Sunday School lessons for Gospel Doctrine Class

Saturday, September 23, 2017

“The Desert Shall Rejoice, and Blossom as the Rose”

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One of the problems in studying history is that we often see it from our vantage point, rather than in the context of the time in which the history transpired.  The Saints who had set out from Nauvoo to cross the country in search of freedom faced great challenges as they began the task of settling the Salt Lake Valley to build not only a safe haven, a home, but the Kingdom of God. 

This task was not as easy as it may seem to be.  The jaunt from Nauvoo to get to the valley was not a hike, it was not a reenactment trek, it was not a scout hike, it was not an expedition.  These pioneering Saints crossed hundreds of miles of rugged terrain through mostly uninhabited wilderness with their lives in jeopardy, and now after the perilous trek, they were as far away from civilization as one could get in the United States.  They could not request supplies and have them in days or weeks or even months., they were in the middle of nowhere with nothing and they had to make it all on their own.  And yet, after migrating through the wilderness, they were about to lay the foundation for a new civilization, the kingdom of God, and they were not alone, they had the Lord. 

The Kingdom Begins
Having successfully brought the first company of Saints across the plains to Utah, President Brigham Young now turned his attention to establishing God’s kingdom in the desert. Two days after the first company’s arrival, Brigham Young and several of the Twelve climbed a round bluff on the mountainside that President Young had seen in vision before leaving Nauvoo. They looked out over the valley’s vast expanse and prophesied that all nations of the world would be welcome in this place and that here the Saints would enjoy prosperity and peace. They named the hill Ensign Peak after the scripture in Isaiah that promised, “He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel” (Isaiah 11:12).

12 And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

July 25, 1847:  Was the day after Brigham Young arrived in the valley and it was Sunday, the Sabbath.  And much like the Israelites after the long journey it was time for instruction, and guidance that all things be in proper order.  Near the close of  worship service, President Young spoke to the congregation.  He informed the brethren that they must not work, hunt, or fish on Sunday. This was to be the law in the Salt Lake valley. Those that could not abide by this counsel were invited to go and live elsewhere. 

He also instituted the distribution of the land  "No man should buy or sell land. Every man should have his land measured off to him for city and farming purposes, what he could till. He might till it as he pleased, but he should be industrious and take care of it."  Brigham Young (Comprehensive History of the Church, 3:269)

President Young also declared that there would be no private ownership of  the water streams and as well wood and timber would be regarded as community property; only dead timber was to be used for fuel.  These first things were very important, as many, even thousands would be migrating to the Great Basin and all things should be equal, this was in part, the law of consecration for the Saints. 

“Right here will stand the temple of our God.”

July 28 1847:  four days after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, President Brigham stood on the spot where the Salt Lake Temple now stands and performing his first public act struck his cane on the ground and said, “Right here will stand the temple of our God” (Wilford Woodruff, Deseret Evening News, 25 July 1888, 2)  Immediately he put men to work planning its design and construction and the sacrifice and blessings of building another temple began. Within one week after arriving President Young had marked the spot for the temple, the Saints began surveying the new city, with the temple at the center of the survey and the layout of the city focused the people on the temple.

Brigham Young "designated the site for the temple block between the forks of City Creek, and on motion of Orson Pratt it was unanimously voted that the temple be built upon the site designated."   President Young was accompanied by Elders Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, Amasa Lyman, and Ezra T. Benson (all members of the Twelve), and also Thomas Bullock, the president's secretary.

The First thing the saints did upon arriving in the valley to make their home and build the kingdom was to begin a new temple and make it the center of their new world.  This declaration must have comforted the Saints, who only a short time before had been forced to discontinue temple worship when they left Nauvoo.

Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve said, “The pioneers were hungry and weary; they needed food and rest; a hostile desert looked them in the face; yet in the midst of such physical requirements they turned first to the building of temples and to the spiritual food and strength that the temples provide” (Conference Report, Apr. 1943, 38)

Why should the temple be central in our lives today? 

“We … emphasize the personal blessings of temple worship and the sanctity and safety that are provided within those hallowed walls. It is the house of the Lord, a place of revelation and of peace. As we attend the temple, we learn more richly and deeply the purpose of life and the significance of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us make the temple, with temple worship and temple covenants and temple marriage, our ultimate earthly goal and the supreme mortal experience. …“May you let the meaning and beauty and peace of the temple come into your everyday life more directly” (Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 118; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 87–88).

July 29:  The detachments of the Mormon Battalion and the Mississippi saints arrived in the valley.  There were about 140 saints from the battalion and 100 Mississippi Saints, this arrival grew the population of the valley to about 400.  Also committees were organized for work:
  • Farming:  35 acres were staked off, plowed, harrowed, and irrigated. They planted potatoes, corn, oats, etc.
  • Surveying:  This committee laid out the city in 135 ten-acre blocks, with the Temple Block in the center. Lots divided up, streets laid out, creeks named, regulations for sidewalks & houses devised. One block was selected for the construction of a stockade where the pioneers could live until permanent structures could be built.
  • Building:  Building the fort. A large group was assigned to building log cabins and a wall around the fort.
  • Logging:  Located timber in canyons, constructed a road, blacksmith shop set-up, corrals built, community storehouse built.
  • Hunting:  In one eight day period this committee only bagged 1 hare, 1 badger, 1 white wolf, 3 sage hens, 4 fish.
  • Salt committee:  Came up with 125 bushels of course white salt and 1 barrel of fine table salt.
  • Exploring:  Brigham Young knew that the kingdom must expand beyond the Great Salt Lake Valley. Explorers were sent to Weber, Cache, Utah, Cedar, and Tooele Valleys. The Mormon Battalion brought information concerning the northern route over the Sierra from Sacramento. Some of the brethren were commissioned to return to California via the southern route.
  • Groups were sent to California to make contact with the members of the Church there, and to go to Fort Hall to obtain provisions; as well, some were sent back on the trail to assist the larger company that was following a few weeks behind.
  • Government The government of the colony for the next year was placed in the hands of a stake presidency and high council.  They were appointed by members of the Quorum of the Twelve and approved by the congregation.  They also appointed a clerk, a watermaster, surveyor, and marshal.
Trek back to Winter Quarters 

In August, Church leaders and most of the first pioneer company returned to Winter Quarters to prepare their families to come to the valley the next year.  The leadership of the Church needed to return to organize the Saints for migration in 1848 as there were 16,000 Saints now waiting in Winter Quarters.  

August 16:  A company of pioneers and battalion men were organized and met at the mouth of Emigration Canyon.  This group included 24 pioneers, 46 battalion members, in 34 wagons.

August 26:  The second company of pioneers and battalion members began the trek back to Winter Quarters.  This company consisted of 107 persons. They were unable to take many provisions with them because they were needed in the valley so for this trek they would depend primarily on fish and game.  This company included Brigham Young, Heber Kimball, and five of the apostles. Ezra T. Benson had been sent ahead in early August to meet the following pioneer company. So at this time none of the Twelve were left in the valley. 

In early September, Brigham's company met the first of the large pioneer companies moving west, headed by Parley P. Pratt. A couple days later they met up with John Taylor's company.  Also at this time several inches of snow fell causing concern about the climate they were moving into.

September 9:  About 50 horses were stolen by the Indians. These horse were needed by the Saints heading both directions.  In an attack, a few days later, the Indians attempted to steal more horses by charging on the encampment of President Young's returning party. The brethren were prepared and only a few horses were taken.  The Indians claimed that they had mistaken the white men for a camp of Crow or Snake Indians, with whom they were at war. They invited Brigham Young to come to their camp and smoke the peace pipe. He did not, but Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, and Stephen Markham did go with the Indians and participated in the ceremony and were allowed to pick out seven or eight horses from a herd of 1,000.  They also saw some of the 50 horses that had been previously stolen.

After President Young's party left Fort Laramie, heading east, the teams became constantly weaker and the food in the camp was often exhausted.

October 18:  They were met by a company of sixteen men with three wagons from Winter Quarters coming to assist them.  When they reached the Elkhorn River, they were met by a company of twenty wagons led by Bishop Newel K. Whitney, bringing food and grain  and a few days later President Young's company arrived back in Winter Quarters.

Church Business at Winter Quarters

It was decided to vacate Winter Quarters in the spring due to Indian agents who had been encouraging the Saints to remove themselves from the lands of the Omaha Indians.  As many as possible were to prepare to go to the Salt Lake valley immediately and those who couldn't were to move to the east side of the river, to Kanesville, now known as Council Bluffs.

Shortly after they arrived, Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve felt impressed that the time had come to reorganize the First Presidency.  The First Presidency was reorganized at a meeting of the Twelve on December 5, 1847, at Winter Quarters.  Nine of the Twelve were present at this meeting and as President of the Quorum of the Twelve, Brigham Young was sustained as the President of the Church. He chose Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards as his Counselors. 

The First Presidency was sustained three weeks later, at a conference of the Church in Winter Quarters.  Father John Smith, uncle of Joseph and brother to the Prophet's father, was chosen to be the presiding patriarch of the Church. At the time, John Smith was presiding over the Saints in Salt Lake.  There was a re-emphasis on missionary work.  Jesse C. Little was to return to the presidency of the Eastern States.  John Brown was sent back to labor in the southern states.  Orson Pratt was to preside over the missions in the British Isles, when Elder Pratt returned to England, the membership of the Church there was reported at 17,902.  Wilford Woodruff was sent to preside over the work in Canada.

June 1, 1848:  623 wagons were assembled at the Elkhorn ferry ready to move west in two great encampments, one led by Brigham Young, the other by Heber C. Kimball. 

In July, a third encampment of 300 wagons was formed under the leadership of Willard Richards and Amasa M. Lyman

 The First Year in the Valley

October 11, 1848:  The last of the three companies arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.  Approximately 2,400 Saints arrived with these three companies, raising the population of the valley to near 5,000.  There were a total of 11 arriving companies in 1847, totaling about 2,000 emigrants. 

A one block, enclosed area to house and protect the pioneers was  constructed  This was known as Old Fort. It was soon discovered that it would not be sufficient to hold the large number entering the valley in 1847 and two additional forts were constructed, one on the north and one on the south. 

Houses were made with adobe or logs. The roofs consisted of poles, brush, and earth. Because they believed the climate was so dry, the roofs were made too flat and they leaked badly when the winter and early spring rains fell. 

This first winter was fairly mild, but food shortages developed.  Late crops that were planted gave a marginal harvest and by spring many were suffering from lack of food. John R. Young, who was a boy at the time, wrote:

“By the time the grass began to grow the famine had waxed sore. For several months we had no bread. Beef, milk, pig-weeds, segoes [lily roots], and thistles formed our diet. I was the herd-boy, and while out watching the stock, I used to eat thistle stalks until my stomach would be as full as a cow’s. At last the hunger was so sharp that father took down the old bird-pecked ox-hide from the limb; and it was converted into most delicious soup.”

A voluntary rationing system of one-half pound of flour per day was instituted.  The greens and roots of the thistle were used as well as the sego roots. There were a few deaths from eating poisonous roots, chiefly the wild parsnip.  Priddy Meeks wrote of conditions: 

"My family went several months without a satisfying meal of victuals. I went sometimes a mile up Jordan to a patch of wild roses to get the berries to eat which I would eat as rapidly as a hog, stems and all. I shot hawks and crows and they ate well. I would go and search the mire holes and find cattle dead and fleece off what meat I could and eat it. We used wolf meat, which I thought was good. I made some wooden spades to dig seagoes [Sego Lily] with, but we could not supply our wants.

"We had to exert ourselves to get something to eat. I would take a grubbing-hoe and a sack and start by sunrise in the morning and go, I thought six miles before coming to where the thistle roots grew, and in time to get home I would have a bushel and sometimes more thistle roots. And we would eat them raw. I would dig until I grew faint and sit down and eat a root, and then begin again. I continued this until the roots began to fail." (Great Basin Kingdom, p49)

Spring 1848:  As the winter wheat and garden vegetables began to spring up, a late frost injured a considerable portion of the crop. This was to be the crop for the harvest of 1848.  

June 1848:  the settlers had planted between five and six thousand acres of land, and the valley began to look green and productive. But to the Saints’ dismay, huge hordes of black crickets descended upon the crops.  A battle was waged against the crickets using every available tool including sticks, shovels, brooms, and gunny sacks. All this was done with little success. The "Black Philistines" as the crickets were called, "mowed their way even with the ground, leaving it as if touched with an acid or burnt by fire." (Great Basin Kingdom, p49) 

Holes were dug several feet across. The crickets were surrounded by women and children and driven into them and buried, bushels at a time. It was done again and again, but seemed not to affect the numbers of these creatures.  Ditches were plowed around the wheat fields, filled with water, carried to the running streams, and drowned the pests by the hundreds of thousands.  Even Fire was tried but there was nothing the Saints could do to stop them. "He might as well try to sweep back the rising tide of the ocean with a broom as prevail against these swarming pests by the methods tried." (B.H. Roberts Comprehensive History of the Church, 3:331)

As the battle was being lost the Apostle Charles C. Rich announced: "Brethren, we do not want you to part with your wagons and teams for we might need them" (Church News, May 16, 1998). The indication was that the Saints might pull out and move to more hospitable country such as California. 

Patriarch John Smith, president of the Salt Lake Stake, called for a day of fasting and prayer. Soon large flocks of seagulls appeared in the sky and descended on the crickets. Susan Noble Grant said of the experience: “To our astonishment, the gulls seemed almost ravenous while gobbling down the scrambling, hopping crickets.” The Saints watched in joy and wonderment. Their lives had been saved.those famous seagulls swept in and began to devour the bugs. Wrote Priddy Meeks, "I guess this circumstance changed our feeling considerable for the better." There were still many that questioned the validity of staying in the Valley. Brigham Young's brother wanted to send an express party to President Young telling him to not bring any more Saints for "they would all starve to death."

How do you suppose these saints felt, after sacrificing their homes and all they owned, after suffering from starvation and peril circumstances?

The Saints worked with energy and faith despite their difficult circumstances, and soon they had made great progress. A traveler on his way to California passed through Salt Lake City in September 1849 and paid tribute to them in this way: “A more orderly, earnest, industrious and civil people, I have never been among than these, and it is incredible how much they have done here in the wilderness in so short a time. In this city which contains about from four to five thousand inhabitants, I have not met in a citizen a single idler, or any person who looks like a loafer. Their prospects for crops are fair, and there is a spirit and energy in all that you see that cannot be equaled in any city of any size that I have ever been in"

 What characteristics helped the Saints overcome the great difficulties they faced during their first years in the Salt Lake Valley? What situations in our lives today might require these same characteristics?

How were the Saints blessed during their times of adversity? How has the Lord blessed you in times of adversity?

The Council of Fifty was the High Council that originated in Nauvoo and in the valley continued to govern in a municipal capacity until January 1849.  The Council of Fifty operated in a significant behind-the-scenes capacity from November 1848 to January 1850.

The Council of Fifty was "the Municipal department of the Kingdom of God set up on the Earth, and from which all Law emanates . . . to council, deliberate & plan for the general good & upbuilding of the Kingdom of God on the earth." (BYU Religious Studies, 2:244, )

The most significant action of the Council of 50 was the formation for a provisional government for the proposed "State of Deseret".  The proposed territory included all of current Utah, all of Nevada, southern California from the Mexican border north to almost Los Angeles, two thirds of Arizona, the northwest corner of New Mexico, Colorado west of the Rockies, southwestern Wyoming, part of southern Idaho, and chunk of southeast Oregon. 

The political part of the Council of 50 continued to govern until the establishment of the Utah Territory in 1851 and as a "ghost government" until the 1870s.  After the arrival of Brigham Young, a number of policies were worked out to deal with the increasing numbers of people entering the valley.
  • Policies on land distribution were fine tuned.
  • Control of water and timber.
    • The policy, as stated by Brigham Young, was:  "There shall be no private ownership of the streams that come out of the canyons, nor the timber that grows on the hills. These belong to the people: all the people." (Lion of the Lord, p147)
    • This was an essential policy as irrigation was vital to the agriculture of the region.
  • Construction of public works.
    • One day in ten was donated and one-tenth of their production. Such works included a wall around the Temple Block, building of a Council House, a small adobe church office building, public bathhouse at Warm Springs, an armory, and bowery on the temple block large enough to hold 3,000 persons. There was also a Church Farm of 800 acres created for producing food for the poor.
  • Provision for a circulating medium.
    • Much of the early trade was based on gold dust and a paper currency was issued backed by the gold.
    • On January 2, 1849, 830 notes were issued with a total value of $1,365. The notes bore the signature of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball and stamped with the private seal of the Twelve Apostles.
    • Also, 256 notes of the Kirtland Safety Society Bank were placed in circulation (value $1,331). These and other notes were secured by a 80% reserve of gold.
    • This fulfilled a prophecy by Joseph Smith that one day the Kirtland notes would be as good as gold.
Callings to Colonize

Deseret: The increasing number of immigrants enabled the Saints to spread out and colonize Deseret.  Deseret is a term derived from the Book of Mormon, "deseret" meant "honeybee" in the language of the Jaredites. Kevin L. Barney states that Brigham Young chose the beehive symbol and the word deseret because he “liked the imagery of cooperative labor and industry brought to mind by honeybees and their hives.” The Beehive and Deseret

Mormon Corridor:  The goal: "To establish a chain of forts from Great Salt Lake City to the Pacific Ocean." By 1855, twenty-seven communities had been founded along the route including Las Vegas and San Bernardino.  After the first ten years in Great Basin, 96 settlements had been organized. By the end of the 19th Century, at least 500 communities in the Great Basin had been settled by the Latter-day Saints.
    • 1847-48:  Salt Lake and Weber Valleys.
    • 1849:  Utah, Tooele, San Pete valleys.
    • 1851:  Box Elder, Pahvant, Juab, Parowan Valleys.
    • 1853:  Ft Bridger and Ft Supply, Wyoming.
    • 1855:  Moab, Lemhi.
    • 1856:  Cache Valley.
    • Carson Valley (1849-51)
Many communities in Utah and southern Idaho and later in parts of Arizona, Wyoming, Nevada, and California were founded by individuals and families called at general conferences. President Brigham Young directed the establishment of these communities, where thousands of new settlers could live and farm.

During his lifetime, all of the Salt Lake Valley and many surrounding areas were colonized. By 1877, when Brigham Young died, more than 350 colonies had been established, and by 1900 there were almost 500. Early Church authority Brigham Henry Roberts noted that the success of Mormon colonization stemmed from “the loyalty of the people to their leaders and [their] unselfish and devoted personal sacrifice” in carrying out their calls from President Young.9 The colonists sacrificed material comforts, the associations of friends, and sometimes their lives to follow a prophet of the Lord.

At general conference meetings, President Young read the names of those brethren and their families who were being called to move to outlying areas. These colonizers considered that they were being called on missions and knew that they would remain in their assigned locales until they were released. They traveled to their new areas at their own expense and with their own supplies. Their success depended on how well they used the resources at hand. They surveyed and cleared fields, built gristmills, dug irrigation ditches to bring water to the land, fenced pastures for their stock, and built roads. They planted crops and gardens, built churches and schools, and tried to maintain friendly relations with the Indians. They helped each other in sickness, as well as in births, deaths, and weddings.

In 1862 Charles Lowell Walker received a call to settle in southern Utah. He attended a meeting for those who had been called and recorded: “Here I learned a principle that I shall not forget in awhile. It showed to me that obedience was a great principle in heaven and on earth. Well, here I have worked for the last seven years through heat and cold, hunger and adverse circumstances, and at last have got me a home, a lot with fruit trees just beginning to bear and look pretty. Well, I must leave it and go and do the will of my Father in Heaven, who overrules all for the good of them that love and fear him. I pray God to give me strength to accomplish that which is required of me in an acceptable manner before him.”10

Charles C. Rich, a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, also received a call to colonize. Brigham Young called him and a few other brethren to take their families and settle in the Bear Lake Valley, about 150 miles north of Salt Lake City. The valley was at a high altitude and was very cold with deep snows in the winter. Brother Rich had recently returned from a mission in Europe and was not anxious to move his family and start over again in difficult circumstances. But he accepted the call and in June 1864 arrived in the Bear Lake Valley. The next winter was unusually severe and by spring, some of the other brethren had decided to leave. Brother Rich realized that life would not be easy in this cold climate but said:

“There have been many hardships. That I admit … and these we have shared together. But if you want to go somewhere else, that is your right, and I do not want to deprive you of it. … But I must stay here, even if I stay alone. President Young called me here, and here I will remain till he releases me and gives me leave to go.” Brother Rich and his family did stay, and he became the leader of a thriving community for the next several decades.11 Like thousands of others, he willingly obeyed his leaders in order to help build the kingdom of the Lord.  (Our Heritage ) 

The  call to colonize was a huge example of obedience. One of the great teachings of Church history is that we will be blessed as we obey the Lord and follow His prophets. The Doctrine and Covenants is not only our scripture but is a great history book of the saints that contains many teachings about the blessings of obedience.

D&C 58:2–4. If we keep the commandments and are “faithful in tribulation,” we will be “crowned with much glory.”
2 For verily I say unto you, blessed is he that keepeth my commandments, whether in life or in death; and he that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven.
3 Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.
4 For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand.

D&C 64:33–34. Those who are willing and obedient will be blessed in the land of Zion in the last days.
33 Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.
34 Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.

 D&C 82:10. The Lord is bound when we do what He says. He will bless us when we obey His commandments.

 10 I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.
D&C 93:1. Those who repent, come unto the Savior, and keep His commandments will see His face.

 1 Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;

 D&C 130:19–21. A person who gains more knowledge and intelligence through diligence and obedience in this life will have an advantage in the world to come. We obtain blessings by obeying God’s laws.

 19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.
20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
 Although we are not called to colonize new areas, in what ways are we asked to obey the prophet today? What feelings do you have when you are obedient to God’s will?

 Missionaries made sacrifices to teach the gospel throughout the world.

 While the Saints settled in the Salt Lake Valley, President Brigham Young called many missionaries to serve throughout the world. They accepted these calls even though they would leave behind their families, their new homes, and many unfinished tasks. 

October 1849: Three men were called to missions in the Society Islands (Tahiti) One of those called was Addison Pratt, who had been on missions and had not received the temple endowment. Prior to his departure, he was taken to the summit of Ensign Peak and there received that ordinance. The mountain had been dedicated especially for that purpose since there was not a temple available. (Comprehensive History of the Church, 3:386-387).  

Lorenzo Snow and Joseph Toronto were called on a mission to Italy. During this mission, the preaching of the gospel was also extended to Switzerland and Malta. Elder Snow, conferring with his fellow apostles in England, sent William Willis to Calcutta, where several hundred natives were baptized. Hugh Findlay was sent to Bombay. Erastus Snow was sent to Scandinavia to open the door of the gospel to those nations. John Taylor and others were called on a mission to France and Germany.

In their fields of labor, the missionaries witnessed miracles and baptized many people into the Church. When Lorenzo Snow, who later became President of the Church, was preaching in Italy, he saw a three-year-old boy on the verge of death. He recognized an opportunity to heal the child and open the hearts of the people in the area. That night he prayed long and earnestly for God’s direction, and the following day he and his companion fasted and prayed for the boy.  That afternoon they administered to him and offered a silent prayer for help in their labors. The boy slept peacefully all night and was miraculously healed. Word of this healing spread across the valleys of the Piedmont in Italy. The doors were opened to the missionaries, and the first baptisms in the area took place.5 

 In August 1852, at a special conference held in Salt Lake City, 106 elders were called to go on missions to countries throughout the world. These missionaries, as well as those who were called later, preached the gospel in South America, China, India, Spain, Australia, Hawaii, and the South Pacific. In most of these areas, the missionaries had little initial success. However, they sowed seeds that resulted in many coming into the Church in later missionary efforts.

Elder Edward Stevenson was called to the Gibraltar Mission in Spain. This call meant a return to the place of his birth, where he boldly proclaimed the restored gospel to his countrymen. He was arrested for preaching and spent some time in jail until authorities found he was teaching the guards, almost converting one of them. After his release he baptized two people into the Church and by January 1854 a branch of ten members had been organized. In July, even though six members had left to serve with the British army in Asia, the branch had eighteen members, including one seventy, one elder, one priest, and one teacher, giving the branch the leadership it needed to continue to grow.6

Local governments in French Polynesia drove the missionaries out in 1852. But the converted Saints kept the Church alive until further proselyting efforts in 1892. Elders Tihoni and Maihea were especially valiant as they endured imprisonment and other ordeals rather than deny their faith. Each of them tried to keep the Saints active and faithful to the gospel.7

For those who joined the Church outside the United States, this was a time for gathering to Zion, which meant traveling by boat to America. Elizabeth and Charles Wood sailed in 1860 from South Africa, where they had labored several years to acquire money for their travel. Elizabeth kept house for a wealthy man, and her husband made bricks until they obtained the needed funds. Elizabeth was carried aboard the ship on a bed 24 hours after delivering a son and was given the captain’s berth so she could be more comfortable. She was very ill during the journey, almost dying twice, but lived to settle in Fillmore, Utah.

Missionaries became very dear to the Saints in the countries where they served. Joseph F. Smith, near the end of his mission to Hawaii in 1857, became ill with a high fever that prevented him from working for three months. He was blessed to come under the care of Ma Mahuhii, a faithful Hawaiian Saint. She nursed Joseph as if he were her own son, and a strong bond of love developed between the two. Years later, when he was President of the Church, Joseph F. Smith visited Honolulu and just after his arrival saw an old blind woman being led in with a few choice bananas in her hand as an offering. He heard her call, “Iosepa, Iosepa” (Joseph, Joseph). Immediately he ran to her and hugged and kissed her many times, patting her on the head and saying, “Mama, Mama, my dear old Mama.”(Our Heritage) 

 The Temple 

 Salt Lake Temple. Dedicated in 1893, this temple took 40 years to build.

Salt Lake Temple

Excavation for the large foundation was done by hand, requiring thousands of hours of labor. The cornerstones were laid on 6 April 1853. After a few years of work on the foundation, the Saints stopped work because of a problem with the United States government. The president of the United States had heard false stories that the Saints were rebelling against the government, so he sent an army to the Salt Lake Valley. In response, President Young had the Saints cover the foundation with dirt to make it look like an ordinary field. 

When the Saints later unearthed the sandstone foundation, they noticed cracks in the rocks. They removed the sandstone and replaced it with solid granite blocks. President Young insisted that only the best materials and craftsmanship be used in the construction of the temple. He said:

“I want to see the temple built in a manner that it will endure through the Millennium. This is not the only temple we shall build; there will be hundreds of them built and dedicated to the Lord. … And when the Millennium is over, … I want that temple still to stand as a proud monument of the faith, perseverance and industry of the Saints of God in the mountains, in the nineteenth century” (Discourses of Brigham Young).

It took years for the Saints to quarry, transport, and shape the granite blocks for the construction of the temple. During this time, they struggled just to survive, as they lost crops to the elements, served missions in faraway lands, and accepted calls to leave their homes and establish communities in remote areas. In spite of these many challenges, the Saints persevered, and with the Lord’s help they prevailed. The Salt Lake Temple was dedicated in 1893, 40 years after the cornerstones had been laid.

 What can we learn from the perseverance of the Saints as they built the Salt Lake Temple? How can the Saints’ example of perseverance help us?

When Jeffrey R. Holland was president of Brigham Young University, he compared the building of our lives to the building of the Salt Lake Temple:

 “The prestigious Scientific American referred to [the Salt Lake Temple] as a ‘monument to Mormon perseverance.’ And so it was. Blood, toil, tears, and sweat. The best things are always worth finishing. ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?’ (1 Corinthians 3:16.) Most assuredly we are. As long and laborious as the effort may seem, we must keep shaping and setting the stones that will make our accomplishments ‘a grand and imposing spectacle.’ We must take advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow, dream dreams and see visions, work toward their realization, wait patiently when we have no other choice, lean on our sword and rest a while, but get up and fight again. … We are laying the foundation of a great work—our own inestimable future” (However Long and Hard the Road [1985], 127).

Physical Building of the Kingdom.

Public Works were built in the early years by tithing of labor and goods. These public works also provided employment for new emigrants and others without gainful employment.
    • Council House (1855).
    • The Old Tabernacle (1852).
    • The Endowment House (1855).
    • A wall around the temple block.
    • Construction begins on the temple.
    • Machine shop, foundry, and nail factory (1852-65).
    • In 1854 a wall was begun around the city (12' high, 6' thick at the bottom, & 2 1/2' at top) made of mud mixed with straw, hay, or gravel. It was less than half complete when construction was dropped.
  • Industrial Development:  Domestic manufacturing was encouraged by Church leadership to become independent of the world, to provide employment for the ongoing immigration into the region, and to keep money in Zion.
  • Outside industries:  Sponsored by the Church in 1852-53. A private pottery was established in 1856.
  • Paper mill:  Established in 1853.
  • In 1861 the "Rag Mission" was established to provide a continuous flow of rags necessary for the operation of the paper mill. This effort was turned over to the Women's Relief Society in 1867.  Brother George Goddard was called on a "Rag Mission". Said Brother Goddard of his mission: "[This calling] was a severe blow to my native pride.... But after being known in the community for years, as a merchant and auctioneer, and then to be seen on the streets going from door to door with a basket on one arm and an empty sack on the other, enquiring for rags at every house. Oh, what a change in the aspect of affairs.... When President Young first made the proposition, the humiliating prospect almost stunned me, but a few moments' reflection reminded me that I came to these valleys of the mountains from my native country, England, for the purpose of doing the will of my Heavenly Father, my time and means must be at His disposal. I therefore answered President Young in the affirmative, and for over three years, from Franklin, Idaho, in the north, and Sanpete in the south, my labors extended, not only visiting many hundreds of houses during week days, but preaching rag sermons on Sunday. The first time I ever spoke in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City,...was a rag discourse, and Presidents Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball backed it up with their testimony and enlarged upon it." (Great Basin Kingdom, p115)
  • Sugar:  A sugar works was established by the Church in 1853, but due to difficulties was not operated after the fall of 1856.
  • Wool:  A woolen factory was established and started up in 1863. There had been smaller attempts prior to that time.
  • Iron:  1851 - an "iron mission" was established at Cedar City but after struggling for nearly ten years and the expenditure of about $150,000 only a few andirons, kitchen utensils, flat irons, wagon wheels, molasses rolls, and machine casings had been created. 
   To support the Church and its various ventures there were several types of tithing collected by the Church:
    • Property tithing:  10% capital levy on property owned by the individual at the time he/she began to pay tithing. Usually paid in cash or livestock.
    • Labor tithing:  The donation of every tenth day towards various church projects and public enterprises. Often, the well to do members paid their labor tithing by hiring others to do their work.
    • Produce and stock tithing:  A tenth of the yield of household, farm, ranch, factory, mine.
      • "The majority allowed their tithing to run into arrears, and then paid it up in a lump in some staple article, such as wheat or a calf, that could be conveniently spared."
      • Bishops were urged by the Church to keep a close watch on the yields of their ward members: "And we recommend to the bishops throughout these vallies, to keep their ears open, and when they hear their neighbor's pigs squeal, just step over and see how many have died, and what they weigh, and what proportion arrives at the tithing office; for many tons of pork went out of sight last year, and the bishops made no record of it, and many more will this year, if the bishops don't attend to their duty, and the Lord will require the cost at the bishop's hands." 
    • Cash tithing:  Particularly sought after by the Church because of the need for capital at this time.
    • Institutional tithing:  A levy on the profits of stores, shops, and factories.
 President Brigham Young’s Death and Legacy
As a leader, President Brigham Young was practical and energetic. He traveled to the settlements of the Church to instruct and encourage the Saints. By direction and example, he taught members to fulfill their callings in the Church.  In evaluating his life, President Young wrote the following in response to an editor of a New York newspaper:

“The result of my labors for the past 26 years, briefly summed up, are: The peopling of this Territory by the Latter-day Saints of about 100,000 souls; the founding of over 200 cities, towns and villages inhabited by our people, … and the establishment of schools, factories, mills and other institutions calculated to improve and benefit our communities. …“My whole life is devoted to the Almighty’s service.”13

In September 1876, President Young bore powerful witness of the Savior: “I testify that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world; I have obeyed his sayings, and realized his promise, and the knowledge I have of him, the wisdom of this world cannot give, neither can it take away.”14

In August 1877, President Young fell very ill, and in spite of physicians’ care, died within a week. He was 76 years old and had led the Church for 33 years. Today we remember him as the dynamic prophet who led modern-day Israel to their promised land. His sermons touched on all aspects of daily life, making clear that religion is part of everyday experience. His understanding of the frontier and his sensible guidance inspired his people to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks as with the blessings of heaven they created a kingdom in the desert.   (Our Heritage) 

  After President Young died in 1877, John Taylor led the Church for three years as President of the Quorum of the Twelve and was then sustained as President of the Church on 10 October 1880.  Under President Taylor’s leadership, the Saints continued to preach the gospel throughout the world.

 In the Salt Lake Valley, the Saints built a strong foundation for the Lord’s temple and for their lives.   The story of the building of the Kingdom of God in the Great Basin is remarkable.  Its hard to even begin to imagine how the saints willingly gave of themselves, of their whole lives for the Kingdom of God and only a small part of the story has been told within this lesson. 

Even after they settled challenges continued. In 1855 immigration was heavy, a late summer drought crop insect invasion.  The winter of 1855-56, as reported by Heber C. Kimball  was "more close" than any they had yet experienced. In 1856, the Willie and Martin handcart companies suffered tragedy, losing one-fifth of their members before arriving in Utah. In 1857, Johnston's army began their trek west to quell the "Mormon rebellion." During the next three decades, the Saints fought the federal government over their right to religious freedom and endured the "raid" of federal officers. With the coming of the railroad in 1869, new challenges faced the Saints as access to Utah became much easier.  Yet the foundation that was laid during these early decades in the Great Basin laid the foundation for the remarkable expansion of the kingdom throughout the world in the 20th Century.

Our study of the history of the early saints can bring great humility to our lives as we review their circumstances and all they accomplished based of faith and obedience.  It is also important to remember that our day can and is just as trying for us.  Our circumstances are different but are none the less difficult, especially in our current situation of the world.  So then let us ask ourselves this question:  


Are we willing to have faith, are we willing to be obedient, are we willing to do all that is asked of us, even when it is inconvenient, even when it is hard, even when we don't quite see eye to eye or understand.  Are we willing to give our whole hearts, and even our lives to the Lord for the kingdom if asked?  This is our time to prepare ourselves that we may indeed say yes we are willing, and to be ready to greet the Savior with a kiss when he returns, rather than shrink away in shame.  Studying the tremendous sacrifices of the early saints and an active study of the Doctrine and Covenants will help us in doing so.   

Let us all pray that we can honor the Lord and the early saints by our willingness to build the Kingdom and be ready upon His return. 


Video:  Ministry of Brigham Young: The Master Builder  Master Builder
              Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel Pioneer

Our Heritage  Our Heritage
Doctrine and Covenants and Church History  Beardall 2000
Great Basin Kingdom
Comprehensive History of the Church BH Roberts
Discourses of Brigham Young  Original Discourses
Lion of the Lord: Essays on the Life and Service of Brigham Young edited by Susan Easton Black and Larry C. Porter.
 Doctrine and Covenants Institute Student/Teacher Manual
BYU Religious Studies 
Church News
Conference Report
History of the Church
Journal of Discourses Discoures 
The Beehive and Deseret BYU Religious STudies  


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