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He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
When I read this scripture, I yearn to feel this kind of love. Often, I feel selfish, full of sin and imperfect. I am all of those things. Sometimes I ponder and try to understand things of the gospel like the Atonement of Christ, God’s plan, scriptures, why things happen,etc. and there isn’t any answer. I’ve also struggled in the past with forgiving others and have shared experiences with miracles that have happened in my life to be able to not only forgive, but to forgive and love those who wronged me. It’s a miracle when this happens.
My mother shared with me an interesting story about love, accepting Jesus into one’s life, repentance, and forgiveness, which I’ll outline below.
A New Friend
My mom had some friends who asked her to visit their ailing grandfather, who was in a care center that focuses on Alzheimers patients. When she started visiting the patient, she felt moved to get to know other patients as well, going above and beyond her “duty”.
As she made bi-weekly visits, she got to know many people in the facility and their family members. One lady she got to know very well along with her brother who would visit her daily. This lady was special because no one in the center had been able to speak or communicate with her for years except for her brother, but my mom was blessed to be able to connect with her.
Over the years, they not only connected, but became friends. Mom knew the lady well and would share stories back and forth with her. However, every time she asked the lady if she could pray, the lady declined. Her brother told my mom that it was because she was mad at God and had decided she didn’t want to communicate with Him.
One day, my mom came to visit and her friend was deathly ill. Actually, they thought she was in a coma because she hadn’t communicated for over a week with anyone and also hadn’t eaten. She should have been dead. Her brother told her it was OK to go, but for some reason she was still holding on.
When my mother came, she said that day she was filled with the Holy Spirit and knelt down beside her friend. She took her friends hand and immediately, the friend’s corners of her mouth turned upward in a slight smile. My mother offered words of comfort, encouragement, and hope to her. Then she asked her if she could pray with her. This time, the lady squoze mom’s hand and indicated she did indeed want a prayer.
During the prayer, mom said she was speaking words completely guided by the Holy Spirit. At one point, she said something about the lady being able to forgive the man who had abused her. Mom didn’t know anything about this, but the words just came out of her mouth. She went on to pray for healing, and for the lady to have the ability to repent for her hard feelings she had harbored.
After the prayer, her brother pointed down to her eyes and a little tear was coming out of her eye. Her brother told my mom that she had been abused as a young lady by someone and that was what my mom had been prompted to pray for. My mom continued speaking with the lady and over the course of a few minutes the lady indicated through squeezing my mothers hand that she had forgiven the man, accepted Jesus’ healing power of the Atonement and had repented. Peacefulness settled into her tortured body, mom asked her if she would be there to greet her when it was her time. Within 1/2 hour she passed on.
In this situation, my mother was an excellent example of how we can open up ourselves to feeling the love of God and reaching out to love others.
She could have just done her “duty” and visited the man her friends wanted her to visit. However, through the love of God she has, she was moved to visit others and do as Jesus would do had he been there.
Not only did she visit others, but she witnessed of Christ and His atonement to others as she felt guided by the Spirit. This led to miracles in the life of at least one lady, and I’m sure there are others that were blessed through my mothers’ efforts that she hasn’t told me about.
I pray that I can feel this kind of love and not be afraid to act on the promptings I receive from the Spirit. I know that as we open ourselves up to the Lord, we can make a huge difference in the world.
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, to keep oneself unspotted from the world. Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.–James 1:27
In the 1969 speech “The Loneliness of Leadership“, Gordon Hinckley discusses the loneliness that leaders feel-both spiritual leaders and secular leaders and how true leaders stand up for what they believe to be right regardless of consequences. Examples he uses include Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, and recent converts to the Church who are ostracized and cast out for their belief.
He concludes with the following:
I like these great words of the Lord given to those who would go out and teach this gospel:
I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up. [D&C 84:88]
I think that is a promise to each of us. I believe it; I know it. I bear testimony of its truth to you this day.
After reading this, I thought about times in my life when I’ve had to stand up for what I believed to be right, according to what I felt that God had put in my heart.
Joining the Mormon Church
When I was 9 years old, my parents divorced and I moved with my mother to another state. We had been raised members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), but after the divorce we gradually quit attending church.
I remember my mother inviting people over and having study sessions on why the Mormon religion is false and although I don’t think she knew I was listening, it did have an affect on me. Also, she confided in me a lot of negative information about my father that influenced my opinion of him as a person. He remained a practicing Mormon, so as a child, I blamed the Mormon church as well as all of the negative things that I heard in my home about Mormons. I hated Mormons.
At school I would bully them. Tease them. Gradually, it evolved into where I was not only teasing Mormons, but all people of faith. I was very young-11 years old- but I was getting involved in drinking, vandalism, and heading down a very negative path.
One day my mother came to me and told me that I should go and visit my father as I hadn’t seen him in 2 years because of my hatred for him and his religion. I told her I didn’t want to go, but she told me that legally I needed to and also it would be good for me. Looking back, I think she recognized a lot of the negative things in my life and thought I needed a father figure.
Before I left, she sat me down in the my bedroom that was in the garage of our old house and told me that when I visited my father that he would try and make me go to church with him. She told me that I didn’t have to go and to make sure that whatever I do I didn’t become Mormon. I looked at her confused and wondered why she would even worry about that because that was the last thing I wanted to do. I just wanted to have the 2 week trip over with.
To make a long story short, I visited my Dad. I noticed a very peaceful feeling almost immediately when I was in his home. Something I didn’t realize I had been craving. I also noticed that he wasn’t as bad as I had been told and that he was actually a very sincere and fun person to be around. He had remarried and my new step-mom was very kind and patient.
The other thing I realized was that the Mormon church wasn’t bad. In fact, I felt peace there that I hadn’t felt anywhere else (when we left the Mormon church, we went “church shopping” to a bunch of churches like Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, non-denominational, etc). After only a short time, the Holy Spirit shared with me a vision of my life and what would come of it if I stayed with my mother in that situation at the time, or moved in with my Dad. It was clear to me and I feel blessed that the Lord put it into my heart that I needed to join the Mormon church and also live with my Dad.
When I had the conversation with my mom, I knew that if I came back home with her, I was too weak at the time to stand up for what I had felt in my heart and I would fall back into my bad friends and behavior. I told her I was staying with Dad. She and I had a big blow-out conversation on the phone that ended with her telling me that if I went back to the Mormon church and my Dad she wouldn’t talk with me again. That hurt me deeply, but I knew what God had put in my heart and I had faith that I should follow that. So I chose to stay with my Dad.
Years later, after I had experienced a lot of psychological and emotional pain (which I wrote about in my book Discovering Light: 12 Steps to Overcoming Anxiety and Depression without Medication), I realized I needed to make amends with my mother and forgive her. Funny thing was that she put the blame back on me by saying I imagined that she had said that. I’ve forgiven her regardless and I’m very glad that I made that difficult decision years ago because it has changed my life a lot.
Since becoming a Mormon, I have had to walk a lonely road at times. I haven’t been perfect by any means, but largely the Lord has blessed me.
There were times in college when young ladies wanted to sleep with me and I turned them down because of what I believe.
There were times in Europe when I was working after having served a mission in Germany where I was ridiculed and cast out of a home I was staying in because I wouldn’t drink with them.
In my career, I’ve found that people are very accepting for the most part, of my beliefs and I’ve made some great friends as I don’t shy away from my faith, but stand up for it. I’ve found that for the most part, people are drawn to that.
Most importantly, I’ve found that I feel the Lord’s comfort and Spirit come over me in a way that I can’t describe as I’ve been all alone and decided to stand up for what I feel is right. I’ve found that Heavenly Father surrounds us with love when we do this and we come to know Him as a father more deeply in these times.
I’ve shared a few examples of standing up for truth and your beliefs and how God blessed my life.
I’m sure that you have some stories as well. We would all love to hear them, so please share.
I was out with the sister missionaries the other night visiting a family they are teaching. The family is a great young couple just starting out in life in their early 20’s. They are very new in their careers and have all the aspirations that young couples have such as: earning enough money to live comfortably, raising children, and making their dreams come true in life.
While I was there, I felt that I needed to ask them why they are meeting with the missionaries? She said it is because she sees how happy people who have faith are and she wants that in her life and in the lives of her children. Her husband, once was an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (i.e. Mormon). He said that he decided around the age of 18 that he wasn’t going to stay active as a member of the church. However, after a few years he notices a void in his life and said that he also shares the same desire and knows he will “come back” someday.
They also shared experiences they have had learning about the Gospel from his parents, who are active church members. We read scripture together and I shared some stories of my conversion. He then shared a story of revelation that had come into his life at a young age and shared a witness of God answering prayers. He also said he felt a desire to pray and read scripture with his wife, which they never have done.
After the meeting, I couldn’t help but think that this meeting must have been an answer to the prayers of his parents. I also thought of my own conversion story as well as that of Alma the Younger’s in the scriptures, where the children, who are rebellious are saved through the faith and prayers of their parents.
Since you can read about Alma’s conversion story, I’ll briefly share my story and how it relates to my father.
My Conversion Story
After my parents’ divorce I became very rebellious at a young age. Although I was very young, I was getting into some very bad addictive habits and I was angry at my father, God, and especially anything related to the Mormon Church.
One summer, my mother persuaded me to go and visit my Dad, which I did reluctantly. The one thing I didn’t want to do was go to church, which I knew my Dad was actively involved in. Upon my dismay, he told me that as long as I was staying with him, I had to go to church. So I did and hated it.
However, after a few days I started to notice something and my heart started to change. I noticed my Dad wasn’t what I thought he was and he actually cared for me. I noticed a feeling of love and peace in his home that I hadn’t felt in a long, long time. After staying with him for a couple of weeks, my heart had changed so much that I knew I wanted to live with him in an environment that was away from the bad friends and influences I had without a father figure in my life. I also started reading scripture and praying and God softened my heart through the power of the Holy Spirit.
When I told my father all of this, he started to cry tears of joy and told me he had been praying for this to happen as he saw me slipping into a dark place. As I look back on things, I realize that it was indeed a miracle because I had no intentions of ever coming back. It was solely through my father’s faith that I was blessed with the grace of the Good Lord to experience what I did at that time and have experienced many times since then.
This message is to all of you parents out there who may have a child who has made some wrong turns. My heart goes out to you as I am a father of young children. At their tender ages, I can’t imagine them making bad choices as they are so innocent and full of love and life. If you have older children who have strayed, I’m sure you see your older children and remember them when they were young and so close to God. Don’t give up hope. The lives of the young couple I met with this week with the missionaries, Alma the Younger in the scriptures, and my own life are testimonies that through the faith of parents’ sincere prayers, our children can return once again to light and truth from God.
On this blog I write of the Savior’s love, forgiving others and applying Jesus’ atonement into our lives. Many of you have also commented and shared insights and stories of how Jesus’ love has affected your life as well.
The video clip is an example of the miracle of Jesus’ atonement at work in the lives of two men. One of them is the father whose 3 children including his pregnant wife, were killed by young drunk driver. It isn’t often that I am moved to tears, but I was when I watched this interview on Glenn Beck t.v.
Put what you are doing aside for 20 minutes and watch this because it will change your life.
If you are like me, there have been times in your life when you have prayed for an answer over and over and it appears that no one is listening. Sometimes you may wonder if there is even a God at all. Sometimes you may wonder if the Divine experiences and revelations you have received were something contrived by your own mind, or not. Some may feel they haven’t ever felt God’s love in their life due to terrible circumstances. If you feel that God isn’t answering your prayers, ther is a great talk by Neal A Maxwell, former Mormon apostle: “Thanks be to God“.
Here’s an excerpt taken from the talk:
Yes, even in our prayers, we can, unintentionally, ask “amiss.” (2 Ne. 4:35.) No wonder humility is such an everlasting virtue. For us to accept God’s “No” as an affirmative indication of his love—rather than a lack thereof—and as a signal that we have asked amiss, this is true humility!
How often have you and I in our provincialism prayed to see ahead and, mercifully, have been refused, lest our view of the present be blurred?
How many times have we been blessed by not having our prayers answered, at least according to the specifications set forth in our petitions?
How many times have frustrating, even gruelling, experiences from which we have sought relief turned out, later on, to have been part of a necessary preparation which led to much more happiness?
“And now when Alma heard this … he beheld that their afflictions had truly humbled them, and that they were in a preparation to hear the word.” (Alma 32:6; italics added.)
How many times have we impatiently expressed our discontent with seemingly ordinary and routine circumstances which were divinely designed, shaping circumstances for which, later on, we were very grateful? Alas, have there perhaps not also been those times when we have been grumpy with God or, unlike Job, even “charged God foolishly”? (Job 1:22.) How many times, naively, have we vigorously protested while on our way to a blessing?
Therefore, our faith in and thanksgiving for Heavenly Father, so far as this mortal experience is concerned, consists—not simply of a faith and gladness that he exists—but also includes faith and thanksgiving for his tutoring of us to aid our acquisition of needed attributes and experiences while we are in mortality. We trust not only the Designer but also his design of life itself—including our portion thereof!
I really like this quote because many times in my life I’ve prayed for something I think I wanted and God was patiently waiting for me to be ready to receive it.
For example, I prayed for a number of years to meet a good lady to marry and start a family with. However, whenever I met a lady who I thought would be good, I felt God was telling me to wait. Sometimes I would try and force a relationship against the will of God and of course the relationship wouldn’t work. It wasn’t until I humbled myself and realized I had some personal issues with feelings of abandonment and anxiety that I needed to overcome that I realized God was being merciful to me (and the girls I had been trying to force things with) by not giving me the “green light” so to speak to get into a serious relationship. After I had dealt with overoming my feelings of anxiety, depression, and abandonment (which you can read more about in detail here), did God place a lady in my life.
What experiences have you had with feeling that God wasn’t answering your prayers, only to find that He really was listening?
Recently in Elder’s Quorom (Men’s Group) we had a very good discussion based on the current LDS prophet, Thomas Monson’s, recent talks he had given. The quote that stood out to our instructor today, as well as myself, was
Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.
The discussion then turned to raising our children and focusing more on “problems” rather than loving the child. As the discussion continued, I thought of an incident I had with my young daughter that morning where she wasn’t listening and she was ignoring me. My reaction was definitely not Christ-like and I lost my patience with her, unfortunately. Although I came to her later and apologized, I still felt bad and had been praying about how I can better approach the situation when it arose again.
Another elder in our class talked about a situation where his daughter had totalled his car when she was in high school and lied to him about the circumstances surrounding the accident. He found out at the scene from the police and fire-fighters that what she had told him was not true and he said he completely lost his temper with her and focused on the “problem” more than on loving the person.
It’s a difficult situation, because as a man, my tendancy is to act like a military officer and order the child to behave “because I said so”. However, that approach is pretty ineffective, I’ve learned. Yet, the child still needs to learn respect, etc.
What are some good strategies you as fathers use to discipline your children yet still show them that you love them?
Excommunication is defined by the LDS church as “A disciplinary process used only in extreme situations. This includes removal of an individual’s name from the records of the Church“.
From my experience (which isn’t that extensive) with excommunication, one is removed for serious, repeated sexual sins or by having a very rebellious attitude towards the Church of Jesus Christ.
Throughout the years, I’ve often heard LDS members of the church say that the worst thing you can do is be excommunicated because the gift of the Holy Spirit is removed from you and you’re left to your own devices.
I believe that that statment is a falsehood designed by Satan to put despair into the hearts of those who are excommunicated.
I’ll share a story with you as to why I believe it is false that the Lord removes his Spirit from those who are excommunicated.
We were alone in a room in a church building. The young man in front of me had just been excommunicated from the church and was sobbing in front of me. I was the Elders Quorum President (mens group leader) at the time and I didn’t have answers for him that seemed to help. He asked questions such as: Why did I choose to do the things I did? How can I gain membership back into the church? Did God abandon me? Will I have the Holy Spirit and strength to re-commit myself to the Savior and His gospel?
As he cried and shared his feelings with me, I prayed silently “God help me help him feel your love and give him answers”. Suddenly I remembered something I had done numerous times on my mission with investigators of the gospel.
I looked at him and told him I didn’t have the answers to his questions, or the ability to heal his heart and offer forgiveness and healing for his sins, but Jesus did.
We dropped to our knees and I offered the first prayer. I opened my heart to God thanking Him for the blessing of the gospel and for the Atonement of Jesus. I asked Him for guidance and direction for this young man and that He would pour His love into the young man’s heart.
Next, the young man prayed. I have seldom heart a more honest and sincere prayer as I did that day. As the young man prayed, the Holy Spirit came into both of our hearts and we both knew the young man was forgiven. We both knew the compassion and mercy God has for us when we are humble and come to Him offering our hearts to Him.
We both cried and were both strengthened in our relationship with the Lord.
One year later, I was able to witness and assist this young man as he was re-baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ.
If this young man had believed the lie that the Spirit couldn’t be with him after he was excommunicated, he would have lost complete faith in God and never experienced the love of Jesus in such an amazing way. He would have let go and never come back.
For those of you who know someone who has been excommunicated I encourage you to reach out to them as Jesus would and show an increase in love. Don’t judge them or look down on them or think they are not capable of feeling the Lord’s Spirit. If you do judge them, you’re commiting a sin and have need of repentance!
For those who may be excommunicated, I know that God loves you and that you can still feel the Lord’s love and He will increase his love and spiritual protection for you as you open your heart in prayer, read his Holy Word, and remain humble.
Recently, one of my church friends and I had a long discussion. I had noticed tension in his relationship over the past couple years, but he hadn’t openly discussed it with me until the other day. He told me he wasn’t sure if he knew what love for his wife was anymore and went on to discuss how they had entertained the idea of getting a divorce.
Divorce is something I do not take lightly. My parents fought throughout their 10 years of marriage and I constantly worried as a young child if they would get a divorce as I would listen to them fight when they thought we were asleep. My world was crushed when at the age of 9 my parents were divorced. Over the 25 years since their divorce, I have seen personal heartache and struggle, struggle and conflict with my siblings, and my parents have been affected emotionally and physically as a result of it throughout the years as well. I’m positive some within my family are not over it.
In addition to my own experiences with divorce, I have seen grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and cousins go through divorce. The heartache felt during a strained marriage and emptiness from the aftermath of a divorce are real.
With all of this in mind I said a silent prayer to myself as he confided in me. I wanted to make sure I relayed to him what was helpful for him and what God wanted him to hear. As I prayed and thought, I remembered reading a story in Spencer W Kimball’s book “The Miracle of Forgiveness“. It is about a lady who, against her church leader’s advice went ahead and got a divorce simply because she had “fallen out” of love and she thought it would be easier do go it alone. A few years later, she approached her leader and he asked her if life was better now that she was divorced. She said that she regretted getting the divorce and wished she would have worked harder at loving her former husband. I shared this story with my friend and urged him to try everything in his power to make the marriage work and love flicker again. Not only for his sake, but for his wife and daughters’ sakes as well.
Spencer W Kimball gave another address back in 1979 entitled “Oneness in Marriage” that provides guidance on how to have a happy and successful marriage. The following four points are very valuable tools for both my friend and anyone considering marriage or currently in a marriage, which will be discussed. (The direct quote is in bold letters with additional commentary underneath the quote).
1. There must be the proper approach toward marriage, which contemplates the selection of a spouse who reaches as nearly as possible the pinnacle of perfection in all the matters which are of importance to the individuals. And then those two parties must come to the altar in the temple realizing that they must work hard toward this successful joint living.
This is a very serious step that I think many people take too lightly. The possible “pinnacle of perfection” is different from one person to the next. In my opinion, one would be wise to write down the non-negotiables of what one wants in a spouse and then some that would be nice to have but not essential. When dating evaluate this and especially when considering marriage, make sure the potential partner lines up with this. If it is very important to you, and the partner isn’t appearing that they will compromise, it is easier to break off an engagement or someone you’re dating than it is to get into a marriage.
For those who are already married and may have taken the marriage a bit too lightly before entering marriage, it still isn’t too late. Write down what is non-negotiable, etc. and share it with your spouse. Come up with a plan of how you see marriage working out together and work towards it. If you are having a hard time doing this, get some marriage counseling. There is no harm in this and if both parties want to make it work, it can be good to have an outside, unbiased, professional perspective.
2. There must be a great unselfishness, forgetting self and directing all of the family life and all pertaining thereunto to the good of the family, subjugating self.
Selfishness is a marriage killer. I’ve seen friends and family go through divorce because an individual (or both individuals) are not willing to compromise or admit their mistakes. It is very hard to make a marriage work if both parties are not willing to admit their mistakes and then forgive and forget the mistakes of their partner.
3. There must be continued courting and expressions of affection, kindness, and consideration to keep love alive and growing.
There are many quotes on love, but one of my favorite most-recent quotes comes from Elder Uchtdorf. He states “love is spelled T-I-M-E…time” and I agree completely.
When my father remarried, he set a very good example of regularly dating and spending time with my new mother. Often it was as simple as going to the grocery store together, but they made sure that once a week they had alone time.
I’m not sure that they realized how much my younger brother and I watched them as they spent time with each other and their love grew. It made a very strong impact on me and how I wanted my relationship with my wife to be someday. Kids can tell when love is alive and well between parents and it affects areas of their life such as school performance, relationships with friends, and self-confidence.
4. There must be a complete living of the commandments of the Lord as defined in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As my friend talked about how discouraged he was and how negative he felt towards God and life in general, I wondered about his relationship with God. I asked him a few questions and he did say he hadn’t been praying, studying God’s Word. I knew he hadn’t been going to church regularly either.
From personal experience, when we shut out God by not allowing him in through prayer or scripture study or other uplifting activities, it gets very hard to remain positive. I highly recommended that he start doing these things again, even if he didn’t feel like it.
My prayer is that some things we talked about help him pick himself up and start trying again with his marriage and relationship with God. I realize that in many circumstances damage is irreparable and divorce is inevitable. However, if both parties are willing to pick up the pieces, forgive and forget, compromise, and begin again by setting goals together, happiness and love can once again return into the marriage.
I realize that many of you have had experiences either personally or second-hand with divorce and would welcome your responses. If this were your friend, what advice would you give?
I’ve shared for nearly 3 years now, the purpose of this blog is to share my experiences in life as I grow “grace for grace” in the Lord. This past year, I have felt moved to become politically active. As I feel that my political views are a part of my development, I shared my views. However, after reading some of my readers’ comments and also an article in BYU magazine, I thought I would apologize not for my views, but for the attitude in which I wrote my article on being a Christian and Democrat.
Ross Spencer, Physics Chair at BYU, wrote an article included in last summer’s BYU magazine entitled “Learning in the Light of Faith.” Last night, after I had written a pretty controvosial post on being a Christian and Democrat, I was led to this article after saying my prayers. After reading the article, I was humbled by what the author said and thought I would share this with readers of this blog.
Part of balancing scholarship and faith is learning when to use critical thinking and when to be still and listen. I’ve been involved in logic and criticism for a long time now, and it is often an ugly and unfriendly business. Unlike the title of the popular book “I’m OK- You’re OK”, critical analysis often feels more like “I’m OK-you’re an idiot!”
He then goes on to quote Jesus in the Bible (Matt 7:3-5) where Jesus asks “why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”
Finally, he quotes the beautiful LDS hymn “In Humility our Savior” and highlights the words “teach us tolerance and love”.
Combining religion and politics is a risky thing and I chose to do that last night along with my political views. I think it is fine that I shared the views and I do not regret how I feel or sharing them, but I do regret if it came off as me saying “I’m OK-you’re an Idiot”, or being intolerant and unloving. I was pretty fired up after my candidate lost, so it probably came out in an arrogant way, for which I apologize.
Some readers who commented reacted similarly to the way I felt, but on the other end of the spectrum by calling me names and cursing us “ignorant” conservatives. Those of you who reacted like that, I encourage you to read this article and see if it helps in future dialogues with people that disagree with your views. I fall in the same category with you, and after reading this article will try my best from here on out to be more objective and try to see others’ perspective.
Other readers, who clearly did not agree with my views chose to react in a more humble manor by being objective and sharing their views in a respectful way. For that I thank you for your good example.
This experience has been a good learning experience for me and I thank those of you who stopped by and shared your views with me after writing the post. I thank those of you who stood up for me and “had my back” so to speak. I thank those of you who opposed me and responded in a curtious, objective way. I also thank those of you who opposed me and called me names and responded rudely. I ask for forgiveness if you felt I was calling you an idiot. I hope this article can help us all grow a little in the way we respond to others in person, or online.
For those not familiar with the Willie and Martin handcart company of the early Mormon pioneers, it is a tragic story in which many members of the party died or were severely injured. I will give a very brief description of the events surrounding the trek.
Due to unforseen events and financial restraints, Brigham Young designed a way for the poor LDS Saints in Europe to make the trek across the Atlantic and most of the United States to gather to Zion, in Utah. Handcarts were seen as the solution and the first 3 handcart companies made it to Utah without any problem.
Franklin D Richards was the Apostle appointed by Brigham Young to oversee the emigration of LDS Saints to Europe. According to the blog entitled “Intelligent Obedience” John Taylor (a senior apostle) had advised Franklin Richards not to encourage Saints to leave so late in the year of 1856 and to wait until the next year. However, Richards boldly told the Saints in Europe that it was God’s will that they go and that God would part the storms as He did for Moses if they but had faith. Over 1,000 Saints took up the journey.
Upon arrival at Iowa City, the Saints encountered set-backs that delayed their departure until mid-late July. Most of the Saints were naiive to the harsh terrain and climate that lay ahead. There was one amoungst them, however, who was familiar with the terrain whose name was Levi Savage. Savage had circled the globe serving as a missionary to Burma and had literally sacrificed his time in a way that many can not imagine. He had also made the trek to Salt Lake City and knew of the dangers in leaving so late in the year.
Levi Savage (in the words from his own personal journal) said on August 12th:
Today we commenced preparing for our journey and ascertaining who wishes to go on this fall and who wishes to remain here. Many are going to stop. Others are faltering and I myself am not in favor of, but much opposed to, taking women and children through when they are destitute of clothing, when we all know that we are bound to be caught in the snow and severe cold weather long before we reach the valley.
When asked by President Willie to share his thoughts with the company on leaving so late in the year Savage (again in his own words from his personal journal) said on August 13th:
Brother Willey exhorted the Saints to go forward regardless of suffering even to death. After he had spoken, he gave me the opportunity of speaking. I said to him that if I spoke I must speak my mind, let it cut where it would. He said certainly to do so. I then related to the Saints the hardships that we should have to endure. I said that we were liable to have to wade in snow up to our knees and shovel at night, lay ourselves in a thin blanket and lie on the frozen ground without a bed. I said that it was not like having a wagon that we could go into and wrap ourselves in as much as we like and lay down. “No,” said I, “we are without wagons, destitute of clothing and could not carry it f we had it. We must go as we are. The handcart system I do not condemn. I think t preferable to unbroken oxen and experienced teamsters. The lateness of the season was my only objection to leaving this point for the mountains at this time. I spoke warmly upon the subject, but spoke truth, and the people, judging from appearance and expressions, felt the force of it. (However, the most of them determined to go forward, if the authorities say so.) Elder Willey then spoke again in reply to what I had said, evidently dissatisfied. He said that the God that he served was a God that was able to save to the utermost. He said that was the God that he served, and he wanted no Job’s comforters with him. I then said that what I had said was the truth, and if Elder Willey did not want me to act in the place where I am, he is at full liberty to place another man in my stead. I would not think hard of him for it, But, I did not care what he said about Job’s comforters, I had spoken nothing but the truth and he knew it. Elder Atwood then spoke mildly and to the purpose. He said that he had been listening to what had been said. He exhorted the Saints to pray to God and get a revelation and know for themselves whether they should go or stay, for it was their privilege to know for themselves.
Clearly, Levi Savage thought it an absurd idea to leave so late in the year, but upon praying and wanting to follow their leaders, the majority of the Saints decided to make the journey.
At this point, Savage had the decision to either stay or to go with the Saints. He clearly disagreed with the authorities (Franklin Richards and President Willie) on making the trek. However, Savage showed the courage of a true disciple of Jesus, being willing to die for his fellow friends to help them. He realized they were naiive to the territory. Upon the conclusion of the meeting, Savage stated:
Brethren and sisters, what I have said I know to be true, but seeing you are to go forward, I will go with you, will help you all I can, will work with you, will rest with you, will suffer with you, and if necessary I will die with you. May God have mercy bless and preserve us.
What great courage, faith and dedication he had! As I read this, I thought about the commitment the people of Alma made at the waters of baptism to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who are in need of comfort. I also thought about the apostle James’ description of what pure religion is.
Later on in the journey as the Saints were struggling in mid-September, Franklin Richards, the apostle, arrived with a few elders. When hearing of Savage’s opposition in Iowa City, Richards called a meeting and openly rebuked Savage for his lack of faith and for not following his leaders. Savage’s response was amazing as he records in his journal on September 12th that he had no idea there were hard feelings and he was sorry for offending anyone.
As I read his personal account I was amazed at his great humility. Clearly he was in the right and he could have become very bitter, but he chose to remain humble. The story continues with the unfortunate actions of Franklin Richards.
According to one of the Saints, John Chislett, Franklin Richards gave a stirring sermon but then proceeded to ask for a meal. The Saints out of respect took their finest calf and killed it, when they were in dire need of nourishment. Richards then proceeded to eat the meat and not even offer it to the Saints. In Chislett’s own words he describes the event:
“These brethren told Captain Willie they wanted some fresh meat, and he had our fattest calf killed for them. I am ashamed for humanity’s sake to say they took it. While we, four hundred in number, travelling so slowly and so far from home, with our mixed company of men, women, children, aged, sick, and infirm people, had no provisions to spare, had not enough for ourselves, in fact, these ‘elders in Israel,’ these ‘servants of God,’ took from us what we ourselves so greatly needed and went on in style with their splendid outfit, after preaching to us faith, patience, prayerfulness, and obedience to the priesthood. As they rolled out of our camp I could not, as I contrasted our positions and circumstances, help exclaiming to myself: ‘Look on this picture, and on that!’
“We broke camp at once and turned towards the river, the apostle having advised us to go on to the south side. He and his company preceded us and waited in the opposite bank to indicate to us the best fording place. They stood and watched us wade the river—here almost a mile in width, and in places from two to three feet deep. Our women and girls waded, pulling their carts after them.
“The apostle promised to leave us provisions, bedding, etc., at Laramie if he could, and to secure us help from the valley as soon as possible.”
As I read this account I was very apalled at the actions of the apostle. As I read further accounts Richards didn’t even leave any provisions or bedding at Fort Laramie (which may have been due to other circumstances), which led to the demise of many people as the winter storms hit.
After reading these accounts clearly there were many factors involved in the hundreds of deaths involved in the Willie Handcart Company. Many stories have been told about the heroic efforts of Saints in Utah that went to help them after they found out there were still some companies coming.
Throughout history, Levi Savage is sometimes known as one who opposed church authorities, and his name is sometimes mentioned as one of those who wasn’t a true Saint. However, I believe he stood as one of the true disciples of Jesus by not becoming bitter when his leaders were clearly in the wrong and also for putting his life on the line to help his fellow man. He is a good example for us to follow.