In October 1838, Wilford Woodruff began to lead 53 new Saints from his missionary labors in Maine to Nauvoo, Illinois. It took them three months traveling in wagons. Wilford took his wife and only child on this journey. Early in his travels, he became sick as did his wife, their child, and several others. In the afternoon of December 1st, it seemed as though his wife, Phoebe, would breathe her last breath.
Wilford cried to the Lord, and prayed that she might not be taken. After settling her into a house on Sunday 2 December, it looked as though she had just a short time to live. On the evening of 4 December, her spirit apparently left her body and according to Wilford she was dead. Wilford recalls that “faith filled my soul” and he administered to her with oil. He writes:
“I laid my hands upon her, and in the name of Jesus Christ I rebuked the power of death and the destroyer, and commanded the same to depart from her, and the spirit of life to enter her body. Her spirit returned to her body, and from that hour she was made whole.
“While this operation was going on with me [as my wife related afterwards] her spirit left her body, and she saw it lying on the bed. She looked at me and upon her babe, and , while gazing upon the scene, two personages came into the room carrying a coffin and told her they had come for her body. One of these messengers informed her that she could have her choice: she might go to rest in the spirit world, or, on one condition she could have the privilege of returning to her tabernacle and continuing her labors upon the earth. The condition was, if she felt she could stand by her husband, and with him pass through all the cares, trials, tribulations, and affliction of life which he would be called to pass through for the gospel’s sake unto the end. When she looked at the situation of her husband and child she said: ‘Yes, I will do it!’
“At the moment that decision was made the power of faith rested upon me, and when I administered unto her, her spirit entered her tabernacle, and she saw the messengers carry the coffin out at the door.” 1
Phoebe W. Carter Woodruff went with Wilford to the Salt Lake Valley in 1850 and died there in 1885.
1. “Leaves from My Journal,” Millennial Star, October 3, 1881, 638–39. See also: Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, (2011), 160–71.