Zebedee Coltrin Shares His Experiences
Presidents John Taylor and George Q. Cannon, Apostles Erastus Snow, Brigham Young, Francis M. Lyman, and Heber J. Grant, and Elders L. John Nuttall and Zebedee Coltrin present.
Brother Zebedee Coltrin said: I believe I am the only living man now in the church who was connected with the School of the Prophets when it was organized in 1833, the year before we went up in Zion’s Camp.
President Taylor: How many were then connected with the School at that time?
Brother Coltrin: When the Word of Wisdom [D&C 89] was first presented by the Prophet Joseph (as he came out of the translating room) and was read to the School, there were twenty out of the twenty-one who used tobacco and they all immediately threw their tobacco and pies into the fire.
There were members as follows: Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, William Smith, Frederick G. Williams, Orson Hyde (who had the charge of the school), Zebedee Coltrin, Sylvester Smith, Joseph Smith, Sr., Levi Hancock, Martin Harris, Sidney Rigdon, Newel K. Whitney, Samuel H. Smith, John Murdock, Lyman Johnson and Ezra Thayer.
The salutation as written in the Doctrine and Covenants [D&C 88:136-141] was carried out at that time, and at every meeting, and the washing of feet was attended to, the sacrament was also administered at times when Joseph appointed, after the ancient order; that is, warm bread to break easy was provided and broken into pieces as large as my fist and each person had a glass of wine and sat and ate the bread and drank the wine; and Joseph said that was the way that Jesus and his disciples partook of the bread and wine. And this was the order of the church anciently and until the church went into darkness. Every time we were called together to attend to any business, we came together in the morning about sunrise, fasting and partook of the sacrament each time, and before going to school we washed ourselves and put on clean linen.
At one of these meetings after the organization of the school, (the school being organized on the 23rd of January, 1833, when we were all together, Joseph having given instructions, and while engaged in silent prayer, kneeling, with our hands uplifted each one praying in silence, no one whispered above his breath, a personage walked through the room from east to west, and Joseph asked if we saw him. I saw him and suppose the others did and Joseph answered that is Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother. Afterward Joseph told us to resume our former position in prayer, which we did. Another person came through; he was surrounded as with a flame of fire. He (Brother Coltrin) experienced a sensation that it might destroy the tabernacle as it was of consuming fire of great brightness. The Prophet Joseph said this was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I saw Him.
When asked about the kind of clothing the Father had on, Brother Coltrin said: I did not discover his clothing for he was surrounded as with a flame of fire, which was so brilliant that I could not discover anything else but his person. I saw his hands, his legs, his feet, his eyes, nose, mouth, head and body in the shape and form of a perfect man. He sat in a chair as a man would sit in a chair, but this appearance was so grand and overwhelming that it seemed I should melt down in his presence, and the sensation was so powerful that it thrilled through my whole system and I felt it in the marrow of my bones. The Prophet Joseph said: Brethren, now you are prepared to be the apostles of Jesus Christ, for you have seen both the Father and the Son and know that they exist and that they are two separate personages.
This appearance occurred about two or three weeks after the opening of the school. After the Father had passed through, Joseph told us to again take our positions in prayer. We did so, and in a very short time he drew our attention and said to us that Brother Reynolds Cahoon was about to leave us, and told us to look at him. He (Brother Cahoon) was on his knees and his arms were extended, his hands and wrists, head, face and neck down to his shoulders were as a piece of amber, clear and transparent, his blood having apparently left his veins. Upon the attention of the brethren being thus called to Brother Cahoon, the change seemed to pass away and Joseph said that in a few minutes more, Brother Cahoon would have left us, but he came to himself again.
The school room was in the upper room of [Newel K.] Whitney’s store. . . .
President Taylor asked Brother Zebedee Coltrin if he was present when the School of the Prophets was first organized by the Prophet Joseph Smith?
Brother Coltrin: Yes, sir.
A number of questions and answers then passed between the brethren and Brother Coltrin, eliciting the following information. Those who gave up using tobacco eased off on licorice root, but there was not easing off on tea and coffee, these they had to give up straight off or their fellowship was jeopardized. He never saw the Prophet Joseph drink tea or coffee again until at Dixon about ten years after.
He did not remember the washing of feet at the opening of the school [of the prophets], but could not say it was not so. (President George Q. Cannon said the “History of Joseph Smith” said they were washed on the 23rd of January, 1833.) Elder Orson Hyde was the teacher and saluted the brethren with uplifted hands, and they also answered with uplifted hands. Spoke of the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The brethren always went fasting; they went in the morning, remained until about four o’clock in the afternoon, when each had a glass of wine and piece of bread, after the ancient pattern. Joseph was the president and appointed Elder Orson Hyde teacher, as the school was not only revelations and doctrine, but also for learning English grammar, etc. The teacher saluted the brethren (one or more) as they came in. This salutation was given every morning when they met. Brother Sidney Rigdon lectured on grammar sometimes.
It was in a larger school on the hill afterwards, where Sidney presided that the lectures on faith that appear in the book of Doctrine and Covenants were given. Once Joseph gave notice to the school for all to get up before sunrise, then wash themselves and put on clean clothing and be at the school by sunrise, as it would be a day of revelation and vision. They opened with prayer. Joseph then gave instructions to prepare their minds. He told them to kneel and pray with uplifted hands.
(Brother [Zebedee] Coltrin then gave an account of the appearance of the Father and Son as given in the minutes of the meeting of the 3rd inst.) Jesus was clothed in modern clothing, apparently of gray cloth. When he saw Him in the Kirtland Temple, on the cross his hands were spiked to the wood and he had around him what appeared like a sheet. He had seen Joseph giving revelation when he could not look on his face, so full was he (Joseph) of the glory of God, and the house was full of the same glory. About the time the school was first organized some wished to see an angel, and a number joined in the circle and prayed. When the vision came, two of the brethren shrank and called for the vision to close or they would perish; they were Brothers Hancock and Humphries. When the Prophet came in they told him what they had done and he said the angel was no further off than the roof of the house, and a moment more he would have been in their midst.
Once after returning from a mission, he [Zebedee Coltrin] met Brother Joseph in Kirtland, who asked him if he did not wish to go with him to a conference at New Portage. The party consisted of Presidents Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery and myself [Zebedee Coltrin]. Next morning at New Portage, he noticed that Joseph seemed to have a far off look in his eyes, or was looking at a distance and presently he, Joseph, stepped between Brothers Cowdery and Coltrin and taking them by the arm, said, “Let’s take a walk.” They went to a place where there was some beautiful grass and grapevines and swampbeech interlaced. President Joseph Smith then said, “Let us pray.” They all three prayed in turn–Joseph, Oliver, and Zebedee. Brother Joseph then said, “Now brethren, we will see some visions.” Joseph lay down on the ground on his back and stretched out his arms and the two brethren lay on them. The heavens gradually opened, and they saw a golden throne, on a circular foundation, something like a light house, and on the throne were two aged personages, having white hair, and clothed in white garments. They were the two most beautiful and perfect specimens of mankind he ever saw. Joseph said, “They are our first parents, Adam and Eve.” Adam was a large, broad-shouldered man, and Eve as a woman, was a large in proportion.
In Kirtland Temple, I [Zebedee Coltrin] have seen the power of God as it was in the day of Pentecost! and cloven tongues as of fire have rested on the brethren and they have spoken with other tongues as the spirit gave them utterance. I saw the Lord high and lifted up and frequently throng the solemn assemblies, the angels of God rested on the temple, and we heard their voices singing heavenly music. At another time when consecrating some oil, we saw visibly the finger of God enter the mouth of the bottle.
About four years ago, I was ordained a patriarch under the hands of President Brigham Young, John Taylor and others. That spirit and calling has been upon me ever since. It is the spirit that rested on the patriarchs of old. By its power I can bless you. I can tell you what God requires of you, and what will befall you throughout your generation…
And now brethren, I testify to the truth of these things, so that when I, your fellow laborer, shall have passed away, you may know that you heard my voice bear witness of them. And yet notwithstanding all these visions, and all these testimonies, the more sure testimony of the voice of God is, the meek and mild testimony of the spirit of God swelling within us. 1
1. Minutes, Salt Lake City School of the Prophets, October 3, 1883. See also: House of Revelation, Ensign, January, 1993.