An Operation on Joseph’s Leg

Adapted from Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley (1979), 54–58; see also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), xiv, 2.


An Operation on Joseph’s Leg

An Operation on Joseph’s Leg, left page(click to view larger)

Illustrations by Sal Velluto and Eugenio Mattozzi

When Joseph Smith was seven years old, he became very sick. He had a fever, and a sore formed on his shoulder. Then he felt a terrible pain in his leg. Soon his leg began to swell.

Oh, Father! My leg hurts. How can I bear it!

Joseph’s mother, Lucy, and brother Hyrum cared for Joseph. They carried him around the house, sat beside his bed, and held his sore leg to lessen the pain.

A doctor came to help Joseph. The doctor cut into Joseph’s leg. Joseph felt better for a while, but then the pain became worse than before.

Other doctors came to help. They decided to amputate Joseph’s leg.

Gentlemen, what can you do to save my boy’s leg?

We can do nothing. We must amputate to save his life.

You will not take off his leg until you try once more.

An Operation on Joseph’s Leg, right page(click to view larger)

The doctors decided to do a different operation. They wanted to tie Joseph to his bed and give him strong drinks to lessen the pain.

No, Doctor, I will not be bound.

Then will you drink some wine?

You must take something, or you can never endure the pain.

No. I will not touch one drop of liquor.

Joseph asked his father to sit on the bed and hold him in his arms. He asked his mother to leave the room so she wouldn’t see him suffer.

The Lord will help me, and I’ll get through it.

The doctors removed large pieces of diseased bone from Joseph’s leg. The operation hurt Joseph very much. He cried out, and his mother ran to him.

Oh, Mother, go back, go back.

I do not want you to come in—I will try to tough it out if you will go away.

After the operation, Joseph felt much better. As his leg healed, he walked on crutches. Although he walked with a slight limp the rest of his life, he became strong and healthy.