Remarks By Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner
Remarks by Sister Mary E. Lightner
who was sealed to Joseph Smith in 1842. She was 87 years of age at
the time of this address in April 1905. (Source: BYU Archives and Manuscripts, typescript,
Well, my young
brethren, I can say I never was more surprised in my life than to be called
upon to speak to you young men who are called upon to go into the mission field
to preach the gospel to the nations of the earth. It is true I have been in the
Church from its beginning. Just six months after it was organized, I joined it.
I have been acquainted with all of those who were first members of this Church,
with all of those who saw the plates and handled them, with even those who saw
The Smith family
was driven from
Said he, "There are enough here to hold a little meeting." They got a board and put it across two chairs to make seats. Martin Harris sat on a little box at Joseph's feet. They sang and prayed. Joseph got up and began to speak to us. As he began to speak very solemnly and very earnestly, all at once his countenance changed and he stood mute. Those who looked at him that day said there was a search light within him, over every part of his body. I never saw anything like it on the earth. I could not take my eyes off him; he got so white that anyone who saw him would have thought he was transparent. I remember I thought I could almost see the cheek bones through the flesh. I have been through many changes since but that is photographed on my brain. I shall remember it and see in my mind's eye as long as I remain upon the earth.
He stood some moments. He looked over the congregation as if to pierce every heart. He said, "Do you know who has been in your midst?" One of the Smiths said an angel of the Lord. Martin Harris said, "It was our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." Joseph put his hand down on Martin and said: "God revealed that to you. Brethren and sisters, the Spirit of God has been here. The Savior has been in your midst this night and I want you to remember it. There is a veil over your eyes for you could not endure to look upon Him. You must be fed with milk, not with strong meat. I want you to remember this as if it were the last thing that escaped my lips. He has given all of you to me and has sealed you up to everlasting life that where he is, you may be also. And if you are tempted of Satan say, 'Get behind me, Satan.'"
These words are figured upon my brain and I never took my eye off his countenance. Then he knelt down and prayed. I have never heard anything like it before or since. I felt that he was talking to the Lord and that power rested down upon the congregation. Every soul felt it. The spirit rested upon us in every fiber of our bodies, and we received a sermon from the lips of the representative of God.
Much has come and gone from me through the powers and vicissitudes of this Church. I have been in almost every mob. I have been driven about and told I would be shot and had a gun pointed at me, but I stayed with the Church until it was driven from Nauvoo. The words of the Prophet that had been revealed to him always have been with me from the beginning to the end of the gospel. Every principle that has been given in the Church by the prophet is true. I know whereon I stand, I know what I believe, I know what I know and I know what I testify to you is the living truth. As I expect to meet it at the bar of the eternal Jehovah, it is true. And when you stand before the bar you will know. He preached polygamy and he not only preached it, but he practiced it. I am a living witness to it. It was given to him before he gave it to the Church. An angel came to him and the last time he came with a drawn sword in his hand and told Joseph if he did not go into that principle, he would slay him. Joseph said he talked to him soberly about it, and told him it was an abomination and quoted scripture to him. He said in the Book of Mormon it was an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, and they were to adhere to these things except the Lord speak. I am the first being that the revelation [D&C 132] was given to him for and I was one thousand miles away in Missouri, for we went up to Jackson County in 1841 .
I was there in all
the tribulations and trials. I have been in the houses that have been stoned.
The rocks have been thrown criss-cross in every
direction. I have seen the brethren shot and ruined for life. I saw the first
martyr dead and a more heavenly corpse I never saw or expect to see on the face
of the earth. His face was so happy. I have seen our bishop tarred and
feathered in the streets of
I asked him if
Emma knew about me, and he said, "Emma thinks the world of you." I
was not sealed to him until I had a witness. I had been dreaming for a number
of years I was his wife. I thought I was a great sinner. I prayed to God to
take it from me for I felt it was a sin; but when Joseph sent for me he told me
all of these things. "Well," said I, "don't you think it was an
angel of the devil that told you these things?" Said he, "No, it was
an angel of God. God Almighty showed me the difference between an angel of
light and Satan's angels. The angel came to me three times between the years of
1834 and 1842 and said I was to obey that principle or he would slay me. "But," said he, "they called me a false and fallen
prophet but I am more in favor with my God this day than I ever was in all my
life before. I know that I shall be saved in the
Well, I talked
with him for a long time and finally I told him I would never be sealed to him
until I had a witness. Said he, "You shall have a
witness." Said I, "If God told you that, why does he not tell
me?" He asked me if I was going to be a traitor. "I have never told a
mortal and shall never tell a mortal I had such a talk from a married
I made it a
subject of prayer and I worried about it because I did not dare to speak to a
living being except Brigham Young. I went out and got between three haystacks
where no one could see me. As I knelt down I thought, why not pray as Moses
did? He prayed with his hands raised. When his hands were raised,
Joseph came up the next Sabbath. He said, "Have you had a witness yet?" "No." "Well," said he, "the angel expressly told me you should have." Said I, "I have not had a witness, but I have seen something I have never seen before. I saw an angel and I was frightened almost to death. I did not speak." He studied a while and put his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. He looked up and said, "How could you have been such a coward?" Said I, "I was weak." "Did you think to say, `Father, help me?'" "No." "Well, if you had just said that, your mouth would have been opened for that was an angel of the living God. He came to you with more knowledge, intelligence, and light than I have ever dared to reveal." I said, "If that was an angel of light, why did he not speak to me?" "You covered your face and for this reason the angel was insulted." Said I, "Will it ever come again?" He thought a moment and then said, "No, not the same one, but if you are faithful you shall see greater things than that." And then he gave me three signs of what would take place in my own family, although my husband was far away from me at the time. Every work came true. I went forward and was sealed to him. Brigham Young performed the sealing, and Heber C. Kimball the blessing. I know he had six wives and I have known some of them from childhood up. I knew he had three children. They told me. I think two are living today but they are not known as his children as they go by other names.
These are things I
can testify to as the living truth, and I have told it to the Josephites [Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-Day Saints]. There is a great deal said about this church and the Josephites. I never knew of Joseph appointing him to be the
prophet. I have never known him to say it, and I have known the boy ever since
he was twelve years of age. I heard Joseph say this: "I have rolled this
kingdom off of my shoulders onto the shoulders of the Twelve and they can carry
out this work and build up His kingdom." Said he,
"I am tired. I have been mobbed, I have
suffered so much from outsiders and from my own family. Some of the brethren
think they can carry out this work better than I can, far better. I have asked
the Lord to take me away. I have to seal my testimony to this generation with
my blood. I have to do it for this work will never progress until I am gone for
the testimony is of no force until the testator is dead. People little know who
I am when they talk about me, and they never will know until they see me
weighed in the balance in the
Now about these Josephites--I have not a word to say about Joseph. He is doing a great work in the first principles. He does not believe in endowments; he does not believe in some other things; and he does not recognize this Church as the true church. But we have one criterion to go by. Joseph said, "The servant cannot be greater than the Master. If they persecute me they will persecute you." Has his son Joseph ever been persecuted? Have they been whipped and murdered in cold blood? They can go into the world as members of the re-organized church. They do not believe the right one took Joseph's place.
But let me tell you this gospel is going to spread, and you young men who are going on missions, give your hearts to God, for He said, "Young man, give me thy heart." And if you do give Him your hearts and pray to the heavens above the spirit of God and the Holy Ghost will rest upon you. If the great soul that rules in heaven and on earth, and the inspiration of the spirit comes down and rests in your bosom you will be able to speak the light to the people and you will gain a great reward. Just speaking of yourself in your own strength the spirit is withdrawn. You will have no power that will reach the heart. It may tickle the ear, but you must have the power of the Almighty. You must have the angels to be your companions and rest upon you. Let them be your guide in health and trouble. May you ever drink of the waters of intelligence that flows from the throne of God. God Almighty will guide you and direct you and you will walk in the paths of truth and you will receive your reward as His servants for the good deeds you have done on this earth.
This is my testimony and I hope and pray you will believe me for I have received it from the servant's heart, and when that servant comes he will own his people if they are faithful and humble. A trying hour and darkest hours are in the future before us and it is only those who are humble, contrite and honest before God and endure to the end who shall receive the blessings. Faith will be trampled down and there will be punishments come upon those who are not honest. These are things I tell you and they are true and you will see that they are if you live long enough. All I have said to you about the future will come to pass just as sure as the sun shines in the heavens. May God bless you and let you be on the alert to receive the words of light that are given to you by His servants. You will all be tried by darkness and the powers of darkness will come to you, but put your trust in your Heavenly Father, let Him be your guide and support for He is the everlasting light, worlds without end.
I hope you will excuse me for being a little agitated but it is a terrible tax for me to come and get up to speak. But I want you to remember what I have said, that it is my testimony, as long as you live. I want to say to you as I said before that Joseph said if I was faithful, I should see greater things than the angel. Since then I have seen other persons, three came together and stood before me just as the sun went down -- Joseph, Hyrum and Heber C. Kimball. It was prophesied that I should see Joseph before I died. Still, I was not thinking about that. I was thinking about a sermon I had heard. All at once I looked up and they stood before me. Joseph stood in the middle in a circle like the new moon and he stood with his arms over their shoulders. They bowed to me about a dozen times or more. I pinched myself to be sure I was awake, and I looked around the room to see where I had placed things. I thought I would shake hands with them. They saw my confusion and understood it and they laughed, and I thought Brother Kimball would almost kill himself laughing. I had no fear. As I went to shake hands with them, they bowed, smiled and began to fade. They went like the sun sinks behind a mountain or a cloud. It gave me more courage and hope than I ever had before.
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1. Sister Lightner stated that she had ten children; seven of them were boys and she had raised three of them to manhood. She has one daughter in the Church. Being asked concerning her husband, Sister Lightner said: "My husband did not belong to the Church. I begged him and pled with him to join but he would not. He said he did not believe in it, though he thought a great deal of Joseph. He sacrificed his property rather than testify against Joseph, Hyrum and George A. Smith. After he said this, I went forward and was sealed to Joseph for eternity."
note not from same source as above] Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner
was the same who as a young lady watched the demolition of the Church printing
presses in Jackson County, Missouri, and who ran off and hid in the cornfields
with copies of the Book of Commandments, in order to preserve them from the
mob's destruction. Her part in this event is depicted in the original version
of the film Legacy. It was also she who demonstrated her great faith in the
midnight winter exodus and expulsion from