Young Edward eagerly climbed up the apple tree. The higher he went the more the branches swayed. But Edward wasn’t concerned about the swaying branches. He didn’t notice the blue jays or the nervous twittering of the sparrows. His thoughts were centered on apples—the sweetest, juiciest apples that could be found only near the very top of the tree. And only the best apples would do for their special guest—the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The Prophet Joseph! Edward could hardly believe that right now the Prophet was sitting in their house, talking with his mother, and complimenting her on the wonderful meal she had just served.
Ever since he had heard the news that the Prophet Joseph was coming to Pontiac, Michigan, Edward had been excited. And when he later learned that the Prophet was going to have a meal in their home, his excitement was almost unbearable.
Earlier that morning Edward had helped his mother take out the rug and beat it. He cleaned out the fireplace, polished his mother’s prized mirror, and dusted the bookcase. When the work was done, he began strutting about and looking very pleased with himself.
“Edward Stevenson,” his mother said. “I know you’re excited, but you shouldn’t give in to pride.”
“But, Mother, it isn’t every day that we get a visit from the Prophet.”
“True enough. Still, you must think of the Prophet’s visit as more of a blessing than an honor.”
“All right, Mother. I’ll try.”
Edward kept looking at the clock and wishing time would go by faster. Finally, the Prophet appeared at the door. Edward, who was small for his thirteen years, looked up in awe at their six-foot-tall guest. A local church leader who was with the Prophet introduced him to the “Widow Stevenson” and Edward. Joseph bent down, offered Edward a robust handshake and said, “Hello there, Bub.”
Edward had never been called anything but his given name, so the casual nickname startled him. But when he thought about who had given it to him, he cherished it.
As they enjoyed a meal of roast duck, pork, potatoes, and beans, the Prophet held everyone—especially Edward—spellbound as he told stories about the Church and the Book of Mormon. Then Edward excused himself, dashed outside, and hurried up the apple tree with a tin pail in hand. When the branches became so thin they could barely support his weight, Edward plucked large golden apples until the pail was full. Then he climbed down and ran back into the house.
“These are for you, President Smith,” Edward said, presenting the pail to the Prophet.
“Thanks, Bub. I’ll take a couple, then we’ll pass them around for everyone.”
Soon the house was filled with the happy crunching sound of apples. “Bub, this is one of the finest apples I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating,” the Prophet said.
Later, Edward wrote in his journal, “Oh! how my heart swelled with delightful emotions of heavenly love, as I selected and presented to him [the Prophet] some of our choice apples in exchange for the golden nuggets of celestial truth.”
Five years later, Edward was still quite small, and often mistaken for a younger child. Although his body had not grown very much, his faith had grown enormously. Edward was not afraid to risk his life for the Church. And since this was a time of intense persecution, he often volunteered for dangerous assignments. One October night, he stood guard near the encampment at Far West, Missouri. His job was to watch for enemies and not allow them to enter the camp.
It was a beautiful, clear night full of stars. As dawn approached, the moon set and the sky became darker. Mist began to form. Then in the distance he heard horses slowly approaching. As the horses came closer, he heard faint, muffled voices. “Enemies trying to sneak into camp,” Edward thought. He reached for his rifle, cocked it, and held it steadily in the direction of the sound. It was so misty and dark that Edward knew the approaching strangers were not aware of him. When they were just a few feet away, Edward called out, “Who comes there?”
“Friends,” was the reply.
“Halt and give the secret password.”
“God and liberty.”
That was correct, and Edward let the strangers advance. As the first rays of sunlight appeared, Edward recognized the first rider. He was a church leader named Lyman Wight. He rode right up to Edward, the horse’s breath forming a cloud in the chilly air over Edward’s head. Brother Wight looked down from his horse at the short lad. He showed Edward that he was carrying both a gun and a sword. “So just what would you have done if I had been a real enemy?” he asked the youthful-looking guard.
Without flinching, Edward said that he would have defended his post.
A friendly chuckle came from behind Brother Wight. “That’s right, Bub!”
Bub! To Edward’s shock and embarrassment, the Prophet Joseph Smith was the second rider! Edward couldn’t believe that he had actually drawn a rifle upon the Prophet of God. But the Prophet’s steady gaze spoke of love, friendship, and appreciation. To Edward’s great relief he knew there were no hard feelings.
Edward later wrote about the incident in his journal and concluded that “the prophet always had a good word for all and was universally loved by the true in heart.”
“The Prophet Joseph Smith taught us love—by example.”
President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, “The Prophet Joseph Smith: Teacher by Example,” Ensign, Nov. 2005, 69.