The following account comes to us from chapter 6 of the book entitled, The Prophet Joseph: Essays on the Life and Mission of Joseph Smith, by Larry Porter and Susan Easton Black:
The power that rested upon Joseph Smith in his prophetic calling manifested itself in many other ways in Kirtland. The power to heal, as taught by James (see James 5:14-15), was also frequently exercised by the Prophet in Ohio. One of the earliest evidences of the gift of healing led to the conversion of the John Johnson family, as well as of a Methodist minister, Ezra Booth. John and Elsa Johnson had come from Hiram, Ohio, with Ezra Booth to meet this man of God they had heard so much about since his arrival in Kirtland. In their first interview, the Prophet asked Elsa Johnson if she believed that God could heal her arm, using him as an instrument. Her reply was yes. Joseph remarked simply that he would visit her the next day. The next day he went to the home of Bishop Newel K. Whitney, where the Johnsons were staying. During a conversation concerning the supernatural gifts conferred in the days of the apostles, someone said, “Here is Mrs. Johnson with a lame arm; has God given any power to man on earth to cure her?” In a few moments the conversation had turned to another subject, when quietly Joseph Smith got up from his chair and walked to Elsa Johnson. Taking her by the hand, he said, “in the most solemn and impressive manner: ‘Woman, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I command thee to be whole.'” Immediately he left the house. “The company were awe-stricken at the infinite presumption of the man, and the calm assurance with which he spoke.” Ezra Booth then asked Elsa if her arm was healed. “She immediately stretched out her arm straight, remarking at the same time, ‘it’s as well as the other.'” 1
This experience helped convince John and Elsa Johnson that Joseph was what he claimed to be, a prophet of God. So impressed were they that they invited him and Sidney Rigdon to move to Hiram, Ohio, and live with them. This invitation appealed to the Prophet, for persecution was beginning to mount, and he was finding it difficult to continue his important work on the translation of the Bible. Once more Joseph gathered his family and his meager belongings and made the thirty-mile move to Hiram, Ohio.
Philo Dibble’s account
When Joseph came to Kirtland his fame spread far and wide. There was a woman living in the town of Hiram, forty miles from Kirtland, who had a crooked arm, which she had not been able to use for a long period. She persuaded her husband, whose name was [John] Johnson, to take her to Kirtland to get her arm healed.
I saw them as they passed my house on their way. She [Elsa Johnson] went to Joseph and requested him to heal her. Joseph asked her if she believed the Lord was able to make him an instrument in healing her arm. She said she believed the Lord was able to heal her arm.
Joseph put her off till the next morning, when he met her at Brother [Newel K.] Whitney’s house. There were eight persons present, one a Methodist preacher, and one a doctor. Joseph took her [Elsa Johnson] by the hand, prayed in silence a moment, pronounced her arm whole, in the name of Jesus Christ, and turned and left the room.
The preacher asked her if her arm was whole, and she straightened it out and replied: “It is as good as the other.” The question was then asked if it would remain whole. Joseph hearing this, answered and said: “It is as good as the other, and as liable to accident as the other.”
The doctor who witnessed this miracle came to my house the next morning and related the circumstance to me. He attempted to account for it by his false philosophy, saying that Joseph took her by the hand, and seemed to be in prayer, and pronounced her arm whole in the name of Jesus Christ, which excited her and started perspiration, and that relaxed the cords of her arm. I subsequently rented my farm and devoted all my time to the interest of the Church, holding myself in readiness to take Joseph wherever he wished to go. 2
Amos S. Hayden’s account
Ezra Booth, of Mantua, a Methodist preacher of much more than ordinary culture, and with strong natural abilities, in company with his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, and some other citizens of this place, (Hiram) visited Smith at his home in Kirtland, in 1831. Mrs. Johnson had been afflicted for some time with a lame arm, and was not at the time of the visit able to lift her hand to her head. The party visited Smith partly out of curiosity, and partly to see for themselves what there might be in the new doctrine. During the interview the conversation turned on the subject of supernatural gifts, such as were conferred in the days of the apostles. Some one said, “Here is Mrs. Johnson with a lame arm; has God given any power to men now on earth to cure her?” A few moments later, when the conversation had turned in another direction, Smith arose, and walking across the room, and taking Mrs. Johnson by the hand, said in the most solemn and impressive manner: “Woman, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command thee to be whole,” and immediately left the room. The company were awe-stricken at the infinite presumption of the man, and the calm assurance with which he spoke. The sudden mental and moral shock—I know not how better to explain the well-attested fact, electrified the rheumatic arm—Mrs. Johnson at once lifted it with ease, and on her return home the next day she was able to do her washing without difficulty or pain. 3
- Oliver B. Huntington, Young Woman’s Journal, vol. 2, no. 5 (Feb. 1891), pp. 225-26. See also Amos Sutton Hayden, Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve (Cincinnati, Ohio: Chase and Hall, 1876), pp. 250-51; Smith, History of the Church, 1:215-16.
- Philo Dibble Autobiography (1806-c. 1843),” Early Scenes in Church History, Four Faith Promoting Classics (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968), 79.
- A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1:278.