Friday, December 24, 2021
Sunday, December 12, 2021
Thursday, December 9, 2021
I don't have time or ability to put together a lesson on The Family Proclamation right now, but here are some great lessons that are vaguely related to it.
The Family Proclamation gives us the ideals for family life. But...what if your family is dysfunctional? Is there hope for you? Well, there was for Vaughan J. Featherstone and Abraham the Prophet.
And I just really love sharing this story from Church history of a family man who turned his life over to God, helped many families, and promoted family values among all his employees: Jesse Knight
Monday, December 6, 2021
OFFICIAL DECLARATION 1: “THE MANIFESTO”
After living the law of plural marriage for several decades, it was shock to members of the Church in Utah to have the practice halted by President Woodruff. They had sacrificed so much to live this law!
“It was just a coincidence that the doctrine of polygamy was abandoned on my birthday,” writes polygamous wife Annie Clark Tanner. “My first birthday was an event made possible by it [having been born the child of a polygamous union]; my whole life had been shaped according to it; and my faith that it was Divine and everlasting was so strong that I compare it with the faith of the three Hebrews who were to be cast into a fiery furnace for their convictions.
“But now I was beginning to wonder: Is God ‘the same yesterday, today, and forever?’
“I can remember so well the relief that I felt when I first realized that the Church had decided to abandon its position. For all of my earlier convictions [that polygamy was necessary for highest exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom] a great relief came over me. At that moment I compared my feelings of relief with the experience one has when the first crack of dawn comes after a night of careful vigilance over a sick patient. At such a time daylight is never more welcome; and now the dawn was breaking for the Church. I suppose its leaders may have realized, at last, that if our Church had anything worthwhile for mankind, they had better work with the government of our country rather than against it” (Annie Clark Tanner, A Mormon Mother: An Autobiography, Tanner Trust Fund, Salt Lake City, Utah: 1991, 129-130).
Annie Clark Tanner
(“Come,Follow Me” has links to many excellent, frank, scholarly essays on the topics of both polygamy and the Manifesto. It is well worth reading every one of them.)
From our vantage point 130 years in their future, we have no difficulty accepting the Manifesto—instead, we have difficulty accepting the practice of polygamy to begin with. Some of us would like to forget it ever happened.
Later in life, Sister Tanner explains to her posterity why so many members entered into plural marriages:
“If one can picture the sociological conditions in Utah Territory when the principle of polygamy was openly endorsed by the Church in 1852, one can better understand the reason for its development. Hundreds of young women came from the overcrowded section in the old country. They were thoroughly converted to the Gospel. To be the wife of a fine leader in Israel was the height of their ambition. Perhaps too, the effect of the increase in numbers it furnished to the Church was considered of some advantage.
“It must be remembered that the western immigration movement brought to Utah all kinds of people. Concerning some of the men folks, girls comparing their chances for matrimony, often said of a Mormon leader, ‘I’d rather have his little finger than the whole of a man outside the Church...’
“Many of the finest characters in Utah and surrounding states owe their existence to this doctrine of the Mormon Church. It is often remarked that all the headaches and heartaches caused by polygamy have, in some measure, been compensated by the fine…results [in the children].
"The women of the Church living this principle felt themselves greatly favored above nonmember women of other parts of our country. They felt it a great privilege to have a husband of their choice, a home, and a family" (Tanner, 23-24).
Sister Tanner noted that leadership and success was generally observed in the children of a polygamist’s family. And as those practicing polygamy were highly religious, “religious training was the rule in a polygamous home” (Tanner, 25).
THE ABRAHAMIC SACRIFICE OF PLURAL MARRIAGE
Although she boldly asserted (and evidence of the day agrees) that “No one could make the women of Utah feel that they had an inferior position,” she also acknowledged the extreme difficulties of living in polygamy.
“I am sure that women would never have accepted polygamy had it not been for their religion. No woman ever consented to its practice without a great sacrifice on her part” (Tanner, 132).
I’m not sure we will ever be able to understand why God commanded the practice of polygamy among the Latter-day Saints in this life, but the best thoughts I have found on it are offered by the extremely bright mind of former BYU professor, Valerie Hudson Cassler:
“God is not indifferent concerning how his children marry. He actively and severely restricts the practice of polygamy, while leaving monogamy unrestricted. One can be ‘destroyed’ for practicing polygamy without God’s sanction, becoming ‘angels to the devil’ and ‘bring[ing] your children unto destruction, and their sins heaped upon your heads at the last day,’ but no such punishment attends the practice of monogamy (Jacob 2:33; 3:5-6, 10-12)…
“Joseph Smith restored marriage for ‘time and all eternity’ (D&C 132:18), which we now colloquially call ‘temple marriage.’ In restoring the principle of temple marriage, Joseph Smith restored both the general law of marriage and the lawful exception [of polygamous temple marriage] as elucidated by Jacob centuries before...
“No matter what the human inventory of emotions toward polygamy--joy, sorrow, or joy and sorrow mixed--the most mature and most knowledgeable viewpoint is that of the Lord, who appears to be stating that he views it as an Abrahamic sacrifice.” https://www.squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleCasslerPolygamy.html
For more on what an Abrahamic sacrifice is, please go to the link to read the rest of the article; it is too dense with scriptures for me to justly write an overview of it, but it is the best explanation I’ve ever read and was a great comfort to my mind.
OFFICIAL DECLARATION 2: THE REVELATION ON THE PRIESTHOOD
Please see my previous post on Blacks and the Priesthood here: https://gospeldoctrineplus.blogspot.com/2009/11/lesson-42-continuing-revelation.html
Sadly, there was much persecution, abuse, and racism in the United States during the now 191 history of the Restoration, including among the highly-imperfect members of the Church. Although some of the few Latter-day Saints who were slaveholders were "kind," (if such a thing cane be said of someone who is a slaveholder), some were not. But, acknowledging this, I would like to face forward in this blog post and focus on how we can be united. I hope the day comes that we don’t even use the word “race” in referring to different colors of skin and different ethnic backgrounds. We are all one race, the human race. For the solution to the problem labeled "racism," there is no better source than Elder Ahmad Corbitt, Philadelphia native, convert to the Church along with his parents and 9 siblings, former trial attorney, past director of the New York Office of Public and International Affairs for the Church, and presently First Counselor in the Young Men's General Presidency.
Speaking on a podcast posted this week Elder Corbitt said, “I believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints…is the most empowered and best positioned to bring to pass racial unity and harmony throughout the family of God, among all the international organizations in the world.” [Firstly,] our apostles and prophets have the power and the keys to unify all of God’s children throughout the world of whatever background to become one in Christ. Secondly…the Church is…authorized, empowered, and positioned to effect [the] gathering [of Israel]…from all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.” (See D&C 45:69,71.)
“If we, together, look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, ‘having our hearts knit together in unity and love one toward another,’ we…can create a culture of total unity and inclusivity in the Lord’s church in preparation for the Second Coming…[See Mosiah 18:21.] Look forward with an eye of faith and see it! It’s prophesied and it’s promised!…Then do the things that lead to that kind of outcome…
"Be careful of a lot of online stuff which can be very strident and bitter and purport to be…carrying the banner of unity and racial harmony but kind of go about it in the world’s way rather than in the Savior’s way…Unity among God’s children (think of 4th Nephi, think of Moses 7, and the City of Enoch and so on)—that’s God’s work!”
Elder Corbitt points out that the Book of Mormon is the one book of scripture in which God tells one group of people “to reach across a color barrier” to another group of people. The sons of Mosiah reached across the barrier to the Lamanites to bring them to Christ, and the prophet Samuel reached across the barrier back to the Nephites to do the same. They always referred to those “others” as their “brothers.”
“So a telltale sign of a truly converted person who really is seeking the mind of Christ is that they will see people of different backgrounds, different appearances as their brothers and sisters and they will refer to them as such.” (Ahmad Corbitt, with Hank Smith and John Bytheway, “Follow Him: A Come Follow Me Podcast,” Episode 50, Part II, available to watch on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNwlz5uqK3Q&t=20s or listen to it on any podcast app.) Conversely, f you catch yourself calling another political, cultural, religious, or ethnic group "them" and feeling at enmity with "them," you have some changing to do in order to build Zion.
(You may also want to check out "Making Sense of the Church's History on Race," by W. Paul Reeve.)
GOD IS THE SAME TODAY, TOMORROW, AND FOREVER, EVEN IF THE CHURCH IS NOT
Revelations will change the Church, alter our belief systems, implement new policies and remove old ones as we are ready for more light and knowledge and as circumstances in the world change. Of course, they will! We would have no need of a prophet otherwise. But the doctrine of Christ is solid (2 Nephi 31) and His love is sure (Romans 8:35-39). If we pray to be strive to obey to the best of our ability, and if we seek to be filled with His love, we will be blessed.
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).
Wherever we find ourselves in life and in the history of the House of Israel and the Restoration of the Church, whatever color our skin or whatever principles and practices are in force during our lives, we will be blessed if we keep the commandments to our best ability. (See Galatians 3:26-29.) Any sacrifices we make will be compensated so that we can feel satisfaction in our efforts in the things that mattered most. As Annie Clark Tanner wrote:
"It is but a small part that the average person contributes to improve mankind. My life has been simple, full of love, devotion, and service for my family. I might have thought mine a hard row to hoe had not the plants I cultivated responded so magnificently to the culture I gave them" (http://www.byhigh.org/Alumni_A_to_E/Clark-Tanner/Annie.html).
Tuesday, November 30, 2021
In the year 1918, Joseph F. Smith was the President of the Church, and his son, Hyrum Mack Smith, was one of the apostles. Joseph had a very close attachment to his son Hyrum, and always had. Hyrum had been ordained to the apostleship when he was only 29; now he was 45. He had recently returned from the harrowing experience of being the President of the European Mission and finding himself behind enemy lines in Germany when World War I broke out. Now, in January of 1918, he suddenly became ill and died, leaving his wife with four young children, and another one due in the fall.
The year 1918 was a bad year for almost everyone. Besides the fact that World War I was well underway, causing death and destruction around the globe, another even greater catastophe struck. On March 11th, the company cook at Fort Riley, Kansas reported in sick with a fever, sore throat, and a headache. He was quickly followed by another soldier with similar complaints. By noon, the camp's hospital had counted over 100 ill soldiers. By the end of the week, the number reached 500.
The American soldiers shipping out to Europe to fight against Germany that spring did not realize that they carried a weapon more deadly than rifles, bombs, or cannons. The virus earned the name "Spanish Influenza" because eight million Spaniards died of it in May of that year. The Spanish Influenza killed faster and with less mercy than any weapon of war. It hit people from age 20-40 the hardest. In a matter of hours, a person could go from strapping good health to flat in bed unable to walk. Patients felt as if they had been beaten all over with a club. Fevers would reach 105 degrees, causing the victims to become delirious and hallucinate. In June, Great Britain reported 31,000 cases. By summer, the flu had spread to Russia, North Africa, China, Japan, the Philippines, and New Zealand.
The tide of the illness waned over the summer in the U.S., only to return with a fury in the fall. At Camp Devens, near Boston, it was reported that the dead bodies were "stacked about the morgue like cordwood." In one day there, 63 men died.
On September 24, in Utah, Hyrum Mack Smith's widow delivered her baby, but she died of the birthing process, leaving the prophet's five little grandchildren orphans. Many other Utahns lost loved ones at the same time, as that was the very week the Spanish Influenza hit Utah.
The War ended in November of 1918, but the flu raged on. In one week that month, the town of Brevig Mission, Alaska lost 85% of its population to the flu. 30,000 San Franciscans took to the streets to celebrate the end of the war. As over 2,000 citizens of their city had died of the influenza, the revelers were required by law to wear face masks. (Sound familiar?) On November 21st, sirens announced that it was now safe to remove the masks. The next month, 5,000 new cases of influenza were reported in San Francisco.
December 22nd was appointed by the Church leaders as a day of fasting "for the arrest and speedy suppression by Divine Power of the desolating scourge that is passing over the earth."
Then, as quickly and mysteriously as it came, the Spanish Influenza left. It waned in mid-winter (January), with a slight resurgence in the spring, never to be seen again. To this day, neither the cause nor the cure is scientifically known. The death toll in the U.S. was 675,000--10 times the number of Americans killed in the war, and 55,000 more than were killed in the Civil War. Half of the U.S. soldiers who died in Europe died of influenza, rather than of violence. Exact numbers cannot be found, but very possibly 50 million people worldwide died of influenza. The Spanish Influenza was the most devastating epidemic in world history. It killed more in one year than the Bubonic Plague killed in four.
It was during this year of devastation that the Great Vision of the Redemption of the Dead was given from Heaven to soothe the souls of mankind. President Joseph F. Smith had been confined to his bed for six months of 1918, suffering from pneumonia, and was very near death himself. He was not able to attend to the logistics of running the Church, but his enfeebled physical state made him even more capable of attending to the things of the Spirit. The afterlife was a topic utmost in his mind all year, as it was for people all around the world. President Smith had been especially close to this topic all his life, as his father, Hyrum Smith, had been killed when he was five, his mother, Mary Fielding, had died when he was in his early teens, and of his 49 children (44 biological and 5 adopted), 14 had died (nearly one-third). Because he had meditated, researched, taught, and testified about the redemption of the dead so faithfully all his life, and because he was currently pondering the scriptures on the matter, he was prepared and blessed to witness first-hand in a vision, exactly what happens to people after they die. Through this vision to President Smith, the Lord comforted the saints around the world who were suffering intensely because of the loss of their loved ones and the fear of dying themselves.
President Joseph F. Smith's family in 1898
For a delightful accounting of Joseph F. Smith's intimate method of parenting, please see "The Fathering Practices of Joseph F. Smith," by Mark D. Ogletree, available at BYU Archives.
(Sources: Arnold K. Garr, et.al., Encyclopedia of Latter-day History; Robert L. Millet, Selected Writings of Robert L. Millet (Gospel Scholars Series); Molly Billings, www.stanford.edu/group/virus/uda; "American Experience" at www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/influenza/; and "Grandpa Bill's General Authority Pages" at personal.bellsouth.net/lig/w/o/wo13/menu.htm)
Wednesday, November 24, 2021
I wanted to see this miracle visually, and I wanted to be able to comprehend and remember it, to be able to tell it from memory, so I laid it out in a timeline with maps. I color-coded the groups on the map and in the text (blue for the seafaring saints, red for the main body of overland pioneers, gold for the Mississippi saints, and green for the military group). I filled in more details as I discovered them, and each time, my faith was strengthened. Once I saw the timeline of the Latter-day Saint Migration, it became very difficult to believe that it could have been accomplished without Divine planning. I recalled times in my own life where I was stuck crossing a trackless prairie of problems, entirely unaware of the benevolent machinations of my Heavenly Father in other places and in other people's lives that would all come together to create a miracle that I would later see and comprehend.
My trust and faith in my Heavenly Father has been strengthened through this study, and I hope yours will be as well.
"Why, madam," he said, "I see nothing before you but
inevitable destruction in going off into the wilderness among savages, far from civilization, with nothing
but what you can carry in your wagon…I see nothing before you but starvation.”
Quoting Psalm 78:19, Sarah told him, “The Lord [will] spread a table for us in the wilderness…”
The officer was right: there was no chance of success.
And yet the Mormons triumphed.
Here is the timeline of their story.
Persecutions increase for the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo.
The Quincy Convention calls for all Mormons to leave Nauvoo by May of 1846.
A few days later, the Carthage Convention calls for their forced removal by militia, should they fail to meet the deadline.
12,000 saints in Nauvoo and another 2,000-3,000 in the surrounding states will soon be homeless.
President Brigham Young calls team captains for the move west and Nauvoo saints begin gathering supplies and making wagons. Saints in other areas are called to gather with them and go west. The plan is that they will all go together in one gigantic 2,500-wagon train in an organized fashion.
The Nauvoo Temple is finally dedicated, although temple work had ceased in February. Over the winter, 6,000 saints had received their endowments in the completed portions of the Nauvoo Temple. The temple is immediately put up for sale, but no reasonable offer is made. They ask $200,000 and years later finally receive $5,000.
Even while in this distress, a few men are called on missions to Europe straight from the refugee camps.
John Brown and the Mississippi saints arrive in Independence, Missouri, the jumping-off point for all travel to the west, hear wild stories about Mormons killing people in the west, and assume that Brigham Young has gone on ahead of them. They decide to head west to catch up, rather than go north to Nauvoo.
The Mormon Battalion leaves Winter Quarters, the only religiously-based military unit in the history of the United States.
San Francisco immediately becomes an overwhelmingly Mormon community. They start farming while they await instruction from Brigham Young.
--October 6, 1846
The rescue party arrives at the "poor camps" outside Nauvoo to find the situation much more desperate than they are prepared to meet. The rescue captain, Orville Allen, sends some of his men into the surrounding area to purchase more supplies. Meanwhile the people are starving.
Thousands of exhausted quail suddenly fly into the refugee camp, flopping onto the ground all around the wagons and tents, and even onto the arms and the heads of the pioneers. Even the sick can easily pick up a bird with no resistance at all. The suffering saints eat well that day at a “table in the wilderness.” The quail stop coming at 3:00 p.m. The men arrive back with the supplies and the rescue team heads back with the first group at 4:30.
The Mormon Battalion arrives at Santa Fe. Many members have fallen ill along the way. The sick Battalion members are sent to Pueblo, Colorado.
The sick Battalion members arrive at Pueblo to find the Mississippi saints waiting there--surprise! To add to the reunion, the leader of the sick contingent is James Brown, another missionary who served in Monroe, Mississippi.
Sam Brannan publishes an early edition of The California Star newspaper, printed on the Mormon press.
--January 9, 1847
The first subscriptions are delivered by hand, or hawked on street corners in San Francisco, and are sent east and to Great Britain on ships.
Pres. Young’s advance team arrives at Fort Laramie. Those waiting from Pueblo join the group, and one of the apostles in the team, Amasa Lyman, goes to Pueblo to bring the rest to the Great Basin.
Sam Brannan, having made his way back from California, reports to Pres. Young at his camp along the trail.
The Mormon Battalion is mustered out of service at Los Angeles and the men begin to make their way north.
Some head straight to the Salt Lake Valley to get on the trail back to Winter Quarters to get family.
Others go north to San Francisco to join with the Brooklyn saints in the biggest Mormon community in the west, and earn money to take back to Salt Lake.
Two days later, on what is now celebrated as Pioneer Day in Utah, Pres. Young’s party arrives in Salt Lake Valley. Sam Brannan teaches the Saints to make adobe bricks for houses, a skill he learned in California.
About 100 Battalion members find work building a saw mill for John Sutter on the American River near San Francisco.
The first Battalion members arrive in the Salt Lake Valley from
Los Angeles. They are able to teach the saints invaluable skills for desert farming and irrigation which they learned from the Pueblo Indians and the Mexicans as they toiled through the southwest.
--March 15, 1848--
Many more Mormon families emigrate. To avoid harassment from anti-Mormon pioneers, they travel on the north of the Platte River, rather than on the Oregon Trail to the south. This separation contributes to a better survival rate for the Mormons, thanks to the organization and cleanliness of their camps, and the avoidance of cholera contamination left behind
by Oregon Trail travelers.
Insects, frost and drought destroy much of the crop in the Great Basin. The saints nearly starve through the winter. In the midst of this crisis, Heber C. Kimball, a counselor in the First Presidency, prophesies that “States’ goods would be sold in the streets of Salt Lake City cheaper than in New York, and that the people would be abundantly supplied with food and clothing.”
Apostle Amasa Lyman arrives in San Francisco and encourages the Brooklyn saints to come to the Salt Lake Valley. Increasing lawlessness in California provides additional incentive. Besides gold-prospecting, Mormons have made money from the prospectors themselves. Alondus Buckland sells his Buckland House hotel, situated on a corner lot in downtown San Francisco, for an estimated $10,000, donating some to the Church and using some to emigrate his extended family and the rest of his hometown back east.
--July 14, 1849--
The wagon company, later known as “The Gold Train,” leaves for Utah, heavily loaded with gold. It is a dangerous journey, as the company dodges would-be thieves on the busy road.
About 1/3 of the Brooklyn saints eventually leave California to resettle in Utah.
“The Gold Train” arrives in Salt Lake City, and nearly $15,000 is deposited in the Church’s bank account. With this money, Pres. Young establishes the Perpetual Emigration Fund which funds the emigration of an additional 100,000 saints over the following years, mostly from Europe.
until 1869 when the transcontinental railroad is completed.
Most of them are converts from the European Mission.
The death rate among the Mormon pioneers is unknown, but is estimated at less than 10% (including the Martin/Willie handcart disaster, and the deaths at Winter Quarters). This is about 5% lower than other pioneers, despite the fact that Mormon wagon trains consisted of many more inexperienced travelers; old, disabled or ill people; and families with young children.
Sarah Leavitt was right. The Lord did prepare a table in the wilderness.
•"The Excitement and Enthusiasm of Gold Washing Still Continues--Increases," California Star, accessed at The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco
•Richard E. Bennett, We’ll Find the Place: The Mormon Exodus, 1846-1848, Deseret Book
•Margaret Blair Young and Darius Aidan Gray, One More River to Cross, Deseret Book
•Leonard J. Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom, Deseret Book