Title: The Witness of Women: Firsthand Experiences and Testimonies from the Restoration
Authors: Janiece Johnson & Jennifer Reeder
Publisher: Deseret Book
Genre: Church History
Year Published: 2016
Number of Pages: 239
Reviewed by Trudy Thompson for the Association for Mormon Letters
From a wide variety of sources, Latter-day Saints have a wealth of resources to utilize regarding church history and particularly the restoration. Up until recently, these sources mentioned women, and their roles and testimonies concerning the restoration of the church, only briefly. Authors Johnson and Reeder have changed that with this refreshing new volume.
Women were present from the earliest days of the church, but with this book we can now get to know them personally, as well as learn what roles they played in the restoration. Through their own words, recorded in diaries, journals, letters, and by word of mouth to family members and friends, we are given an insightful glimpse into the tenacity, faith and fortitude these remarkable women must have exhibited on an almost daily basis.
Through short quotes and stories, some of the perspectives center around the women’s conversion stories. It is fascinating that many of these focus on the recurring theme of dreams and visions that these sisters had before they had heard of the church. It is also intriguing to read how many were literally searching for what they called a “New Testament” church, meaning one that followed the teachings of Christ and his Apostles.
Besides the themes of the restoration, Jesus Christ, The Book of Mormon, revelation, Joseph Smith, sharing the gospel, the commandments and temples, other topics include consecration, gifts of the Spirit, education, personal apostasy, gathering and building Zion, affliction, Abrahamic sacrifices, and the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.
Amanda Barnes Smith is one example of a woman who found Divine support, strength and moments of grace in the midst of severe hardship. Her husband and a son had been killed in the Haun’s Mill massacre, and she had been inspired to know how to save another son who had also been a victim of that attack. However, the Missourians continued to harass and threaten her.
Smith relates the story of how a member of the mob came to her and told her that the captain had stated that if the women didn’t stop their d—-d praying he would send down a posse to kill everyone of them. She goes on to tell how the women’s prayers were hushed in terror. She prayed in her bed or in silence, but felt she could not live long like that. So, one night she stole away to a cornfield, and prayed out loud most fervently. From that moment on, she felt no fear.
Soon after that, the mob sent word that they all had to be out of the state by a certain date, or they would all be killed. When that day came, fifty armed men showed up at her door, demanding to know why she was not gone. She had them come in to see their own work- that of her wounded son. They came in a few at a time until all had seen her excuse for staying. The men quarreled among themselves, and all but two left. These two men went out and caught and killed a hog and left it at her door as a meat offering to atone for their repented intention.
Another uplifting and inspiring story is of Drusilla Hendricks. Her husband was shot in the neck in Missouri and permanently paralyzed. While caring for him, and their children and grandchildren, the call came for Mormon Battalion volunteers. She knew her sixteen year old son would be called upon to go, but thought it would be too difficult to allow him to do so. She struggled in thought and prayer. She heard the voice of the Lord speak to her stating, ” It shall be done unto you as it was done unto Abraham when he offered Isaac on the alter. ” And although the hardships during that time of her son’s absence were severe, she relates how they “bore it with the patience of Job,” and he did safely come home.
This is by far, one of the very best books I have read in a long time. It is a a delight to read, and the topical arrangement of the materials makes it a ready resource for Church talks and lessons, and teaching within the home. I found it to be uplifting to read how these brave and stalwart women of the Latter-day Saint restoration willingly chose to follow the promptings of the Spirit in their daily lives. It can, and will serve as a lesson to us all.