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Newel Knight lived from September 13, 1800 to January 11, 1847. He met Joseph Smith in 1826 and remained close friends with him until Joseph’s death. He was directly involved in some of the early events in church history, so his autobiography and journals are valuable to historians. However, these have only been available in manuscript form, in several different versions, which have made them difficult to use. This book amalgamates them in a coherent form and provides a transcription that can be better understood and cited.

The book splits Knight’s writing into five parts, covering different chronological periods of his life. Each section has an introduction with a biographical summary. Editorial remarks are given in footnotes, and spelling and punctuation are generally retained, except in cases where the editors felt clarification was necessary (which to me seemed inconsistent, and in at least one case, possibly incorrect[1]).

There are many things included that are important, such as a letter from Joseph Smith that has not been published in the Joseph Smith Papers Project, Christ’s appearance in the Kirtland Temple[2], many accounts of healings, the aftermath of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and the exodus from Nauvoo. Despite his human imperfections, Knight comes to life as a role model worth emulating with his tremendous faith, even during discouragement, and always remembering to be grateful for the blessings that followed.

I found this particular episode of 1839 in Nauvoo to be very interesting, involving his wife Lydia:

One evening Lydia requested me to go to the Prophet & get a handkercheif from him, or ask him to send her a healing blessing. And, said she, I believe I shall be healed. She would have been glad to have sent for him to come & lay his hands upon her, but did not feel worthy to trouble him, as the multitude of business & Care he had over the Church she knew was more than he was abl to endure wit the sufferings of the Saints he daily. On this account I felt delicate a bout Calling on him. I went out & met Brother Hollman & talked with him. Returned to my wife & handed her my handkercheif. She tok it but was no better the next day her fever & pain was severe. Doctor Stobey Called on us I requested him to do some thing fo my wife, for her relief he gave her medicine which she took, he alls[o] gave medicine to our babe.

A bout the first of Sept a Small Cabin was vacated & I took my family into it. Lydia was Confined to her bed at the time. She continued to take the medicine but got no relief. For near two weeks her Strength failed, & she was rediced [reduced] so low she could not speak aloud. I went to her one evening after She had Suffered much through the day when she in a whisper [said] Newel I am verry low. If the Lord does not interfere in my behalf, I shall soon be worn out, for medicine does me no good & I am allmost gone. Her strength was now exhausted & she said no more.

I felt that I had not don wright in neglecting to go to the Prophet as she had requested, although I had not told her the handkercheif I gave her was not from him. I left her, went immediately to the Prophet, & requested him to send her his handkercheif with a word of consolation & a healing blessing. Go, said he, tell her the Lord shall bless her & her heavenly Father shall heal her. I hastened to my house & went the bed side of my Companion & told her all that I had done & the promise that Prophet sent to her. I laid the handkercheif upon her head & prayed th blessing to be sealed upon her. From her Calm appearance it was evident that ther was a Change in her feelings. She soon fell asleep & rested well during the night. in the morning She Said She had felt no pain during the night. At the moment I laid the handkercheif upon her head, the pain ceased & she did not feel as if there was any dissease a bout her at this time. Yet she was weak The next day the Dr. Came to see her he looked at her & examined her pulse & tongue & said he had never seen so great an alteration in a patient in his lif. Said he there is no disease about her let her be a little careful until she recovers her strength & she will get a long. It was but a few days until she was up attending to her sick babe & Cares a bout the house.[3]

Knight’s thoughts regarding service in the Nauvoo Temple:

1846. January 31. For the last two week my time has been altogether taken up in laboring in the Temple. It is expected that the time will be short in which the Saints can have the privilege of receiving their endowments, as our enemies are prowling about on every side, like ravening wolves, and in fact they have only been held at bay during the whole winter, by the prayers of the Saints; and as the brethren generally have been faithful in laboring to build the Temple, that the Lord might have a place prepared in which to give blessings, and endow the Saints with power from on high. President young says no time shall be lost, for as they have been faithful in building, so the servant of the Lord shall be faithful in waiting up on them.

We attend the Temple both day and night, and I can truly say it is better to be a waiter in the House of the Lord, than to enjoy all the glittering wealth this world can afford. My soul has been filled with the love of God. I feel his spirit burning within me day by day. The blessings I have received during this winter, have double repaid me for all I have done towards building this house. I think the brethren generally feel in their hearts to say, the Lord has not been slack concerning his promises for the power of God is manifested in withholding our enemies from us.[4]

The book ends abruptly in 1846. Knight died at the age of forty-six at Winter Quarters in 1847. The biographical information in the book does not say how, but it was apparently from pneumonia. I enjoyed and was inspired by reading about the relatively short life he lived. The book may have been intended primarily for historians, but anyone interested in church history and the individual lives involved would probably benefit from it.


[1] On page 184, footnote 22, “Phs Young” is identified as Phineas Young. However, based on the context (President Young is mentioned in the previous sentence and Phineas is not mentioned by name at all) and earlier identification throughout the book of “Phs Smith” as President Smith, I suspect this is incorrect.

[2] Knight says, “Brother Frederick G Williams bore testimony to the whol Congregation that that during the first prayer made by Phs Smith an Angel came & Sat betwen him and Father Smith. When Bro. Williams gave a discription of the Angel & his dress, Bro Joseph Said it was Christ. This was to me a Satisfaction to [know] that the Lord did come in to the house we had labored so diligently to build unto his mame & that he had accepted it of his Saints” (page 89). Footnote 24 on that page says, “JSP, D5:209n143 says it was Peter.” The JSP footnote says Edward Partridge also identifies the angel as Christ,  “possibly conflating Williams’s vision of an angel with the vision of Jesus Christ shared by JS and Oliver Cowdery a week later. Years later, Truman Angell recalled that JS identified this angel as the apostle Peter.” The editors of this book appear to disagree with the JSP editors here, as they state in the introduction to this section that “Newel’s account also records a detail about Christ’s visitation to the Kirtland Temple that is not in Joseph Smith’s history” (page 74).

[3] Pages 127-128.

[4] Page 163.


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