Joseph Smith and Herbal Medicine
Joseph Smith and Herbal Medicine
by John Heinerman
Preface by John R. Christopher
Table of Contents
WITHOUT THE LIGHT OF THE RESTORED GOSPEL
(The Smith Family and Doctors). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
THE DAWNING OF A NEW HORIZON
(A Short History of The Thomsonian Botanical Cure). . . . . . . . . 8
BENEATH THE SPLENDID RAYS OF TRUTH
(Joseph Smith and Herbal Medicine). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
"COME FOLLOW ME"
(The Use and Practice of Herbal Medicine in Nauvoo) . . . . . . . .29
LOBELIA -- THE CORNERSTONE OF HERBAL FAITH
(A Description and Short History of The Most Popular Herb
In Mormon Medicine) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .46
THE WAYS OF HEAVEN -- REVELATION AND HERBS
(Faith-Promoting Incidents of Inspiration In Mormon
Medicine) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .56
THE MORMON LEADER WHO VACILLATED
(Brigham Young and The Doctors) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .72
THE END OF AN ERA
(The Passing of Herbal Medicine In the Mormon Church) . . . . . . .93
ARE WE PECULIAR PEOPLE?
(The Place of Herbal Medicine In Mormonism Today) . . . . . . . . 113
NOTES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131
(A List of Herbs Mentioned in This Work; Their Various
Names, Descriptions, and Medicinal Properties). . . . . . . . . . 143
FURTHER NOTES ON HERB MEDICINE AND MID-WIFERY . . . . . . . . . . 159
ADDITIONAL NOTES ON A PROPER DIET . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161
APPENDIX D . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162
APPENDIX E . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170
BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 182
The reader will note that in many instances archaic
language and spellings are used. This appears in order
to better present the aura of that time and place in history.
Reprinting of parts of this text is encouraged,
providing proper credit is given.
MAJORITY OF ONE PRESS
505 N. Magnolia
Monrovia, California 91016
Majority of One Press
First Printing December, 1975
2nd Printing February, 1976
3rd Printing January, 1980
INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF
NATURAL HEALTH SCIENCES, Inc.
Huntington Beach, California 92647
It is very refreshing to have a book such as this one come out so the
public can know what the original teachings of the Mormon Church were in
regards to healing of the sick. The admonition in the 42nd section, 43rd
verse of the Doctrine and Covenants of our Church was quite plain when it
And whosoever among you are sick, and have not faith to be healed,
but believe, shall be nourished with all tenderness, with herbs and mild
This revelation was given through Joseph Smith, the Prophet, in 1831 in
the presence of twelve Elders and is considered counsel to the saints. I was
happy to return to Salt Lake City, the center stake of Zion, with the
knowledge of herbs. I had graduated from an herbal college in Vancouver, B.C.
(the Dominion Herbal College) and knew I would be welcomed home with open arms
by all the Church members, now that I had this knowledge of herbs as an aid
for healing the sick. The Prophet Joseph Smith and President Brigham Young
had both studied and used herbs, but the knowledge of these principles was
pushed into the background and practically forgotten by many, because orthodox
medicine was now being so broadly taught and accepted by "most" of the saints.
Instead of being accepted, as I had hoped, I was generally ridiculed,
laughed at, and, at times, arrested and imprisoned for my teachings and
practice as an herbalist. Many of my patients were converts to the Mormon
Church from foreign lands, where the practice I was teaching was well
Even though the people from other countries came to me, "certain" members
who had grown up in the Church ridiculed me. It was hard to take.
Though nearly forty years have passed by since starting an herbal
practice in Utah, and although I have been accepted as a teacher and lecturer
worldwide, at home in my own Church, many people feel that I should still be
classified with witch doctors. Still, there are many people of my Church who
agree with me.
The Prophet Joseph used a number of herbs in his recommendation for the
sick, but one of his favorites was cayenne, as it was with President Brigham
Young. When I returned to Salt Lake City to practice, I do not think much
more than a pound of cayenne per month was being used in the entire state of
Utah for nutritional purposes (or so a certain spice company in Salt Lake City
told me), and it was quite a job to teach my students and patients the value
of, and how to use, cayenne. The company who "does up" and markets my herbal
formulas told me this morning that they are now using from twenty-five to
thirty tons of cayenne per year in shipments to people for nutritional
purposes. This is only one of a number of herbal processors here in the
state, so you can see the trend in the popularity of this herb alone, and
cayenne is only one of many herbs being used alone or in formulas today.
Cayenne is one of God's wonderful herbal creations that never ceases to
amaze! Lecturing recently, we heard the following story:
One person told how he had cut deeply with a sharp instrument the inside
of his hand, fingers and palm. The blood spurted out in streams. He poured a
large amount of cayenne pepper into the wound, and within seconds the blood
flow slowed down to congealed dripping and the bleeding stopped entirely
before many seconds had passed. With a goodly amount of cayenne covering the
wound, he then wrapped it. He was so excited about the rapid results he could
hardly wait for the regular herb meeting. But, as he said, the "punch line"
was lost, because instead of a nasty ragged scar to show how severely he had
been hurt, the area was healed and there was no scar.
Many of the old herbalists claim that in cases of severe cuts, gunshot
wounds, etc., cayenne can be taken internally as a tea and the bleeding will
stop by the time, in most cases, you can count to ten. Cayenne goes
immediately into the blood stream and adjusts the blood pressure from the top
of the head to the bottom of the feet, equalizing pressure over the whole
body. This takes the high pressure, which causes rapid bleeding, away from
the wound and clotting starts immediately.
Cayenne has been accepted by some of the orthodox medical profession, as
mentioned in Merck Index, Materia Medica and Pharmacology and other standard
volumes. Let's go into more detail.
In the first place cayenne is classified as a "stimulant." Stimulants
are herbal agents that quicken, excite and increase nervous sensibility,
thereby stimulating the functional activity and energy of the body. These
herbs (stimulants) are natural native substances. (Remember that alcohol is
not a stimulant, but an irritant and a depressant.) Stimulants increase the
power of the pulse and carry the blood to all parts of the body, tending to
equalize and restore the balance of circulation in all parts.
Cayenne has been used for ages to aid stomach ulcer cases. We have seen
some of the extremely painful cases given relief, and then healed by using
cayenne faithfully each day over a period of weeks or months. It should be
used until pains are gone and permanent relief is assured.
A story flashed back to my mind of an interesting case of stomach ulcers.
A lady had been attending our herbal lecture series for some time. One day
she told us about her husband's severe case of stomach ulcers. The
recommendation from their doctor was to have part of his stomach removed, but
he said he would rather suffer the pain than risk such an operation. He also
refused his wife's suggestion to try cayenne, ridiculing her studies. When he
would see me in town, he would bellow, "Hello, Doc! Killed anybody with
cayenne, today?" He became so obnoxious, I avoided him when I could. Months
went by and one day I saw him coming down the street toward me. I tried to
avoid him, but he came, "head on." This time I was amazed, because there were
no cutting remarks or sarcasms. In fact, he was very apologetic and asked if
he could talk to me for a minute, and then told me this story. He had come
from work, one night, "sick enough to die," with stomach ulcers. His wife was
not at home. He was in such pain he wanted to commit suicide. He went to the
medicine cabinet to find some kind of medicine poisonous and deadly enough to
kill him. But he discovered his wife had thrown out all the old bottles of
pharmaceutical medicine. All that was left in the medicine cupboard were some
herbs and a large container of cayenne pepper. He was so angry that, upon
seeing the cayenne, figured it, in a large dose, would kill him by burning him
up. He took a heaping tablespoon of the cayenne in a glass of hot water,
gulped it down and rushed into the bedroom. He fell upon his bed and covered
his head with a pillow so the neighbors couldn't hear his "dying screams."
The next thing he knew, his wife was shaking him awake the next morning. She
had told him he had slept all night (instead of being up every half hour for
anti-acid tablets). To his amazement he discovered that the pain was gone,
for the first time in months. He continued using cayenne three times a day
I have had a very interesting life watching thousands of people receive
successful results with the use of herbs. Many calls and letters come from
people who say their lives have been changed to healthier and more pleasant
living through the use of herbs.
Cayenne is one of the finest healing, nutritional herbs known to mankind.
It is not a drug, it is a food of the highest value. I personally have used
it faithfully for well over thirty years. This is one reason I have the
strength and energy to lecture in 40 to 50 cities a year all over the United
States and Canada, i.e., one week in the west coast, next week in Canada, and
the following week-Ohio or New York. With natural living, the use of cayenne
and other herbs, I, at my age, have been fortunate enough to not suffer "jet
lag" with all this year-round traveling.
I praise the Lord for restoring, and expanding the knowledge of herbology
and hope Joseph Smith and Herbal Medicine will encourage its readers to
withstand the undeserved ridicule.
-- Dr. John R. Christopher
He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herbs for the service of
* * * * * *
Thursday, April 13, 1843....At 10 o'clock, The Emigrant and a great
multitude of others assembled at the Temple and prayer by Elder Kimball.
Joseph addressed the assemble and said:
"The doctors in this region don't know much....Doctors won't tell you how
to go to be well. They want to kill or cure you to get your money."
["]Calomel doctors will give you calomel to cure a sliver in the big toe
and does not stop to know whether the stomach is empty or not. Calomel on an
empty stomach will kill the patient and the lobelia doctors will do the same.
["]Point me out a patient and I will tell you whether calomel or lobelia
will kill him or not....
["]If you feel any inconvenience, take some mild physic two or three
times and then some bitters (herbs).
["]If you can't get anything else, take a little salt and cayenne pepper.
If you can't get salt take pecosia or gnaw down a butternut tree. Cut some
boreset or horehound....
["]I will give you advice that will do you good. I bless you in the Name
of Jesus Christ, Amen."
(The Journals of Joseph Smith, under
entry dated above; Church Historian's
Office, Salt Lake City)
* * * * * *
"...to get salvation we must not only do some things, but everything which God
has commanded. Men may preach and practice everything except those things
which God commands us to do, and will be damned at last. We may tithe mint
and rue, and all manner of herbs, and still not obey the commandments of God.
The object with me is to obey and teach others to obey God in just what He
tells us to do. It mattereth not whether the principle is popular or
unpopular. I will always maintain a True Principle, even if I stand alone in
-- The Prophet Joseph Smith
(Documentary History of the Church 6:223)
WITHOUT THE LIGHT OF THE RESTORED GOSPEL
(The Smith Family and Doctors)
Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Last Dispensation, was born in Vermont,
the land of "folk medicine" as it is sometimes called. Coming from such a
place rich in useful lore of the botanical sciences, it would be natural for
his family to adopt many of the old home remedies for common cure in those
primitive times. The healing with herbs and other natural subastances seemed
to have been the thing which was in vogue, considering the scarcity of doctors
and limited knowledge of medical science in certain regions. Besides that,
most country folks were too poor to afford anything else other than the simple
advice prescribed by the local herbalist, or one skilled in the natural art of
However, strange as this may seem, the Smiths, for some reason or
another, came to rely upon physicians more than they did the botanic doctor.
Of course, this can readily be understood when one considers the fact that
they did not have the enlightment of revelation to attend them, nor the
graces, benefits, and blessings of revealed scripture which would have shown
them and made clear the proper manner in which to go when illness befell them.
Only until after God, in His great and infinite Mercy, saw fit to shed forth
Divine Light upon the children of men through a holy and inspired Seer, were
they able to see the folly of their former ways, and repent themselves of such
things, and adopt a wiser course more pleasing to the Lord, whom they
earnestly sought in their daily prayers.
Several noted instances of sickness within their family demonstrates
their faith and trust in the medical practitioner's arts over those of the
herbalist. And, it is, perhaps, with these few incidents found in Joseph
Smith's early youth, that the later opinion formed in regards to the medical
profession, was ever entertained by him thereafter.
It was as a young lad that he suffered his first terrible and
excruciating ordeal relative to the surgeon's knife. Mother Smith related the
episode as follows:
Joseph, our third son, having recovered from the typhus fever after
something like two weeks' sickness, one day screamed out while sitting in
a chair, with a pain in his shoulder, and, in a very short time, he
appeared to be in such agony that we feared the consequence would prove
to be something very serious. We immediately sent for a doctor. When he
arrived, and had examined the patient, he said that it was his opinion
that this pain was occasioned by a sprain. But the child declared this
could not be the case, as he had received no injury in any way
whatsoever, but that a severe pain had seized him all at once, of the
cause of which he was entirely ignorant.
Notwithstanding the child's protestation, still the physician
insisted that it must be a sprain, and consequently, he anointed his
shoulder with some bone liniment; but this was of no advantage to him,
for the pain continued the same after the anointing as before.
When two weeks of extreme suffering had elapsed, the attendant
physician concluded to make closer examination, whereupon he found that a
large fever sore had gathered between his breast and shoulder. He
immediately lanced it upon which it discharged fully a quart of purulent
As soon as the sore had discharged itself, the pain left it, and
shot lightning (using his own terms) down his side into the marrow of the
bone of his leg, and soon became very severe. My poor boy, at this, was
almost in despair, and he cried out, Oh, father! the pain is so severe,
how can I bear it!
His leg soon began to swell, and he continued to suffer the greatest
agony for the space of two weeks longer. During this time I carried him
much of the time in my arms, in order to mitigate his suffering as much
as possible, in consequence of which I was taken very ill myself. The
anxiety of mind that I experienced, together with physical over-exertion,
was too much for my constitution, and my nature sunk under it.
Hyrum, who was rather remarkable for his tenderness and sympathy,
now desired that he might take my place. As he was a good, trusty boy,
we let him do so; and, in order to make the task as easy for him as
possible, we laid Joseph upon a low bed, and Hyrum sat beside him, almost
day and night, for some considerable length of time, holding the affected
part of his leg in his hands, and pressing it between them, so that his
afflicted brother might be enabled to endure the pain, which was so
excruciating that he was scarcely able to bear it.
At the end of three weeks we thought it advisable to send again for
the surgeon. When he came, he made an incision of eight inches, on the
front side of the leg, between the knee and ankle. This relieved the
pain in a great measure, and the patient was quite comfortable until the
wound began to heal, when the pain became as violent as ever.
The surgeon was called again, and he this time enlarged the wound,
cutting the leg even to the bone. It commenced healing the second time,
and as soon as it began to heal, it also began to swell again, which
swelling continued to rise till we deemed it wisdom to call a council of
surgeon and when they met in consultation, they decided that amputation
was the only remedy.
Soon after coming to this conclusion, they rode up to the door, and
were invited into a room, apart from the one in which Joseph lay. They
being seated, I addressed them thus: 'Gentlemen, what can you do to save
my boy's leg?' They answered, 'We can do nothing; we have cut it open to
the bone, and find it so affected that we considered the leg incurable,
and that amputation is absolutely necessary in order to save his life.'
This was like a thunderbolt to me. I appealed to the principal
surgeon, saying 'Doctor Stone, can you not make another trial? Can you
not, by cutting the bone, take out the diseased part and perhaps that
which is sound will heal over, and by this means you will save his leg?
You will not, you must not, take off his leg, until you try once more. I
will not consent to let you enter his room until you make me this
After consulting a short time with each other, they agreed to do as
I had requested, then went to see my suffering son. One of the doctors,
on approaching his bed, said, 'My poor boy, we have come again.'
'Yes,' said Joseph, 'I see you have; but you have not come to take
off my leg, have you, sir?' 'No,' replied the surgeon, 'it is your
mother's request that we make one more effort, and that is what we have
now come for.'
. . . The surgeon commenced operating by boring into the bone of his
leg, first on one side of the bone, where it was affected, then on the
other side, after which they broke it off with a pair of forceps or
pincers. They then took away the large pieces of the bone. When they
broke off the first piece, Joseph screamed out so loudly that I could not
forbear running to him. On my entering his room, he cried out, 'Oh,
mother, go back, go back; I do not want you to come in -- I will try to
tough it out, if you will go away.'
When the third piece was taken away, I burst into the room again --
and oh, my God! what a spectacle for a mother's eye! The wound torn
open, the blood still gushing from it, and the bet literally covered with
blood. Joseph was a pale as a corpse, and large drops of sweat were
rolling down his face, whilst upon every feature was depicted the utmost
I was immediately forced from the room, and detained until the
operation was completed; but when the act was accomplished, Joseph put
upon a clean bed, the room cleared of every appearance of blood, and the
instruments which were used in the operation removed, I was permitted
again to enter.
Joseph immediately commenced getting better, and from this time
onward continued to mend until he became strong and healthy.
After this trying circumstance, the boy, when a man, would always
remember this agonizing event in his young life, and come to shun the
surgeon's devices with a cold shudder of chilling memory.
His second experience had to do with prescribed medicine, and was without
question, one of the main forces behind his determination to resist doctors
thereafter, and seek for something better than the medical skills of men. It
happened on this wise:
On the fifteenth day of November, 1825, about ten o'clock in the
morning, Alvin was taken very sick with the bilious colic. He came to
the house in much distress, and requested his father to go immediately
for a physician. He accordingly went, obtaining one by the name of
Greenwood, who, on arriving, immediately administered to the patient a
heavy dose of calomel. I will here notice that this Doctor Greenwood
was not the physician commonly employed by the family; he was brought in
consequence of the family physicians absence. And on this account, as I
suppose, Alvin at first refused to take the medicine, but by much
persuasion he was prevailed on to do so.
This dose of calomel lodged in his stomach, and all the medicine
freely administer by four very skilled physicians could not remove it.
On the third day of his sickness, Doctor McIntyre, whose services
were usually employed by the family, as he was considered very skillful,
was brought, and with him four other eminent physicians. But it was all
in vain, their exertions proved unavailing, just as Alvin said would be
the case -- he told them the calomel was still lodged in the same place,
after some exertion had been made to carry it off, and that it must take
On coming to this conclusion, he called Hyrum to him, and said,
'Hyrum, I must die...'
...But when he came to Joseph, he said, 'I am now going to die, the
distress which I suffer, and the feelings that I have, tell me my time is
very short. I want you to be a good boy, and do everything that lies in
your power to obtain the record. Be faithful in receiving instruction,
and in keeping every commandment that is given you...'
...As I turned with the child to leave him, he said, 'Father,
mother, brothers and sisters, farewell! I can now breath out my life as
calmly as a clock.' Saying this, he immediately closed his eyes in
Alvin was a youth of singular goodness of disposition -- kind and
amiable -- so that lamentations and mourning filled the whole
neighborhood in which he resided.
By the request of the principle physician, Alvin was cut open, in
order to discover, if it were possible, the cause of his death. On doing
so, they found the calomel lodged in the upper bowels, untouched by
anything which he had taken to remove it, and as near as possible in its
natural state, surrounded as it was with gangrene.
With the unfortunate loss of their beloved Alvin, through an overdosage
of prescribed medicine, the family was at a loss for awhile, and had
considerable cause to grieve at the death of so fine a young man.
Another experience which the family had had several years before this,
also involved the use of medicine. In this instance, all of the medical
doctor's prescribed drug did not alleviate the condition of the suffering
soul: and, in the end, Mother Smith, of consequence, had to turn to the Lord
to rescue her daughter from the throes of death.
...The typhus fever came into Lebanon, and raged tremendously.
Among the number seized with this complaint were first, Sophronia; next
Hyrum, who was taken while at school, and came home sick; then Alvin; in
short, one after another was taken down, till all of the family, with the
exception of myself and husband, were prostrated upon a bed of sickness.
Sophronia had a heavy siege. The physician attended upon her
eighty-nine days, giving her medicine all the while; but on the ninetieth
day, he said she was so far gone, it was not for her to receive any
benefit from medicine and for this cause he discontinued his attendance
upon her. The ensuing night, she lay altogether motionless, with her
eyes wide open, and with that peculiar aspect bespeaks the near approach
of death. As she thus lay, I gazed upon her as a mother looks upon the
last shade of life in a darling child. In this moment of distraction, my
husband and myself clasped our hands, fell upon our knees by the bedside,
and poured out our grief to God, in prayer and supplication, beseeching
him to spare our child yet a little longer.
Did the Lord hear our petition? Yes, he most assuredly did, and
before we rose to our feet, he gave us a testimony that she should
recover. When we first arose from prayer, our child had, to all
appearance, ceased breathing. I caught a blanket, threw it around her,
then, taking her in my arms, commenced pacing the floor. Those present
remonstrated against my doing as I did, saying, 'Mrs. Smith, it is all of
no use; you are certainly crazy, your child is dead.' Notwithstanding, I
would not, for a moment, relinquish the hope of again seeing her breathe
This recital, doubtless, will be uninteresting to some; but those
who have experienced in life something of this kind are susceptible of
feeling, and can sympathize with me. Are you a mother who has been
bereft of a child? Feel for your heartstrings, and then tell me how I
felt with my expiring child pressed to my bosom! Would you at this
trying moment feel to deny that God had 'power to save to the uttermost
all who call on him:' I did not then; neither do I now.
At length she sobbed. I still pressed her to my breast, and
continued to walk the floor. She sobbed again, then looked up into my
face, and commenced breathing quite freely. My soul was satisfied, but
my strength was gone. I laid my daughter on the bed, and sunk by her
side, completely overpowered by the intensity of my feelings.
From this time forward Sophronia continued mending, until she entirely
1. Lacking divine wisdom, the Smiths were under the necessity of relying
upon human resources, according to the best light they had in their possession
2. Young Joseph suffered tremendously under the able skill and profound
learning of medical science in those times.
3. The best known medicine for that era, calomel, was directly
responsible for the untimely death of Alvin Smith. An autopsy, requested by
the physician who administered the lethal dose, proved conclusively that this
had been the cause of his demise.
4. Prescribed medicine by skilled physicians, over an extended length of
time, does not always help to alleviate the condition of sickness. Only faith
and trust in God can guarantee a permanent deliverance, if it is meant to be
so in the economy of Heaven.
THE DAWNING OF A NEW HORIZON
(A Short History of the Thomsonian Botanical Cure)
Sometime prior to the restoration of the Gospel in modern times, there
was another evolution of intelligence which burst forth in all of its glory
upon Mankind everywhere. This was the age of botanical science, when it took
its first great step forward in the form of a Samuel Thomson, America's
original Botanic Physician. For, with him rests the credit and glory of
having founded and extablished a system of herbology which became the standard
of healing for many sound-thinking people in these days.
In his later manhood, when the Prophet Joseph Smith became aware of such
a wonderful system of cure, he had these fine commendations to offer about it:
Joseph Smith said that Thomson was a much inspired to bring forth
his principle of practice according to the dignity and importance of it
as he was to introduce the gospel.
In other words, the Prophet was equating the gentile Thomson on the same
level with himself, saying as it were that both had been inspired of God in
their respective sciences -- he, Joseph, in his new-found theology; and Mr.
Thomson in his herbal medicine.
Another testimonial offered as proof of both men's divine calling is
Then we should look on those principles (Thomson Botanical Cure) as
an appendix to the gospel as a temporal salvation. It was introduced
nearly contemporary with the gospel, even the 'Word of Wisdom' and
Thomsonian run together and strengthen each other instead of coming in
collision with each other.
Thomson was educated the same as Joseph Smith was; he had not much
experience the same as Joseph Smith and was not of high parentage so
thought by the world the same as Joseph Smith was. They tried to kill
him the same as Joseph Smith; they lanced him the same as they did Joseph
Smith and did everything in their power to stop its progress, but could
not do it because it was of inspiration and, of course, of divine origin
like Joseph Smith's mission, and has never lacked opposition ever since
it was introduced, just like Mormonism; and that is one evidence of its
being correct, for the Prophets have said there must needs be an
opposition in all things, and they have also said it must needs be that
offences come, but woe unto them by whom they come.
Priddy Meeks, an early Mormon pioneer, and himself a botanic physician
after the Thomsonian manner, declared that "the Lord was in the whole affair"
of him entering herbal medicine. Of this background he provides the
"I stopped on the Illinois River five or six miles above Meridocia,
a town on the river, a sicklier place I never want to see. Here I bought
me a nice little farm, and established a wood yard. Here I lost Huldah
with the whooping cough; or in other words she was killed by the doctors,
whom I was opposed to having anything to do with her, only the folks
over-persuaded me, and I am convinced that his medicine killed her.
Here when the sickly season of the year came on I visited many of
the sick, and was very successful in relieving them with roots and herbs,
so much so that the community insisted I should quit work and go to
doctoring. Such an idea had never entered my mind. I said to them that
I knew nothing about doctoring; they said, 'You beat all the doctors.'
That expression brought me to my studies and I saw that it was a
fact, and I could not deny it. I studied much to know what was my duty
to God and to mankind and myself and family. I saw my weakness and want
of education, being raised in the backwoods with a gun on my shoulder,
having no correspondence with the bulk of the community and knew nothing
of the ways of the world. Here was a trial you may be sure, for me to
come in contact with learned doctors; I would not know what to say and
would appear a dunce.
About this time I had a letter from my brother-in-law, stating that
he had important business and wanted to see me, and I must come
immediately. He lived about a hundred miles off in Macon County,
Illinois. I went and left my sick wife, who had been sick for two years.
Her case was so complicated that I did not know what to do; neither did
the doctors that had exhausted their skill without benefit, know what to
When I saw my brother-in-law, whose name was Priddy Mahurin, he said
that he only wanted a visit of me, that was all; but the Lord was in the
whole affair, for I met a man there by the name of James Miller, whom I
previously knew in Kentucky. He had gotten to be a Thomsonian doctor.
He told me I could cure my wife myself if I had Thomson's 'New Guide to
I traveled thirty miles with him a-going home. I learned more from
him that day than I ever knew before about doctoring. Arriving at home,
I told my wife of the interview I had with Miller, and was a-going to buy
the books that he recommended. She replied, 'You had better keep the
money to raise the children with; for if the skill that has been
exhausted by experienced doctors could not cure me, it is not reasonable
to think that you could do any better.' But I could not rest satisfied
until I got the books; and just two weeks to the day from the day I got
the books I put out into the woods to collect the medicine and by
following the directions of the books I made a sound woman of her. This
gave such an impetus to the anxiety of the people about my success that
it seemed like going against the wind and tide to withstand their
influence, for me to go into doctoring. And from that time henceforth my
labors began with the sick.
To give the reader somewhat of an insight into the Thomsonian method of
herbal cure, and the inspired man who conceived it, the following is extended
for the readers kind perusal:
Samuel Thomson, the original Botanic Physician, was born February 9,
1769, at Alstead, New Hampshire. Though entirely self-taught, according
to his own narrative, his biographer, a 'regular' physician, declares
Thomson was a remarkable man with an extraordinary career.
The summer he was four and a half years of age, Thomson says he
herded geese and hunted cows. Emulating these natural forages on day
young Thomson ate a generous helping of lobelia pods. The plant is a
natural emetic, and the result 'was so remarkable I never forgot it!'
He later perpetrated jokes on his playmates, inducing them to eat lobelia
pods, and experience the effects. With the natural leaning toward the
healing profession, Thomson, through years of observation and study,
gleaned all the information available on the healing properties of
plants, and gathered from the older men and women many useful facts for
the treatment of illness. While yet a youth he gained quite a reputation
for healing disease; and his own special curative system was developed
and perfected by practice in his own family circle and neighborhood.
Lobelia the 'Emetic Herb' never failed him, he says, and became the
cornerstone of his healing system, plus enemas, plus cayenne pepper
(heat) and plus hot sweat baths. All these agents were obviously unusual
yet very needful in those long inactive New Hampshire winters. From his
ministrations, hosts of patients came to regard him as a gifted genius.
Health Circles and Botanic Societies took the place of neighborhood
quilting bees and young Thomson regularly rode the circuit of sick homes
in New England.
Presented in an age and to a people unacquainted with the commoner
causes and consequences of discomfort, distress and disease, Thomson's
cayenne pepper stimulated the system while his emetic and purge produced
a cleanliness akin to godliness; also the enema made many fast friends,
while the innovation of the steam or sweat bath allayed the people's
fevers, quieted their nerves, and made for peaceful sickrooms, and often
stayed the hand of Death.
Thomson missed being fitted into the substructure of the Medical
Profession by ungenerously securing a patent on his discovery of the
actions of Lobelia if he did not in fact impugn far too much intelligence
and power to his babyhood emetic. Then he made things worse by trying to
explain what he did not understand. His idea was that heat is a
manifestation of life and that cold is the cause of disease. 'All
disorders arise directly from obstructed perspiration, which is always
caused by cold, or want of health,' he explained. Boiled down, the
Thomsonian System was: 1. Cleanse the body with lobelia (emetic) and
enemas; 2. Restore the lost heat by cayenne pepper inside; 3. Finally,
carry away the residue of 'canker' by doses of bayberry, sumac, red
raspberry and so forth.
But, for his self-acquired erudition he was given the 'raspberry,'
by most other practitioners, including many of his own student healers.
They objected to his claims of proprietorship and to his copyrighted
explanation. Once in 1809, he was indicted for murder for a case that
did not yield; and the finger of ridicule was pointed at him by those who
did not sympathize and believe with him. Thus while he opened his first
office in Beverly, Massachusetts, he shortly moved to Boston -- where he
maintained headquarters through the rest of his career.
Thomson's first patent was issued by the U. S. Government on March
3, 1813, after a great deal of vexatious delay.
Armed with this significant document, with a religious faith in his
curative system, and with a vindicative hate for the regular Medical
profession, he went forth to slay the demon disease, in all its forms.
Through newspapers, advertisements, and hand-bills he told the world of
his invincible system, and by the powers or oratory derided the prevalent
Medical methods of bleeding their patients twice a day through ten-day
courses, for fevers, and for loading already clogged human bodies with
mercury and opium. The captains in his crusading army were accorded the
right to use the system and to sell the rights to others, which right in
all cases was to cost $20, and to be granted only by the hand of Thomson
-- who doubtless in this way split commissions on the resales. The
lieutenants in Thomson's army had only the right to heal, with the
Thomsonian method, for their $20; but the privates were the public at
large, and all had a right to be healed.
The fad swept the country like wildfire; and the organized opposition of
the 'regular' Medicos only helped to spread the new doctrine, like whipping a
fire among the leaves, as he said. Each edition of the instruction leaflet
was larger than its predecessor -- until in 1822 it appeared in book form,
truly a compendium of Health! Then a difficulty with his printer led to
another schism, and with it plagiarizing pirates published the essence of his
work and offered it for three bits apiece. The fire in the leaves had become
a forest fire. This backfire was kindled by a new Government patent, issued
January 23, 1823, covering 'the use of steam to produce perspiration.' To
make matters worse, Thomson's army was not organized, were widely scattered,
and weren't working at it all the time. In short, they lacked tangible,
effective leadership, and left Thomson fighting the windmills of the country,
almost single-handed. From 1826 to 1836 he had 'been six times in and through
the State of Ohio' whence the Thomsonian System had spread faster than the
older schools of healing.
Botanic Societies, Health Circles, Eclectic and Botanic Physicians
were springing up throughout the East, which knew not Thomson! Dr.
Wooster Beach in 1827 founded an Infirmary in New York, out of which grew
the Reformed Medical College -- the inception of the Eclectic System --
opposed to the blood-letting M.D.'s -- and to the monopolistic unethical
Thomsonians alike -- yet it adopted many of the medicine and principles
of the former, and adhered to the cardinal teachings of Thomson. The
Reformed Medical College established a branch school at Worthington,
Ohio, in 1832, which threatened to steal Thomson's thunder down to a
Independently of all medical factions, came Constantine S.
Rafinesque with the 'Medical Flora of the United States' published in
Philadelphia in 1828. Rafinesque had traveled extensively over the
Mississipi Valley, then populated partly with the native indians, from
whom he obtained much useful information. His unique work thus became
another textbook for the Botanics and the Eclectics alike.
Parenthetically, Thomson may have had some enterprising Indian
neighbors in his formative days -- Josiah Gregg, Commerce of the
Prairies, 1831-39, published 1844, Vol. 2, pp 296-7, says the Indians of
the Prairies had "become acquainted with the medical virtues of many of
their indigenous plants, which are often used in connection with the
vapor sweat, and cold bath; wherefore we may consider them as the
Dr. Alva Curtis, loyal Thomsonian, opened a 'Physio -- Medical
College of Ohio' in Cincinnati in 1836. As an advocate of a new system,
Dr. Curtis was 'host' in himself, but as a torch-carrying school teacher,
he flickered out in a few years. Thereupon the Worthington, Ohio,
Reformed Medical College moved to Cincinnati in 1845 and became the
Eclectic Medical Institute. Thus, says Dr. J. M. Ball, Medical
Historian, 'The Botanic, Eclectic and Physio-Medical sects ... can be
traced to Thomson.'
The strictly botanical schools gradually petered out; they changed
their names and modified their methods. The botanic courses persisted,
however, expecially in the Ohio hotbed of Thomsonianism, for a great many
years; and the Thomsonian principles were handed down traditionally even
to the present generation. There are still plenty of reputable
physicians recommending colonics and cabinet baths; and the aroma of
sassafras tea in the city restaurants and the country homes of the land
today as a tonic and blood tuner-up is a fragrance tracting all the way
back to Doctor Thomson, a full century ago!
That 'steam doctor' Thomson was a benefactor among the Mormons, as
among other groups, there is no doubt. 'Glory enough for one man,' it
was said of him! He 'saved more millions of human beings from a
miserable life and a premature grave than the whole United States
contained in the days of Washington, by a system which spread more
rapidly than any other system ever did upon its own merits!'
Dr. Thomson died October 4, 1843, in Boston, aged 75 years -- a
remarkable span for a man in those days!
John Thomson, a son, carried on actively for many years, but
contributed nothing to his father's well developed threeleg healing
system -- of purging, heating, and sweating; except his own picture
replaced the father's on the diplomas! Son John still (in 1852) sold for
$6.00 the twenty dollar 'copyright of preparing and using the system of
Medical Practice secured to Samuel Thomson by letters patent, and (the
purchaser) is thus constituted a member of the Thomsonian Friendly
Botanic Society and is entitled to participate in its privileges' --
whatever those privileges were!
Miss Blache E. Rose in her thesis, 'The History of medicine in Utah'
-- gives a typewritten copy of the Thomsonian certificate issued to Dr.
Willard Richards as a sub-agent, at Richmond, Massachusetts, by Joseph
Skimm, 'agent' for S. Thomson, October 3, 1833. Richards was then 29
years of age. Realizing he had only a diploma and not training, he moved
to Boston and entered the Thomsonian Infirmary. He practiced for some
time under Dr. Samuel Thomson himself. In 1835, he moved to Holliston,
Massachusetts, and continued the practice of his profession. There he
turned to Mormonism, through his cousin Brigham Young.
But the Thomsonian diploma authorized and empowered Richards to
'administer, use and sell the medicine secured to Samuel Thomson by letters
patent,' and 'also to sell Family Rights (signed by Skimm) with a copy of
Thomson's New Guide to Health, and a narrative of his life,' for twenty
Miss Rose also gives the following supplement, to the Thomsonian
certificate: entitled 'Extra and Confidential to Agents' (to be given at
discretion to the purchaser of rights). To prepare, add 4 lbs. white
sugar, pound into a paste 2 oz. poplar bark, 2 oz. bayberry, 2 oz. golden
seal, 2 oz. cloves, 2 oz. cinnamon, 2 oz. nerve powder, 1 oz. cayenne,
1/2 bitter roots. Mix and knead with pestle in mortar until it becomes a
thick dough. Add 1 tip penny-royal. Pound together and roll in a loaf
or make pills.
"For all diseases caused by colds and other diseases without regard
'The above powder with the same weight of sugar, will make good
spice bitters for wine. Put 2 oz. of the compound into one quart.
'Powders may be eaten dry, or taken in hot water with more sugar.
No spirit is recommended in the medicine.
'Notice to agent:
'Do justice to yourself and proprietor and public. Sell no rights
to doctors or those who have studied their authors for a rule of
practice, as they will most assuredly corrupt the system, as some have
'Keep no poisonous drugs in your shop', as no one should sell to
others what he would not use himself; or suffer any human blood to be
shed, with the lancet or otherwise, by your consent.
1. The Prophet Joseph Smith, according to Priddy Meeks, said that Mr.
Thomson, the botanic physician, was just as inspired in his calling, as he
(Joseph) had been in his.
2. If Priddy Meeks accurately quoted The Prophet, we can then safely
assume that HERBAL MEDICINE (as first introduced by Mr. Thomson through his
system) is as much a divinely inspired principle from heaven as the Gospel is!
3. Priddy Meeks believed that Mr. Thomson's Botanical Cure should be an
addition to the Gospel, and part of our temporal salvation! Complementing the
Word of Wisdom very nicely, Thomson's herbal medicine was in sympathy with the
Gospel of Jesus Christ!
4. The origin of Thomson's Botanical Cure and Joseph Smith's
Restored Gospel paralleled each other significantly. Both had been born in
much persecution and hardship.
5. The backgrounds of both men were quite similar. Both were from the
New England States; both had experienced unpleasant episodes with medical
physicians in their lives; and both were persecuted for the truth they
believed in and so strongly advocated.
6. Both Mr. Thomson and Priddy Meeks despised medical doctors with a
7. The Thomsonian System, as it developed, met with intense opposition
from the prevailing Medical Association.
8. The Thomsonian System became somewhat exploited, both by Mr. Thomson
himself as well as others. Originally conceived as a benefit for people, it
became somewhat of a business speculation later on through the crass
commercialism of its day. Despite this commercialism, it did not lose any of
its apparent healing effectiveness with the people in general.
9. Those who were agents for the Thomsonian System were strongly
admonished to carry, sell, or dispense any kind of medical drugs whatsoever.
This meant that Dr. Willard Richards as an herbal doctor, was not a medical
practitioner, as some historical versions suggest.
BENEATH THE SPLENDID RAYS OF TRUTH
(Joseph Smith and Herbal Medicine)
Apparently, the first real intimation the Prophet Joseph Smith had of
herbal medicine and the fact that it was Divinely-approved, came about while
he was engaged in the translation of that sacred record, the Golden Plates
received from Moroni, into the present form of the Book of Mormon. As he was
thus endeavoring to pursue his inspired labors in this direction, he read the
following sacred words from that precious and holy work:
And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of
the year was very frequent in the land; but not so much so with fevers,
because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God
prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by
the nature of the climate.
Here it was, plain as day; God speaking to modern man once again, and
setting down as clear as crystal the manner in which he ought to heal himself.
As he read these words of wisdom, he must have reflected back upon the
unpleasant associations he and his family had had with medical men in the
past. Or, as one writer, so graphically portrayed it:
Alvin's death alone was enough to sadden Joseph. but certain
associations surrounding it may have made Joseph's grief still more
bitter. Alvin had died, it seemed to Joseph, because the family had
relied on doctors and their medicines. certainly he could never have
forgotten the sight of those pills. Later his preaching against calomel
was so effective that its influence was felt for years.
Thus, it seems that a combination of both, the scripture from holy writ and a
vivid recollection of a bitter past, served to incline his mind towards herbal
medicine for sure, and away from medical science.
His mind became further influenced by Heavenly things in this direction,
when the Lord revealed to him, in a revelation given February 9, 1831, the
precise and exact manner in which the Saints of the Most High were to be
treated and dealt with in accordance to the laws of Nature, when sickness,
disease, and pain prevailed among them.
And whosoever among you are sick, and have not faith to be healed,
but believe, shall be nourished with all tenderness, with herbs and mild
food, and that not by the hand of an enemy.
Now it is interesting to note that when the Lord gave this commandment to
man, He singled out those who were to receive the benefits and blessings of
herbal medicine and those who were not to. He mentions that those "among you"
who "are sick," and have not faith to be healed, but "believe," were to be the
only ones unto whom such things as what He had just prescribed, were to be
administered. In other words, He was clearly saying that the application of
herbs and mild food were to be given just to those who believed in these
things, though they had no faith in which to be healed, and not to the
unbeliever! Thus, God established a precedent then, which if in modern times
was followed, would result in less persecution upon them who trust and confide
in such remedies and solutions. In a word, He was saying: let those who
believe in herbs, use herbs; and let those who do not believe in herbs, not
Here is the beautiful principle of Free Agency incorporated with Heavenly
wisdom; how Divine; how majestic! and how remarkable are the ways of the Lord
when followed. By official commandment, it is not for those who believe in
herbs and use them, to make an attempt drowning others in their teas and
liquids. Nor, is it for those who look to the men in white for their medical
salvation, to remark disparagingly and abuse those humble followers engaged in
such "strange" practices and "weird" beliefs. Each to his own, and to have
contentment between them both. Such are the ways of righteousness, with
everything in good and proper order, and everyone to his or her own life style
of choosing. For, of such, are the ways of the Lord.
And again the Lord spoke, by way of commandment, as to the proper course
which should be taken in all things, when He delivered this message in
revelation given February 27, 1833[:]
And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath
ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man --
Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season
thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.
This Word of Wisdom, given as an admonishment and later adopted as a law
into the Church, is interesting by way of several factors:
First, the principle definition of what an "herb" precisely is--
A plant of economic value; specifically, one used for medicinal purposes,
or for its sweet scent of flavor.
Second, the chief interpretation of the word "fruit" in a botanical sense
Botany. (a) In general, any product of fertilization with its modified
envelopes or appendages ... (b) specifically, and more commonly, the ripened
ovary of a seed plant and its contents, including such adjacent tissues as may
be inseparably connected with it, as the pod of a pea, the capsule of many
annuals, etc. Fruits are simple, the product of a single enlarged ovary;
aggregate, the product of the several ovaries of a single flower; or
collective (multiple), derived from the more or less fused ovaries of several
flowers. The principle kinds of fruit (in the botanical sense) are:
Legume (pod): bean, pea, Caryopsis (grain): wheat, Indian corn.
Berry: grape, tomato. Drupe (stone fruit): plum, olive.
Pome: apple, pear.
[S]trawberry, raspberry, magnolia.
[M]ulberry, fig, pineapple.
Now, the above facts were not meant to be given as a short dissertation
in the science of botany, but to help clarify a misunderstanding many
Latter-day Saints have in regards to the Word of Wisdom. It is commonly
thought to be the case that when God meant the "herb," He was referring to
just vegetables alone; and when He meant the "fruit," he was referring to
items like peaches, pears, apples, and other assorted like things which only
grow on trees. But this is not the case and has never been the case.
To be specific about the matter: when He gave the Word of Wisdom, he was,
first of all, referring to the fact that He had ordained and given the herbs
of the field to be for the use and benefit of man. Or, to be more pronounced
about the matter in discussion: [H]e had allowed for certain plants to be used
as medicine in the constitution and nature of man! He never said one word
about the drugs obtained through chemical science. He was speaking in a
botanical sense, when He gave that commandment to the Church, to be observed
by all, if they so chose to do so.
If this is rather staggering for the reader to conceive of, then kindly
go back and re-read the first verse of the quoted scripture previously given
on the opposite page. And you will find that God specifically refers to herbs
in one sentence, and to fruits in another. Two different things, in two
different verses altogether. The dictionary consulted is quite reputable and
the definition furnished very explicit in this matter, and is certainly
conclusive evidence that an herb is a plant used for medicinal purposes, or
for the seasoning of food.
Secondly, the "fruit" referred to by Him, in the second verse of that
revelation, is with regards to vegetables as well as the ordinary tree-grown
kind, harvested in the usual manner of picking. Even wheat[, a member] of the
grain family, is considered [to be] "fruit" under the botanical sense of
In regards to the Word of Wisdom and how closely it is connected with
herbal medicine, a prominent Latter-day Saint botanic physician, Priddy Meeks,
had this injunction to give the Mormon people:
One main object I have in view is to turn the heart of the Saints to
the Word of Wisdom that the wisdom may be sanctified in the hearts of the
Saints, to the exclusion of the popular physicians and their poison
medicine of the present day, and simplify every one among the Saints to
one name for each article, with one meaning to that name; that children
may not err thereby, ignoring all the customs and fashions and
technicalities of the dead languages that has caused the death of
thousands of our dear friends, and obey the word of the Lord by using
these herbs that He says He has ordained for the 'Constitution',
'Nature', and 'Use of Man.'
Also to simplify the practice of midwifery down to its natural
wants: 'And what are its natural wants?' Nothing but to have the
obstructions removed, and you cannot prevent delivery only at the expense
of life because it's the law of nature which is the law of life, which is
the law of God, which is immutable. (Did you ever know a squaw to die in
Then away with your pretended science of midwifery. There is more
harm done by it than good.
When the pains flats out and stops, just remove the obstructions and
the pains will return, and come as a natural consequence being a natural
call the same as any other call of nature. Precisely there is no
difference in the principle, and the Lord has ordained means among those
anti-poison herbs adapted to that very purpose.
When the foregoing conditions are reached we then can raise all the
medicines needful in our gardens which are well adapted to human culture,
but as yet cannot furnish them all on account of climatic difference.
Then will be the time when there is no danger of poisoning our families
and bringing them to a premature grave. We then shall be delivered from
the greatest curse that ever visited the human family since Adam first
set his foot on this earth. May God help to speed on the time when the
Saints may enjoy the blessings of such times and Israel gathered and Zion
built up and Him on the throne whose right it is to reign. When the
foregoing condition takes place among the community there will be no more
schools of midwifery.
What the author of this book is attempting to do here, is not to
discredit medical science, or to push herbal remedies; but to set down in
clear, definable language the distinct advice of God, which is so clear and
concise upon the subject, that even a child pos[s]essed of mediocre
intelligence, could readily grasp the same, once it had been all explained to
his satisfaction and good. In other words, in the Word of Wisdom was given
the formula by which all men could live right, if followed and applied; both
for their physical appetites as well as for their maintenance of good health.
He provided a way in which man might eat right and a logical manner in which
he may be cured right, also. If strictly adhered to, and obeyed in the
explicit sense that it was given, a lot of the professional services available
today for man's nutrition and health would be done away with, and have no
place in our society whatsoever. But then and again, man is his own agent and
may dictate for himself, the affairs of his wants and the refections of his
wishes. This is his prerogative and privilege and he may live accordingly;
and also pay accordingly, for those things which he adopts that are contrary
to the laws of Heaven, to which a most severe penalty for disobedience has
Through His latter-day Seer and Revelator the Lord confirmed this fact,
when He had his holy prophet declare:
There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations
of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated--
And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that
law upon which it is predicated.
Joseph Smith sought to do this, and remembering what his brother Alvin
had told him to do in obeying the commandments of the Lord, he endeavored to
practice sound principles of good eating habits and allowed himself to be
nursed and doctored by those skilled in the arts of herbal medicine. As a
result, he enjoyed fine physical health, generally speaking (save for an
occasion or two, when he was severely poisoned by an enemy) and was
pretty-much free from sickness (except occasional fatigue and exhaustion due
to the strenuous work-load which rested upon his shoulders to perform.)
As a matter of fact, his whole family became adapted to this heavenly
method of cure, after the Lord gave certain, specific revelations on the
matter to their son and brother. We find the Prophet recording upon one such
occasion, when his father was severely ill:
Went to visit my father. Found him very low. Administered some
mild herbs to the commandment. May God grant to restore him immediately
to health for Christ the Redeemer's sake. Amen.
The reader's attention will kindly be called again to the statement
[which said]: "administered some mild herbs agreeable to the commandment!" He
was only doing that thing which God had instructed him to do. Had it not been
for this, he would have followed in the usual footsteps of his father and
mother, and forthwith, summoned a medical physician immediately, which seems
to have been the tradition in the Smith household for a long time, until the
light of the Lord touched the young man's mind and memory with better things
than what they had known.
Now, apparently the instructions he followed in the commandment of the
Word of Wisdom, did not serve enough to help his father, and he found him
"failing very fast" and "very sick." So, what did he do? Did he lose faith
in God and send for a medical doctor immediately? Did he believe that "faith
without works is dead," and feel to submit his faith into the hands of
licensed practitioners? No, he did not! He submitted himself and his faith
into the hands of the living God, and performed the following ordinance of
life upon his dear father, as given in his own authoritative words:
In secret prayer this morning, the Lord said, 'My Servant, thy
Father shall live.' I waited on him all this day with my heart raised to
God in the Name of Jesus Christ that he would restore him to health
again, that I might be blessed with his company and advice, esteeming it
one of the greatest earthly blessings to be blessed with the society of
parents, whose mature years and experience renders them capable of
administering the most wholesome advice. At evening Bro. David Whitmer
came in. We called on the Lord in mighty prayer in the Name of Jesus
Christ and laid our hands on him, and rebuked the disease and God heard
and answered our prayers to the great joy and satisfaction of our souls.
Our aged Father arose and dressed himself, shouted and praised the Lord;
called Bro. Wm. Smith, who had retired to rest that he might praise the
Lord with us by joining in songs of praise to the Most High...
He had found that herbs, like regularly prescribed medicine from a
doctor, can also fail at times. This instance with his beloved father, and
the unhappy episode of calomel with his dear brother, Alvin, had taught him
that neither can be very sure at times; and when so, then the next best thing
to do, was to turn to God, and put full and complete trust in Him. Or, as he
would say, "agreeable to commandment":
And the elders of the church, two or more, shall be called, and
shall pray for and lay their hands upon them in my name; and if they die
they shall die unto me, and if they live they shall live unto me.
Which is what he did in this case, after the standard procedures employed with
the herbs had been followed; and his father was healed immediately.
But the Prophet's [overall] confidence in herbal medicine was such that
he undertook to surround himself with the very best botanic physicians
available for those times.
Thus, many of the doctors of early Mormondom, but not all, were
Thomsonians. At least three Thomsonians reached high positions in the
Church. One was Frederick G. Williams; the other two were the Richards
Brothers, Levi and Willard. In their positions they exerted considerable
influence on the attitude of the Church towards medicine. Dr. Williams
was Joseph Smith's counselor during the early formative period of the
church, Levi was Joseph Smith's physician toward the end of his life, and
Willard became first counselor to his cousin, Brigham Young, and the
editor of the Church organ, the Deseret News. Thus, the seeds of the
antipathy between Thomsonian or lobelia doctors and orthodox or 'poison'
doctors, as the Utah pioneers called them, were sown in the minds of
The Prophet's personal attitude and views towards these men, may also be
seen in the following:
When in 1837, Willard Richards, a convert to the Church from
Massachusetts, came to Kirtland, Ohio (then Joseph's headquarters), he
arrived as a 'botanic physician.' He treated his patients with 'warm
medicines,' of which cayenne and lobelia were two principal ingredients.
He also used mild herbs, but no 'poison pills.' Richards had learned his
method from its originator, Samuel Thomson, in Massachusetts.
Considerable illness in Richard's parent's family had led him to take
Thomson's six-week course in Boston, and he later underwent a thorough
apprentice ship. (The course at the College of Medicine in Pittsfield,
Massachusetts -- comparable at that time to Harvard in enrollment -- was
only a fourteen-week term.)....
Willard's brother, Levi, also joined the Church as a physician. But
while Levi was in England on a mission Willard wrote to him to bring home
a set of watchmaker's tools; he did not think Levi could earn much in
Nauvoo through medicine. Joseph, said Willard, was dead set against the
practice of medicine.
But while Levi was traveling back to Nauvoo, Willard's wife,
Jeannetta, became ill. Levi was in St. Louis waiting for the frozen
Mississippi's ice to break up so he could continue his trip when Willard
-- with Jeanetta's approval -- wrote for his professional advice.
The time came Joseph Smith himself called upon Levi to attend him,
and he once declared there was no better doctor in the world. But Levi
prescribed no calomel. ....
But an even better glimpse into how Joseph Smith rated these men in
c[o]mparison to the standard medical skills available in those days, is
provided with this:
Levi....was a surgeon-general of the Nauvoo Legion, and physician to
the Prophet Joseph Smith and His brother Hyrum. In the Prophet's journal
under the date of April 19, 1843, is found this entry. 'I will say that
that man (Levi Richards) is the best physician I have ever been
Joseph Smith was no fool! He knew which procedure to follow, and what
type of men to have around him. When his father was sick, he tried the one
and then the other. If the administration would have failed, then he would
have quietly resigned himself to the fact that his father must die and
delivered the old man up to God in peace without an[y] further struggle. For,
he knew too well by heart the scripture which he had translated in the Book of
[...c]ursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea,
cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm.
and was not about to risk his life nor his father's life by submitting to the
services of medical men, and thereby, possibly incurring the wrath and
indignation of an angry and displeased God. No, he was much to[o] intelligent
for that terrible consequence to have befallen him, and hence, felt to declare
within his soul, as the Prophet did anciently:
O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I
will not put my trust in the arm of flesh.
Jesus said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Joseph Smith had
seen the man who had spoken those words. He had heard His Voice and beheld
His Glory. And, he simply could not disobey the Man who had given him the
commandment of the Word of Wisdom.
The Word of Wisdom, as the Lord had declared it to him, made specific
mention of the use of herbs for "the constitution and nature of man." And he
knew what the Lord expected of him, as His Servant and leader of His People.
He must set the precedent for everyone else to follow, in order that all might
be saved. Only once before, in his early manhood, had he disobeyed the Lord
and gave into the hands of a wicked man, one hundred sixteen pages of the
written manuscript of the Book of Mormon. These had been lost; and for this
act of disobedience, God chastised him sorely and withdrew His Spirit for the
approximate space of six months, until He felt His young servant had
sufficiently paid the penalty for his unintentional mistake.
From this swift and vivid lesson, Joseph Smith had keenly learned that
when God commands man must obey, or suffer for his transgressions. Because He
LOVED THE Lord, he kept the commandment of the Word of Wisdom, and employed
only herbal remedies and herbal doctors whenever sickness was found in his
midst. If we love the Lord, and revere the sacred and honorable name of
Joseph Smith so highly today, ought we not to be doing the same also, and keep
them as he kept them?
1. Joseph Smith believed that the death of his dear brother, Alvin, had
been partly caused by the family's reliance on medical doctors and their
medicine. "Certainly he could never have forgotten the sight of those pills."
2. The Book of Mormon effectively points out that the ancient Nephites
who inhabited this continent, a long time ago, used herbs and roots to nurse
their sick back to health[.]
3. Modern revelation as found in Section 42:43 of the Doctrine and
Covenants tells us to do the very same thing, but to include mild food.
4. A careful examination of the Word of Wisdom, and proper definition of
the words "herb" and "fruit" clearly show that God had reference to herbal
medicine as a means of healing.
5. Just because the Word of Wisdom states that herbs are to be used for
"the constitution, nature and use of man," it does not mean that everybody is
to rely upon herbal medicine as their only medium of health. But, that such
things are to be given only to them that "believe" in them. A man's Free
Agency must not be imposed upon, neither his rights of choosing infringed
upon. God has made this aspect perfectly clear.
6. When we keep a law, we receive a blessing. the Word of Wisdom, as we
now understand it, is a direct law from God. Obedience to it, in the precise
language which it is given, will yield a blessing of health to those who
submit themselves to it. For those who choose to adopt another plan and
method of action, [the same] will be denied this blessing. It's as simple as
7. Joseph Smith administered herbs to his sick father, in accordance
with the commandment given him previously. This shows that he obeyed the Word
of Wisdom in its plainest and simplest terms, and took it literally to mean
just what it said.
8. Though he was faithful in this respect and true to the Word of God,
it did not produce for him, the gratifying results he had hoped it would.
9. By following the next commandment of God then, and turning to
administration, he healed his sick father of his destitute conditions and God
made the old man well again.
10. Joseph Smith always surrounded himself with botanic physicians who
believed in the herbal ways of healing.
11. Such men had considerable influence upon the Church in his time,
because of their standing with him.
12. Joseph Smith was dead set against the practice of medicine; and
declared that his own personal herbalist, Levi Richards, was the best
physician he'd ever known.
13. Joseph Smith believed in herbalism because he loved the Lord and
knew that that was what God wanted of him. If we love the Lord, should we not
"COME FOLLOW ME"
(The Use and Practice of Herbal Medicine in Nauvoo)
'Come, follow me,' the Saviour said;
Then let us in His footsteps tread.
For thus alone can we be one
With God's own loved, begotten Son.
Come, follow me, -- a simple phrase,
Yet truth's sublime, effulgent rays
Are in these simple words combined
To urge, inspire the human mind.
Is it enough alone to know
That we must follow Him below,
While trav'ling thro' this vale of tears?
No, this extends to holier spheres.
Not only shall we emulate
His course while in this earthly state,
But when we're freed from present cares,
If, with our Lord we would be heirs.
We must the onward path pursue
As wider fields expand to view,
And follow Him unceasingly
Whate'er our lot or sphere may be.
* * * * * * * * * *
The Saints of Nauvoo believed that inasmuch as their Prophet was
following the injections of the Savior, and obeying His principles, they ought
to do the same. As early as Far West, Missouri, the services of one of the
leading botanical physicians in the Church was called upon:
I, Levi Richards, a resident of Quincy, Adams County, Illinois,
practitioner of medicine, certify that in the year one thousand eight
hundred and thirty-eight, I was a citizen of Far West, Caldwell County,
Missouri, and that in the fall of said year I saw the city invaded by a
I was called to extract lead, dress the wounds, etc, for several
persons (Saints) who were shot in the above siege, two of whom died.
Of course we know, from previous reference already given, what kind of
doctor he was, and certainly what method of treatment he used in dressing
Most of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
who emigrated to Nauvoo, were of other Sectarian faiths. In those times, it
was the custom to know the Bible by heart, and often the only reading means
available to many poor families was the Good Book. Such an example was the
Smith family. For, about the only real education which Joseph himself got,
was from what he had read in the family Bible on different occasions;
supplemented by only a trifle smattering of schooling, which did not amount to
Thus, being so well versed with "the cornerstone of Christian faith,"
many Latter-day Saints were familiar with scriptures like:
And I, God said unto man, Behold, I have given you every herb,
bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth; and every tree in
which shall be the fruit of a tree, yielding seed; to you it shall be for
* * *
...and thou shalt eat the herb of the field....
So, it would only seem that the Word of Wisdom, with its strong herbal
suggestion, should come natural to most of the people converted to the new
But if they understood their scriptures well, then they would realize
that the principles Joseph was espousing were according to the teachings of
the Master Himself. Being familiar with His Words, they would understand that
he often made numerous references to the herbs of the field and generously
spoke about them with great frequency. And they would also know, that being a
devout Jew himself, he would naturally adhere most strictly to the teachings
of the Old Testament, such as those references we have examined in Genesis,
for instance. His liberal use of herbs might be found sprinkled throughout
his teachings and parables:
Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. (A man who plants
* * *
And he said, So is the Kingdom of God; as if a man should cast seed
into the ground; and should sleep and rise, night and day, and the seed
should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how;
For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself, first the blade, then
the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the
sickle, because the harvest is come.
And he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kindom of God? Or with what
comparison shall we compare it?
It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the
earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth; but, when it is
sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth
out great branches; so that fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow
And with many such parables spoke he the word unto them....
It is an interesting things to discern from the foregoing remarks of the
Savior, that He considered even trees (the mustard tree, for example) as
herbs. For, He says "when it is sown, it groweth up, and become greater than
all herbs, and shooteth out great branches..." In the art of botanical
medicine, not all herbs are considered as plants; some, in fact, come from
trees, such as slippery elm, bayberry bark, etc. So, with the Savior's new
interpretation upon the word "herb," it makes the explanation offered by
Daniel Webster, the famous lexicographer, as given in the last chapter, much
more enriched with deeper meaning. Thus, in the official use of the word
"herb" in the Word of Wisdom, God is defining both plant and tree, as
containing medical properties for the use and good of man.
However, the Saints in Nauvoo must have been aware that the volunteer
principle upon which the Word of Wisdom was offered, coincided exactly with
the Bible; and that all God was doing, was re-quoting the same thoughts of His
Servant, the Apostle Paul, in different language for modern times:
Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful
For one believeth that he may eat all things; another, who is weak,
Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him
which eateth not judge him that eateth; for God hath received him.
This beautiful injunction, as re-phrased in modern revelation to read,
"And whosoever among you are sick, and have not faith to be healed, but
believe, shall be nourished with all tenderness, with herbs..." told the
Saints how to treat one another in their respective beliefs and ideas. What
Paul was saying then, was that some believed they might eat all things; but
some, with not such a healthy appetite, sought to pacify their weak condition
with herb dishes alone. Those who were able to eat all things, were not to
look down upon those who couldn't. Or, to be more exact about the matter, the
gourmet was not suppose[d] to frown upon the one who was not, or was the one
who lacked a voracious appetite consider the other "a pig" or "a hog." But
each was to do their own separate "thing" in the best way they pleased
themselves to do. And God was to be the judge of the both.
For often, God would receive the one who was gluttonous, if he had lived
a good, moral life upon the earth; as much as He would receive the honorable
slim man, too. Here then, for the Saints was Biblical proof of what their
Prophet had said. And certainly confirmed the understanding of the revelation
just quoted, as detailed out in the previous chapter. For them in Nauvoo, it
meant to let those who believed in herbs use them, and for those who did not
believe, allow to use whatever manner of means they so desired to employ, even
though it may have been contrary to Joseph Smith's own way of thinking. For,
when asked upon one occasion, how he governed the people so well, Joseph
replied: "I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves." He
taught the Saints to use herbal medicine:
I preached to a large congregation at the stand, on the science and
practice of medicine, desiring to persuade the Saints to trust in God
when sick, and not in an arm of flesh, and live by faith and not by
medicine, or poison; and when they were sick, and had called for the
Elders to pray for them, and they were not healed, to use herbs and mild
* * *
Joseph gave a lecture on medicine. Salt, vinegar and pepper given
internally and plunging in the river when the tossing begins, will cure
But, in no way, did he force them to use it, or compel them to. He was a
Prophet, not a tyrant; a Man of God, not a dictator. He was to love and to be
loved; not to hate and be hated.
A Missouri minister, on visit to Nauvoo from St. Louis made the
observations that he could find no trace whatsoever of any medical doctors in
Nauvoo, as "the Mormon leader wouldn't allow them there." In fact, he stayed
with one Mormon family just across the river, who employed the services of
medical physicians contrary to the advice of their Prophet. Thus, we can see
that not all Latter-day Saints were faithful to their Prophet's words; yet we
have no evidence on record which says that God still did not love them,
provided they did not apostatize completely.
The reason the author is detailing this in such a careful, concise
manner, is that the reader may be able to realize that one aim of this book is
objectivity. I have tried to define things exactly as they are; [and] also to
present a fair overview of the entire matter in discussion. for those who may
be reading this, who are firm believers in medical science and like Joseph's
mother and father, have employed medical doctors over the years, the preceding
material just given, simply states that such was not according to what Joseph
Smith himself learned, taught, believed and practiced later in life. In no
way, is it intended to be a reflection that those who believe in these things
opposite the Prophet's own views, are denied the love of God because of it.
They may, perhaps, be in jeopardy of disobeying a commandment, but that is not
for the writer to say, one way or another. Still the fact remains, that they
can and do enjoy the love of God, though their personal opinions conflict
somewhat with Joseph Smith's. Nor, does it necessarily mean that those who
follow his advice on herbal medicine are especially favored of Heaven either.
They only enjoy the advantage of additional blessings by more fully keeping
the Word of Wisdom.
Thus, we can see that God is "no respecter of persons" and will not
uphold the one and deny the other. He is just as fair in His dealings with
the believer in medical science as He is in the believer of herbal medicine.
His Servant Joseph was this way; and certainly that fine man reflected, in a
measure, by his actions the same type of a just feeling and policy which the
great God above had within Himself, also.
To continue with matters in Nauvoo though: Joseph, when sick, would
summon those type[s] of men in whom he believed most sincerely:
Friday, December 15th, 1843. I awoke this morning in good health
but was soon suddenly seized with a great dryness of the mouth and throat
and sickness of the stomach and vomited freely. My wife waited on me,
assisted by my scribe and Dr. L. Richards, who administered to me herbs
and --?-- (smudged; unable to make out two words) milder drinks. I was
never prostrated so low in so short a time before. But, by evening, was
Joseph Smith also instituted other means by which people could be healed
and made well.
Early Mormon medical beliefs were strongly influenced by Dr. Samuel
Thomson, not a Mormon, but a New Englander like Joseph Smith and Brigham
Young and many other leaders of the Saints....
Under the influence of the Thomsonians, Joseph Smith had organized a
Board of Health in Nauvoo in the early 1840's.
It is needless to say, that the Board of Health which the Prophet
established in the city, advocated the use of herbs and allowed for the free
practice of botanical medicine, but greatly restricted others of a different
profession who knew not herbs, nor the use thereof.
For those who had not faith enough in herbs, or common administrations,
other measures were devised:
...As the congregation dispersed, I walked with the Mormon who had
brought me in his canoe, to see the temple...He showed me the great
baptismal font, which is completed and stands at the center of the
unfinished temple. It rests upon the backs of twelve oxen, as large as
life, and tolerably well sculptured; but for some reason, perhaps
mystical, entirely destitute of feet, though possessed of legs. The
laver and the oxen are of wood, and painted white; but are to be
hereafter gilded, or covered with plates of gold. At this place,
baptisms for the dead are to be celebrated, as well as baptisms for the
healing if diseases; but baptisms for the remission of sins are to be
performed in the Mississippi...
He believed that the sisters should also be involved in healing the sick
as much as possible. And for this reason, he gave his opinion to the Relief
Society assembled in Nauvoo, these inspired words and kind suggestion:
Respecting the females laying on hands, he further remarked, there
could be no devil in it if God gave His sanction by healing; that there
could be no more sin in any female laying hands on the sick, than on
wetting the face with water; that it was no sin for anybody to do it that
has faith, or if the sick has faith, to be healed by the administration.
The Prophet took very serious the calling of those who were to administer
to the sick, and for that reason, often set many apart to that office of
ministering unto the sick:
While living in Nauvoo, the Prophet Joseph Smith laid his hands on Ann's
head and set her apart as a midwife, telling her that she would be successful
in caring for the sick if she would use herbs exclusively for her work. Some
years later in Utah she became known as the 'herb doctor.' She had an herb
garden and prepared her own tea and medicine.
When the Prophet set Ann apart as a midwife, he promised her she would
not suffer at death. On July 3, 1893, she had a paralytic stroke and on the
16th of July passed peacefully away. She was 94 years of age.
In Nauvoo, Joseph Smith set apart three women for this calling: Vienna
Jacques, Ann Carling, and Patty Sessions.
At Nauvoo, Ill., Dr. Calvin Crane Pendleton was set apart to care
for the sick. Receiving but little income from his medical services he
earned a livelihood in his shop as a mechanic, and by his pen....
Dr. Pendleton made remedies from roots and herbs that he gathered
and compounded into pills.
'My grandmother left her family, joined the Church, and walked all
the way to Nauvoo. She had no place to stay and so she stayed in the
Mansion with the Prophet and his family. At this time, she was only a
girl of 16 or 17, I believe.
The Prophet called her as 'a nurse in Israel' and set her apart for
that calling. She would often accompany him on his rounds to the sick,
and assist in administrations to them.
In the female meetings in Nauvoo, Illinois...midwives discussed the
spiritual aspects of their work, quoting testimonies of Brigham Young and
others proclaiming the blessings which had followed on the offices of mercy
performed by their sisters in the calling. Since their beliefs, their customs
and the nature of their prescriptions are inextricabl[y] bound together, when
they met to discuss obstetrical problems they invariably supported
descriptions of unusual cases with testimonies. An extremely good example of
this is Patty Sessions, one of Utah's foremost early midwives. Although she
was entirely objective in her recording of medical instances and data, she was
nevertheless deeply subjective as regards religion. From reading her diary
one must inevitably conclude that these tow attitudes were in reality
inseparable. This is not the conflict of terms that it seems, if one realized
that in every venture in life these hardy pioneer women felt God's nearness
and His help.
To them in Nauvoo, "God, with the all-seeing eye and the never failing
ear, was always the greatest doctor of all." When death came to a patient, it
was the result of His will. Instant healing was a manifestation of His power.
There was no sacrilege whatsoever in seeing a man fetch the holy oil to bless
a fallen ox, or in telling that the ox, upon being blessed with the laying-on
of hands, like a human being, cast off his sickness through the power of God
and rose to resume his burden. The Word of Wisdom, righteous living, and the
use of herbs as remedies for disease and a means of sustaining health were far
more important to Mormons than the "poisonous medicine" prescribed by doctors.
The great mother of Mormon midwifery, Patty Sessions, formulated these
remedies for curing the sick, and used them extensively in Nauvoo:
Salve for old sores: Bark of indigo-weed root boiled, beeswax,
mutton tallow, a very little rosin.
Jaundice: Take one teaspoonful of castile soap shavings, mixed with
sugar, for three mornings; then miss three until it has been taken nine
mornings -- a sure cure.
Bowel complaint: Take one teaspoonful rhubarb, one-fourth carbonate
of soda, one table spoon brandy, one teaspoon peppermint essence,
half-teacupful warm water; take tablespoonful once an hour until it
Vomiting: Six drops laudanum, the size of a pea of soda, two
teaspoons of peppermint essence, four cups water; take a tablespoonful at
a time until it tames it; if the first does, don't repeat it.
Heart-burn: Laudanum, carbonate soda, ammonia, sweet oil, camphor.
Also for milk leg inflammation or sweating.
In regards to the Nauvoo Legion, Lieutenant-General Joseph Smith allowed
for only the best (as he deemed it) of skilled medicine to be used upon his
military regiment. To this end then, did his personal botanic physician, Dr.
Levi Richards, serve as surgeon-general to the men and treated those with
herbs, who were sick.
In other fields of medicine, there was even a dentist in Nauvoo, who
subscribed to some of the Thomsonian methods of skill and kept most of his
work based on natural ingredients. He was a dentist, and this [is] how he
advertised and worked:
Alexander Neibauer, the first dentist in Utah, was born near
Coblentz, Prussia, January 8, 1808, son of a Hebrew physician and
surgeon. Alexander was to have entered the Jewish ministry, but instead
studied dentistry in the University of Berlin, beginning practice in
Preston, England. While there he married Ellen Breakel, and was the
first Jew to be converted to the Mormon faith; he was baptized April 9,
Young Dr. Neibauer emigrated to Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1841, where he
became active in the Church, and prominent in Free-masonry, while setting
himself up in the practice of dentistry. He advertized as follows in the
(Mormon) 'Times and Seasons,' Nauvoo, August 2, 1841: Alexander Neibauer,
Surgeon Dentist, from Berlin, in Prussia, late of Liverpool and Preston,
England. 'most respectfully announced to the ladies and gentlemen and
citizens of Nauvoo as also of Hancock county, general, that he has
permanently established himself in the city of Nauvoo, as a dentist,
where he may be consulted daily, in all branches connected with his
profession. Teeth cleaned, plugged, filled, and Scurvy effectually
cured, children's teeth regulated, natural or artificial teeth from a
single to a whole set inserted on the most approved principal. Mr. N.
having had an extensive practice both on the continent of Europe, as also
in England, for the last 15 years he hopes to give general satisfaction
to all those who will honor him with their patronage.
Mr. B. Young having known Mr. N. (in England) had kindly consented
to offer me his house to meet those ladies and gentlemen who wish to
consult me. Hours of attendance from 10 o'clock in the morning to 6 at
'My own residence is opposite Mr. Tidwell, the cooper, near the
water. Ladies and gentlemen attended at their own residence, if
requested. Charges strictly moderate.'
He usually used a dental turnkey, an implement with a hinged claw on
a gimlet-shaped handle, for extracting teeth by twisting; but he later
obtained forceps. These instruments were subsequently turned over to Dr.
Washington F. Anderson. Cavities in decaying teeth were cleansed with
suitable picks and filled with alum and borax and then sealed over the
beeswax; the only anaesthetic was laudanum. He was seldom paid in money;
but accepted beet molasses, corn meal and pig-weed greens. Much of his
work was donated to widows and to others who could not pay.
The only exception to his practice, which did not qualify it as
thoroughly Thomsonian, was in his use of laudanum, or "tincture of opium."
But this he must have used sparingly, and with great caution, otherwise, the
Prophet would never have allowed him to open his practice in the city, had he
not attempted to subscribe to some of Joseph's beliefs along an herbal line,
and thereby conduct his work the same.
Quite often in his sermons, the Mormon leader would strongly denounce the
use of medical drugs. Of this historical bit, a noted writer relates the
In the development of both the sovereign remedy -- faith healing --
and the bias against 'poison pills,' the influence of Joseph Smith,
founder of the Church, undoubtedly helped to shape the attitude of the
society as a whole. Joseph Smith was not unlike many other religious
leaders in advocating faith healing. Frequently he publicly said that he
had greater confidence in its power than in any medicines or any
physician who prescribed them. When addressing the Church in Nauvoo, he
frankly denounced such 'poisonous medicines' as datura, henbane, calomel,
ad licuta stramonium...
...From Willard Richards down, the guardians of health among the
Mormon people put their trust primarily in lobelia and cayenne pepper,
and such herbs as goldenseal, balmony, raspberry leaves, and sage twigs.
Phineas Richards, a brother of Willard, also a Thomsonian doctor, had a
mould which turned out pills as large as horse chestnuts. These he
expected people to swallow.
Unfortunately, some Saints who did not adhere to this philosophy of
reason could get quite tacky about it, if they saw others drinking a cup of
tea. To them, the Word of Wisdom was not Divine counsel to use when sick, but
rather a "do" and a "don't." "You do keep the Word of Wisdom, when you don't
drink tea." is the way they interpreted it, and maintained this line of
course, no matter what may have prevailed:
Brigham may have had a latent feeling however, that diets and
doctoring had a place in the Divine economy, for under the shade of the
old Bowery in Salt Lake City, August 17, 1856, he had related an incident
wherein Old Father Baker in Nauvoo had been called in to lay hands on a
very sick sister in the Church. 'It was a very sickly time, and there
was scarcely a person to attend upon the sick, for nearly all were
afflicted. Father Baker was one of those tenacious, ignorant,
self-willed, over-righteous Elders, and when he went into the house he
inquired what the woman wanted. She told him that she wished him to lay
hands upon her. Father Baker saw a tea-pot on the coals, and supposed
that there was tea in it, and immediately turned upon his heels, saying
'God don't want me to lay hands upon those who do not keep the Word of
Wisdom' and he went out. He did not know whether the pot contained
catnip, penny-royal, or some other mild herb, and he did not wait for
anyone to tell him. That class of people are ignorant and
over-righteous, and they are not in the true line by any means.
Clearly a case of where "the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth
Occasionally, there were some who believed that "all disease was caused
by the Devil" and that "the sick ought to live by faith." For, these strange
tenets of belief, they often met persecution and adversity, and sometimes even
a high council trial, as the following goes to prove:
Agreeable to adjournment the High Council convened at the house of Lyman
Wight on the 21st of August, 1834.
...John Corrill entered a complaint against Lyman Wight with
teaching this doctrine, saying: 'All diseases in this Church is of the
Devil and that medicine administered to the sick os of the Devil; for the
sick ought to live by faith.' And he wished the high council to take it
After which Lyman Wight acknowledged that he had taught this
doctrine, or rather believed it to be correct.
After which W. W. Phelps spoke and said, "This case needs no
counseling;" which was agreed to...
After which the President proceeded and gave the following decision
saying: 'It is not lawful to teach the Church that all disease is of the
Devil. But if there is any that has this faith let him have it unto
himself. And if there are any that believe that roots and herbs
administered to the sick and all wholesome vegetables which God had
ordained for the use of man, and if any say that such things applied to
the sick in order that they may receive health, and this applied by any
member of the Church, if there are any among you that teach that these
things are of Satan, such teaching is not of God.
Council dismissed. Prayer by David Whitmer, President.
Orson Pratt, Clerk.
It is of interest to note that Lyman Wight was not reproved for believing
in the doctrine, only for teaching it. The doctrine was not ruled as
seditious of evil. So, it stood with a silent approval of its truthfulness --
"All disease in this Church is of the Devil and that medicine administered to
the sick is of the Devil..." The only emphatic injection given against it was
that such things were not lawful to teach in the Church. However, if any
chose to hold to this peculiar tenent of faith, they could do so provided they
dept it to themselves. The order was aimed at the individual, not the
doctrine, as we have just seen.
Another Latter-day Saint who believed in this same thing, was Priddy
Meeks. Of this doctrine, he wrote the following:
Now for those foul spirits and witches; what is the difference
between them? Foul spirits are disembodied witches living in the flesh.
Do they have power over human beings? They certainly do, every pain,
ache, or misery we endure is attended by a spirit of affliction and that
spirit is intelligence; hence, the propriety of laying on hands and
rebuking it in the name of Jesus, which would be supreme foolishness if
it were not intelligent....
It is certainly fair reasoning. These kinds of spirits work mostly
on the mental functions instead of the physical functions but affect the
physical system unto death sometimes by tormenting the spirit of the
The early missionaries of the Church, ever aware of the false traditions
of an unbelieving generation with which they had to deal, often met Latter-day
Saints who still held to the old notion and practice of medical aid, yet
hoping to compromise their comfortable position with a new-found faith in God.
Jared Carter was one such man, and the family whom he encountered, through
members of the Church in good standing, still adhered to a belief that was not
doctrinally sound, and incorrect according to Joseph Smith's teachings. Only
their little boy had the common sense to see that in the one lay life, and in
the other lay death. Of this circumstance, Elder Carter [r]ecorded the
Another manifestation of God's healing mercy took place to Brother
Locke's, which was as follows --
I was there to visit them and one of their children was sick with a
fever and there under the care of the doctor. This time that I was there
--?-- (unable to make out some words; considerably smudged)...as before
that Brother Locke and his wife had joined the Church. The child was
upon a bed in a room. I went to the child when alone and laid my hand
upon the child and prayed that God would heal him and then I went away
I, after this went there again and found the child to appear will
nigh unto death. I, on seeing that the child was worse than when I laid
hands upon him and prayer for him as I thought in faith, was no better.
But after hearing Sister Locke relate what took pla(c)e after I went from
there, I prayed for the child as just above-mentioned. For, she said,
soon after I laid hands on the child (after I was gone) that child got up
of its own accord and came into the kitchen saying, 'Maw, Uncle Jared has
cured me. Uncle Jared had made me well maw.' And she said after the
child got up in this manner, she looked out and saw the doctor was near
and had called to one of the neighbors to see one that was sick.
She, on seeing this, went down to the mill where her husband was, to
see him; to have him stop the doctor from coming there, for the child was
apparently well. but her husband told her that they had better let the
doctor go there, for he wanted to have the child sure to be well. The
Doctor, accordingly, went there and left some medison (medicine) for the
child to take. But as soon as they gave the child any more medison, the
fever returned again and then the child said of his own accord after the
following manner: that his Uncle Jared came there and made him well and
the doctor come there and made him sick again. And the child growed
(grew) worse, until I come there the second time, as above-mentioned; at
which time the child, as they considered unless it was helped
immediately, must soon dye (die).
But the next morning after prayer I administered the laying on of
hands again. And immediately after this the child got up of his own
accord and went to see his maw and said, 'Maw, Uncle Jared has made me
well again.' And the child, from this time, continued well.
In this example, we see the impropriety of putting our trust in man;
yea, the impropriety of disobeying the command of God as unto the church;
wherein, he has required of this church, that they would not employ
physitions (physicians) of the world...
A very clear piece of evidence to show "the impropriety of putting our trust
in man; yea, the impropriety of disobeying the command of God as unto the
church..." And the requirement set down by God himself that "this
church...would not employ physitions [physicians] of the world...."
Those who are raised with the belief to trust in medical doctors, should
realize what the Prophet Joseph Smith said about such traditions, in the light
of modern revelation upon those matters:
I say to all those who are disposed to set up staked for the
Almighty. You will come short of the glory of God.
To become a joint heirship of the Son, one must put away all his
And, it can be safely assumed that whatever traditions we cling to which
may conflict with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then those traditions must be
wrong. for, it is man's puny thinking against the judgment and wisdom of God,
and who can dare gainsay the difference between them as to which one is
better? Error must always bow out when truth steps in, or else progression --
both mortal and immortal, halts!
Inasmuch, as the Saviour made reference to herbs often in His Sermons,
and the Prophet Joseph Smith sought to emulate the Master's life in every
respect, even to the inclusion of herbal medicine in his way of living, then
it would be a good thing to remember this, in closing:
For thrones, dominions, kingdoms, powers,
And glory great and bliss are ours
If we, throughout eternity,
Obey His words, 'Come, follow me!'
1. The noblest message which can be given to mankind by Jesus Christ, is
the simple phrase: "Come, follow me!"
2. Jesus often made many references to herbs in His Sermons and
3. The Apostle Paul had a modified version of the Word of Wisdom for his
4. Joseph Smith emphatically preached herbal medicine to the
congregations assembled often in Nauvoo, to hear their great leader speak.
5. A Gentile visitor discovered the absence of medical doctors in
6. When Joseph Smith was sick he allowed only herbal physicians to
7. An Herbal Board of Health was established in Nauvoo, under the
direction of the Prophet.
8. The Gentile visitor discovered that they performed baptisms for
diseases in the font of the Nauvoo temple.
9. Joseph Smith said that women could lay hands on the sick and heal
10. Joseph Smith believed that nursing and tending the sick was
important enough to make it a religious calling in the duty of faith; and
promptly ordained and set apart all of those whom he called to this great
service to the Saints at large.
11. The Nauvoo Legion was attended by an Herbalist in times of sickness.
12. Nauvoo had its own Jewish dentist who practiced along some of the
lines of herbal faith.
13. Joseph Smith strongly denounced drugs in their rudest form.
14. To believe that "all disease" is "caused by the Devil" and that "all
medicine administered to the sick is of the Devil" is not a sufficient
complaint enough to call wrong or false; but strong enough to prohibit from
making it a church doctrine in public.
15. Priddy Meeks, a reliable Latter-day Saint practitioner, sincerely
believed that evil spirits were the cause of "every pain, ache, or misery we
16. False tradition is hard to do away with, in any form.
17. God had commanded the Church not to employ physicians of the world,
according to the sober statement of Elder Jared Carter.
18. Joseph Smith said that we must put away our false traditions, or we
cannot inherit the Celestial kingdom as a God or Goddess.
19. If we are to have eternal glory, we must obey His words, "Come,
LOBELIA -- THE CORNERSTONE OF HERBAL FAITH
(A description and Short History of the Most Popular
Herb in Mormon Medicine)
Joseph Smith had this to say about the plant now in discussion:
Dec. 26th, 1842. Visited Sister Morey in custody of Lee 1 (?) and
prescribed for her afflictions; spoke very highly of Lobelia. Good in
its place. Was one of the works of God. But like the power of God or
any good, it became an evil when improperly used. Had learned the use
and value by his own experience....
When the Prophet had suggested the use of this herb, he was recommending
one of the finest plants known to man. To acquaint the reader with "the most
powerful relaxant known among herbs" but one which leaves "no harmful
effects," the following short description is furnished for the reader's
(Plant and Seed)
Botanical Name: Lobelia inflata. Common names: Bladder podded
lobelia, wild tobacco, emetic herb, emetic weed, lobelia herb, puke weed,
asthma weed, gag root, eye-bright, vomit wort. Medicinal properties:
Emetic, expectorant, diuretic, nervice, diaphoretic, antispasmodic.
...Lobelia acts differently upon different people, but it will not
hurt anyone. It makes the pulse fuller and softer in cases of
inflammation and fever. Lobelia reduces palpitation of the heart. It is
fine in the treatment of all fevers and in pneumonia, meningitis,
pleurisy, hepatitis, peritonitis, phrenitis, nephritis, and perositis.
Lobelia alone cannot cure, but it is very beneficial if given in
connection with other measures, as an enema of catnip infusion morning
and evening. The enema should be given even if the patient is delirious.
It will relieve the brain. Pleurisy root is a specific remedy for
pleurisy, but it is excellent if combined with lobelia for its relaxing
properties. The use of lobelia in fevers is beyond any other remedy. It
is excellent for very nervous patients. Poultices of hot fomentation of
lobelia are good in external inflammations such as rheumatism, etc. It
is excellent to add lobelia to poultices for abcesses, boils and
carbuncles. Use on-third lobelia to two-third slippery elm bark or the
same proportion to any other herb you are using.
While lobelia is an excellent emetic, it is a strange fact that
given in small doses for irritable stomach, it will stop spasmodic
vomiting. In cases of asthma, give a lobelia pack, followed the next
morning by an emetic. The pack will loosen the waste material, and it
will be cast out with the emetic. In bad cases, where the liver is
affected and the skin yellow, combine equal parts of pleurisy root,
catnip and bitter root. Steep a teaspoonful in a cup of boiling water.
Give two tablespoons every two hours, hot. For hydrophobia, steep a
tablespoonful of lobelia in a pint of boiling water, drinking as much as
possible to induce vomiting. This will clean the stomach out; then give
a high enema. This treatment should be given immediately after the
person is attacked. Lobelia is excellent for whooping cough...There is
nothing that will as quickly clear the air passage of the lungs as
lobelia. A tincture made as follows will stop difficult breathing and
clear the air passages of the lungs, if taken a tablespoonful at a time:
Lobelia herb 2 ounces
Crushed lobelia seed 2 ounces
Apple vinegar 1 pint
Soak for two weeks in a well-stoppered bottle, shaking every day.
Strain and it is ready to use. This is also good to use as an external
application, rubbing between the shoulders and chest in asthma. Lobelia
poultice is excellent for sprain, felons, bruises, ringworm, erysipelas,
stings of insects, and poison ivy.
An associate of the Prophet Joseph [Smith], relates a healing incident
involving the use of this wonderful herb with a patient of his in Nauvoo, and
describes some of the virtues of this plant in general:
Sister Daniel Tyler while living in Nauvoo got desperately poisoned
by rubbing red precipitated mercury on her skin for the itch, not knowing
the danger. She put it on quite plentiful. He came for me about
midnight. I just gave her a few courses of Thomsonian medicine, and it
was not long before she was well.
We need to know but little about the patient, only to know that they
are sick; and but very little difference what the complaint will be,
thorough courses of regular Thomsonian medicine will seldom if ever
disappoint you in performing a cure. It will remove obstructions
wherever found in the whole system and restore a healthy action wherever
needed. It does act like intelligence, always in harmony with the living
intention of the system which is always to remove obstruction from the
system of whatever name or nature it may be.
I sometimes look upon lobelia as being supernatural although I have
been using it for forty-six years. I do not know the extent of its power
and virtues in restoring the sick and at the same time perfectly
harmless. It is undoubtedly the best and purest relaxum in the compass
of medicine. That is the reason it is so good in childbed cases; it puts
the system exactly in the situation the laws of nature would have it be
to perform that object. Those in the habit of using it in such cases
look forward in pleasing anticipation of having a good time, without
foreboding of trouble so common to women. Oh, glorious medicine!
Priddy Meeks testifies concerning lobelia in this fashion:
...a sure, quicker, and more powerful anti-poison (I think), is not
known, and probably never will be.
As an instance, I attended a case of hydrophobia. A boy ten or
twelve years of age, Philetus Davis, by name, having been bitten by a
rabid dog, lobelia was administered. He recovered perfect health, and
says he has never had a tremor of the complaint. He now lives in
Toquerville, and has a large family.
Another instance of its unique properties may be seen in this recorded
Brother Nobel's wife, within about one month of her expected
sickness, had the dropsy so bad he thought she could not live until that
month was out, so that she could be doctored without injury to her
offspring. The doctors in the valley had a consultation over her case,
and President Young with them; they could devise no means to save the
woman without destroying the infant and she could not live but a few days
without help; but they would not make a move until they sent for me.
When I came they told me they could not see how the woman could be saved
without destroying the child. I told them there would be no difficulty
in bringing about that object. They wanted to know if I thought that I
could take the water out of that woman and save both alive. I said,
"Yes, I certainly can, and Lobelia is the thing that will do it." I just
gave her Thomsonian courses of medicine and soon had the water all out,
and in due time she had a fine boy to the joy of all who were watching to
see what the result would be.
To most herbalists of the Mormon faith, in practice then, this plant was
"the cornerstone of their faith." One of the most active of botanic
physicians, Priddy Meeks, looked upon it this way:
I don't know what encomiums [enthusiastic praise] I could place on
lobelia to be competent with its virtues, the extent of its therapeutic
action on the human system. I think there are but few if any who
understand. I have been in the habitual use of it now for forty-seven
years and I don't profess to know all about its operations on the system
yet, neither do I ever expect to until I understand the physiology of the
human system more than I do and the laws of which it is governed, for
lobelia will act on the system in complete conformity with the laws of
health; and when the law is obstructed and fails to fulfill the
operations that nature intended it to fulfill while healthy, it will
remove those obstructions wherever located, for lobelia will permeate the
whole system until it finds where the obstructions is seated and there it
will spend its influence and powers by relaxing the parts obstructed.
There should always accompany the lobelia with cayenne pepper which
is the purest and best stimulant that is known in the compass of
medicine. It will increase the very life and vitality of the system and
give the blood a greater velocity and power. Now the system being so
relaxed with lobelia and the blood being so stimulated with such power it
will act on the whole system like an increased flow of water turned into
a muddy spring of water; it will soon run clear and although lobelia is
set at naught and persecuted the way it is, it is for the same reason
that the Latter-day Saints are persecuted; it is ordained by God to be
used in wisdom. The world will not persecute them that are like them,
but hold them the same as their own.
It was with great frequency that the Latter-day Saints used and employed
lobelia; for it was "the cornerstone" of Thomsonian medicine and the chief
herb around which all others revolved. Men such as Dr. Calvin Pendleton [and]
Priddy Meeks, [along with women such as] Patty Sessions [together with] other
skilled botanic physicians [men and women alike], did not hesitate to
recommend this important herb, nor stress its vital significance in the
practice of their art. We suppose countless volumes could be written of the
times it was used, and hundreds of pages consumed in recording all of the
marvelous experiences connected with this Divine creation. But one should
suffice for now:
Another incident I will relate while I was cutting up the lap of a
large oak tree, together with a man named Jackson, as it was our day to
work tithing. We were strangers to each other. It was hot weather and
very sickly. Some would take the fever and die before the news would get
circulated. Early in the day he suddenly took a very high fever; it was
a very serious case and he was very much alarmed about it. I told him
that there was a little weed growing around I though[t] might do him
good. He eagerly wished for it. It was lobelia of the first year's
growth. Some not much larger than a dollar and lay flat on the ground.
I got some of it and told him to eat it, just like a cow would eat grass
and he did so, and in a few minutes it vomitted him powerfully and broke
the fever and he finished his day's work. I mention this to show you
what virtue there is in lobelia.
Sometimes there was even an added bonus to the virtues of this herb; like
a heavenly visitation, for instance:
In this connection I will relate another visionary incident while
living at Parowan. Simeon Houd got badly poisoned with strychnine, so
that he had to have his thumb amputated, but that did not seem to stop
the poison from ascending up his arm and going down into his vitals which
would prove fatal. He sent for me and said to me: 'Brother Meeks, if you
cannot save me I am gone; for if the poison gets into my vitals it will
kill me; it is now to my shoulder.' Never knowing lobelia to fail in a
case of poison, neither indeed in any other case, in full assurance of
faith, I went to work and gave him several thorough courses of Thomsonian
medicine, and in three or four days he was so much better that we all
believed that nothing more was needed as the poison was checked; he felt
about well. I thought the job was completed and I went home.
The second night after this I went home; a strange young woman
dressed in white appeared to me and said, 'I am sent from the other world
to tell you that if you do not double your diligence on Brother Houd he
will die, for Satan is trying to kill him.' I said, 'Did you say that
you came from the other world?' 'Yes,' she replied. 'Do you know
anything of Calvin Smith, who was President at Parowan and has been dead
about a year?' 'Yes, I came from where he is.' I said, 'How is he
getting along?' She said, 'First rate; but he is mighty busy.' 'What is
your name?' said I. She said 'Sally Ann,' but the other part of her name
I either forgot or did not understand; I could not repeat it in the
morning. She said she had two cousins here and wanted to visit with them
while she was here. I asked her their names. She said, Julia Thomson
and Sarah Smith, both daughters of Horace Smith Fish, who lived in
I said to her, 'You must not be out of my presence while you are
here; (that order was given to me by inspiration), but I will tell you
how we can do. I will go with you and then you will be with me all the
time.' It was known to me instinctively that I was responsible for her
while she stayed here. So we both went to where each woman lived but did
not get an interview with either of them, but the cause I did not know.
There was something dark about, and went back to my house. She, said,
'Now come with me; I want to show you a pretty building.' We entered the
beautifullest building I ever saw. It was white inside. It needed no
candle to give light. It was unfurnished, no furniture or anything else
in it. She said nothing about who would enjoy the building. She showed
me several rooms or departments all exceedingly beautiful. 'Now,' she
said, 'I am ready to go,' and I said, 'Go.' And soon as daylight I went
to Brother Houd. I doctored him about as much as I had done, taking the
same course I had done before and he was soon well and lived about
twenty-five years afterwards.
So when I told Sisters Thomson and Smith, what she told me about
being cousins they said, 'We know who it was.' It was Sally Ann
Chamberlain who died fourteen years ago at their home not far from
Nauvoo. I mentioned the interview we tried to have with them. They both
said they were troubled that night and could not sleep and though[t] that
there was someone there who wished to see them and got up and lit a
candle and searched the house, and went out of doors and looked around
but could see no person. Now from this woman I learned to important
facts. One is when a messenger is sent to anyone they are responsible
for them as long as they are with them. The other was that the principle
I am to doctor on is correct. If it had not been so she would have to
change my course instead of telling me to double my diligence.
Some even enjoyed certain visions in the night, portraying this herb as
the standard for all that was good:
Mrs. Ferris closes by quoting Sister Sessions, who related a dream
in which she witnessed a remarkable fight between the Lord and the Devil
-- the Devil almost won the fight -- the moral of conclusion of which was
'the Lord advised her to us[e] lobelia in curing disease, as that would
drive the Devil away.'
However, at times there could be dissensions in the ranks, and what would
be considered one man's medicine, was thought by another to be his poison:
Austin N. Ward was a guest of Mr. Hinckly at the Social Hall, where
at least sixty-five women were present. Dr. High spoke attributing
disease to the violation of physical laws. Dr. Speight dissented in many
particulars, believing that sickness was often sent by Divine providence.
Sister Newman also opposed some of Dr. High's theories and was sure God
sent many afflictions. Sister Lippincott recommended catnip tea; but
Sister Gibbs is alleged to have declared catnip tea was good for nothing;
said enough lobelia would drive all the devils out. Mr. Ward, obviously
relishing the experience, says Mrs. Gibbs in a frenzy, spoke in tongues,
and afterward fell asleep. Sister Sanders expressed her firm belief that
all diseases could be cured by faith and the laying on of hands; and
Sister Petit told of a dream in which the Devil fought God. -- Ward's
Narrative is so similar to Mrs. Ferris' narrative one wonders which is
hearsay and if either is history.'
However, the scope of this disagreement if fully realized, when one
considers the tremendous explosion which erupted between two herbal doctors of
divergent views. One believed in using lobelia as an emetic, and would swear
by it to his dying breath; this was Dr. Meeks. The other man was somewhat
inclined towards surgical practices found in the medical profession of those
times; this was Dr. Pendleton; and the issue resolved itself this way:
My wife, Mary, gave birth to a daughter about 10 P.M. (Sunday). The
infant was rather small, but well, weighed 6-1/2 pounds. Everything did
not work right with my wife. The nurse gave her an emetic which threw
her into spasms. These spells lasted about 36 hours, having one every
hour. She was insensible all the time. They put hot rocks on her to
steam her; burnt her feet and legs so bad that quite large p[ie]ces came
out. The whole ball of one of her big toes came off from the burn. Dr.
Meeks was called in; afterwards Dr. Pendleton. They did not agree in
their methods of treatment. Pendleton finally had her bled in the ankle
to bring the blood from her head. Meeks got mad at this and left. He
was quite stubborn about the case. Brother (Amasa) Lyman (an Apostle)
called the case up in Council and reprimanded Meeks for his course.
Lyman spoke about it in public meeting.
So the doctor was criticized by the priesthood because he did not
believe bleeding at the ankle to draw blood from the head would aid a
woman recovering from childbirth.
In commenting upon the above-related circumstance, the author will only
say this: Whoever administered the lobelia to that poor suffering woman,
should have remembered Joseph Smith's injunction about its use -- "(lobelia)
good in its place...but like the power of God or any good, it became an evil
when improperly used." Too much of anything, no matter how good it may be,
can be harmful and sometimes, lethal also. As for the high council trial of
Brother Meeks, it seems that a man's stubborn attitude was labored beyond just
a mere shrug, and that some parties involved felt to make a case of the issue.
Another severe account on record, in which lobelia was employed and with
which happy results were met, is the following:
Barnabee Carter got struck with a piece of cast metal drum in a
machine that was going a furious speed. It burst all to pieces, one
piece went through the weather-boards of a house that stood some distance
off. One piece or two struck Carter on the breast and side and knocked
him down with a dangerous wound. Being unconscious, he was carried home.
There was a great excitement, very warm water, and a great crowd. There
was no gash cut, but a terrible bruise and it was turning blue. I told
them I wanted them to leave and give me a chance and I would promise them
there should not be left a blue spot of bruised blood under the skin in a
short time. In this case I gave lobelia as well as cayenne pepper to
relax the system so the bruised blood would assimilate with the warm
uninjured blood and become equalized through the whole system. I don't
know that I gave lobelia enough to puke him or not. If I did it was so
It should here be noted that, perhaps, one cause of the difference which
existed between two of Utah's most prominent doctors -- the lobelia
specialist, Priddy Meeks, and the herbal practitioner, Calvin Pendleton -- may
have been jealousy. You see, both men lived right in the townsite itself, and
Meeks lived a ways out. Maybe, the vying for potential customers on both
parties, was one reason for this jealousy between them. Anyhow, they did not
get along very well together.
To conclude this chapter, we offer the humble statement of Priddy Meeks
[h]imself in relation to lobelia -- the "herb of herbs:"
I do not think the medicine is yet found and probably never will be
that will act in accordance with the laws of life and the intentions of
nature like lobelia. No difference what the matter is or where the
obstructions are, lobelia will find it and remove the obstructions and
create a healthy action. On, wonderful medicine that will act, so much
like intelligence; but cayenne pepper and sweating ought always to
accompany a course of medicine; and also an injection (enema). (14)
1. Joseph Smith advocated the use of lobelia.
2. Lobelia is good for many things. It is an excellent remedy for
someone who has been bitten by a rabid animal. It settles the stomach in
small doses, and relieves it up in larger doses. It is an excellent bowel
mover, when accompanied with cayenne pepper.
3. It is the best antidote against internal poisoning known to man.
4. It is a wonderful aid in pregnancy, when administered with skill!
5. According to one of the greatest users of it in Mormondom, Priddy
Meeks: "It is ordained by God to be used in wisdom!"
6. A Divine Being appeared to Priddy Meeks and urged him to double his
efforts in the use of lobelia upon a sick and dying man.
7. Patty Sessions, a faithful Latter-day Saint was advised by God to use
lobelia in all of her practices!
8. Even Herbal Doctors do not agree on some things.
9. The wonderful virtues of lobelia cannot be extolled enough.
THE WAYS OF HEAVEN -- REVELATION AND HERBS
(Faith-Promoting Incidents of Inspiration in Mormon Medicine)
Because most of the early Latter-day Saints came from an early American
or English background, it would only stand to reason that most had been
subjected to one form of Sectarianism or another; and some, perhaps, to quite
an extent. Be they Baptist, Methodist or Church of England, it would be
logical to assume that a lot of them were acquainted with their Bible quite
well. If we stop for a moment and analyze the actions of young Joseph Smith,
we will realize that he turned immediately to the Bible after hearing a sermon
preached by a Sectarian minister in his parents' church, which he happened to
attend one Sunday. And, of course, that scripture in James led him to the
great religion experience which he had later on in the Sacred Grove, some
distance from his home. Thus, we can see from this little incident how
extensively the Bible was relied upon and used by people then.
It seems that a general rule, more of early America in those primitive
times, were intimately acquainted with what the "Good Book" said, than are the
people today in this country. People had more of a religious attitude towards
things then, and a reverence and respect borne of Bible indoctrination, that
what presently prevails among our citizenry.
Being so closely connected with the Bible, in almost every aspect of
their lives, these early converts to the new faith of Mormonism would, of
necessity, know how God felt towards doctors, from what they read, or did not
read. A learned commentator on the Bible, put it this way:
In the Old Testament, there is little place for the physician, if
indeed, he existed at all, because God alone was regarded as the healer.
He was the source of life and health, sending disease and disaster to
Mankind as punishment for sin; and healing it only if the sufferers were
worthy of cure. "If thou wilt diligently hearken unto the voice of the
Lord thy God and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all his
statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee which I have
brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord that healeth thee." (Exodus
Any human knowledge of healing was regarded with disfavour, lest it
should attract from a power which ought to belong to God alone. Few
remedies are mentioned in the Old Testament, and in every case the
treatment is recommended by a 'Man of God.' Naaman, the leper, is told
by Elijah (2 Kings 5:10): 'to wash himself seven times in the river
Jordan;' King Hezekiah, 'sick unto death' from a boil (the exact
diagnosis is obscure); while Elijah restored to life the son of the widow
of Zarepath, apparently performing artificial respiration. (I Kings
If physicians did exist among the Jews when the Old [T]estament was
written, there is surprisingly little reference to them in the sacred
writing. The oft-quoted eulogy, commencing, 'Honor a physician with the
honor due to him for the uses which ye may have of him; for the Lord hath
created him,' is from a book, which, strangely enough, was not included
in the Canon, 'The Wisdom of Jesus, the son of Sirach of
Ecclesiasticus.' It is a noble testimonial to the medical profession,
although the last verse, 'He that sinneth before His Maker, let him fall
into the hand of the physician' -- is capable of more than one
Thus it would only be proper to admit that most Biblically-minded
Latter-day Saints would not employ the use of doctors but rather rely upon
faith and inspiration to do the healing work for them. A fine example of this
may be found in Mother Smith's own family. Her oldest brother, Jason Mack,
was an inspired man of God before the introduction of the Restored Gospel, and
enjoyed such benefits and blessing[s] as them who believe, receive. He was a
standard for good wherever he went, proclaiming the gospel as he understood it
from the Bible, and healing the sick by the laying on of hands, as well as the
ministration of mild herbs and such unto them. In all of this, he moved as he
was conducted to do so by the Spirit of the Lord, and did it all in the Name
of Jesus and good faith, without any priesthood means whatsoever. This is not
to imply, however, that priesthood is not necessary; for surely, he must have
been limited in the amount of good which he could have done had he had the
Melchizedek Priesthood with which to operate by. Nevertheless, such as what
he did enjoy was the means of great comfort and much security to those unto
whom he ministered. An account of this goes as follows:
Jason...became what was then called a Seeker, and believing that by
prayer and faith the gifts of the gospel, which were enjoyed by the
ancient disciples of Christ, might be attained, he labored almost
incessantly to convert others to the same faith. He was also of the
opinion that God would, at some subsequent period, manifest [H]is power
as [H]e had anciently done -- in signs and wonders....
...'according to my early adopted principles of the power of faith,
the Lord has, in his exceeding kindness, bestowed upon me the gift of
healing by the prayer of faith, and the use of such simple means as seem
congenial to the human system; but my chief reliance is upon him who
organized us at the first, and can restore at pleasure that which is
'The first of my peculiar success in this way was twelve years
since, and from nearly that date I have had little rest. In addition to
the incessant calls which I, in a very short time had, there was the most
overwhelming torrent of opposition poured down upon me that I ever
witnessed. But it pleased God to take the weak to confound the wisdom of
the wise. I have in the last twelve years seen the greatest
manifestations of the power of God in healing the sick, that, with all my
sanguinity, I ever had declared with sober face, time and again, that
disease had obtained such an ascendency that death could be resisted no
longer, that the victim must wither beneath his potent arm; I have seen
the almost lifeless clay slowly but surely resuscitated, and revive, till
the pallid monster fled so far that the patient was left in the full
blood of vigorous health. But it is God that hath done it, and to him
let all the praise be given.
'I am not compelled to close this epistle, for I must start
immediately on a journey of more than one hundred miles, to attend a
heavy case of sickness; so God be with all. Farewell!'
Now, in the book of Isaiah, we read the following familiar piece of
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my
ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher
than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Now, one of the peculiar tenets to Mormon belief, is that every man might
enjoy for himself, distinct revelation from on High. No other religion in the
world makes such a bold and definite claim of the matter as we do. And,
because of this unique privilege enjoyed by every worthy Latter-day Saint,
man, woman, or child, they should be able to receive for themselves the
correct manner of wisdom they need.
Such then is what the Lord has promised His Children that if they would
become His People, then He would lead them in the paths of righteousness
The early period of the Church was fraught with much hardship and social
ills. People were often left in dire predicaments and desperate situations,
from which the only recourse seemed to be: "turn to God and trust in Him, with
all thy heart, might, mind and strength." And when they did so, they found
Him to be the same loving God which He has always been; and discovered for
themselves, this testimony: that indeed, His ways are better than man's ways.
Willard Gilbert Smith was the son of Warren and Amanda Barnes Smith.
He was born May 9, 1827, in Amherst, Lorain County, Ohio, and was the
eldest child in a family of eight. Willard's parents joined the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints early in 1831, just one year after
the Church was organized....
On the morning of October 30, they arrived at a little place called
Haun's Mill, a small settlement on Shoal Creek, composed of Latter-day
...Myself and two brothers were with father when, without warning a
large body of mounted men, blackened and painted like Indians, rode up
yelling and commenced shooting at the crowd. The men at the shop called
for quarters; to this the mob paid no attention. They then called for
the women and children to run for their lives.
'We were surrounded on three sides by the mob; the old mill and mill
pond were on the other. The men ran for the shop, taking the little boys
with them. My two little brothers ran in with father. I followed but
when I started to enter the shop and my arms flew up and braced
themselves against each side of the door, preventing my entrance...I ran
around the corner of the shop and crawled into a pile of lumber, hiding
as best I could...
'As soon as I was sure they had gone, I started for the shop. ...I
said, 'Alma is alive but they have killed father and Sardis.' ...Mother
leveled the straw, laid some clothes over it and on this ...we placed
Alma, and cut his pants off. We could then see the extent of his injury.
The entire ball and socket joint of the left hip was entirely shot away,
leaving the bones three or four inches apart. It was a sickening sight,
one I shall never forget. Mother was full of divine, trusting faith, a
most marvellous, wonderful woman...Mother said, 'All right,let's pray to
the Lord and ask Him (what to do).' So we all gathered around him on his
bed of straw and mother prayed, dedicating him to the Lord, asking God to
spare his life if He could make him strong and well but to take him to
himself if this were impossible...In her terrible excitement and sorrow,
her only help seemed her Heavenly Father. So she prayed for guidance,
pleading for help in this dire extremity. By inspiration her prayers
were answered and she knew what to do. She placed little Alma in a
comfortable position on his stomach, telling him, 'The Lord has made it
known to me that He will make you well, but you must lie on your stomach
for a few weeks.'
Mother was inspired to take the white ashes from the campfire, place
them in water to make a weak lye, with which she washed the wound; all
the crushed bone, mangled flesh and blood were thus washed away, leaving
the wound clean and almost white like chicken breast. The[n] she was
prompted how to make a poultice for the wound. Mother asked me if I knew
where I could get some Slippery Elm tree roots. I said I knew where
there was such a tree. She gave me a lighted torch of shag bark hickory
with which to find my way.
...I took the torch and ax and soon got the roots from which Mother
made a poultice, with which she filled the wound. As soon as the
poultice turned dark it was removed and the wound washed and re-filled.'
From this beautiful story we learn that the Lord was able to inspire this
woman with [the] right kind of method for treating her son, and able to show
this to her through the fine medium of revelation.
Such Divine wisdom and inspiration even attended the Prophet Joseph Smith
at times when he was sick. For, we find in one recorded instance, that his
attendant felt impressed to do nothing but give him enemas during the entire
course of his fever:
The Prophet at this time sick with the fever, chose me as his
constant nurse and companion, and I will here say, as a valuable hint to
the wise, that the sanitary treatment of copiously flushing the colon
with water, much upon the present 'Hall System,' was about his only
And a missionary in the Church from Nauvoo, while in the field earnestly
performing his assigned labors, found himself in such a literal "Scratch" of
thing, that it required Divine Guidance again, to remedy his excruciating
...I caught the itch, which nearly cost me my life. An Elder that
traveled with mo on one occasion, advised me to get some mercury,
dissolve in water and wash wherever I was broken out with this rash,
which I did, in a cold room; which caused it to strike inwardly.
'I was very sick the day I done this. I had to travel about 16 or
17 miles and hold three meetings. I got through, but oh my, it was a
hard day's work.
'The Spirit of the Lord suggested to me to get some burdock roots
and make some tea and drink it freely, which I did, and it killed the
effects of the mercury, and I recovered.
And during the hard days experienced at Winter Quarters, the suffering
Mormon pioneers found they had very little to subsist upon. "They had not
enough food to satisfy the cravings of the sick, nor clothing fit to wear.
For months thereafter there were periods when all the flour they used was the
coarsest, the wheat being ground in coffee and hand mills, which only cut the
grain; others used a pestle; the finer meal was used for bread, the coarser
made into hominy. Boiled wheat was now the chief diet for the sick and well.
For ten day subsisted on parched corn." As the scanty food supply was getting
dangerously low, some felt inspired to mix "...[T]heir remnant of the grain
with the pounded bark of the Slippery Elm which they stripped from the trees
along their route." Thus, was an otherwise unpalatable meal, made somewhat
nourishing and healthy by the addition of this fine herb.
In the trying times of tested faith, when "The famine had waxed sore" in
the valley, and the plague of the crickets came, many families were without
meal, or flour, or any kind of grain with which to make bread. It was here
that the Lord provided for them to eat the "bitter herb of the field" for
Beef, milk, pig-weeds, segos, and thistles formed our diet. I was
the herd boy, and while out watching the stock, I used to eat thistle
stalks until my stomach would be as full as a cow's.
Even when there were no herbs around to subsist upon, or mingle with
other scraps of food, or to remedy a physical complaint, revelation afforded
other means, such as prayer, by which a man could be benefitted:
I often suffered with acute, cutting pain in my stomach, which at
times would cause the sweat to start from every pore. This, with
constant piles and tendency to dyspepsia, made me very unfit for such
arduous labors. The duties alone of caring for the teams and other camp
duties looked great indeed to me, and coming from one of the best tables
in Nauvoo, with my delicate appetite -- now how was I to live!
After being a few days in camp, some commenced to complain of
hardship and poor fare, but President Young roared upon them like a lion,
and told them, and all who could not then commence to live upon 'boiled
beans and corn,' trust in God and be grateful for what they did get,
should start back at once, for the camp of the Saints would be a poor
place for them. This came to me as the word of the Lord, but what was I
For a long time I had been unable to eat cornbread or beans, as they
gave me those unbearable stomach pains, how could I then go, for the most
we had now for food was corn and beans. I felt it was a subject of life
or death to me, and I asked myself what show there would be for me in
turning back with my three wives; and whether it were not better to die,
trusting in the Lord and being faithful than to feel that I could not
conform to the necessities of the journey and go forward.
This was on Sunday, and in the evening, we talked the matter over.
I told my wives I was there to trust in the Lord, and if He was not with
us He certainly was not behind us, and I should not go back. I was
willing to eat such food as we had and be grateful for. And if the Lord
did not take care of us now; the sooner we were all dead, the better, for
we would not be able to care for ourselves or protect our lives upon this
...And here I will say that before breaking camp at Sugar Creek, the
beans and corn, formerly uneatable to me, I could eat with relish, and
from that time the old effect did not return to me on the journey. I had
told the Lord what His servant had said, that by His help I would fulfill
every requirement, and if it was His will that I should live to be His
servant, He must cause my food to assimilate to the conditions of my
stomach, which I know He did.
Now to many of us in modern times, such simple remedies of herbs and
plants might seem rather ridiculous. What God would consider a plant of great
virtue, man may think of as a weed, and trample it beneath his feet. A noted
herbalist, who had a genuine appreciation for the finer things in life, had
this to say about blossomed creations in Mother Nature:
When I study the herbs, flowers, roots, barks and the leaves of
trees, and see the wonderful medical properties they contain, the
marvelous benefits that are derived from their use, I feel that the word
'wonderful' is inadequate to express the real truth. The phrase, 'the
mighty miracle working power of god' is none too strong. If you had seen
the connections with hygenic measures, you would not think for one moment
that these statements are overdrawn. As I go out into the woods and see
the lofty trees I feel like taking off my hat in reverence to God for the
wonderful medical properties in these various trees for the healing of
man as well as for their use for building houses in which to live,
furnishing fuel with which to cook our food, and heat to keep us warm.
And so it was, that God in His great, infinite wisdom sought to raise the
lowly, despised thistle into a category of respectability, by revealing its
"manifest destiny" to the mind of one Latter-day Saint, through revelation:
June 3, 1864. Received a beautiful letter from my father. After
describing the suffering he had endured lately from an attack of liver
complaint, he says, 'On Saturday last I went to the South Mountain to
seek the face of my physician and to pour out my complaint into His ear
where none but He could hear. I asked Him to relieve me of my distress
or voice of my mouth and by His Holy Spirit enlightened me to know that
He had stored up virtue in the noxious thistle, exactly suited to my
disease, and as it was before me I gathered it, brought it home, stewed
it up in water, ate it and found relief. Blessed by the name of Him who
lives from age to age without change.
Often the men of herbal medicine were inspired by revelation, too:
He and I were digging potatoes one evening and it was not time to
quit work yet, and impulse struck me to look towards Cedar City; we could
see the road five or six miles distance, and when I looked I saw the dust
rising in the road. The impulse struck me again with force as much as to
say, 'There is someone from Cedar City wanting you to go there to doctor
someone, and now cover up your potatoes with vines to keep the frost
off.' 'Come Dick,' I said, 'let us cover up our potatoes.'
We had just finished and met the messenger at the field gate some
two or three hundred yards from the house, saying, there was a woman at
Cedar City that would die before morning without assistance, so I went.
The woman had a rising in her breast which was expected to break inside
any minute which would prove fatal; but by making an incision with a
lancet two inches deep it reached corruption and she was instantly
relieved, and was soon well.
My course in general has been an inspired course all through my
Priddy Meeks, the botanic physician of southern Utah, often received
unusual, though true, doctrine with regards to his practice, by that
penetrating influence which leaves no doubt:
May the 19th, 1882. This morning a few thoughts forcibly suggested
themselves to me before I got out of bed. Old people that have passed
the turn of life should not eat much cold victuals nor take heavy
droughts of anything that is cold because they are deficient in the
warmth of the system and what little warmth there is in the system has to
be assimilated into the cold that is in the system to bring the
temperature of the whole system into an equilibrium; this instead of
increasing the heat ('which is one great object in eating') it decreases
it. Heat is life or the residence of it and the more warmth until it
comes to the maximum of health the more life is enjoyed (and vice-versa).
The more cold the more death, till warmth is overpowered and the life
goes out with the warmth.
All men and women are subject to this law because they all pass
through the turn of life, similar (no difference) and that consists in
passing down the stream of life to mingle with their native element and
that turn of life consists in the drying up of the nervous system. The
calves of the legs become flabby and loose like a cow's bag half milked
and every muscle, leader and tendon in the whole system becomes weakened
and relaxed. It certainly is supreme reasoning that the very life of man
can be cultivated and improved and lengthened out on the same principles
as other things and I believe that the improvement would be just as great
in man as an Irish potato or the lower order of animals. Isaiah says,
"in the days of a tree." And it is reasonable to suppose that his
physical power will develop and increase according to his longevity.
All this will be brought about upon common sense principles, and
when we learn common sense principle in taking care of ourselves and
practice it and take common sense remedies and eat common sense food,
eating nothing that will militate against our health, wear nothing that
will militate against our present or future comfort, take no medicines
that will poison the system and adhere to the Word of Wisdom that says,
all wholesome herbs are ordained of God for the constitution and nature
and use of man and then practice it, then will the human family begin to
lengthen out their days [and the days of man] will be as the days of a
tree; not suffering the ravages of sickness and misery that now afflict
the present generation in consequence of their not observing the laws of
health and longevity and keeping the commandments of God.
Then will the powers of the priesthood become more of a supreme fact
in the eyes of nations of the earth in controlling foul spirits and the
spirits of disobedience. Although the devil will be close on our heels
as long as he can muster his forces to come up against the Saints of the
Most High God. But there must be an opposition in all things and let us
prepare ourselves for it by dealing justly, and loving mercy and walking
humbly before our God.
Before we close this chapter, it will be necessary to look at another
phase of herbal medicine in Mormonism. And this has to do with the use of
olive oil, within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The
lexicographer, Mr. Webster, considered the olive tree a thing "of antiquity."
When one searches the oldest Book known to man, he readily comes to find out
just how true this is.
The reason we have to classify olive oil with herbal medicine, is because
it figured in with certain other herbs in times past:
Among all the ancient Eastern nations, olive oil was one of the most
precious products. It was used lavishly by the Egyptians for their hair
and the skin, as well as in all sorts of ceremonies.
To the Israelites in the Desert the anticipation of the 'corn and
wine and oil' of Canaan was always present, and throughout their history
there are abundant evidences of how they prized it.
The prescription for the 'holy anointing oil' was given in Exodus,
xxx, 23, [and] is very remarkable. It was to be compounded of the
Flowing myrrh - 500 shekels.
Sweet cinnamon - 250 shekels.
Sweet calamus - 250 shekels.
Cassia (or costus) - 500 shekels.
Olive oil - One hin.
A "hin" was a measure equivalent to about 5-1/2 of our quarts. The
shekel was nearly 15 lbs., and some of the Rabbis insist that the 'shekel
of the sanctuary' was twice the weight of the ordinary shekel.
As can be clearly seen, the other above ingredients are all herbs, which
were to be mixed together with pure olive oil and made into "a confection
after the art of the apothecary."
In modern times the "symbol of peace" has had its oil used for purposes
besides cooking. In the field of general medicine, the use of olive oil has
been strongly recommended by some prominent medical men, in such diverse ways
as "an enema consisting of four ounces of olive-oil" given for obstinate
constipation. And this, too, advised by a man who was a member of the
American Medical Association, the Chicago Medical Society, and Superintendent
of the North Yakima (Washington) General Hospital.
And a nationally-recognized dietitian of the 1920's, Dr. Frank McCoy,
found olive oil indispensable in the eradication of gall stone from the
The first method treatment to be used for any disorder of the liver
or gall-bladder is the olive oil and fruit juice regime. Just before
retiring the patient usually takes 4 ozs. of olive oil, together with 4
ozs. of lemon, orange, or grapefruit juice. The oil and fruit juice are
beaten up well together into as much of an emulsion as possible, and the
mixture, if taken just before retiring, is less liable to cause nausea
while the patient is asleep. This may be taken on one night only, or on
several nights in succession, and should be followed by a fast with
grapefruit juice, lemon juice, or orange juice. This fast should be
continued as long as necessary, and the olive oil treatment may be taken
as many ties as seems advisable to accomplish a thorough cleansing of the
gall-bladder and liver...
Case 45. Man, 40 years of age. Had suffered from several attacks
of gall-stone colic, and had been advised to undergo an operation, but
would not consent, because in several cases with which he was familiar
where operations had been performed the patients had only received
temporary relief, and afterwards had a more aggravated form of trouble
I was called in on one case while he was having a most severe attack
of gall-stone colic, and it was several hours before the cramps could be
relieved. At first he was so nauseated that everything taken into his
stomach would be immediately vomited, and the olive oil regime could not
be administered until after the acute attack had subsided. However,
through the use of small amounts of lemon juice, together with hot
applications over the gall-bladder and hot enemas, the trouble was
sufficiently relieved during the first day to enable him, after 24 hours
of this treatment, to retain 4 ozs. of olive oil and 4 ozs. of lemon
juice. After taking these he was able to sleep for 12 hours, being
utterly exhausted from the acute attack.
As soon as he awakened he was given an enema of 2 quarts of hot
water. This brought away about 200 small gall-stones with quantities of
bile and mucus. The olive oil treatment was administered each night for
three more days, the patient using a lemon juice fast during the rest of
the time, that is, taking the juice of half a lemon in a glass of water
every half-hour of the day. The fast was not continued long, as the
patient wanted get back to his office for some important business, so he
was put upon a careful diet, and the olive oil and grapefruit juice taken
every their hour with the enema until they were all gradually eliminated,
and at the end of 30 days there was no further sign of anything except
bile being brought away.
This cure was effected over four years ago, and the patient has
remained in perfect health ever since, with not the slightest return of
any symptom of gall-stones. He has also remained well in every way,
without any of the headaches which he experienced for so many years, and
which were no doubt caused by a chronic state of biliousness.
These uses of olive oil were not just confined to the Gentile populace
alone. In fact, at one time in Mormonism, it used to be quite the thing to
take concentrated olive oil internally, as part of the general good medicine
suggested by God. Saints thought no more of consuming it internally as they
did of drinking herbal teas, and felt that it was as proper and right in its
place to take as botanic medicine was. One recorded instance of this, where
the person felt to relieve himself of doctors and trust in God, is:
About the first of the year 1852, Thomas was taken suddenly ill with
bilious fever and brought home for treatment. The father very much
against the wish of Thomas, sent for a doctor, who attended him for five
or six weeks without any sign of improvement; in fact, he continued to
grow worse. The father became greatly alarmed and discouraged, lest he
also should die.
Finally, Thomas determined to have his own way in the matter of
remedies, and the next time the doctor called he told him he had decided
to take no more of his medicine, and to dispense with his services. He
asked his father to throw away all of the doctor's medicine that he had,
and to get him a bottle of olive oil, and he would take that and trust in
the Lord for the result.
He took about half of the bottle of oil, which caused nausea, and he
really felt for a while as if he was dying, but after vomiting very
freely, and thus relieving his system of a good deal of the poison which
had accumulated therein, he felt better and from that time improved.
Another case on record, wherein olive oil was connected with a marvelous
spiritual manifestation, is this:
My mind reverts back a few years when I had a little sick girl on
Thanksgiving, who was not expected to live. She was fighting for breath,
and to live seemed impossible. Yet from the very beginning she had faith
that she would live, and what made her so firm about it was that she, in
the dreariness of those long nights of affliction, had a vision. A
personage appeared to her, clothed in white, standing as it seemed in the
air; and he brought to her bedside such peace and joy as none can
describe or express. This made her say within herself, 'I know I am
going to get well.'
This little girl was what you would call an invalid for two years,
notwithstanding she was prayed for constantly by relatives and friends,
and she saw the good of prayer. Many times she [was] relieved of pain
instantly by her own prayers and also by the prayers of the Elders of the
Church. One day she said: 'Ma, how I wish I could go to the temple! I
know I should get well.' And she prayed earnestly that she might go.
One day a sister by the name of Hjorth, who now lives in Fairview, heard
of it and sent word that she was going to the temple and would be glad to
take the child with her without expense -- for us just to prepare her
clothes and send her to her. In a few hours she was off, for it so
happened that her clothes were in readiness. She was gone ten days and
our family fasted and prayed for her the day we thought she would be in
the temple, and the little boys expected to see their sister healed
But God saw fit for us to wait yet a little longer. She came home
rejoicing and telling how she cried when she was blessed, though she
couldn't tell why she was crying. She said, 'Ma, there was the sweetest
feeling there! How earnestly they prayed, and they promised me I should
get well! If I could always feel like I did there, I would not care if I
had only a crust to eat.'
This was the Manti Temple. When she came home she brought a large
bottle of oil with her and worried much for fear it would not last till
she got well, for she thought she couldn't get any as good as that. But
she got well in six weeks, had some of the oil left, and is now strong
and healthy. She has worked and has earned her mother a new dress for
this Thanksgiving, which caused her to shed tears of joy, and to feel to
thank God for the blessings He bestowed upon her child.
In closing, it would be good to keep in mind that revelation is the
object which fills the gap of human ignorance, and supplies man the knowledge
he needs at that time. And also to remember, the words of a well-known Mormon
God Moves in a Mysterious Way
God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sov'reign will.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter
And He will make it plain.
1. The Bible has little use for physicians, and any healing done
therein, is automatically attributed to God.
2. In ancient times, Men of God often advised the proper medicinal
remedy to employ in cases of sickness or illness.
3. Jason Mack, an uncle to the Prophet Joseph Smith, enjoyed inspiration
while healing people.
4. God's ways are higher than man's ways.
5. A woman with a mortally-wounded child, was inspired by the Holy
6. Joseph Smith believed in flushing the colon with water when sick (or
taking an enema, to be more practical about the subject).
7. A missionary received revelation from God to use a certain herb with
which to relieve himself of a terrible itching sensation.
8. When hungry the pioneers often would be inclined to eat of the herbs
of the field, when food was scarce and in short supply.
9. Faith and prayer relieved a stomach condition.
10. The wonderful medical properties in trees and plants is
11. Something so common and despised as the lowly thistle, even has
virtue in it!
12. Revelation can bring some good, sound principles on general health to
a person, if they are desirous of learning more in that direction.
13. In ancient times, olive oil was used in conjunction with other herbs.
14. The healing properties of consecrated oil, when taken internally, are
not to be underestimated.
THE MORMON LEADER WHO VACILLATED
(Brigham Young and the Doctors)
The position of Brigham Young in regards to medical doctors is a rather
difficult one to state. On the one hand, he followed closely behind the
martyred Seer and Revelator in the same footsteps, which Joseph had walked.
On the other hand, he seems to have been inclined away from herbs somewhat,
towards a more practical acceptance of medical science at the close of his
life. For quite awhile he seemed to maintain Joseph's ethics and beliefs in
relation to the medical profession at large. As early as 1846, we find him
issuing the following statement to the Mormon Battalion:
Camp of Israel, Omaha Nation
August 19th, 1846
To Captain Jefferson Hunt and the Captains, Officers, and Soldiers of the
We have the opportunity of sending to Fort Leavenworth this morning by
Dr. Reed a package of twenty-five letters, which we improve, with this word of
counsel to you all: If you are sick, live by faith, and let surgeon's medicine
alone. If you want to live, using only such herbs and mild food as are at
your disposal. If you give heed to this counsel, you will prosper; but if
not, we cannot be responsible for the consequences. A hint to the wise is
In behalf of the Council,
Brigham Young, President
Willard Richards, Clerk.
It would seem from this that President Young was as strongly influenced
against these things as what his predecessor had been. Hence, the imparting
of this advice to the man. However, they were under a different type of
command -- a federal one, officered by unprincipled men of the United States
Government, who insisted -- nay, demanded, absolute loyalty under any
circumstances. And with their caravan was a wicked Missouri doctor, who hated
the Mormons with a passion. His name was Sanderson, and "he threatened to cut
the throat of any man who would administer any medicine without his orders."
Now, Brigham Young had counselled privately with Col. James Allen (the
recruiting officer of the Battalion) in matters of the utmost concern
governing the volunteers from the Mormon encampments. Among other things
which he discussed with Col. Allen was the necessity of having a good botanic
physician along to treat the people of their faith, with the things they
believed in. Hence, we find a Mormon herbalist, one Dr. McIntyre,
accompanying the men along on their journey.
This is officially set down in a direct order issued by the army colonel
while at Fort Leavenworth:
Head Quarters, Mormon Battalion,
July 16, 1846.
(Order No. 3)
'William L. McIntyre, of the Mormon people, is hereby appointed
assistant surgeon to the Mormon Battalion of volunteers of the United
States, and under my command. He will be obeyed and respected
accordingly, and will be entitled to the pay and emoluments as an
assistant surgeon in the United States Army.
J. Allen, Lt. Col. U.S.A.,
Despite this legal confirmation, we find the following problem developing
after the unfortunate demise of such a good man:
Dr. McIntyre, a good botanic physician, had been appointed assistant
surgeon by Colonel Allen on the day of our enlistment; yet under the pain
of this threat he must not administer one herb to his afflicted friends
and brethren unless order so to do by the mineral quack who was his
superior in office.
Such resentment was there expressed towards the unjust
treatment they received under this medical doctor's hand, a parody was
composed by Levi W. Hancock, entitled "The Desert Route," which set down in
two verses their precise feeling upon the subject of men and medicine:
A Doctor which the Government
Has furnished, proves a punishment!
At his rude call of 'Jim along Joe,'
The sick and halt, to him must go.
Both night and morn, this call is heard;
Our indignation then is stirr'd,'
And we sincerely wish in hell,
His arsenic and calomel!
It is an amazing fact to consider that some eight years later, the
smoldering anger these men felt toward Dr. Sanderson, became alive and was
renewed at a gathering of the Battalion in Salt Lake City, February, 1855.
Perhaps, no more resentment has ever been kindled in the hearts of the Mormon
people towards medical doctors, as it was towards this old mobocrat. The
toasts which were offered in behalf of this man's unworthy name, went as
Captain Brown: 'Here's to all oppressors of the Mormon Battalion;
may they wither as the leek, and be carried by the Devil, and become
servants to the Battalion and their children to the latest generation.
Here's hoping old Dr. Sanderson's profession in the future state may
be giving calomel to our enemies in hell. Amen --
T. S. Williams
Brigham Young's attitude remained quite definite for a number of years in
relation to the medical profession, in general. We find that, shortly after
the Saints had become established within the Valley,
A doctor from Illinois wrote to Brigham Young to volunteer to bring a
large group of neighbors to Utah as converts to Mormonism. Brigham told him
that if he wanted to earn his bread like an honorable man he would be welcome,
but that there was very little need for doctors in Utah.
President Joseph Young, Brigham's elder brother, speaking in
the Tabernacle, January 3, 1858, re-echoed the same strong sentiments which
his brother felt about medical men, only in a modified sense, though:
Paul says, 'The law of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from
the law of sin and death.' Life and liberty are connected together. I
sometimes visit the sick. Says I, 'What is the matter with you?'
'O, I am sick.' 'What is the cause?' 'I do not know.' 'Are your
stomach and bowels regular?' 'No.' 'Have you taken any medicine or used
any measures to remove this disease?' 'No, I thought I would send for
the Elders for I do not believe in the doctors; I would rather call upon
Let us look at this thing. There is a class of people here that do
not believe in sustaining professional doctors. I am one of them. There
is a certain class of people, again, in this community, when they are
sick, the very first motion they make is to call upon a doctor as quick
as possible. Which of these two classes are right? Neither of them. I
will not say that I would not send for a doctor in some instances, for
example, to perform some difficult surgical operation, if I knew he was a
good surgeon; then there are instances of sickness in which I would not
send for a doctor, because I understand the nature of the disease and I
now how to treat it, as well and better, perhaps, than any doctor, and,
aided by the blessing of the Lord, I can check it, and that is my duty.
But, if I have the Spirit of God dwelling in me, my tabernacle is not
very apt to be diseased.
'But,' says one, 'I am diseased all the time.' You may have brought
your disease into the world with you, or from the country from which you
have immigrated, and coming into a healthy climate, as this is, you feel
the disease moving about in your system and it sometimes appears in a
form which you call the erysipelas.
About this same time, we find the first indications of the great Mormon
leader's vacillation from one extreme to another. In the brief statement
provided below, we find that while he is not challenging medical science, he
certainly is not advocating herbalism, either. Rather, he is insistent upon
maintaining a happy medium between them both. Looking at i[t] from a
practical standpoint, he observed:
If we are sick and ask the Lord to heal us, and to do all for us
that is necessary to be done, according to my understanding of every
remedy that comes within the range of my knowledge, my wheat and corn to
grow without my plowing the ground and casting in the seed. It appears
consistent to me to apply every remedy that comes within the range of my
knowledge, and to ask My Father in Heaven, in the name of Jesus Christ,
to sanctify that application to the healing of my body....It is my duty
to do, when I have it in my power. Many people are unwilling to do one
thing for themselves in case of sickness, but ask God to do it all.
Now, this pronouncement of his is certainly worthy of a little
consideration as we examine the prevailment of herbal medicine in Mormon
history. Brigham Young was a practical sort of man; and while not entirely
relying on the "arm of flesh," yet he was for combining all of the science and
skill known to man, and applying it for the good use and benefit of the Saints
in general. Thus, he may have encouraged home manufacturing on the one hand,
and yet on the other, he and his associated founded and established Zion's
Cooperati[ve] Mercantile Institution (or better known today as just ZCMI),
which was a Mormon-sponsored department store carrying Gentile good from the
East. Another good example was the coming of the railroad to Utah. He viewed
it in two lights: one, as a good thing for the Saints, because it would make
the transportation of granite blocks from the stone quarry in the mountains to
the Temple much easier; two, it was a bad thing in the sense of the riff-raff
it would bring in with it, i.e., Gentiles from all parts of the country. Yet,
from the practical standpoint he allowed it because it was to be a means of
conveying God's Work that much faster to the people ([by] speed[ing] up the
building of the Temple for vicarious work to be done therein).
Here, then, we have the beginnings of a situation developing in Mormonism
that was to continue for some years until the death of this man; and that is,
his fluctuation from the one to the other. Because in 1875, just two years
before his demise, we find him again reasserting his old Nauvoo Winter
Quarters-early Valley beliefs, in this manner:
It is God's mind and will that they (every father and mother) should
know just what to do for them (their children) when they are sick.
Instead of calling for a doctor you should administer to them by the
laying on of hands and anointing with oil, and give them mild food and
herbs and medicine that you understand.
Here, then, was the "supposed" [m]ind and [w]ill of God in the matter.
Here, then, was a Prophet speaking, or God's [o]wn [m]outhpiece declaring the
[w]ill of [h]eaven to the people, or, at least that's what it was intended to
This critique is not prepared from the viewpoint [of] castigat[ing] the
Mormon leader for his vacillation; but rather to offer a logical explanation
for his seemingly inconsistent views at the time offered on the subject in
Brigham Young is not an easy man to figure out. For example: In Nauvoo
he was the sole means of saving Orson Pratt from committing suicide by jumping
in the river. Orson had been somewhat despondent over the affairs of his
unruly wife and his unhappy relationship with the Prophet [Joseph] Smith from
false accusations tendered against the man by Mrs. Pratt. As a result, he had
brought these charges against the Prophet and refused to be reconciled in the
matter, even when clearly shown that his wife had told a bare-faced lie; and
that the real culprit was John C. Bennett. Orson would not forgive the
Prophet and so he was cut off [from] the Church. These sad affairs and other
brooding thoughts led him to take a fateful walk down to the river one day;
and it was only Brigham who intervened and was the means of saving his fellow
Apostle from a very foolish act.
And yet, we find later on [in] the Utah period, Brigham sever[e]ly
chastising Orson Pratt on several different occasions. One was in the book
Orson published entitled, "The Works of Orson Pratt," which was a series of
pamphlets composed by him over an extended period of time. A certain tract in
particular was called "The Great First Cause," in which the Apostle espoused
the belief that all self-moving particles of the Universe were individual
entities of intelligence, governed by their own free system of movement. This
Brigham could not go along with as the theory did not jibe with his own
reckonings on the matter. Thus, we find upon one occasion some rather nasty
remarks made by him in rebuttal to this notion:
Sunday meeting at Beaver, Utah. President Young spoke. He spoke
his feelings in great plainess concerning O. Pratt and his publications.
He said Orson Pratt would go to Hell...'He would sell this people for
gold. What would I give for such an Apostle; not much and yet we hold
him in Fellowship in the Church.'
This is not meant to serve as a discussion of other items, nor to wander
away from the general theme of the subject at large; but merely to introduce a
circumstance of interest to show how contradictory Brigham Young could be in
his feelings and views at certain times. Hence, in the early part of his
ecclesiastical career we find him quite adamant in his feelings against
medical doctors. However, towards the close of his long reign of leadership,
we find that he has become more and more inclined towards the practice of
general medicine in Utah, and less influenced by the botanic arts so long in
An observation has been made that:
[...] in the first ten years of Utah settlement it is probable that most
of the medical treatment was of an herb nature, with a few patent drugs that
might be brought in by those who were east on a mission or to bring in a
company of pioneers.
It was during this period, and even on into the 60's, that President
Young felt the necessity of employing only botanic physicians and mid-wifes
who would administer nothing but herbs. In fact, so strongly did he feel
about it that he maintained the precedent which Joseph had set in Nauvoo by
calling certain women to these vital positions, ordaining them and setting
them apart for that purpose.
Eliza R. Snow came to Richmond to find two women to be sent to Salt
Lake to study mid-wifery. I, Sarah Jane Lewis and Mrs. Sarah Durney were
chosen. When I found I was to go, I said plenty of mean things about the
ones who thought I could go. I was leaving nine children, the youngest
18 months old. I thought there were plenty others who could go easier
and do better work than I. My sister Julia, wife of Henry Grow lived in
Salt Lake City, so I decided to go with her and have a heart to heart
talk with President Young and tell him how impossible it would be for me
to leave my family. President Young listened to me very patiently and
then said, 'Sister Lewis I will give you my blessing -- you will stay
here the alloted time, study, -- your children will be well and happy
during your absence. You shall be blessed in your work. When you have a
difficult case, call on me, I promise to be with you, and above all
things, have faith.'
On returning home I had the best of luck. I always lived in
settlements where there were no doctors until Doctor Adamson came to
Richmond in 1893. I not only attended women but doctored men and
children and was never sorry for the knowledge I attained. I always
thought of myself as a missionary.
It appears that the young woman (Sarah Jane Lewis) had an undying
faith and confidence in the blessing of Brigham Young. From the practice
of obstetrics she branched into other phases of the roll of 'country
Doctor.' The large portion of the rest of [her] active life she spent
caring for the sick. She was always subject to call, day or night. Most
of her work she did as a matter of free service. Occasionally a patient
was able to pay and when she could, Sarah Jane's 'going price' was three
dollars for a delivery. Never did she receive more than five dollars.
In the summertime she would gather tansy, horehound, peppermint,
rhubarb-root, and sage, dry and powder them, and place them in her small
black satchel along with calomel, assafetida, camphor, etc.
And another small reference to a different mid-wife he called on later:
Sara LaDuc Pope had a natural aptitude for nursing and although she
had never received special training Brigham Young recognized her ability
along this line and set her apart as a midwife and nurse.
Though few are aware of it, there was at one time in Utah an herbal
council of botanic physicians, apparently a carry-over of the same type of
thing Joseph Smith established in Nauvoo in the early 1840's. This group was
named the Council of Health, and as their parent Council of Health in Nauvoo
had been, was founded and based by Thomsonian doctors upon Thomsonian
principles of herbal medicine. Priddy Meeks was the one responsible for
organizing it, and writes of its birth in the following manner:
The second winter we were in the valley, Apostle Willard Richards
wintered in a wagon by a foot (sic) stove alone. I frequently visited
him for a social chat which was very interesting to me. I learned many
interesting truths from him.
Doctor William A Morse was a faithful laborer among the sick with
me, and a very good man. He and Brother Phineas Richards (was another
man) and myself was engaged among the sick. We had but little time for
ourselves, viewing the situation of so much sickness. I proposed to my
two partners in medicine, Brothers Morse and Richards, for us to form
some kind of an association for giving information to the mass of the
people in regard to doctoring themselves in sickness so as to help
themselves and lighten our burdens.
So we three went into the wagon to Apostle Richards and made known
our wishes on the subject and he approved very readily and we formed a
society. And Apostle Richards named it the Society of Health. We had a
good deal of chat on the subject pro and con and the spirit of union was
in our midst and we had a precious time of it. So much so that the
Spirit impelled Brother Richards to prophesy that those principles that
we were about to publish to the world would never die out or cease until
it had revolutionized the earth. That declaration was an impetus to that
[which] is in my breast today. They saw fit to appoint me President of
the Institution. We conducted everything by majority.
They chose Doctor Morse and myself to scour the canyons every
Wednesday in search of roots and herbs to present to the Council and
investigation of what we would bring in. It was a speedy way to become
acquainted with the flora of the country and the virtues and properties
of each plant for which Dr. Morse was the most famous. The masses of
people then began to profit by it because of the knowledge they had
gained to know what to do, as the prejudice of some people always goes in
advance of every good work. It was so in this case.
A certain woman made light of the meeting to another woman. So the
second woman would not go to the meeting because the first woman spoke
lightly of it. One of her children took sick and died. After that she
thought she would go the Council of Health and see and hear for herself,
and while the case of her child was so plainly illustrated and how to
cure such cases she remembered it and sometime after that she had another
child taken with the same compl[ai]nt the first child died with, and she
cured it by following the directions she heard in the Council of Health.
Now it was remarkable that no two canyons afforded the same kind of
plants altogether for we found something new in each canyon.
The institution was so beneficial and so successful that the public
began to be universally interested in it. Old Dr. Cannon, a poison
Doctor, and poisoned against the Mormons too, could get but little to do
among the sick; said if we would give them all the surgery to do he would
quit doctoring; and so we did and he joined the Council of Health and
proved a great benefit to us, being a man of much experience and
intelligence. I learned considerable by helping him to dissect the dead.
And after I moved to Parowan in 1851, President Young visited Parowan. I
asked him, 'Has the Council of Health died a natural death or what has
become of it?' He said: 'It will never die, as long as you are living.'
I believe he had knowledge that I was born for that purpose.
The Journal History of the Church makes mention of this Council twice
within a short period of time:
February 21, 1849: 'Willard Richards had a medical conference in
his wagon in the afternoon; similar meetings had been held during the
past three or four weeks.'
A month later, the same exhaustive history source maintained by the Church
Historian, Willard Richards himself, quoted the "History of Brigham Young" as
President Willard Richards informed me by letter that the Council of
Health had selected me and President Heber C. Kimball members thereof,
and Presidents ex-officio; and also stated that Dr. William A. Morse was
delegated to confer with us on the expediency of....visiting the large
island on the Great Salt Lake....for the purpose of....securing for
medical purposes, such saline plants and roots as were much needed.
Dr. William A. Morse announced in the first number of the Deseret News
(founded June 15, 1850 by the LDS Church with Willard Richards as editor) that
the meetings of the Council of Health were being held every two weeks at the
house of Dr. W. Richards:
. . . . Though we may fail to convince some of the superiority of
the botanic practice, we feel confident that our exertions, under this
head, will shake the faith of many in the propriety of swallowing, as
they have long done with implicit confidence, the most deleterious
drugs....We intend to lay before the Council from time to time, such
medicinal plants as shall come to our knowledge, for their approval or
refusal, as we shall find in this vicinity; believing in the goodness of
the Creator that He has placed in most lands medicinal plants for the
cure all diseases incident to that climate, and especially so in relation
to that in which we live.
According to the Deseret News of September 4, 1852, the Council of Health
was held in the Tabernacle on August 31, 1852, addressed by Prof. Albert
Carrington. He spoke on the relations between husband and wife, in the
interests of a healthier posterity. There are other references to the
Council, one in much detail being given by Mrs. B. G. Ferris in "The Mormons
at Home," p. 199. While Mrs. Ferris was obviously quite as interested in
discrediting the Mormons as in displaying her own superiority, her report,
stripped of its sarcasm, may be of interest:
I attended a meeting of the Council of Health yesterday. This is a
sort of female society something like our Dorcas Societies, whose members
have meetings to talk over their occasional aches and pains, and the mode
of cure. There are a few who call themselves physicians, and they are
privileged to a seat in this important assemblage. [T]he meeting was in
one of the Ward school houses. There were from forty to fifty present,
old and young. The meeting was called to order by Dr. Richards, hoary
headed, whose looks were sufficiently sanctified to remind you of some of
our good deacons at home. A Dr. Sprague then rose and made a few
commonplace remarks about health. As soon as Dr. Sprague sat down,
Sister Newman said that Mormon women ought not to be subject to pain, but
that disease and death must be banished from among them. She was
succeeded by Sister Susanna Lippincott. She advocated pouring down
lobelia until the devils were driven out of the body. Sister Gibbs got
up, fully possessed, to overflowing, with the notion of healing, even to
the mending of broken limbs, by faith and the laying on of hands. By
some unlucky mishap, her arms had been dislocated, and she roundly
asserted that it had been instantaneously put into its place by this
During the territorial days of Deseret, when the only tolerance Brigham
had for the medical profession was in good botanic physicians, these men
practiced widely throughout the valleys. The majority of their methods used
seemed to be within the bounds of Divine Wisdom and good, common sense.
However, a few of their techniques could be considered a little strange, and
sometimes bordering on the ludicrous. One such down-right funny practice was
employed by Dr. Morse, a member of the Council of Health and a competent
herbalist in other ways, but questionable in this instance:
Wm. R. Palmer relates the following incident, told to him by David
Bulloch as a personal experience. Mr. Bulloch, then a young man residing
with his parents in Cedar City, had been desperately ill for a week with
abdominal cramps and a severe pain in his right side -- doubtless
Home remedies had failed to give relief and the anxious parents sent
post haste for Dr. Morse...Galloping the twenty miles on relay mounts Dr.
Morse arrived in the nick of time -- dispersing a flock of chickens as he
dashed into the Bulloch doorway.
'Dave,' said the doctor, gravely, after a thorough examination, 'if
its mortifications, all the doctors in hades can't save you!' Ordering a
live chicken caught, the resourceful doctor split it wide open and
pressed the bloody bird, still squirming and squawking against the
patient's bare abdomen. This was continued, with relays of chickens, as
fast as they cooled, all through the night. The pain was subsided by
morning, and in a few days, young David was going about his work,
completely healed. 'Thank the Lord it was only inflammation and not
mortification,' observed David, through the memory of years; 'But I was a
bloody mess, and the bed and the room looked like a slaughter house after
a busy day!'
But the Council of Health seemed to continue in pretty good health
otherwise, save for an occasional member "chickening out" as has just been
related. The Millenial Star of September, 1852, published the following
Arrival of Mails from the Great Salt Lake Valley. We have received
Deseret News to the 26th of June, letters, etc., from the Salt Lake
The Council of Health assembles frequently. Members continually
increasing. The Deseret News remarks: -- 'An increased desire for the
promotion of health is manifest, particularly among the ladies of the
Council; and propositions are now up for improving the fashions in dress,
which will tend not only to health, but happiness, comfort, ease, beauty,
and everything that is delightful in female economy, and gentility.
...Great exertions are made by the sisters to prepare themselves to nurse
each good man will lend his influence and aid to accomplish this object,
regardless alike of personal aggrandizement, and pockets full of gold.
The members of the Council, together with many of the citizens, left
Salt Lake City on the 16th of June, and held a picnic on the top of
E[n]sign Hill, [w]here they were addressed by Patriarch John Young and
James W. Cummings.
The Council of Health was established to devise ways and means to
prevent disease, etc., and for preparing and administering of herbs and
mild foods to the sick, according to the holy commandments of God.
Sometime in the late Winter and early Spring of 1856, the president of
the Council of Health, Willard Richards, took very sick with the dropsy and
was confined to his house. During this period of time, his young stripling
son, Heber John waited patiently upon his father. With his slight frame, dark
eyes, and somewhat detached manner, yet with his probing, insistent mind, the
tall lad had proved to Willard a constant reminder of his deceased wife of
Jennetta. The youngster would often ask his beloved father, "Pa, may I bring
your slippers? Will it easy your pain if I rub your hand and arm?" Dr.
Richards always had poor circulation throughout his entire life, and suffered
terribly during the cold spell on the plains while at Winter Quarters. As his
remaining weeks ticked slowly away, the boy was constantly by the ailing man's
side, ministering unto him whatever co[m]forts he could. Frequently, he would
light the Apostle's pipe at the hearth and take it to him. Finally, however,
the end came, and Brigham Young's Second Counsellor breathed his last and
passed away in peace. Naturally, he had a botanic physician by his side when
he went. This was his own brother, Levi Richards.
It was whispered in some circles that the Council of Health would end now
that its president had succumbed. But following the death of Dr. Richards,
this article appeared in the Deseret News:
....by desire of the late Prs. Willard Richards, and urged thereto
by repeated solicitations from many of the sisters, it is my intention on
or about the 1st of May (1855) to open classes for instruction on the
principles of midwifery and the management of women and children. The
course of study will comprise two distinct series of lectures, one
designed especially for the benefit of the matrons practicing midwifery.
The other, of more general application addressed to 'Mothers in Israel'
concerning the management of women during pregnancy, lying in and
nursing; and also treatment of infants and young children...the entire
series consist of sixty lectures...examination will take place at stated
period during the course on midwifery, and at the close certificates of
proficiency will be granted accordingly. The introductory lectures will
be delivered free at the meeting of the Universal Scientific Institution
in the Council House, on Saturday evening, april 21, 1855, on which
occasion the time and places of delivering the subsequent lectures will
William France, Surgeon.
Towards the close of the year 1869, we find the great Mormon leader,
Brigham Young, still unchanged in his views towards medical doctors when he
sternly admonished the Saints in the Tabernacle, on November 14:
Learn to take proper care of your children....If any of them are
sick, the cry now, instead of 'Go and fetch the Elders to lay hands on my
child,' is 'Run for a doctor'....you should go to work to study and see
what you can do for the recovery of your children. If a child is taken
sick with fever give it something to stay that fever or relieve the
stomach and bowels, so that mortification may not set in. Treat the
child with prudence and care, with faith and patience, and be careful in
not overcharging it with medicine. If you take too much medicine into
the system, it is worse than too much food....It is the privilege of a
mother to have faith and to administer to her child; this she can do
It was only in the beginning of the 1870's that Brigham Young's
inclination towards doctors and the medical profession became intensified,
terminating in acute. Though he delivered several good, strong sermons
reminisce[nt] of earlier days, yet his leaning back the other way towards that
which he had once abhorred was quite definitely evident. In tracing this
through, we must keep in mind some of the scientific developments in those
times, which pushed Gentile medicine significantly ahead towards
twentieth-century enlightment. A few of these notable discoveries were:
In 1837, James Y. Simpson introduced chloroform; Joseph Lister taught
In 1847 [May 5th], the American Medical Association was organized, and
for the first time a national movement to improve the quality of medicine was
initiated. Also, to effectively replace the Thomsonian system of Cure which
was highly popular and very extensive in America then.
In 1849, Addison described pernicious anemia and suprarenal disease, a
syndrome thereafter known as Addison's Disease.
In 1850, Daniel Drake published his first book on the diseases of the
The year 1851 say Helmholtz invent the opthalmosocpe.
The Crimean War of 1853-56 led Florence Nightingale into the founding of
In 1858, Claude Bernard discovered the vasoconstrictor and vasodilator
The period of 1846 through 1860 saw other anesthesia come into general
In 1861, Pasteur discovered anaerobic bacteria, an event which led to the
introduction of antiseptic surgery by Lister in 1867. The use of antiseptic
surgery permitted operation never dreamed possible before.
The year 1876 saw the founding of Johns-Hopkins University, in which was
America's first graduate school.
In 1880, Pasteur isolated streptococcus and Staphylococcus. The same
year the American Surgical Association was founded.
In 1882, Koch discovered tubercle bacillus, followed by discovery of
cholera bacillus in 1884.
In 1886, Fitz described the pathology of appendicitis.
Finally, in 1893 Roentgen discovered the X-ray. By the time Utah became
a state in 1896, medicine was well on its way towards its present greatness.
By the time the 1870's had rolled around, there had been enough important
advances in medical science to warrant Brigham's attention and notice. He
viewed these, possibly, as he viewed the railroad, and felt that their
inclusion into Mormon society, the people of God would stand to benefit all
the more. Hence, we find him in 1872 calling his nephew, Symour B. Young (son
of his brother, Joseph W. Young, who was opposed to medical practitioners) to
be a doctor and sent him off to New York City to the College of Physicians and
Surgeons, now a part of Columbia University. In 1873, Brigham called the
orphaned son of his cousin, the Thomsonian herbalist Willard Richards, to be a
doctor. Joseph S. Richards, already a druggist, also went to New York Medical
College. He graduated in 1875 and returned to Utah to practice. President
Young also called women to be doctors. The first he called was Romania
Bunnell Pratt, wife of Parley P. Pratt, Jr. After two tries, she graduated
from the Woman's Medical College in Philadelphia in 1877 and returned to Utah
to practice. Another woman called by Brigham Young was Mrs. Ellis R. Shipp,
who also graduated from Woman's Medical College. After returning to Utah, she
began publishing Utah's first medical journal, the Salt Lake Sanitation
(1880-1890). Another early Utah woman doctor was Martha Hughes Paul, who
graduated from the University of Michigan in 1880. Brigham also had a hand in
calling her, too.
From all of this, the reader would be led to believe that President Young
had finally decided in favor of medical science and relaxed his former
interest in the botanic way of healing. But, here again, the element of
surprise enters in. For, during the same time, Brigham was [also] calling
these people to go back East and study herbal medicine at Thomsonian Schools
of Botanic Science. One such person was Patriarch Elias H. Blackburn. Upon
the completion of his course, he returned to Utah and used his herbal
knowledge in the needed cures desired. Sometimes he would just use the prayer
of faith along and the ordinance of administration. Other times he would just
use herbs alone. But in this manner, and after this fashion did he work often
among the sick.
And during that interesting period of the 70's while these
solicitations for skilled men and women of medical science were going out from
the First Presidency at regular intervals, Brigham Young delivered several
stern messages to the Latter-day Saints in the Tabernacle on Temple Square.
As with previous sermons of an earlier vintage, they bespoke of a certain
antagonism towards Gentile standards of medicine -- the very same ones this
man [had] urged to go East and study!
Sermon of September 16, 1871:
We do not know what to do for the sick, and if we send for a doctor
he does not know any more than anybody else. No person knows what to do
for the sick without revelation. Doctors, by their study of the science
of anatomy, and by their experience, by feeling the pulse, and from other
circumstances may be able to judge many things, but they do not know the
exact state of the stomach. And again, the operations of disease are
alike on no two persons on the face of the earth, any more than the
operation of the Spirit of God are alike on any two persons. There is as
much variation in these respects as there is in the physiognomy of the
human family; hence, death often overcomes us, and we bury our friends.
This is hard for us , but what of it. We will follow them; they will not
come back to us.
Sermon delivered October 9, 1872:
Would you want doctors? Yes, to set bones. We should want a good
surgeon for that, or to cut off a limb. Do you want doctors? For not
much of anything else, let me tell you, only the traditions of the people
lead them to think so, and here is a growing evil in our midst. It will
be so in a little time that not a woman in all Israel will dare to have a
baby unless she can have a doctor by her. I will tell you what to do,
you ladies, when you find you are going to have an increase; go off into
some country where you cannot call for a doctor, and see if you can keep
it. I guess you will have it, and I guess it will be all right too.
Now the cry is, 'Send for a doctor.' If you have a pain in the
head, 'Send for a doctor.' If you feel aches, 'I want a doctor;' 'my
back aches, and I want a doctor.'
The study and practice of anatomy and surgery are very good; they
are mechanical, and are frequently needed. Do you not think it is
necessary to give medicine sometimes? Yes, but I would rather have a
wife of mine that knows what medicine to give me when I am sick, than all
the professional doctors in the world. Now let me tell you about
doctoring, because I am acquainted with it, and know just exactly what
constitutes a good doctor in physic. It is a man or a woman who, by
revelation, or we may call it intuitive inspiration, is capable of
administering medicine to assist the human system when it is besieged by
the enemy called Disease; but if they have not that manifestation, they
had better let the sick person alone.
I will tell you why: I can see the faces of this congregation, but I
do not see two alike; and if I could look into your nervous systems and
behold the operations of disease, from the crowns of your heads to the
soles of your feet, I should behold the same difference that I can see in
your physiognomy -- there would be no two precisely alike. Doctors make
experiments, and if they find a medicine that will have the desired
effect on one person, they set it down that it is good for everybody, but
it is not so, for upon the second person that medicine is administered
to, seemingly with the same disease, it might produce death. If you do
not know this, you have not had the experience that I have.
I say that unless a man or woman who administers medicine to assist
the human system to overcome disease understand, and has that intuitive
knowledge, by the Spirit, that such an article is good for that
individual at that very time, they had better let him alone. Let the
sick so without eating; take a little something to cleanse the stomach,
blood, bowels, and wait patiently, and let Nature have a time to gain the
advantage over the disease.
Suppose, for illustration, we draw a lint through this congregation,
and place those on this side where they cannot get a doctor, without it
is a surgeon, for thirty or fifty years to come; and put the other side
in a country full of doctors, and they think they ought to have them, and
this side of the house that has no doctor will be able to buy the
inheritance of those who have doctors and overrun them, outreach them,
and buy them up, and finally obliterate them, and they will be lost in
the masses of those who have no doctors.
I want some say when they look at such things, but that is the fact.
Ladies and gentlemen, you may take any country in the world, I do not
care where you go, and if they do not employ doctors, you will find they
will beat communities that employ them, all the time. Who is the real
doctor? That man who knows by the Spirit of revelation what ails an
individual and by that same Spirit knows what medicine to administer.
That is the real doctor; the others are quacks!
Excerpt from a sermon given August 31, 1875:
Instead of calling for a doctor, you should administer to them by
the laying on of hands and anointing with oil, and give them mild food
and herbs, and medicine you understand.
Now, the preceding sermon of some length just given, deserves careful
consideration. For, a close analysis of the same will reveal a clue as to the
man's strange behavior in changing his stand so often.
First of all, he believed in doctors, but only to the extent of
fractures, sprains, pulled ligaments, and such, with a surgeon for necessary
amputation when they may occur. But in the third sentence is revealed by the
Prophet of the Lord, the reason why he was inclined to send several Latter-day
Saints back East to learn the medicine of the world. It is because a good
majority of the Mormon people wanted these services for themselves in the
territory! And rather than suffer to see some corrupt Gentile practitioners
come in and work their stuff upon the members of the Church, he felt that if
they had to have doctors, they might as well have those of their own faith
treat them. The territory had already been "blessed" wi a few of those kind
of the world, and he did not want any more if he could help it.
It's for the very same reason which he started up the Z.C.M.I.
organization. The Saints were patronizing the shops and stores of Gentile,
"black-leg" (Heber C. Kimball's term) merchants, and rather that see the
wicked prosper, he felt to induce the Saints to shop at a Church-owned and
managed department store, where at least the money would go towards building
up the Kingdo[m] of God instead of the Devil's. Preaching failed to
discourage many from shopping outside of Mormon merchants, and even threatened
to excommunication did not stop them; so he had to turn to the ZCMI plan as a
Thus, it was upon the same principles which he operated when he called
certain men and women to go back East and enroll in schools of medicine. The
people wanted medical doctors, so Brigham felt to give them what they wanted;
only he wanted them Mormon doctors, and not Gentile.
Brigham Young described the menace of Mormon dependence on medical
doctors as a growing evil in our midst! He even prophesied that the time
would come when a Latter-day Saint mother would not dare have a child without
the care and attention of a medical doctor attending her. Certainly, in our
generation this has been fulfilled to the letter!
The only other item of great significance in his sermon is this; that a
doctor, be it man or woman, should operate by revelation, both in diagnosing
the sick and also in ministering medicine. The true doctor, be it medical or
herbal, is a revelator, or one who can receive revelation for himself in his
specific practice. All others who do not, he labels as imposters; or more
bluntly, quacks! Certainly, if this principle of his was more strictly
adhered to today by the men of medicine in the Mormon faith, there would be
less of a chance of risk involved, both in the operating room as well as in
the pharmacy. And there would not need to be the frequent explanation heard
of the smiling doctor as he emerged from the operating room after surgery,
proclaiming in joyful delight, "The operation was a success!" And then
mumbling at the bottom of his breath, "But the patient died!" It is certainly
something well-worth thinking about.
In the Fall of 1875, approximately two years before his death, he
announced from the pulpit, a word of advice to the Saints at large; and that
was to: abstain from doctors, and resort to "mild food, herbs, and medicine
you understand." Thus, indicating he had not changed his mind nor entirely
ruled out herbal medicine.
In the end, however, the Hippocratic Oath prevailed over his mortal
remains, and when he died he was attended by three prominent medical doctors
-- his nephew, Doctor Symour B. Young, [and] Doctors Joseph and Denton
Benedict. How different from the days of Joseph and Hyrum, when the
Prophet's own botanic physician, Dr. Levi Richards had custody of the bodies
afterwards. And how different from when John Taylor was mortally wounded, and
Dr. Levi Richards, the herbalist, attended him and nursed him back to health.
Elder Taylor was not operated upon, but carried those bullets within his body
for the rest of his life.
And yet, though these men of medicine administered such drugs as
morphine unto the dying Mormon leader to ease his terrible pain, somehow, in
the end, his spirit prevailed over it all. For, the last three words which he
uttered before [his] final breath was the name of someone near and dear to him
-- not a close, personal friend -- not a favorite wife or child -- not even a
fine physician -- but rather instead, that of his beloved Prophet and
Priesthood acquaintance, Joseph Smith. And, if Joseph had been there to
receive him in the spirit, he would have understood that his brother in the
flesh had tried throughout his entire life, to follow a course which would
have been pleasing to God and the deceased Martyr as well. What finer tribute
could "the greatest man next to Jesus Christ himself" have asked for than
1. Brigham Young counseled the men of the Mormon Battalion to let
doctors and their medicine alone if they hoped to live.
2. The [m]en of the Mormon Battalion hated Dr. Sanderson with a passion.
3. Brigham Young was partial towards herbal medicine and medical science
4. An herbal Council of Health in the Valley, superseded the Medical
Association to follow some years later.
5. Too much dependence on medical doctors is "a growing evil in our
6. Unless a doctor will allow himself to be guided by revelation, he has
no business whatsoever practicing his skills upon the public.
THE END OF AN ERA
(The Passing of Herbal Medicine in the Mormon Church)
It seems that the great Mormon leader, Brigham Young, set a style and
precedent for his successors to follow after him. In both sermons and actions
the men of a later generation were to emulate him in what they had seen the
Prophet of the Lord speak and do. For example, a typical sermon of Brigham's
would usually go something like this:
Let the Doctors Alone
This counsel, emphatically given by our President in the Tabernacle
on the 21, inst., gave great satisfaction to every saint present and we
presume will be hailed with equal joy by every lover of truth whom it may
reach. It might naturally be presumed that every member of the Church of
Jesus Christ of L.D.S. was perfectly familiar with the revealed mode of
curing disease and preserving health, but through the power of tradition
the force of custom and habit, and on account of various weaknesses
pertaining to the flesh, there has been quite a trusting to the fancied
skill of man, quite a seeking unto the doctors who cannot save. And
doctors, knowingly or ignorantly, often take credit to themselves for
that which they do not effect, and thus foster a system which tends to
weaken our faith, though it puts means easily into their possession. It
does seem that the shallowest acquaintance with the different schools of
medicine with their diametrically opposite and conflicting theories and
practice, with the known experimenting demonstrations with such various
kinds of drugs upon so delicate and nicely arranged an organization as
that of the human body, and all this in direct contrariety to the
revealed will of Heaven, would serve to entirely prevent every saint from
seeking unto doctors, even though there were no commandments upon the
subject. But unfortunately, such is not the fact; hence, the timely and
very necessary testimony of our President upon the subject, and the most
excellent counsel 'Let Doctors Alone,' which certainly should be the
faith and practice of all who wish to live upon the earth until they have
acceptably done the will of Him who gave them this, their probation.
Herewith then, on the following pages are some sermons and editorials
reflecting the attitudes of the Church leadership in general during the
turbulent 80's and the calming 90's. The reader will notice a
distinct parallel between their messages, and the thoughts and sentiments of
Brigham Young as contained in that synopsis just given before:
Living Beneath Our Privileges
When our friends are stricken down by sickness and disease or when
our little ones are in the agonies of pain and death, there should be
Elders in our midst who have educated themselves so thoroughly in
developing the gifts of the Spirit within them, and in whom the Saints
have such perfect confidence, that they would always be sought after
instead of doctors. There are men among us who possess the gift of
healing and might have great faith; but they do not exercise the gift;
they do not live for it, and, therefore, do not have the power to use it
so effectually as they might. There are men in this church who are as
good in their hearts and feelings as men ever were, but lack faith and
energy, and do not obtain really what it is their privilege to receive.
If their faith, their energy, and determination were equal to their good
feelings and desires, their honesty and goodness, they would indeed, be
mighty men in Israel; and sickness and disease and the power of the evil
one would flee before them as chaff before the wind. Yet, we say we are
a good people, and that we are not only holding our own but making great
advances in righteousness before God, and no doubt we are. But I wish to
impress upon you, my brethren and sisters, that there are Elders among us
endowed with spiritual gifts that may be brought into exercise through
the aid of the Holy Ghost. The gifts of the Gospel must be cultivated by
diligence and perseverance. The ancient prophets when desiring some
peculiar blessing or important knowledge, revelation or vision, would
sometimes fast and pray for days and even weeks for that purpose....
Apostle Lorenzo Snow, May 6th, 1882.
True Faith and Works
There is another tendency that is very noticeable among Latter-day
Saints, and against which the voices of the servants of God should be
lifted in continued protest, and that is the inclination that seems to be
growing everywhere to resort to drugs and doctors when sickness enters
the household, instead of having recourse to the means which God has
commended His people to use. The laying on of hands for the healing of
the sick is an ordinance of the Gospel. One of the signs which the Lord
Jesus Himself promised His disciples in ancient days that should follow
them that believed was 'they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall
recover.' In our day the promise has been renewed; and we claim it, for
the Lord says:
'For I am God, and mine arm is not shortened; and I will show
miracles, signs and wonders, unto those who believe on my name.
'And who do so shall ask it in my name in faith, they shall
cast out devils; they shall heal the sick, they shall cause the
blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and the dumb to
speak, and the lame to walk.
'And the time speedily cometh that great things are to be shown
forth unto the children of men.'
Many, however, fail to avail themselves of these promises, and
excuse themselves for doing so by saying that faith without works is
dead. They seem to think that works consist in sending for a doctor and
using what he may prescribe, having apparently more faith in man's skill
than in God's power to heal through the ordinance which He has appointed.
In saying this, we would not wish to convey any wrong idea. We believe
it is the duty of those who have sick in their households to do all in
their power for their comfort, to nurse them with the greatest possible
care...the Lord says:
'And whosoever among you are sick, and have not faith to be
healed, but believe, shall be nourished with all tenderness, with
herbs and mild food, and that not by the hand of an enemy.
'And the Elders of the Church, two or more, shall be called,
and shall pray for and lay their hands upon them in my name; and if
they die they shall die unto me, and if they live they shall live
unto me...and again, it shall come to pass that he that hath faith
in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be
'He who hath faith to see shall see; he who hath faith to lead
shall lead; and they who have not faith to do these things, as they
break not my law, thou shall bear their infirmities.
This is the Lord's teaching concerning the treatment of the sick who
have not faith to be healed, and it should receive attention from the
Saints. It is only reasonable to think that the Lord knows better that
which is good for us than man does. His power to heal is without limit.
He desires his children to exercise faith. By its exercise great
blessings can be obtained. The more it is exercised and the oftener the
results which are desired are obtained, the stronger does faith become.
Children who are taught by their parents to desire the laying on of
hands by the Elders when they are sick, receive astonishing benefits
therefrom, and their faith becomes exceedingly strong. But, if instead
of teaching them that the Lord had placed the ordinance of laying on of
hands for the healing of the sick in His Church, a doctor is immediately
sent for when anything ails them, they gain confidence in the doctor and
his prescriptions and lose faith in the ordinance.
How long would it take, if this tendency was allowed to grow among
the Latter-day Saints, before faith in the ordinance of laying on of
hands would die out? Little by little the practice of using drugs and
resorting to men and women skilled in their use would grow among the
people until those who had sick children or other relatives who did not
send for a doctor when they were attacked with sickness, would be looked
upon as heartless and cruel. Perhaps they would be taunted for not
sending for some skilled person and perchance be condemned for trusting
entirely to the ordinance of the Gospel and the proper nursing and kind
attentions which every person who is sick should receive. There is great
need of stirring up the Latter-day Saints upon this point. Faith should
be encouraged. The people should be taught that great and mighty works
can be accomplished by the exercise of faith. The sick have been healed,
devils have been cast out, the blind have been restored to sight by the
exercise of faith. And this too, in our day, and in our Church, by the
administration of God's servants in the way appointed. All these things
can again be done, under the blessing of the Lord, where faith exists.
It is this faith that we should seek to preserve and to promote in the
breasts of our children and of all mankind.
--President George Q. Cannon,
November 1st, 1893.
Sending for the Doctors
...There will be but comparatively few of the human family that will
attain to Celestial glory, because they will not listen to the Voice of
...If on the other hand, we desire a Celestial glory, and live for
it, having a determination that with the help of God, we will be as our
Savior was in the flesh -- obedient, humble, meek and lowly, enduring all
things for the glory, and that reward will be bestowed upon us....He
wants the Latter-day Saints to attain to the highest glory...And yet my
brethren and sisters, when we examine ourselves, how far are we
individually from coming up to it! Why, many of us cannot even obey the
simple requirements embodies in the revelation concerning the Word of
Wisdom. Many of us cannot rise high enough in our faith to pay an honest
tithing. Many of us fail in living with that singleness of purpose and
that unselfishness which the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ requires at
our hands. Many of us have not faith enough even to send for the Elders
of the Church when anyone of our family is sick; but the firs thought is,
'go for a doctor!' -- as though the gift of healing had been lost in the
Church. How many of you, my brethren and sisters, feel as if the gift of
healing no longer existed in the Church of Christ, but that the doctor
must be sent for, and drugs administered: And this among the Latter-day
Saints, a people who profess what we do, and to whom such glorious
promises have been made'. Is not this true? It is so to one extent in
Salt Lake City. I do not know how it is in this ward (Millcreek). I am
scarcely ever called in to administer to a sick person without being told
what the doctor is doing and what he says. To me it is evidence of a
want of faith in the ordinances of God's house and in His promises. To
think of a people with the promises made to them that their sick shall be
healed, if they only exercise faith, neglecting this, and treating it as
though there was not certainty to be attached to it! It is the same in
other directions. We fail to set a proper example before our young
people. If I were to send for a doctor, what would be the effect upon my
children? Why, they would say, 'That is the course my father took, and
he is an Elder in the Church, and a man of experience; he sent for the
doctors, and why should not I?' (Or) 'My mother was a good woman; but
when one of the children was sick, she sent for a doctor; she did not
trust to the ordinance alone; and shall we not send for a doctor[?] Must
it be faith and now works?' How often we hear this sort of reasoning? I
believe in works, I believe in nursing, in taking care of the sick, and
in doing all that is possible for them; but I also believe in the
ordinances of the House of God. God has made precious promises to the
Latter-day Saints concerning the health of their families, and I tell you
in the presence of the Lord, that if the Latter-day Saints would observe
the Word of Wisdom, there would be less of this disposition to send for
doctors and more faith in the ordinance that the Lord has
established...and let me tell you, there will be pestilence and there
will be disease; for the Lord has said that there should be an
overwhelming scourge pass through the nations of the earth; and if the
Latter-day Saints do not keep His counsel on this as well as other
matters, how can they expect to enjoy immunity or receive deliverance?
I know that in talking this way I may grieve some persons, but shall
we conceal the truth from the Latter-day Saints at this stage of our
progress? Shall we say that the violations of the counsel of the Lord
are right?...He honors those who honor (the) Priesthood. No man can
expect the blessings of God who does not honor the Priesthood of the Son
...we must do as Jesus did from the beginning to the termination of
His life, that is, do the Will of the Father as it is manifested to us,
through the means He has provided...
--President George Q. Cannon,
August 26th, 1894.
INSTRUCTIONS TO THE SISTERS
At the late Relief Society Conference of the Utah Stake of Zion,
held in Provo, Presidents John and Cluff both addressed the sisters, and
among other important instructions, pleaded earnestly with the mothers to
cease building up the doctors and drug stores in our midst. Said Pres.
Cluff: 'The doctors and druggists are getting enormously rich, and they
are doing it at your expense. Our people are fattening them daily, and
daily as a people are we drawing away from the principles of this part of
our religion.' Pres. John followed in a powerful exhortation to the
sisters to return to the early faith of the saints...You have the plain,
simple directions in the Doctrine and Covenants for your guidance, you
have consecrated oil and can call in the power of the Priesthood, no
matter how poor and destitute your circumstances may be, to assist you in
this labor of love and healing, and yet the moment your children complain
of a little illness you are off for the doctor...then [you] can feel you
have got the skill of man on your side, while you leave the Priesthood to
SENDING FOR DOCTORS SHOWS A LACK OF FAITH
...It is the doctors, however, and their erroneous practice that I
desire more especially to write at present. The time was in the
territory when physicians numbered but few and the families were limited
wherein their services were required. At present the conditions are
changed, and nearly every family residing in the neighborhood of a doctor
are visited to a greater or lesser extent by him. The general experience
is similar to that of a prominent man in one of our stakes as expressed
to us recently: 'A short time ago we had no physician in our stake and it
was rarely that we felt the lack of one but since one located among us
sickness has increased so rapidly that we can now keep two such
professionals going night and day to answer calls.
If it is true that the hosts of doctors now in our midst find
remunerative practice, then there must be some censure, due to the
Saints, for a disregard of the Lord's counsel. For there certainly has
been an increase of disease and a consequent greater demand for medical
services all out of proportion to the increase of population.
I have no doubt that we should very soon become a healthy and strong
people if we would strictly follow the suggestions contained in the Word
of Wisdom and the ordinary rules of health which common sense suggests;
and then exercise faith in the ordinances of the gospel for the benefit
of the afflicted, instead of sending for a doctor the moment we feel
indisposed. This latter course shows a lack of faith. But unbelief is
natural where disobedience has been practiced....It is a shame to us as a
people that we neglect, as many of us do, the gifts of healing and the
gift to be healed which the Lord has so mercifully given to us. It is a
disgrace that many possessing a mere smattering of medical knowledge and
can speedily obtain a practice netting annually thousands of dollars,
while the great Giver of life, who knows how to provide every organ of
the body is unsought in the hour of sickness. It is a standing reproach
to us, we still place more reliance on the skill and knowledge of man,
than on the power of God.
--Apostle Abraham H. Cannon
HEALING BY FAITH
The custom of appealing to physicians for medical assistance in all
cases of sickness has become as prevalent even among the L.D.S., that
faith in the healing of the sick has been measurably relegated to the
rear. It is true, we still send for the elders, but the physician is, or
will be, in the house as well, and we are apt to rely more upon his skill
than upon the administration of the Priesthood. While if there is a
return of health, we are pretty sure to give the credit to the physician.
This people are not narrow in their views on the subject of
physicians, but we must sound a warning cry in the ears of the women of
the Relief Society, that they fail not in their duty to teach lessons of
faith in God and in the laying on of hands for the healing of the sick,
to their families.
In the rise of this church, faith was the one and only recourse in
all cases of sickness and disease. Simple remedies were administered and
were perhaps a part of the household equipment. But the bottle of
consecrated oil occupied the most prominent place in the sick rooms of
the Latter-day Saints. The pages of the old Millennial Star teemed with
the cases of miraculous healings under the hands of the Elders. Who is
among this people from time to time? Is there any lack of power in the
Priesthood? On the contrary, there has probably never been more power
and efficacy in the united ranks of the priesthood than at the present
time. What, then, may be the difference? It is an entirely individual
trouble. You and I, dear sister, may be at fault. The moment we are
sick, do we take a remedy or hunt up a physician? And if we hear of a
neighbor who has been taken ill, is our first question, who is the
doctor, or what does the doctor say? Too much of our time in social
affairs is spent in discussing medical problems and medical treatment.
The children hear all this and consequently when they are sick their
first thought is not to inquire for a spoonful of consecrated oil, but to
lean upon the doctor and his advice.
If we are to retain the established principle of faith for the
healing of the sick, we must work at it as we would at any other
principle or doctrine which we wish to make a part of our lives.
Whenever the need arises with ourselves, or with our dear ones, then call
in the Elders, as we are told to do so in the scriptures, and if we are
not healed on their first visit let us call them in again and yet again.
The Lord will surely heal us if we surely call. We sometimes say we need
a physician to tell us what ails us. The Lord is perfectly cognizant of
our condition and he's able to heal one difficulty as another. I wish
the sisters would read Alma's description of faith as given in Alma 32,
verses 36-45, in this connection. This is the simplest and finest
description of the manner in which we can acquire that wonderful gift of
faith ever recorded in the Scriptures.
--Susy Young Gates, August, 1914.
One Latter-day Saint sister living in those times, had this to say in
connection with the above editorial just given, about the faith of certain
medical doctors at the turn of the century in relation to the functions of the
I remember my grandfather, and the two brethren who came with him,
administering to me, and how they, my parents and other relatives kneeled
around my bed and prayed that my life might be spared. When the doctors
arrived, I recall that my folks decided to ask the Lord again for help in
Someone said that if there was anyone in the room who did not feel
like exercising faith for my recovery to please step out. Both doctors
left the room. After the administration, the doctors returned and they
were amazed to discover that I was no longer paralyzed and decided that
an operation was not necessary. I was many weeks in bed, but slowly I
improved. I had to learn to walk again. At this time, I was past six
years of age. People living here, who knew of the circumstance, often
speak of it and say, 'You are one person who was practically raised from
the dead. It was a miracle.' Thus, my life was changed through Divine
power. I have lived to become the mother of three sons and three
daughters. I testify that this is the true Church, restored again in
these the latter days, with all of its promised powers, gifts and
--Mrs. Sheila A. Carlisle Winterton
Thus, we can see from the foregoing excerpts made of some classic sermons
and editorials of the time, how certain perceptive individuals could see the
trend towards doctors increasing among the Latter-day Saints, and made an
effort to warn the people of God about this, and speak out against what they
considered "a pernicious evil" growing in our midst. A member of the First
Presidency, George Q. Cannon, declared that there "is an indication that seems
to be growing everywhere to resort to drugs and doctors." And, he further
remarked that "if this tendency was allowed to grow among the Latter-day
Saints....faith in the laying on of hands would die out!" And also testifying
to the people in his Apostolic calling that resorting to such medical means
was evidence of a want of faith on their part.
Other prominent figures in this crusade of warning against what they
considered and felt to be "an evil in their midst," were stake presidents,
such as those in the Utah Stake of Zion, who chided the sisters for placing
more confidence in the skill of doctors and neglecting the Priesthood.
Apostle Abraham H. Cannon raised his voice, too, against such methods adopted
by the people of God, and told them that by resorting to the doctor every time
they were sick, "shows a lack of faith!" And even the noted editor of the
Relief Society Magazine, Susan Young Gates, felt inspired to warn the sisters
that "if we are to retain the established principle of faith for the healing
of the sick, we must work at it as we would at any other principle or doctrine
which we wish to make a part of our lives."
However, such timely messages from inspired men and women of God seemed
to go unheeded by the majority of the membership; for, we find during that
period from Brigham Young's death until the turn of the nineteenth century,
leadership of the church, because of the people, were forced to resort to some
of the same practices and policies which President Young had to adopt in the
last seven years of his life.
Hence, as faith in the healing ordinance of the Priesthood gradually
began to wane somewhat in Israel (as has just been proven from the preceding
statements of quoted leaders then), the First Presidency of the Mormon Church
became more responsible for such incidents of occurrence, as the following:
I had often accompanied Dr. Andreas Engberg on his professional
visits, and this true friend of ours, and sincere well-wisher, had on
various occasions, years before, suggested that I study medicine. And
then on the road home one evening my wife inquired where Dr. Engberg and
I went. I told her and then she asked, 'Why don't you become a doctor?'
So in the year 1892 my wife and I decided that I study medicine, and
I set about seeking the right kind of counsel as to the wisdom of such a
step. Accordingly, I went to Salt Lake City to the office of the First
Presidency, where I saw President Wilford Woodruff and George Q. Cannon,
making known my intention and asking their advice whether, not to
undertake the study of medicine. They replied that the Saints should
have professional men of their own faith and they unhesitatingly advised
me to go right ahead and study medicine, if I possibly could reach it
financially, they also advised me to come up to Salt Lake when I had
completed all arrangements and before starting, when I would be set apart
for the work contemplated. At the suggestion of Brother Adreas Engberg
I decided to go to Cincinnati, Ohio, and enter the Eclectic Medical
Institute, and I successfully passed the entrance examination and was
allowed to matriculate. My satisfaction at my success so far can be
imagined, when it remembered that I had never yet seen the inside of a
school, as a pupil. Before leaving for Ohio I went to the First
Presidency again where I was set apart as a missionary and to study
medicine in the City of Cincinnati. Among other blessings pronounced by
the servants of God on this occasion were the promises that I should
learn fast, attain what I set out for, return in safety and be a comfort
to the Latter-day Saints, who should have great confidence in me. I did
complete my medical education....
Here, then, we have some of the first real evidence of "medical
missionaries" to be found within the Mormon faith. However, their real origin
began with President Brigham Young and was carried on by his successors after
him. Other noteworthy accounts of this period worth mentioning, are:
Father was suffering from arthritis and it was thought wise to move
to a warmer climate and the colonies of Northern Mexico seemed to offer
the best situation, so, with neighbors, the family moved south by wagon
train in the autumn of 1897. Through this move mother came into a
situation that changed the course of her life. The colonies were without
medical help. She began to sense that here, at least, was part of the
call Aunt Zina Young had foretold in her blessing. As soon as she could
make suitable arrangements she went to El Paso hospitals for a refresher
course in medical practitioner internship. Here she met the leading
physicians and surgeons, became acquainted with hospital services offered
and obtain[ed] a certificate to practice medicine under the laws of the
State of Texas.
The following summer Mrs. Young went East with her foster son,
Willard Young. Her purpose was to gather the records of her relatives.
Dr. Ellen B. Ferguson was one of the party on her way to New York to
further pursue her medical studies. Prior to their departure the two
ladies were set apart by the First Presidency of the Church to speak upon
the principles of their faith as opportunity might be afforded. Mrs.
Young was cordially received by her relatives and addressed, by
invitation, Sabbath Schools and temperance meetings. She attended the
Women's Congress at Buffalo, New York, but was refused five minutes in
which to represent the women of that city. In 1893, at the Chicago
World's Fair, she sat upon the platform as the representative of the
women of Utah.
In 1893 Zina D. Young, general president of the Relief Society of
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accompanied president
Wilford Woodruff in a canvass of the wards and stakes of the Upper Snake
River Valley in Idaho, to invite women to attend a School of Medicine to
be held in Salt Lake City under the direction of Dr. Margaret Curtis
Shipp. President Woodruff emphasized that only women of courage,
determination and abundant energy need apply, for they must be willing to
endure hard work, long hours, and have the strength to battle the
elements in their travel to the homes of those who needed aid. It was
hoped that three women from each ward would qualify but only one from the
Lyman Ward was in a position to go. Rachael B. Sutton wrote:
'My mother, Sarah Susanna Blackburn Briggs, desired very much
to take this course in medicine from Dr. Shipp....'
The following is taken from the diary of Mrs. Blackburn:
Dr. Shipp first gave us much advice on cleanliness, how to set
bones, stop bleeding and to sew cuts. But the most important were the
lessons given in midwifery in the preparation and care of both mother and
baby. At the conclusion of my training, I was promised by one of the
Relief Society General Board members that if I would go to the Temple and
ask the Lord to help me, I would be blessed. This promise was literally
fulfilled for, though I delivered a few stillborn babies, I never lost a
mother or baby in all my practice. When I was called to assist in
childbirth I would drive my own horse and buggy to the home each day for
ten days to bathe and care for the mother and baby. If the weather was
bad, I would stay at the home for several days. I delivered several
hundred babies over a period of twenty-seven years including three sets
This was a kind of a carry-over from Brigham's day when mid-wives were to
be considered an invaluable as a man's tool or horse would be:
Harriet Amanda Hoyt Bowers was born October 16, 1850, in Salt Lake
The Hoyts and Bowers followed their President's advice and settled
in what was known as Winder, later called Mt. Carmel, where they were
counseled to unite in an organization called the United Order. There
were some who did not want to join, hence, people who wished to belong
moved up the valley a few miles, and built a town they called Orderville.
Each family had their own house and cared for their own families, but ate
at the dining hall and had all things in common.
Harriet was called by President Brigham Young to be a midwife for
the people of Orderville and was set apart by Earastus Snow. She
received her training from Dr. Priddy Meeks and from him she learned the
uses of herbs and roots. Her famed Liver Bitters and Cayenne Pills were
used in most every home in Long Valley...
But the lamentable passing of herbal medicine within the Mormon Church
became significantly revealed with the establishment of the first medical
hospital in that faith. A competent writer of Utah medical history, observes
the introduction of that system into Mormondom this way:
When any of the Saints became ill, they had in the absence of
doctors, to rely on home remedies and the Lord. There were quite a
number of midwives scattered through the settlements, who gave aid in
cases other than childbirth. These women were self-reliant and ingenious
in treating the sick, and made up for their ignorance by their
whole-hearted devotion to the nursing care of their patients.
When home remedies and amateur to the afflicted were not enough, the
Elders were called in. There were always several men in every community
who held the priesthood, which gave them the authority to administer to
the ailing -- that is, to apply the tenent of the Church that by
anointing with oil, and the laying on of hands, with prayer, the sick
could be healed! Under the circumstances, the Saints would have had
nothing better, for it gave the afflicted hope and courage, faith in
their eventual recovery and fortitude to endure their sufferings.
Religious consolation to the sick and myriad is not peculiar to any
one sect. Patients in well-equipped hospitals with everything that
modern science can furnish for their recovery sometimes lose their
courage and morale in the face of impending danger. Their fears and
forebodings may often be eased by a short visit from Rabbi, pastor, or
priest. So it was entirely natural that the colonists in the colonies,
with no doctors or hospitals at their disposal, should turn to the
isolated Saints for Divine guidance and assurance of recovery.
Before 1905, administration of the priesthood took first place in
the treatment of the sick. On January 9, 1902, the Dr. William A. Groves
L.D.S. Hospital opened its doors for the reception of patients. That
event was the first official acknowledgement by Church authorities that
they were whole-heartedly behind scientific medicine and intended to give
it moral and financial support. But the people were slow to accept and
cooperate with the new movement. During the first few year's of the
hospital's activity, innumerable cases, particularly appendicitis,
entered the hospital after several days of treatment by priesthood
administration. Most of their cases were in desperate condition, some
too far gone for surgery. Nearly all of those operated on had
peritonitis or abscesses and many of them died because of delay. Poor
roads and horse transportation, doubtless played a part in the reluctance
of patients to be taken to the hospital. As time passed, improved about
a gradual improvement, and scientific care was promptly sought.
Administration was still widely practiced, but took a secondary place.
The Mormon people were not entirely dependent upon home remedies and
religious administration. Scattered throughout the territory were
several stalwart individuals, who dominated medical practice in their
communities. These practitioners were 'herb' doctors who had not studied
medicine but had purchased Thompsonian certificates or graduated form the
'school of experience'...
On January 6th, 1905, there appeared in the Deseret News an
editorial commenting on the fact that the L.D.S. Hospital had been
dedicated two days before.
The hospital is to be dedicated along the lines of 'Mormon'
The prayer of faith is efficacious in all forms of affliction. But
all people have not faith to be healed, nor do all who have faith possess
it in the same degree. Remedies are provided by the Great Physician or
by Nature as some prefer to view them and we should not close our eyes to
their virtues nor ignore the skill and learning of the trained doctor.
....It gives evidences that 'Mormon' enterprize is abreast of the
times and that L.D.S. are ready to avail themselves of scientific
knowledge and progress, and are not slow to move with the movement of
modern thought and learning.
Where the majority rules, even the Prophets sometimes have to give way to
the incessant demands of the people, and relinquish their firm stand on
certain inevitable truths in order that the general membership be pacified.
Such a condition existed more than once in ancient Israel. Under the able
leadership of Moses, the children of God were given certain laws by which to
be governed, and certain righteous ones called "Judges" to rule over them.
But the main thing was that the people were free! They were not bound by an
autocratic government, nor tied to a fetish system of things which might have
been found in the known world then. They were under God's laws, God's
Prophets, God's Judges, and God's system of doing things.
However, when they looked around them and saw their Gentile neighbors on
every side of them with a king here, a ruler there, then they sought for the
very same heathenish form of leadership as the others had. We find recorded
in I Samuel 8-5 these words:
Then all of the elders of Israel gathered themselves together and
came to Samuel unto Ramah, and said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and
thy sons walk not in thy ways; now make us a king to judge us like all
Being a Prophet who did not believe in compromise, Samuel was
"Displeased" with this sort of a request. He importuned the Lord in the
matter several different times. The first time, God responded, He comforted
Samuel by saying that they had not rejected Samuel but they had rejected God
himself! (See verse 7.)
Samuel returned to the people, and under God's direction, sought to labor
and reason with the people, in a plain manner of thinking. He rehearsed to
them the matters of former kings of other nations with whom they had been
acquainted. He pointed out the dangers of involuntary servitude, severe
taxation and compulsory rule which existed with a king, if they allowed for
one to be chosen in their midst. Despite this logical rationalization, the
people wanted a king, nevertheless, and persisted in their demands upon
Samuel. Wherefore, he returned to the Lord in the matter and God sighed in
exasperation at the obstinateness of His children. He finally relinquished
Himself in the matter and told Samuel, "hearken unto their voice and make them
a king!" (verse 22). Even He would not deprive them of their free agency,
though it would mean the death and destruction of them anyway.
So Samuel chose Saul as the first king of Israel, and anybody acquainted
with the Bible will soon learn how quickly Saul brought unhappiness, misery
and despair upon the people by his unrighteous conduct and wicked course of
action. God saw it beforehand, but allowed it to happen anyway because that's
what THE PEOPLE WANTED!
Now, then, we have the very same type of thing beginning in the Church
towards the close of the last century. Because so much of the Gentile element
and influence prevailed in the Territory, many of the people sought to adopt
the ways and wiles of the world. This can certainly be evidenced in the
fashions of the times. A young girl of that period, Violet Ure, recalls those
times in these poignant words:
We kept our dresses long until some of the local women would go to
Salt Lake City. When they returned we would learn that our dresses were
too long for the city so that we would shorten our skirts a little when
the word got around. We tried to dress accordingly to the city styles,
and would be envious of the church leaders daughters when they came to
Cedar City in their high style clothes and their cuty bangs and other new
When bang style came out, we were all anxious to try it. One older
lady would preach against it at every opportunity she had. She would
talk in meeting and put the most gruesome story before us that we would
be cursed with scabs and would become bald.
Mother would say, 'Now girls, if you are going to cut your hair a
little, curl it and make it pretty. Tuck the ends under and then push it
back away from your brow. Don't have your hair covering your brow.'
I wanted bangs in the worst way, so that I said to my sister,
'Florence, cut just a little here and there so I'll have some pretty
curls.' Florence cut some short bangs across my forehead and oh, was I
happy. I took my two long braids and wound them around and around so
that only the little bangs showed underneath. Mother said, 'I'm glad you
are happy; now you will sing better in the choir.' Mother was a
diplomat. She never scolded or whipped us. She just needed to look at
us, and we'd know what way we were to talk.
We were partakers of the world's wickedness, and the Lord forgave us
for following styles, but many times were just following the example of
our church leaders' daughters. They would come to Cedar City so full of
style that we would feel like we'd just like to look just like them.
I remember President Taylor's daughter -- coming to Cedar City. She
had a dress that was twelve lengths at the bottom. My brother Will
danced with her, and her dress filled almost the entire floor. She could
hardly get so much material around her tiny waist. Her waist was so
small, pulled in with heavy stays, that it looked as if a rounded
forefinger and thumb would encircle it...
And certainly the same held true with the Mormon people in other
respects, such as in the field of medicine. The old pioneer way of steeping
tea, or applying an herb poultice, or giving an herbal enema seemed now to
become a piece of "old-fashioned nonsense" in the minds of many. When the
younger generation coming up saw the way the rest of the nation was taking
care of its sick, through a system of clean-white hospitals, antiseptic
doctors and chemical medicine, then, like Israel of old wanting a king, they
earnestly sought for these same identical things to be within their faith and
territory also. Hence, they prevailed upon their leaders to such an extent,
that men like Brigham Young, George Q. Cannon, Wilford Woodruff and Lorenzo
Snow, who had personally known and been intimately acquainted with the Prophet
Joseph Smith, now found themselves under the deplorable necessity of having to
depart from some of the ways of their Revelator-friend, and adjust themselves
to the times by adopting certain measures of the world, which the people
demanded of them. Joseph Smith hated doctors and had little use for Gentile
medicine. This they knew and verily believed. But when the Saints at large
began to patronize Gentile doctors and employ their services, the leading
Brethren felt it would be better that the people go to Mormon doctors of their
same faith. That is why they called some individuals to go back East and
learn the medicine of the world; that thereby, the membership of the Church,
who wanted these things, could have them. At last,the world which Brigham
Young had sought to escape and leave, had finally arrived in the valleys of
the mountains, and from there on into the twentieth century, Gentile medicine
was here to stay!
A candid testimonial to the above assertion is herewith provided by one
who lived in those times and saw the "age of compromise" slowly creep into the
Mormon religion. Such a one who witnessed these things for himself was none
other than James Henry Moyle, the father of the late President Henry D. Moyle,
a counselor in the First Presidency of the Mormon Church under the leadership
of the deceased Prophet David O. McKay. The following is in Brother Moyle's
Again fifty years ago, and for a long time afterwards, it was a rare
and serious occasion when a doctor was called to serve the sick, unless a
surgeon was needed to amputate or try to save a limb, or an injured
member of the body. Such was the practice in my father's family and with
practically all of our neighbors. The first thought in my mind, and in
that of my devoted mother and our neighbors, was to follow the advice of
James: 'If there are any sick among you, call the elders and let them
anoint with oil, and the prayer of faith shall heal the sick.' (James
When our neighborhood learned that the President of the Church and
the chief officers of the Church had regularly attended physicians whose
services were actively called into use even when the sickness was not
serious, it was something of a shock. In Salt Lake City, the custom
spread, especially as wealth increased, until now it is the rule rather
than the exception. The money notwithstanding, it was a fact that
remarkable cures were frequently, if not commonly, effected by the
administrations of the elders and the faith of the patient and his
family, and with the aid of an uneducated, pioneer mother's remedies. In
my very early life we neither knew of nor had heard of dangerous disease
germs, and social diseases were intolerable and confined to the criminals
and their unfortunate associations.
As a child, if I were sick and felt seriously ill, my first anxiety
and request was that the elders of the Priesthood should be called to
administer to me. My faith was implicit that I would be healed, and I
was. Mother was a real pioneer, and she gave me tea, castor oil, herbs,
and other home remedies and applied herbal applications for bruises,
strains, and other injuries. If the trouble was obstinate, Daddy Bussel
from across the street, an old English herbalist, was called. I never
had a doctor until about sixteen or seventeen when it became necessary to
amputate my left forefinger. Mother had thirteen children, which in
those days was a common but crowning achievement among good Mormon women,
but now shocking to many. I was the oldest. No doctor ever aided Mother
at childbirth and such was the case with most neighbors unless something
very serious developed. Mother never had any aid except from Sister
Duncanson, an old Scotch neighbor who brought into the world all the
babies in the neighborhood. There might have been an exception which I
do not recall, but it would be only another less popular midwife. I do
not think Mother remained inactive ever for more that two weeks. She
invariably felt ready to resume her active duties in about a week. The
midwife had difficulty in keeping her in bed over a week if that long.
She was unusually strong and healthy. I am sure her life would have been
prolonged if she had not been so strenuous and prolific.
It's much like the artificial turf they use today in some of the newer
indoor stadiums and sports arenas. It costs more than the regular sod, but
the upkeep is so much handier to deal with. You don't have to water it, or
weed it, or mow it. It is neat, convenient and easy to take care of and
maintain. There is not much fuss and bother to it.
Modern medicine is the same way. Drugs, while more expensive than herbal
teas, generally do work faster in the system. The tiny timed-release capsules
of "the Excedrin set" are truly most marvelous and amazing as well. "Shots,"
though they hurt, are quicker than herbal poultices, and certainly a lot less
messy. Surgery is quick and painless, thanks to the "funny gas" of modern
anesthesiology. And modern medicine is quite adept at "casting" an individual
with a fracture or sprain, in a supporting role of crutches. In all, the
benefits to be derived from medical science are as numerous and varied as what
Social Security may have to offer.
With the advent of medical science into the Mormon religion, the last
breath and gasps of a dying practice (botanic medicine) were to be heard in
the wheezing coughs and choking closes of the nineteenth century. The real
grass, Nature's stuff, had simply been replaced with artificial turf. But was
the latter any better?
1. The Prophet Joseph Smith's herbal medicine went out of the Mormon
Church when the Gentile medical science of the world came in.
ARE WE A PECULIAR PEOPLE?
(The Place of Herbal Medicine in Mormonism Today)
With the evolution of modern medicine, one would naturally be inclined to
ask, "Have we been able to retain our identity as a peculiar people?" In
light of recent changes made down through the years in the second century of
Mormonism, some scholars have been in a quandary as to how they should answer
this. Two such men, both distinguished professors of history at Brigham Young
University, made this interesting observation in their fine treatise,
Mormonism In the Twentieth Century:
After Reed Smoot was finally given his Senate seat in 1907,
Mormonism declined as a controversial issue...
During the decade beginning in 1930, the centennial year of
Mormonism, two new features were seen in the popular image which have
characterized it ever since. Although the long-range trend had been
toward a more favorable image, it wan not until these years that it
crossed the line from a predominantly negative to a more positive
character. The second new feature was a strong interest in the program
of the Mormon Church rather than it its theology. This change reflected
a general shift seen in twentieth century American religion -- interest
in the 'social gospel' and its program for social salvation rather than
in traditional emphasis on personal salvation through the atonement of
Thomsonian medicine was a controversial innovation into the field of
hygienic science. When the man Thomson developed his system, he incurred much
prejudice and trouble from the biased sector of American society, chiefly the
medical profession in existence then. As has been already mentioned in a
quote from Priddy Meeks in the chapter touching on this system, Thomson's
theories and practice rivaled the Gospel of Jesus Christ which Joseph Smith
introduced. Both had to suffer tremendously for the things in which they
believed most strongly, and espoused most sincerely.
The very fact that the Prophet himself embraced this concept of new
thinking, and made it a part of his religion while he was alive, in and of
itself made the new theology of Mormonism a strange and unusual faith to the
outside world not acquainted with it and its adherers -- a "peculiar people."
Most all Christian sects of the time accepted whatever there might have been
of medical science as a standard norm of procedure to follow when sick. But
the Mormons were different. They had "inspired Men of God" telling them to
use herbs, trust in Almighty power, and secure the Priesthood whenever they
were ill or had disease in their midst.
In fact, one of the charges hurled against the Latter-day Saints by their
Gentile enemies in Missouri, was this:
They still persist in their power to work miracles. They say they
have often seen them done; the sick are healed through herbs and faith,
the lame walk, devils are cast out; and these assertions are made by men
heretofore considered rational men and men of truth....
Thus, the Mormon people were pegged from the very beginning as being
"peculiar," "strange," "odd," "weird," and all other sort of unexplainable
adjectives. But the fact remains, that when the "nonsense" (as some think it
to be) of herbal medicine left the Mormon Church and its leaders, no longer
were we "peculiar" to the rest of the world in this respect. For, we now have
their medicine and large, fine general hospitals the same as they do, and
competent men of skill to practice therein, so how are we really man different
from the rest of the Gentiles?
Perhaps one significant thing which has happened of late, has been the
release of all Church-owned hospitals from the system of Mormonism altogether.
This inspiring piece of action was done by a modern-day Prophet, who had the
foresight and thought to declare that "we were in the business to preach the
Gospel, not the hospital business." His prompt decisions, for whatever
reasons upon which they were based, certainly deserve some distinguished note
of laudable merit. A modern Prophet working under modern revelation the same
as his predecessors did under former revelation, to make the Latter-day Saints
"a peculiar people," as we should be in the first place. And his wonderful
efforts in the tremendous missionary program of the Church is another
beautiful example of our "peculiarity." For what system of religion upon the
face of the earth, or what faith in the land is there that can rival the kind
of proselyting action which the Mormon Church is now noted to have? Again, "a
peculiarity" of "a peculiar people."
But, there have been some writers in modern times friendly to the Mormon
cause who, nevertheless, have observed a waning of the "peculiarity" about
which we are now speaking. One such man was Hector Lee, who conducted an
extensive search throughout the Church to find material among the Mormons upon
the subject of The Three Nephites. He interviewed hundreds of people, read
countless diaries and journals, and, in general, did a rather thorough piece
of work altogether. From all of these earnest efforts, he happened to make a
Casting out devils, having visions, receiving revelations, talking
in tongues, and similar physic phenomena are decreasing because the
Church has either openly discouraged them or has avoided encouraging
them, and because the appeal of the Church is shifting from the emotional
(characteristic of the 1830's and 1840's) to the rational, scientific,
social and cultural.
Another authority who noticed this "shifting from the emotional to the
rational, scientific, social and cultural" in Mormon doctrine and theology was
the noted sociologist, Nels Anderson, who attributed this rather surprising
change to the phenomena of education. In his book, Desert Saints, he makes
the following analysis:
On the other hand, this striving for knowledge, this drive for
education to promote the Kingdom of God, was an effort to conserve in the
Mormon group the cultural values developed on the frontier. On the other
hand, the education fetish has resulted in reversing intellectually all
the old processes of pioneer insularism. It has forced the Mormons to
turn around. It used to be a sin to 'approximate after the things of the
world.' That was the justification for the Desert alphabet -- to shut
out the intellectual influences of the Gentiles. There was no concern
about approval of outsiders; in fact, disapproval was a compliment.
This is no longer true, Zion was turned from insularism to
identification -- a process which has been speeded by the modern striving
for the knowledge that comes in books, an interest that never greatly
concerned the Pioneers. There is a practical reason for this reversal.
The urge for identification is more a matter of expediency than is
generally realized even by the Mormons and is as much a matter of
expediency as was the pioneer urge for isolation....
Perhaps this is the long-predicted expansion of Zion to the world,
another kind of missionary movement. Certainly it is not a military,
old-fashioned evangelical approach to the outside. On the contrary, the
Mormons are now themselves on the other side. They are straining to
adapt themselves. They have succeeded so well that their name is no
longer anathema. Preachers no longer sermonize about the menace of
Mormonism. Is this dilution process thinning out the old distinctivness?
Will Mormonism spread and adapt until it loses its identity? This is not
When Mr. Anderson made this observation in the years of 1940-42, he was
not aware what an additional 33 to 35 years would do to Mormonism. Mr.
Anderson's thoughts, carefully gleaned from a long period of patient study
might, perhaps, be bes[t] summed up in these few words of the Savior, as
recorded in the Gospel of John 15:18-19:
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because
ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world,
therefore the world hateth you.
This turning from pioneer "insularism to identification" through "the
modern striving for knowledge" (or education) has placed the Latter-day Saints
in a very unique position, as being one of the fastest growing, most
successful religious organizations upon the face of the earth. The
"world-wide" Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in fact, has become
one of the most popular institutions in existence today.
When two of the major television networks in this country (NBC and CBS)
devote a half-hour of prime time programming upon the subject of Mormonism,
and when one of the most respected and prominent magazines in the world (The
National Geographic) provides over a dozen pages about the Utah-based faith,
then surely that is evidence enough to indicate we are a popular people with
the world in general. Or, to requote Mormonism in the Twentieth Century,
"Mormonism (has) declined as a controversial issue...." Since 1930, "new
features were seen in the popular image which have characterized it ever
And yet, the question still remains to some extent, has all of this
recognition, positive-image, and popularity caused us to lose our original
identity as a peculiar people? How about the "peculiarity" those Gentile
Missourians notice about us -- "they say....the sick are healed through herbs
and faith..." -- Could this have been lost to some extent when Mormonism
embraced the Gentile medical science of the world?
These questions are raised in earnestness because they have a direct
bearing upon this whole work. Certainly, herbal medicine and botanic
physicians today, meet with a frown of disgust and wince of chagrin to many
who believe in the other. You mention the words "nature doctor," if you're
telling someone about your visit to a local practitioner for some type of
complaint you're suffering from and immediately the party to whom you're
conferring such news looks at you as if you are abnormal.
In part, their doubt and disbelief can be understood in the light of
recent events [during] the past few years. Of a truth, there have been a
number of slick individuals who have operated out of back rooms with drawn
window shades in a variety of methods and techniques that are simply
ridiculous to even the average-minded person. Machines that hum, lights that
blink, and horns that sound are no guarantee that cancer will be eliminated;
nor brass, copper and other attractive metal objects of imagined names as a
means of remedying other specific types of diseases. There is a point where
the line has to be drawn, and this is it.
Certainly the medical profession in the State of Utah deserves a fine
hand of commendation for their determined crusade against such shysters and
rogues who prey upon the innocent and unsuspecting with gadgets and gimmickry
that even the old eccentric toy-maker, Rube Goldberg, would have nothing to do
with. But has not that well-intentioned zeal gone just a bit far when it
includes honorable men of respected standing in the community? Is it right to
spread the flame of determination upon trained specialists in the herbal and
botanic sciences, who are licensed and qualified practitioners in their field
as much as the medical men are in theirs? Isn't this depriving a man of his
free agency if [he] is operating within the bounds and limits of proper
authority, and conducting his practice in such a noble manner as would merit a
nod from the deceased Prophet, Joseph Smith, himself? Is it justice to defame
a man because he prescribes herbs and other natural remedies to his patients
instead of drugs and apothecary medicine? Is this the right way?
Now, there are in the State of Utah a class of men who are registered and
licensed [as] botanic physicians. They are called "Nature Doctors;" more than
just the Thomsonian cure of treatment. In fact, whereas Lobelia used to be
the "cornerstone of herbal faith," then, the plant, golden seal, has taken its
place; and is now considered by some to "the thing" for nearly everything.
Even herbal medicine has made significant strides since the days of Mr.
Many of these men are also qualified medical doctors, and can give
X-rays, immunizations, and regular medicine just as any ordinary M.D. can.
They have been trained in this, and their diagnosis of something can be
considered just as reliable as the physician's can be. But they have had to
pay a price and sometimes bear a grudge from those in standard medical
practice, when entering business for themselves. Like Mr. Thomson, they have
found the way to the top [is] not always and easy one to reach.
And then there have been those less fortunate than these who, because of
limited finances, could not afford the schooling these other men had, or
simply did not want to take the regular courses in order to qualify for a
medical license with which to operate. These unlucky fellows have been
arrested, tried, convicted, and in some cases even sentenced to the state
prison for the help they were attempting to administer to people. We do not
mean the charlatans, but those who believed in herbs alone and sought to use
them without the aid of further medicine. Names could be mentioned, but this
is not a martyr-sheet for roll call. It is merely a page of condensed facts
which now exist in the heart of Mormondom, and are there with the[ir]
counterparts in modern medicine.
But the question still remains, "Are we a peculiar people?" Well,
perhaps the presence of these men in a state dominated by the medical
profession helps, somewhat, to lessen the image that we are an ordinary
people, and at least stimulates the peculiarity factor to a small measure.
However, what can be said about the Mormon people themselves? Are they
"peculiar" anymore, or has Gentile medicine so affected them that they cannot
be influenced anymore towards the natural method of cure?
Part of the answer may lie in this: Despite the radical changes within
Mormonism after the turn of the century, yet there were still a few people
among the Latter-day Saints who either believed in the use of herbs for
sickness, or recommended their virtues to others. One such illustration may
serve the point just given rather well. In 1905, an old Mormon patriarch
suggested the use of tobacco to an ailing young man of his faith, who could
not obtain relief from anything else, medicine included. The account goes
David had saved a little of the money from the sale of our Mt.
Pleasant home, also earning some money from herding sheep awhile. We
bought the Decker home where Victoria and John lived for a while. David
got some work at Pinedale. Later he began with convulsions like Georgie
had done. We later realized that when they both would lie upon their
stomach and drink from the edge of the creek where various creatures
were, as some other boys also used to do; and, at the same time, drank
eggs or you[ng] ones of the 'nematode' worm or snake. Georgie, while
dying, declared there was a 'snake in his belly;' also, the same symptoms
proved they both suffered from the same evil.
I am very sorry now that we didn't have Georgie's entrails opened;
then we could have known better how to deal with the evil creature in
David. It would crawl up his chest at times until he could hardly
breathe. We thought it was worms. We hadn't means to go to the doctor
so far away. Besides, there didn't seem to be doctors then, especially
in Arizona, who should understand about such creatures in the system. We
finally decided it wasn't worms because different kinds of worm medicine
did no good.
Then, Patriarch John Riedhead of Woodruff, where Victoria lived,
told me when I went down there, to have David try chewing tobacco and
swallowing the juice, which would kill a snake and should kill anything
else. Although David shrank at the thought of using tobacco, he was
driven to try it; but he didn't get relieved then, of the misery which
came at intervals....
Finally, David's condition got so bad (the Spring of 1921), that he
got to swallowing tobacco juice as Brother Reidhead advised; also used
even very strong medicines. Those he took would only stun the creature
inside him for awhile; then it would go to work again. Besides the
tobacco juice, he took rather loose food such as rice, soaked bread,
etc., so the tobacco juice could mix with it in his stomach and the worm
would have no place, but to be covered with the juice. The last three
days of that treatment, the creature flopped about and made him awful
sick -- almost put him in serious convulsions, although he had had
convulsions for sometime. He kept taking the juice when he felt the
creature coming up into his throat; again, it would be stunned. It was
struggling hard before it was killed.
Finally, it stopped moving at all, but David didn't know it was
dead, so he kept taking the juice. The creature was so large that I knew
if it was dead I must get him some medicine to take it away. I had a
time getting across the wash that was full of deep muddy water on my four
mile trip to Taylor. I took off my shoes and stockings and waded across.
I got him some native herb tablets, but after he took them they heated
hi[m] so that he took to shaking all over his body. His nerves were
terribly bad. I got so worried about him that I went and talked with
nurses I knew. Someone said to give him salts. I decided if they
wouldn't help him, I would have to get a doctor. But we didn't have
money. Joseph had been in France at war (WWI), but I didn't get all the
checks that should have come. The doctor lived 40 miles from us and I
didn't know hardly what to do. I gave David the salts and it was 3 weeks
after he began to take the extra strong tobacco juice that he got rid of
It had been dead about two weeks and was almost in pieces; but it
was an awful thing. It was over a foot long. It had burst but looked
like it had been about as big around as my finger. It had a lot of
joints about one-third of an inch long. It was whitish -- that is
looking like an angleworm not filled with mud. It's head was peculiar,
something like a snake's head, but didn't have bones or teeth. Someone
told me that if had teeth it would have killed David but it just sucked
it's food. Each one of those joints was pointed on the under side. It
must have had four legs, but we saw only three. They had little claws
and it was those that helped to hurt David at times. They were about as
big around as a wheat straw and were half an inch to an inch long and
quite near its head. Some folks thought it was a tape worm, but we saw
pictures afterwards in a paper that described and showed pictures of
'memitode' worms, which were a species of snake.
David got much better after he got rid of the creature, although it
had made his stomach bad. He had also suffered much with piles, but now
he got better. He had been so pale and weak, but he got strong; even
grew in size and went out at quite heavy work.
After David got rid of that snake he decided to burn his tobacco. I
told him he may need it as it may be hard to quit, but he burned it
anyway. Then I had to buy more, as he got into a terrible nervous
condition before he got well. But he finally got the habit conquered,
And even one of the General Authorities, Apostle John A. Widstoe,
believed in living naturally. Now, as to whether or not, he ever used herbs
directly for sickness, cannot be said as that fact is not definitely known.
But this much can be authenticated from his daughter, Ann Wallis:
My father never seen a medical doctor in his life. He never went to
a dentist. And, he never was sick one day, that I know of. For the last
twenty years of his life, he ate no meat, but confined his diet strictly
to vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts, berries, and such as that. He lived to
be 80 years old, and always seemed to have pep and energy about him. I
never knew him to use any bleached flour, refined sugar, or processed
foods of that type. Mother always cooked with wholesome ingreadients --
i.e., stoneground whole wheat flour, honey, etc., etc.
Thus, with these two isolated incidents, we can see that to some small
degree, the practice of herbal medicine and herbal dieting persisted after the
nineteenth [century] among those few who believed in such things. To this
extent then, was the "peculiarity" of the Mormon people preserved, and its
original identity with the Prophet Joseph in this regard, not lost entirely.
And today, among a rarer modest number, this belief and practice still
prevails. It is unfortunate, however, that in many cases, where you might
find a "health-food addict," you are also liable to find an individual with
some theological or political hang-up besides. It seems that these sorry just
as naturally as you would a path along which to walk. Rather instead, they
seek to push the "natural way of health" to such a bitter extreme that they
make for themselves enemies, as well as to give other earnest seekers a bad
name and deplorable reputation, when connected with the health-food line. And
a few have even pressed their luck so far as to get excommunicated from the
Mormon Church, because of their radical differences and non-conformity
doctrines, which they stress so urgently as a matter of "life and death
salvation" to others.
The author is here treating a type of "peculiarity" which is both
obnoxious and bad, to medical Saint and herbal Saint alike. But, there are a
remnant remaining, in hither unknown parts of the Church, who believe in and
advocate the Prophet Joseph Smith's teaching in regards to herbal medicine;
and practice it for themselves, their families, and close relations. These
individuals do not belong to any "off-shoot" group, or "pseudo" cult of
fantastic imaginations. They are men and women like ourselves -- humble
followers of Christ, who sustain the living Prophet of God, and are active
members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It is these with whom the author refers to in good, honorable intentions.
Not so much for what they believe in and advocate, but rather for their
courage in daring to be DIFFERENT! Not the kind of "different" that gets you
in trouble with church authorities, but the kind of "different" which is a
free and easy style of simple "peculiarity." Not the kind that's forced, and
preached in radical tones of apostate loudness; but rather that which is a
part of their normal, everyday lives, lived out in submission, meekness and
humility; walking obediently in all of the right paths which God's living
Prophets today prescribe! And yet, somehow, managing to cling to the past and
retain the identical ways of faith and healing, which Brother Joseph himself
maintained and kept throughout his life. Or, in other words, the type of
living pattern which John A. Widstoe himself sought to establish; the kind
that allows you to do your "thing" and someone else to do his "thing."
But one last type of "peculiarity" must be raised before we close this
chapter and end our discussion. And that has to do with FAITH in the healing
ordinances of the Gospel. If the reader will kindly recall having read in the
last two chapters, numerous statements by Brigham Young, George Q. Cannon,
Apostle Abraham H. Cannon, and Susan Young Gates in regards to the
administration of the sick. And be aware to please remember that they all
were rather unanimous in this one message. Frequent reliance upon medical
doctors showed a lack of faith in God! In fact, Susan Young gates herself
said that "if we are to retain the established principle of faith for the
healing of the sick, we must work at it as we should any other principle or
doctrine which we wish to make a part of our lives." And the two Presidents,
John and Cluff, stated to the sisters in the Relief Society Conference of the
Utah Stake of Zion "... the moment your children complain of a little illness
you are off for the doctor ... then (you) can feel you have got the skill of
man on your side, while you leave the Priesthood to stand aside." And, of
course, Apostle Abraham H. Cannon eloquently versed it in this manner when he
said: "...sending for a doctor...shows a lack of faith!"
One of the "peculiarities of faith" which Jesus said should accompany His
disciples who believe in Him, and had confidence in [H]is power and those of
His Servants was this:
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!
Now where can a person read into this the interpretation of an inspired
physician whose hands are directed by God in order that life might be
preserved. Some would like to think it is this easy; and still, many others
tend to believe that "doctors are not God's inspired servants and He works
through them." Well, this may be the case sometimes; the author will not
dispute that. But here Christ is talking about a specific type of a Servant
-- not a skilled, medical practitioner but, rather, a Priesthood holder
skilled in faith! And when that certain bearer lays his hands upon the sick,
they shall recover! Or, in other words, the Saviour is making a plain
allowance for those who are to heal when faith and belief are present. When
they are not, then it must be presumed he had made other provisions with which
we are all very well acquainted.
It seems the early period of the Church enjoyed a remarkable out-pouring
of the gifts and graces of God; to such an extent in fact, that one Elder in
remarking upon such matters as visions, prophecies, tongues, etc., in his
daily journal, was led to simply write on one occasion: "Nothing much out of
the ordinary today... just the usual, tongues, visions, etc...." However, we
find in these things and the frequency with which they appeared in the Church
later on in another era.
Violet Ure was born August 10, 1873. She wrote a short autobiography
about herself when she was 87 years old, and resided at Cedar City, Utah. The
original is on microfilm at the Church Historian's Office in Salt Lake. The
author made this excerpt from her copious notes in the Archives --
....It seems the best time of my life was hearing people speak in
their broken English. We would go to Fast Meetings and hear the brethren
speak in their native tongues, in broken English, and even 'in tongues.'
I look back on those days as being very precious to me, for the gifts of
the gospel were scarce in them days. There were no doubts nor misgivings
for those men, and they passed their strength to those who listened.
With great power they would declare the gospel to be true.
Now, Sister Ure had written the above sometime in 1960, according to her
age and the time she was born, It is interesting to note her significant
statement that "the gifts of the gospel were scarce in them days." If this
was true, and considered in the light of statements from men like George Q.
Cannon and Abraham H. Cannon, together with the brief remarks of Susan Young
Gates, trust with medical aid, is it improper to ask just what sort of a
spiritual heritage did our ancestors leave us after 1900?
Perhaps that can best be answered by Emily Dow Partridge Young, a
daughter of the first Presiding Bishop of the Church, Edward Partridge, and a
later wife of Brigham Young. As early as 1880, when the momentum of our
present-day results bequeathed to us by our pioneer forefathers then, had
begun to gather some acceleration towards the Gentile influences of the
outside world, this noble woman heroically recorded:
...I speak of the gift of healing by the laying on of hands. But do
we enjoy that blessing to the extent that we might... We suffer with
sickness year after year and children die.... Who is responsible for this
state of things. Is it not those who are entrusted with the priesthood;
holding the power and authority to rebuke the Destroyer? Are they not
responsible in a great measure for the lack of faith among the people.
Mothers having sick children send for the Elders according to the
revelation; they come from their work feeling in a very great hurry.
They cannot take time to bow down before the Lord and dedicate
themselves, then administer and act concerned to His Glory, but go
through the ceremony in a hurried manner, their minds filled with the
cares of business. They think not of the result of their administration;
but leave the patient or friends to exercise faith if they can under the
circumstances. Who can wonder that distrust creeps into the minds of the
people, and they send for a doctor rather than trust in an Elder when
sickness is raging....
We lose confidence in the Priesthood. J.S. and his brethren
obtained blessings through much prayer. If there were two or three
together, they would pray in turns and if they did not prevail at first,
they would pray again and again until the Lord would grant them their
desires. I have known Elders to lay on hands with no effect at first;
but after the second or third time, the patient was healed. Now, if it
can be done once it can be done again and again. ...I have been
administered to repeatedly, without the desired effect; and I long to see
the day when the Spirit and Power of healing will attend the
To dispute the facts and close our eyes to the obvious is certainly not a
very intelligent sign of good common sense, is it? Therefore, what do we have
to consider in the light of this recent evidence? Who can dare gainsay the
difference about these matters? We leave the reader to be the sensible judge
of what already seems to be so apparent.
The "peculiarity" of the Mormon style today appears more as an individual
trait of a single character here and there, rather than as an aggregate
measure of the entire sum quality everywhere. And it is this personal
"peculiarity," unrelated to the masses in general, which helps to still
identify Mormonism with some of the old teachings in Brother Joseph's day.
A classic example of this "individual peculiarity" to which we are
referring, may be found in the life of Daniel and his friends, as related in
the Good Book. We read as follows, in Daniel 1:1-20, of the Inspired Version:
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, came
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon into Jerusalem, and besieged it.
And the Lord gave Jehoiakim, king of Judah into his hand, with part
of the vessels of the house of God; which he carried into the land of
Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the
treasure house of his god.
And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he
should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed,
and of the princes;
Children in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skillful in
all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such
as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might
teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat,
and of the wine which he drank; so nourishing them three years, that at
the end thereof they might stand before the king.
Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hanaiah,
Mishael, and Azariah;
Unto whom the prince of the eunuches gave names; for he gave unto
Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to
Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abed-nego.
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself
with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank;
therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not
Now God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the
prince of the eunuchs.
And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the
king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink, for why should he see
you face worse liking than the children which are your sort? Then shall
ye make me endanger my hand to the king.
Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set
over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah;
Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give
pulse to eat, and water to drink.
Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the
countenances of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat;
and as thou seest, deal with they servants.
So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.
And at the end of the ten days their countenances appeared fairer
and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of
the king's meat.
Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that
they should drink; and gave them pulse.
As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all
learning and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all vision and
Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring
them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before
And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none
like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore stood they before
And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the King
inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians
and astrologers that were in all his realm.
And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.
Smith's Bible Dictionary (Philadelphia, 1948) defines "pulse" to usually
mean pease, beans, and the seeds that grow in pods. In the Authorized Version
it occurs only in Dan. 1:12, 16, as the translation of words the literal
meaning of which is "seeds" of any kind. Probably the term denotes uncooked
grain of any kind, as barley, wheat, millet, vetches, etc. (page 544.)
Here, then, we have a unique situation in which Daniel was able to retain
his identity by remaining "peculiar." He and his friends dared to be
"different" because they loved the Lord more than they did man. They did not
care to secure for themselves a popular image in Nebuchadnezzer's court. They
were in Babylon, but desperately sought to not [be]come part of her as so many
of their fellow Jews had done. They did not fall prey to "going along with
the crowd" in eating the king's meat and drinking the king's wine. They
believed in certain health laws and good rule of nutrition and did not
compromise these holy principles for the rich dainties and luscious fancies
which the kitchens of Babylon could have yielded up to satisfy their hunger
and soothe their appetites.
No! They maintained a position of peculiarity which was different that
the rest of Israel in captivity at that time. It seems as if all the others
forgot their God and turned towards obeying the commandments of God instead.
But, Daniel and his friends just could not substitute the one for the other.
They felt they had to make a stand, declare their position, and then maintain
it, even in the face of death.
The early Latter-day Saints were pretty much this way, too. They did not
feel they should have to compromise good laws of health in order to satisfy
the Gentiles in their mountain home with them. They did not believe in
feeding their children the same kind of food which the Gentiles may have
eaten; nor, did they feel to have such perishable commodities of refinement
imported from the East, either. They were "peculiar" because they believed in
maintaining their own health standards as the Prophets had taught and
encouraged them in.
And one Gentile visitor, who happened through the territory in the early
1880's was amazed at the results of the good nutritional habits practiced
among the people in general:
Of the men in Orderville, I can say sincerely that a healthier, more
stalwart community I have never seen. While among the women, I saw many
refined faces, and remarked that robust health seemed the rule. Next
morning the children were paraded, and such a brigade of infantry it was!
Their legs (I think, though they are known as 'limbs' in America) were
positively columnar, and their chubby little owners were as difficult to
keep quietly in line as so much quicksilver.
Another writer of about the same period remarked that "the faces of the
Mormon children in the Deseret Sunday School Union are epitomes of good health
and wise eating habits, unlike those of the pasty-white emaciated figures back
in the public schools of Boston." He then went on to describe their
"ruddy-complexions," "lively step," "clear countenance," and "sparkling eyes."
Surely, a noble tribute to such fine specimens of good health!
The Lord has given us, His people, a code of health by which to live.
The Word of Wisdom is quite explicit about fresh fruits "in the season
thereof," and green vegetables from the field. It also advises us how little
we should eat meat -- sparingly! And the Doctrine and Covenants furnishes us
with the key to correcting ill health -- that if we have not faith, but
believe, it is our privilege to be nourished back to health with herbs and
mild food, as wisdom dictates.
Leading nutritional authorities throughout the country, not of our faith,
have been proclaiming for years the harm in excessive use of refined foods,
such as white flour, white sugar, processed cereals, artificial sweets and
soft drinks. The author could fill ten more pages with enough evidence from
these legitimate sources to prove his point, but shall [not] avail himself of
that for now, because it is not necessary to do [so]. However, the author
does ask these questions: Have we, as God's People today, maintained a course
in "peculiarity" which was similar to that of Daniel and his friends? Or,
have we adopted some of the Gentile eating habits, to include in our diet cola
drinks, enriched bread products, excessive meat, refined sugar, artificial
sweets, etc? Can we afford to ignore the laws of God in light of revealed
wisdom? Should we conform ourselves to the same Gentile stupidity in
nutrition and eating, as what plagues the rest of the world? Or, should we do
as Daniel did, and maintain a course which is different than the one currently
in vogue with Babylon? These are things to think about and seriously consider
with an open mind and honest heart; for our life and health hang in the
balance. And, if we are found wanting, who can venture to say what imbalance?
And, if we are found wanting, who can venture to say what inevitable
consequences we may have to suffer for our foolhardy actions?
Therefore, to be "peculiar" is not to rant and rave on health food and be
a belligerent fanatic about the same. But it is to maintain a quiet course os
sensible living such as Apostle John A. Widstoe did when he was alive. When
young, and in the old country, he would often go down to the fishing piers and
help himself to a generous scoop of cod liver oil from open barrels sitting
around. And while in New York some years later, he was too poor to by the
expensive, enriched bread, so had to settle himself for the common, old "black
bread," which was nothing more than the good wheat germ left-over from the
white flour used in the more costly loaves and dainty pastries; and this,
according to his own daughter, too.
Brother Widstoe was the emblem of what good health and proper eating
should be in any man. While others of his fellow apostles around him suffered
from this problem or that trouble, he was going along as spry and nimble as
what man in his busy position and advanced age could be.
John A. Widstoe was a dignified pillar of "peculiarity" and certainly
kept alive in the Church during his time, that wonderful uniqueness of
singularity, which has so marked Mormonism since its birth in 1830. The place
of herbal medicine then, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
rests primarily with an individual, and becomes a personal responsibility
rather than a congregate sort of adaptation. If a person feels within himself
to maintain that singular "peculiarity" which so marked the Prophet Joseph
Smith, then it is his privilege and choice to so adopt those methods the first
great Seer and Revelator of this last Dispensation had. On the other hand, if
a man or woman wishes to go the way the rest of Judah went in Babylon, they
should be allowed to do so while Daniel and his friends remain apart from the
rest in their private habits and personal ways. But, it certainly is not for
either one to condemn or judge the other in their chosen methods of action.
For as Paul so beautifully put it: "Let not him that eateth despise him that
eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth; for God
hath received him."
(1) Lucy Smith, Joseph Smith and His progenitors; Lamoni, Iowa 1912; pp. 61-65
(2) Calomel -- so-called from its being white, though made from a dark mixture
of mercury and corrosive sublimate. Mercurous chloride, HgCl, obtained as a
fibrous crystalline mass or a white or yellowish-white powder by subliming a
mixture of metallic mercury and corrosive sublimate, and in other ways. It is
heavy, insoluble, and tasteless, and is much used in medicine as a mucurial
purgative, and anthelmintic. (Webster's New International Dictionary of the
English Language; 2nd Ed., unabridged; Massachusetts, 1946; p. 382.).
(3) Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language; 2nd Ed.,
unabridged; Massachusetts, 1946; pp. 97-100.
(4) Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language; 2nd Ed.,
unabridged; Massachusetts, 1946; pp. 58-60.
(1) Journal of Priddy Meeks," Utah Historical Quarterly 10:99. Hereafter
referred to as "Priddy Meeks" or Quarterly," respectfully.
(2) Journal of Priddy Meeks," Utah Historical Quarterly 10:99. Hereafter
referred to as "Priddy Meeks" or Quarterly," respectfully, pp. 199-200.
(3) Journal of Priddy Meeks," Utah Historical Quarterly 10:99. Hereafter
referred to as "Priddy Meeks" or Quarterly," respectfully, pp. 149-150.
(4) Annals of Medical History, June 1925, in Utah Historical Society Library.
(5) An agent which causes vomiting.
(6) Eclectic -- selecting; choosing what is thought best in doctrines,
opinions, etc., from various sources or systems. Eclectism -- (Medical). A
system of medicine based on eclectic principles; specifically, U.S., one
giving special attention to plant remedies. (Webster's New International
Dictionary of the English Language; 2nd Ed., unabridged; Massachusetts, 1946,
(7) Quarterly, op. cit., 10:44-48.
(1) Alma 46:40.
(2) "Medicine Among the Early Mormons;" an article by Claire Noall in the
California Folklore Quarterly Vol. III, no. 2, April 1944; p. 158.
(3) Doctrine & Covenants 42:43. Hereafter, cited as D&C.
(4) D&C 89:10-11.
(5) Webster's, op cit., p. 1166.
(6) Webster's, op cit., p. 1014
(7) Priddy Meeks, op cit., pp. 213-214.
(8) D&C 130:20-21.
(9) Journals of Joseph Smith; October 5, 1835 entry; Church Historians Office,
(10) Journals of Joseph Smith; October 5, 1835 entry; Church Historians
Office, S.L., At. October 10, 1835.
(11) D&C 42:44.
(12) "Medicine and the Mormons;" an article by Robert T. Divett, in the
Bulletin of the Medical Library Association; Vol. 51, No. 1, January 1936; p.
3. Hereafter, cited as "Direct" in this work.
(13) Dirk J. Struik, Yankee Science in the Making; Boston, 1948; pp. 176-178.
(14) Noall, op cit., pp. 159-160.
(15) Franklin L. West, Life of Franklin D. Richards; 1924; p. 15.
(16) 2 Nephi 4:34.
(17) 2 Nephi 4:34.
(18) John 14:15.
(1) The Songs of Zion; Chicago, 1908; p. 9.
(2) Documentary History of the Church; Salt Lake City, 1908; Volume 4; pp.
70-71. Hereafter cited in this work as DHC.
(3) [JST] Genesis 1:31.
(4) [JST] Genesis 3:24.
(5) [JST] Matthew 13:17.
(6) [JST] Mark 4:21-26.
(7) [JST] Romans 14:1-3.
(8) DHC 4:414 (September 5, 1841).
(9) Journals of Joseph Smith, op. cit. December 29, 1842 entry.
(10) Henry Caswall, The City of the Mormons or Three Days at Nauvo[o] in 1842;
(11) Journals of Joseph Smith, op cit.
(12) Divett, op cit., pp. 2-3.
(13) Caswall, op cit., p. 16.
(14) Minutes of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, March 17, 1842 - March
16, 1844. L.D.S. Church Historian's Office, Salt Lake City, Utah.
(15) "Pioneer Midwives" by Kate Carter; DUP Lesson for April, 1963; pp.
(16) Noall, op cit., p. 161.
(17) Utah Historical Quarterly, op cit., pp. 34-35.
(18) From an oral interview conducted by the author personally, in the Summer
of 1972, with Mrs. -----, Orem, Utah; whose request it was she remain
anonymous when so quoted later on. Name and material in possession of the
author, Manti, Utah.
(18a) "Superstitions, Customs, and Prescriptions of Mormon Midwives;" an
article by Claire Noall; California Historical Quarterly, 3:103-104; 108;
(19) West, op cit., p. 15.
(20) Quarterly, op cit., pp. 32-33.
(21) Noall, op cit., p. 157; 164.
(22) Quarterly, op cit., p. 42.
(23) [JST] 2 Corinthians 3:6.
(24) The Far West Record; entry for August 31, 1834. L.D.S. Church
Historian's Office, Salt Lake City.
(25) Priddy Meeks, op cit., pp. 180-181.
(26) Jared Carter Journals (Jan. 1831 -- Jan. 26, 1833). Church Historian's
Office, Salt Lake City.
(27) Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith; Salt Lake
City, 1940; p. 321.
(28) The Songs of Zion, op cit., p. 9.
(1) Archival material in possession of the author, Manti, Utah.
(2) Jethro Kloss, Back to Eden; Tennessee, 1939; p. 253.
(3) Jethro Kloss, Back to Eden; Tennessee, 1939; p. 253-254.
(4) Priddy Meeks, op cit., pp. 175-176.
(5) Priddy Meeks, op cit., p. 215.
(6) Priddy Meeks, op cit., p. 185.
(7) Priddy Meeks, op cit., p. 199.
(8) Priddy Meeks, op cit., pp. 197-198.
(9) Priddy Meeks, op cit., pp. 174-175.
(10) Quarterly, op cit., p. 38.
(11) Quarterly, op cit., 38-39.
(12) Nels Anderson, Deseret Saints -- The Mormon Frontier in Utah; Chicago,
1942; pp. 356-7.
(13) Priddy Meeks, op cit., p. 213.
(14) Priddy Meeks, op cit., p. 185.
(1) An apocryphal work, in no way connected with the canonized or accepted
version of the Bible now in use in Christendom.
(2) Douglas Guthrie, A History of Medicine; 1946; pp. 29-30.
(3) Lucy Mack Smith, op cit., pp. 9:48-49.
(4) Isaiah 55:8-9.
(5) N.B. Lundwall. Faith Like the Ancients; Salt Lake City, 1950; pp. 60-64.
(6) The "Hall System" of cure, advocated the constant use of colon flushing
(or the administration of frequent enemas) as a means of proper bowel
elimination, to prevent constipation; and, otherwise, avoid any serious attack
of appendicitis which may develop.
(7) Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life's Review; Independence, Missouri, 1947; p.
(8) A History of George Spilsbury, by himself; p. e. Special Collections,
Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
(9) Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Utah; Salt Lake City, 1964; p. 233.
(10) Memoirs of John R. Young, by himself; Salt Lake City, 1920; p. 64.
(11) B.F. Johnson, op cit., pp. 109-111.
(12) Kloss, op cit., p. 171.
(13) The Diary of Isaiah Moses Coombs (Beaver, Utah). A typescript copy in
the possession of the author.
(14) Priddy Meeks, op cit., pp. 210-211.
(15) "Medicine In the Bible;" A Sketch of Medicine and Pharmacy by Samuel
Evans Massengill, M.D.; Bristol, Tennessee, 1943; p. 253.
(16) Exodus 30:35.
(17) Frederick M. Rossiter, B.S., M.D., The Practical Guide to Health;
California, 1913; p. 221.
(18) Frederick M. Rossiter, B.S., M.D., The Practical Guide to Health;
California, 1913; title page; under the author's respective name, are his
(19) Dr. Frank McCoy, The Fast Way To Health; Los Angeles, 1926; pp. 120-122.
(20) George C. Lambert, Precious Memories; (Sixteenth Book of the
Faith-Promoting Series); Salt Lake City, 1974; pp. 12-13.
(21) Juvenile Instructor 35:764.
(22) Songs of Zion, op cit., hymn no. 156.
(1) Journal History; entry for August 19, 1846. Church Library, Salt Lake
(2) Journal History; entry for August 19, 1846. Church Library, Salt Lake
(3) Archival material in author's possession.
(4) Daniel Tyler, A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War
(1846-1847); pp. 127-128.
(5) Daniel Tyler, A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War
(1846-1847); p. 147.
(6) Daniel Tyler, A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War
(1846-1847); p. 183.
(7) J.V. Long, Report of The First General Festival of The Renowned Mormon
Battalion; St. Louis, 1855; pp. 28; 33. (Rare pamphlet in Church Library,
Salt Lake City.)
(8) Divett, op cit., p. 5.
(9) Deseret News, January 20, 1858.
(10) Quarterly, op cit., pp. 42-43.
(11) Quarterly, op cit., p. 42.
(12) Journals of Wilford Woodruff (August-September, 1842 entry); Church
Historian's Office, Salt Lake City, Utah.
(13) Two references for this -- (a) Documentary History of the Church 5:60-61.
Friday, July 15, 1842. -- It was reported early in the morning that Elder
Orson Pratt was missing. It caused the Temple hands and the principal men of
the city to make search for him . . . Elder Pratt returned in the evening.
(b) Thomas Edgar Lyon, Orson Pratt -- Early Mormon Leader; University of
Chicago Dissertation, M.A.; June, 1932; p. 29. Ebenezer Robinson, an
associate editor of the Times and Seasons said Pratt was found 5 miles below
Nauvoo, in a state of frenzy setting on the bank of the Mississippi River.
(14) Woodruff, op cit., entry for Sept. 24, 1865, 1860-65 Bk.
(15) Quarterly, op cit., p. 21.
(16) Kate Carter, Pioneer Midwives," DUP Lesson for April, 1963; p. 504.
(17) Kate Carter, Pioneer Midwives," DUP Lesson for May 1963; p. 504.
(18) Priddy Meeks, op cit., pp. 178-179.
(19) Quarterly, op cit., p. 38.
(20) An early Jaredite name, signifying "honeybee," appropriated to Utah by
the Mormons before it achieved statehood.
(21) Quarterly, op cit., p. 13.
(22) Priddy Meeks, its first President, had removed himself to Parowan, Utah,
and thus was unable to continue officiating in that capacity, and had to
relinquish his office and title to another.
(23) Quarterly, op. cit., p. 39.
(24) Claire Noall, Intimate Disciple; University of Utah Press, 1957; pp. 574;
(25) Claire Noall, Intimate Disciple; University of Utah Press, 1957; p. 575.
(26) Kate B. Carter, Pioneer Women Doctors, DUP Lesson for March, 1963; p.
(27) Quarterly, op cit., p. 43.
(28) Divett, op cit., p. 8.
(29) Rose, Blanche E., "Early Utah Medical Practice;" Utah Historical
(30) Richards, Ralph T., Of Medicine, Hospitals, and Doctors; Salt Lake City,
1953; p. 23.
(31) Noall, Claire Wilcox, "Utah's Pioneer Women Doctors;" Improvement Era
(32) Rose, Blanche, The History of Medicine in Utah; an unpublished master's
thesis in the University of Utah Medical Library; Salt Lake City, 1939; p.
(33) Noall, Era, op cit., p. 144-145 ff.
(34) An oral interview with Elvira Dastrup, Richfield, Utah; granddaughter of
Patriarch Elias H. Blackburn. Interview conducted by the author's father and
brother, Jacob and Joseph Heinerman, August 8, 1973, in the home of Sister
Dastrup. A full account of this hour long interview is the possession of the
author, Manti, Utah.
(35) Journal of Discourses 14:230. Hereafter referred to as JD.
(36) This prophecy has been literally fulfilled in modern times; for there is
not a woman in the Church today hardly, who will not submit herself into the
hand's of a doctor and be placed under his care during the final stages o
pregnancy, prior to delivery. However, it is noteworthy to relate that in
recent years, certain prominent people in America have begun to adapt
themselves more to a course of health foods, herbal medicine, and midwifery
than has ever been found to be the custom before. Actors such as Dennis
Weaver and Robert Cummings are staunch advocates of health foods and some
herbal teas. Actresses such as Susan Oliver and Anita Bryant believe in the
same things, plus natural childbirth at home. Among many of the middle-class,
it has become the thing in vogue to have children right at home, with the
assistance of a qualified mid-wife in attendance. Such books as Foxfire One
and Foxfire Two, give useful information on mid-wifery and even provide for
chapters on herbal remedies of the Ozark mountain folk in Kentucky. Popular
works, like "The Whole Earth Catalogue" make specific mention of both
midwifery and herbal medicine, and give places where such might be purchased
or courses obtained in the same. It seems to be a national fad of late, for
these sort of things; kind of a "return to Nature" amidst the scientific
technology of our civilization.
(37) JD 15:225-226.
(38) Richards, op cit., p. 15.
(39) An oath, embodying an admirable code of medical ethics, generally taken
by young men about to begin medical practice, said to have been imposed by
Hippocrates on his disciples.
(40) Quarterly, op cit., p. 48.
(41) Quarterly, op cit., p. 48.
(1) The Deseret News, October 24, 1855. Also quoted in: J. Cecil Altar, Utah
the Storied Domain; Vol. 1, p. 210.
(2) JD 23:189-195.
(3) Juvenile Instructor 28:669, an editorial.
(4) Deseret Weekly News 49:449-450;451. Sermon given in the Millcreek Ward,
(5) Young Woman's Journal 2:278-280.
(6) Young Woman's Journal 2:32.
(7) Relief Society Bulletin, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 5-6. And editorial.
(8) Jeremiah Stokes, Modern Miracles; pp. 149-150.
(9) Minnie I. Hodapp, Book of Remembrance (The Christian Olsen Family,
1821-1950); Provo, Utah, December, 1950; privately printed; pp. 79-80.
(10) Kate B. Carter, "Pioneer Women Doctors;" DUP Lesson for March, 1963; p.
(11) Kate B. Carter, "Pioneer Women Doctors;" DUP Lesson for March, 1963; p.
(12) Kate B. Carter, "Pioneer Women Doctors;" DUP Lesson for May, 1963; pp.
(13) Kate B. Carter, "Pioneer Women Doctors;" DUP Lesson for March, 1963; p.
(14) Richards, op cit., pp. 16-17;80.
(15) Autobiography of Violet Ure; Church Historian's Office, Salt Lake City,
(16) Gene A. Sessions, Mormon Democrat -- The Religious and Political Memoirs
of James Henry Moyle; typescript prepared under the direction of the
Historical Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints;
1975; pp. 11-12. Available in the Church Library downstairs, Salt Lake City,
(1) Dr. James D. Allen and Dr. Richard O. Cowan, Mormonism In The Twentieth
Century; Brigham Young University Press, Provo, Utah; 1969; p. 66.
(2) The New York Spectator; Tuesday, September 21, 1831; as quoted from a
Missouri newspaper by them. An original copy is in the possession of the
(3) Hector Lee, The Three Nephites; The University of New Mexico Press,
Albuquerque; 1949; p. 120.
(4) Nels Anderson, Deseret Saints; Chicago, 1942; pp. 443-445.
(5) "History of Martha Mariah Myers Hancock;" pp. 18-19; 22-23. A typescript
copy of the original, in the possession of the author;s father, Manti, Utah.
(6) Taken from an oral interview, with his daughter, Ann Wallis, of Salt Lake
City, at the Old University of Utah Library. Interview conducted by the
Author's father, Jacob Heinerman, in 1952, who was a personal acquaintance of
Sister Wallis, and knew her very well. Typescript copy in possession of the
author's father, Manti, Utah.
(7) Mark 16:16-19.
(8) Archival Material in the possession of the author.
(9) Diary of Emily Dow Partridge Young; pp. 55-56. Special Collections,
Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
(10) Phil Robinson, Sinners and Saints; Boston, 1883; pp. 233-234.
(11) Archival Material in possession of the author.
The following plants and their characteristics are taken from the book Back to
Eden by Jethro Kloss, Herbalist
(Bark, Leaves, and Flowers)
Botanical name: Myrica Cerifera. Common names: Bayberry bush, American
bayberries, American vegetable tallow tree, Bayberry wax tree, Myrtle, was
myrtle, candleberry, candleberry myrtle, tallow shrub, American vegetable wax,
vegetable tallow. Medicinal properties: Astringent, tonic, stimulant, Leaves:
One of the most valuable and useful herbs. The tea is a most excellent
gargle for sore throat. It will thoroughly cleanse the throat of all putrid
matter. Steep a teaspoonful in a pint of boiling water for thirty minutes,
gargle the throat thoroughly until it is clean, then drink a pint lukewarm to
thoroughly cleanse the stomach. If it does not come back easily, tickle the
back of the throat. This restores the mucous secretions to normal activity.
For chills make as above, adding a pinch of Cayenne, and take off a half cup
warm water every hour. This is very effective.
Bayberry is excellent to take as an emetic after narcotic poisoning of any
kind, and it is good to follow with a lobelia emetic.
Bayberry is valuable when taken in the usual manner for all kinds of
hemorrhages, whether from the stomach, lungs, uterus, or bowels. Bayberry is
reliable to check profuse menstruation, and when combined with Capsicum is an
unfailing remedy for this. Very good in leucorrhea. Has an excellent general
effect on the female organs, also has an excellent influence on the uterus in
pregnancy, and makes a good douche. Excellent results will be obtained from
its use in goiter. In diarrhea and dysentery, use an injection of the tea as
In case of gangrene sores, boils, carbuncles, use as a wash and poultice, or
apply the powdered bayberry to the infection. The tea is an excellent wash
for spongy and bleeding gums.
Bayberry is an excellent treatment in adenoids by snuffing the powder or tea
up the nose, or using as straw through which to blow the powdered bayberry.
This is also good for catarrh.
The tea taken internally is useful in jaundice, scrofula, canker in the
throat and mouth. The tea taken warm promotes perspiration, and improves the
whole circulation, and tones up the tissues. Taken in combination with
yarrow, catnip, sage or peppermint, is unexcelled for colds.
An excellent formula used by the famous Dominion Herbal College made with
bayberry for colds, fevers, flu, colic, cramps, and pains in the stomach is as
Bayberry 4 oz.
Ginger 2 oz.
White Pine 1 oz.
Cloves 1 dram
Capsicum 1 dram
This is prepared by mixing the herbs (in powered form) and passing through a
fine sieve several times. Use one teaspoonful, more of less as the case may
require, in a cup of hot water. Allow the herbs to stand so they will settle
and drink off the clear liquid, leaving the settlings. Anyone knowing the
benefit of this wonderful composition would not be without it.
Botanical name: Chelone glabra. Common names: Snake head, turtlebloom,
turtle head, salt rheum weed, fishmouth, shell flower, bitter herb. Medicinal
properties: Tonic, antibilious, stimulant, detergent, authelmintic.
Specific tonic for enfeebled stomach and indigestion, general debility and
biliousness, jaundice, constipation, dyspepsia, and torpid liver. Almost a
certain remedy for worms. Increase the gastric and salivary secretion and
stimulates the appetite. Good for sores and eczema.
Botanical name: Apocynum androsaemifolium. Common names: Dogsbane,
milkweed, honeyblood, milk ipecac, flytrap, wandering mildweed, catchfly,
bitter dogsbanes, western wallflower. Medical properties: Emetic, diuretic,
sudorific, cathartic, stimulant, expectorant.
This is a very good remedy for intermittent fever, typhoid fever, and other
fevers. Has an excellent effect on the liver, kidneys, and bowels. Increases
the secretion of bile. Excellent for poor digestion. Bitterroot has been
known to cure dropsy when everything else has failed. Expels worms. Is very
useful in syphilis, and to rid the system of other impurities. Especially
valuable in gallstones. Good in rheumatism, neuralgia, diseases of the joints
and mucous membranes. Wonderful for diabetes.
(Root, Leaves, and Seeds)
Botanical name: Arctium lappa. Common names: Grass burdock, clotbur,
bardana, burr seed, hardock, harebur, hurrburr, turkey burr seed. Medicinal
properties: Root: Diuretic, depilatory, alternative. Leaves: Maturing. Seed:
The root is one of the best blood purifiers for syphilitic and other
diseases of the blood. It cleanses and eliminates impurities from the blood
very rapidly. Burdock tea taken freely will clear all kinds of skin diseases,
boils, and carbuncles. Increases flow of urine. Excellent for gout,
rheumatism, scrofula, canker sores, syphilis, sciatica, gonorrhea, leprosy.
Wring a hot fomentation out of the tea for swellings. It is good to make a
salve and apply externally for skin eruptions, burns, wounds, swellings, and
hemorrhoids. Excellent to reduce flesh.
Botanical name: Nepeta Cataria. Common names: Catmint, catrup, cat's-wort,
field balm, catnip. Medicinal properties: Anodyne, antispasmodic,
carmintative, aromatic, diaphoretic, nervine.
Catnip is one of the oldest household remedies. It is wonderful for very
small children and infants. Use the tea as an injection for children in
convulsions. Very useful in pain of any kind, spasms, wind colic, excellent
to allay gas, acids in stomach and bowels, prevent griping. A tablespoon
steeped in a pint of water used as an enema is soothing and quieting, and very
effective in insanity, fevers, expelling worms in children; also fits. A high
enema of catnip will relieve hysterical headaches. It is good to restore
menstrual secretions. Catnip, sweet balm, marshmallow and sweet weed make an
excellent baby remedy. If mothers would have this on hand and use it
properly, it would save them many sleepless nights and doctor's bills, and
also save the baby much suffering. It is a harmless remedy and should take
the place of the various soothing syrups on the market, many of which are very
harmful. This wonderful remedy should be in every home. A little honey or
malt honey may be added to make it palatable. Steep, never boil, catnip.
Take internally freely. An enema of catnip will cause urination when it has
Botanical name: Capsicum annuum. Common names: Cayenne pepper, red pepper,
capsicum, Spanish pepper, bird pepper, pod pepper, chilies, African pepper,
chili pepper, African red pepper, cockspur pepper, American red pepper, garden
pepper. Medicinal properties: Pungent, stimulant, tonic, sialagogue,
Red pepper is one of the most wonderful herb medicines we have. We do
wonderful things with it that we are not able to do with any other known herb.
It should never be classed with black pepper, vinegar, or mustard. These are
irritating, while red pepper is very soothing. While red pepper smarts a
little, it can be put in an open wound, either in a fresh wound, or an old
ulcer, and it is very healing instead of irritating; but black pepper,
mustard, and vinegar are irritating to an open wound and do not heal. Red
pepper is one of the most stimulating herbs known to man with no harm or
It is effective as a poultice for rheumatism, inflammation, pleurisy, and
helpful also if taken internally for these. For sores and wounds it makes a
good poultice. It is a stimulant when taken internally as well as being
antispasmodic. Good for kidneys, spleen, and pancreas. Wonderful for
lockjaw. Will heal a sore, ulcerated stomach, while black pepper mustard, or
vinegar will irritate it. Red pepper is a specific and very effective remedy
in yellow fever, as well as other fevers and may be taken in capsules followed
by a glass of water.
It is part of a most wonderful liniment, which may be made as follows:
2 oz. gum myrrh
1 oz. golden seal
« oz. African red pepper
Put this into a quart of rubbing alcohol, or take a pint of raspberry
vinegar and a pint of water. Add the alcohol or vinegar to the powder. Let
it stand for a week or ten days, shaking every day. This can be used wherever
liniment is useful or needed. It is very healing to wounds, bruises, sprains,
scalds, burns, and sunburns, and should be applied freely. Wonderful results
are obtained in pyorrhea by rinsing the mouth with the liniment or applying
the liniment on both sides of the gums with a little cotton or gauze.
CINNAMON AND CLOVES
Spices which may be purchased in an local food market. Available in ground
powder, whole, or stick.
Cinnamon is delicious used in baked or fried apples, apple sauce, apple pies
and dumplings. Use in waffles, muffins, coffee cakes, pancakes, cookies, and
French toast. Mix with sugar for cinnamon toast or sprinkle over cupcakes
before baking. Add to grilled bananas and stewed fruit, such as prunes, pears
and peaches. Excellent in custards and rice pudding.
The stick cinnamon is a delightful addition to hot apple cider. When ready
to serve, add a piece and stir with a spoon. Leave the stick in and it will
give a unique and wonderful flavor to the beverage.
Powdered cloves can be used in preparing fruit cake, plum pudding, apple
pie, steamed puddings, bread puddings, pumpkin pie, cookies, cranberries,
glazes for ham and other meats, spice cake, gingerbread, mincemeat, frostings,
spiced nuts, coffee cake, sweet rolls, streusel toppings, broiled bananas and
grapefruit, chili sauce, tomato relish, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes and
Whole cloves may be inserted into a ham, prior to baking. Make light
slashes on both sides of the ham about an inch or so apart, in kind of a
criss-cross effect, and put a small piece of clove into each tiny square. It
gives the a delicious flavor.
Powdered cinnamon may be sprinkled on rolled oats before cooking, to make it
an additional breakfast treat for youngsters.
Measure out the proper amount of rolled oats you wish to use; put in the
appropriate water (use cold); add a dab of butter or margarine; and then shake
on a little cinnamon. Stir together; set on stove; cover; and cook over
medium heat. Stir occasionally to prevent from sticking. Serve hot with
Botanical name: Hydrastis canadensis. Common names: Yellow paint root,
orange root, yellow puccoon, ground raspberry, eye root, yellow Indian paint,
Indian plant, tumeric root, Ohio curcuma, eye balm, yellow eye, jaundice root.
Medicinal properties: Laxative, tonic alterative, detergent, opthalmicium,
antiperiodic, apperient, diuretic, antiseptic, deobstruent.
This is one of the most wonderful remedies in the entire herb kingdom. When
it is considered all that can be accomplished by its use, and what it actually
will do, it does seem like a cure-all.
It is one of the best substitutes for quinine, is a most excellent remedy
for colds, la grippe, and all kinds of stomach and liver troubles. It exerts
a special influence on all the mucous membranes and tissues with which it
comes in contact. For open sores, inflammations, eczema, ringworm,
erysipelas, or any skin disease, golden seal excels. Golden seal tea is made
by steeping one teaspoonful in a pint of boiling water for twenty minutes and
used as a wash, then after the place is thoroughly clean (it is well to use
peroxide of hydrogen for cleansing), sprinkle some of the powdered root and
cover. Taken in small but frequent doses, it will allay nausea during
pregnancy. Steep a teaspoonful in a pint of boiling water for twenty minutes,
stir well, let settle, and pour off the liquid. Take six tablespoonfuls a
day. It equalizes the circulation and combined with scullcap and red pepper
(cayenne) will greatly relieve and strengthen the heart. It has no superior
when combined with myrrh, one part golden seal to one-fourth myrrh for
ulcerated stomach, duodenum, dyspepsia, and is especially good for enlarged
tonsils and sores in the mouth. Smoker's sores, caused by holding a pipe in
the mouth, will heal after just a few applications of the powder to the sore.
I have used it in a number of cases that were called "skin cancers" with
It is an excellent remedy for diphtheria, tonsillitis, and other serious
throat troubles, and has a good effect combined with a little myrrh and
cayenne. Excellent for chronic catarrh of the intestines and all catarrhal
conditions. Will improve appetite and aid digestion. Combined with scullcap
and hops, it is a very fine tonic for spinal nerves; is very good in spinal
meningitis. Very useful in all skin eruptions, scarlet fever, and smallpox.
To cure pyorrhea or sore gums, put a little of the tea in a cup, dip the
toothbrush in it, and thoroughly brush the teeth and gums. The results will
be most satisfactory. In any nose trouble, pour some tea in the hollow of the
hand and snuff up the nose. Very useful in typhoid fever, gonorrhea,
leucorrhea and syphilis. For bladder troubles, it should be injected into the
bladder immediately after the bladder has been emptied, and retained as long
as possible, repeating two or three times a day. I do not recommend that
individuals do this for themselves unless experienced. Have a physician or
nurse inject it for you with a rubber catheter.
Golden seal combined with alum root, taken internally, is an excellent
remedy for bowel and bladder troubles. Use two parts of golden seal and one
part wild alum. This is a laxative. Good for piles, hemorrhoids, and
prostrate gland. When combined with equal parts of red clover blossoms,
yellow dock, and dandelion it has a wonderful effect on the gall bladder,
liver, pancreas, spleen, and kidneys. Combined with peach leaves, queen of
the meadow, cleavers and corn silk, it is a reliable remedy for Bright's
disease and diabetes. Golden seal is excellent for the eyes. The following
is the way the writer uses it for his eyes: Steep a small teaspoonful of
golden seal and one of boric acid in a pint of boiling water, stir thoroughly,
let cool, and pour liquid off. Put a teaspoonful of this liquid in a half cup
of water. Bathe the eyes with this, using an eye cup, or drop it in with an
eye dropper. If the eyelids are granulated or there is film over the eyes,
add one teaspoonful burnt alum powder. if you use it a little too strong,
there is no harm done; it will only smart a little. Golden seal may be taken
in different ways, and may be used alone in all cases given above where it is
suggested to combine with others. Take one-fourth teaspoonful of golden seal
dissolved in a glass of hot water immediately upon arising, a glass one hour
before noon and evening meal. Or you may steep a teaspoonful in a pint of
boiling water, stir thoroughly, let cool, pour liquid off and take a
tablespoon four to six times a day. Children should take less of all doses
according to age.
There are many remedies much advertised as containing golden seal, but the
fact is, there is so little golden seal in the preparations, that it does very
little good, as it is very expensive.
Chronic catarrh of the intestines, even to the extent of ulceration, is
greatly benefited by golden seal. Golden seal produces healing in ulceration
of the mucous lining of the rectum, effectual in hemorrhage of the rectum. It
is a remedy for chronic and intermittent malarial poisoning or enlarged spleen
of malarial origin. From the above it will be seen how applicable golden seal
is in all catarrhal conditions, whether of the throat, nasal passages,
bronchial tubes, intestines, stomach, bladder, or wherever there is a lining
of mucous membrane. It kills poisons.
Botanical name: Morrubium volgare. Common names: Horehound, white
horehound. Medicinal properties: Pectoral, aromatic, diaphoretic, tonic,
expectorant, diuretic, hepatic stimulant.
Horehound will produce profuse perspiration when taken hot. Taken in large
doses, it is a laxative. When taken cold, is good for dyspepsia, jaundice,
asthma, hysteria, and will expel worms. Very useful in chronic sore throat,
coughs, consumption, and all pulmonary infections. If the menses stop
abnormally, it will bring them back. Horehound is one of the old-fashioned
remedies and should be in every home ready for immediate use. Horehound syrup
is excellent for asthma and difficult breathing. For children in coughs or
croup, steep a heaping tablespoonful in a pint of boiling water for twenty
minutes, strain, add honey, and let them take freely.
Not too common as an herb today. There are several types of indigo plants
from which a blue dye is obtained by extraction. Nothing is given in 'Back to
Eden' about it. Apparently, the pioneers were more familiar with it, than
modern herbalists are.
Botanical name: Magnolia glauca. Common names: Swamp laurel, red laurel,
sweet magnolia, red bay, white bay, beaver tree, Indian bark, sweet bay, swamp
sassafras, holly bay. Medical properties: Astringent, stimulant, febrifuge,
tonic aromatic, anti-periodic.
This is an excellent tonic, very valuable in intermittent fever, dyspepsia,
dysentery, and erysipelas. Use as a douche for leucorrhea. A wash made by
simmering a tablespoonful of magnolia bark in a pint of water for ten minutes
is fine for salt rheum and other skin diseases. Magnolia is excellent to use
in place of quinine, and will do the work when quinine fails. Effective to
cure the tobacco habit. This herb can be taken a long time without any bad
Botanical name: Hedeoma Pulegioides. Common names: Tickweed, squaw mint,
stinking balm, thickweed, American pennyroyal. Medicinal properties:
Sudorific carminative, emmenagogue, stimulant, diaphoretic, aromatic,
Is excellent in burning fevers. Will promote perspiration. Take hot.
Excellent remedy for toothache, gout, leprosy, colds, consumption, phlegm in
chest and lungs, jaundice, dropsy, cramps, convulsions, headache, ulcers,
sores in mouth, insect and snake bites, itch, intestinal pains, colic, and
griping. If trouble with suppressed or scanty menstruation, take one or two
capfuls hot at bed time along with a hot foot bath, several days before
expected. It will relieve nausea, but should not be taken by a pregnant
woman. Good as a poultice, and wash for bruises, black-eye. Good for
nervousness and hysteria. Useful for skin diseases.
Botanical name: Mentha piperita. Medicinal properties: Aromatic, stimulant,
stomachic, carminative. Oil: Stimulant, rubefacient.
This is one of the oldest household remedies and should be in every garden,
as it grows very prolifically. Excellent remedy for chills, colic, fevers,
dizziness or gas on stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dysentery, cholera,
heart trouble, palpitation of the heart, influenza, la grippe and hysteria.
Applied externally is good for rheumatism, neuralgia and headache. Peppermint
enemas are excellent for cholera and colon troubles. It is helpful in cases
of insanity, and especially useful for convulsions and spasms in infants.
Will bring back to the body its natural warmth and glow without the usual
tendency to relapse. Good for gripping pain caused by eating ripe fruit or
Do not drink coffee and tea, which are so harmful. Coffee weakens the heart
muscles -- peppermint tea is delicious and strengthens your heart muscles.
Coffee hinders digestion, weakens the heart, is one cause of constipation,
poisons the body. Peppermint tea cleanses and strengthens the entire body.
Give it a fair trial and see how much better you feel when you leave off
coffee and tea and drink peppermint tea.
In place of aspirin for the headache, or any other harmful headache drug,
take a cup of as-strong-as-you-like-it peppermint tea, lie down for a little
while, and see what a good effect it will have. If need be, drink two or
three cups, or enough so it gets into the system so it can help you, and it
will not disappoint you. Strengthens the nerves instead of weakening them as
aspirin, and other drugs do.
If the tea is not at hand, take some of the leaves and chew them up fine
until you can swallow them easily. This will start the food to digesting and
assist the entire system to do its work more normally.
Nothing given on it.
Botanical Name: Asclepias tuberosa. Common names: Butterfly weed, wind
root, Canada root, silkweed, orange swallow wort, tuber root, white root, flux
root, asclepias. Medicinal properties: Expectorant, carminative, tonic,
diuretic, diaphoretic, relaxant, antispasmodic.
As the name suggests, it is very valuable in pleurisy. Excellent to break
up colds, or la grippe, and all bronchial and pulmonary complaints. Very
useful in scarlet fever, rheumatic fevers, lung fever, bilious fever, typhus,
and all burning fevers, also measles. Good for suppressed menstruation and
Treatment of pleurisy: Clean the stomach out first with an emetic. Steep a
teaspoonful of powdered pleurisy root in a cup of boiling water for forty-five
minutes, strain, and take two tablespoonfuls every two hours -- oftener, if
necessary. Apply to the affected part a cold compress, covering well with a
flannel. Give a high enema of pleurisy root, using a tablespoonful to a quart
of boiling water. Let steep and use about 112 F.
It is a tonic for the kidneys. Good for asthma.
(Bark and leaves)
Botanical name: Populua tremuloides. Common names: Aspen, American aspen,
quaking aspen, quaking asp, quiver leaf, trembling tree, trembling poplar,
white poplar, aspen poplar, abele tree. Medicinal properties: Stomachic,
febrifuge, tonic, antiperiodic.
Poplar is better than quinine for all purposes for which quinine is used.
Very useful for diseases of urinary organs, especially if is weak. Excellent
to aid digestion and to tone up run-down condition, either in disease or old
age. Very good in all cases of diarrhea. Excellent for acute rheumatism.
Good in all fevers, such as intermittent fever, influenza, etc. Good for
neuralgia, la grippe, jaundice, liver and kidney trouble, diabetes, hay fever,
cholera infantum. Will expel worms. Is splendid used externally as a wash
for cancer, bad ulcers, gangrenous wounds, eczema, strong perspiration, burns
and sores caused by gonorrhea and syphilis. It is more effective than quinine
in fever and la grippe.
(Leaves and Fruit)
Botanical name: Rubus stringosus. Common names: Wild red raspberry,
raspberry. Medicinal properties: Leaves: Anti-emetic, astringent, purgative,
stomachic, parturient, tonic, stimulant, alterative. Fruit: Laxative,
exculent, anti-acid, parturient.
Will remove cankers from mucous membrane. Excellent for dysentery and
diarrhea, especially in infants. It decreases the menstrual flow without
abruptly stopping it. Is very soothing and does not excite. Good to combine
in such cases with prickly ash, blue cohosh, wild yam, and cinnamon. Will
allay nausea. When the bowels are greatly relaxed, use in place of coffee and
Botanical name: Rheum palmatium. Common names: Turkey rhubarb, China
rhubarb. Medicinal properties: Vulnerary, tonic, stomachic, purgative,
Rhubarb is an old-time remedy, very useful for diarrhea and dysentery in
adults and children. An excellent laxative for infants, as it is very mild
and tonic. Excellent to increase the muscular action of the bowels. It
stimulates the gall-ducts, thereby causing the ejection of bilious materials.
Excellent for scrofulous children with distended abdomens. Good for the
liver. Cleans and tones the bowels.
Botanical name: Saliva Officinalis. Common name: Garden sage. Medicinal
properties: Sudorific, astringent, expectorant, tonic, aromatic,
antispasmodic, nervine, vermifuge.
Sage is a well-known seasoning for roasts, soups, etc. The tea is an
excellent gargle for ulcerated throat or mouth. It can be mixed with a little
lemon and honey. An excellent article for excessive sexual desire and sexual
debility. One of the best remedies for stomach troubles, dyspepsia, gas in
the stomach, and bowels. For quinsy, take the tea externally and also gargle
the throat. Will expel worms in adults and children. Will stop bleeding of
wounds, very cleansing to old ulcers and sores. Good for spermatorrhea. Also
in liver and kidney troubles. Wounds of any kind will heal more rapidly when
washed with sage tea. It is very soothing in nervous troubles and delirious
fevers. A most effective hair tonic. Will make hair grow when the roots are
not destroyed, and remove dandruff. As a substitute for quinine, it is better
than this drug.
For fever, la grippe, or pneumonia, first take a high enema; next take a big
dose of body cleanser and laxative. Then go to bed and take three, four, five
cups of hot sage tea in short intervals -- say a half hour apart. This will
cause free perspiration, will make the whole body active, and will throw off
the cold. It will relieve the pains in the head. I produces strong
circulation. A strong tea is excellent to gargle for sore throat. This tea,
drink cold during the day, will prevent night sweats.
The American people would do well if they would use sage instead of teas and
coffee. The Chinese make fun of the American people because they buy the
expensive tea for their drink and pay a big price for it, while the Chinese
buy sage from America for a small price and drink that for their tea, which is
a most wonderful remedy. The Chinese know that the sage will keep them well,
while the tea that we buy from the Chinese makes the American people sick, is
a cause of great nervousness and one of the causes of insanity. Sage tea is a
very soothing and quieting to the nerves, while the tea we buy from China is a
great cause of nervousness, headache, and delirium. In case of weaning a
child, or when it is desired that the milk should cease in the breasts, in
case of sickness or other reasons, the sage tea, drunk cold, will cause the
flow of milk in the breasts to cease.
This tea should not be boiled, but just steeped. It should be kept covered
while steeping. The ordinary dose is a heaping teaspoonful to a cup of hot
water. Let it steep twenty or thirty minutes. Drink three or four cups a
day. NEVER STEEP HERBS IN ALUMINUM!
(Bark of the Root)
Botanical name: Sassafras officinale. Common name: Ague tree, saxifrax,
cinnamon wood, saloip. Medicinal properties: Aromatic, stimulant,
alternative, diaphoretic, diuretic.
Often called a spring medicine to purify the blood and cleanse the entire
system. Good to flavor other herbs which have a disagreeable taste, and much
used in combination with other blood-purifying herbs. Useful as a tonic to
stomach and bowels. Will relieve gas. Taken warm, is an excellent remedy for
spasms. Valuable in colic, and all skin diseases and eruptions. Good wash
for inflamed eyes. Good for kidneys, bladder, chest, and throat troubles.
Oil of sassafras is excellent for toothache. Good in varicose ulcers. Wash
externally and take internally.
We all admire the wonderful slippery elm tree. In my childhood we used to
go out with a large knife called a drawshave, and shave off the outer rough
bark and then cut off the inner bark in big strips, and carry it home for
medical use. It contains various properties which are entirely harmless, and
of which even small infants can partake to prevent suffering. Slippery elm is
excellent for bowel and bladder troubles, lung troubles, diarrhea, stomach and
kidney troubles, boils and inflammations, ulcerated stomach, and bronchitis.
It should be in every home, and will save those who use it from much suffering
and many doctor's bills.
Botanical name: Phus Glabrum. Common names: Scarlet sumac, smooth sumac,
dwarf sumac, upland sumac, Pennsylvania sumac, sleek sumac, mountain sumac.
Medical properties: Bark and leaves: Tonic, astringent, alterative,
antiseptic. Berries, diuretic, refrigerant, emmenagogue, diaphoretic,
A remedy valuable in the cure of gonorrhea and syphilis when others have
failed in the following: Equal parts sumac berries and bark white pine bark,
and slippery elm. This tea is very cleansing to the system, and is very use
in leucorrhea, scrofula, and for inward sores and wounds. A tea of sumac
berries alone is excellent for bowel complaints, diabetes, all kinds of
fevers, and for sore and canker in the mouth there is no superior. Use also
as a gargle and wash for the mouth.
Botanical name: Tanacetum vulgare. Common names: Hindheel, common tansy.
Medical properties Aromatic, tonic, emmenagogue, diaphoretic, vulnerary.
An old well-known family remedy used to tone up the system and soothe the
bowels. Excellent taken hot in colds, fevers, la grippe, and agues.
Good for dyspepsia. One of the best remedies to promote menstruation.
Tansy seed will expel worms. Useful in hysterics, jaundice, dropsy, worms,
and kidney troubles. Strengthens the weak veins. Hot fomentations wrung out
of tansy tea is excellent for swellings, tumors, inflammations, bruises,
freckles, sunburn, leucorrhea, sciatica, toothache, and inflamed eyes. Good
in heart trouble. Will check palpitation of the heart in a very short time.
Botanical name: Centaura benedicta. Common names: Bitter thistle, blessed
cardus, spotted thistle. Medicinal properties: Diaphoretic, emetic, tonic,
This plant has very great power in the purification and circulation of the
blood. It is very effective for dropsy, strengthens the heart, and is good for
the liver, lungs, and kidneys. It is soothing to the brain, strengthens the
memory, and clears the system of bad humors, and is effective for insanity.
It is a good tonic for girls entering womanhood. It is claimed that the warm
tea given to mothers will produce a free supply of milk.
It is such a good blood purifier that by drinking a cup of tea twice a day
it will cure chronic headaches. Some have called it "blessed thistle" on
account of its excellent qualities. About two ounces of the drive plant
simmered in a quart of water for two hours makes a tea satisfactory for most
purposes. This tea is best taken at bedtime as a preventive of disease and it
will cause profuse perspiration. Holy thistle is a plant which has been used
for centuries. It is very good combined with any of the dock roots (red dock,
yellow dock or burdock).
FURTHER NOTES ON HERB MEDICINE
A cure for diphtheria given by revelation in Arizona or at least is said
to have been so given. It is undoubtedly good but on account of the
salt-peter should be swallowed only sparingly. Two ounces of slum and one
ounce of salt-peter, pulverize fine and simmer in a pint of home-made
molasses. If the molasses cannot be had, use syrup made of sugar, just thick
enough to drink. For a small child weaken it. Have it consecrated like oil.
("History of The Life of Oliver B. Huntington," written by himself; pp. 22-23.
Privately printed; date and source unknown. Available, Zion's Bookstore, Salt
Lake City, Utah.)
During an interview in May, 1942, Mrs. Ellen Meeks Hoyt, of Orderville,
Utah, told me that, "When the Nephites battled with the Lamanites (Book of
Mormon peoples), many of them were wounded and badly in need of some kind of
remedy. . . . Their battles fought as far North as these very hills," she
said, "and the warriors were cured with he same herbs that grow around us
today. Thistle is for our courage; sage is to offset poison. If the soldiers
would eat thistle today, they would never be afraid to go into battle."
(Claire Noall, "Guardians of The Hearth;" Bountiful, Utah, 1974; p.16. Used
with permission. Also in Clair Noall, "Superstition, Customs, and
Prescriptions of Mormon Midwives;" California Folklore Quarterly V, III no. 2,
April, 1944, p. 109.)
The role played by women in the years preceeding the era of modern medicine
has probably never been adequately recognized. When D.C. Budge began his
practice in Logan, almost every town in Cache Valley had one or two practicing
midwives. It has been a common thing for writers on medical progress to
ridicule these women, who, it must be confessed, were none too well trained in
the technical details of delivering and caring for babies.
What they lack in technical skill, however, they more than made up in common
sense, and in a vast sympathy which made them seem like angles of mercy and
understanding to the women they attended. Many a grandmother now living looks
back with tender appreciation to the memory of some gentle, motherly soul who
soothed the fears of her first confinement and later introduced her to the
mysteries of caring for her first baby.
Dr. Budge remembers these local midwives of Cache Valley with special
appreciation. On the first case he attended he was assisted by Grandma
McAllister, the oldest midwife in the valley. . . .the doctors of the time
often blamed these women for the mishaps attending confinements, but D.C.
Budge insists that the medical profession could not have done without them.
He had an understanding with them that they should handle normal deliveries,
feeling free to call on a physician for help in case of trouble. Before the
advent of nursing training, they were indispensable to him.
(Ira N. Hayward, "Dr. David Clarke Budge -- A Pioneer of Western Medicine;"
Salt Lake City, Utah, 1941; pp.104-105.)
ADDITIONAL NOTES ON A PROPER DIET
Anyone familiar with the local supermarket today, will find that most of the
big-chain stores carry a wide variety of what is more correctly termed
"natural" or "healthy foods." Most have a special section in each one of
their individual outlets which handles this sort of merchandise, for those
more particularly inclined to the same. Generally higher-priced than the
ordinary "refined" foods of the softer line, they offer the shopper his or her
choice between the "canned" and "the natural."
Within the past several years, has this new innovation in marketing been
added, because of the increased demand by a number of sensible shoppers, ever
aware of the growing amount of chemicalization in the present systems of food.
Thus, to garner the trade of these particular buyers away from the
traditionally-established "health food stores," have the chains introduced
this new line of food items within their stores of late.
Also -- the national trend towards advertising food products "the more
natural way," has become increasingly apparent. Familiar commercials, such as
the one in which writer-author Ewell Gibbons extols the virtues of a certain
kind of well-known breakfast product, as "my back-to-nature cereal," is
indication enough that the trend towards these things is more wide-spread than
the average person is now aware of. Other companies have come forth with a
multitude of similar products such as "Heartland," "Granola," and a host of
others as well.
The Prophet Joseph Smith was known to have said many things about a
diversity of subjects. One of these had to do with the use of herbs in the
form of medicine. This is a brief preparation of all his major and important
statements concerning this vital issue. It is issued in the hopes that all
Latter-day Saints everywhere, with truth in them, may consider the efficacy of
his words and adopt for themselves a more meaningful method of healing than
what the present standards of medical science have to offer.
While translating the sacred record invested to him by the heavenly
personage, Moroni, Joseph Smith first became aware of the use of herbs by
God's people, the Nephites, who had inhabited this continent hundreds of years
before his time. Reading in Alma 46:40-41, he discovered this notable passage
of great truth relative to Book of Mormon medicine in those days:
"And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the
year were very frequent in the land -- but not so much so with fevers,
because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God
had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject
by the nature of the climate --
"But there were many who died with old age; and those who died in the
faith of Christ are happy in him as we needs suppose."
Believing this to be the revealed Will of God for modern man, Joseph Smith
sought to adopt this practice into his belief and make it a specific part of
the restored theology, which God had commanded him to reestablish upon the
"This day I shall not address you on doctrine, but concerning your
"Inasmuch as you have come up here, essaying to keep the commandments of
God, I pronounce the blessings of heaven and earth upon you; and inasmuch
as you will follow counsel, act wisely and do right, these blessings
shall rest upon you so far as I have power with God to seal them upon
you. . .
". . . If you feel any inconvenience, take some mild physic two or three
times, and follow that up with some good bitters. If you cannot get
anything else, take a little salts, and cayenne pepper. If you cannot
get salts, take ipecacuanha, or gnaw down on a butternut tree, or use
boneset or horehound." (Documentary History of the Church 5:357.
Hereafter cited as DHC)
Joseph Smith's words apparently were never intended for explicit Church
doctrine, however, perhaps, he felt that the statement contained in Alma 46
was sufficient enough, and anything else which he might have to say in this
regard was only to be intended as a follow-up commentary, to what already
seemed plenty of evidence that this was God's Will an Purpose concerning His
people in the latter days.
"I preached to a large congregation at the stand, on the science and
practice of medicine, desiring to persuade the Saints to trust in God
when sick, and not in an arm of flesh, and live by faith and not by
medicine, or poison; and when they were sick, and had called for the
Elders to pray for them, and they were not healed, to use herbs and mild
food." (DHC 4:414)
He practiced what he preached in regards to this:
"Wednesday, June 14 (1837). I continued to grow worse and worse until
my sufferings were excruciating, and although in the midst of it all I
felt to rejoice in the salvation of Israel's God, yet I found it
expedient to call to my assistance those means which a kind Providence
had provided for the restoration of the sick, in connection with the
ordinances; and Dr. Levi Richards, at my request, administered to me
herbs and mild food, and nursed me with all tenderness and attention; and
my heavenly Father blessed his administrations to the easing and
comforting of my system, for I began to mend in a short time, and in a
few days I was able to resume my usual labors." (DHC 2:493)
Nothing could be more impressive than this, as coming from the Prophet's own
mouth, relative to herbs and their place in our society and religion.
Joseph Smith never did like medical doctors as such. He was prejudiced
against them and their medicine, viewing as harmful the mineral and chemical
drugs they often employed in their art and skill. A truthful account of such
adamant views was expressed by him in Nauvoo, Illinois upon one occasion, and
faithfully recorded in an unbiased manner by a Gentile lady who happened to
have been visiting her convert sister there at that time and heard these words
as they fell from his lips then:
From the lawyers he turned to the doctors, whom he termed "a parcel of
ignorant quacks, going about the country pretending to cure you of all
diseases, and you swallow what they give you like young robins, without
knowing what it is. I wonder you don't die, taking their nostrums! They
are wolves in sheep's clothing, seeking whom they may devour. Have we
not many gifts vouchsafed to us, among which is healing the sick by the
laying on of hands, in which you ought to have faith? Why, there is more
virtue in the laying on of my handkerchief than in all the doctors'
so-called medicines" . . . "But", he added, "if any of you are so wedded
to the gods of your fathers, and can't do without a doctor, I advise you
to have . . . one of our faith . . ." ("A Girl's Letters From Nauvoo" by
Charlotte Haven; The Overland Monthly, vol. 16, Second Series, February
1891, p. 891).
However, his feelings were comprehensive from a wide understanding of
matters in general, and not merely a result of narrow-minded bigotry, as some
would suppose. While he attacked the medical profession most vehemently for
their prescribed poisons to humanity, he was no less charitable to those men
who practiced Thomsonian medicine in ignorant zeal, without a base knowledge
of the human system.
In that day, there was an eclectic system of medicine known as the
Thomsonian method. It was founded by one Samuel Thomson, an herbalist, and
based on the potent herb, lobelia. Now, lobelia is an emetic, and will
produce a state of intense vomiting if misused. Loyal adherents of this new
fad, which swept the nation in the first half of the nineteenth century,
faithfully employed this powerful medicine for almost every conceivable
ailment under the sun. In fact, to say that lobelia was 'the cornerstone' of
Thomsonian medicine then, is certainly not an exaggeration of the truth at
Now, Joseph Smith understood the value of this important herb in the matter
of healing the sick. Nevertheless, he realized that its benefits could only
be appreciated when handled with skill and used in good judgment.
"I visited Sister Morey, who was severely afflicted. We prescribed
lobelia for her, among other things, which is excellent in its place. It
is one of the works of God, but, like the power of God, or any other
good, it becomes an evil when improperly used." (DHC 5:209)
Because some men of botanical medicine placed too much stress upon this one
item, without incorporating other herbs as well into their materia medica, did
he feel it necessary to denounce them in the same strong terms as he did the
regular medical profession.
"Doctors won't tell you where to go to be well; they want to kill or
cure you, to get your money. Calomel, doctors will give you to cure a
sliver in the big toe; and they do not stop to know whether the stomach
is empty or not; and calomel on an empty stomach will kill the patient.
And the lobelia doctors will do the same. Point me out a patient and I
will tell you whether calomel or lobelia will kill him or not, if you
give it." (DHC 5:357)
Here is proof enough, which demonstrates his sensible thinking. While he
considered the chemical calomel a drastic hazard to health, yet he felt to
place the same condemnation upon a certain herb, which had rather startling
properties when misused or wrongly applied.
Herbs should become a part of our belief and thinking today, as he tried to
persuade the Saints in Kirtland and Nauvoo to adopt in his time. However,
common sense and good judgement should follow in the wake of any reasonable
decision such as this. Currently, there are some skilled in a knowledge of
these things, who place an over-emphasis upon such things, as capsicum or
cayenne pepper, for example. They believe that this important herb is vitally
necessary for the constitution and the use of man. In their sincere regard
for this wonderful item, they zealously encourage it in an abundance beyond
what plain, ordinary wisdom would dictate. Thus, in this sense, they make the
same unconscious mistake that some lobelia doctors practicing along the
Thomsonian lines, made in Joseph's day. We have already discovered that the
Prophet recommended cayenne pepper for the system, but in the amount of "a
little". This practical reservation is a sensible safeguard to doing serious
injury to the body, from something so volatile and powerful as this.
Yet, in regards to healing the sick, the Prophet of the Restoration felt to
trust wholly in herbs and Priesthood administration. It is a well known fact
of his use of divine power in behalf of those who were strickened with fever
in Commerce in 1839. His raising of Elijah Fordham and others have become
legendary history throughout the Church. But what is seldom realized by many
members, is that he also used herbs as an important medicine to relieve the
sufferings of the ill and afflicted, when faith was wanting.
Sister Helen Mar Whitney, the daughter of Apostle Heber C. Kimball, recorded
in her "Life Incidents":
The Prophet visited and administered words of consolation and often
made tea and waited upon them himself and sent members of his own family
who were able to go, to nurse and comfort the sick and sorrowful.
(Woman's Exponent , Vol. 9, No. 3, July 1, 1880, p. 18, column 2.)
Furthermore, it is recorded elsewhere in Church Archives, that Joseph said:
"The Saints should use wisdom and this is wisdom -- if a cup of tea will stop
a chill and fever, use it, but only to drive away the seizure." (Missionary
Journal of Arnold Auer Reisner, October 4, 1899; Harold B. Lee Library,
Special Collections Dept., Brigham Young University, Prove, Utah).
Such recommendations as these cannot, in any way, be breaking the Word of
Wisdom, seeing as how Joseph himself, declared them to be so. Has this been
contrary, he would have indicated so otherwise; as it stands, his advice is
the most practical and sensible of any around. But his stress upon an herbal
infusion or cup of tea, for medicinal means only, should be carefully
considered, in light of the fact, that some make a habit of having such things
as a regular daily beverage. It would make just as much sense to take some
prescribed form of medicine just because it tastes god (like cherry-flavored
cough syrup, for instance), as it would be to always rely upon an herbal
stimulant every morning to get the day started right. Wisdom should ever be
the careful procedure in which any individual attempts something new.
Joseph Smith was both sensible and practical in all that he recommended.
While he soundly denounced the doctors as "a parcel of ignorant quacks", yet
he could see their need when faith was wanting in the ordinances of God:
"You that have little faith in your Elders when you are sick, get some
simple remedy in the first stages. If you send for a doctor at all, send
in the first stages." (DHC 6:59)
Though he preferred that the Latter-day Saints use the simple means in which
he believed (herbs) for their healing measures, yet he did not expect them to
always follow as he suggested they do. He understood human nature quite well.
For this reason did he say, "if the Church knew all the commandments, on half
they would condemn, through prejudice and ignorance". (DHC 2:477) It was his
intent that herbs come recommended by way of suggestion rather than by way of
an official edict. His policy was to "teach men correct principles and let
them govern themselves". This is why he said, "If any of you are so wedded to
the gods of your fathers, and can't do without a doctor, I advise you to have
. . . one of our faith . . . If you send for a doctor at all, send in the
first stages". His wisdom was divine, hid methods supreme -- give men
knowledge and let them have their way.
Being a Seer of the finest magnitude, he could draw from a rich and abundant
source of futuristic events, which he saw with the greatest of clarity. He
knew about our times and the people therein. He understood that in a
scientific age such as ours, tremendous emphasis would be placed upon medical
science. He also realized that there would be those individuals who would
seek to misinform people in relation to the truth about things, through clever
manipulation of the facts. On the one hand would be the educated intellect of
modern medicine endeavoring to label such things as intellect of modern
medicine endeavoring to label such things as herbs, sheer 'quackery' and
nonsense through an abundance of prolific literature, which would seem
factually based in scientific concepts. And, on the other hand, would be
those charlatans and 'health' enthusiasts, who would attempt to discredit
technological advances, by having people believe their methods and
formulations were the only correct ones in existence. For this reason, did he
purposely state, "there will be some designing characters who would turn you
aside and lead you astray". (DHC 5:355).
It has been for this particular purpose that this discussion has been
prepared -- to help the honest Latter-day Saint find the truth in relation to
herbs. Joseph Smith believed in them and advocated their use among his
people. Abundant evidence has been furnished to show, that he also encouraged
the acceptance of them into the Mormon creed and belief. Medical doctors were
never a part of his personal religion and he made many attempts to dissuade
the Saints away from them wherever possible.
Yet, in the true style of the Prophet he was, he believed in the principle
of self-government and free agency. Thus, while he justly condemned medical
science in general, he was not above any moderate suggestions for the same to
them that believe in such things anyway.
If we love Joseph Smith, then we will do as he says, and make the Book of
Mormon, "the cornerstone of our religion". We will carefully consider Alma
46:40 and do as Moroni has so thoughtfully suggested:
"Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it
be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how
merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation
of Adam even down unto the time that ye shall receive these things, and
ponder it in your hearts." (Moroni 10:3)
And, if further consideration is needed on our part, we should modestly
review the life of Joseph Smith, Jr., and ask ourselves the all-important
question, "could so great a man as this, be so wrong in regards to something
like herbs?" Then, we ought to weigh his words and study them thoroughly in
our minds, following, of course, that next important, which Moroni recommended
that we do:
"And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye
would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things
are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent,
having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the
power of the Holy Ghost." (Moroni 10:4)
After which, we should know, for ourselves, what is right and what is wrong
in regards to true medicine and divine healing. Our testimonies will have
been remarkably strengthened in relation to Joseph Smith and his advice will
then become a way of life for us all. For, Moroni promised us that "by the
power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things". (Moroni 10:5)
And this promise can never fail, where the real desire for truth is present.
Included in this brief tract are significant statements by respected men of
high positions within the Church. These things are given here as further
evidence and conclusive proof that the Servants of the Most High in the last
days, have strongly encouraged and widely recommended the use of herbs to all
faithful Latter-day Saints, with truth in them, who would follow their wise
counsel and sage advice.
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were the first and second Elders of the
Church in this dispensation, respectively. As the leading Elder of the
Church, Joseph set the precedence for many of the things which faithful
members would do and adhere to in the future. One of these items in mention
happened to do with herbs and their use in the Mormon system of medicine.
joseph was never beneath common sense and considered the use of such simple
remedies as natural and practical as drinking water would be. He used herbs
in many ways -- as infusions, as poultices, and even as enemas when conditions
The following incident will illustrate his sensible manner in applying
something to the system which many of the prudish would deem as highly
unorthodox and very unlikely.
Soon after the Prophet's escape from Missouri and arrival at Old
"Commerce", the future Nauvoo, in 1839, I was with him. The people had
flocked in from the terrible exposures of the past and nearly everyone
was sick with intermittent or other fevers, of which many died.
In this time of great sickness, poverty and death, the Prophet called
his brother, Don Carlos, and cousin, G.A. Smith, as missionaries to
administer to and comfort the people. And there being there two young
Botanic medical students, Doctors Wiley and Pendleton, he called them to
prescribe medicine, and called me to follow and take general oversight
and care of all the sick, which for weeks, I did, without even one night
of respite for sleep.
The forepart of September, Dr. Wiley became sick unto death, which soon
occurred, after which the Prophet too had a violent attack of the
prevailing sickness. And as Emma was in no degree able to care for him,
it wholly developed upon me and both day and night, through a period of
little less than two weeks I was hardly absent from his room; as almost
his only food was gruel, and about the only treatment he would accept was
a flush of the colon with warm water perhaps tinctured slightly with
capsicum and myrrh, or a little soda and salt, both of which were
prepared and administered by me in the room he occupied; and if any sleep
came to me it was while lying upon his bed or sitting in my chair. At
the termination of this sickness and fasting, he arose from his bed like
a lion, or as a giant refreshed with wine. He went to President Rigdon
with great reproof, commanding his and his house to repent; and called
for a skiff, crossed the river, and finding Elijah Fordham in death's
struggle, he commanded him to arise, which he did at once, and was made
whole as also were others by his administrations. (E. Dale LeBaron,
Benjamin Franklin Johnson -- Colonizer, Public Servant, Church Leader; A
thesis submitted to the Dept. of Graduate Studies in Religious
Instruction, Brigham Young University, in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the Degree, Master of Arts, August 1966; p. 328. A copy
available in the Harold B. Lee Library, BYU. Also to be found in the
"Letter By Benjamin F. Johnson to George S. Gibbs", April, 1903; copies
on file at the Church Historian's Office, Salt Lake City, and Special
Collections, at BYU in Provo, Utah).
Colonic flushes may not be the style with many of the sophisticated ones
today, but they certainly seemed appropriate in Joseph's day. Often what is
slighted by some as not in the best of decorum, may very well be thought of in
high regard by others of the less orthodox who care not a fig for the social
graces of silly man.
Throughout his entire life, the Prophet endored ONLY men of botanical
"I will say that Dr. Levi Richards is the BEST physician I have ever
been acquainted with." (Franklin L. West, Life of Franklin D. Richards;
1924; p. 15).
Levi Richards was appointed "surgeon-general of the nauvoo legion" simply
because he "prescribed no calomel". (John Heinerman, Joseph Smith and Herbal
Medicine; Manti, Utah, 1975; p.22). Brother Joseph surrounded himself with
the very best herbalists of his day; he made them his intimate acquaintances
and formed close allies and ties with the same at all times. Men like
Frederick G. Williams, Willard and Levi Richards, Priddy Meeks, Calvin
Pendleton and William McIntyre enjoyed his pleasant methods of treating the
sick or prescribing natural remedies of home simples for the relievement of
suffering and physical distress or pain.
Now, one may be led to inquire, "What shaped his thinking in this regard?"
A number of reasons could be given -- i.e., his brother's death at the hands
of a medical doctor who over-prescribed too much of a powerful drug, his
intense dislike for a profession which relied chiefly upon chemical and
mineral compounds, etc. But what seems to have been the most powerful
determining factor of all, which helped to influence his mind towards
botanical medicine, was, none other than his beloved principle of REVELATION!
Nothing is quite as dynamic in Mormon theology as this, and is believed to be
the only legitimate source for all good that may be contained in L.D.S.
Among the customs of "the Latter-day Saints", as established by
revelations from Heaven, the following may be named; --
No tobacco is to be used except for outward application -- as an
embrocation "for bruises and the like." (The Century Magazine; New York,
Feb. 1872; p. 403; "The Mormons and Their Religion")
When one studies it out in the mind, as the Lord has commanded we all should
do (Doctrine & Covenants 9:8), the plain sense of the Word of Wisdom is made
even clearer when the light of the Lord dawns upon our dark intelligence --
And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is
not good for man, but is an HERB FOR BRUISES and all sick cattle, to be
used with judgement and skill.
And again, verily I say unto you, ALL WHOLESOME HERBS GOD HATH ORDAINED
FOR THE CONSTITUTION, NATURE, AND USE OF MAN -- (Doctrine & Covenants
Nothing could be plainer than this, as evidence enough that Joseph Smith's
thinking was mainly shaped by the revelations and commandments of God in
regards to herbs. Tobacco was only one of many that the Almighty had in mind,
when He delivered this official edict to the Prophet at Kirtland, Ohio,
February 27, 1833. In other words, HERBS CAME AS A REVELATION FROM GOD and
Joseph sought to adjust his life to conform with this kind, Heavenly
persuasion of great value. Are we as Latter-day Saints in modern times any
better than he was? Are we smarter or more intelligent than he was, to have
to subscribe to this method of healing? Does our technological era, with its
scientific achievements in medicine, justify a compromise on our part, over
what he said to what we think is right? Jesus said, "Wisdom is justified of
her children". (Matthew 11:19) Surely then, the acts of choice committed by
Latter-day Saints in the twentieth century, will prove whether or not we
believe the Word of Wisdom is inspired of God. Our selection of medicine,
both for ourselves and our children, will also determine the efficacy of the
Saviour's words in regards to mortal decisions.
Listen now, to the words of Elder John Taylor, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus
Christ and later President of the Church, who penned a rather lengthy
editorial in the Times and Seasons, during the Nauvoo period of Mormon
history. As the editor of such a publication, his remarks were official and
sanctioned by the Prophet who read his views. Elder Taylor's thoughts
correspond directly with those of Joseph Smith's and it may be said that both
held the same identical opinions in regards to using herbs for healing.
Samuel W. Taylor, a grandson of John Taylor and a well-known author, spoke
about the closeness of these two men and compared their association together,
as that of a David and Jonathan --
"John Taylor was a close friend of Joseph Smith, one of a small circle
of intimates . . . Taylor and Joseph had much in common as spiritual men,
mystics attuned to the unseen, and as seekers, men with question minds.
The two loved to sit around of an evening with a glass of wine and enjoy
the stimulation of each other's company. Taylor was a scholar and an
intellectual, for his day; and Joseph was also, for despite his lack of
formal schooling he had a passionate love of knowledge.
"At that time John Taylor was very influential in church affairs. He,
with Joseph Smith and William Law, were called by John C. Bennett, the
'Holy Trio', who ran Nauvoo." (Samuel W. Taylor, "John Taylor, Forgotten
Man of Mormon History"; a talk delivered Tuesday, March 26, 1974, at the
University of Utah Library in Salt Lake City; pp. 8-9. Copy Secured from
Sam Weller, Zion's Bookstore, in Salt Lake, who hosted the event).
Thus, from the lips of a Taylor family member himself, we are able to see
the strong bond of brotherhood and enduring ties of love, which held these two
great men together. And, as if that were not enough, we only need to recall
that fateful event to mind of the Carthage incident, in which may readily be
seen the closeness of the two. Elder Taylor was with Brother Joseph from
first to last; he sang for him at his request in the dark dungeon walls, and
kept a vigilant watch about his precious person until the last moments of life
had expired from the man. He stood in the breach between foe and friend, and
allowed his own mortal remains to suffer the painful affliction of deadly
bullets, as they pierced both him and Joseph that hot summer day in June of
Therefore, speculation can be laid to rest by the educated wary and
disbelieving doubtful, if any question should arise concerning Elder Taylor's
views in comparison to those of the Prophet's. His editorial given herewith,
stands as a monument to truth and a lasting piece of evidence to demonstrate
the face that BOTH he and Joseph felt quite strongly about herbal medicine:
PHYSICIAN HEAL THYSELF
A notice appeared, not long since, in the public pints, that Phineas
Camp, a Revolutionary Patriot, was dead, aged ninety-nine years and six
months. The writer of this exit says, "temperance in eating and
drinking, and avoiding medicine & c., left him in the enjoyment of his
faculties, in full energy, during a long life". He took no medicine
until after he was eighty years old. From this fact alone, it is
possible that if he had taken no medicine at all, he might have lived to
be as old as Moses, one hundred and twenty years.
Another case: Elder Cole of this city, says his grandfather, Jacob
Cole, now living in Lebanon, New York, is about on hundred and fourteen
years of age; and he has never taken any medicine whatever, and he is in
the full possession of his mental powers, as far as can be expected at so
great an age. Such cases of longevity speak volumes against the common
practice of medicine; and brings many to the conclusion, that medicine
destroys as many lives, prematurely, as ever.
What greater sign of death, and less of faith can be supposed, than to
see a physician's horse hitched before a sick one's door? Although the
Savior did not apply the caption of this article, the doctor or
physicians, yet it is evident from his using it as a proverb, and his
disciples anointing with oil in all cases of sickness, that the church,
and the good shepherd, then, had no faith in doctors, nor lawyers, nor
O saints, saints! The just shall live by faith! No doubt but cases
may occur, where medical operations may be requisite; but generally
speaking, "herbs and mild food", with good nursing, would be better for
the patient's person and pocket, than all the nostrums of materia medica.
As Christians, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves; as believers in the
Bible, and as Latter-day Saints, our faith ought to be firm and unshaken.
Herbs are to be used, and mild food; but those herbs are to be used by
A person acquainted with the physiology of the human system, and the
nature and medicinal properties of herbs, is more competent to judge of
those things, and to administer with judgement and skill, than the one
who is ignorant, both of the organization of the human system, of the
medicinal properties of herbs, and of the nature and effects of disease.
It is also evident that, if there is any danger, or wrong, in the
administration of herbs, it is from their being in the hand of unskillful
men, and particularly in the hands of an enemy.
We are ware that this community have been a good deal imposed upon by
quacks; that nostrums of all kinds have been administered by injudicious
hands, producing the most deleterious effects; and that many have slept
in the dust, who, if they had been let alone would still have been in the
land of the living; but that is no reason why those who have not faith
should not be aided by herbs, administered with care and skill by
judicious hands. If the heads of families are themselves acquainted with
the nature of diseases, the medicinal properties of herbs, and the mode
of compounding, preparing and applying them, so much the better. If they
are not, the advice and counsel of those better informed, we think, could
not be injurious.
We have made these remarks, not so much with a view to instruct, or
give counsel in those matters which we consider to be of a delicate
nature, as to lay before our brethren and sisters the testimony of the
word of the lord on the subject, that they may read and judge for
themselves. -- Editor (Times & Seasons, September 15, 1843, Volume 4,
The Lord tells us in II Corinthians 13:1 and the Doctrine and Covenants 6:29
-- "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established".
With the positive proof furnished us by Joseph Smith (see "Discussion On
Herbs" -I) and Elder John Taylor, it would not seem necessary under ordinary
circumstances to give additional evidence. But then and again, these are
unusual times and the bigot and the skeptic would challenge such matters and
demand on what authority the truth is being represented. Hence, the need for
more support to make the facts plausible.
President Brigham Young, the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve at
the times of Joseph's demise, believed in herbs and felt that they deserved a
place in every faithful Church member's home. His advice to parents who had
sick children was this:
"Doctors and their medicines I regard as a deadly bane to any
community. Give your children, when sick, a little simple herb drink."
(Journal of Discourses 14:109)
"If the children are weak in the bowels, make a weak composition tea,
sweeten it with loaf sugar, and put a little nice cream in it; let the
children make a practice of drinking composition instead of cold water."
(Journal of Discourses 19:67-68)
Brigham's recipe for this delightful concoction of pleasant herbs, was this:
Brigham Young's Composition Tea
4 oz. powdered bayberry
4 oz. powdered poplar bark
4 oz. powdered hemlock
2 oz. ground ginger
2 oz. ground cloves
2 oz. ground cinnamon
1 oz. cayenne pepper (capsicum)
DIRECTIONS: Take a small bit on a spoon, put in 1 cup of hot water,
with plenty of sugar and cream. Take in leisure. (Missouri Historical
Society Bulletin, April, 1963, p. 299).
And for mouth sores of any kind, President Young recommended this:
"Where a person is diseased say for instance, with canker, there is no
better medicine than green tea, and where it is thus used, it should be
drank sparingly." (Journal of Discourses 12:403)
"The Lion of the Lord" as Joseph Smith had affectionately called him in
Nauvoo, also believed in the virtues of the controversial herb, lobelia:
"I wish to ask those brethren who are in the habit of using tobacco,
won't you leave it alone and try lobelia, and see if you can become
attached to it? (Journal of Discourses 13:275-276).
Furthermore, Joseph's successor had high regard for capsicum as well. An
early Mormon pioneer by the name of Nelson Whipple Wheeler, had contracted
severe chills and fever. In less than three days his friends and relatives
had all but given him up for dead. They sent for President Young, his
brothers, Lorenzo Dow and Joseph Young, Heber C. Kimball, and several others.
In brother Wheeler's own words -- "They proceeded to lay their hands upon me
in the name of the Lord and rubbed my legs and arms with brandy and cayenne
pepper which brought them to some feeling as they were cold and blue to my
body". ("History of Nelson Whipple Wheeler" by himself; typed manuscript,
Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo;
Apostle George A. Smith, a cousin to Joseph and himself a member of the
Quorum of the Twelve, recommended two wonderful herbs for the people to take.
In cases of nervousness, hysteria, upset, and the like, he suggested: "take a
little valerian tea and put your trust in God. Everything will come out
alright". (John Codman, The Round Trip; New York, 1879, p. 232). With such
advice as this, how could anyone have cause to fret or worry anymore with a
unique combination of faith and herbs working for them at the same time? And,
for those with distressed stomachs, suffering from indigestion brought on by
tension and uneasiness, he counseled, "make them a tin cup full of good,
strong catnip tea. That is a rule I have prescribed." (Journal of Discourses
President Wilford Woodruff, a successor to John Taylor in the leadership of
the Church and the ranking member within the Quorum of the Twelve, once
advised Latter-day Saints to leave tea alone "unless it be as a medicine".
(Journal of Discourses 11:370)
Lorenzo Snow, who followed President Woodruff in the succession of the
Presidency, favored "a little yarrow tea now and then, sweetened with cream
and sugar." (From an oral interview with his last living daughter, the late
Lucille Snow Tracy, who passed away in July of 1976. The interview was held
at her residence in the Friendship Manor, Salt Lake City, Wednesday, June 16,
And, another member of the highest Quorum within the Church, who served as
first counselor to three Church Presidents, was quoted as mentioning the use
of yet still another important herb:
I heard Pres. George Q. Cannon say that he was subject to periodical
headaches, and that, you know, is of much the same nature as these
so-called colds. He said he always kept a bit of dried wormwood in his
pocket, and whenever he felt the least symptom of headache he took a
glass of cold water -- mind, cold water -- sprinkled a little of the
dried herb on it, enough to cover the top of the glass, covered it and
after it had stood some hours he drank the tea thus formed. This was all
he usually needed in the way of medicine. (The Deseret Weekly 46:183)
As if this were not enough, we find Apostle Anthony W. Ivins, a counselor in
the First Presidency of the Church to Heber J. Grant, recommending that
missionaries rely upon botanical means for their medicine:
Ozumba, Mexico. 23 Monday, May, 1904
This morning there was a meeting for the Elders in which Apostle
Woodruff and Pres. Ivins gave us some pointed instructions . . . Pres.
Ivins told us to carry along with us some simple remedies of herbs which
would be useful in guarding prevalent ills. (Journal of S. Marsena
Foster, Book One; Western Americana Section, Marriot Library, University
of Utah, Salt Lake City).
Still yet another reliable witness for the truth of herbs, was Apostle John
A. Widtsoe. Recognized as one of the foremost authorities on the Word of
Wisdom, this distinguished Church leader put down some sound concepts in print
relative to medicinal plants:
Infusions of herbs or herb teas are used in many countries of Europe.
In France one may be served "infusions" of dried leaves of the verbena,
mint and many herbs or the flowers of camomile, orange, or linden trees,
much more frequently than the real China or India tea. A consequent
improvement in health may definitely be noticed. They act as a tonic to
the system and PROVE VERY BENEFICIAL. Every one remembers the hop tea,
dandelion or camomile teas of grandmother's day which were given as the
annual spring tonic. There are many times when WARM (not too hot) HERB
DRINKS ARE indicated as DESIRABLE. (John and Leah D. Widtsoe, The Word
of Wisdom -- A Modern Interpretation; Salt Lake City, 1937; p. 225).
With such an impressive array of evidence as this, how can anyone with the
love of truth in them, doubt the efficacy or sensibility of herbs to cure a
man's ailments and strengthen his physical weaknesses. The Lord informed the
Church that the Twelve Apostles were to be called as "special witnesses of the
name of Christ in all the world". He also said that "then form a quorum equal
in authority and power" to the First Presidency. (Doctrine & Covenants
Herbs make sense, not because a lay member's common opinion states it that
way, but because the Servants of the Most High have said it in basically that
same manner. The teachings of Joseph Smith, Junior, in this regard should
hold high place within our lives and hearts. And, if that were not enough,
God had provided us, in His abundant kindness and mercy, EIGHT ADDITIONAL
WITNESSES to the truthfulness of herbs. They, therefore, deserve a place in
our society and religion, both as a means to heal and also to nourish.
Now, it has been said by the Apostle Paul, "where there is no law, there is
no transgression". (Romans 4:15) It would then be happily assumed by the
majority of Church members who are medically-minded, that such an unpleasant
issue to them as herbs, is really not a commandment at all, but merely advice
from the brethren since gone. However, a more careful examination of the
facts will prove their supposition a complete fallacy.
In 1956, the question was asked Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, resident of the
Quorum of the Twelve, "has the Word of Wisdom ever been presented to the
Church as a commandment, making its observance obligatory upon the members of
the Church?" His official reply was this:
"The simple answer to this question is YES; such has been given and
repeated on several occasions. On September 9, 1851, President Brigham
Young stated that the members of the Church had had sufficient time to be
taught the import of this revelation and that henceforth, it was to be
considered a divine commandment. This was first put to vote before the
male members of the congregation and then before the women and by
UNANIMOUS VOTE ACCEPTED!" (The Improvement Era, Volume 59 (February
1956, p. 78)
Other reliable authorities within the Quorum of the Twelve who had confirmed
this same thing years earlier were:
Apostle Brigham Young, Jr., in 1895 (The Millennial Star, 57:82
(Feb. 7, 1895).
Apostle Matthias F. Cowley in 1904 (The Improvement Era, 7:366
President J oseph F. Smith in 1908 (Conference Reports, April, 1908, p.
On the basis of this then, All of the Word of Wisdom is a legitimate
commandment today. What came to Brother Joseph by way of persuasion, was
voted upon by the Latter-day Saints in 1851, as A LAW OF GOD BINDING UPON
EVERY MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD WITHIN THIS CHURCH!
In conclusion, we read again from the 89th section of the Doctrine &
And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome HERBS GOD HATH ORDAINED
for the constitution, nature, and use of man -- (Verse 10)
If we are to be obedient to this commandment, then not only will we abstain
from coffee, tea, liquor and tobacco as we have faithfully done in the past,
but also will feel inclined to INCLUDE HERBS within our obedient pattern as
well. The Prophet has said it; the Twelve have said it; and the Lord has said
it! There is no other way to avoid the matter. In the end, we will be judged
by them who left us these marvelous testimonies concerning the wisdom of
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Battalion; St. Louis, 1855.
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