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“… To All People” (Part 1)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - December 09, 2013

“Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

A new article, “Race and the Priesthood”, has been published on the Church’s website, the most candid and carefully researched statement on origin, endurance, and ending of the priesthood restriction ever issued by the Church. Perhaps the most important sentences are these:

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

I am so glad to see those points spelled out. I think all of us are prone to condemn the concept without realizing, sometimes, how casually racism and discrimination crops up; the Church needed to enumerate those repudiated points.

While racism is most often discussed with regard to blacks, it does occur, of course, in other contexts. I have two examples of that, one reflecting a late 19th century attitude toward Polynesians, and the other, to be posted in a few days, an early 20th century attitude toward Latinos.

Both will be posted without editorial remark beyond this introduction.

Both, curiously enough, are set at Christmas.

-ooOoo-

Jacob Gates (1854-1942) served as a missionary to Hawaii in the late 1880s, and took his family with him. His wife was Susa Young Gates (1856-1933). They took with them a daughter and two sons; three more sons would be born to them in their years in that mission.

This story from the Juvenile Instructor is a slightly disguised account of their Christmas in 1886. The daughter Lucy is Emma Lucy Gates (1880-1951), who grew up to become a noted soprano. The unnamed three-year-old son is a composite of two-year-old Jacob and three-year-old Karl, both of whom would die the following spring. Unmentioned is the infant Joseph. “Mamma” (Susa), who spent Christmas day in bed, may have been unwell because she was in the earliest stages of pregnancy with Brigham who, like his sister Lucy, became a musician prominent in Mormon circles.

How Two Little Children Spent Christmas in the Tropics

By Homespun [Susa Young Gates]

There was no snow on the ground, nor frost flowers on the windows, when little Lucy and her brother woke up Christmas morn in their warm, sunny home. There was no fire-place for Santa Claus to come rushing down with his prancing steeds to fill the little stockings that hung under the mantel.

Little Lucy asked her mamma about this last matter the night before; but her mamma replied that doubtless Santa Claus would find a way to manage in spite of all these obstacles. Then their talk turned on the Savior and his birthday, and how He came so lowly into the world; and mamma was obliged to get the bible down and read the sweetly-simple, solemn story to Lucy and her brother, and as she read, the little white curtains fell over the bright blue eyes and two little spirits wandered in dreamland hand in hand with the angel children of their late heavenly home.

Next morning, before the bright, big sun arose over the sea, Lucy opened her eyes and called out softly:

“Mamma, mamma! Did Santa Claus come?”

then she happened to turn up her eyes to the white-covered top of her bed (around which hung lace mosquito netting) and espied the little stockings hanging over her head.

“Here they are!” and then such a clatter! No complaints were made at the small amount of candy, or for the lack of fine, elegant presents. The little girl grasped her tiny doll and examined with delight her home-made doll-house, with chairs, table and bed with a cunning mosquito netting hung around to protect Miss Dolly from the little pests. She espied a scrap of wall-paper on the floor which was exactly like the paper on her doll-house and carefully treasured it, as she remarked that Santa Claus must have dropped that as he hurried away.

After breakfast each had a beautiful orange and then came to mamma to be dressed for the concert to be held by the white Saints and the native Saints combined. Lucy was neatly arrayed in her clean, white frock, with a bit of blue ribbon around her waist. Her brother wore his new gingham suit, and presently away the two little ones set out with papa for the meeting-house, for poor mamma was ill enough to stay in bed all Christmas day.

There were the natives, with their dark but beaming faces, all seated, awaiting the arrival of the white brethren and sisters. The whole house was decorated with ferns and green, sweet-smelling wreaths.

At the end was a stage, upon which the participants came out and performed their parts. There was a deal of good singing by the natives, as well as the haolies. The native brass band, led by one of the brethren, made some very excellent music. In short, everybody had a very good, enjoyable time.

Something had been troubling little Lucy’s busy brain, and when she came home she confided it to her mamma. It was this:

“Why is it that little native babies are black?”

Mamma was rather puzzled how to answer such a philosophical question and imprudently and hastily answered:

“Why, you might as well ask me why the sun shines.”

“Oh, the sun shines to give us light.”

“Yes,” chimes in her brother, “the sun makes us warm.”

Mamma was silenced, but Lucy was not. Presently the little maid said with a thoughtful air:

“Well, mamma, I guess God must make them in another place to what He makes the white babies.”

Then mamma and Lucy had some happy talk about Jesus and how He loved little children, and by that time dinner was ready. And although it was so far away from her old home, Lucy was delighted to see the table groaning under roast beef and plum pudding, with an elegant iced cake standing so high and decorated with beautiful wreaths of ferns. And there were oranges and bananas, too. So, you see, this little girl was blessed with all that was needful to make her happy or good.

About 4 o’clock Lucy’s papa started for the beach, with the two children, to take a surf-bath. I don’t suppose many of my little readers ever enjoyed this luxury. But Lucy enjoyed it, oh, so much! Her little brother, who is only three years and a half old, is not quite as brave as five-year-old Lucy. he was undressed and ran up and down the yellow sands, screaming with laughter as the waves dashed up on his tiny legs. But he preferred keeping out of the cool embrace of the curling waves, only allowing their caresses once in a while.

But Lucy dashed fearlessly in, and when the water got too deep she begged papa to take her upon his back. And then such sport! Papa swam away out into deep water and Lucy lay so quietly on his broad shoulders. Pretty soon papa proposed a dive down into the deep blue water. Lucy was quite ready for that, too, and clasping her hands tightly around papa’s neck, called out:

“All right!” and down, down they went. And away scampered the fishes in amazement at such a queer sight. Up, up so quickly now they come, and Lucy rubs her hand over her face to brush the water off and once more calls out:

“All right!”

Papa sent Lucy out after this, thinking she had been in long enough. So she started for the shore; but it was such fun that she did not try to go very fast.

You must know that every ninth wave is a “big wave,” and as Lucy had her back turned she did not see this wave coming to her. Papa did and turned to look for her; but all he saw were two little legs sticking straight up in the air, and then the little woman was rolled over and over unceremoniously by the dashing waves. But before papa could reach her she had picked herself up and got away up on the beach, laughing at the fun and quickly wiping the water from her face.

As the sun set over the inland mountains they reached their home and related to mamma all their happy experiences. Not long after this the little forms were robed in their nightly garments, and after their quiet evening prayer each little one kissed papa and mamma good-night and lay down gladly to rest.

And this was their Christmas! Little friends, are not all Christmases blessed and good in the holy religion which is so much to us “poor, despised ‘Mormons’?”



6 Comments »

  1. I thought it was every seventh wave. Probably both numbers are myths as are other things we tend to accept and must discard when greater knowledge is obtained.

    The bottom line is that good hearts allow themselves to grow regardless of the circumstances in which they are planted.

    Comment by Grant — December 9, 2013 @ 9:30 am

  2. This story reminds me of The Little House on the Prairie, both the Santa story — the Tennessee “wildcat” Mr. Edwards saves the day in that book — and the racial views. When did Susa Gates write this story? The Little House books were written in the 1930s if I remember correctly.

    Comment by Amy T — December 9, 2013 @ 9:41 am

  3. Susa wrote it in 1887 — I don’t have my copy at hand to report the exact date of publication.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 9, 2013 @ 10:03 am

  4. Thanks for this. It reminded me that racialist views can creep into ones world view in ever so slight and innocent ways.

    Comment by David Y. — December 9, 2013 @ 11:08 am

  5. Maybe I missed something. What exactly is racist here? God makes the babies in this place, on the island, black. The babies in the other place, back home where I was born, white. That’s what she’s seen so naturally that’s what she says. What’s racist there? The important part is that God makes all the babies and He loves them all.

    Comment by Carol — December 9, 2013 @ 5:32 pm

  6. These assumptions can creep in–in both directions. About a dozen years ago, an American family was stationed in Ethiopia. A newborn was found abandoned–by very carefully so that he was sure to be found. The American family adopted him and raised him as the twin of their own newborn daughter. (Not identical, obviously, since one was a boy, and one was a girl.) The mother reported that one of the local women saw her put the little boy to her breast to nurse and became hysterical–because she was going to turn the baby ‘white.’ Um, no, it doesn’t work that way.

    Comment by LauraN — December 10, 2013 @ 6:22 pm

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