[This post, originally published on November 22, was removed to make life easier for a few people, after innumerable complaints by one unpleasant man. The post has been redacted and is reposted on December 3.
As any rational person can tell, Keepapitchinin is a personal website and reflects my personal views; it is not “a Church setting” and does not claim to speak for the institutional Church in any way. If you can’t tell the difference, kindly stop reading now. Keepa is not for fools.]
No matter how many other peoples used them in whatever part of the world, there’s just something about covered wagons that immediately brings “Mormon pioneers” to the minds of many of us. That was certainly true when I first saw the two photographs featured here. But wait …
The second glance threw all thoughts of Mormon pioneers out of my mind. Those aren’t oxen – they’re camels! Those aren’t wide-brimmed hats – they’re fezzes! That’s not a Western fort – it’s … well, what IS it?
And yet these are Mormons, and that ragged group of covered wagons that don’t look quite right are gathered to carry a group of Mormon pilgrims out of a hostile land to a place where they can live their religion and, well, simply live. These are Latter-day Saints in the old Turkish Mission, in 1921.
They are ethnic Armenians, survivors of [redacted] of the previous years. And because the borders of the Middle Eastern nations are being redrawn during the last days of the [redacted] Empire, their hometown, Aintab, will soon find itself again within the jurisdiction of [redacted]. Aintab’s Armenians – both Mormon and not – have every reason to fear a renewal of the [redacted] once the French forces who have been governing the region after World War I are withdrawn. The Saints are desperately and unsuccessfully seeking passports to flee across the border to the relative safety of Syria. (I know, I know – given today’s conditions that seems surreal. But those were the conditions of 1921.)
The Saints in Aintab and elsewhere in the Turkish Mission had been on their own ever since Joseph Wilford Booth, mission president, and his small force of elders had been called home in 1909 at the beginning of the [redacted] that would soon claim the lives of more than a million Armenians, in an ethnic [redacted] that has still not been acknowledged by [redacted] nor recognized by much of the rest of the world. But in 1921, Heber J. Grant sent President Booth back to the mission (it would be called the “Armenian Mission” when it reopened). President Booth arrived just in time.
We’ve featured stories of the Turkish Mission and the Armenian Saints here at Keepa before –
Gohar Yeghiayan Davidian, who, with her husband, fled the region at the beginning of the [redacted]
Saim Abd al-Samid, part 1, part 2, not an Armenian, but a member of the Church in that mission
President Booth’s account of the Surviving Saints of the Armenian Mission
An amazing cast photograph of a Book of Mormon play staged by Armenian Saints
Letterhead of the Turkish Mission, 1908
— and maybe other posts that I’m not recalling at the moment. The Turkish Mission has been a longtime interest of mine, and more stories will undoubtedly appear at Keepa in time.
But today, there’s a new feature elsewhere that I want to point you to. A new online exhibit, written and compiled by James Goldberg at the Church History Library, debuted earlier this week at history.lds.org. The Armenian Exodus is an exhibit that tells briefly yet amazingly well the story of the flight of the Armenian Saints from Turkey to Syria, using those covered wagons pictured here. Spend a few minutes with it, looking at the faces of Moses Hindoian, the man who pulled the scattered and leaderless members together and pleaded for help to rescue his people; of Yeranic Gedikian, the young girl/bride/widow whose joyful smile in one photo and dignified pose in another suggest the hope that the gospel can give even to those who have undergone horrific experiences; and of their travel and beginning anew in a place of refuge. I was pleased to suggest some elements of the story, and am so very happy with how James pulled it all together.
Enjoy that exhibit, but please – remember to come back here to Keepa to leave a comment. I’d love to hear your response to what you see there.