In Lesson 15 of the Church History curriculum, we’re encouraged to use the story of Amanda Barnes Smith as an example of the spiritual gift of revelation. Can you recall the story of Amanda Barnes Smith off the top of your head? What if I said she’s the woman who received instructions on how to heal her son’s leg after the Haun’s Mill Massacre? Ah yes. In fact, according to a poll performed by a women’s historian at the Church History Library, “that woman who heals her son’s leg” is one of the only women in early church history that the general membership can recall, after Emma Smith and Eliza R. Snow.
How has this story come to be so well known, so that, despite not being mentioned in the actual Doctrine & Covenants, Amanda Barnes Smith is evoked as a quasi-scriptural figure?
In 1877, a playwright and convert to the Church, Edward Tullidge, decided to write a book about some of the women of early Mormonism. “So strange and thrilling is their story,” he wrote in The Women of Mormondom, “that neither history nor fable affords a perfect example; yet it is a reality of our own times.
“We can only understand the Mormon sisterhood by introducing them in this cast at the very outset; only comprehend the wonderful story of their lives by viewing them as apostles, who have heard the voices of the invisibles commanding them to build the temples of a new faith…. Let us think of them as apostolic mediums of a new revelation….”
With this romantic introduction, Tullidge offers the first collection of Mormon women’s biographical sketches in our history. One of the sketches, autobiographically written by Amanda Barnes Smith almost 40 years after the events she describes, gives one of the most detailed accounts of the Haun’s Mill Massacre that we have. She describes in detail the voice that spoke to her, directing her to make a poultice to put on her son’s shot out hip. She describes his innocent faith in detailed dialogue, and his miraculous healing after following the revelatory instructions.
In the same vein as Mary Fielding Smith, or “that woman who blessed her oxen to get up,” Amanda Barnes Smith’s remarkable faith and connection to deity in a time of horror do indeed prove her to be an “apostolic medium,” speaking through the ages of the power of revelation to guide and comfort in our times of greatest need. Although the Doctrine & Covenants includes the fewest named women of any book in our scriptural cannon, the women of the early church offer ample stories so “strange and thrilling” that they are rightly relied on in our lesson manual. Let us pay Amanda Smith Barnes apostolic reverence this week as we invoke her life and faith.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
Playing From Her Heart, Tina Richerson
“The Great Creator can make us into whatever he wants of us. If we move ourselves in slightest right direction he will take it and he’ll magnify it for our good. I feel like I’ve been blessed to be at such peace about this. I have this incredible relationship with the Lord and with the Spirit. I’m just so peaceful. Peaceful! Joyful! I will take the gifts of the Spirit over the gifts of the flesh any day of the week.”
Other Related Women’s Voices
Blessed by Living Water, Kathleen H. Hughes
“Brothers and sisters, turmoil is raging all about us. Economies are in distress; families are struggling; we are living in, as President Hinckley has said, “perilous times” (“The Times in Which We Live,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 72; Liahona, Jan. 2002, 83). But the living waters still offer peace and joy. When we live righteously, when we have done all we can do, one of the gifts we receive is confidence.”
Amanda Barnes Smith’s great-great granddaughter, Helen Lake, reads Smith’s account of the massacre and healing.