The Life of Dr. Frederick G. Williams: Counselor to the Prophet Joseph Smith

by BYU Studies, Frederick G. Williams

Frederick

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The Life of Dr. Frederick G. Williams: Counselor to the Prophet Joseph Smith is a thoroughly researched documentary history of Frederick G. Williams and his immediate family. This book provides an intimate look at many significant events in the Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, and pioneer Utah periods of Church history.

Frederick G. Williams was an important figure during the early days of the restoration of the gospel and the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served as a missionary on the original mission to the Lamanites, participated in Zion's Camp, was Second Counselor in the First Presidency for five years, and for twelve years was the principal doctor for the Saints in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, until his death in 1842.

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Excellently researched book that demonstrates the significant contributions and faith of this veteran in the gospel
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

Few are acquainted with Joseph Smith's second counselor in the fully organized original First Presidency. The few who have heard of him rarely know more than the Lord's admonition to put his house in order (along with the entire First Presidency) or that he was labeled an "apostate". This book ably fills a gap in the collective memory of the Latter-day Saints regarding a man who gave everything to the Restored Church and was a faithful friend to Joseph Smith. There are documentary treasures about Williams' contribution to the existence and dedication of the Kirtland Temple, including compelling evidence the temple was built on Williams' consecrated land and a very sacred spiritual experience. It contains a biographical sketch of Williams from Joseph (which he rarely gave) and the attendant prophecy regarding Williams. It shows a man who was soft spoken, particularly compared to his counterpart, Sydney Rigdon. The one fault Joseph identified in Williams was a lack of confidence in himself, which would account for his failure to defend himself in the face of accusation. One sees the curious dichotomy of Joseph wishing to drop Sydney for the "millstone" Joseph described him as becoming, but the saints voting him into the Presidency, and Joseph calling for a sustaining vote of Frederick, but the saints voting him out. In the record you find that only one branch of the Church voted Williams out of the First Presidency (in abstentia) despite the vocal support of the likes of Edward Partridge. One also sees the efforts of several, including Hyrum Smith to reconcile competing branches' votes and retain Williams. There is evidence of Williams' continued loyalty to the prophet and the Church in the midst of accusations. For example, Williams visits Joseph at Liberty Jail just days before Williams' excommunication (in abstentia) for "abandoning" the saints.

Conspicuously absent from the historical record is a public rebuke from Joseph Smith, which Joseph was not shy in giving where warranted. Also conspicuously absent is any public criticism of Joseph by Frederick. There is a friendship and love between the men that leads Joseph to name a son "Frederick Granger Williams Smith".

The documents unfold a picture of a man whose shortcomings, but dedication, place him more in line with a temporarily befuddled Parley P. Pratt than with the more hardened dissenters. Parley speaks of Frederick's faithfulness in the Church in which Frederick died a faithful member two years before Joseph's martyrdom.

There are many more gems regarding the practice of law (as a justice of the peace) and medicine (as the saints' primary doctor in Ohio, Missouri and Illinois). Williams' medical ledger is gem of its own as a 'whose who' of members of the church receiving treatment. Here you see that Joseph Smith and Frederick G. Williams signed the elder's license of one of the first African American saints, Elijah Abel. One finds that the firm F.G. Williams & Co. did not just print materials for the Church but other entities in the community near Kirtland. This book identifies the extant documents and puts them in context. In the interest of full disclosure, I do share a kinship with both the author his subject. So do not take my word for it. See the documentary history for yourself on this early Church Church leader B.H. Roberts calls a veteran in the faith. I highly recommend this well researched book.

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