Sunday, August 25, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson #34: Faith in Every Footstep

Rescuing the Nauvoo Saints

We often hear of the rescue of the Martin and Willie Handcart Companies (in fact, that is the topic of next week's lesson) but seldom do we hear about the many other rescues among the pioneer companies both before and after that.

Long before the Saints left for the Great Basin, in the October 1839 conference, Brigham Young proposed to the saints that they promise to “stand by and assist each other to the utmost of our abilities in removing from [the state of Missouri], and that we will never desert the poor who are worthy…”  This “Missouri Covenant” had been signed by 214 saints.  Now they made a similar covenant to help the Saints out of Jackson County, Missouri, which they kept.
In 1845, persecutions in Illinois became so great that President Young (president of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles) proposed a similar covenant, this one called "The Nauvoo Covenant," and it passed unanimously.  Their promise was to remove each other and all their brothers and sisters out of the reach of the exterminating order issued by Governor Boggs.  He then promised, “If you will be faithful to your covenant, I will now prophesy that the great God will shower down means upon this people, to accomplish it to the very letter.” 

More than 11,000 members departed Nauvoo in small groups.  They crossed Iowa and camped along the Missouri River, over 300 miles from their former home.  Remaining in Nauvoo were hundreds who lacked the means to leave, either financially or physically.  Many were new arrivals who had expected Nauvoo to be the end of their journey.  Orville M. Allen was charged with heading up a rescue company to return to Nauvoo.   He took 20 wagons and a few men, collecting more provisions along the way as they could.

While Brother Allen was on his trek across Iowa, armed men entered Nauvoo and forced the remaining poor and sick men, women and children across the Mississippi River into the wilderness of Iowa.  Therefore when the rescue team arrived at these so-called “Poor Camps” (present-day Montrose) that October, they were astonished and overwhelmed by the need.  Poverty-stricken themselves, they found their brothers and sisters in dire circumstances.  How could they follow their commitment and rescue the 300 or more people they found, when they had used all they had to rescue so many others so recently?  They had done their best, and it was not nearly enough.  But the Lord honored these covenant-keeping men and, as Brigham Young had promised, He literally “showered down means to accomplish” the task.  Three days after the arrival of the rescue (the word after is key here—it was after they had kept their covenant, after they had done all they could) a miracle occurred.  All morning and into the afternoon, flocks of quail flew near the camps and simply flopped around on the ground.  They did not run or fly away, but just waited for the starving saints to pick them up in their hands.  Soon they had all the meat they could desire to eat. 

About 3:00 in the afternoon, the quail stopped coming.  Right then, Church trustees who had been working in Nauvoo to sell property arrived with shoes, clothing, molasses, salt pork, and salt as well as $100 they had received from non-Mormon citizens they had solicited up and down the Mississippi River. 

About 4:30, Captain Allen started the return trip, taking 157 people and 28 wagons.  (They used the wagons that had been in the Poor Camp as well as the ones he had brought.)  A second rescue team arrived at the end of October to bring the rest.  About 300 saints from the Poor Camps were rescued by their brothers.  (William G. Hartley, “How Shall I Gather?” Ensign, October 1997, p. 5-9)

The Rescue from Iowa

All of the saints had been rescued, but to what?  To the entirely inadequate camp they called Winter Quarters in Nebraska.  D&C 136 was received in the dead of winter with instructions on how to organize the trek.  The vanguard wagon trains headed for the Great Basin the following spring, but many, many saints were left behind, wondering how they would ever make the trip to Zion.

A committee was sent to Washington to seek government employment for financing the move to the west, headed by Jesse C. Little.  President James Polk finally agreed to enlist 500 Mormon men to march west and fight in the Mexican War.  They were to blaze trails along the way.  Each recruit would receive $42 for his uniform, which each of them immediately turned over to the church and marched in his own clothing.  Altogether, the Mormon Battalion brought over $50,000 to the church for their one-year enlistment; the equivalent in today’s U.S. dollars would be around $1.5 million.  (Leonard J. Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom, p. 21)

Another miracle occurred.  Mormon Battalion members, having completed their enlistment, traveled north from San Diego to northern California where a group of L.D.S. members were now living and prospering. In fact, at the end of 1846, most of the white settlers in California were Mormon. How did they get west ahead of the rest of the saints?  Coincidentally on the very same day the Nauvoo saints had crossed the Missouri River, these impoverished saints had set sail from New York Harbor on the chartered Ship Brooklyn, sailed nearly to Africa before they found winds to carry them around Cape Horn, back up to Chile and nearly out to Hawaii, before finally blowing back to a northern California settlement.  It was an experiment in a cheaper way to get west than overland travel, but the trip was fearsome and treacherous and was not attempted again.  The town of Yerba Buena swelled to a small city with their arrival.  Today it is called San Francisco.  (Joan S. Hamblin, "Voyage of 'The Brooklyn'," Ensign, July 1997) 

About 80 members of the Mormon Battalion found work there while waiting for Brigham Young to come west.  Some worked at Sutter’s Mill.  The rest is history:  The California Gold Rush of 1949!  In fact, it was a Mormon, Sam Brannan, who published the news of the gold discovery to the rest of the U.S. in his newspaper, The California Star, as a 2-inch filler on an inside page.  Mormon Battalion members were hired as express riders to deliver the paper to the major cities back east, hoping to promote growth.  (Church video, "A Legacy More Precious Than Gold".)  The Mormons just wanted to get back to their families and were waiting for Brigham Young’s call, but in the meantime, they discovered the fabulous “Mormon Island,” the richest find of the gold rush.  (California Pioneer) 

The Salt Lake economy swelled as prospectors passed through, and the Brooklyn saints got rich in San Francisco, both from gold and from the booming economy.  Alondus D. Buckland built a hotel called “The Buckland House” on the corner of Kearny and Pacific in San Francisco.  When President Young called the Brooklyn Saints back to Salt Lake City, a corner lot was worth $10,000.  Alondus left California with Thomas Rhoads’ company, later nicknamed “The Gold Train,” bringing altogether $30,000-40,000 in gold with them.  (Okay, have to brag:  Alondus is my ancestor and I’m proud of him.)  Over $80,000 came into the church’s accounts between 1848 and 1851 from the California Saints.  (Stewart R Wyatt, “The Life and Times of Alondus de Lafayette Buckland, p. 24-29.  His source on the dollar amount is J. Kenneth Davies, Mormon Gold: The Story of California’s Mormon Argonauts, p. xv.) 

Another great miracle occurred.  The pioneers had now been in Salt Lake City a couple of years, were running out of supplies and their tools were wearing out.  Salt Lake City Fourth Ward Bishop Benjamin Brown published the story of this miracle:

“There we were, completely shut out from the world…the first shop was a thousand miles off…

“Information of the great discovery of gold in California had reached the States, and large companies were formed for the purpose of supplying the gold diggers with food and clothing and implements of every kind for digging, etc…In fact, these persons procured just the things they would have done, had they been forming companies purposely for relieving the Saints, and had they determined to do it as handsomely as unlimited wealth would allow.

“When these companies, after crossing the plains, arrived within a short distance of Salt Lake City, news reached them that ships had been dispatched from many parts of the world, fitted out with goods for California.  This threatened to flood the market.  The companies feared that the sale of their goods would not repay the expense of conveyance.  Here was a ‘fix’—the companies were too far from the States to take their goods back, and they would not pay to carry them through, and when to this was added the fact, that the companies were half crazy to leave trading, and turn gold diggers themselves, it will easily be seen how naturally the difficulty solved itself into the decision which they actually came to—‘Oh here are these Mormons, let us sell the goods to them.’  Accordingly they brought them into the Valley, and disposed of them…at least at half the price for which the goods could have been purchased in the states.”  (Arrington, p. 67)

In addition, the trail from Fort Laramie, Wyoming to Salt Lake City was littered with abandoned items, which Mormon teams collected for nothing.  Howard Standsbury reported collecting:
  • 11 broken wagons
  • bar-iron and steel
  • large blacksmiths’ anvils and bellows
  • crowbars
  • drills
  • augers
  • gold-washers
  • chisels
  • axes
  • lead
  • trunks
  • spades
  • ploughs
  • large grindstones
  • baking-ovens
  • cooking-stoves “without number”
  • kegs
  • barrels
  • harness
  • clothing
  • bacon
  • beans
These, he said, “were found along the road in pretty much the order in which they have been here enumerated…In the course of this one day [July 27, 1849] the relics of 17 wagons and the carcasses of 27 dead oxen have been seen.”  (Arrington, p. 70)

The needs of the 49er’s traveling through Salt Lake greatly inflated the prices of goods the Mormons could offer them, as well.

The infusion of money to the church economy allowed the First Presidency to implement a wonderful new plan:  The Perpetual Emigration Fund.  Once again, it was October Conference 1849, when this new rescue plan was approved as the leaders asked, “Shall we fulfill the covenant, or shall we not?”  The announcement was issued by the First Presidency on October 12th, 1849:  “Ye poor and meek of the earth, lift up your heads and rejoice in the Holy One of Israel, for your redemption draweth nigh…but in your rejoicings be patient, for though your turn to emigrate may not be the first year, or even the second, it will come, and its tarrying will be short, if all the Saints who have, will be as liberal as those in the valley.”

The first PEF wagon train was organized in 1850.  The first year’s funds of $5,000 were taken to Iowa, and used to purchase livestock for the journey back to Salt Lake City.  The livestock was then sold, and that money was taken back to Iowa and the process repeated.  After just one year of operation, the PEF had nearly $20,000.

In 1852, 10,000 saints came to Utah from the Missouri River area, and “all the exiles from Nauvoo who wished to come had been removed to Zion,” and “the obligations of the Nauvoo pledge of 1846 had been faithfully discharged.”  (Hartley, p. 9-10)

Why so hard?

It was less than 20 years later that the transcontinental railroad was completed, making overland travel so much easier.  Why did the Lord not inspire and implement the faster and easier transportation of trains at the time of the Mormon Exodus, when it was so desperately needed?

The Lord was not simply interested in getting the pioneers out west.  He was interested in making saints of the pioneers.  The difficult process of gathering to Zion provided a refining process.  Not all made the cut:  Scattered along the Mormon Trail are not only the graves of those who died getting to the earthly Zion, but many casualties of spiritual infirmities.  Some saints gave up and stayed behind or turned back along the way.  Those who pushed through the challenges of conversion, persecution and migration could weather any storm.  Part of this refining process was brought about by the great effort required of the saints to rescue each other and bring all to Zion while in poverty themselves.

The Rescue Today

It is not enough for us today to be converted ourselves, or to reach financial prosperity ourselves.  After his terrible ordeal on the Brooklyn, his building role in San Francisco, his gathering with the saints in Salt Lake City, and his contributions to the Church funds, Alondus Buckland returned overland with a great deal of his money, fulfilled a mission in the east, and then returned as captain of a wagon train of 200 people, including his friends, converts and family members who had not been able to afford passage on the Brooklyn, financing much of their supplies himself.  On the return journey, he died of cholera and was wrapped in a sheet and buried in a trunk as a makeshift coffin.  He gave his all for the cause of Zion, leaving a great example for us.  (Wyatt, p. 34-37)

Even in our weaknesses, even in our poverty, we must turn around and rescue our brothers.  We cannot sit in our church and ignore the spiritually or physically needy.  We may not  know how their rescue will be accomplished, but if we heed the call and start along the trail, the Lord will “shower down blessings from heaven” and means will appear.  All we must do is our wholly inadequate best.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Learning Aids for LDS "Hymns Made Easy"

Since posting my Graded List of LDS Hymns For Piano Students, a senior missionary sister serving in Jamaica e-mailed me and requested a list of the easiest simplified hymns, from the Hymns Made Easy book, to help the local members learn to play.  This is something that I have wished I had over the years and have been unable to find, so I decided to make one for her.  There is an index in the back of the book that groups the hymns into three groups, easiest to hardest, but in my 20+ years' experience as a music teacher, and in almost every one of the many method books and leveled student pieces I have used, there are certain elements that make a piece easy to play for a beginner, which do not match this indexing.  These are:

--being in the key of C (no sharps or flats in the key signature)
--having no or very few hand position changes, especially in the left hand
--having no accidentals (sharps and flats in the music)
--having simple rhythms such as quarter notes and half notes only
--having no or few large jumps from one key to another

So here are the ten pieces that I think are the easiest ones in the Hymns Made Easy book and my suggestions for making them easy to learn.  If they are helpful to the saints in Jamaica, maybe they will helpful to others, too.  At the very least, they'll be helpful to my students.

"We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet"
Key of C
No accidentals
Dotted rhythms, but they are not very tricky.
L.H. stays in the same position except twice finger 5 needs to reach down one note for a chord on "days" and "hand."
R.H. only moves a few times:  On Line 2, circle the 1 on "sending" where the thumb crosses under finger 2; On Line 3, circle the 2 on "We" and the 1 on "Bestowed."  The last line is the same as other lines in the piece.

"God's Daily Care"
Key of C
No accidentals
Only one set of eighth notes
L.H. changes position three times:  Circle the finger number 1 on "begun," Line 2 circle the finger number 2 on "I" and the finger number 1 on "That."
R.H. uses a stretched position for most of the first line, with finger 1 on E and finger 2 on G.  Note that it contracts at "has just begun."  It's back to the stretched position on the second line, and then changes altogether on "That" where you should circle the 4/1 fingering notation.

"Now Let Us Rejoice"
Key of C
Two sharps on line 4.  Highlight them.
Dotted rhythms, but if the student is familiar with the hymn, she can probably play them.
L.H. never changes position.  (Hooray!)
It's a longer hymn, but there are only about three and a half lines to actually learn since it repeats itself so much:
"Now let us rejoice in the day of salvation" and "Good tidings are sounding to us and each nation" and "And earth will appear as the Garden of Eden" are all exactly alike.
"No longer as strangers on earth need we roam" and "And none will molest them from morn until ev'n" are exactly the same.
"And shortly the hour of redemption will come" and "And Jesus will say to all Israel, 'Come home'" are exactly the same.
"When all that was promised" and "the Saints will be given" are almost the same.
The R.H. uses a stretched out position at first:  Line 1 circle the 2 on "us."
The R.H. changes position several times:  Line 1 circle the 2 on "the" and the 1 on "of"; Line 2 circle the 4 on "strangers."  The rest of the line is the same as line 1.  Line 4, circle the 3 on "when."  The rest of the piece is the same as parts that have already been learned.

"Lord, I Would Follow Thee"
Key of C
One accidental, an F# on the second line.  Circle it or highlight it.
Point out the parallel motion (both hands moving the same direction) on "learn to love thee" (both times) and on "follow thee" at the very end of the piece.
L.h. position change at the beginning of second line (circle the 2/3 fingering mark), again at the beginning of the third line (the 1/3 fingering), and one more time on the third measure of the last line (1/3).
Cross out the A-flat on the second-to-last measure in the l.h.  It is completely unnecessary.  Just hold the chord and skip that A-flat.
Circle the following finger numbers or notes where the r.h. changes position:  Line 1 "learn" and 4 on "the," Line 2 the 1 on the last syllable of "another," and the last syllable of "beyond," Line 3 the 5 on "Savior", the 4 on "to, and the 3 on "I".

"Count Your Blessings"
Key of C
No accidentals
The eighth notes make it trickier, but if the student can play eighth notes, it's easy in many other ways.
Unlike most hymns this one has a lot of repetition.  Point out to the student that the first six measures of the first line are exactly the same as the second line.
Point out the parallel motion between the hands on the last two measures of every line.
Practice the first five notes in the l.h. which are in a stretched-out hand position.
In the 3rd and 4th lines, the l.h. does not move from C position at all.
The r.h. has to stretch one note for the B played with finger 5 on "discouraged" and "surprise".  Circle that note.
Circle the following finger numbers where the r.h. moves:  Line 2, the 2 that crosses over on "Lord has done;" Line 3 the 3, 5, 3 on "count...blessings", Line 4 the 5 on "Count" and the 3 on "God."

"Jesus, Once of Humble Birth"
Key of C
No accidentals
The l.h. stays mainly in a C position, but if you circle the A and F chord on the word "humble" and again on "grief", that will signal to the student the only place where she has to reach up just one key to get to that A.
The only tricky rhythms are the tied chords in the l.h., but it seriously wouldn't matter at all if the pianist accidentally played them twice instead of holding them.
The r.h. doesn't change position a lot.  Just circle these finger numbers to note changes: the 2 that crosses over the thumb on the second line on "comes," the 1 on "grief," and 3, 2, and 1 that have to stretch on "on earth to."

"Hark, All Ye Nations"
Key of C
The dotted eighth note rhythm is the trickiest thing about this piece, but most students would be able to play it if they hear it played for them.
The r.h. moves a lot, but the first, second and fourth lines are exactly the same for the first three measures of each, so once they learn line one, they've learned most of the piece.  Circle the 4 on "hear", the 1 on "voice, and the 1 on "all" (these are all on line 1)
Then the third line has a sequence:  the second two measures are exactly the same as the first two measures but are played one note lower.
Point out Line 3 uses a stretched-out r.h. hand position.  Circle the places that finger 4 is notated.
The best thing about this piece is the l.h. moves so very little.  There is no change from C position in the first, second and fourth lines.  In the third line, circle the middle C at the beginning of the line, the 1 on "shines" and the 2 on "gospel".  Those are the only deviations.

"I Know That My Redeemer Lives"
This is in the key of F which makes it slightly more difficult, but if you take a highlighter pen and highlight all of the B's in the piece, that will help the student remember to play the black note.
The l.h. plays only a few different chords.
The rhythms are a little tricky with the dotted notes and the eighth notes, but if the student is familiar with the tune, he'll be able to get them right by ear.
There are a few position changes in the r.h.  Circle the finger numbers:  2nd line the 2, 3, 4 on "lives, who once" and 4 on "everlasting."  Third line, the 2 on "He."  Fourth line, the 5 on "He", the 3 on "hungry" and the 3 on "feed."

"O God, the Eternal Father"
Key of C
There are two accidentals in the piece, both on the third line.
The l.h. moves a few times.  Circle the finger numbers when there is a move:  Line 2 the 2 on "bless," line 3 (no finger number marked, but it would be a 5) on "bread", line 4 the 1 on "all" and the final chord.

"I Am a Child of God"
Key of C
Some tricky dotted rhythms and eighth notes, but because most people are very familiar with the tune, they probably won't be thrown off by these.
The L.H. doesn't move a lot.  Circle the 2 on the second measure, and the 1s on the last line.
There are two sharps on the second line.  Highlight them.
R.H. moves a little.  Line 1 circle the finger 2 on "And" and the 4 on "has"; line 2 circle the B, Line 3 circle the 5 on the "help", and Line 4 circle the 5 and 4 on "I must" and the 4 on "live."

You can download all the hymns from On, choose "Resources" at the top of the page. Then choose "Library at the upper left. Then all the hymnbooks appear. I have linked them directly below.

Here is a link for the regular hymns.

​If you are a beginning piano student, you may want to start with the Keyboard Course, which has even easier hymns than the "Hymns Made Easy."

Happy Hymn-Playing!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson #33 President Brigham Young Leads the Saints

I have prepared another lesson about the miracles of the Mormon migration, with an accompanying PowerPoint. That lesson is available at this link.

Scrap of paper at each place
6 pint jars with the following amounts of M&Ms (or other small items) in them: 14, 117, 195, 197, 351, 410
Write names on board: John Brown, James Brown, Hark Lay, Oscar Crosby, Green Flake

Note:  The succession of Church leadership will be address in Lesson #37: “We Thank Thee, O God, For a Prophet”


When the Prophet Joseph Smith was killed, most of the apostles were on missions to the eastern United States, including Parley P. Pratt. The only two in Illinois were Willard Richards and John Taylor, both of whom had been with Joseph and Hyrum at Carthage. Parley was the first to return, having been “constrained by the Spirit” to head back to Nauvoo from New York before he had planned to. While on a canal boat, enroute,

“…a strange and solemn awe came over me, as if the powers of hell were let loose. I was so overwhelmed with sorrow I could hardly speakI was so over-whelmed with sorrow I could hardly speak; and after pacing the deck for some time in silence, I turned to my brother William and exclaimed—'Brother William, this is a dark hour; the powers of darkness seem to triumph, and the spirit of murder is abroad in the land, and it controls the hearts of the American people, and a vast majority of them sanction the killing of the innocent.' …This was June 27th, 1844, in the afternoon, and as near as I can judge, it was the same hour that the Carthage mob were shedding the blood of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and John Taylor, near one thousand miles distant.”

All of the other members of the quorum reported feeling a terrible sadness on that day. In Wisconsin, passengers boarded the boat Parley was on, gloating over the news that Joseph and Hyrum had been killed. When Parley got off in Chicago, he found a great hubbub as the press was issuing extras “announcing the triumph of the murderous mob in killing the Smiths.”

“I felt so weighed down with sorrow and the powers of darkness that it was painful for me to…speak to any one, or even to try to eat or sleep. I really felt that if it had been my own family who had died, and our beloved Prophet been spared alive, I could have borne it…I had loved Joseph with a warmth of affection indescribable for about 14 years. I had associated with him in private and in public, in travels and at home, in joy and sorrow, in honor and dishonor, in adversity of every kind…But now he was gone to the invisible world, and we and the Church of the Saints were left to mourn in sorrow and without the presence of our beloved founder and Prophet.

“As I walked along over the plains of Illinois, lonely and solitary, I reflected as follows: …in a day or two I shall be there. How shall I meet the sorrowing widows and orphans? How shall I meet the aged and widowed mother…? How shall I console and advise 25,000 people who will throng about me in tears, and in the absence of my President and the older members of the now-presiding council, will ask counsel at my hands? …When I could endure it no longer, I cried aloud, saying: O Lord! In the name of Jesus Christ I pray Thee, show me what these things mean, and what I shall say to Thy people? On a sudden the Spirit of God came upon me, and filled my heart with joy and gladness indescribable, and while the spirit of revelation glowed in my bosom with as visible a warmth and gladness as if it were fire, the Spirit said unto me: ‘Lift up your head and rejoice; for behold! It is well with my servants Joseph and Hyrum…Go and say unto my people in Nauvoo, that they shall continue to pursue their daily duties and take care of themselves, and make no movement in Church government to reorganize or alter anything until the return of the remainder of the Quorum of the Twelve. But exhort them that they continue to build the House of the Lord…’
“This information caused my bosom to burn with joy and gladness and I was comforted above measure; all my sorrow seemed in a moment to be lifted as a burden from my back.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 292-294) (A timeline of Parley's life with brief and interesting notes is available at Jared Pratt Family Website.)

At a time of great trial, the commandment to Parley was to “lift up your head and rejoice,” and the comforting presence of the Spirit made it possible to obey that commandment. “Lift” is a verb, requiring action. To lift your head would imply that you would be looking upward, towards heaven, or seeing with an eternal perspective. It would also imply that you would be looking forward at what to do next, rather than backward in regret. When you lift up your head symbolically, rejoicing then will naturally follow.


Candy Jars Guessing Game:  Ask class members to write on their paper scraps how many times they think the words below are found in the scriptures. Then tell them the jars of M&Ms correspond to each word. The closest guess to each word count wins the jar with that number of M&Ms.  For extra insight into latter-day church history, I have included in parentheses how many of those are found in the D&C.

Sad/Sadness --13 (1 in D&C)
Sorrow--195 (8 in D&C*)
Weep--117 (9 in D&C**)
Glad/Gladness—197 (21 in D&C)
Joy—351 (34 in D&C)
Rejoice—410 (42 in D&C)

*Half of these refer to the wicked. The others counsel saints regarding sorrow, promise no sorrow, or are prayers offered in behalf of the sorrowing saints.
**One of these 9 refers to weeping for joy. 7 of them refer to the wicked.

The message is clear: The gospel is a message of gladness.

2 Nephi 2:25 – “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.” Ours is a doctrine of rejoicing.

D&C 133:42-44 – “O Lord, thou shalt come down to make thy name known to thine adversaries, and all nations shall tremble at thy presence— When thou doest terrible things, things they look not for; Yea, when thou comest down, and the mountains flow down at thy presence, thou shalt meet him who rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, who remembereth thee in thy ways.” This scripture gives a definition of saints caught up to meet Christ in the last days:  They are 1) rejoicing, 2) working righteousness, 3) remembering Christ and his ways.

D&C 112:4 – “Let thy heart be of good cheer before my face; and thou shalt bear record of my name, not only unto the Gentiles, but also unto the Jews; and thou shalt send forth my word unto the ends of the earth.” This scripture implies that you must be of good cheer to be a missionary.

D&C 107:22-24 – “Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church. The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling. And they form a quorum, equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned.”  This revelation told the saints that the Quorum of Twelve Apostles had all the authority needed to run the Church in Joseph's absence.


And so Brigham Young led the saints west. Although he fully intended to make the trek in 1846, they actually began April 8, 1847, for reasons noted below.

Brigham Young started out from Winter Quarters with 143 men, 3 women and 2 children, but he ended up in the Salt Lake Valley with more than that, and it has to do with some amazing converts from a largely unproductive mission to the Southern States. This is their very little-known (although well-documented) story and it’s very interesting to hear.

In 1843, John Brown, a convert from Tennessee who had gathered to Nauvoo, was called on a mission to the South. Generally speaking, the South was very infertile ground for missionary work, but in one place, he and the other missionaries found a motherlode: Monroe County, Mississippi. 150-200 people were converted, most of them related to each other. John married one of them.

He was called back to Nauvoo after the martyrdom to work on the Temple. When the 1846 exodus began, John was sent back to Mississippi to gather the saints there into the fold and help them cross the plains. He left for Mississippi (a 1,000-mile trip) in January in snow and storm. He collected 43 people and 19 wagons and they left their homes on April 8th. His father-in-law, William Crosby, led the train.

In Independence, they heard wild rumors about Mormons committing atrocities on the Oregon Trail, so they assumed the saints had gone west. They joined with a six-wagon party of Oregon Trailers at Independence and picked up a few other Latter-day Saints and headed out across the plains to meet  Brigham Young. They got to the Platte River and there was no Brigham Young. They stopped for one day to think it over, and decided he must have gone on and they pressed full speed ahead to catch up. They suffered all kinds of difficulties, but made it nearly halfway to the Great Basin before they found out that there were no Mormons ahead of them on the trail (Leonard J. Arrington, “Mississippi Mormons,” Ensign, June 1977; also Richard E. Bennett, We’ll Find the Place, p. 172-173).

Now, of course, Brigham Young had fully intended to go west that year, 1846, in an advance wagon train, but the saints didn't want him to leave them; they tried to keep up with him, and by doing so, they slowed him greatly. “Our president don’t stick [hesitate] at anything that tends to advance the gathering of Israel, or promote the cause of Zion in these last days,” wrote Thomas Bullock, clerk to the twelve. “He sleeps with one eye open and one foot out of bed, and when anything is wanted, he is on hand and his counselors are all of one heart with him in all things” (quoted in Richard E. Bennett, We’ll Find the Place, p. 59). Brigham and the other leaders, Heber C. Kimball, etc., had a year’s supply of food in their wagons, but it was quickly depleted since many others had not taken that counsel in their zeal. In addition, the terribly muddy weather slowed their travel unbelievably. The Mormon Battalion had been called up for a year’s duty, and the use of the funds they would be paid for their service would be very beneficial to the trek.  So they had camped at Winter Quarters, with groups of saints strung out in encampments all along the trail in Iowa.

So when John Brown and his company were beyond Chimney Rock, they met John Richards (pronounce REE-shaw), a French trapper who told them there were no Mormons on the trail ahead. They decided to winter on the trail rather than go back. John Richards invited them to stay at Fort Pueblo, Colorado with him. Fort Pueblo was occupied by 6-8 mountain men and their Spanish and Indian wives. The Mormons built a little community of log homes outside the church/school. With their Southern gentility, they hosted dances there and invited the mountain men, but they didn’t forget to be missionaries: When the mountain men arrived to dance with the fair Southern belles, they found they had to listen to a gospel sermon first! 

John Brown headed back east to meet with President Young and reached Winter Quarters in October. That same month, 154 Mormon Battalion members, discharged because of illness, arrived from the southwest to winter at Fort Pueblo. Their captain was none other than another of the missionaries who had converted many of the Mississippi saints, James Brown. They built 18 more cabins for the Battalion.

Arriving back at Winter Quarters, John Brown received word from Brigham Young not to bring the whole group that year but to handpick a few men to join Brigham’s vanguard company which would be traveling west that spring. So John headed south, in January again, where he picked 4 white men and 4 black slaves. Two of the black men died along the way (Arrington). The two remaining were brothers Oscar Crosby, 32, and Hark Lay, 22. They had different last names because they had different masters. Oscar “belonged” to John’s father-in-law, William Crosby, and had been converted through James Brown’s missionary efforts (the Battalion Leader). William Crosby had shared the gospel with the Lays, Hark’s masters (Margaret Blair Young and Darius Aidan Gray, One More River to Cross, p. 257).

At Winter Quarters, the two were joined by another black slave, 19-year-old Green Flake, who was a friend of theirs, and had gone to Nauvoo with his master, James Flake. Green had been baptized at the age of 16 by John Brown. “It may strike you as funny that a Brown baptized a black named Green, but that’s how it was—colorful.” (Young/Gray,  p. 249)

Green Flake remained a faithful Latter-day Saint
all his life 

At this point I need to interject that some of the early saints felt that slave-owning was acceptable if the slaves (or what they euphemistically called “colored servants”) were treated kindly, since there was counsel in the Bible on how slaves and masters should treat each other. It was a confusing time in the pre-Emancipation Proclamation United States in that respect. Utah was not a state, and was neither slave nor free.

Actually, it was quite remarkable for that time that the missionaries even taught the gospel to some slaves, considering them children of God. Sadly they generally were not considered as quite the same class, though, even after they joined the church. For instance, while white saints were called by their last names (Sister Smith), black saints were called by their first (Sister Jane), following the manner of address given to slaves. Still, many Church members loved their “servants” almost as dearly as family members.

When Green Flake’s master left the south for Nauvoo upon his baptism, he offered freedom to all of his slaves, but Green chose to remain with him as a slave, along with two of his friends. Later in life, Green Flake became a (free) servant of Brigham Young’s (Young/Gray, p. 256).

Hark, true to his name, had a beautiful singing voice, and he and Green would often sing together. The Negro Spirituals floated across the plains, along with “Come, Come, Ye Saints?” Hark would also dance a mean jig to the music of the fiddle playing in the evenings (Young/Gray).  

The names of Green Flake, Hark Lay and Oscar Crosby are immortalized as members of the first Mormon pioneer company on the Brigham Young monument which was first displayed at the Chicago World’s Fair (Wikipedia) and now resides in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah at the intersection of Main and South Temple Streets.

Brigham Young's wagon train left Winter Quarters on April 8, 1847, and reached Fort Laramie on June 3. Seventeen of the Pueblo saints had been there waiting and watching for them for 2 weeks and were ecstatic to recognize from a distance the apostles leading the wagon train. Apostle Amasa Lyman was sent to gather up the rest of the members still in Pueblo and bring them to the Great Basin. The body of Mississippi saints arrived in Salt Lake 5 days after Brigham Young’s vanguard group, but the three black men were in Brigham Young's party.  The main group arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 22, and Brigham (since he was in the sick group that went a little slower) on July 24 (now celebrated as a state holiday, Pioneer Day).

After helping plant and build and settle, John Brown and his party headed back east on August 26 to get the rest of the Mississippi Saints, traveling with Brigham Young as far as Winter Quarters. Once again, John Brown arrived in Mississippi in the dead of winter--December this time--and immediately made preparations to cross the plains for the fifth time in less than two years. He and his converts left Mississippi on March 10, 1848. There were 13 families, including 56 white saints and 34 black. They arrived in Salt Lake City in October, bringing the total population of the Valley to about 200 white and 37 black Mississippi saints.

The first Mormon community in Utah outside of Salt Lake City was settled by these saints. It was called Cottonwood and is presently called Holladay after one of the Mississippians who was bishop there. In March of 1851, the Mississippi saints were sent to colonize Southern California with Charles Rich. They founded the city of San Bernadino. Later, many of them helped colonize Southern Utah and Arizona as well.

The Mississippi saints were classy, as well as being hard workers. They raised the level of frontier society with their Southern drawl, hospitality and etiquette. They were also excellent record keepers and even recorded funny incidents. “One of the children at the school in San Bernardino asked the teacher how to spell rat. The teacher replied ‘R-A-T.’ The child said, ‘I don’t mean mousy rat. Anybody knows how to spell that! What I mean is like in “do it rat now!”’”

Very likely the first black teacher of white children in the United States was a Mormon, Alive Rowan, who taught in Riverside, California, and was the daughter of two of the slaves who had come west with John Brown (Arrington).


The road west was rough for the Mormon pioneers, no doubt. But “while many wept at the inexplicable tragedy of it all, others chose deliberately to wear a happier face.  ‘How can I go without you?’ inquired Irene Hascall of her non-supportive parents in New England. “Or how can you stay behind?...Do not worry anything about it, there will be some way.  I suppose father would not like to travel across the Rocky Mountains but I should think he might like it real well for he can hunt all the way. I think probably [we] will cross the Rocky Mountains to a healthier climate. What good times we will have journeying and pitching our tents like the Israelites” (Bennett, p. 23). Irene was a happy camper.

Helen Mar Whitney was buoyed by the beauties of nature as she trekked.  “This day the sky was cloudless and beautiful, and I was happy…Our tent was pitched on a gentle slope, and below, some distance away, was a crystal stream of water babbling over the rocks down through a little grove of trees and willows, where I accompanied [my husband] Horace the next day, Sunday, to fish, taking along our books to read.  This was his favorite pastime, and in which he indulged every opportunity.  This was the most delightful spot we had seen, the whole landscape around us was lovely, they called it rolling prairie, and it had such a variety of hills and dales, all dressed anew in their bright velvety robes of spring.

“The first morning I took an early stroll to enjoy the scene, and I was almost enchanted as I stood there alone gazing at the glorious sight as the sun was peeping over the hills—and to lend more to the scene of enchantment here came a beautiful fawn and also an antelope, skipping fearlessly over hill and dale and out of sight, with naught to disturb them nor the peace and tranquility of my thoughts…” (Helen Mar Whitney, A Woman’s View,p. 363-364).

Once Irene Hascall arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, she wrote to her parents again, “This is our place of residence.  It is in the midst of the rocky mountains surrounded on every side by impassable mountains and just one passage in and another on the west side which will not take much labor to stop an army of ten thousand.  Now let the mobbers rage.  The Lord has provided this place for us and if we are faithful the trouble and calamities of the Gentile nation will not harm.” [Truer words were never spoken, as the expulsion from Missouri completely removed the saints, both black and white, from the one of the greatest hotbeds of destruction in the Civil War.  For a fascinating tangent, see The Civil War in Missouri and Illinois.]  “When all is past we will step forth from our hiding place…I wish you would come and stay with us.  You would if you could see the future” (Bennett, p. 351).

Parley P. Pratt chose joy and the presence of the Spirit at the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, when he was “weighed down as it were unto death.”

Hark Lee and Green Flake sang and danced their way across the plains, though they were slaves.

Helen Mar Whitney chose to rejoice in nature, rather than whine about sore feet.

We would do well to carry the optimism after tragedy that these saints possessed.  Paraphrasing the words of Irene Hascall, “[We] would if [we] could see the future.”

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson #32 "To Seal the Testimony"


I suggest you read the list below without the title and ask your class who is being described.  If you want more participation, print out and cut up the items and pass them among class members to read aloud.
  • He was foreordained and his mission was prophecied of thousands of years before his birth. 
  • He was born of goodly parents and raised in a righteous home.
  • He was born into poverty and stayed poor all of his life.
  • He had many siblings.
  • As a young teen, his spiritual vision confounded and surpassed that of religious leaders of the day.
  • He traveled through the country preaching the new truths of the gospel.
  • He depended upon others for room and board.
  • He trained twelve apostles to help in the ministry.
  • His actions directly affected our salvation
  • He called those who followed him "brothers" and "friends."
  • He treated children, women, and minorities with unusual kindness (for the culture in which he lived).
  • He revolutionized religion and by so doing alienated himself from religious leaders.
  • He was subject to temptation but was not overcome.
  • He was never allowed much privacy because of his fame.
  • He performed many miracles: healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, casting out devils.
  • He was visited by angels.
  • He was betrayed by friends.
  • He was tried illegally and unjustly, convicted of crimes he did not commit.
  • He prophesied of his own death repeatedly, yet it was still a shock to his followers.
  • He went of his own free will to his death.
  • He was comforted by friends and the singing of hymns in his last hours.
  • He was martyred in the prime of his life, leaving his widowed mother to the care of others.
  • The church was in turmoil at his death.
  • At the time of his death, his vision for the church was only in its infancy.
  • After his death, he appeared to church leaders to give them added counsel and direction.
  • No one who met him had a neutral opinion of him: they either loved him or despised him, or sometimes they did both--one after the other.
  • Some who testified passionately of his divine calling later denied the testimony.
  • He forgave even those who turned against him or persecuted him even unto death.


Parley P. Pratt described Joseph Smith thus:

"President Joseph Smith was in person tall and well built, strong and active, of light complexion, light hair, blue eyes, very little beard, and of an expression peculiar to himself, on which the eye naturally rested with interest, and was never weary of beholding.  His countenance was ever mild, affable, beaming with intelligence and benevolence; mingled with a look of interest and an unconscious smile, or cheerfulness, and entirely free from all restraint or affectation of gravity; and there was something connected with this serene and steady penetrating glance of his eye, as if he would penetrate the deepest abyss of the human heart, gaze into eternity, penetrate the heavens, and comprehend all worlds.

"He possessed a noble boldness and independence of character; his manner was easy and familiar; his rebuke terrible as the lion; his benevolence unbounded as the ocean; his intelligence universal, and his language abounding in original eloquence peculiar to himself--not polished--not studied--not smoothed and softened by education and refined by art; but flowing forth in its own native simplicity, and profusely abounding in variety of subject and manner.  He interested and edified, while, at the same time, he amused and entertained his audience; and none listened to him that were ever weary with his discourse.  I have even known him to retain a congregation of willing and anxious listeners for many hours together, in the midst of cold or sunshine, rain or wind, while they were laughing at one moment and weeping the next.  Even his most bitter enemies were generally overcome, if he could once get their ears" (Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 31-32).

A former mayor of Boston, Josiah Quincy, who visited Joseph Smith just a few months before Joseph was killed wrote:

"It is by no means improbable that some future textbook for the use of generations yet unborn will contain a question like this: What historical American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful influence upon the destinies of his countrymen?  And it is by no means impossible that the answer to that interrogatory may be thus written:  Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet.  And the reply, as absurd as it doubtless seems to most men now living, may be an obvious commonplace to their descendants...Fanatic, imposter, charlatan, he may have been; but these hard names furnish no solution to the problem he presents to us.

"Born in the lowest ranks of poverty, without book-learning, and with the homeliest of all human names, he had made himself at the age of 39 a power upon earth, His influence, whether for good or for evil, is potent today, and the end is not yet.  If the reader does not known just what to make of Joseph Smith, I cannot help him out of the difficulty.  I myself stand helpless before the puzzle"  (B.H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 2:349-50, also quoted in Kelly, Latter-day History..., p. 271).

A correspondent to the New York Herald stopped by Nauvoo, a place he called the nucleus of a Western Empire, and wrote the following description of the prophet:

"Joseph Smith, the president of the Church, prophet, seer and revelator, is 36 years of age, six feet high in [heels], weighing 212 pounds.  He is a man of the highest order of talent and great independence of character--firm in integrity, and devoted to his religion; in fact, he is a per-se, as President Tyler would say.  As a public speaker he is bold, powerful and a leader, wise and prudent, yet fearless as a military commander; brave and determined as a citizen, worthy, affable and kind; bland in his manners, and of noble bearing.  His amiable lady, too, the electa cyria, is a woman of superior intellect and exemplary piety--in every respect suited to her situation in society, as the wife of one of the most accomplished and powerful chiefs of the age.

"Hyrum Smith, the patriarch of the Church and brother of Joseph, is 42 years of age, five feet, eleven and a half inches high, weighing 193 pounds.  He, too, is a prophet, seer and revelator, and is one of the most pious and devout Christians in the world.  He is a man of great wisdom and superior excellence, possessing great energy of character and originality of thought"  (Holzapfel, A Woman's View: Helen Mary Whitney's Reminiscences of Early Church History, p. 147-148).

There is an excellent church video that coordinates with this lesson that could be played at this point:  "Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration" from the video collection "Teachings from the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History."  (This is not the hour-long movie the church made, but a 13-minute clip.  Please see Lanise's comment at the end of this post for directions on downloading it from the Church's website. Thanks, Lanise!)


What impresses you the most about Joseph Smith?


In conclusion, you may want to sing, or have performed, the hymn "Praise to the Man."  The lyricist of this hymn was William W. Phelps.  Brother Phelps had been a stalwart member of the church, helping to print The Book of Commandments, The Doctrine and Covenants, and the first hymnbook, contributing $500 to the building of the Kirtland Temple, and writing "The Spirit of God" for its dedication, but when questions arose regarding his mismanagement of the purchase of lands in Missouri for the Saints, he was excommunicated.  For two years, he was one of the Prophet's bitterest enemies, inflicting great harm upon the church and contributing substantially to a sentence to prison.  But Brother Phelps fast realized his error and sought forgiveness in a letter to Joseph Smith.  President Smith read the letter to the congregation of the church and then sent this reply to him:

"It is true, that we have suffered much in consequence of your behavior--the cup of gall, already full enough for mortals to drink, was indeed filled to overflowing when you turned against us...'Had it been an enemy, we could have borne it'...'Come on, dear brother, since the war is past, For friends at first, are friends again at last..."  (quoted in Gordon B. Hinckley, April 2006 General Conference; also see Susan E. Black, Who's Who in the Doctrine and Covenants, p. 224-225).

Elder Phelps once again began publishing for the prophet, served as his spokesman, and rode with the prophet to Carthage, also visiting him in the Carthage Jail on the morning of his death.  Shortly after the martyrdom, he wrote this hymn.

Praise to the Man is Hymn no. 27 available at this link.  Many lovely recordings of the hymn can be found on YouTube, including one by the MTC Choir (5 minutes long).


Wikipedia has an article which contains a lot of historical details about the martyrdom at this link.