No Weapon That Is Formed Against You Shall Prosper

Insight to Come Follow Me - D&C 71-75


Fallen Tree


The accident broke his sternum and three ribs, and also caused severe internal injuries. It was only one of more than two dozen incidents that threatened his life. A list of these incidents follows, humbling indeed to know what an apostle endured.

A prominent participant in many defining events of early Church history, Wilford became familiar with clouds of adversity that eventually led to blessings for the faithful. He tasted the bitterness of persecution and suffering, but through it all he also partook of the sweetness of being led by the hand of God. And as he saw the Restoration of the gospel unfold, he gained a clear understanding of God’s work.1

Looking back on his childhood and youth, Wilford Woodruff acknowledged the hand of the Lord in preserving his life many times. In an article titled “Chapter of Accidents,” (outline at end of this article) he described some of the accidents he had suffered, marveling that he had lived to tell about them. 

In one example, Wilford told of an adventure he had on the family farm: “When six years of age, I came near being killed by a surly bull. My father and I were feeding pumpkins to the cattle, [and] a surly bull drove my cow away from the one she was eating. I took the pumpkin he had left, upon which he pitched at me. My father told me to throw down the pumpkin and run. I ran down a steep hill, and took the pumpkin with me, being determined that the cow should have her rights. The bull pursued. As he was about to overtake me, I stepped into a post hole and fell; the bull leaped over me, after the pumpkin, and tore it to pieces with his horns, and would have served me in the same way, had I not fallen.”2

Wilford also told of an accident he had when he was 17 years old: “I was riding a very ill-tempered horse that I was not acquainted with; and while going down a very steep rocky hill, the horse taking advantage of the ground, suddenly leaped from the road, and ran down the steep, amid the rocks, at full speed, and commenced kicking up, and attempted to throw me over his head upon the rocks; but I lodged upon the top of his head, grasped hold of each ear as with a death grip, expecting every moment to be dashed to pieces against the rocks. 

While in this position, sitting astride of his neck, with no bridle to guide him but his ears, he plunged down the hill under full speed, until he ran against a rock, and was dashed to the ground. I went over both his head and the rocks, about one rod [about five meters or five and one-half yards], and struck the ground square on my feet, being the only thing visible that saved my life; for, had I struck upon any other part of my body, it must have killed me instantly; as it was, my bones crushed from under me as though they were reeds. 

It broke my left leg in two places, and put out both my ankles in a shocking manner, and the horse came near rolling over me in his struggles to get up. My uncle, Titus Woodruff, saw me fall, got assistance, and carried me to his house. I lay from 2 p.m. till 10, without medical aid; then my father arrived, bringing Dr. Swift, of Farmington, with him, who set my bones, boxed up my limbs, and carried me in his carriage eight miles that night to my father’s. My sufferings were very great. I had good attention, however, and in eight weeks I was out-doors upon my crutches.”3

Wilford Woodruff’s life continued to be preserved, despite frequent accidents even in his adulthood. At the age of 41, he gave a summary of the mishaps he had experienced, expressing gratitude for the preserving hand of the Lord:

“I have broken both legs—one in two places—both arms, my breast bone and three ribs, and had both ankles dislocated. I have been drowned, frozen, scalded and bit by a mad dog—have been in two water wheels under full head of water—have passed through several severe fits of sickness, and encountered poison in its worst forms—have landed in a pile of railroad ruins—have barely been missed by the passing bullets, and have passed through a score of other hair-breadth escapes.

“It has appeared miraculous to me, that with all the injuries and broken bones which I have had, I have not a lame limb, but have been enabled to endure the hardest labor, exposures and journeys—have often walked forty, fifty, and on one occasion, sixty miles in a day. The protection and mercy of God has been over me, and my life thus far has been preserved; for which blessings I feel to render the gratitude of my heart to my Heavenly Father, praying that the remainder of my days may be spent in His service and in the building up of His kingdom.”4

Wilford’s Serious Accidents and Incidents5

1810 - fell into a cauldron of boiling water; took 9 months before his life was considered out of danger  

1812 - fell from the great beam of the family barn, landing face first on the floor  

1812 - broke his arm when he fell down the stairs when playing at home

1812 - broke his other arm falling off uncle’s porch

1813 - escaped being gored by a bull that wanted the pumpkin he took from it to give to his cow

1814 - broke his leg in a sawmill accident; leg got caught between headlock and fender post

1814 - kicked in the abdomen by an ox

1814 - saved from suffocation after wagonload of hay he stacked incorrectly overturned on top of him

1815 - uninjured when a horse bolted down a hill and flipped the wagon he was riding in

1816 - fell 15’ from a tree, landed flat on his back, knocked unconscious; cousin thought he was dead so he ran home to tell his parents. Wilford recovered and met his family on their way to retrieve his body.

1819 - rescued after drowning in 30 feet of water and “suffered much in being restored to life” 

1820 - almost froze to death in a blizzard; saved by passerby who saw him crawl into a hollow tree in a daze

1821 - split open his foot with an ax “nearly clear through,” crippling him for nine months

1822 - bitten by a rabid dog but the bite did not break through his skin 

1823 - thrown 16’ over runaway horse’s head; landed on both feet broke left leg in 2 places; dislocated both ankles 

1827 - almost crushed by saw mill when helping to de-ice the wheels

1831 - almost crushed when helping to de-ice the wheel of sawmill

1831 - suffered a severe bout of pneumonia

1833 - dragged headfirst between a team of horses for more than 300 feet with his sleigh on top of him
1834 - a rifle accidentally discharged and the ball passed within a few inches of his body 

1834 - a heavily-loaded musket pointed at his chest was accidentally discharged, but misfired.  

1835 - preserved from a mob of about 50 people, a black bear and a large pack of wolves

1835 - rescued by divine intervention after wandering for 5 hours in a tremendous storm

1837 - left unhurt when a tornado removed the building he was standing in

1839 - thrown from the axle tree of a wagon, head and shoulder were dragged on the ground for ½ mile

1839 - contracted malaria but left for England to serve his mission with members of Quorum of 12

1841 - survived shipwreck on Lake Michigan

1842 - bedridden for 40 days with bilious fever and struggled between life and death

1843 - survived train crash; passenger cars smashed, baggage cars caught fire, engineer killed

1844 - had to help ship captain extinguish fire on board the ship he was traveling on

1845 - inspired to disembark one steamer and take passage on another (the first later sank)

1846 - hit in the head by mob throwing rocks at him while baptizing; later baptized some of mob

1846 - crushed by falling tree; broke breast bone and three ribs, caused severe internal injuries

1848 - survived shipwreck on Lake Michigan

1848 - inspired to move carriage & family from spot near tree; 30 minutes later whirlwind uprooted tree

1856 - poisoned by infected animal; lost senses and restored to health by priesthood blessing 

1859 - severe lung fever “nearly blew out the lamp of life” “spirit fluttering between life and death” 

1872 - inspired not to take Saints on steamboat; it later caught fire and passengers burned or drowned

1873 - mild stroke “it seemed to be paralysis and death”

1879 - severe bout of bilious colic; attacks took his breath away didn’t think he’d live through one more

1886 - mild heart attack or stroke; couldn’t see or speak for about 30 minutes; blessing restored him 

1893 - severest bout of bilious colic “lay at the point of death;” prayers of Saints saved him

3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Mackley, Jennifer Ann, Wilford Woodruff’s Witness: The Development of Temple Doctrine, 396-7, High Desert Publishing, 2014.