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Centennial Lessons: Church History for Women — 10. Our Fore-Mothers

By: Ardis E. Parshall - February 26, 2009

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.

During these trying times, had the people been weak and wavering, there would have been plenty of opportunity to become lax in their social and moral consciences. All the while, however – all honour to those glorious people – the exalted position of womanhood was maintained on a beautifully high level. The Latter-day Saints have ever held inviolate the single standard of virtue for men and women, the sanctity of the spirit’s fleshly tabernacle. Non-Mormons have openly avowed and agreed with the statement of members that there was no iniquity in the Mormon communities until the “Gentiles” entered. Of this, President John Taylor said:

Our actions are all honest, open and above board. We have no gambling hells, no drunkenness, no infanticides, no houses of assignation, no prostitutes. Our wives are not afraid of our intrigues and debauchery, nor are our wives and daughters corrupted by designing and unprincipled villains. We believe in the chastity and virtue of woman, and maintain them. There is not to-day in the wide world a place where female honour, virtue and chastity are so well protected as in Utah. [Quoted in The Real Mormonism, pp. 244-245, written by Robert C. Webb, a non-Mormon.]

But, some may say, this statement was made by a Mormon – what of the “Gentiles”? We next quote a non-Mormon, Mr. Phil Robinson, a noted English journalist, who went to Salt Lake City to find out the truth about the Mormons. He says of them:

The Mormons drunken! Now what, for instance, can be the conclusion of any honest thinker from this fact – that though I mixed constantly with Mormons, all of them anxious to show me every hospitality and courtesy, I was never at any time asked to take a glass of strong drink? If I wanted a horse to ride or to drive I had a choice at once offered me. If I wanted someone to go with me to some point of interest, his time was mine. Yet it never occurred to them to show a courtesy by suggesting “a drink.”

Then, seriously, how can any one have respect for the literature or the men who, without knowing anything of the lives of Mormons, stigmatize them as profane, adulterous, and drunken? As a community I know them, from personal advantages of observation such as no non-Mormon writer has ever previously possessed, to be at any rate exceptionally careful in maintaining … piety and sobriety.

The Mormons, who could at one time boast – and visitors without number have borne evidence to the fact – that a drunkard was never seen, an oath never to be heard, in the streets of their city, have now to confess that, thanks to the example of the Gentiles, they have both drunkards and profane men among them. …

Then, they say, “We might hope to see the old days back when we never thought of locking our doors at night, and when our wives and girls, let them be out ever so late, needed no escort in the streets. [Saints and Sinners, Phil Robinson, pp. 239-240. Quoted by Robert c. Webb, in The Real Mormonism, pp. 152-153.]

And for the Mormon women themselves, Sister Hannah T. King speaks of their own code of honour:

Let us, the women of this people – the sisterhood of Utah – rise en masse, and tell … the character of woman, such as God intended her to be; … devotion, veneration and faithfulness are her peculiar attributes; that God is her refuge, and His servants her oracles. … They are one in heart, hand and brain, with the brotherhood of Utah – that God is their Father and their Friend – that into His hand they commit their cause. [The Women of Mormondom, pp. 398-399.

And lastly, Isabella Horne conclusively asserts “that in no place on earth are chastity and virtue in women more honoured and protected than among the people called Mormons.” [The Real Mormonism, Webb, p. 262.]

How faithful and true was the testimony that burned within their noble souls! And how great will be their reward!

CONCLUSION.

At the conclusion of this series of lessons we might well pause to question ourselves. What has come of the efforts of the women-Founders of the church? Did those valiant heroines strive and sacrifice and pay with their lives in vain?

When the women of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints endured the hardships of persecution and weary travel to establish their homes in the tops of the mountains, they were a free people. Theirs was a Gospel of freedom. They held a franchise of liberty. The world claim differently, but let them speak for themselves. Says the Woman’s Exponent, a magazine edited by Sister Emmeline B. Wells, and filled with aspirations for the elevation of the sex:

If the women of Utah are slaves, their bonds are loving ones and dearly prized. They are to-day in the free and unrestricted exercise of more political and social rights than are the women of any other part of the United States. But they do not choose as a body to court the follies and vices which adorn the civilization of other cities, nor to barter principles of tried worth for the tinsel of sentimentality or the gratification of passion.

This statement carries even greater weight because it is quoted by two men, Phil Robinson and Robert C. Webb, both non-Mormons, who went to Utah for the express purpose of learning the truth about conditions there.

Also, in defense of the Mormon woman’s position, Dr. Ellis R. Shipp, an eminent woman doctor of the Church, proclaims:

We are accused of being down-trodden and oppressed. We deny the charge, for we know there cannot be found a class of women upon the earth who occupy a more elevated position in the hearts of their husbands, or whose most delicate and refined feelings are so respected as here in Utah. …

Let our works speak for us. We are a temperate, God-fearing, law-abiding people. We consider virtue and chastity the crowning ornaments of a woman’s character. Our ladies are educated and refined, and their lives are constantly characterized by acts of nobility, fortitude, and usefulness. [Quoted in The Real Mormonism, p. 264.]

To-day, as though watered by their tears of gladness and sorrow, Zion has flourished and stands as a proud monument to the integrity and honour of our forefathers and the courage and fidelity of our fore-mothers. Their efforts were not in vain, but live to-day in the lives of their faithful sons and daughters, who are bearing their testimonies to the nations of the earth. The wives and mothers of Zion are still free and honoured, for they were giving their all to the promulgation of Christ’s true gospel on earth. They forego much personal comfort, which would otherwise naturally be theirs, to send their husbands and sons and daughters into the mission fields to proclaim the glorious truths of the restored gospel. One of these missionaries, the son of a noble, self-sacrificing mother, dedicates this series of lessons to her as his humble tribute to the Mothers of Zion.

ALVIN G. PACK.

Questions.

1. – What is your testimony regarding the social and moral conscience of the Mormon Pioneers during their early years? What can you say of the same in our Church during our one hundred years of history and to-day?
2. – Why were the Mothers of Zion patriots?
3. – What great traits, so apparent in the lives of all the Women-founders of the church, made them ascribe all honour to their God?
4. – Compare your freedom as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with that of others.
5. – What blessings do we enjoy to-day which are results of the labours of the women-founders of the Church?
6. – What is your testimony regarding the lives of those early heroines of Mormondom?
7. – Read Eliza R. Snow’s great hymn “O My Father” to the class. What startling truth is taught by this hymn?
8. – How does it make you feel to know that you are striving to be worthy of and some day to approach your Heavenly Parents?
9. – What Bible passages indicate that we have a Mother as well as a Father in heaven?
10. – Learn the words of “O My Father” and sing for closing hymn.



1 Comment »

  1. Ardis! Amy and I are going down to the “Preserving LDS History” conference at BYU. Are you going? If you are looking for a way to get down there you’re welcome to come with us.

    Comment by Meghan — February 26, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

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