Question: Frederick G. Williams is mentioned in D&C Sections 64, 81, 90, 93, 102, and 104. Did Frederick and his wife peel tar from the Prophet Joseph’s bleeding and torn body in March 1832? Did the Prophet Joseph name his newborn son after this man?
Answer: Frederick G. Williams was born 28 October 1787 in Hartford County, Connecticut.
After almost losing his life during his early youth by falling through the ice on Lake Erie, Frederick became interested in the medical field. After studying medical books, Frederick proclaimed himself a doctor. After the War of 1812, Frederick became a boat pilot. One passenger aboard his vessel, Rebecca Swain, caught his attention, and they would later marry.
By 1810 the young couple were residing in Warrensville, Ohio, where Frederick practiced medicine. Learning of encouraging economic opportunities in Kirtland, he and Rebecca located there on a 144-acre farm. Frederick was serving as a justice of the peace in Kirtland when he met the missionaries from the Church. Rebecca readily received their message of the gospel and the Book of Mormon. Frederick took more time but was baptized in October 1830.
As the Church quickly became central to Frederick and Rebecca’s lives, the impact on their family was immediate. Frederick was ordained an elder right after his baptism and confirmation. The very next day, he enthusiastically accepted an assignment to leave within a few weeks to serve a mission with Oliver Cowdery, and he was gone for ten months.
The Prophet Joseph Smith and his family lodged in the Williams’ home for a time when the Smiths first moved to Kirtland. In March 1832 the Lord called Frederick to be a counselor to the Prophet Joseph.
In March of 1832, Frederick and Rebecca provided invaluable aid to the Prophet when a mob burst into the John Johnson farm in Hiram, Ohio, and brutally assaulted Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. After beating Sidney senseless and attempting to pour poison down Joseph’s throat, the mob tarred and feathered the Prophet Joseph. Rebecca and Frederick spent that night peeling tar from Joseph’s bleeding and torn body and caring for the Smith children.
In May 1834 Frederick deeded his farm to the Prophet and joined Zion’s Camp. Upon returning to Kirtland, he continued to faithfully demonstrate his love of the gospel and the latter-day work. He was privileged to witness an angel enter the Kirtland Temple on the day of dedication. He testified that the angel sat “between father Smith and himself, and remained there during the prayer.”
In 1836, the love of the Prophet for his counselor is best illustrated by Joseph naming his newborn son “Frederick Granger Williams Smith.” Joseph said of him, “ Brother Frederick G. Williams is one of those men in whom I place the greatest confidence and trust, for I have found him ever full of love and brotherly kindness.”
By 1838 Frederick had joined the Saints in Missouri, but was left destitute and in a state of poverty. His nineteen-year-old son, Joseph Williams, died at Far West. Frederick continued to stay firm, always wanting to stay true despite the charges against him. During the last few years of his life, he was a frequent visitor to the Prophet’s home.
Frederick died in October 1842 in Quincy from a lung hemorrhage at the age of fifty-four. His only two daughters died in Quincy in 1847. It is believed he is buried in Madison Park in Quincy, Illinois, but a headstone was placed in the Woodland Cemetery in Quincy to honor his memory.
In the History of the Church is recorded a blessing given to Frederick G. Williams by the Prophet Joseph Smith. It reads: “Brother Frederick G. Williams is one of those men in whom I place the greatest confidence and trust, for I have found him ever full of love and brotherly kindness. He is not a man of many words, but is ever winning, because of his constant mind. He shall ever have place in my heart, and is ever entitled to my confidence. He is perfectly honest and upright, and seeks with all his heart to magnify his Presidency in the Church of Christ, but fails in many instances, in consequence of a want of confidence in himself. God grant that he may overcome all evil. Blessed be Brother Frederick, for he shall never want a friend, and his generation after him shall flourish. The Lord hath appointed him an inheritance upon the land of Zion: yea, and his head shall blossom, and he shall be as an olive branch that is bowed down with fruit. Even so. Amen.”
When the Saints trekked west to Utah, Rebecca traveled with her only remaining child, Ezra, and his family. And finally in 1860, when President Brigham Young called upon her family to settle in remote Cache Valley, Utah, she relocated once more. Rebecca died in Smithfield, Utah, on September 25, 1861.
Source: Who's Who in the Doctrine & Covenants by Susan Easton Black; “Rebecca Swain Williams: Steadfast and Immovable,” April 2011 Ensign by Janiece Lyn Johnson; FamilySearch.org