Philo Dibble was an early convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was a witness to some of the most stirring events.
Dibble was born on June 6, 1806, in Peru, Massachusetts. After his marriage to Celia Kent in 1829, they moved to the Kirtland, Ohio, area. In the fall of 1830, two neighbors asked him if he had heard about four missionaries who were preaching about a book called the Book of Mormon. The neighbors told him that one of the missionaries claimed to have seen an angel. Although the neighbors scoffed at the idea, Philo thought that if an angel had appeared, “he wanted to know about it.”. The four missionaries were Oliver Cowdery, Ziba Peterson, Peter Whitmer Jr., and Parley P. Pratt. When Philo attended a meeting where Cowdery taught about the restored gospel, Philo believed and was baptized by Pratt on October 16.
After his baptism he wrote the poem “The Happy Day at Last Has Come,” which is included in the Church’s 1985 Hymnbook (number 32).
Among the miraculous events that Dibble witnessed and recorded include the following:
- When Joseph came to Kirtland his fame spread far and wide. There was a woman living in the town of Hiram . . . who had a crooked arm, which she had not been able to use for a long period. She persuaded her husband, whose name was Johnson, to take her to Kirtland to get her arm healed.
- I saw them as they passed my house on their way. She went to Joseph and requested him to heal her. Joseph asked her if she believed the Lord was able to make him an instrument in healing her arm. She said she believed the Lord was able to heal her arm.
- Joseph put her off till the next morning, when he met her at Brother [Newel K.] Whitney’s house. There were eight persons present, one a Methodist preacher, and one a doctor. Joseph took her by the hand, prayed in silence a moment, pronounced her arm whole, in the name of Jesus Christ, and turned and left the room.
- The preacher asked her if her arm was whole, and she straightened it out and replied: “It is as good as the other.”
- The vision which is recorded in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants was given at the house of “Father Johnson,” in Hiram, Ohio, and during the time that Joseph and Sidney were in the spirit and saw the heavens open, there were other men in the room, perhaps twelve, among whom I was one during a part of the time—probably two-thirds of the time—I saw the glory and felt the power, but did not see the vision. . . . Joseph would, at intervals, say: “What do I see?” as one might say while looking out the window and beholding what all in the room could not see. Then he would relate what he had seen or what he was looking at. Then Sidney replied, “I see the same.” Presently, Sidney would say, “What do I see?” and would repeat what he had seen or was seeing, and Joseph would reply, “I see the same.”
- During the whole time not a word was spoken by any other person. Not a sound nor motion made by anyone but Joseph and Sidney, and it seemed to me that they never moved a joint or limb during the time I was there, which I think was over an hour, and to the end of the vision. Joseph sat firmly and calmly all the time in the midst of a magnificent glory, but Sidney sat limp and pale, apparently as limber as a rag, observing which, Joseph remarked, smilingly, “Sidney is not used to it as I am.”
Dibble moved his family to Missouri in 1832 where he homesteaded a twenty-acre farm on the Whitmer Settlement. While fighting a Missouri mob in the fall of 1833, he was shot in the stomach and the bullet lodged in his back. He wasn’t expected to live, but after a blessing from Newel Knight, he never felt anymore pain and the bullet, although felt under the skin of his back, was never removed.
In 1840, Dibble moved to Nauvoo, Illinois. His wife died the following year, leaving him with five children. He married Hannah Ann Smith in February 1841. He eventually had three more children. After the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, George Cannon cast death masks of the two and Dibble took care of them for over forty years.
Dibble and his family moved to Iowa in 1850 but were not able financially to leave Nauvoo for Utah until 1851. He settled in first in Bountiful, Utah. He directed a co-op store in Centerville, Utah, and traveled with a mural of scenes from Church history and relics from the lifetime of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Dibble moved his family to Springville, Utah, at the time that US president James Buchanan sent federal troops to Utah. He died there on June 7, 1895.
- “Philo Dibble’s Narrative,” in Early Scenes in Church History (Salt Lake City: Deseret News), 1882, 79
- Juvenile Instructor, May 1892, 303
- Juvenile Instructor, May 1892, 304