I stand before you today … pretty sound-looking, for a man ninety-one years of age. I stand before you with a body in which almost every bone has been broken except my back and neck. …
When I was about three years old I was pushed into a caldron of boiling water, which had just been taken off the fire. … I was wrapped up for months in cotton and oil. That was the beginning of my troubles.
When I was twelve years of age I was drowned; at any rate, I lay in thirty feet of water long enough to drown anyone. After several unsuccessful attempts, I was brought up out of the water. This was under the Farmington mill dam. I was just as dead as I shall be thirty years [from now]. I lay on my back and saw the sun go out, and passed through all the sensations of death that any man would in drowning. After an hour’s labor, I was brought around to life again. I shall not go into the particulars of many of these things, but I have passed through what may be termed death a number of times in my life.
When I was 15 years old I was in one of those Connecticut blizzards. I walked four miles through a wood into the open country, and I sought some place where I could hide from the storm and rest. There was but one house within a mile of me—that was the poor house [a place for needy and homeless people], which was about twenty-five rods* away. The man was moved upon to go up in his garret [attic] to get some pennyroyal [herbal medicine] to give to a sick woman, and he felt led to look out of the window. He saw me crawling into the hollow of a big tree. He knew what the result of that would be better than I did. He took his horse and sleigh and came to me, and when he got there I was asleep, and he preserved my life.
When I was 14 years old I was bit by a mad dog, and ought to have died; but I did not.
So I continued on, until I can say that I have broken both of my legs, one twice; broken both of my arms, breast bone, several ribs, and altogether been through a pretty hard experience for a man who had to be called to preach the Gospel, at least. I was a miller by trade. I have been in two water wheels under full head of water, and I suppose I ought to have been killed in either of them, but I was not hurt.
That preserving power has followed me all the way through my life. It has been with me upon my missions abroad as well as at home. It has followed me until the present day.
(In Conference Report, April 1898, page 29, paragraphing added.)