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Called to serve as first LDS Stake President in Star Valley. Wyoming by: Brigham Young
…………(1836 – 1913)
By Ezra Taft Benson
The historian Lord Macauly said, “The people who do not revere the deeds of their ancestors will never do anything to be remembered by their descendants.”
Though others have said more eloquently what my tongue or pen could express, I deeply desire to pay reverent tribute to these heroes of the past, to their faithful deeds, their noble lives, and their lasting lessons of courage, faith, self-reliance, stamina, industry, and integrity. All generations have need of these virtues.
We stand today as beneficiaries of their priceless legacy to us, a legacy based on the solid truth that character is the one thing we develop in this world that we take with us into the next.
The pioneers came to the Salt Lake Valley with credentials that spanned the centuries, a bloodline coursing through their veins from illustrious parentage: Abraham and Sarah; Isaac and Rebekah; Jacob and Rachel. Theirs was a bloodline preserved through four centuries of Egyptian captivity; an exile and exodus from the land of their captivity that lasted forty years—a time necessary for a new, less-enslaved generation to develop; and then a settlement in a promised land, which lasted over seven centuries of migrations that brought their sifted lineage into northern Europe and Great Britain.
When the tyranny of European governments disallowed freedom of religious worship, God prepared a new land of promise—the United States of America—where such freedom was eventually guaranteed by an inspired Constitution. Some of the progenitors of the pioneers came before the gospel’s restoration, such as the ancestors of Joseph Smith, but most came following the restoration. They came with a self-identity that led President Brigham Young to exclaim on one occasion, “You understand who we are; we are of the House of Israel, of the royal seed, of the royal blood.” (Journal of Discourses 2:269.)
They came with the faith that God had “set his hand a second time” to restore the house of Israel; that to accomplish His purposes and design, the Church of Jesus Christ had been restored again on the earth through the instrumentality of a latter-day prophet, Joseph Smith, Jr.; and that following the martyrdom, the keys of the priesthood had been continued through Joseph’s ordained successor, Brigham Young. They believed themselves to be God-directed and prophetled. That was the conviction which inspired their sacrifices.
They came with indomitable courage, following incredible suffering and adversity. Who can forget those almost insufferable conditions during their exodus? While they were encamped at Sugar Creek, Iowa, in February 1846, a raging blizzard left twelve inches of snow on the ground. Following that storm, the temperatures fell to twelve degrees below zero. On one of those cold nights nine babies were born. Eliza R. Snow provides this vivid account:
Mothers gave birth to offspring under almost every variety of circumstances imaginable, except those to which they had been accustomed; some in tents, others in wagons—in rainstorms and snowstorms. I heard of one birth which occurred under the rude shelter of a hut, the sides of which were formed of blankets fastened to poles stuck in the ground, with a bark roof through which the rain was dripping. Kind sisters stood holding dishes to catch the water as it fell, thus protecting the newcomer and its mother from a showerbath as the little innocent first entered on the stage of human life; and through faith in the great ruler of events, no harm resulted to either.
In March of that same year, four hundred wagons set out toward the Rocky Mountains, but now a spring thaw had turned the ruts into a quagmire of mud.
Under these testing conditions Orson Spencer’s wife, a young woman of thirty-five, succumbed to this inclement life, leaving six children under fifteen years of age. Shortly before her passing, she opened her eyes and, seeing her children huddling by her bed, burst into tears, sobbing: “Oh, you dear little children! How I hope you will fall into kind hands when I am gone.”
Not a murmur escaped her lips. . . . The storm was severe, and the wagon covers leaked. Friends held milk pans over her bed to keep her dry. Her daughter states that shortly before her mother departed this life, that she rallied and whispered to her husband: “A heavenly messenger appeared to me tonight and told me that I had done and suffered enough, and that he had now come to convey me to a mansion of gold.”
After kissing each child in turn, she whispered to her husband: “I love you more than ever!—But you must let me go!” It was enough. Orson Spencer sorrowfully dedicated her to her Father in heaven, and a moment later she was gone to her crown of glory. (Carter Grant, The Kingdom of God Restored, Deseret Book Co., 1955, pp. 344-45.)
But all was not sorrow. “We outlived the trying scenes,” wrote John Taylor. “We felt contented and happy—the songs of Zion resounded from wagon to wagon—from tent to tent.” (Millennial Star 8:7.) It was under these conditions that William Clayton penned the verses to “All Is Well,” a poem that became an anthem of faith for the Latter-day Saints.
We’ll find the place which God for us prepared,Far away in the West,Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid;There the Saints will be blessed.We’ll make the air with music ring,Shout praises to our God and King;Above the rest these words we’ll tell—All is well! all is well!—Hymns, no. 13
Little did Brother Clayton realize that his hymn would be sung by the 400-voice Tabernacle Choir before the president of the United States and other dignitaries at the commemoration of our nation’s two hundredth birthday.
The pioneers came west with a devotion, patriotism, and loyalty to the nation that had silently sanctioned their expulsion from their homes and the loss of their possessions. History records no modern parallel to their epic exodus from Nauvoo, so it is little wonder that the situation of these modern Israelites was likened to their ancient ancestors exiled from Egypt. In fact, President Joseph F. Smith said that the pioneer feat of modern Israel exceeded that of their progenitors:
“A wonderful event has occurred in these last days among this people, an event many times more wonderful than the marching of the children of Israel from Egypt to the holy land. It is only a short distance from the River Jordan to the land of Egypt—only a few hundred miles—and yet they wandered about for forty years seeking the goodly land. . . . What has happened in this dispensation? This people have crossed deserts that are beyond comparison with those traversed by the children of Israel. They were not fed by manna it is true, although they were fed with quails in great abundance on at least one occasion, and they performed a journey nearly four times as great as that performed by the children of Israel—which occupied them forty years—in the course of a few months. . . .
“We were led out of bondage by the power of God. The angels of God and the power and presence of the Almighty accompanied us, so much so that notwithstanding the country was covered with sagebrush and crickets, presenting the most forbidding appearance, President Young was enabled to point out where the Temple and city would be built. He said, ‘You may go north and south, east and west, and explore the country all over, but when you have done it, you will come back and say that this is the spot where we are to settle.’” (Journal of Discourses 24:155-56.)
It is ironic that in the course of their exodus, this same government that stood by while they were forcibly expelled from Illinois should now come to them with a request for five hundred able-bodied men to fight in the war with Mexico. So disproportionate, inequitable, and unjust in terms of their numbers and their situation was the request for manpower that President Brigham Young commented later:
“Look . . . at the proportion of the number required of us, compared with that of any other portion of the Republic. A requisition of only thirty thousand from a population of more than twenty millions was all that was wanted, amounting to only one person and a half to a thousand inhabitants. If all other circumstances had been equal, . . . our quota of an equitable requisition would not have exceeded four persons. Instead of this, five hundred must go, thirteen thousand percent above an equal ration.” (Journal of Discourses 2:174.)
But they did comply with the request—an extraordinary example of loyalty to their nation.
And what prompted such loyalty and patriotism? Not fear of reprisal, not servile obedience to their overlords, but a recognition that compliance with this request was the “interposition of that all-wise Being” who was bringing about their deliverance. “Thus,” said Brigham Young, “were we saved from our enemies by complying with their . . . unjust and unparalleled exactions; again proving our loyalty to the Government.” (Ibid.)
During the times of mobbings and persecutions, the revelations of God had prescribed the course of action they should take: importune for redress—at the feet of judges, at the feet of the governor, and at the feet of even the president of the United States. These steps were followed without relief, reparation, or redress. Under these conditions I’m sure they questioned as did Joseph in Liberty Jail: “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? How long shall thy hand be stayed? . . . O Lord, how long shall [thy people] suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions?” (D&C 121:1–3.)
They, who had suffered so much from oppressors, were to see that God takes His own retribution in His own time and in His own way; for as Lincoln said, “Nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishment and . . . may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins. . . .” (A Proclamation by the President of the United States, March 30, 1863.)
While the Saints dwelt securely outside the boundaries of the United States, the nation was engaged in its most costly war in terms of lives lost, a civil war. No doubt these words of the Lord were recalled: “If the President heed [thee] not, then will the Lord arise and come forth out of his hiding place, and in his fury vex the nation.” (D&C 101:89.)
It is a matter of history how truly those words were fulfilled.
They came, with faith and industry, and carved an Eden out of a desert. Their promised land has become a prosperous valley. Commodious brick homes and apartment dwellings have replaced the log cabins. Luxuriant greenery, gardens, trees, and flowers flourish where once sagebrush and parched soil thrived. A tabernacle and magnificent temple have replaced the Bowery and Endowment House. Elaborate meetinghouses of worship fill the valley. Schools, seminaries, institutes, colleges, trade schools, and a university provide for secular and spiritual education. Stores, banks, factories abound. Truly, we live in the lap of luxury amid an unbounded prosperity, and all this because of the philosophy of self-reliance, initiative, personal industry, and faith in God.
Our forefathers gloried in hard work, but at the same time they drew liberally upon their prodigious spiritual reserves. They did not place their trust “in the arm of flesh.” They were strong and courageous in the Lord, knowing that He was their defense, their refuge, their salvation. Strengthened by this faith, they relied on their cherished independence, their frugality, and honest toil. And history records that even the climate was tempered for their sakes, and their humble untiring efforts made “the desert to blossom as the rose.”
Their faith was renewed by two of Isaiah’s remarkable prophecies concerning the last days—the days in which they knew they were living. In the first of these Isaiah announces: “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” (Isaiah 35:1.) And again: “For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.” (Isaiah 51:3.)
And while their natural eyes saw only their log cabins and immediate surroundings, they envisioned the day when the words of Micah would be fulfilled: “But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Micah 4:1–2.)
We have witnessed the fulfillment of these remarkable prophecies. But today, a contrary philosophy has come into the land. It is one that espouses that government benefits should replace the fruits of individual initiative and labor.
Such a philosophy can result only in the shackling of man’s liberties—in the eventual destruction of our freedom. Had the early settlers throughout the land lived by such a philosophy, this glorious nation of ours would be a vast untamed wilderness known only to the Indians who had lived here for centuries before. I earnestly pray that this important lesson of history shall not go unheeded.
Yes, they came to the valleys of the mountains—first a trickle, the advance party on July 21 and 22, and then, on the 24th, the main caravan of 143 men, three women, and two children. The trickle of immigrants was followed by the hundreds, then the thousands, so that by 1869 more than 68,000 Mormon pioneers had crossed the plains. They came with their faith, loyalty, courage, industry, and integrity. Their legacy to us may be summarized in these fitting words by the late President J. Reuben Clark, Jr.:
(Source: Ezra Taft Benson, This Nation Shall Endure, published 1977)
Thanks to Brian Mecham
For The Family
Getting ready for Old Saint Nick!
The idea to celebrate Christmas on December 25 originated in the 4th century. The Catholic Church wanted to eclipse the festivities of a rival pagan religion that threatened Christianity’s existence. The Romans celebrated the birthday of their sun god, Mithras during this time of year. Although it was not popular, or even proper, to celebrate people’s birthdays in those times, church leaders decided that in order to compete with the pagan celebration they would themselves order a festival in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Although the actual season of Jesus’ birth is thought to be in the spring, the date of December 25 was chosen as the official birthday celebration as Christ’s Mass so that it would compete head on with the rival pagan celebration. Christmas was slow to catch on in America. The early colonists considered it a pagan ritual. The celebration of Christmas was even banned by law in Massachusetts in colonial days.
Two hundred years before the birth of Christ, the Druids used mistletoe to celebrate the coming of winter. They would gather this evergreen plant that is parasitic upon other trees and used it to decorate their homes. They believed the plant had special healing powers for everything from female infertility to poison ingestion. Scandinavians also thought of mistletoe as a plant of peace and harmony. They associated mistletoe with their goddess of love, Frigga. The custom of kissing under the mistletoe probably derived from this belief. The early church banned the use of mistletoe in Christmas celebrations because of its pagan origins. Instead, church fathers suggested the use of holly as an appropriate substitute for Christmas greenery.
Poinsettias are native to Mexico. They were named after America’s first ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett. He brought the plants to America in 1828. The Mexicans in the eighteenth century thought the plants were symbolic of the Star of Bethlehem. Thus the Poinsettia became associated with the Christmas season. The actual flower of the poinsettia is small and yellow. But surrounding the flower are large, bright red leaves, often mistaken for petals.
The Christmas Tree originated in Germany in the 16th century. It was common for the Germanic people to decorate fir trees, both inside and out, with roses, apples, and colored paper. It is believed that Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, was the first to light a Christmas tree with candles. While coming home one dark winter’s night near Christmas, he was struck with the beauty of the starlight shining through the branches of a small fir tree outside his home. He duplicated the starlight by using candles attached to the branches of his indoor Christmas tree. The Christmas tree was not widely used in Britain until the 19th century. It was brought to America by the Pennsylvania Germans in the 1820′s.
The appeal of the Christmas light is often likened to the stars in the sky, or the glisten of freshly fallen snow in the moonlight. Early Christmas lights were not quite as safe as today’s light strings. Candles were used in trees inside the home, and lit in windows. Hot flames and live trees were not the safest mix, but the temptation to add lights to Christmas decorating was too strong to curb. Many factors have contributed to the widespread use of Christmas lights, including lighting contests promoted by manufacturers, war propaganda using holidays as an opportunity to bond the nation, and local celebrations across the country to try and start traditions of hope and peace. Light strings are now found in all shapes, sizes, and colors, as well as in cool-to-the-touch LEDs.
This abbreviation for Christmas is of Greek origin. The word for Christ in Greek is Xristos. During the 16th century, Europeans began using the first initial of Christ’s name, “X” in place of the word Christ in Christmas as a shorthand form of the word. Although the early Christians understood that X stood for Christ’s name, later Christians who did not understand the Greek language mistook “Xmas” as a sign of disrespect.
Candy canes have been around for centuries, but it wasn’t until around 1900 that they were decorated with red stripes and bent into the shape of a cane. They were sometimes handed out during church services to keep the children quiet. One story (almost certainly false) that is often told about the origin of the candy cane is as follows:
In the late 1800′s a candy maker in Indiana wanted to express the meaning of Christmas through a symbol made of candy. He came up with the idea of bending one of his white candy sticks into the shape of a Candy Cane. He incorporated several symbols of Christ’s love and sacrifice through the Candy Cane. First, he used a plain white peppermint stick. The color white symbolizes the purity and sinless nature of Jesus. Next, he added three small stripes to symbolize the pain inflicted upon Jesus before His death on the cross. There are three of them to represent the Holy Trinity. He added a bold stripe to represent the blood Jesus shed for mankind. When looked at with the crook on top, it looks like a shepherd’s staff because Jesus is the shepherd of man. If you turn it upside down, it becomes the letter J symbolizing the first letter in Jesus’ name. The candy maker made these candy canes for Christmas, so everyone would remember what Christmas is all about.
The original Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, was born in Turkey in the 4th century. He was very pious from an early age, devoting his life to Christianity. He became widely known for his generosity for the poor. But the Romans held him in contempt. He was imprisoned and tortured. But when Constantine became emperor of Rome, he allowed Nicholas to go free. Constantine became a Christian and convened the Council of Nicaea in 325. Nicholas was a delegate to the council. He is especially noted for his love of children and for his generosity. He is the patron saint of sailors, Sicily, Greece, and Russia. He is also, of course, the patron saint of children. The Dutch kept the legend of St. Nicholas alive. In 16th century Holland, Dutch children would place their wooden shoes by the hearth in hopes that they would be filled with a treat. The Dutch spelled St. Nicholas as Sint Nikolaas, which became corrupted to Sinterklaas, and finally, in Anglican, to Santa Claus. In 1822, Clement C. Moore composed his famous poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” which was later published as “The Night Before Christmas.” Moore is credited with creating the modern image of Santa Claus as a jolly fat man wearing red Santa suits. However, his authorship is controversial. Some scholars suggest that it was Henry Livingston Jr. who wrote the poem.
No, these are not the edible kind of cracker nor a firecracker. They are a British Christmas tradition invented by Tom Smith in 1847. Christmas Crackers are a small cardboard tube covered with a brightly colored twist of paper. The cracker is pulled by two people, each holding one end of the twisted paper. When the tube is pulled apart, friction causes a narrow strip of chemically treated paper to create a small explosive POP revealing a small gift inside. Crackers may also be used at non-Christmas celebrations such as Valentine’s Day parties.
By Jerry Wilson with Special Thanks!
Researched by Dennis Adamson
For The Family