Please see the Introduction to this series for the origins of these lessons, written by Elder A.G. Pack, a missionary to England in 1930.
RELIGIOUS PIONEERS: The Mormon people are distinguished pioneers. They pioneered in New York and in Ohio; they built the first modern-day temple at Kirtland; they were also religious pioneers in the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
One of the early stalwart converts to the Church, Parley P. Pratt, was a Campbellite preacher, which sect had its main branch at Kirtland, Ohio. In August, 1830, he left Kirtland for the east where he intended to devote his life to the ministry. While on the journey he heard the Prophet’s teachings and accepted the gospel. After his baptism Parley started with his companions on a mission to the Lamanites, who, according to the Book of Mormon are a branch of the House of Israel. Stopping at Kirtland, he immediately sought an interview with his former teacher, Sidney Rigdon. Soon thereafter Mr. Rigdon and many of his prominent followers accepted the gospel. In about three weeks the missionaries had baptised 127 persons, which number soon increased to a thousand.
THE CHURCH MOVED WEST: In the fall of 1830 Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge visited the Prophet at Fayette, New York, to report the condition of the branch at Kirtland. This report confirmed the Prophet’s feeling that the West held the future destinies of the Church. At this time the first direct revelation on the gathering of Israel was given, [Doctrine and Covenants, Section 37] commanding the Saints to “assemble together at the Ohio.” Consequently, Kirtland, Ohio, became the first gathering place for the Saints; and soon a host of hardy men and women swelled the little village into a fair sized town. The movement from New York began in early 1831.
WOMEN IN KIRTLAND – A WOMAN’S TESTIMONY: Many heroic women gathered to Kirtland in this eventful migration. They were endowed with the spirit of pioneering; their religion fostered the desire to “gather.” Their coming from many parts resembles the process of a master writer in gathering loose ends to begin a great story. The early history of this Church is truly an epic of God’s hand-dealings with the children of modern Israel.
As the Prophet and his father had gone ahead to prepare a place for the family, his mother with amazing resourcefulness, led a party of 80 souls from New York. At Waterloo, she had occasion to ask for lodgings for some sick ladies of her party; she inquired at a home, the owner of which she found to be a “cheerful old lady, near seventy years of age.” She told her that they were Mormons.
”Mormons!” ejaculated she, in a quick, good-natured tone. “What be they? I never heard of them before.”
I then informed her that this Church was brought forth through the instrumentality of a prophet, and that I was the mother of this prophet.
“What!” said she, “a prophet in these days! I never heard of the like in my life; and if you will come and sit with me, you shall have a room for your sisters and their children, but you yourself must come and stay with me, and tell me alla bout it.”
We soon fell into conversation, in which I explained to her, as clearly as I could, the principles of this Gospel. … I continued my explanations until after two o’clock the next morning, when we removed to the boat again. [History of the Prophet Joseph, Lucy Mack Smith, Ch. XXXIX.]
On boarding the boat at Buffalo, a man on shore cried: “Is the Book of Mormon true?” Mother Smith bore an unimpeachable testimony:
That book was brought forth by the power of God, and translated by the gift of the Holy Ghost. … for I do testify that god has revealed Himself to man in these last days, and set His hand to gather His people. [History of the Prophet Joseph, Lucy Mack Smith, Ch. XXXIX.]
MARY ANN ANGELL YOUNG: Remarkable to relate are the lives of all these early women. Mary Ann Angell was born June 8th, 1803, in Seneca, New York. In Providence, Rhode Island, whence her family moved, she became a Sunday School teacher in the Free-Will Baptist Church. In this capacity she spent much time studying the prophecies of the Bible, and was confidently expecting their fulfilment. What event could more have prepared her for the reception of the restored Gospel? Her faith strengthened her character, and she resolved never to marry until she met “a man of God,” with whom she could devote her life to the service of the Master.
Somehow Mary obtained a copy of the Book of Mormon and, after prayerfully reading it, was convinced that it was a sacred record. Soon after she visited relatives in New York where she was baptized. Alone she set out for Kirtland, in 1832, to gather with the Saints, arriving there about a year before Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball gathered with their families.
VILATE MURRAY KIMBALL: Meanwhile, in Mendon, New York, lived Vilate Murray Kimball, one of the immortal heroines of the early Church, and wife of that illustrious missionary and pioneer Heber C. Kimball. Brigham Young and family lived nearby. The Kimballs and the Youngs heard the gospel together. Brigham was baptized April 14th, 1832, and Heber was baptized the next day, which event knit the life-long friendship of these masterful men. Vilate Kimball, Heber’s wife, accepted the gospel two weeks later.
Sister Kimball was a woman of beauty and refinement, and a worthy mate of a man like Heber C. Kimball, by whom “she was ever cherished as the treasure she was.” This heroic woman was given a foreknowledge of the restoration of the Gospel; and upon hearing it was as one foreordained to a life of service within the Church.
In September, 1832, Brigham Young’s wife died; after which he made his home with Brother Kimball, whose wife took into her care his two motherless babes. They lived as one family until their removal to Kirtland in 1833.
IN KIRTLAND: Mary Ann Angell heard Brigham preach; the natural consequence followed. She had found her “man of God”; and he, in very deed, found a Saintly mother to his babes. They were married in February 18th, 1834. True to her trust, Mary became one of the pillars of the early Church.
Bitter persecution followed the Saints in Kirtland and Missouri, who suffered much violence. In 1837 Brigham Young was forced by Kirtland mobs to flee for his life, for his repeated avowal that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. Mobs frequently searched Mary’s home for her husband. During these most trying periods this excellent woman was left to struggle alone; but she held firmly to the principles of the gospel and her faith sustained her.
A HOLY TEMPLE: In the midst of these extreme persecutions the Saints built the Kirtland Temple, the corner stone being laid in 1833. The noble pioneer women assisted heroically in every possible way. One day Sisters Young and Kimball, and others, were engaged in making drapes and hangings for the Temple, when the Prophet entered.
“Well, sisters,” observed Joseph, “you are always on hand. The sisters are always first and foremost in all good works. Mary was first at the resurrection; and the sisters now are first to work on the inside of the temple.” [History of the Prophet Joseph, Lucy Mack Smith, p. 76]
Here were the faithful members of the Church of Christ, building a temple to God, the women working loyally with their husbands, preparing the interior of the House of the Lord, in which they expected to pay their devotions to Him. What an unheard of thing until the restoration! Again, as at the organization of the Church, women were present at the dedication of the Temple, March 27th, 1836, amid a splendour of heavenly glory.
MARY FIELDING SMITH: In 1837, when Parley P. Pratt visited Toronto, Canada, he found a group of high-minded souls prepared to receive the truth and almost awaiting him. Among those immediately to accept his message was Mary Fielding, a young woman of sterling worth. Three years previous, though unconscious of unseen direction, she was led to emigrate from England, and in consequence became one of the first English converts to the Truth. Soon after her baptism she gathered to Kirtland, where in November she married Hyrum Smith, his first wife having died. Hyrum was the Prophet’s next oldest brother and later succeeded Joseph Smith, Sen., as the presiding Patriarch in modern Israel. He was the Prophet’s stalwart support unto death, for they were brother-martyrs to the Truth.
Mary Fielding Smith lived in Kirtland at a time when apostate hatred loomed black against the saints. In these dark days she ministered peace and happiness to her afflicted brethren and sisters. She was a kind, motherly woman, superior in intellect, but gentle and sweet in all her ways. During the enforced prolonged absences of her husband she bravely provided for his five motherless children whom she had taken to her heart as her own, facing this period of mobocracy with enduring fortitude. Her courage and optimistic outlook are evident in excerpts from a letter written to her sister Mercy:
I have no doubt but you have many trials, but I am inclined to think you have not quite so much to endure as I have. Be this as it may, the Lord knows what our intentions are, and He will support us and give us grace and strength for the day, if we continue to put our trust in Him and devote ourselves unreservedly to his service. I do thank my Heavenly Father for the comfort and peace of mind I now enjoy in the midst of all the confusion and perplexity and raging of the devil against the work of God. … I feel more and more convinced that it is through suffering that we are made perfect, and I have already found it to have the effect of driving me nearer to the Lord and so suffering has become a great blessing to me … But I fear for Kirtland. Oh, that we as a people may be faithful, for this is our only hope, and all we have to depend upon. [Relief Society Magazine, Vol. 3, p. 124]
In the ensuing years, every quality of her character and soul were to be tried and tested. She was fated to bear her first child while her husband was in prison; her lot was to be the widow of a martyr. But in the midst of affliction, she grew beautifully mighty in the case of Truth. And her reward was great, for she became the mother of one of the greatest leaders of modern Israel, one who later became the sixth President of the Church, Joseph Fielding Smith.
1. – What was Lucy Smith’s testimony of the book of Mormon? Tell of the first mission to the Lamanites and the first direct revelation on the gathering of Israel.
2. – What made Mary Ann Angell a noble woman?
3. – Who was Vilate Kimball? Tell what you know of her.
4. – What was woman’s share in the building of the Kirtland Temple?
5. – Give your impressions of life during early Kirtland days.
6. – Explain Mary Fielding Smith’s words about being made perfect through suffering.
7. – Why were the faithful Saints driven from Kirtland?
8. – For the closing song, sing the hymn, “The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning,” which was written especially for the dedication of the Kirtland Temple.