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Healing the Ox

From the Life of Joseph F. Smith

Mary Fielding Smith

We moved smoothly until we reached a point about midway between the Platte and Sweetwater, when one of our best oxen laid down in the yoke as if poisoned and all supposed he would die. At this Father Lott came up, and seeing the cause of the disturbance he blustered about as if the world were about at an end. “There,” said he, “I told you [that] you would have to be helped and that you would be a burden on the company.”

Producing a bottle of consecrated oil, Widow Smith asked her brother and James Lawson if they would please administer to the ox just as they would do to a sick person. . . .Her earnest plea was complied with. These brethren poured oil on the head of the ox and then laid their hands upon it and rebuked the power of the destroyer just as they would have done if the animal had been a human being. Immediately the ox got up and within a very few moments again pulled in the yoke as if nothing had ever happened. This was a great astonishment to the company.

Before the company had proceeded very far, another of her oxen fell down as the first, but with the same treatment he also got up, and this was repeated a third time; by administration the oxen were fully healed. Widow Smith was not disturbed again until the company reached the Rattlesnake bend on the Sweetwater. At this place, Old Bully, one of the old oxen, laid down and died of sheer old age. He was hardly missed, however, as he had been unable to render but little service for some time. 1

Joseph F. Smith in Young Woman’s Journal

Joseph F. Smith

We journeyed on, meeting with mishaps, losing our oxen, etc. At one time, I remember, one of our oxen, ‘Old Buck’ was taken sick and the captain said: ‘It will die, unyoke it, and leave it,’ closing his remarks with, ‘I told you that you would be a burden to your company.’ The widow went to her wagon, brought a bottle of consecrated oil and with the assistance of Brothers Fielding and Terry used it. ‘Old Buck’ jumped to his feet and we went on our way rejoicing. Later the captain met with the same misfortune, the widow offered help but her assistance was declined. 2

Rachel Fielding Burton account

“Once while traveling on the Plains, the ox we had of Aunt Smith’s became sick, so sick it seemed as though it would die; but my father poured oil on it and administered to it. It lay perfectly still a few minutes then shook itself, ate a little grass and it was alright after that. So father hitched it up and we went on our way rejoicing.” 3

  1. Life of Joseph F. Smith, pages 150-151
  2. Joseph F. Smith, “How One Widow [Mary Fielding Smith] Crossed the Plains,” Young Woman’s Journal, Feb. 1919, 165, 171.
  3. Sketch of the Life of Rachel Fielding Burton, 1914.

4 thoughts to “Mary Fielding Smith

  • DG

    Thank you for this. My daughter said she heard on the great Mormon women audio series that Louisa Pratt had a bottle of oil consecrated by Brigham that she would anoint with. It would be good to get that straightened out too. Thank you for your research and efforts

  • Katie Moore

    I have an honest question. I clearly remember being taught that Mary blessed the oxen herself because no one – no man – would help her; the lesson being that you shouldn’t let the unrighteousness of others stop you from seeking the help and blessings of God. Even if it is the Priesthood brethren who let you down. I clearly remember that I learned this in senior Primary and that it came pretty much verbatim from the manual. I think it was in my Valiant class. I was the only student. I also believe this was taught to me more than once out of official Church manuals – maybe even in home study seminary by my Mom. Is there any evidence for this? If it did not come from official Church publications, where did this belief get its origin? My husband also remembers learning this in his Primary, too. We both grew up in branches of the Church, in Michigan. It’s not like we were seeped in Happy Valley mythical lore. We were taught this and both clearly remember learning it at church. I appreciate reading these primary sources. I still really want to know where the myth came from, though.

  • John Robertson

    Interesting quotations. Here are Joseph Smith’s words relevant to the general topic from the relief society minutes as found in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He even went over the minutes himself as I recall.

    “President Smith continued the subject, by quoting the commission given to the ancient Apostles in Mark, 16th chapter, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th verses, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

    No matter who believeth, these signs, such as healing the sick, casting our devils, etc., should follow all that believe, whether male or female. He asked the Society if they could not see by this sweeping promise, that wherein they are ordained, if it is the privilege of those set apart to administer in that authority, which is conferred on them; and if the sisters should have faith to heal the sick, let all hold their tongues, and let everything roll on.

    Respecting females administering for the healing of the sick he further remarked, there could be no evil in it, if God gave His sanction by healing; that there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on and praying for the sick, than in wetting the face with water; it is no sin for anybody to administer that has faith, or if the sick have faith to be healed by their administration.

    If you live up to these principles, how great and glorious will be your reward in the celestial kingdom! If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates. Females, if they are pure and innocent, can come in the presence of God; for what is more pleasing to God than innocence; you must be innocent, or you cannot come up before God; if we would come before God, we must keep ourselves pure, as He is pure.

    President Smith then gave instruction respecting the propriety of females administering to the sick by the prayer of faith, the laying on of hands, or the anointing with oil; and said it was according to revelation that the sick should be nursed with herbs and mild food, and not by the hand of an enemy. Who are better qualified to administer than our faithful and zealous sisters, whose hearts are full of faith, tenderness, sympathy and compassion. No one. Said he was never placed in similar circumstances before, and never had given the same instruction; and closed his instructions by expressing his heartfelt satisfaction in improving this opportunity.

    The Spirit of the Lord was poured out in a very powerful manner, never to be forgotten by those present on this interesting occasion. (April 28, 1842.) DHC 4:602-607.”

    Nowhere in this does Joseph Smith say that sisters are to be given the Melchizedek priesthood. I have no idea how we got the idea into our heads that the signs that follow them that believe are tied to the Melchizedek priesthood instead of to the gift of the Holy Ghost. It does sounds like it was a misunderstanding early on which Joseph was taking pains to correct. Those signs which follow them that believe are promised, just as Joseph Smith said, to all those who believe whether male or female. Note this quotation by the same prophet:

    “There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius received the Holy Ghost before he was baptized, which was the convincing power of God unto him of the truth of the Gospel, but he could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized. Had he not taken this sign or ordinance upon him, the Holy Ghost which convinced him of the truth of God, would have left him. Until he obeyed these ordinances and received the gift of the Holy Ghost, by the laying on of hands, according to the order of God, he could not have healed the sick or commanded an evil spirit to come out of a man, and it obey him; for the spirits might say unto him, as they did to the sons of Sceva: “Paul we know and Jesus we know, but who are ye?” It mattereth not whether we live long or short on the earth after we come to a knowledge of these principles and obey them unto the end. ”

    What does Joseph Smith say here? Does he say Cornelius needed to receive the priesthood so that he could cast out devils or heal the sick? No, he says that Cornelius needed to have hands laid upon his head to give him the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is exactly in agreement with Joseph’s words to the relief society.

    The signs that follow them that believe are available to all who believe, whether male or female, because they are tied to the gift of the Holy Ghost, and not to the priesthood. I don’t know how the other idea, that the priesthood is necessary for those signs entered our head. The scriptures are plain enough about the purpose of the priesthood, and it is completely different. It holds the keys – i.e. it administers ordinances which are capable of connecting men and women with the powers of heaven. The relevant D&C verses are:

    D&C 107:18 The power and authority of the higher, or melchizedek priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church —
    19 To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.

    That is, according to God, what the Melcizedek priesthood’s power and authority is. The Melchizedek priesthood is for the sake of holding and distributing to the members the keys of the spiritual blessings of the church, for example, the melchizedek priesthood is sufficient to endow a man or a woman with the marvelous gift of the Holy Ghost, which is certainly a key that a member can exercise in his own behalf to obtain, eventually, even the mysteries of the kingdom. For “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them”.

  • Jettboy

    John Robertson is missing the point. And what point is that? That the feminist teaching that women don’t need the priesthood to administer to the sick bases itself on the Mary Fielding Smith story. They also use it to justify rejecting the need of the Priesthood for anything. Although spread by the official and unofficial LDS writings, it is the leftist’s “Faith promoting rumor.” Why not just use what was quoted above? Well, because it doesn’t have a quick concrete “I told you so” power like the sick cow does. Especially it doesn’t rebuke those bad Priesthood holders not doing their jobs or something. One must not only ask what, but also why.


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