From the Papers: Reports of healing

January 18, 2022

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Studio portrait of Mary Baker Eddy, c. 1884. P00250. W. Shaw Warren. Photograph of Jennie Fenn,
P00662. Church of Christ (Scientist), Resolutions, 1 December 1884, L09675.

On December 1, 1884, the Church of Christ (Scientist) adopted several resolutions, outlining the healing mission of the church and the role each of its members played:

… while realizing the rapid growth and welcoming the fact of the spreading world-wide, of this great truth, that mind, Truth, Life and Love, God, as taught and explained by our Pastor, does heal the sick, and when understood does bring out the perfection of all things: we also realize that we must use more energy and unselfish labors to establish these our Master’s commands and our Pastor’s teachings: — namely heal the sick, preach the gospel and bear our testimony for Truth.1

The Mary Baker Eddy Papers team has researched correspondence from the year leading up to and immediately following these resolutions, revealing why they were adopted and focused on the Church’s healing mission. Students of Mary Baker Eddy, and others who were applying her teachings, wrote to her reporting the healings they and their patients had experienced. These weren’t merely positive stories—they showed Eddy that her teachings were being understood and demonstrated. This was especially important, because she had recently started preparing others to teach Christian Science; she was no longer its only messenger.2 As Christian Science spread beyond her, across the United States and through other people, it was critical for her to know that its healing mission was succeeding.

For example, Samuel H. Howes, Jr. wrote to Eddy on January 31, 1884, testifying to a healing he had experienced as a patient of her student Janet T. Colman:

I have the honor and pleasure to announce to the public. that I have been a great sufferer for twenty years from what was called by all Physicians a Malarial Poisoning leading to chronic Diarhea and disseas of heart. I have tried many Physicians and remidies but recieved no lasting benefit from any of them, had come to the conclusion that I must remain sick the remainder of life. by a mear chance heard of Christian Science and of Mrs- Janet. T. Colman one of your Students and Scientist. and come under her treatment for Eight weeks in which time she cured me. I can truly say that I feel perfectly well, and can eat anything without any bad result which I could not do before her treatment. Christian Science has done all this for me and more too. I owe my life to God and, C. S.[.]3

In January 1885 Mary L. Connable wrote to Eddy about the success of Christian Scientists in Petoskey, Michigan. “Chronic cases yield to repeated treatments, acute attacks are checked at once…,” she reported. Connable said a group had studied Science and Health together and wanted to know what to do next:

How can we form a branch organization here? Can you give us any hints in regard to constitution, by laws, and modes of operation? Knowing your desire to advance this glorious cause, and being desirous to do all possible to spread the knowledge of this gospel of healing, I venture to ask these questions.4

Eddy regularly mentored these students as they embarked on their healing practices, establishing Christian Science around the country. She did so in many ways—through letters, conversations, Christian Science Association meetings, and her published writings. One student, George B. Wickersham, wrote to Eddy in March 1885 about his Christian Science practice and his desire to perhaps move away from Chicago.5 Eddy responded:

…I was pleased to hear from you and trust wherever you go it will be well with you. Our Father is everywhere present and it is His presence and power that heals. It is not the power of one mind over another, it is not the transference of mortal thoughts that heal but the divine Truth that makes us free[.]6

Jennie B. Fenn brought Christian Science healing to Nebraska and sent reports back to Eddy about her practice. She wrote to Eddy on July 3, 1885:

Wednesday, I received a telegram from a Lady whom I have healed, to treat a Lady in [the city of] Beatrice, Belief Death, I received the dispatch about 9 in the Evening I sat up and treated until one o’clock, and felt within myself that she was better, The next day Thursday I received a telephone call from Beatrice, Saying that Mrs Morrison was better, but rather weak, O Mrs Eddy could I but speak with you for only an hour. I am hopeful, and encouraged, with my work.7

Edward H. Hammond, who took the Normal class with Eddy in 1885, wrote to her in December of that year to update her on his work in Washington, D.C., and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Of his time in the capital he explained, “Gave my first [lecture] before some 60 people, continued to lecture about twice a week. Found some interest manifested, at first, which gradually increased.” He reported teaching a class in Grand Rapids and added, “I have lectured here a number of times & held social talks innumerable. Have taken patients & am healing them up in a businesslike way.”8

Writing from Denver, Colorado, on New Year’s Day in 1886, Minnie B. Hall DeSoto appealed to her teacher: “Mrs. Eddy please read this. It is not a personal letter, but for the good of the Cause.” She then described her mother’s healing of blindness and lameness, as well as the healing of “a man who had been on crutches for 14 years and he now walks very well with no crutches.”9

Mary Baker Eddy relied on these reports to confirm that her students were able to demonstrate her teachings effectively. These people carried out the healing mission of the Church of Christ (Scientist), as they had promised in those resolutions they drafted at the end of 1884—”healing the sick, preaching the gospel and bearing their testimony for Truth.”

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  1. Church of Christ (Scientist), Resolutions, 1 December 1884, L09675, https://mbepapers.org/?load=L09675
  2. Mary Baker Eddy began teaching Normal classes at her Massachusetts Metaphysical College in August 1884. These prepared Christian Science healers, who had already taken the Primary course, to teach students of their own.
  3. Samuel H. Howes, Jr. to Mary Baker Eddy, 31 January 1884, 679B.76.020, https://mbepapers.org/?load=679B.76.020
  4. Mary L. Connable to Mary Baker Eddy, 27 January 1885, 659A.70.045, https://mbepapers.org/?load=659A.70.045
  5. https://mbepapers.org/?load=336.45.001
  6. Mary Baker Eddy to George B. Wickersham, 19 March 1885, L07907, https://mbepapers.org/?load=L07907
  7. Jennie B. Fenn to Mary Baker Eddy, 3 July 1885, 277.41.006, https://mbepapers.org/?load=277.41.006
  8. Edward H. Hammond to Mary Baker Eddy, 15 December 1885, 075.18.002, https://mbepapers.org/?load=075.18.002
  9. Minnie B. Hall DeSoto wrote to Mary Baker Eddy,1 January 1886, 223A.37.001, https://mbepapers.org/?load=223A.37.001