The work of healing

Ardis’ recent post about the details of early twentieth century temple practice reminded me of a favorite document. There is a great devotional angle, but there are many fun details for the historians of Mormon practice as well.

In February 1931, Mary McClellan sat down with her daughter Zitelle to record some of her life’s history to be included in a ward publication: Gleaners’ Treasures of Truth. Mary and her husband George lived in Colonia Morelos when church leaders determined sitting out the Mexican revolution was no longer feasible. Unlike some who had means sufficient for relocation, the Lloyds suffered desperately. The family settled in Bisbee, Arizona, just across the boarder, while George worked in the dank conditions of the Queen copper Mine. They struggled with sickness and death and after two year, the McClellans saved enough to move to Clinton, Utah just south of Ogden.

On the night of about the fifth of January, 1914, I dreamed that an old gentleman, rather small of stature, white hair, white beard, inflamed eyelids, came to me and told me to come to the Temple of the Lord and bring Newell and we would both be healed. This dream was very realistic and the following morning I told daddy about it.

Mary was pregnant and had developed increasingly severe “milk leg” with each child and often need crutches to walk. Newell, their child, had been in the hospital for about three weeks and anticipated an operation. The family looked forward to getting a pay check on the 15th and Mary hoped that they could use it to travel to the temple. However, when the money came, other needs pressed their way to the forefront of their attention.

Mary described crying all the night of January 21 because there was no coal to heat the house, no rubber and shoes were thin, and no bedding or clothing for the cold and snow. George woke up at 4:00 am and chided her for her lack of faith. He then went out to cut some wood to warm the home. As he cut, he saw a man walking down the road. He asked George if this was where the McClellans lived and said he was here to visit “his aunty.” Shaking hands with George, the man stated, “Why haven’t you been down. I have been looking for you at the Temple for three weeks.” He wouldn’t sit down. Instead he handed George a letter and then turned and walked away.

In the envelope was a twenty dollar bill, and a blank sheet of paper. The following Monday, the man appeared again and brought a pair of blankest and suitcase filled with bottled fruits, jams and jellies. It was the man of her dream. This time he told her his name, Adolphus Madsen, and he hailed from Brigham City. Mary was also from that area and as it happened, Mary’s grandfather had befriended Adolph when he was a fresh immigrant from Denmark.

He said that he had been working in the Temple for some twenty years and it was his custom to go home to Brigham City on Friday night or Saturday morning and return to Salt Lake the following Monday morning. His children in Brigham City had sent the blankest [sic] and fruit. I asked him who told him–how he know we were there, but his only reply to my Question was, “Your father sent me.” It was seven or eight years before I heard his testimony of how he came to find me.

Mary doesn’t indicate that she knew any more about Adolph, as he was called, or his history. Adolph was in the Box Elder Stake Presidency with Rudger Clawson. He was also a member of the first Salt Lake Temple Presidency, but that was a long time before this meeting. What would become most important to Mary is that Adolph was then one of the male temple healers.

A few days after this visit, Newell arrived home from the hospital, his wounds still draining. They took the train to Salt Lake City, and then went to the temple.

When I entered the room for my blessing it was filled with the sick–there wasn’t a place for me to sit down and I was holding Newell. Some man came forward and asked if I would step into a side room. When I got in there Brother Madsen and Patriarch Hyrum G. Smith were officiating. Brother Madsen came to me and led me to the chair. I held Newell on my lap.

First the Patriarch blessed Newell and then Adolph blessed Mary. He did not bless her to be healed immediately, but that if she continued to have faith, in the temple she would receive her blessing. She went home and her condition got worse. She was on crutches full time. The baby was born on the second of April. Then, on the eighth, she resolved to go to the temple again. She had to be carried in. As she sat in the endowment session, she feinted, but she came to and carried on with the ritual.

When we got to the Prayer Circle it seemed as though someone was pouring water on my head and that it was running down through my body and over it. I couldn’t quite understand the feeling and kept rubbing my hands and legs. I was afraid I was going to faint again. There was no pain, it had left me instantly. This was in the last room and when I stood up to go up the steps and though the veil, I carried both crutches in one hand–didn’t use them at all. Daddy kept watching me. He knew I had been instantly healed. He said afterward that it seemed as though my face and my whole being was lighted up with a heavenly light.

She was able to walk on her way home and had no further trouble with her legs until the next child.

As noted above, Mary did eventually learn how Adolph came to walk down her road in the morning of her despair. In a testimony meeting in 1922, Mary noticed that Adolph happened to be there. She decided that she would bare her testimony of her experience with him. He then got up and stated that he was forced to bare his own, though it was a confession as much as a testimony. He described how his $20 weekly salary for working in the temple was his only means of making a living. His wife was dead and he didn’t want to depend on his children. One night the departed Lorenzo Snow Wright appeared to him and told him to help his daughter both physically and temporally. He told Adolph that on the day of his pay, he should stop by the McClellans. But he didn’t want to give up his money. His visionary interlocutor told him that he would be blessed four fold, so he did it.


  1. Cool story.

  2. Almost no detail of this story is anything you would expect to hear in a contemporary testimony. So why does it all still sound so familiar and so very like the testimonies I do hear?

  3. What sounded so familiar to me was the first testimony ‘prompting’ the second. I hear that all the time, either on the same general testimonial ‘topic’ or in direct response. i.e. Sr. A thanks family B for some great service they performed. So then Br. B feels like he has to get up and deflect too much direct praise to the Bishop or the Prophet for giving them the idea. You get the general picture.

    That is a seriously cool story though.

  4. Thanks, J. That’s remarkable.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Great story; thanks for sharing.

  6. Mark Brown says:

    It is so interesting to realize how much we used to associate physical healing with the temple.

  7. Wonderful, J. So much to consider.

  8. Beautiful, J.

  9. J, I’m looking forward to the article that you and Kristine wrote for the JMH. I’m assuming there is more in there about “temple healers” whom I’ve never really heard of or read about before. Which brings up another question. When did the practice of taking names to the temple for the prayer circle start? Did this come about as outside prayer circles were winding down, and was it intended to replace the the temple healers? Fascinating stuff.

  10. Kevinf, names for prayer circles were common in the nineteenth century; I don’t have a good handle on the early trajectory. The temple healers are documented in Nauvoo, though. It is clear that the prayer circle was viewed as especially efficacious for healing at that time as well.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing! I’m glad i finally got around to reading this. These stories of earlier church member’s experience with faith and miracles remind me to be a bit more faithful.

  12. Patricia Lahtinen says:

    Ardis (#2), this sounds familiar to me because of the testimonies I hear of miraculous, spirit-originated healings, and testimonies of others prompted to visit and serve others, and promptings to go to the temple. Heavenly Father is mindful of us.

    Thank you, Jonathan, for sharing this story with us. I was just at the temple yesterday, and this story resonates.

  13. Beautiful, I guess if you have never pleaded and pleaded for healing and been ignored. And then judged at church for your lack of faith. My child was born with a severe, lifelong disability. It involves daily nursing care. We knew about his condition at 19 weeks but choose to continue the pregnancy irregardless. There is nothing on this earth that can take away his pain and trials. I’ve tried healing and have come to the conclusion that there our healing blessings might make someone feel better, but that true miracles are very very very rare, if non exsistant. There are no prayers or visits to the temple that will give my son a working body and our family a sense of normalcy. The emotional, physical, and spirtiual support from the church has been minimal at best and maybe it is because we don’t have enough “faith”. My faith is in my childs doctors, not blessings. People only want to hear stories of miracles, not raise up and life those that are dealing with lifelong severe, incurable conditions. It is false and hurtful to listen to rs lessons where people talk about “miracles”.

  14. Steve Evans says:

    Belle, sorry for your pain.

  15. Patricia Lahtinen says:

    Belle (#13), I am also sorry for your pain. I don’t know why you’re not receiving the support you need right now.

  16. Belle, I realize that it is of no comfort, but know that every single great leader in the church, both male and female, have struggled with the same realization. Why miracles are sometimes available and at other times (most times) not is an historic question.

  17. Miracles are the result of the Great Parsimony. If few are given, then many expect. Most just hope.

    I have finally understood what fearing God means.

    But my presumption is that this life is but a brief moment even though it seems long and hard. In the end there will be joy, that God will bind up our wounds and sanctify our struggles and sorrows.

    But every so often a great miracle occurs which we must celebrate which holds out hope for even us. Some people win the lottery, should we not be happy for them?

  18. Eve Tassen says:

    Dear Belle,

    Let me add my own sympathetic words for your pain and suffering and suggestions for what to do. I’m sorry that you feel judged at church, but I hope that your own relationship with God can be strong enough to not worry about anyone else who judges you. We can both be confident that no one except God and you know how much faith you have, and it’s really no one else’s business anyhow.

    I think, however, that there are some things you could do to minimize confrontations with others. Some may feel that statements like “My faith is in my childs doctors, not blessings.” sound like you place your faith in the arm of flesh instead of in God. Of course, that’s a very uncharitable reading, but understandable as well. Restating your frustration as, “God hasn’t chosen to answer our petitions for healing at this time, and therefore we are actively seeking recourse through the medical advances which God has given humankind” would get the same point across without sounding as combative and angry.

    I also feel, that it may be helpful not to assume what people do or do not want to hear or assume that lessons on miracles are all false. There are certainly going to be some people who don’t want to hear your pain and your story, and there are certainly plenty of false things spoken about miracles, but listening to those who are faithful while waiting for a miracle is still faith-building.

    I know that there are miracles today. Not everyone gets the miracle they want and feel they deserve. And I do believe that one day, God will explain why. I think the key, is to not make understanding our pain a requirement for faithfulness and happiness in this life. May God bless you with peace as you struggle and may your neighbors find ways to help and support you.

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