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The Courage of the Women of Zion: A Radio Dramatization

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 26, 2009

On Sunday, March 27, 1938, at 9:30 p.m., a group of voice actors from Brigham Young University presented the following dramatization over the Church’s KSL radio. It’s melodramatic, I know, but it’s a part of our history, too, every bit as much as some of the finer works of art that we’re proud to claim. Fashions change – maybe we’ll come to appreciate these lofty-toned pageants again some day. Even if fashion doesn’t swing back that way, what do such pageants tell us about us?

I.

All down the shadowed vista of the years
Has woman’s courage gleamed to light the way.

The old Greek minstrel loved to sing the tale
Of fair Alcestis and the gift she brought
To offer at the shrine of love – her life
So young and beautiful and true.

Nor she alone. On Hebrew’s storied page, shine
The sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter, who
With willing lips drank from the bitter cup
Her anguished father held for her.

A babe the Virgin Mary bore, though she had seen
The fearful spectre of the Calvary Cross,
And in her dreams had pressed against her heart
The crown of thorns her son was doomed to wear.

The lovely Maid of Orleans faltered not
When once she saw her fated mission clear.
The Nightingales, the brave Cavells, they all
Have borne the torch of courage down the years.

Not least among these shining names should be
The name of her whose courage helped to build
An empire in the wild untrodden West –
The Mormon woman in her epic role.

We see her in great crucial moments, when
One faltering second would have meant defeat;
Not to herself alone, but others who
Depended on her light for guidance clear.

As convert to a strange new creed, she bore
The scorn of those she loved and turned her face
From home, security, and ease, to bear
The cross of truth, and righteousness, and faith.

Instrumental trio: “The Morning Breaks.”

DIALOGUE:

Mother: But father, don’t let’s judge too hastily. All that we have heard about these Mormon people may not be true.

Father: Mother, I am the head of this home. My daughter will do as I say. If she joins that church she must find somewhere else to live.

Mother: Lydia, perhaps you will see this differently now you are home. No doubt you were lonesome there in Liverpool. You know what the sentiment is here in Manchester. It will be impossible for you to go back to the shop if you are known as a Mormon. You would not be welcomed back to your cycling club. You would be an outcast.

Lydia: I wish I could make you understand. You see, nothing else matters now. If only you had been with me. It was Saturday evening in the market place. These Mormon elders were standing there in that shifting crowd – they were singing – it was beautiful. We stopped to listen. I shall never forget those words:

“Oh say, what is Truth? ’Tis the fairest gem
That the riches of worlds can produce – ”

Then they spoke. Father, it was truth. They were so earnest, so sincere. I attended their meetings for six months. I have studied their literature. The Bible means more to me than ever before. The Book of Mormon, I know, has come through divine revelation. My heart and my mind tell me that no matter what the sacrifice, I must go on.

Father: Lydia, you can’t mean this. Think of what it means to your mother – to me, and to you – I can’t bear to think of what it will do to you.

Lydia: Father, I know what it will do to me. I had hoped that you too might see. But if not, you were right; I cannot stay here. My life, my future are with that people in Zion.

Double Mixed Quartet: “Thro’ Deepening Trials Wend Your Way.

II.

Endless are the dreary miles
Across the unknown plain.
Weary feet,
Bleeding feet;
Bodies’ ceaseless pain.

Longings for the old free life,
For love, for friends, for hoe.
Turning hearts,
Yearning hearts.
Long dark nights alone.

Hunger, illness, doubt and fear
Rear their ghastly heads.
Even death
Cruel death
Steals to stricken beds.

Did she falter by the way,
The Mormon pioneer?
Dreaming soul,
Dauntless soul,
Conquers every fear.

Instrumental Trio: “Come, Come Ye Saints.

DIALOGUE:

Wife: There is only a little pile of stones to mark the grave. We shall never be able to find it again.

Husband: And a month ago when we started, he was so well. Do you remember how he laughed when I put him on the wagon seat beside me! Oh, if we’d only stayed in Nauvoo. It’s all my fault for suggesting that we try to make the trip. I see how foolish I was. But we’ll go back, Judith, we’ll take the others and go back!

Wife: No, Ascel. There’s no turning back. We may not know what is ahead, but we do know the counsel of the Lord. Zion is to be established in the tops of the mountains. We have our part to do. And remember, our little one is not lost. The Prophet Joseph has taught us that death is only a parting. We shall have our baby again. In the eternity our family will be reunited. Come, the others are waiting.

Quartet: “Tho hard to you your journey may appear
Grace shall be as your day …”

III.

High in the mountain fastness
They builded their homes with care.
Into the task went vision
And dreams, and love, and prayer.

Now they could rest from the travail
Of that trek ’cross the dreaded plains,
When eyes were turned to the future,
Now they could count their gains.

Now was there time for woman
To sing at her work and to play
With her babes at the eventide,
To search out the joy of each day.

Then came a new call to duty.
The journey for some was not o’er.
“Greater expansion of Zion” –
Abandoning homes once more.

DIALOGUE:

Wife: Hello, John, I’ve been waiting supper nearly an hour. I thought you must have forgotten that this is a very special night – my anniversary dinner is pretty cold.

Husband: I am sorry, Mary.

Wife: It’s all right, John. I have just been sitting here watching the sunset. It is beautiful from our porch. And John, have you noticed how lovely the garden is this fall. It’s two years since we started it. I was afraid at first nothing would ever grow in this alkali. It’s been hard work, but the children have helped, and it has made this really home to all of us, John. I am thankful for our home. We have been blessed, haven’t we?

Husband: Yes, we have been blessed. I was late tonight, Mary, because President Young sent down to the field for me.

Wife: He isn’t going to make you Bishop, is he? Come now, cheer up, it just can’t be that bad.

Husband: He wants us to go south. There is a valley about 400 miles southwest that must be settled. Next year the immigration into Great Salt Lake Valley will be tripled. There will be thousands needing land and homes. New country must be broken, ready for them.

Wife: But John, we’ve worked so hard for our home. We have gone without almost everything for it. The rugs, the curtains, even the furniture , I’ve made myself. And the hollyhocks, it’s taken two years to get them to grow. Have you thought of the children, John: Jack is still a baby. There’d be no school. There would be nothing again – nothing but mountains, sagebrush, and Indians.

Husband: I told him we’d talk it over tonight, Mary. I didn’t realize how much the home and the comforts have come to mean to you. These have been hard years and you’ve been mighty brave through them. I’ll talk to him in the morning. Come, let’s forget it now. Where are the children?

Wife: They’re playing outside. Did you say 400 miles south?

Husband: Yes. But come, you mustn’t worry about it.

Wife: How soon does he want us to go?

Husband: The company must be down there and build shelter before winter sets in. It is already September. There won’t be much time. Why these tears? I’ll go up first thing in the morning. President Young will understand, I know.

Wife: We’ve built and furnished this home in two years. And it is a good home. We’ve learned any things in doing it, too. Perhaps they will help us as we build the next one. I can take my rugs with me, can’t I? And maybe hollyhocks will grow down there.

Husband: Mary!

Wife: We both know, John, there can be but one answer. President Young has asked us because he believed we had the courage and faith to do that which the Lord expects of us. We have! We’ll build another home – and, if necessary, another, and another.

Quartet: “Let the Mountains Shout for Joy.”

IV.

The Mormon woman of today –
What courage needs she still
To do her any varied tasks,
Promoting God’s high will!

New types of courage this demands –
So many strands today
Are woven in life’s tapestry
New trials mark the way.

Narrator: Yes, the plains are crossed, the deserts are conquered. Where men have built highways, women have reared homes. And there five generations of Mormon women have taken their place. Boundaries have shifted, but frontiers have remained. The drama of the courage of the Mormon woman is not ended. The curtains are still parted.

Mother: Yes, Bishop, Dick was but five years old, when his father died. he is now twenty-one. For all these years we have lived in these three little rooms. We have worked together, dreamed together. We have looked forward to this day for a long time. And now, Dick has finished college. That’s his degree there on the table. He was going to take over the responsibility of the store; and I …

Dick: I do appreciate this opportunity to go into the mission field, Bishop. I have always wanted to go, but you see how it is – I can’t go and leave mother now. She has already done more than her part, she has worked and sacrificed for me all my life.

Mother: There has been no sacrifice, Dick. We have; had our fun in working together; this is just another job that is going to take both of us to do.

Dick: But mother, there’s the little white cottage. You have dreamed of it ever since father and you planned it 25 years ago. You can’t give it up again.

Mother: It’s only for two years, Dick. We can’t say no. You have a testimony of the divinity of this restored Gospel. I want you to bear it to the world. You have the training that fits you for this service to your Church. And after all, the cottage is only a dream … and the lovely thing about dreams is, they will always wait.

Narrator: It would be a glorious pageant but no stage would hold the great throng of Mormon women who each day make their way to the doors of the needy, to the rooms of the sick. Hospitals are built for the ill, homes are maintained for the needy, training is given to the unfortunate. Yes, Mormon woman serves her fellow-men.

As a leader of youth, 30,000 strong they stand. In the search of truth she leads the onward. The key to happiness she has found and gives to them – the Challenge of Eternal Progression.

V. CONCLUSION

On down through the misty arches
Of the waiting future years,
She’ll tread with her dauntless footsteps;
Her torch never dimmed by fears.

No matter what crises face her,
She’ll march till the final dawn.
A helpmate true, with uplifted eyes,
One song on her lips – “Carry On!”



5 Comments »

  1. Thanks for this, Ardis.

    Comment by Hunter — August 26, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

  2. Hmmm…. The first part comparing Mormons to all the suicidal women of history is odd, but it does make me appreciate all the sacrifices of others. Interesting that it doesn’t emphasize more of the blessings–just the losses. Also, does anyone want to take a crack at interpreting this verse to women of the present generation?

    The Mormon woman of today –
    What courage needs she still
    To do her any varied tasks,
    Promoting God’s high will!

    New types of courage this demands –
    So many strands today
    Are woven in life’s tapestry
    New trials mark the way.

    Surely some reader here is a member of FMH…

    Comment by Clark — August 26, 2009 @ 4:56 pm

  3. Clark, I’ll take a stab at it.

    I have been RS president for over four years. Both of my counselors work. On counselor has a teenager and two small children. Her husband has been out of work for over a year and has had several operations. Her job with the state is being cut.

    We go visiting once a week, and I am in awe of many of our women when I see what they are going through. I am also in a lot of homes by myself. One woman had her sister-in-law move in with her three teen daughters. The sister-in-law and her husband had to leave the girls there without them for about six months. I watched my ward member struggle to maintain law and order with those spoiled girls, and struggle to feed and clothe them, when she was just barely making it with her family.

    I have watched women going through divorces, families with financial and physical challenges. I have had to work with some really different personalities. I see women cope with inactive family members, children caught up with alcohol and drugs, husbands with pornography, beligerant children, handicapped children, personal chronic health problems.

    We have had several deaths. I visit the widows often and listen to them tell how they are trying to pick up the pieces and move on without their spouse

    On top of this, I see the love and service given by my women to others in our ward (and outside the ward) in spite of their personal problems.

    I was also RS President about twenty years ago, and I see that the challenges are very different today. I really do believe it takes a new kind of courage for women today

    Comment by Maurine — August 26, 2009 @ 11:41 pm

  4. …and I’m sure glad that RS president is one calling I’ll NEVER be qualified for!

    Comment by Clark — August 27, 2009 @ 8:15 am

  5. Ardis
    I just pulled up your comment from last October regarding Danielsen Plow company. I’m the guy that has previously talked to you about this. I saw you last week on Monday and Tuesday at the Church History Library. I just said hello. I was in and out most of Mon and Tues. I hope you get this and can email me. I’m not sure what I am doing just looked for some way to get back in touch with you. Regards, R. Jean Addams rjaddams[att]yahoo[dott]com

    [I edited your address so the spambots wouldn't get you]

    Comment by R. Jean Addams — August 31, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

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