The following is an excerpt from the book The Witness of Women: Firsthand Experiences and Testimonies from the Restoration, by Janiece Johnson and Jennifer Reeder:
Many women who knew Joseph Smith personally and interacted with him recorded their convictions of him as a prophet of God. His mother, Lucy Mack Smith, compiled his history entrenched in her own personal conversion and life experiences. Zilpha C. Williams wrote a letter to her family about her first encounter with him. Several wrote from childhood perceptions of the Prophet and his concern and love for people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. Some women saw the Prophet in dreams before they ever met him. They described his physical appearance as well as their feelings as they met him. Some knew he was a prophet the moment they first saw him. For others, spending extended time with him, observing his interactions with others, and hearing him preach and teach provided a spiritual confirmation. Most recognized that something made him different from other people. One thing remains the same across time and age, space and distance: these women gained their own personal witnesses of Joseph Smith as a prophet of God, and they testified in their own words.
Mary B. Noble
Mary B. Noble (1810–1851) taught school in 1833 in Avon, New York. In the spring of 1834, Joseph Smith came from Kirtland, Ohio, to her father’s home.
This was the first time I ever beheld a prophet of the Lord, and I can truly say at the first sight that I had a testimony within my bosom that he was a man chosen of God to bring forth a great work in the last days. His society I prized, his conversation was meat and drink to me. The principles that he brought forth bind the testimony that he bore of the truth of the Book of Mormon [and] made a lasting impression upon my mind. . . .
Brother Joseph and Elder Rigdon held a meeting in Geneva, which was called the Orton neighborhood, in a barn. Elder Rigdon preached, Brother Joseph bore testimony of the truth of the Book of Mormon, and the work that had come forth in these last days. Never did I hear preaching sound so glorious to me as that did. I realized it was the truth of heaven, for I had a testimony of it myself.
Mary Alice Cannon Lambert
Mary Alice Cannon Lambert (1828–1920) was the daughter of George and Ann Quayle Cannon, of Liverpool, England. She was baptized at the age of twelve, and her family arrived in Nauvoo in 1843. She wrote this account in 1905 for the Young Woman’s Journal.
I first saw Joseph Smith in the spring of 1843. When the boat in which we came up the Mississippi River reached the landing at Nauvoo, several of the leading brethren were there to meet the company of Saints that had come on it. Among those brethren was the Prophet Joseph Smith. I knew him the instant my eyes rested upon him, and at that moment I received my testimony that he was a Prophet of God, for I never had such a feeling for mortal man as thrilled my being when my eyes rested upon Joseph Smith. He was not pointed out to me. I knew him from all the other men, and, child that I was (I was only fourteen) I knew that I saw a Prophet of God.
Many, many times between the time I reached Nauvoo and his martyrdom, I heard him preach. The love the saints had for him was inexpressible. They would willingly have laid down their lives for him. If he was to talk, every task would be laid aside that they might listen to his words. He was not an ordinary man. Saints and sinners alike felt and recognized a power and influence which he carried with him. It was impossible to meet him and not be impressed by the strength of his personality and influence.
Emmeline B. Wells
Emmeline B. Wells (1828–1921) joined the Church in Massachusetts when she was fourteen years old. The next year she married James Harris, the son of the local branch president, and the following spring, 1844, she moved with James and his family to Nauvoo, where she first encountered Joseph Smith.
As we stepped ashore the crowd advanced, and I could see one person who towered away and above all the others around him; in fact I did not see distinctly any others. His majestic bearing, so entirely different from any one I had ever seen (and I had seen many superior men) was more than a surprise. It was as if I beheld a vision; I seemed to be lifted off my feet, to be as it were walking in the air, and paying no heed whatever to those around me. I made my way through the crowd, then I saw this man whom I had noticed, because of his lofty appearance, shaking hands with all the people, men, women and children. Before I was aware of it he came to me, and when he took my hand, I was simply electrified,—thrilled through and through to the tips of my fingers, and every part of my body, as if some magic elixir had given me new life and vitality. I am sure that for a few minutes I was not conscious of motion. I think I stood still; I did not want to speak, or be spoken to. I was overwhelmed with indefinable emotion. . . .
The one thought that filled my soul was, I have seen the Prophet of God, he has taken me by the hand, and this testimony has never left me in all the “perils by the way.” It is as vivid today as ever it was. For many years, I felt it too sacred an experience even to mention. . . .
I heard him preach all his last sermons, and frequently met him and shook hands with him, and always felt in my inmost soul, he is indeed a man unlike all others.
In the Prophet Joseph Smith, I believed I recognized the great spiritual power that brought joy and comfort to the Saints; and withal he had that strong comradeship that made such a bond of brotherliness with those who were his companions in civil and military life, and in which he reached men’s souls, and appealed most forcibly to their friendship and loyalty. He possessed too the innate refinement that one finds in the born poet, or in the most highly cultivated intellectual and poetical nature; this extraordinary temperament and force combined is something of a miracle and can scarcely be accounted for except as a “heavenly mystery” of the “higher sort.” . . .
The power of God rested upon him to such a degree that on many occasions he seemed transfigured. His expression was mild and almost childlike in repose; and when addressing the people, who loved him it seemed to adoration, the glory of his countenance was beyond description. At other times the great power of his manner, more than of his voice (which was sublimely eloquent to me) seemed to shake the place on which we stood and penetrate the inmost soul of his hearers, and I am sure that then they would have laid down their lives to defend him.
Latter-day Saint women actively participated in the Restoration, and their voices and testimonies need to be included in Church history. The Witness of Women helps accomplish that. Teachers, parents, gospel scholars, and every member seeking a connection with the women of our past will relish discovering the vital role that women played in the Restoration. The Witness of Women is available at Deseret Book stores or on deseretbook.com