Among other things, I’ve been working my way through the recently published volume of the journals of James Henry Martineau. Much to my despair, I recently came across an entry in which he describes anointing and healing his horse. Despair because I am something of a completist when it comes to annotation. Kris and I have a paper forthcoming in the Summer issue of Journal of Mormon History, and it is too late to add the entry to a footnote that lists various nineteenth-century incidents of administering to sick animals.
Our paper follows the development of Mormon healing ritual to 1847 — the time when the Latter-day Saints arrived in the Great Basin. At one point in the paper we highlight the tension between miraculous examples of healing animals or small children on one hand and failed ritual administrations on the other. Joseph Smith repeatedly pointed out that it was the faith of the recipient that determined ritual efficacy; but the healing of individuals or animals that couldn’t exercise faith showed how the faith requirement was somewhat vague. Further, there were individuals that seemed to have miraculous power to heal, even those of weak faith.
Joseph Smith revealed during the first year of the Church that if people didn’t have faith to be healed, they could still be heirs of salvation. He also revealed that there were some that were simply doomed to die. Generally, I think people like the latter of these two revelations. It is Mormon Providence and has, I think, expanded with time from a theodicy of death, to a theodicy of suffering. We are comforted with the idea that God has a purpose in the death or suffering of our beloved — less so with the idea that they (or we) lack faith sufficient to overcome.
- Donald G. Godfrey and Rebecca S. Martineau-McCarty, eds., An Uncommon Common Pioneer: The Journals of James Henry Martineau, 1828-1918 (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2008). This is a wonderful volume that has proven helpful for several projects that I am working on. When I am finished, I’ll likely post a review at Splendid Sun.
- While somewhat rare, there are a number of examples, especially during the trail west. Note, however, that neither Eliza R. Snow nor Mary Fielding healed their oxen.