Monday, May 28, 2012

Local Reminiscences from New Holland

The 4 December 1897 issue of the New Holland Clarion included an interesting front-page piece titled "Local Reminiscences: Bygone Events in New Holland and Vicinity". Part of the article is of interest here in particular because it relates in retrospect some of the LDS missionary efforts in the region up until that point and ties it in to a recounting (of, at times, limited accuracy) of Latter-day Saint history. (Note: when the first paragraph makes reference to "the Albright and the U. B. churches", it refers to Jacob Albright's Evangelical Association and to the United Brethren movement started by Philip Otterbein and Martin Boehm, both begun locally to reach the German-speaking peoples that the Methodists at the time refused to - hence reference to the "native vernacular". The bulk of both eventually merged into what is now the United Methodist Church, though my denomination is a smaller remnant of the Albright movement.)
Temperance made invasions through the agency of the Albright and the U. B. churches. They were energetic proselytors, profound believers in Christ crucified ande arisen as mediator; built small churches, talked in the native vernacular. Whole communities that had held aloof from the established churches and were rough in sentiment and voice, believers in farm distilleries, were through the agency of the missionaries of this church converted; abandoning their distilleries, character and sentiment improved at once, industrial habits assumed vigorous life, enterprise in field and shop became quickly manifest, prosperity and peace soon reigned supreme in this new-born, God-fearing people, whose farm products increased astonishingly, thrift and wealth abounding. Hammondville was one of the beneficiaries, their new church the pride of the community. This wave of reform was in the forties.

The Mormon missionary cause also prospered along the foot of the mountain. A Mr. Bechtel or Bechthal, residing in the vicinity of Binkley's mill, became a convert, held meetings in the old school house in New Holland, without results, then the converts sold their effects and followed the Mormon colony to Nauvoo, Illinois. That nucleus has grown to the magnitude of national recognition as a political factor. These religionists after many stormy vicissitudes moved into the wilderness of the Rocky mountain valleys and opened up a vast unknown region of territory, that has now world-wide renown. James Buchanan, President of the United States, in 1856 or 1857 sent an army on foot and horse, with a great wagon train of food and munitions of war supplies, across the trackless wilderness to subdue the irascible Mormon who laid tribute and impost duties on all that passed through the gateway to the Pacific coast. The astute Mormon let Uncle Sam's military cavalcade wend its way slowly over mountains and rivers and through valleys, until they entered the portals of Mormonism's domain. The narrow mountain defile is reached and entered safely, when the Mormon general and his troops close up front and rear, burn Gen. Johnston's wagon train, and the Union troops surrender conditionally without a fight. Uncle Sam is beat ingloriously. April, 1862, this same Gen. Johnston is killed on the battlefield of Shiloh, leading his rebel troops against the Union forces. Ford's History of Illinois relates the aggressive importance of the Mormons at Nauvoo as a political factor in national and State elections. Slavery and anti-slavery were the live issues of the day, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas the exponents, both adopted citizens of Illinois; the election of State Supreme court justices the contention. In the district embracing Nauvoo Mormons, both parties condescended to the Mormon level in their eager rivalry for the vote held in Joe Smith's vest pocket. Election to-morrow, and the Whig candidate is assured at nightfall that their vote will be cast for the Whigs. The political Whig head rests easy on the pillow with assured success. Next morning Joe Smith announced that he had during the night received a revelation from heaven that the Mormon vote must be cast for Stephen A. Douglas. Imagine the chagrin of Lincoln's political friends. Let the observant student of predestined events look at the horoscope of revealed destiny in the evolution of political character in these two representative men. And behold the hand of the Lord chiding, fostering and leading that poor, illiterate, obscure son of the Kentucky forest into the path of national destiny, crowning him the defender of human liberties, leading his people to successfully resist the combined assaults of the slave holder and crowned heads of Europe to overthrow and subvert Christ's earthly-appointed citadel of peaceful government, while on the other hand the rubbish of Kansas-Nebraska popular-sovereignty crime encumbers the political fate of the Little Giant.

Monday, May 21, 2012

"When God Made Man ... He Made Him White": An 1868 LDS Reflection on Race

I came across an article in the Juvenile Instructor, an old LDS periodical, that I found very interesting for some of the attitudes it reflects regarding racial issues in the nineteenth century. Since the history of LDS stances on race has always been a hot-button issue, I think it's worth sharing an excerpt here, with the natural caveat that this by no means reflects modern-day LDS doctrine on the issue.
We will first inquire into the results of the approbation or displeasure of God upon a people, starting with the belief that a black skin is a mark of the curse of Heaven placed upon some portion of mankind. Some, however, will argue that a black skin is not a curse, nor a white skin a blessing. In fact, some have been so foolish as to believe and say that a black skin is a blessing, and that the negro is the finest type of a perfect man that exists on the earth; but to us such teachings are foolishness. We understand that when God made man in his own image and pronounced him very good, that he made him white. We have no record of any of God's favored servants being of a black race. All His prophets and apostles belonged to the most handsome race on the face of the earth - Israel, who still, as represented in the scattered tribe of Judah, bear the impress of their former beauty. In this race was born His Son Jesus, who, were are told was very lovely, and "in the express image of his Father's person," and every angel who ever brought a message of God's mercy to man was beautiful to look upon, clad in the purest white and with a countenance bright as the noonday sun.

When God cursed Cain for murdering his brother Abel, He set a mark upon him that all meeting him might know him. No mark could be so plain to his fellow-men as a black skin. This was the mark God placed upon him, and which is children bore. After the flood this curse fell upon the seed of Ham, through the sin of their father, and his descendants bear it to this day. The Bible tells us but little of the races that sprung from Ham, but from that little, and from the traditions of various tribes, we are led to believe that from him came the Canaanites, the Philistines, the Egyptians and most of the earliest inhabitants of Africa.

We are told in the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, that Egypt was discovered by a woman, who was a daughter of Ham, the son of Noah. This was probably the first portion of Africa inhabited by men after the flood, it being the nearest to the land (Asia Minor) where the ark rested and the children of Noah first settled. From Egypt the families of men gradually spread out to the southward, up the river Nile and along the borders of the Red Sea, and westward by the shores of the Mediterranean.

The pure Negro, as represented by the people of Guinea and its neighboring countries, is generally regarded as the unmixed descendant of Ham. Our engraving of a Negro is of this type. Their skin is quite black, their hair woolly and black, their intelligence stunted, and they appear never to have arisen from the most savage state of barbarism. But it must not be supposed that all the inhabitants of Africa are of this unmixed black class, for it is not so; some of the mountain tribes of that continent approach to nearly white. Hence, we sometimes hear travelers speak of white Kafirs, white Arabs, &c. There are also quite a number of African tribes who vary in color from olive to dark brown and reddish black.
Source: "The Negro Race", Juvenile Instructor 3/20 (15 October 1868): 157. Written by one 'G. R.' This is part of a series called "Man and His Varieties". Reference to 'our engraving of a Negro' is to a drawing of a representative African that appears on the page. I also note that an earlier installment in this series, "From Caucasian to Negro" (Juvenile Instructor 3/18 [15 Sept. 1868]: 141), describes those of African heritage this way:
Next in order is the Negro race, the lowest in intelligence and the most barbarous of all the children of men. The race whose intellect is the least developed, whose advancement has been the slowest, and who appear to be the least capable of improvement of all people. The hand of the Lord appears to be heavy upon them, dwarfing them by the side of their fellow men in everything good and great.
My only comment is that it's reading things like this that remind me how far we've come as a culture in repudiating this sort of racist nonsense.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Woman: The Dawn of Love

In celebration of Mother's Day, we present the following lines - taken from the latter half of Augusta Joyce Crocheron's poem "Woman: The Dawn of Love" - as reprinted from Augusta Joyce Crocheron, Wild Flowers of Deseret: A Collection of Efforts in Verse (Salt Lake City, UT: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1881), 128-132:
The mother's lot: like Christ to weep,
While loved ones, wearied, sink in sleep;
The mother's lot, like Him to bear
The burden of their wrongs, and wear
A name assailed, if by that cost,
A soul were saved that else were lost.
He died, that souls of men might live;
She, life-long sacrifice doth give.

Too often on her brow doth press
The cruel thorns of thanklessness;
And oft her life its peace hath missed,
Betrayed, too, by a Judas' kiss.
Forget not in thy misery,
The heritage He gave to thee,
To bear, like Him, earth's griefs, and win
A triumph o'er the world within
Thy narrow sphere; and then to share
Reward that greatest love doth bear.

Never recorded to His name -
Stern judgment on thee, weak and shamed;
His charity and wisdom turned
The accuser's blow, and hearts that burned
To wreak their hate and cruelty,
In shame and silence, turned from thee.
And she who came with perfumes sweet,
And, weeping, washed the Savior's feet,
Though sinful, mercy found, and heard
From lips divine, the blest reward -
"Thy sins are all forgiven thee,
And this shall thy memorial be."

For thee, what miracles He wrought!
Thy dead to life again He brought;
The widow's mite He blessed, and she
Lives in His sacred history.
Where'er is told His life divine,
There woman's faith is intertwined.
Never recorded to thy name -
The deed or word, that tongue might claim,
In proof that woman's soul denied
Belief in Him. Though crucified,
Though cold, inanimate, He lay,
In faith and love no fear could stay
(Mightiest love that ever moved
Hearts in mortality, and proved
Their faith and constancy to Him),
They came while morning yet was dim
In the far east, and weeping brought
Their sacred gifts, and found Him not!

To them who waited through the night
In desolation, for the light,
Nor even yet their Lord could yield
From their existence, He revealed
Fulfillment of His prophecy -
To rise in immortality!
They, who undoubting faith had kept,
O'erjoyed, enraptured, kneeling wept,
With inspiration's eyes to see
The resurrection's mystery!
The first to see the risen Lord,
Thou wert not first to doubt His word;
But first, the wondrous joy to share,
And the glad word ordained to bear.

Though thou hast lost that light of love,
Which made thy path so bright before,
Or though its glow hath died away,
To shine again for thee no more,
Despair not thou, nor silent turn,
In wounded pride, to steel thy heart
Against the faithless, when anew
Thy tender thoughts relenting start.

Too oft demanded in love's name,
Such test of thy soul's strength we see,
As greater minds would scorn to bear,
And justice ne'er would claim of thee;
'Till wearied, tired, and sore at heart,
Thy nature riseth swift to turn
'Gainst all the record of thy hopes,
And all their promises to spurn.

Despair not thou, though 'gainst thy soul
The wrongs of earth seem to prevail;
Though thou hast yielded all and bowed,
Weeping above life's phantoms pale,
Thy heritage to love, and give
Thy life's best deeds unto thy kind;
Though that reward, which thou hast earned,
Thou ne'er within this life shalt find.

Still to thy standard be thou true,
And passing time to thee shall bring
Perfected fruit of all thine aims;
And griefs that bowed thee shall take wing.
The ideal within thy soul
Is not a fiction of thine own;
Hereafter thou wilt see in full,
That which was here but dimly shown.

Thou art not least and last of all
In heaven's mighty plan;
Thou too hast place of high degree
Beside the soul of man.
Thou wilt not there be counted weak,
Though led by love thou art;
In that high court where all is love,
Such thought will bear no part.
There wilt thou in thy soul redeemed
The jewel, love, retain;
And wear it as a diadem,
Not as a master's chain.

Unto this blest and grand estate,
The gospel lights the way;
Trust thou its guidance, let no doubts
Thine onward footsteps stay.
O, be thou like the blessed five -
Thy robes and lamp prepare,
At marriage supper of the Lamb,
A name and place to share.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Counsel for May

The following comes from W. W. Phelps, Almanac for the Year 1859: The Third after Leap Year; and after the 6th of April, Thirtieth year of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Great Salt Lake City, UT: J. McKnight, 1859), 7:
MAY comes upon the tapis for a full share of labor; corn, beans, flax, hemp, cucumbers, melons, squashes, pumpkins, and all the garden nick-nacks, too delicate to be handled by frost, must have their portion of mother earth now, in order to obtain an early share of the WET and WARMTH of Taurus and Gemini. Early turnips may be sown in April and May.