My friends marveled at my course, as did I, but something within impelled me on. My mother’s grief at my leaving home was almost more than I could bear; and had it not been for the spirit within I should have faltered at the last. My mother told me she would rather see me buried than going thus alone out into the heartless world. “Phoebe,” she said, impressively, “will you come back to me if you find Mormonism false?” I answered, “yes, mother; I will, thrice.” These were my words, and she knew I would keep my promise. My answer relieved her trouble; but it cost us all much sorrow to part. When the time came for my departure I dared not trust myself to say farewell; so I wrote my good-byes to each, and leaving them on my table, ran downstairs and jumped into the carriage. Thus I left the beloved home of my childhood to link my life with the saints of God.
When I arrived in Kirtland I became acquainted with the Prophet, Joseph Smith, and received more evidence of his divine mission. There in Kirtland I formed the acquaintance of Elder Wilford Woodruff, to whom I was married in 1836. With him I went to the “islands of the sea,” and to England, on missions.
When the principle of polygamy was first taught I thought it the most wicked thing I ever heard of; consequently I opposed it to the best of my ability, until I became sick and wretched. As soon, however, as I became convinced that it originated as a revelation from God through Joseph, and knowing him to be a prophet, I wrestled with my Heavenly Father in fervent prayer, to be guided aright at that all-important moment of my life. The answer came. Peace was given to my mind. I knew it was the will of God; and from that time to the present I have sought to faithfully honor the patriarchal law.
Of Joseph, my testimony is that he was one of the greatest prophets the Lord ever called; that he lived for the redemption of mankind, and died a martyr for the truth. The love of the Saints for him will never die.
It was after the martyrdom of Joseph that I accompanied my husband to England, in 1845. On our return the advance companies of the Saints had just left Nauvoo under President Young and others of the twelve. We followed immediately and journeyed to Winter Quarters.
The next year Wilford went with the pioneers to the mountains, while the care of the family devolved on me. After his return, and the reorganization of the First Presidency, I accompanied my husband on his mission to the Eastern States. In 1850 we arrived in the valley, and since that time Salt Lake City has been my home.
Of my husband I can truly say, I have found him a worthy man, with scarcely his equal on earth. He has built up a branch wherever he has labored. He has been faithful to God and his family every day of his life. My respect for him has increased with our years, and my desire for an eternal union with him will be the last wish of my mortal life. . . . [Selections from a talk delivered in January 1870] Ladies of Utah: As I have been called upon to express my views upon the important subject which has called us together, I will say that I am happy to be one of your number in this association. I am proud that I am a citizen of Utah, and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have been a member of this church for thirty-six years, and had the privilege of living in the days of the Prophet Joseph, and heard his teaching for many years. He ever counseled us to honor, obey and maintain the principles of our noble constitution, for which our fathers fought, and which many of them sacrificed their lives to establish. President Brigham Young has always taught the same principle. This glorious legacy of our fathers, the constitution of the United States, guarantees unto all the citizens of this great republic the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences, as it expressly says, “Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Cullom’s bill is in direct violation of this declaration of the constitution, and I think it is our duty to do all in our power by our voices and influence, to thwart the passage of this bill, which commits a violent outrage upon our rights, and the rights of our fathers, husbands and sons; and whatever may be the final result of the action of congress in passing or enforcing oppressive laws, for the sake of our religion, upon the noble men who have subdued these deserts, it is our duty to stand by them and support them by our faith, prayers and works, through every dark hour, unto the end, and trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to defend us and all who are called to suffer for keeping the commandments of God. Shall we, as wives and mothers, sit still and see our husbands and sons, whom we know are obeying the highest behest of heaven, suffer for their religion, without exerting ourselves to the extent of our power for their deliverance? No; verily no! God has revealed unto us the law of the patriarchal order of marriage, and commanded us to obey it. We are sealed to our husbands for time and eternity, that we may dwell with them and our children in the world to come; which guarantees unto us the greatest blessing for which we are created. If the rulers of the nation will so far depart from the spirit and letter of our glorious constitution as to eprive our prophets, apostles and elders of citizenship, and imprison them for obeying this law, let them grant this, our last request, to make their prisons large enough to hold their wives, for where they go we will go also.