militia to protect the Mormons, told them they could not march under arms to protect their friends, and suggested that they apply to the courts for relief. Recognizing that Dunklin’s advice would leave them at the mercy of the Jackson County mob and a bevy of unfriendly judges, the Mormons continued marching west. Encountering a force of perhaps three hundred from Jackson, Ray, and Clay counties on June 19, the camp escaped a potentially disastrous defeat through the intervention of a violent thunderstorm, which poured large hailstones on the unprotected enemy.32 The hail damaged their clothing and arms, scattered their horses, and swelled the Fishing River to an impassible flood. Some of Zion’s Camp saved themselves by taking refuge in a Baptist meeting-house.33 On June 22 after the storm subsided, Sheriff Cornelius Gilliam of Clay County came to the camp to discuss the situation with the Mormons, and the Zion’s Camp leadership wrote a statement of their purposes for public dissemination.34

By this time, however, the hand of Mother Nature had struck the relief army. Beginning on June 21 cholera swept through the camp. In the epidemic’s wake seventy people including Joseph Smith lay stricken and thirteen had died. Warren Ingalls who had accompanied Wilford since he left Richland was one.35

Unable to solve their problems through state intervention or force of arms, the Mormons tried to negotiate a settlement. This too failed, since the old settlers insisted that either they or the Mormons buy all of the other party’s property. The Mormons declined both alternatives because they did not have enough money to buy the old settler’s property and they refused to sell their “inheritences” in Zion. The Saints proposed instead to purchase the land of those who refused to live as their neighbors at the appraised price less the value of damages inflicted upon them by the mobs, paying in cash within a year. The old settlers declined.36

Although Zion’s Camp accomplished none of its temporal aims except furnishing the Missouri Saints with some clothing and supplies, for Wilford and others it fulfilled the spiritual expectations awakened in their conversions and calls. “We travelled,” he said, “like the Children of Israel.” The members of each company prayed together. On Sundays selected brethren preached, and “Joseph often addressed us in the name of the Lord while on our journey, and often while addressing the camp he was Clothed upon with much of the spirit of God.”37 Joseph Smith’s teachings “were very inspiring & Edefying.”38 Unused to such marching, the soldiers endured blistered and bloody feet. The army also had to contend both with spies seeking to thwart their purposes and with the merely curious.39

A number of events along the trek struck Wilford as singularly impressive. Near the Illinois River they found a series of high mounds. While digging in one with other militia members, Milton Holmes found the skeleton of a man with an arrow embedded in his back, who had apparently died in battle. Smith then reported a vision about the man. A soldier by the name of Zelph, he was said to have been one of the ancient Lamanites mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Smith said he had died in battle under the command of a prophet named Onandagus.40 Struck by the find, Woodruff put one of Zelph’s thigh bones in his wagon and carried it to Clay County, Missouri, where he reburied it.41

Other events impressed him with the power of God and the authority of Joseph Smith. After some murmuring in camp, “Brother Joseph prophesied That in consequence of these things . . . a scourge awaited the camp.” God had punished the camp with cholera.42 After all, the people had not imparted “of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them.”43 The hailstorm at Fishing River was “The mandated vengence,. . . gone forth from the God of Battles to protect his servants from the Destruction of their enemies.”44 All things considered, he wrote, the expedition was “a great school for us to be led by a Prophet of God a thousand miles, through cities, towns, villages, and through the wilderness.”45

On June 23, two days after the cholera epidemic began and the day following the revelation chastising the camp for disobedience, the prophet ordered Lyman Wight to disperse the camp, leaving a reserve to care for the sick. Wight invited Woodruff, Milton Holmes, and Heman T. Hyde to spend the summer working for him at Liberty, Clay County. Wight needed capable workers, since he had contracted to make 100,000 bricks and to build a house for Michael Arthur.46 Throughout the summer and early fall Wilford and the others cut wheat, quarried rocks, made brick, and occupied themselves with other labor.47

On July 3, 1834, before returning to Kirtland, Joseph Smith called a meeting in the yard of Michael Arthur’s home where Wight and Woodruff were living to organize a high council to govern general church affairs among the refugees in Clay County. Choosing David Whitmer as president with W. W. Phelps and John Whitmer as assistants, he then called twelve others including Lyman Wight, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, and John Murdock, Wilford’s friend, to the high council. Smith remained in Liberty until July 7, when he left for eastern Clay County and for Kirtland.48

Wilford could have returned either to Kirtland or Richland, but he decided to remain in Liberty, Missouri, because Smith asked those who could to stay with the Saints.49 Wilford’s decision deepened a breach that had developed between him and other family members after he left Richland. In August 1834 Azmon wrote Wilford a letter, which the younger brother did not receive until November, telling him he had left the church. Opposed to Zion’s Camp from the beginning, Azmon proclaimed his pacifistic views. Citing Jesus’ teachings against violence and His admonition to turn the other cheek, Azmon questioned how revelations to Joseph Smith could contradict the Savior’s counsel. He also questioned the terms under which members were counselled to gather to Kirtland or Independence. Moreover, he rejected the counsel that if his wife and children refused to gather to Zion, he should leave them and go himself. This seemed to him to contradict biblical teachings about the responsibility he bore for his family. He found also a basic inconsistency in Smith’s teachings that Kirtland was merely a temporary gathering place. After all, the feverish activity in Ohio, especially the projected temple construction, gave every indication of permanence. Wilford’s brother Thompson, who had joined Azmon in Richland, added a postscript in which he urged Wilford to return home to his family, invoking Aphek’s name in telling Wilford that he had “gone after such erronious principles.”50

In response Wilford clarified both the sorrow he felt at the cleft which separated him and his family and his conviction that he had taken the right course. In an apocalyptic letter he warned of the tribulations to precede the Second Coming. He said he believed that “Lot would have been as safe to have remained in Sodom after being warned to flee out by the Angel of God, as I should have been to have remained in Richland. . . . I believe,” he wrote, “that sword, pestilence, and famine await this generation of the human family, who do not repent and turn unto God, and stand in Holy places.” In turn he pleaded for his family to accept the new revelations of Jesus and denied any internal contradictions in the teachings of Joseph Smith.51

Earlier in the fall Wilford had also written to his parents laying out similar arguments in different terms. God had restored the new and everlasting covenant, he said, to prepare for Jesus’ second coming. The kingdom which God had established as Daniel had prophesied would break the kingdoms of the earth apart and grow to fill the whole earth. Joseph Smith, he wrote, was God’s spokesman who gave true prophecies to the world.52

Convinced of the importance of the work he had entered into, Wilford began to keep a personal journal sometime during the last half of 1834. Seeing it in some sense a counterpart to scripture, he entitled the first volume, “The first Book of Willford.” For him the journal testified that God had received him into the new and everlasting covenant, that he stood as a witness “for the gospel of Jesus Christ,” that he willingly followed the Savior “through evil as well as good,” and that he had surrendered “himself a living sacrifice holy and acceptable unto God.” Believing in the benefit of reviewing his past life and in the duty and privilege of keeping an accurate account of his present activities, he proposed to write “a journal of my travels that when required I may give an account of my stewardship.”53

Next he took steps to consecrate himself to the work of Jesus Christ. Lyman Wight, with whom he was living, recommended Wilford, Stephen Winchester, and Heman T. Hyde, all former Zion’s Camp members, for ordination as priests. The high council approved Wight’s recommendation on November 5, 1834.54 Then desiring to serve a mission, Wilford prayed about the matter, and after Elias Higbee told him he had a strong impression that he should serve, Bishop Edward Partridge called him to preach in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Woodruff asked Harry Brown to accompany him, perhaps because as a priest he could baptize but could not gift the converts with the Holy Ghost.55

On December 31 he consecrated all of his property to the church. Valued at $240, his possessions included a trunk of books, his weapons, personal items, and $150 in uncollectible notes. He did this, to become “a lawful heir to the Kingdom of God even the Celestial Kingdom.” Following the biblical model, he traveled without purse or scrip.56

Leaving on January 13, 1835, Woodruff and Brown walked south from Liberty. Crossing the Missouri River into Jackson County with some fear, they traveled in a southeastern direction through Missouri and across the border into Fayetteville, Arkansas. From there they continued south through Washington and Crawford counties in western Arkansas and then turned eastward paralleling the Arkansas River into Pope County where they remained for two weeks.57

Still a sparsely settled territory, most of Arkansas had not passed the frontier stage when Woodruff and Brown began proselyting there. The federal government had only recently extinguished Indian claims, and dueling settled personal disputes for years to come.58

More heavily settled than western Arkansas, Pope County stretched from the Arkansas River on the south northward into the Boston Mountain chain of the Ozarks. Its numerous valleys contained rich alluvial sandy loam and produced abundant crops.59

Although they baptized two people in Pope County, the missionaries encountered some opposition, and Brown became anxious to move on to Tennessee, since he wanted to return to his family in Kirtland. After considering the matter they agreed to follow the Arkansas River to its confluence with the Mississippi. Cutting down a large cottonwood tree, they hollowed out a log into a dugout canoe and began to paddle down the Arkansas. At Dardanelle they met Frederick Sangrain, a local trader, who agreed to take them down the river in his covered boat in return for several days’ labor. They worked for Sangrain, but because of low water the heavy-draft boat would not float in the river and they had to continue in their dugout.

They altered their plans, perhaps after a conversation with Isaac Jones who lived about ten miles down the river from Little Rock. Deciding to travel the military road running northeast from Little Rock to Memphis, they retraced their route by land to Little Rock. They may have regretted their decision because when they found the road—which approximated the route of current Highway 40—was poorly marked, largely uncleared, virtually ungraded, and obstructed by swamps, rivers, and creeks.

By March 24, perhaps sixty miles west of the Mississippi, Brown had become even more anxious to get to his family at Kirtland. Unfortunately exposure to the cold swampy conditions had inflicted one of Woodruff’s knees with rheumatic pain so he could not walk. Instead of staying to help his companion, Brown decided to press on alone to Memphis where he could catch a steamer for an Ohio River port. Left alone on a stump, Woodruff commented with perhaps a bit of understatement that although he “did not object to the proposition . . . [he thought he would] not be willing to leave a lame companion in the ministry in an open swamp without knowing whether he would ever be able to walk far enough to again meet with any company more acceptable than the wolves, bears, and alegators with which he was surrounded.” Woodruff sat on the log until Brown passed from sight, then knelt down and prayed to be healed. The “Lord,” he said, “heard my prayer and the Spirit of God descended upon me and I was healed and I arose and went my way rejoicing.”60

Woodruff continued on to Memphis. He then headed east and north, eventually landing in the Tennessee River Valley. He walked east on what now approximates Highway 64 through Somerville and Bolivar, turned north into Madison and Henderson counties, then continued on into the counties of Humphreys, Carol, Henry, and what later became Benton in Tennessee and Calloway in Kentucky.

He traveled without money and relied on the largess of the public for his support. On more than one occasion he had to beg for a meal or place to stay, and in a Memphis tavern he agreed to preach to a crowd of agnostic dandies in return for food and lodging.61 In Tennessee one of the local converts loaned him a horse to use while riding his circuit.

The region in which Woodruff proselyted in 1835 had already come under the strong influence of Methodists, Baptists, and Disciples. The majority of those whom Woodruff and his companions baptized were former Disciples and Baptists.62 Most of these were yeoman farmers who held primitivist and restorationist views similar to the Mormons.63 They converted fewer Methodists since rather than holding to intensely primitivist beliefs, American Wesleyans tended to mingle a distinctive blend of “primitivism and churchliness.”64 The failure to convert southern Methodists may also have been a regional anomaly, since some northern Methodists like Brigham Young converted to Mormonism.65 Woodruff’s experiences in Pope County, Arkansas, and in the Tennessee River counties of Tennessee and Kentucky support historian George Ellsworth’s conclusion that converts generally came from rural rather than frontier areas.66

The largest group of converts in the Tennessee River Valley came from the recently organized and highly restorationist Campbellites. In 1832 the followers of Barton W. Stone in Kentucky, Tennessee, and other western states united with Campbell’s and Scott’s churches in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia to form a larger denomination of Christian restorationists.67 The Disciples were a decidedly new church in the Tennessee Valley area. In Paris, Henry County, for instance, although Stone’s followers had boasted a number of members in the area for some time, the Disciples built their first meeting house in 1833.68

Wilford moved into the work of proselyting among these people in western Tennessee with considerable energy, accompanied by companions more dedicated than Brown. On April 4, 1835, in Humphreys County, Tennessee, Woodruff joined with Warren Parrish, who with David W. Patten had come from Kirtland to proselyte in the area. The two had established a 130-mile-long circuit of small branches in the Tennessee Valley.69 These stretched from Eagle Creek on the west side of the Tennessee River south of its junction with Duck River in what was shortly to become Benton County through Carroll County on the west, Humphreys County on the east, and Henry County to the north. It also included the southwestern Kentucky county of Calloway.70

Patten returned home and Woodruff joined Parrish in traveling the circuit from one branch to another. They preached, tended the flocks, and baptized new members until July 23, 1835, when Parrish left for Kirtland in response to a request from Oliver Cowdery, assistant president of the church, announcing Parrish’s call to the First Quorum of Seventy.71

Prior to leaving on June 28, Parrish ordained Woodruff an elder and assigned him to take charge of the work in the Tennessee Valley. Woodruff continued to labor alone until December 2, 1835, when Elders Elias F. Wells and Daniel Cathcart arrived.72 Thereafter the three occasionally proselyted and preached together.

During a February 1836 conference held at Terrapin, Calloway County, Kentucky, Woodruff ordained Abraham O. Smoot an elder and called him to proselyte with him in Tennessee. He also assigned Cathcart and newly-ordained elder Benjamin Boydston to work in Kentucky. Wells was to work alone. Shortly afterwards, on April 19, Woodruff learned that church leaders had changed his assignment. Elder David W. Patten, called to the recently organized Council of the Twelve Apostles, had returned to assume direction of Tennessee and Kentucky. Since Joseph Smith had assigned the Twelve to supervise missionary work outside the main centers or “stakes” of the church, Patten now superseded Woodruff. Patten also told Woodruff the Saints had dedicated a temple in Kirtland and that Smith had begun to administer an ordinance called the endowment. In addition, Woodruff heard that Smith had organized the Second Quorum of the Seventy and that the prophet had called him as a quorum member.73

Patten placed Woodruff and Smoot on a circuit of branches that included several counties in western Kentucky and a couple of Tennessee counties drained by rivers flowing into the Mississippi rather than into the Tennessee. These included Weakley and Gibson counties in Tennessee and McCracken, Graves, and Calloway counties in Kentucky. Patten and Warren Parrish, who had returned to Tennessee in time for a conference on May 28, took over the Tennessee Valley district or “conference.” Parrish had established the circuit earlier.74 Woodruff worked in the area until October 25, 1836, when he returned to Kirtland.75

In late August a company led by Thomas B. Marsh, president of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, and Elisha H. Groves of the Missouri high council came to Tennessee and Kentucky to borrow money to purchase lands in Missouri. On September 2 and 3, following Marsh’s arrival, the missionaries and members in Tennessee and Kentucky held a conference in Damon Creek, Calloway County, Kentucky. Each of the elders represented the branches they had worked with. Woodruff represented a small branch on Thompson Creek in Weakley County, Tennessee, which he, Smoot, and Patten had established. During the conference the elders agreed to ask the presidents of the Seventies in Kirtland to assign more missionaries to the region. They also established a system for keeping records in the “Tennessee conference” as it was called. As the conference ended those present donated money to assist Woodruff in returning to Kirtland.76

The area Woodruff represented had been settled for some time. Settlers had begun to move into Thompson Creek and the west Tennessee counties that formed the core of Woodruff’s circuit about fifteen years earlier, and the area had passed from frontier wilderness to rural cultivation. The immigrants had generally come from the southeast by wagon, using rafts to float their belongings across the Tennessee River. They ordinarily had to blaze roads through the forest and barrens. By 1830 a mail route with a twice weekly stage reached into Dresden, the county seat of Weakley County, located about six miles west of Thompson Creek. Originally the settlers lived in floorless rough log cabins, using furniture fashioned from green lumber. Most grew corn first and then added wheat, cotton, and tobacco. By the time Woodruff arrived, most had constructed more comfortable homes and brought in furniture. Many of the streams, including Thompson Creek, drove water-powered mills.77 Not carrying the strong tradition of public education Woodruff had experienced in Connecticut, the people of west Tennessee ordinarily had to finance schools—if their children attended at all—through tuition or subscription.78

Working with frontier and country people from the time he left Liberty, Missouri, in January 1835 through his departure from Paducah, Kentucky, in October 1836, Wilford Woodruff felt a strong sense of mission and destiny. The incidents recorded in his journal and particularly those he embellished in his autobiography reveal a man convinced he was a missionary-warrior in the service of God. Standing under the umbrella of divine protection, Woodruff felt a strong sense of antagonism toward those who opposed the work. He recognized that opposition could succeed in the short run but was confident that the work of the Lord would triumph in the end.

Extremely antagonistic toward ministers of other churches, Woodruff possessed a strong anti-clerical bent characteristic of many in post-Revolutionary United States. Like Woodruff, many Americans saw professional ministers as oppressors of the people. Often when ministers of other churches opposed his work, he would refer to Baptist, Disciple, and Methodist ministers as “priests.”79

His anti-clericalism is especially pronounced in some accounts not included in his journal but written for his autobiography in the late nineteenth century. In one case, for instance, he contrasted the kind Osage Indians with a particularly perverse Presbyterian minister who gave them false directions.80

While on this mission Woodruff also felt a sense of malevolent opposition to his work coupled with confidence that he could overcome the enemy. On at least one occasion, he and Smoot cleansed their bodies with water and then washed their hands and feet as a testimony against a Benton County, Tennessee mob and against people in Paris, Tennessee, “who rejected our testimony.”81

In a similar sense of opposition and triumph, Woodruff had a dream while sleeping at William Riley’s home in Scott County, Arkansas, the substance of which was to occur again in different forms and at other times. In the dream he saw his companion and himself walking into a room filled with large serpents. He tried to avoid going through the room but could not. Stepping inside, he trusted his life to God, but as he reached the center of the floor, snakes surrounded him and sprang at him. This led him at first to despair, believing they would devour him. One larger than the others struck at his face but dropped dead before it could reach him. The other snakes also dropped dead and burst into flames. Wilford was able to walk through the room unharmed.82

The dream occurred several days before he and Brown entered Pope County, Arkansas, where they met Willis and Alexander Akeman, a member and lapsed member of the church, and Jonathan Hubbel, whom they later baptized. In retrospect Woodruff considered the dream a prophetic foreshadowing of events that followed.83

Alexander Akeman had become hostile toward the church after the Missouri persecutions and had left the Saints to move to Arkansas. Shortly after Woodruff and Brown arrived, Akeman walked out of his house and fell dead in his front yard. In comparing the journal account made near the time of the event with the autobiographical account written a number of years later, one finds embellishments which emphasize providential intervention. In his journal Woodruff reports that on February 14, 1835, he “was suddenly Called to a house of mourning which was Mr. Alexander Akeman’s. He had walked out of his house and droped dead upon the ground. In a few moments all his Sons and daughters were present.”

The autobiographical account stresses Woodruff’s belief that God led him to Akeman’s place and that Akeman’s death came as punishment for opposing the work of the Lord. The autobiographical account reads in part: “The spirit of the Lord came upon me like a rushing mighty wind & the voice of the spirit said to me go up again & visit Mr. Akeman and again bear testimony unto him of the truth of the Book of Mormon & the work of God. . . . I told him I had come to again bear testimony unto him of the truth of the Book of Mormon & the work of God, in the danger of opposing that work. He soon was filled with wrath & indignation and he opposed me in the strongest terms, and raged against the leaders of the Church. . . . I felt that the house was filled with devils & awful darkness. I felt Horribly. I did not understand why the Lord should send me into the midst of such spirits to hear . . . [illegible] of his work. I felt very strangely my tongue was glued to my mouth. I could not speak. I arose to my feet to leave the house. I felt as though the floor . . . [illegible] under my feet & when I steped upon the ground I felt that I was surrounded with devils and I felt like fleeing as Lot did when He went out of Sodom, without looking behind me. Mr. Akeman followed me out of the door close to my heels about 8 rods without either of us speaking. I know he was following close to me when about 8 rods from the House this strange feeling left me in a twinkling of an Eye and when Mr. Akeman got to the place where this feeling left me he fell dead at my feet as though he had been struck with a thunderbolt from Heaven.”84

Other charismatic manifestations occurred. Several days before they baptized Jonathan Hubble and his wife, Woodruff and Brown preached to their household. Brown spoke in tongues and offered his own interpretation. Woodruff concluded that “The Spirit of God rested upon us.”85 On other occasions they laid hands on the heads of people to heal them.86 At another time after he and a party of five men and two women lost their way in a severe storm, a “light suddenly Shone around about us without either Sun Moon or Stars so that we were able to reach a hous whare we received directions & procured some torches to serve us as lights.”87

The success they enjoyed in the Tennessee Valley generated opposition. On a number of occasions, he and others faced mobs, particularly in Benton County, Tennessee. In mid-July 1836 Woodruff learned that Sheriff Robert C. Petty of Benton County had arrested David Patten and Warren Parrish on a warrant that included Wilford’s name. Issued on complaint of a Methodist “priest,” the warrant alleged that the Mormons had taught “that Christ would come in this generation & that . . . some individuals would receive the Holy Ghost in 24 hours.” Patten and Parrish gave bonds for their appearance in court, enduring what Woodruff called a “mock trial” at which the judge freed them in spite of mob pressure.88

At times, however, some non-Mormons came to their defense. In June 1836 Woodruff went to a meetinghouse on Thompson Creek to preach. The Baptist “priest” told the church deacon to “forbid my preaching in the house.” He then “commenced a tirade of abuse against the Mormons.” Woodruff let the people know that he still wanted to preach, and “all the congregation, with the exception of the minister and one deacon, arose and left the house, walked across the street and formed seats of a worm fence, and gave good attention while I preached for an hour and a half on the principles of the gospel.” Particularly vocal in his defense of Woodruff on that occasion, a Baptist named Randolph Alexander converted to Mormonism shortly thereafter.people are afraid of him.”89

In addition to proselyting, and in a pattern that would continue on subsequent missions, Woodruff also found time to continue his studies. During his mission, he tackled stenography and Hebrew and reacquainted himself with English grammar.90 On the way home he spent a day reading Elihu Palmer’s Principles of Nature, a book on deism.91

In some cases the missionaries had to resolve problems caused by their own colleagues. On one occasion they had to deal with dissension in several branches resulting from a mistaken interpretation of “the Law of the Church &c by Elder [Daniel] Cathcart.”92 After an elder’s court, Cathcart “confessed his faults & asked forgiveness, which was granted him on condition that he would repair the wrongs Which he had done in the different branches of the church.”93

During the same period Woodruff attempted to rebuild his relationship with relatives. This was difficult because of his intense commitment to Mormonism and his family’s opposition to its teachings. His response to a letter from Azmon and Thompson apparently widened the breach between them, since their next encounter was extremely cold.94

Far from softening his prose, Wilford’s letters continued to carry a strong apocalyptic tone. His belief that the church and its members were an embattled minority carrying the message of Jesus Christ against the hosts of “Priestcraft & spiritual wickedness in high places” came through forcefully.95 Under the circumstances, he said, he justified forsaking “Parents, Brethren, Sisters, houses, lands to go forth as a lamb among wolfs to assist in pruning the vineyard for the last time.” He testified to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, of Joseph Smith’s revelations, and of the restoration of the primitive church.96 With his strong convictions he wanted very much for his parents and other relatives to hear and accept the gospel as well.97

The response of his family was either neutral or negative. Azmon and Thompson rejected his appeals as did Aphek, Azubah, and Eunice at first. Asahel, who had moved to Ohio by 1835 on his way to Terre Haute and who shared more of Wilford’s earliest searching than any other family member with the possible exception of Azmon, took an essentially agnostic attitude. Rejecting the anti-Mormon attacks of newspapers and unfavorable public commentary, he argued that he “advocated the [Mormon] cause but not so much from a belief that it . . . is a true Church as that it has been misrepresented wilfully and malignantly.”98

Attitudes of indifference or antagonism from family members did not deter Woodruff from responding dutifully to various calls. This included the call to leave the Tennessee conference and return to Kirtland. On October 25, 1836, he, Smoot, and Jesse Turpin boarded a steamer in Padukah, Kentucky, en route to Kirtland. Woodruff and Smoot detoured to Owenton, Kentucky, to visit Smoot’s relatives. They arrived on election day and voted for Democrats Martin Van Buren and Richard Johnson. They reached Kirtland on November 25, following steamboat and overland journeys.20 Oct. 1836.99

The sight of Kirtland led Wilford to reflect on his past experiences. Absent from the Mormon community for two and a half years, he had traveled more than 8,000 miles and had baptized seventy people. Zion’s Camp and his southern mission had unburdened his mind and soul of his Protestant and independent restorationist past, infusing his spirit with a single-minded commitment to Mormonism.100 No matter what would happen in the future, he wrote, “I shall remember the scene of my spiritual youth, and the first fruits of my ministry.” They are, he said, “bound to me closer than the ties of consanguinity; yea, even by the ties of the blood of Christ: and while time may sever ties of consanguinity, eternity cannot break the ties of celestial love that disembogues from the fount of eternal life.”101

Thus, between his conversion in December 1833 and his return to Kirtland in 1836, Woodruff responded to his deeply felt convictions by accepting calls to serve under the most severe conditions. The search for God’s errand became his wholly consuming ambition. Intolerant of the failings of others, he sacrificed personal and family connections for the sake of the Mormon gospel. The choices of his brothers and parents to reject Mormonism gnawed at his soul, causing considerable inner conflict, but he resisted the temptation to join them because he believed God had called him to the Lord’s mission.

1. For a discussion of these developments, see Alan Heimert, Religion and the American Mind from the Great Awakening to the Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1966), esp. viii, 5, 10, 18, 19, 98; C. C. Goen, Revivalism and Separatism in New England, 1740-1800: Strict Congregationalists and Separate Baptists in the Great Awakening (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1987), 13-15, 33; Stephen A. Marini, Radical Sects of Revolutionary New England (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), 70-75, 78-79, 87; Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People, 2 vols. (Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1975 [orig. ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972]), 1:529-30. Ahlstrom points out that from about 31,000 members in 1800 Methodism grew to more than a million in 1844.
2. Ahlstrom, Religious History of the American People, 1: 532-35.
3. See Nathan O. Hatch, “The Christian Movement and the Demand for a Theology of the People,” Journal of American History 67 (Dec. 1980): 545-67.
4. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984).
5. On the Disciples of Christ, see Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People, 1:529-30, 540-48; Bill J. Humble, “The Restoration Ideal in the Churches of Christ,” in The American Quest for the Primitive Church, ed. Richard T. Hughes (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1988), 220-31; Hatch, “The Christian Movement and the Demand for a Theology of the People,” 545-67. For general treatments of the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, see James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), and Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton, The Mormon Experience (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1979). On perfectionism in the Disciples’ doctrines, see Alexander Campbell, A Compend of Alexander Campbell’s Theology, ed. Royal Humbert (St. Louis: Bethany Press, 1961), 231-34. On Joseph Smith’s doctrine, see D&C 76, and Stan Larson, “The King Follett Discourse, a Newly Amalgamated Text,” Brigham Young University Studies 18 (Winter 1978): 193-208.
6. There are, of course, some exceptions to this generalization—Jakob Boahme and Emanuel Swedenbourg come to mind. For a general treatment of personal revelation over time in western European tradition, see Clarke Garrett, Spirit Possession and Popular Religion: From the Camisards to the Shakers (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987). For specific information on the groups mentioned, see Marini, Radical Sects, 66, 48-49, 53, 73-74, 75-77, 86-87, 138, 153; Lambert and Cracroft, “Literary Form and Historical Understanding: Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” Journal of Mormon History 7 (1980): 33-35; Mark A. Noll, “The Image of the United States as a Biblical Nation, 1776-1865,” in The Bible in America: Essays in Cultural History, eds. Nathan O. Hatch and Mark A. Noll (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 39, 60-61, 64-67, 71-73; George M. Marsden, “Everyones’ Own Interpreter?: The Bible, Science, and Authority in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America,” in ibid., 84-85.
7. See, for instance, Alexander Campbell, Delusions, An Analysis of the Book of Mormon With an Examination of its Internal and External Evidences, and a Refutation of its Pretences to Divine Authority With Prefatory Remarks by Joshua V. Himes (Boston: Benjamine H. Greene, 1832); originally published in Millennial Harbinger, 7 Feb. 1831.
8. The scholars are historian Jan Shipps and sociologist Rodney Stark. For Shipps’s views, see Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985). For Stark’s views see “The Rise of a New World Faith,” Review of Religious Research 26 (Sept. 1984): 18-27, and Stark and William Sims Bainbridge, The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival, and Cult Formation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985). For a discussion of the inspired revision or translation of the Bible, see Robert Matthews, “A Plainer Translation”: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible: A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1975).
9. For a discussion of these events, see Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), esp. chaps. 2-4.
10. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833-1898, Typescript, 9 vols., ed. Scott G. Kenney (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983-85), 1:6 (Dec. 1833); Wilford Woodruff, “Autobiography of Wilford Woodruff,” 34, photocopy in my possession. See also Wilford Woodruff to Aphek Woodruff, Richland, New York, 15 Mar. 1834, photocopy, Aphek Woodruff Collection, archives, Historical Department Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah; hereafter LDS archives.
11. Woodruff, Journal, 7 (Jan.-Apr. 1833); idem., “Autobiography,” 36.
12. For a discussion of the Law of Consecration and Stewardship, see Leonard J. Arrington, Feramorz Y. Fox, and Dean L. May, Building the City of God: Community and Cooperation Among the Mormons (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976). On the events in Missouri, see Milton V. Backman, Jr., The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830-1838 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983), 69; Joseph Smith, Jr., et al., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Period I, History of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, by Himself, ed. Brigham H. Roberts, 7 vols., 2d ed. rev. (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1948-51), 1:196; hereafter HC, followed by volume and page.
13. For a discussion of the development of the Mormon community in Missouri, see Warren A. Jennings, “Zion is Fled: The Expulsion of the Mormons from Jackson County, Missouri,” Ph.D. diss., University of Florida, 1962, 10-118; the statistic is on p. 105.
14. HC 1:374-76 reproduces a document written by the leaders of those in Missouri who attacked the saints and wanted them to leave.
15. HC 1:376-77n quoting Parley P. Pratt’s History of the Persecution of the Saints, 26-29.
16. For a full list of the demands, see Jennings, “Zion is Fled,” 138-41.
17. Backman, The Heavens Resound, 164-73.
18. Woodruff counted 902 road miles from Kirtland, Ohio, to Liberty, Missouri. Woodruff, Journal, 1:15 (Dec. 1834).
19. Backman, The Heavens Resound, 173-74.
20. For a discussion of the situation, see Warren A. Jennings, “The Army of Israel Marches into Missouri,” Missouri Historical Review 62 (Jan. 1968): 108. For a detailed treatment of Zion’s Camp, see Roger D. Launius, Zion’s Camp: Expedition to Missouri, 1834 (Independence, MO: Herald House, 1984).
21. D&C 103.
22. Woodruff, Journal, 1:7 (Jan.-Apr. 1834); idem., “Autobiography,” 36; Wilford Woodruff to Aphek and Azubah Woodruff, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri, 26 Sept. 1834, photocopy, Aphek Woodruff Family Papers, LDS archives.
23. Woodruff, Journal, 1:7-8 (Jan.-Apr. 1834).
24. Ibid. (Apr. 1834). On the Zelph story, see Kenneth W. Godfrey, “The Zelph Story,” Brigham Young University Studies 29 (Spring 1989): 31-56.
25. Backman, The Heavens Resound, 137-40, and maps on 72, 76, 78.
26. Wilford Woodruff, Leaves from My Journal, Third Book of the Faith-promoting Series, 2d ed. (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1882), 5.
27. Woodruff, Journal, 1:8-9 (Apr.-May 1834); idem., “Autobiography,” 37-38.
28. Woodruff, Journal, 1:9 (Apr.-May 1834).
29. Backman, The Heavens Resound, 182-85.
30. Woodruff, “Autobiography,” 40.
31. Backman, The Heavens Resound, 183-90, see esp. map, p. 183.
32. On the size of the army, see Jennings, “Army of Israel Marches into Missouri,” 128.
33. Backman, The Heavens Resound, 190-91.
34. Jennings, “Army of Israel Marches into Missouri,” 130-31.
35. Backman, The Heavens Resound, 194-95. On the inner workings of Zion’s camp, see Peter Crawley and Richard L. Anderson, “The Political and Social Realities of Zion’s Camp,” Brigham Young University Studies 14 (Summer 1974): 406-20.
36. Backman, The Heavens Resound, 191-92.
37. Woodruff, Journal, 1:9-10 (Apr.-May 1834).
38. Woodruff, “Autobiography,” 40.
39. Ibid.; idem., Journal, 1:10.
40. Ibid. (May 1834).
41. Woodruff, Leaves from My Journal, 6.
42. Woodruff, Journal, 1:12 (June 1834).
43. D&C 105:2-4; Woodruff, “Autobiography,” 46.
44. Ibid., 44-45.
45. Woodruff, Leaves from My Journal, 6.
46. Woodruff, Journal, 1:12-13 (June-July 1834); idem., “Autobiography,” 49.
47. Woodruff, Leaves from My Journal, 8.
48. HC 2:122-24, 135.
49. Woodruff, “Autobiography,” 49.
50. Azmon and Thompson Woodruff to Wilford Woodruff, Richland, 9 Aug. 1834. Wilford did not receive the letter until November. Woodruff, “Autobiography,” 51-56.
51. Wilford Woodruff to Azmon and Thompson Woodruff, 29 Nov. 1834; Woodruff, “Autobiography,” 56-63.
52. Wilford Woodruff to Aphek and Azubah Woodruff, Liberty, Missouri, 26 Sept. 1834, Aphek Woodruff Family Papers, LDS archives. See Dan. 2:31-45.
53. Woodruff, Journal, 1:3. At the beginning of each year for some time he added a new title. Thus his journal for 1836 became “The Second Book of Willford for 1836,” apparently since he began it at the first of the year rather than late in the previous year as in the case of the first book.
54. Woodruff, Journal, 1:13-14 (Nov. 1834).
55. Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 13 Jan. 1835, LDS archives (hereafter JH); Woodruff, “Autobiography,” 65. The reasons for asking Brown are not clear in existing records. Brown was not actually called to go on the mission but agreed to go as a companion to Wilford.
56. Woodruff, Journal, 1:16 (31 Dec. 1834).
57. Ibid., 1:17-22 (13 Jan.-22 Feb. 1835).
58. In 1838 when Congress outlawed dueling in the District of Columbia, Senator Ambrose H. Sevier of Arkansas cast the lone dissenting vote because, he said, “men will not be able to give satisfaction to those we abuse.” Harry S. Ashmore, Arkansas: A Bicentennial History (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978), 39.
59. Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Western Arkansas (Chicago and Nashville: The Southern Publishing Company, 1891), 193-96.
60. Woodruff, “Autobiography,” 81.
61. Woodruff, Journal, 1:25 (27 Mar. 1835); Woodruff, “Autobiography,” 82-84.
62. This conclusion is based on Woodruff’s journal notations. For the religious composition of the area, see Jonathan K. T. Smith, Benton County (Memphis: Memphis State University Press, 1979), 74-81. Smith says that the Disciples first entered the area in 1866, but this does not correspond with Woodruff’s numerous diary references to Campbellites in the area.
63. See T. Scott Miyakawa, Protestants and Pioneers: Individualism and Conformity on the American Frontier (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), 29-30, 45-53, 80.
64. Albert C. Outler, “‘Biblical Primitivism’ in Early American Methodism,” in The American Quest for the Primitive Church, ed. Richard T. Hughes (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988), 137-38.
65. For a discussion of the general rates of conversion in various areas, see Laurence Milton Yorgason, “Some Demographic Aspects of One Hundred Early Mormon Converts, 1830-1837,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1974.
66. See S. George Ellsworth, “A History of Mormon Missions in the United States and Canada, 1830-1860,” Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1951.
67. Ahlstrom, Religous History of the American People, 1:548.
68. History of Tennessee From the Earliest Time to the Present . . . (Nashville: Goodspeed, 1887), 650, 693, 700-703.
69. Woodruff used the term circuit in both his journal and autobiography to refer to these branches. Woodruff’s autobiography indicates that David W. Patten was in Tennessee at that time as well. The journal, however, seems to indicate that Patten did not arrive until later.
70. Eagle Creek was located in Benton County after its creation in 1836. For a list of the settlers see Smith, Benton County, 27.
71. Woodruff, Journal, 1:26-39 (4 Apr.-23 June 1835).
72. Ibid., 1:50 (2 Dec. 1835).
73. Ibid., 1:67 (19 Apr. 1836).
74. Ibid., 1:72, 78 (28 May, 10 June 1836).
75. Ibid., 1:78-102 (10 June-25 Oct. 1836).
76. Ibid., 1:88-93 (29 Aug.-5 Sept. 1836).
77. Virginia C. Vaughan, Weakley County (Memphis: Memphis State University, 1983), 13-14, 28-29, 38, 43.
78. Vaughan, Weakley County, 22-23.
79. Woodruff, Journal, 1:28, 38, 45, 51 (23 May, 20 July, 18 Oct., 20 Dec. 1835).
80. Woodruff, “Autobiography,” 67, 68.
81. Woodruff, Journal, 1:100-101 (12 Oct. 1836).
82. Woodruff, “Autobiography,” 72.
83. Ibid., 73, 75-76. He does not mention the dream in his journal.
84. Woodruff, Journal, 1:21 (14 Feb. 1835). Woodruff continued: “His daughter stood in the door way saw him fall. She fainted & fell at the same time & neither of them spoke a word that I could hear. I continued to walk down to Mr. Hubbels as fast as I could meditating upon the strange dealings of God with me, still not knowing that Mr. Akeman was dead. I arrived at Mr. Hubble’s just at dark in a peculiar state of Mind. Supper was ready, we all sat down at the table[.] blessing was asked, I took up my knife & fork to commence eating and I heard a horse coming upon a full run. I dropped my knife & fork & . . . and a man rode up to our door and cried out Mr. Akeman is dead I want you to go there immediately. In a moment my eyes were open to understand the whole subject. I felt satisfied with the dealings of God with me in calling me to go & warn him. As soon as his daughter came to her senses she ran to her nearest brothers & gave the alarm. We walked up to the house as soon as we could. When we arrived there we found all of his sons in the house around his body wailing in an awful manner. He was naturally a large man but when we came to see his dead body it was swollen to a great extent. It appeared as though his skin was ready to crack open & he was as black as an Affrican. We immediately went to Work & made a large box and put him into it.” Woodruff, “Autobiography,” 75-76.
85. Woodruff, Journal, 1:22 (20 Feb. 1835).
86. Ibid., 1:60 (28 Feb. 1836).
87. Ibid., 1:48 (15 Nov. 1835).
88. Ibid., 1:83; JH, 19 July 1836.
89. JH, 29 June 1836. One of the Thompson County settlers named Randolph Alexander, hearing a Mormon elder preach for the first time, announced: “The people of the present day made him think of a pen of hogs; the keeper would make a trough, and pour into it hot or cold water, dish water or anything else, and they would drink it; but let a stranger come along and pour over a basket of corn on the back side of the pen, and the hogs would be frightened and run and snort all over the pen. He said it was so with the people; the priests would feed them with any kind of doctrine, no matter how false, the people will swallow it down, but let a stranger come and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, which will save the people, as Mr. Woodruff has done, and the people are afraid of him.”
90. Woodruff, Journal, 1:40, 52, 69 (3 Aug., 24 Dec. 1835, 5 May 1836).
91. Ibid., 1:104 (5 Nov. 1836).
92. Ibid., 1:65 (7 Apr. 1836).
93. Ibid., 1:73 (28 May 1836).
94. Ibid., 1:149-50 (4 June 1837).
95. Wilford Woodruff to Aphek and Azubah Woodruff, Paris, Henry County, Tennessee, 25 Apr. 1836, Wilford Woodruff Unprocessed Correspondence, LDS archives; idem. to idem., 9 Dec. 1835, Aphek Woodruff Collection, ibid.
96. Wilford Woodruff to Aphek and Azubah Woodruff, Paris, Henry County, Tennessee, 25 Aug. 1836, Wilford Woodruff Unprocessed Correspondence, LDS archives.
97. Wilford Woodruff to Aphek and Azubah Woodruff, Eagle Creek, Benton County, Tennessee, 9 May 1836, Wilford Woodruff Unprocessed Correspondence, LDS archives.
98. Asahel Woodruff to Wilford Woodruff, Portsmouth, Ohio, 9 Sept. 1835, Asahel Woodruff Correspondence, Wilford Woodruff Collection, LDS archives.
99. Woodruff, Journal, 1:102-106 (25 Oct.-25 Nov. 1836); JH, 20 Oct. 1836.
100. In a real sense the experience affected Woodruff in ways similar to modern thought reform by destroying for the time being not only his commitment to previous beliefs but also to his family. See William Sargant, Battle for the Mind: A Physiology of Conversion and Brain-washing (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957), 148-58. On the other hand Woodruff worked for their conversion and was reconciled rapidly to them.
101. JH, 25 Nov. 1836.