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Elijah Fordham

Question: What miraculous healing did Elijah Fordham experience under the hands of the Prophet Joseph Smith?

Answer: Elijah Fordham was born New York City to George Elijah and Mary Baker on April 12, 1798. He married Jane Ann Fisher November 23, 1822, and they had three children. Jane died in 1828, and on April 12, 1830 Elijah married Bathiah Fisher. Bathiah died in March 1834.

Elijah joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in May 1834 in Pontiac, Michigan Territory. He was baptized by Elder Fosdick. Soon afterward, he moved to Kirtland, Ohio, where the Saints were gathered.

Elijah was ordained a Seventy on February 28, 1835, by the Prophet Joseph Smith and his counselors Fredrick G. Williams and Sidney Rigdon. Elijah served as the historian of the section of Zion’s Camp that left from Pontiac, Michigan. He later assisted in the building of the Kirtland Temple.

He was ordained a high priest on January 22, 1837. Later in 1837, he assisted Parley P. Pratt in organizing the first branch of the Church in New York City. He assisted Elder P. P. Pratt in publishing the “Voice of Warning.” He married for the third time when he took Anna Bibbins Chaffee to wife in Ashford, Connecticut on October 3, 1838.

The most marvelous experience of Elijah Fordham was on the morning of July 22, 1839. The severe illness (malaria) of the Saints in Commerce (Nauvoo) was very hard on the members of the Church who had so recently been driven from their homes in Missouri. The Smith home and yard was an improvised hospital for the exiles.

Wilford Woodruff tells the story thus: “On the morning of the 22 of July 1839, the Prophet arose, reflected upon the persecutions of the Saints and the illness among them. His house and yard were filled with these exiles. Joseph called upon the Lord in mighty prayer, and Joseph healed all the sick around him that day. Then he and Sidney Rigdon and several of the Twelve, went among the sick along the river bank. He commanded in a loud voice, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ’ to rise and be made whole, and they were healed.

“He and his companions then crossed the Mississippi River in a ferry boat in Montrose, Iowa, and went first to Brigham Young’s home. He was healed and went forth with them. They called at the next home and Joseph said: ‘Brother Woodruff, follow me.’ They then crossed the public square to the home of Elijah Fordham, who was in a dying condition for an hour, and death was expected at any moment. The spirit of God overpowered the Prophet—he walked across the room to brother Fordham and took his hand. He saw Brother Fordham’s eyes were glassy and he was speechless and unconscious.

“Joseph looked into his dying face and asked: ‘Elijah, do you know me?’ A whisper said: ‘Yes.’ Joseph then asked: ‘Have you not faith to be healed?’ Elijah answered: ‘I’m afraid it’s too late. If you had come sooner I think I might have been.’ Brother Fordham had the appearance of a man waking from sleep. Joseph asked: ‘Do you belief that Jesus is the Christ?’ With an anxious look Elijah said: ‘I do, Brother Joseph.’ Then the prophet of God spoke with a loud voice, as in the majesty of Jehovah: ‘Elijah, I command you in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, to arise and to be made whole.’ The words of the Prophet were like the words of a man but like the voice of God. It seemed to me like the house shook in its foundation.’

He continued: “Elijah leaped from his bed, like a man raised from the dead. A healthy color came to his face, and life was manifested in every act. His feet had been done up in Indian meal poultices. He kicked them off, dressed himself and asked for a bowl of bread and milk. He ate, put on his hat and followed the brethren out with the Prophet to administer to others who were ill.’

Elijah later served on the high council of the stake in Iowa. After this, Elijah moved to Nauvoo where he was a member of the Nauvoo Legion and assisted in building the Nauvoo Temple. For the temple, Elijah carved the stone oxen to hold up the baptismal font of the temple.

Elijah served another mission in 1843 to Knox County, Illinois. Elijah came to Utah Territory in Edward Hunter’s 1850 pioneer company. They left Kanesville, Iowa on June 29, 1850 and arrived in Utah October 13, 1850. There were 261 individuals and 67 wagons in the company when it began its journey from the outfitting post at Kanesville, Iowa (present day Council Bluffs). This company was organized at 12-mile creek near the Missouri River. It was the first Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company.

Elijah lived to the ripe age of 81 years and 6 months, and died in Wellsville, Cache County, Utah September 9, 1879. He is buried in the Wellsville Cemetery.

Source: Brief Life Sketch of Elijah Fordham, written by his granddaughter Ruby Fordham Bean,;; Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah; Obituary in Deseret News, 24 September 1879.

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