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					Young Joseph also loved sports and the great outdoors. He found time to excel at several games and
amusements. In America‘s frontier communities, tests of skill and strength, such as wrestling, footracing,
jumping, and stick-pulling, were popular among the young men, and Joseph was good at all of these.

Stick-pulling is a game in which the two contestants sit with their feet together and their hands grasping a
stick suspended between them. The one who is able to pull the other up by pulling on the stick is the
champion. Being large in stature as well as skillfully coordinated, Joseph seldom lost in this or in
wrestling. He also liked fishing, especially in Durfee‘s Millpond near Palmyra; and he was fond of
hunting. Even as an adult he spent many hours in the woods with his dog and gun. Don Oscarson, ―Stick-
Pulling: Newly Revived Game of the 1840s,‖ New Era, Dec 1971, 44–45

In the summer of 1843, the champion stick-puller of Hancock County, Illinois, was Joseph Smith, Jr., our
latter-day Prophet. On June 30 of that year, Joseph met with several thousand citizens of Nauvoo at a
large outdoor gathering to tell them of his recent escape from those who were trying to return him to
Missouri to face false charges. During his opening remarks, the Prophet described how he passed the time
while held captive. He was feeling elated. He had beaten his enemies both legally and physically. He said,
―I meet you with a heart full of gratitude to Almighty God … I am well—I am hearty. I hardly know how
to express my feelings. I feel as strong as a giant. I pulled sticks with the men coming along, and I pulled
up with one hand the strongest man that could be found. Then two men tried, but they could not pull me
up. …‖ (Documentary History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 466.) Joseph Smith, a little over six feet tall and
weighing about 200 pounds, was thirty-eight years old at the time.

Alexander L. Baugh was director of the LDS Institute of Religion adjacent to the University of South
Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina, when this was published.

It is also significant that the Prophet Joseph was not above playing with the boys in the activities and
games they enjoyed most. The younger generation usually preferred some type of ball game involving an
entire group rather than the personal one-on-one contests which suited the older men. For example, on one
occasion several youngsters were playing a game in which two teams of children were situated on the
opposite sides of a house. The object of the game was to throw the ball over the roof to the team on the
other side of the house, and the team catching the ball would try to get to the other side of the dwelling
without being caught by someone on the opposing squad. It happened that these children were playing
with a wooded, rather than a rubber ball, and the proprietor, concerned that the wooden ball would
damage his roof, told the children they must leave. The Prophet came by at this time, and learning of the
plight of these children thought up a new type of game they could all participate in. he first took the
children over to a carpenter‘s shop and had the proprietor make each of them a small wooden ball on his
lathe, while he fashioned paddles for each child out of some extra scraps of wood. He then showed the
youngsters how to strike the ball with the paddle. Then he taught them the object of the game. They were
to hit the ball with their paddles, run to it and hit it again until they had knocked it into a distant goal.

A similar incident happened a few days later. Eighteen year-old Edward Stevenson remembered the
weather got colder and the LDS troops were camping neat Adam-ondi-Ahman without tents and were
trying to keep warm around campfires. One evening several inches snow fell which caused the company
to become despondent again. ―The Prophet seeing our forlorn condition called on us to form into two
parties in Battle array,‖ wrote Stevenson, ―Lyman Wight at the head of the line and he [Joseph the
Prophet] heading the other line and have a sham battle [and] the weapons to be used were snow balls,‖
Stevenson wrote. ―And we set with a will full of glee and fun‖ (79).

Joseph Smith clearly advocated athletic and recreational activity because he recognized that physical
activity benefited the mind and spirit as well as the body. During his adult life, particularly after the
organization of the Church in 1830, the Prophet‘s lifestyle necessarily shifted from that of an independent
farmer to businessman and Church administrator. This subsequently resulted in his naturally experiencing
less physical activity than he had been used to in his younger years. To make up for this, Joseph took
breaks that frequently included some sort of exercise. As a youngster, John Hess occasionally played with
the Smith children and he recalled when the Prophet ―got tired of studying he would go play with the
children in their games about the house, to give himself exercise. Then he would go back to his studies as
before‖ (―Recollections‖ 302). More than likely this was much the same scenario for the entry in the
Prophet‘s history under the date of 8 February 1843, which reported, ―At four in the afternoon, I went out
with my little Fredrick, to exercise myself by sliding on the ice‖ (HC 5:265). As a boy, Enoch E Dodge
remembered the Prophet occasionally joined them in a ball game of some sort. ―He has played ball with
other boys many times,‖ he recalled, ―and when they had played a reasonable amount of time he would
say: ‗Well I must go to my work.‘ He would go and all the boys would stop paying ball and go home as
he did‖ ―Joseph Smith, The Prophet‖ 17:544).

One winter night a group of men got drunk and attacked the homes of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in
Hiram, Ohio. Joseph had been up late caring for his adopted son, who had the measles, and had just fallen
asleep when the angry mob broke into the house. The men dragged Joseph outside, swearing and
threatening to kill him. They choked him, tore off his clothes, and tried to push a paddle of hot tar and a
bottle of acid into his mouth. The bottle of acid broke, chipping one of Joseph‘s teeth and causing him to
speak with a whistle for the rest of his life. The men in the mob also dragged Sidney Rigdon from his
home. When Joseph saw Sidney lying on the ground, he thought Sidney was dead. The mob decided not
to kill Joseph, but they scratched him severely, spread hot tar all over his body, and covered him with

When Joseph finally got home, Emma saw him and fainted, because she thought the tar covering Joseph
was blood. Joseph‘s friends helped him clean off the tar, a long and painful process. Sidney Rigdon had
been knocked unconscious from the severe cuts and bruises to his head, and he was delirious for several
days. Following this terrible experience, the baby that Joseph had been caring for that night caught a
severe cold and died.

The next day was Sunday, and Joseph went at the usual time to worship with the Saints. The group of
people he preached to included some members of the mob who had covered him with tar and feathers the
night before. Even with his skin scraped and sore, Joseph preached as usual and never mentioned the
violence of the night before.

In the summer of 1838, when Joseph Smith and his family were living in Far West, Missouri, a false story
was spread that Joseph had killed seven men and was going to organize a group to kill everyone who was
not a member of the Church. A large group of armed men led by eight officers came looking for Joseph at
the house of his parents, where he was visiting. The officers told Lucy Smith, Joseph‘s mother, that they
had come to kill Joseph Smith and all the other members of the Church. Lucy responded calmly and
introduced Joseph to the men. Joseph shook hands with the men in a friendly manner while they stared in
disbelief. After all the stories they had heard, it was hard for them to believe this kind and sincere man
was Joseph Smith.

The Prophet talked with the men for a long time, explaining the views of the Church and the persecution
the members had received. He told the men that if any of the members of the Church had broken the law,
they ought to be tried by the law in a courtroom, before anyone else was hurt. Then Joseph prepared to
leave, explaining to his mother that he needed to get home as Emma was expecting him. Two of the
officers jumped to their feet and insisted that they accompany him home, as it was not safe for him to
travel alone. The armed men no longer had a desire to harm Joseph, and they returned to their homes with
a great respect for him. (See Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley [Salt Lake
City: Bookcraft, 1958], pp. 254–56.)

David Whitmer recounted: ―One morning when Joseph Smith was getting ready to continue translation,
something went wrong about the house and he was put out about it. Something that Emma, his wife, had
done. Oliver and I went up stairs, and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation, but he could
not do anything. He could not translate a single syllable. He went down stairs, out into the orchard and
made supplication to the Lord; was gone about an hour—came back to the house, asked Emma‘s
forgiveness and then came up stairs where we were and the translation went on all right. He could do
nothing save he was humble and faithful.

Mosiah L. Hancock reported the following experience that occurred in Nauvoo while he was a youth:
―This summer (1841) I played my first game of ball with the Prophet. We took turns knocking and
chasing the ball, and when the game was over the Prophet said, ‗Brethren, hitch up your teams,‘ which we
did, and we all drove to the woods. I drove our one-horse wagon standing on the front bolster, and
Brother Joseph and father rode on the hounds behind (the bolster and hounds are structural parts of a
wagon). There were 39 teams in the group and we gathered wood until our wagons were loaded. When
our wagon was loaded, Brother Joseph offered to pull sticks with anyone—and he pulled them all up one
a time—with anyone who wanted to compete with him.

―Afterwards, the Prophet sent the wagons out to different places of people who needed help; and he told
them to cut the wood for the Saints who needed it. Everybody loved to do as the Prophet said, and even
though we were all sickly, an death was all around us, folks smiled and tried to cheer everyone up.‖

Aroet L. Hale recalled: ―The Prophet…frequently used to come out of the Mansion (House) and play ball
with us boys, his son Joseph being near my age. The Prophet Joseph would always conform to the rules.
He would catch till it came his turn to take the club, then, being a stout (strong) man, would knock the
ball so far that we used to holler to the boy that was going for the ball to take his dinner. This used to
make the Prophet laugh. Joseph was always good natured and full of fun.‖

Margarette McIntire Burgess recalled another experience with the Prophet in Nauvoo: ―My older brother
and I were going to school, near to the building which was known as Joseph‘s brick store. It had been
raining the previous day, causing the ground to be very muddy, especially long that street. My brother
Wallace and I both got fast in the mud (stuck), and could not get out, and of course, child-like, we began
to cry, for we thought we would have to stay there. But looking up, I beheld the loving friend of children,
the Prophet Joseph, coming to us. He soon had us on higher and drier ground. Then he stooped down
and cleaned the mud from our little, heavy-laden shoes, took his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped
our tear-stained faces. He spoke kind and cheering words to us, and sent us on our way to school
rejoicing. Was it any wonder that I loved that great, good and noble man of God?

On April 1, 1832, the Prophet left home for his second journey to Missouri, only a week after he had been
tarred and feather by a mob and just two days after his adopted son had died. Surely his heart would have
been heavy with sadness and concern for his wife, Emma, and for his only living child, Julia. While he
was returning home the following month, anxious to rejoin his family, he was detained for several weeks
in Greenville, Indiana. Bishop Newel K. Whitney, one of the Prophet‘s traveling companions, had
severely injured his leg in a stagecoach accident and needed to convalesce before he could travel. During
this time, the Prophet was poisoned in some manner, causing him to vomit so violently that he dislocated
his jaw. He made his way to Bishop Whitney, who, though still bedridden, gave Joseph a priesthood
blessing. The Prophet was immediately healed.

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