Mary Elsa (Alice) Jacobs Johnson

Mary Elsa Alice Jacobs Johnson.jpg

Question: What was one of the first miracles performed by the Prophet Joseph on Sister Mary Elsa (Alice) Jacobs Johnson?

Answer: Mary Elsa Jacobs was born 17 April 1781 in Dighton, Bristol, Massachusetts, to Joseph Jacobs and Hannah Beal. She married John Johnson in February 1800 in Cheshire, New Hampshire. In 1818, John and Elsa (sometimes went by Alice) Johnson moved to Hiram, Ohio, about 31 miles southeast of Kirtland. The family lived in several log cabins while they built a home directly across the road. The Johnsons had 15 children (one set of twins).

After Sidney Rigdon baptized John and Elsa's 19-year-old son, Lyman, in February 1831, the couple read the Book of Mormon and believed in its teachings. Elsa, who had suffered from chronic rheumatism in her arm for years, asked John to take her to Kirtland so the Prophet Joseph Smith could heal her. They journeyed to Kirtland where the Prophet Joseph blessed her, and she was completely healed.

By May, most members of the Johnson family were baptized. Later that year, the Prophet, seeking a peaceful, secluded place in which to continue his work of translating the Bible, accepted an invitation from the Johnsons to live in their home. Joseph and Emma arrived on 12 September 1831 with their four-month-old adopted twins, Joseph and Julia. Converts Sidney and Phebe Rigdon settled with their six young children across the road in a log cabin. The Johnson home served as a haven in which the Prophet could live and work in peace. By 1831 Alice was fifty years old and had born fifteen children. Some had died as children and some were now married. She still had children at home to care for but was glad to have Joseph and Emma in her home.

Johnson Farm, Hiriam, Ohio

Johnson Farm, Hiriam, Ohio

Joseph and Emma Smith were living with the John Johnson family in Hiram, Ohio, when a mob of apostates and anti-Mormons dragged the Prophet from his bed and tarred and feathered him. In a desperate attempt to save the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon, Brother Johnson rushed out into the field where the mobbers were. When he knocked down one man with a club, part of the mob turned its fury on him. Running back to his house, he was mistaken for a mobster by Brother John Poorman, who struck him on the left shoulder, breaking his collar bone. Later, he was healed immediately when administered to by David Whitmer. (See History of the Church, 1:263–64.)

From this home in November 1831, two of John and Elsa’s sons, Luke and Lyman Johnson, were called to fulfill missions. This occupied much of their time for the next six years. On one of these first missions, Luke accompanied Sidney Rigdon to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, where Luke baptized, among many other people, Sidney Rigdon’s mother. Lyman, serving with Orson Pratt in New England, baptized Amasa Lyman, later a member of the Quorum of the Twelve.

With the assistance of Sidney Rigdon, Joseph labored diligently on the translation of the Bible. In the fall of 1831, a series of historic conferences were held in the Johnson home, and seven sections of the Doctrine and Covenants were received at this time. In all, 17 sections of the Doctrine and Covenants were received in Hiram. At their home the prophet Joseph received the great vision of the three degrees of glory (D&C 76).

Johnson Home, Kirtland, Ohio

Johnson Home, Kirtland, Ohio

On 12 September 1832, exactly one year from the day they first arrived, the Smiths moved back to Kirtland. Antagonists continued to menace the Johnsons after 1832, but Father Johnson and son Luke kept working the land. In December 1833, the Lord commanded that "all the churches gather together all their monies" to help purchase land in Missouri (see D&C 101:72-73). Father Johnson sold most of his 160 acres the following spring and donated the $3,000 to the Church. Once again the John and Elsa had willingly laid all they had at the feet of the Lord.

In 1834 Joseph Smith organized Zion’s Camp, and Luke departed from Kirtland with a group. In a few days, Lyman and others joined them, and the two brothers marched, learned, and grew under the tutelage of the Prophet Joseph. They learned their lessons well and proved themselves worthy to be called, in February 1835, to be two of the original members of the Quorum of the Twelve. Orson Hyde, who later that year married Marinda Johnson, Elsa’ daughter, and sister of Luke and Lyman, was also selected a member of the original Twelve. Lyman had the privilege of being the first apostle to be ordained and set apart as member of that quorum in this dispensation. (See History of the Church, 2:187–88.)

Johnson Inn, Kirtland, Ohio

Johnson Inn, Kirtland, Ohio

The family moved to Kirtland and took over the operation of an inn near the Newell K. Whitney store. Despite the significant impact the Johnson family had on the early Church, some family members became caught up in the financial speculation and apostasy that took hold in Kirtland in 1837-38. Father Johnson and his sons Luke and Lyman were among those who left the Church. Luke was rebaptized in 1846 in Nauvoo and traveled to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 with the first company of Saints. Although never reinstated as an Apostle, he served faithfully as a bishop. Lyman could not bring himself to accept the misjudgment he had suffered at Far West, so never was rebaptized.

Elsa’s oldest daughter, Alice Johnson Olney died in 1841 in Nauvoo, after bearing eleven children. Her daughter, Marinda Johnson Hyde, made it to Utah and died in Salt Lake in 1886. Marinda’s husband, Orson Hyde, briefly left the Church during the troubles in Missouri, but repented and was restored to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on 27 June 1839.

John Johnson

John Johnson

Elsa’s husband, John, died on 30 July 1843 in Kirtland. He was buried in the Temple Cemetery at Kirtland, Ohio. Elsa outlived her husband by twenty-seven years. In 1870 Elsa was living with her son John Jr. and his wife Eliza in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Mary Elsa Alice Jacobs Johnson gravestone.jpg

She died at Council Bluffs, Iowa, on July 19, 1870 at the age of eight-nine, after giving her all to her family. She is buried in the Walnut Hill Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Only five of her fifteen children outlived her, and only two made it to the Salt Lake valley.

Source: Parts from the article, "Remembering Hiram, Ohio" by Mark L. Staker, Ensign, October 2002, pp. 32-39; “A House Divided: The John Johnson Family” By Keith Perkins; findagrave.com.

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