We have Mormon pioneers on my dad’s side who were part of this heartbreaking exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois in February 1846. Mobs forced our ancestors to leave their homes and cross the Mississippi in the dead of night.
Eliza R. Snow mentions in her diary arising the next morning and visiting the tent of our ancestor “Mrs. Yearsley”. A light snow had fallen overnight on the souls huddled on the bleak western bank of the Mississippi River.
Other ancestors include the family of William Warner Player, the principal stone setter of the original Nauvoo Temple.
As if the wintery wind and icy waters weren’t bad enough, being forced to leave home and hearth couldn’t compare to the dreadful sight of their beloved temple being desecrated by the hateful mob.
I’ve been to Nauvoo several times and have stood across the river to take in this view.
Despite oppressive summer heat during my last visit, I shivered uncontrollably. Overwhelmed by the anguish our ancestors endured, tears streamed down my cheeks. I looked east to the now restored temple and couldn’t help but imagine the horrors of that cold night’s view.
The ferocious flames destroyed all but the outer shell of the once sacred edifice.
And though they were persecuted, hounded to within a hair’s breath of their very lives, most survived to establish a stronghold in the West.
The intervening years have shown mob rule could not vanquish the early church members’ love of God and the Savior. The fiery flames did not destroy their belief in God’s mercy, nor their hope of eternal life as loving families in the hereafter.
We have friends of many faith traditions — friends who have endured unimaginable persecution either personally, or in their family history.
I’ve stood on the foundation of the barracks at Dachau, walked through the low-ceilinged shower room, and could not choke back tears peering into the furnaces at the crematorium.
Extremists still fan the flames of hatred as evidenced by myriad clips of a knee to the neck, a bombed out maternity hospital, scarred battle fields, school shootings, 9/11, and Jan 6th.
So, what’s this white-haired grandmother to do?
REMEMBER that we have been taught to love one another and to seek forgiveness when we have erred.
But mostly remember to LOVE.
Like widening ripples of water from a pebble thrown into a pond, may loving kindness spread comfort to those that mourn as we look forward to rejoicing together when times are good.
“To every thing, there is a season.”
FOR FURTHER READING
American Experience, The Great Mormon Migration, documentary (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/mormon-migration : viewed 13 May 2023.)
Black, Susan Easton, “The Economic Sacrifice of the Nauvoo Exodus”, BYU Religious Study Center post, (https://rsc.byu.edu/far-away-west/economic-sacrifice-nauvoo-exodus : viewed 13 May 2023.) Quoting “The first Latter-day Saint to leave Nauvoo was Charles Shumway on February 4, 1846. In near zero-degree weather, Shumway loaded his ox-drawn wagon onto a flatboat, crossed the Mississippi, and began his trek westward.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Departure from Nauvoo, Church History Topics (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/history/topics/departure-from-nauvoo : viewed 13 May 2023.)