Sunday, September 15, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson #38 "In Mine Own Way"

This lesson is about the Church Welfare Program.  We all know that the LDS Church Welfare Program is one of the greatest programs of its kind in the world, helping people to become self-sufficient, and the Church is able to run it because the Church itself is self-sufficient.  It is easy to forget that the Church faced many hard times before it became self-sufficient.


When the Twelve Apostles returned to Winter Quarters from Salt Lake City in the fall of 1847, they found the saints there still in extremely dire conditions.  The Church was in debt and could not offer any aid to them.  They tried to get another contract with the government (besides the Mormon Battalion) to build forts or carry mail, but they did not succeed.  Finally, in desperation, 100-150 men were called on special missions to the east, not just to teach the gospel, although they did that along their way, but to beg aid for the suffering Mormons from their fellow Americans, "a little known but colorful attempt to rally public sympathy for the plight of the Latter-day Saints."  Throughout the states, they preached, sought after those who had gone inactive in the Church or joined break-off groups, and most of all, tried to raise money for the Winter Quarters saints to buy medicine, bedding, clothing, food, and passage to the Great Salt Lake Valley (Richard E. Bennett, We'll Find the Place, p. 302).

Their missions were very difficult and the return received was "paltry," as Erastus Snow stated, when compared with the wealth of the people among whom they labored.  One managed to influence benevolent and rich Washington ladies to have a benefit tea party which raised the amount of $82.50.  A Mrs. Reed was the hostess, and scores of society women came.  Even a "colored" servant woman contributed 12-1/2 cents.  The elders petitioned government leaders for contracts or charity.  The President of the United States, James Polk, listened sympathetically and politely gave $10. 

The missionaries who had to travel through Missouri, from which they had recently been expelled, used assumed names and identities. $705.84 was raised from members of the Church still living in St. Louis. In Mississippi (refer to Lesson 33 regarding the Mississippi Saints) three elders encouraged the rest of the Crosby family to move to Winter Quarters and raised over $1,500 from the saints there, $1,368 of that from William Crosby himself.  One elder in Boston collected $1,000, one hundred of which came from Josiah Quincy, the mayor who made that most favorable statement about Joseph Smith (see Lesson 32).

William Clayton published 5,000 copies of his overland travel guide for emigrants and gold prospectors to help the cause.  It quickly won attention and approval from travelers across the country as one of the finest.

I love this portrait of William and Diantha Clayton.
From Utah State Historical Society, via BYU

Altogether, this missionary/begging force gathered about $10,000, an impressive feat considering the public sentiment toward the saints at the time.  Although it wasn't enough money to solve all their problems, it was enough to bring hope and encouragement at a critical hour (Bennett, p. 301-310).


There are two kinds of self-reliance that this lesson counsels us to have.  The first kind is that possessed by many of the early saints in great abundance. We certainly see it exemplified in the works of the begging missionaries. That is spiritual self-reliance. Elder Boyd K. Packer taught in April Conference of 1978, "We have been taught to store a year's supply of food, clothing, and, if possible, fuel--at home...Can we not see that the same principle applies to inspiration and revelation, the solving of problems, to counsel, and to guidance?  We need to have a source of it stored in every home..." Have you stored up a year's supply of spiritual strength?

There is a great deal of relevance for us today in the words of  D&C 38:15, 29-30:

"Therefore, be strong from henceforth; fear not, for the kingdom is yours.  [This is followed by promises that if we are righteous, we will inherit the land of promise and Christ will be our King and watch over us.]

"Ye hear of wars in far countries, and you say that there will soon be great wars in far countries, but ye know not the hearts of men in your own land.

I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear."

Anxiety grips many in this world, especially since terrorism reared its ugly head on September 11, 2001.  Do you think that if members of the Church are also filled with this fear it is because they do not have a year's supply of spirituality in their homes?  The "voice which shall shake the earth" in the scripture is, of course, God's voice.  If we do not "treasure up wisdom in our bosoms," we will hear the reports of the wickedness of men louder than the voice of God, but "if we are prepared, we shall not fear."  Perhaps if we listen to the evening news for 30 minutes every evening, we should read the scriptures for 35.  If we read the news on the internet for 15 minutes each morning, we should read the conference talks for 20.  We are surrounded by fear through the constant reports from the news media if not through the circumstances of our lives, and we must follow the counsel to make God's voice louder than the voices of wickedness in our own ears.


The other kind of self-reliance is, of course, temporal self-reliance, and part of that is financial self-reliance.  The Church members leaving Nauvoo faced great financial losses which had undoubtedly been a surprise to them, since they were still building and improving homes right up until the year they left.  They had been told all along that Nauvoo would not be a permanent residence, but they undoubtedly expected that they would be able to realize a return on their investment there.  If they had known that they would, once more, be forced out under the threat of their lives, leaving most of their belongings behind, do you think they might have collected less belongings to start with, and saved more food and money?  Can we learn something from this?

Our prophets have counseled us to "be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases," and have advised us to avoid debt to the extent possible. (See "All Is Safely Gathered In," pamphlet) There is plenty of guidance from the Church on how to teach ourselves to be financial stable, and even to thrive.  Here is a link to more Church guidance.

Two questions for discussion:  What methods have you found helpful in limiting spending and saving money?  And, How can we teach our children wise money management?


In all our budgeting and saving and limiting of expenditures, there are some expenditures that we might need to increase.

"I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine. And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine. But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low. For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.

"Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment." (D&C 104:14-18)

The begging missionaries and the Nauvoo trustees all did their utmost to care for the poor.  We need to be sure that we return gratitude to the Lord by sharing what he has entrusted to us with the poor.  This is one excellent reason to get out of debt: so that we can have complete stewardship over our money and we can choose what to do with it.  Notice the Lord said, "It is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things therein are mine."  When we are in control of our own financial situation, then we can unite with the Lord in his purpose to provide for others.

Arthur C. Brooks
(Image from his Twitter account)

We are blessed for giving.  It is not only a principle of faith, but a truth that has been scientifically proven.  Just for fun, I'm providing a link to a most amazing and delightful talk given at BYU by Arthur Brooks, a Catholic economist, entitled  "Why Giving Matters."  He is the author of Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservativism.  The "surprising truth" he discovered scientifically, which should not be a surprise to LDS people, was that people who give end up richer than people who don't.  God blesses them with money to give even more.


If you are in debt, or out of work, or in poor health, or in any of a number of circumstances that place you in need beyond what you can manage yourself, know that this marvelous worldwide Church has been in that position as well.  Although it seemed hopeless for the Church and its members to ever overcome its early financial difficulties, they were overcome, gradually, as the members and leadership adhered to the principles of the gospel and followed the words of the prophet.  If we develop spiritual self-reliance, financial self-reliance, and a willingness to care for the poor, we will link together a chain of preparedness.  And "if we are prepared, we shall not fear."

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson #37 "We Thank Thee, O God, For a Prophet"

Sing "Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice" as a class.  Note that Joseph Daynes wrote the music, the first Tabernacle organist, whom we learned about in Lesson #36.  Or, if you have an able violinist and vocalist ask them to perform "Come, Come Ye Saints," (violinist accompanying) as this was sung at the Conference of December 1847.

In November of 1847 with the settlement of Salt Lake City begun, the apostles gathered at Winter Quarters to decide whether the Church needed a First Presidency.  They asked a question that may be asked today: why is a First Presidency necessary when the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles holds all the keys?  But as they considered and debated over the days, they all felt that the focused leadership of a presidency was God's will for the Church.  Brigham Young, already the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, emerged as the obvious choice.  "None questioned his industry, integrity, or shrewd political savvy.  His status grew the further west they [had] traveled.  As Orson Pratt put it [in their final meeting, December 5]: 'There is no man in this Quorum who I respect more than Brother Young, and no man that I would wish sooner to be at the head...He has a great anxiety on his mind and although I consider I have seen errors in him, I feel that I could lay down my life for him'" (Richard E. Bennett, We'll Find the Place: The Mormon Exodus, 1846-1858, p. 289).  The other apostles were in agreement. Heber C. Kimball motioned and Wilford Woodruff seconded that Brigham Young be sustained as President of the Church.  All others voted yes.  President Young chose those two men as his counselors.

It was agreed that a special conference of the Church be convened, rather than waiting for April Conference, as many of the Apostles were about to leave on missions.  It was decided that Christmas would be the best time, as many people would be gathering to Winter Quarters from the outlying areas to be with family.  One problem presented itself:  Where to hold this conference?  It would be too cold outside, and the size of the crowd exceeded the size of any building.  It was decided that they build a tabernacle.  200 men immediately agreed to help.  On the evening of December 23rd, the log tabernacle was completed!  "It was, for its time, a wonderfully large cottonwood log tabernacle 65 feet long by 40 feet wide, complete with newly hewn benches, stoves for heating on all sides, a large fireplace, several doors, glass windows, and a smooth floor--[As Wilford Woodruff said,] 'an ornament to this new country'" (Bennett, p. 290-291).

The special conference was held December 24-27.  The new Tabernacle was a wonderful meetingplace, housing 1,000 attendees, some on buffalo robes on the floor.  A band and choir participated.  On the final day, which was Sunday, Brigham Young's name was presented for a vote.  After a soloist sang "Come, Come Ye Saints," accompanied by a violin, Orson Pratt rose to speak.  Among other things he said, "The time has come when the twelve must have their hands liberated to go to the ends of the earth."  All present voted in favor of Brigham Young and his presidency; there was not a single dissenter.  The meeting concluded with the hymn "The Spirit of God," and all present giving the hosanna shout (Bennett, p. 292).

Brigham Young at age 45, circa 1846
(I had never seen this photo before!
Isn't it great?)

The following October Conference in Salt Lake City,  Brigham Young having just arrived back there a couple of weeks before, his name was presented to the saints there, and the voting was again unanimous (Bennett, p. 354).

Why was there such a delay between prophets? Perhaps so that the choice could be made so clear by the efforts of Elder Young as the leader of the pioneers. Brother Bennett writes, "One very real heritage or result of the exodus was that it made a prophet of Brigham Young in a way perhaps no other circumstance could have...By the time they settled at the Great Salt Lake, for the vast majority there was no longer any doubt who should lead the Church" (Bennett, p. 361).

After Brigham Young's death there was a three-year wait until John Taylor's succession to the Presidency.  But during the Jubilee Year (50th Anniversary) of the Church, the event finally occurred.  Here are a few fun things about the progress that had been made in Salt Lake City in the 33 years since the Saints had entered the valley:

This photo for an antique stereograph viewer shows 
the interior of the Assembly Hall 
in the second half of the 1900th century.
From Wikipedia.

"April in Salt Lake City can be cold, raw, sleety, and snowy; April of 1880 was all of that. The three thousand Saints who crowded from all parts of the territory into the newly completed Assembly Hall for preliminary meetings on April 4 and 5 were impressed with the magnificent ceiling with its frescoes showing the Nauvoo and Kirtland temples and other scenes from Church history. A beautiful pipe organ, second in size only to the great organ in the Tabernacle to the north of the Assembly Hall, accompanied the choir under George Careless’s direction. More important, however, in view of the weather, were provisions for creature comfort; the new building was designed with steam heat that was piped under alternate benches throughout the hall and through twelve radiators against the walls. It was brilliantly lighted, despite the cloudy day, by 24 gas lamps and a huge central chandelier of 12 gas jets."  President John Taylor was sustained as "trustee-in-trust" of the Church at this conference.

 I found this "then and now" photo set of the
Assembly Hall ceiling at a lovely blog:

"Salt Lake City, the City of the Saints, had grown much in the 33 years since the Mormon pioneers had first entered the valley. A bird’s-eye view from Ensign Peak, to the north of the city, would have shown a panorama of neatly laid out ten-acre blocks, with wide, tree-bordered streets, most of which were still choked with dust in the summer and mired in mud during the winter, although some of the downtown merchants were laying 'asphalteum' in front of their stores for the benefit of pedestrians. And, for those who did not care to walk these streets, a street railway with horse-drawn cars running every half hour extended to eight different parts of the city. Gas lights illuminated the main streets, most downtown businesses, and many homes.

 Salt Lake City, around 1880
Deseret News archives 

"As it is today, the intersection of Main and South Temple streets was the heart of the city. Immediately to the northwest was the temple block, site of the April conference, surrounded by adobe-plastered walls 15 feet high and 5 feet thick. Within the enclosure stood the great Tabernacle, seating 10,000, that had dominated the Salt Lake City horizon with its elliptical, turtle-backed roof for the past decade. The magnificent new Assembly Hall, used for the first time for the preliminary meetings which conference visitors that jubilee year had attended, lifted its spires south of the Tabernacle. The grey granite walls of the unfinished Temple rose 65 feet above the ground, dwarfing all else but the bulk of the Tabernacle... 

"Loose livestock wandering the city streets was a chronic nuisance; in the midst of April conference that year, a cow was found prostrate on North Temple Street in the 18th Ward area. After two days, the Deseret News editor reported that 'the cow … has gone the way of all cows, at last, but did not go quite far enough to please the good people of that immediate neighborhood. The present state of weather will soon render the carrion a disagreeable source of annoyance and complaint.' (Deseret News, April 10.)"

"The Deseret News also announced regular church services. The first Thursday of each month was fast day; the public works were closed for the day so that men could attend fast meeting Thursday morning. The regular Sunday schedule included Sunday School at 10:00 A.M. in the various ward buildings, a general sacrament meeting in the Tabernacle at 2:00 P.M., which was regularly addressed by the General Authorities, and evening meetings at 6:00 P.M. in the wards...

" It seemed a fitting climax to the Saints’ year of jubilee that at October conference, in solemn assembly in the Tabernacle, John Taylor was sustained as prophet, seer, and revelator, the third President of the Church, with each of the quorums of the priesthood standing separately in turn and voting. The three-year interregnum without a President had been long, yet the Church had progressed under the united direction of the Twelve. As historian Hubert Howe Bancroft put it, 'The world was now to learn that the inherent vitality of Mormonism depended not on the existence of any one man or body of men, not even on the existence of the Twelve' (H. H. Bancroft, The History of Utah, San Francisco: History Company, 1889, p. 677)."
  (Margaret F. Maxwell, "Year of Jubilee," The New Era, July 1980)

After that, it was clear and automatic that the President of the Quorum of the Twelve would be the next President of the Church.
You may want to read the Parable of the Watchman on the Tower, D&C 101:43-54.  Then discuss what counsel was heard from our present-day Watchman in our most recent General Conference (list on the board) and discuss ideas for carrying out the Prophet's counsel.

I love this photo of President Monson
from Wikipedia's article on the Church.
(I'll tell you:  Someone put some serious effort
into that Wikipedia article!  It's a small book!)

As is often the case, our prophet President Monson closed the April 2013 General Conference with a blessing: "I invoke the blessings of heaven upon each of you.  May your homes be filled with peace, harmony, courtesy, and love.  May they be filled with the Spirit of the Lord.  May you nurture and nourish your testimonies of the gospel, that they will be a protection to you against the buffetings of Satan.

"Until we meet again in six months, I pray that the Lord will bless and keep you, my brothers and sisters.  May His promised peace be with you now and always.  Thank you for your prayers in my behalf and in behalf of all of the General Authorities.  We are deeply grateful for you.  In the name of our Savior and Redeemer, whom we serve, even Jesus Christ, the Lord, amen" (Thomas S. Monson, "Until We Meet Again,"  Ensign, May 2013, p. 114).

You may want to conclude with a hymn as well, "The Spirit of God" or "We Thank Thee, O God, For a Prophet."

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson #36 "The Desert Shall Rejoice and Blossom as the Rose"

Write "M & M" vertically on the board.  If you live in a location where you can easily get them, you can pass around M&M's chocolate candies as a treat.  Tell the class you are going to talk about two factors which contributed to the desert's blossoming as a rose, which both start with M.  Ask the class to guess what they might be.  Sing "Hark All Ye Nations" from the hymnbook (no. 264) which is another clue to the answers.

(If you have a world map to display, add colored tacks on the map for each place mentioned below.)

On August 28, 1852 at a special conference, just over 100 elders were called to missions throughout the world.  Remember, the saints have only been in the Salt Lake Valley for 5 years at this time.  Do you want to guess where these missionaries were called?
  • United States (Washington, Iowa, New Orleans, Texas)
  • Canada (Nova Scotia)
  • Europe (England, Wales, Ireland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Denmark, Norway)
  • Oceania (Sandwich Islands [Hawaii], French Polynesia, there were already missionaries in Australia)
  • South America (Chile and Peru)
  • Africa (South Africa)
  • Asia (4 to Hong Kong [China], 4 to Siam [Thailand], 9 to India)
(Source:  R. Lanier Britsch, From the East, p. 14; Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 356-365; Laurence E. Cummins, "The Saints in South Africa," Ensign, March 1973; Mormon Newsroom Facts and Statistics)

Of course the early missions to Europe and Canada were hugely successful and brought many new saints who were skilled craftsmen from the Old World to the new Mormon colonies.  Others of these early missions were not very successful at the time, but seeds were planted that germinated slowly or sat dormant, some for hundreds of years.

I will share just a little about a few of the more remote locations:

Actually, missionary work had already been started in Australia 12 years earlier by an English convert, who was joined a year later by a Scottish convert.  There was a congregation there as early as 1844!  (The year the Prophet died.)  Two American missionaries came in 1851, the year before this conference.  Today (2017) there are nearly 150,000 members in 6 missions in Australia with 5 temples (See Mormon Newsroom for the most current statistics).

Siam (Thailand)
Of the four missionaries called to Siam, only 1 made it because of the war there, Elder Luddington.  His only converts were the captain of the ship that brought him and the captain's wife.  He was only in Siam for 4 months, and was stoned twice during that time.  Today (2017) there are over 21,000 members in 40 congregations in the Thailand mission (Britsch, From the East, p. 30-32; see Mormon Newsroom).

China (Hong Kong)
Three missionaries were called to China.  "The mission to China cannot be assessed as anything but a complete failure," Britsch writes.  The Tai-Ping Rebellion prevented any work, and the missionaries returned to the U.S. after just a few weeks.  Missionaries did not return to China until 1949, when they were called again to Hong Kong.  Today (2017) there are over 24,000 members in 41 congregations and 1 temple in Hong Kong.  Mainland China is not open to missionary work. (Britsch, p. 33, 37; see Mormon Newsroom)

These were not the first missionaries called to India.  The previous year, Lorenzo Snow, mission president in Great Britain, sent one European brother to Bombay and another to Calcutta.  They initially had great success and baptized about 180 people, 170 of them native Indians.  The nine missionaries called to India in 1852, then, sailed from California on Christmas Day expecting to reap a great harvest, but they were very disheartened when they found that, of those 180 converts, only 6-8 were still faithful.  (Britsch, p. 14, 18)  Elder Nathan Very Jones wrote of his discouragement: "To all human appearance, there is scarcely a redeeming quality in the nation."  (Britsch, p. 24)  The mission was shortly closed.  It reopened again in 1993 with a native Indian as its president.  Today (2017) there are 2 missions in India with 13,000 members (check Mormon Newsroom for most current statistics).

These missionaries to India also planted seeds in Pakistan.  On their way home (1856 or earlier), they left some literature with a man named Robert Marshall, which included the prophecy of Joseph Smith on the Civil War.  Ten years later, when the war erupted, it was brought back to this man's mind.  He read it all.  There was no one to baptize him, but he was the first real missionary in Pakistan.  He became known as a Mormon and spread the gospel to twelve family members and friends.  Finally, when he was an old man and near the end of his life, his sons petitioned the Church in his behalf, and someone was sent from another mission to baptize him and the other twelve (Britsch, p. 29; also Keep a Pitchin In, Mormon History Blog which has some awesome pictures, the first of which "Karachi," features the Indian and Pakistani saints--also read the comments on that post for a little more info; "From India's Coral Strand," Improvement Era, April 1909).  According to an article in The Salt Lake Tribune published in September of 2011, there were about native Pakistanis serving missions, with 2/3rds of them serving in Pakistan (the entire Pakistani missionary force), although I can't find documentation from the Church on that information.  It is possible that the work there has stopped due to the war. Here is some older unofficial information about Pakistan.

And now for the second M that helped the desert to blossom as a rose:

Music was very important in the settling of the LDS communities in the west.  Some groups leaving Salt Lake City to settle other areas would delay a little while to see if incoming emigrant wagon trains might have a good baritone or soprano they could enlist for their community.  One bishop advertised 10 acres of his town's best land to any good tenor who would settle and agree to sing in his ward's choir (Charles J. Calman, The Tabernacle Choir, p. 22).

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
The Tabernacle Choir first sang on August 22, 1847, 29 days after the pioneers had entered the Salt Lake Valley, at the first General Conference held in Utah at the bowery.  At that time, there were fewer settlers in the valley than there are singers in today's choir, and very few of them were women.  The singers were Welsh immigrants.  They had  no name, no tabernacle, no organ, and no conductor.  The choir performed only twice each year for conference, but even with that, and with no organ, they greatly impressed visitors from France who wrote in 1855, "We feel bound to say that the Mormons have a feeling for sacred music, that their women sing with soul, and that the execution is in no notable degree surpassed by that which is heard either under the roof of Westminster, or the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel" (Calman, p. 21-22, quoting from A Journey to Great Salt Lake City).

The Tabernacle
The first tabernacle was built in 1851 of adobe.  It seated 2,500.  The present-day Tabernacle was built in 1867 (Calman, p. 22).  (For more on the Tabernacle, see History of the Tabernacle at Mormon Newsroom.)

The Organ
Joseph Ridges was 24 when he immigrated from England to Australia with his family.  He met some Latter-day Saints on the ship and eventually joined the Church.  As a boy in England, he had lived across the street from an organ factory.  When he came into money from gold mining in Australia, he started to build the first organ built in Australia.  The Church in Utah needed an organ, though, so at the suggestion of the Australian mission president the Ridges family disassembled it, packaged it in tin shipping cases, and immigrated with it to Utah via California.  On October 11, 1857 the organ was played for the first time in the old adobe Tabernacle.

On October 6, 1867, a new tabernacle organ built in Utah by Brother Ridges was played for the first time.  Parts of that organ still remain with the present-day Tabernacle organ, including the central organ case with the famous 32-foot golden pipes.  These pipes are actually made of wood, and it is still a mystery how they were made.  Perhaps they were made on the keystone principle, with the canvas lining glued to the inside acting as the keystone before the last strip was placed in its slot.  They are the only round wooden pipes of this size in the world (Calman, p. 33; also James R. Moss, "The Kingdom Builders," Ensign, December 1979).

The Organist
Joseph Daynes was born in England and began playing the piano at the age of 2.  He performed an organ concert for Queen Victoria at age 11.  Shortly thereafter, he crossed the plains with his family to join the Saints (about 1862) and was welcomed by Brigham Young who said, "There is the organist for our great Tabernacle organ" (L.W. Snow, "History of Joseph J. Daynes, written for the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers; also Calman, p. 33). When he first sat at Ridge's organ, his feet would not reach the pedals so he add blocks of cork to the soles of his shoes.  At the dedication of the new organ, 16-year-old Joseph Daynes was at the console.  His composition, "As the Dew From Heaven Distilling" is the closing number of each Tabernacle Choir television broadcast still today (Calman, p. 33-35.  See also The Friend, October 1987).

The Conductor
George Careless was also born in England and displayed a great musical talent, which his father thought was a waste of time.  So George was apprenticed to a shoemaking company.  Unfortunately for George's father, the foreman loaned George a violin and told him to think of nothing but music as his career.  He was baptized at age 11.  At age 13 his father presented him with an ultimatum: not to choose between the church and his family, as you might expect, but to choose between music and his family.  So George left the family for good.  The factory foreman lent George the money to attend the Royal Academy music school at age 20.  In 1864, at age 25, he emigrated to Utah to join the saints.

As they crossed the ocean, George led the LDS emigrants in a choir, impressing the captain so much that when they landed he begged for a piece of George's music.  All of it was packed away, even the blank note paper, so George sat down on a crate and drew out the lines of the staff on a piece of paper from his pocket and, on the spot, wrote a little tune for the captain which he named "Hudson," after the ship.  He then assembled the choir and they sang the tune "Hudson" with the words of Parley P. Pratt's well-known hymn "The Morning Breaks" for the captain.  In those days, hymns would be sung to any number of different tunes, but that particular tune and lyric combination still exists as hymn number 1 in our hymnbook today.

When he reached Salt Lake City, George was greeted with the news that there were already too many professional musicians in town (three) and they were unable to make a living with music.  He answered, "I'll stay with my music for two years--if I starve, you will have to bury me."  Within a month, he had 24 paying students (100 pounds of flour for a series of lessons), and his abilities attracted President Young's attention.

President Young called him to lead the Tabernacle Choir.  He agreed, promising, "I will do the best I can with the material I can get."  And he led that "material" to greatness.  He was a terrific organizer and assembled the first large-scale tabernacle choir for general conference from the core choir members, joined by saints who rehearsed throughout Utah and came to Salt Lake for the event.  (See David Maxwell, "The Morning Breaks: George Careless, Musical Pioneer," Ensign, February 1984.  Also found in Calman's book, p. 39-43)

You may want to close the topic with a recording of "When in Our Music God is Glorified" from the hymnbook, or simply recite the first and third verses. Or, of course, you could play a recording the Tabernacle Choir singing, "The Morning Breaks" or "As the Dew From Heaven Distilling."

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson #35 "A Mission of Saving"

With the conversion of many Europeans to the church, the necessity of gathering them to Zion was a great problem.  The conditions in the big cities of Europe were deplorable.  Evacuation was essential to the salvation of these saints, yet many of them were very poor and could never afford the tremendous expense of a covered wagon and team of oxen.  Looking for a less-expensive solution, the idea of traveling by handcarts was presented and approved. 

This painting is from True West Magazine

Handcarts were not invented for pioneers, but were common in big cities, used by the street vendors in big cities.  It was a crazy idea to use these for crossing the plains, but it was an inspired crazy idea.  It made it possible for many desperately poor Saints to gather.

January 12, 1856, The Millennial Star (the Church magazine in England), published instructions for gathering, and subsequent later articles elaborated.

Traveling by handcart was, however, a knife-edge plan at best, with no room for error.  It was based on the bare minimum.  Each company of saints would charter a ship to America and then cross by rail to Iowa City, where handcarts would have been prepared for them.  The companies were to be led by the missionaries who had served in Europe and who were now traveling home.  There were 5 people to a handcart, with 17 pounds baggage each.  20 people (or 4 handcarts) were assigned to one tent.  100 people (or 20 handcarts) were assigned to one Chicago wagon which carried their tents and their food.  90 days' rations (rations being the operative word here—the bare minimum) were to be brought.  Each person was allowed one change of clothing plus their own bedding and cookware.  The estimated travel time was 70 days and was quite optimistic, although one of the first companies, full of converts from Wales, did it in 65.  Handcart companies were to be met and resupplied with food and provisions at Fort Laramie provided by the saints in Salt Lake City.

Mission President Franklin D. Richards published this advice to those who would join the handcart companies:  “It is our constant desire not to mislead the Saints concerning the difficulties of the journey to Utah.  We wish them calmly to make up their minds that it is not an easy task, and to start with faith, trusting in Israel’s God for success…”  (LeRoy R. Hafen and Ann W. Hafen, Handcarts to Zion: The Story of a Unique Western Migration, 1856-1860, p. 42-43).

The prospect of affordable travel to Zion overjoyed the poor Saints of Europe so much that hundreds of them signed on.  Things went quite well for the first two companies.  They crossed the plains more quickly than oxen could.  They arrived in Salt Lake destitute, but they had left Europe destitute, and here their brothers in the gospel could help them, and opportunity for improvement abounded.

The next two companies however, led by missionaries James Willie and Edward Martin, had a multiplicity of problems.

The system was flooded with potential immigrants and it was difficult to book passage for them all.  During the 7-month sailing season of 1855-1856, almost 5,000 Mormon converts crossed the sea, some with wagon companies, most with handcart companies.  Many of the saints joyously, but not wisely, quit their jobs as soon as they heard of the handcart plan.  Now they had no choice but to move ahead, and no funds with which to purchase supplies.  President Brigham Young was alarmed at the late departure of some of these ships when he received the report by mail on July 31, and wrote to new mission president Orson Pratt, “They should be landed early in May, and not much, if any after the first of that month, in Boston or New York.  You will please to attend to this matter in the season there of.”  The good ship Thornton hadn’t left England until May 3, and the Horizon didn't leave until May 25!

When they reached Florence, Nebraska, some of the saints stayed behind, waiting for better passage.  It was well-known that to cross the plains safely, you must reach Independence Rock in central Wyoming by Independence Day, July 4 (hence the name of the rock).  But the majority of the intrepid converts felt they should push on.  Unfortunately, rather than sticking with the sound advice of their Church president, as well as that of the travel guide books available, they decided to make a democratic decision and vote on whether to cross.  Of course, not having ever crossed the plains, and being mostly city-dwellers, they were not in a position to make an objective decision.  Their faith carried the vote and there was only one vote of descent:  Levi Savage.  Having crossed the plains many times, and seeing the poor health and old age of many of the company, he advised them to stay back for the winter, but when they refused and questioned his faith, he famously stated, “Brethren and sisters, what I have said I know to be true; but seeing you are to go forward, I will go with you, will help you all I can, will work with you, will rest with you, will suffer with you, and, if necessary, I will die with you.  May God in his mercy bless and preserve us” (Hafen, p. 96-97).

There were not enough handcarts ready for them, so they built more hastily and didn’t wait for seasoning of the wood.  By the time the Willie Company embarked on the trek it was August 18th!  The Martin Company left August 25th!  And the Hunt wagon train left September 2nd, particularly dangerous for a wagon train as wagons were much slower.

President Richards, having been released from his mission, caught up with them just before they left and said, “From the beginning we have done all in our power to hasten matters pertaining to emigration, therefore we confidently look for the blessing of God to crown our humble efforts with success, and for the safe arrival of our brethren the poor Saints in Utah, though they may experience some cold” (Hafen, p. 98). That turned out to be quite an understatement!

In addition to their terribly late start across the plains, the companies crossed more slowly than others.   The Willie Company did not arrive in Salt Lake until Nov. 9 (84 days of travel), the Martin arrived Nov. 30 (97 days) and the Hunt and Hodgett wagon trains arrived on Dec. 11-15 (104 days)! They had many equipment difficulties, hastily-constructed handcarts falling apart, oxen dying or getting lost, fatigue striking and causing them to discard their warm clothing and bedding in the warm weather in order to make their carts lighter, and no resupply at Fort Laramie because Brigham Young assumed they would have followed counsel and wintered in Nebraska. 

But the Lord did bless them and rescue them, despite their follies, and because of their faith.  Although they suffered exposure, fatigue, illness, starvation, and injury and came across an early winter storm (early, but not at all unusual for Wyoming where still to this day there are actually large gates that are used to block entrance to the Interstate highway during blizzards), approximately 82% of the saints in these four companies survived and arrived in Zion.  82%!  They should have all died!  This percentage is by my own calculation, using the rosters provided in the book, Remember: The Willie and Martin Handcart Companies and Their Rescuers—Past and Present, compiled and edited by the Riverton Wyoming Stake.  In fact, I counted on those rosters 22 families with from 4 to 7 children each who arrived intact, not having lost a member! (My own ancestor, Elizabeth Simpson Bradshaw, with her children is among that number.)

The story of the handcart pioneers should be a great encouragement to all of us, whatever our trek through life may be.  Many times we make foolish, although well-meaning, decisions.  Sometimes we disregard important counsel because it doesn't meet our agenda. Sometimes we don't have the faith to wait, but forge ahead. Often we are ill-equipped for the storms that come upon us.  But in every instance, if we are true to our faith, the Lord will see us through.

Additional Resources

T.C. Christensen has undertaken the project of chronicling these saints on the silver screen.  Those of you in Utah are familiar with his movies, but those of you elsewhere may not be.  I highly recommend both of them: 17 Miracles, about the ordeals of the handcart companies, and Ephraim’s Rescue, retelling the story of their rescue.  The movies are now out on DVD and sometimes on Netflix and most accurately and beautifully depict the events of 1856.  Children will enjoy counting the miracles in 17 Miracles, which are all well-documented, but bear in mind, these 17 are by no means all the miracles that the handcart companies experienced.  They are too many for one feature-length film!  

Another nice resource is the website, where books, stories and artwork are available.  Julie Rogers is the artist, and has painted many of the individual pioneers, including my own ancestors, Sarah Ann Haigh and Elizabeth Simpson Bradshaw, carrying her youngest son Richard (pictured above) which painting now hangs on my wall.

The Rest of the Story

There is another fascinating aspect of the handcart pioneer story that is less well-known: that of the intrepid Daniel Webster Jones (not the Welsh missionary Dan Jones) and his group of 20 men who came as part of the rescue team, and then volunteered to stay the winter at a tiny fort on the trail near Martin’s Cove in order to guard the belongings of these poor Saints, since all wagon space was used to carry people back to Salt Lake City and anything left along the trail would be considered abandoned and free for the taking.  Theirs is a story of tremendous loyalty, kindness, obedience and bravery, as they suffered on guard duty all through the long winter.  They were organized into a small branch of the Church before they were left behind, and they carried on with church meetings and fast days, although they had a lot of extra fast days as well.  They nearly starved to death on several occasions, and even learned to boil cowhide to create a gelatin that they could subsist upon until the next miracle arrived.  Fortunately, Dan Jones' personal recollections are available online (Forty Years Among the Indians). This particular adventure begins in Chapter XIII.  Wallace Stegner, a non-Mormon historian who specialized in Mormon history, chronicled the story in an interesting narrative, and that is also available at that site as "The Man That Ate His Pack Saddle."