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Was it luck that Dr. Smith (who saved Joseph Smith’s leg and potentially his life) was likely the only physician in the United States in 1813 who had the expertise to successfully deal with Joseph’s bone disease?

In 1813, Joseph Smith underwent a medical procedure on his leg after contracting typhoid. Vivian M. Adams summarizes:

When the 1812–13 typhoid epidemic swept through New England, the Joseph Smith Sr. family, then living in Lebanon, New Hampshire, was seriously affected. The disease, which took some 6,000 lives, struck each of their seven children. The fever left young Joseph with osteomyelitis, an infection of the bone in his left leg between the knee and ankle—a condition that threatened his life.1 According to the medical practice of the time, amputation was the only recourse. However, the faith and determination of Joseph’s parents, the skill of Dr. Nathan Smith, and the courage and faith of the boy Joseph combined to not only save his leg but also preserve his physical ability to fulfill his appointed mission. 

Vivian M. Adams – Joseph Smith’s Boyhood Surgery

While this story may not seem unique, Michael R. Ash explains one important fact:

According to the research of Dr. LeRoy Wirthlin, a Dr. Nathan Smith (no relation to Joseph) was the surgeon who performed Joseph’s operation. Dr. Smith was the only physician in the United States in 1813 who had the expertise to successfully deal with osteomyelitis, a disorder that causes long segments of the bony shaft to die and then become encased by new bone growing over the dead layer. If Joseph Smith had lived anywhere else or perhaps a few decades earlier or later, he would have lost his leg and possibly his life.

Michael R. Ash – Faith and Reason 4: A Miracle Operation

What were the odds that Joseph Smith was able to get the medication attention from the only person in America who could help him?


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