The Lions of the Lord
Harry Leon Wilson
Part 2 out of 7
"She took on terrible for a spell, Brother Rae. She's only jest now got
He put his hand on her forehead and found it burning. She stirred and
moaned and muttered disjointed sentences. He heard his father's name,
his sister's, and his own, and he knew she was delirious. He eased her
bed as well as he could, and made a place for himself beside her where
he could sit and take one of the pale, thin hands between his own and
try to endow her with some of his abundant life. He stayed by her until
their camping-place was reached.
Once for a moment she opened her eyes with what seemed to him a more
than normal clearness and understanding and memory in them. Though she
looked at him long without speaking, she seemed to say all there was to
say, so that the brief span was full of anguish for him. He sighed with
relief when the consciousness faded again from her look, and she fell to
babbling once more of some long gone day in her girlhood.
When the wagon halted he was called outside by the driver, who wished
instructions regarding the camp to be made. A few moments later he was
back, and raised the side of the wagon cover to let in the light. The
look on her face alarmed him. It seemed to tell unmistakably that the
great change was near. Already she looked moribund. An irregular gasping
for breath, an occasional delirious mutter, were the only signs of life.
She was too weak to show restlessness. Her pinched and faded face was
covered with tiny cold beads. The pupils of her eyes were strangely
dilated, and the eyes themselves were glazed. There was no pulse at her
wrist, and from her heart only the faintest beating could be heard. In
quick terror he called to a boy working at a wagon near by.
"Go for Bishop Wright and tell him to bring that apothecary with him."
The two came up briskly a few moments later, and he stood aside for them
in an agony of suspense. The Bishop turned toward him after a long look
into the wagon.
"She's gone to be with your pa, Joel. You can't do anything--only
remember they're both happy now for bein' together."
It made little stir in the busy encampment. There had been other deaths
while they lay out on the marshy river flats. Others of the sorry band
were now sick unto death, and many more would die on the long march
across the Iowa prairie, dropping out one by one of fever, starvation,
exposure. He stood helpless in this chaos of woe, shut up within
himself, knowing not where to turn.
Some women came presently from the other wagons to prepare the body for
burial. He watched them dumbly, from a maze of incredulity, feeling that
some wretched pretense was being acted before him.
The Bishop and Keaton came up. They brought with them the makeshift
coffin. They had cut a log, split it, and stripped off its bark in two
half-cylinders. They led him to the other side of the wagon, out of
sight. Then they placed the strips of bark around the body, bound them
with hickory withes, and over the rough surface the women made a little
show of black cloth.
For the burial they could do no more than consign the body to one of the
waves in the great billowy land sea about them. They had no tombstone,
nor were there even rocks to make a simple cairn. He saw them bury her,
and thought there was little to choose between hers and the grave of his
father, whose body was being now carried noiselessly down in the bed of
the river. The general locality would be kept by landmarks, by the
bearing of valley bends, headlands, or the fork and angles of constant
streams. But the spot itself would in a few weeks be lost.
When the last office had been performed, the prayer said, a psalm sung,
and the black dirt thrown in, they waited by him in sympathy. His
feeling was that they had done a monstrous thing; that the mother he had
known was somewhere alive and well. He stood a moment so, watching the
sun sink below the far rim of the prairie while the white moon swung
into sight in the east. Then the Bishop led him gently by the arm to his
There cheer abounded. They had a huge camp-fire tended by the Bishop's
numerous children. Near by was a smaller fire over which the good man's
four wives, able-bodied, glowing, and cordial, cooked the supper. In
little ways they sought to lighten his sorrow or to put his mind away
from it. To this end the Bishop contributed by pouring him drink from a
large brown jug.
"Not that I approve of it, boy, but it'll hearten you,--some of the best
peach brandy I ever sniffed. I got it at the still-house last week for
use in time of trouble,--and this here time is _it_."
He drank the fiery stuff from the gourd in which it was given him, and
choked until they brought him water. But presently the warmth stole
along his cold, dead nerves so that he became intensely alive from head
to foot, and strangely exalted. And when they offered him food he ate
eagerly and talked. It seemed to him there had been a thousand matters
that he had long wished to speak of; matters of moment in which he felt
deeply; yet on which he had strangely neglected to touch till now.
He talked long with the Bishop when the women had climbed into their
wagon for the night. He amazed that good man by asking him if the Lord
would not be pleased to have them, now, as they were, go back to Nauvoo
and descend upon the Gentiles to smite them. The Bishop counselled him
to have patience.
"What could we do how with these few old fusees and cheap arms that we
managed to smuggle across--to say nothing of half of us being down
"But we are Israel, and surely Israel's God--"
"The Lord had His chance the other day if He'd wanted it, when they
took the town. No, Joel, He means us to gether out and become strong
enough to beat 'em in our own might. But you _wait_; our day will come,
and all the more credit to us then for doin' it ourselves. Then we'll
consecrate the herds and flocks of the Gentile and his store and basket,
his gold and silver, and his myrrh and frankincense. But for the
present--well, we got to be politic and kind of modest about such
doin's. The big Fan, the Sons of Dan, done good work in Missouri and
better in Nauvoo, and it'll do still better where we're goin'. But we
must be patient. Only next time we'll get to work quicker. If the
Gentiles had been seen to quicker in Nauvoo, Joseph would be with us
now. We learned our lesson there. Now the Lord has unfurled a Standard
of Zion for the gathering of Israel, and this time we'll fix the
"Amen! Brother Seth."
A look of deep hatred had clouded the older man's face as he spoke. He
"Let the wrath of God abide upon 'em, and remember that we're bein'
tried and proved for a purpose. And we got to be more practical. You
been too theoretical yourself and too high-flyin' in your notions. The
Kingdom ain't to be set up on earth by faith alone. The Lord has got to
have _works_, like I told you about the other day."
"You were right, Bishop, I need to be more practical. The olive-branch
and not the sword would Ephraim extend to Japheth, but if--"
"If Japheth don't toe the mark the Lord's will must be worked upon
"So be it, Brother Seth! I am ready now to be a Son of Dan."
The Bishop rose from in front of their fire and looked about. No one was
near. Here and there a fire blazed, and the embers of many more could be
seen dying out in the distance. The nearest camp was that of the
fever-stricken man who had fled on to the boat that morning with his
child in his arms. They could see his shaven head in the firelight, and
a woman hovering over him as he lay on the ground with a tattered quilt
fixed over him in lieu of a tent. From another group came the strains of
an accordion and the chorus of a hymn.
"That's right," said the Bishop. "I knew you'd come to it. I saw that
long ago. Brother Brigham saw it, too. We knew you could be relied on.
You want the oath, do you?"
"Yes, yes, Brother Seth. I was ready for it this morning when they told
me about father."
"Hold up your right hand and repeat after me:
"'In the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, I do covenant and agree
to support the first Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, in all things right or wrong; I will faithfully guard
them and report to them the acts of all men as far as in my power lies;
I will assist in executing all the decrees of the first President,
Patriarch, or President of the Twelve, and I will cause all who speak
evil of the Presidency or Heads of the Church to die the death of
dissenters or apostates, unless they speedily confess and repent, for
pestilence, persecution, and death shall follow the enemies of Zion. I
will be a swift herald of salvation and messenger of peace to the
Saints, and I will never make known the secret purposes of this Society
called the Sons of Dan, my life being the forfeiture in a fire of
burning tar and brimstone. So help me God and keep me steadfast.'"
He repeated the words without hesitation, with fervour in his voice, and
the light of a holy and implacable zeal in his face.
"Now I'll give you the blessing, too. Wait till I get my bottle of oil."
He stepped to the nearest wagon, felt under the cover, and came back
with a small bottle in his hand.
"Stand jest here--so--now!"
They stood at the edge of the wavering firelight, and he put his hand on
the other's head.
"'In the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and by the authority of
the Holy Priesthood, the first President, Patriarch, and High Priest of
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, representing the first,
second, and third Gods in Heaven, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I do
now anoint you with holy consecrated oil, and by the imposition of my
hands do ordain and set you apart for the holy calling whereunto you are
called; that you may consecrate the riches of the Gentiles to the House
of Israel, bring swift destruction upon apostate sinners, and execute
the decrees of Heaven without fear of what man can do with you. So mote
it be. Amen.'
"There, boy, if I ain't mistaken, that's the best work for Zion that I
done for some time. Now be off to your rest!"
"Good night, Bishop, and thank you for being kind to me! The Church Poet
called me the Lute of the Holy Ghost, but I feel to-night, that I must
be another Lion of the Lord. Good night!"
He went out of the firelight and stumbled through the dark to his own
wagons. But when he came to them he could not stop. Under all the
exhilaration he had been conscious of the great pain within him, drugged
for the moment, but never wholly stifled. Now the stimulus of the drink
had gone, and the pain had awakened to be his master.
He went past the wagons and out on to the prairie that stretched away, a
sea of silvery gray in the moonlight. As he walked, the whole stupendous
load of sorrow settled upon him. His breath caught and his eyes burned
with the tears that lay behind them. He walked faster to flee from it,
but it came upon him more heavily until it made a breaking load,--the
loss of his sister by worse than death, his father and mother driven out
at night and their home burned, his father killed by a mob whose aim had
lacked even the dignity of the murderer's--for they had seemingly
intended but a brutal piece of horse-play; his mother dead from
exposure due to Gentile persecutions; the girl he had loved taken from
him by Gentile persuasions. If only she had been left him so that now he
could put his head down upon her shoulder, slight as that shoulder was,
and feel the supreme soothing of a woman's touch; if only the hurts had
not all come at once! The pain sickened him. He was far out on the
prairie now, away from the sleeping encampment, and he threw himself
down to give way to his grief. Almost silently he wept, yet with sobs
that choked him and cramped him from head to foot. He called to his
mother and to his father and to the sister who had gone before them,
crying their names over and over in the night. But under all his sorrow
he felt as great a rage against the Gentile nation that had driven them
into the wilderness.
When the spasm of grief had passed, he still lay there a long time. Then
becoming chilled he walked again over the prairie, watching the moon go
down and darkness come to make the stars brighter, and then the day show
gray in the east. And as he walked against his sorrow, the burden of his
thought came to be: "God has tried me more than most men; therefore he
expects more of me; and my reward shall be greater. New visions shall be
given to me, and a new power, and this poor, hunted, plundered remnant
of Israel shall find me their staff. Much has been taken from me, but
much will be given unto me."
And under this ran a minor strain born of the rage that still burned
"But, oh, the day of wrath that shall dawn on yonder Gentiles!"
So did he chasten himself through the night; and when the morning came
he took his place in the train, strangely exalted by this new sense of
the singular favour that was to be conferred upon him.
For seven weeks the little caravan crept over the prairies of Iowa, and
day after day his conviction strengthened that he had been chosen for
large works. In this fervour he cheered the sick and the weak of the
party by picturing for them a great day to come when the Lord should
exalt the valleys of humility and abase the mountains of Gentile pride;
when the Saints should have their reward, and retribution should descend
upon the wicked nation they were leaving behind. Scourges, afflictions,
and depredations by fire, famine, and the tyrant's hand he besought them
to regard as marks of Heaven's especial favour.
The company came to look upon him as its cloud by day and its pillar of
fire by night. Old women--mothers in Israel--lavished attentions upon
him as a motherless boy; young women smiled at him with soft pity, and
were meek and hushed when he spoke. And the men believed that the things
he told them concerning their great day to come were true revelations
from God. They did not hesitate to agree with the good Bishop Wright,
who declared in words of pointed admiration, "When that young man gets
all het up with the Holy Ghost, the Angel of the Lord jest _has_ to give
_Some Inner Mysteries Are Expounded_
The hosts of Israel had been forced to tarry for the winter on the banks
of the Missouri. A few were on the east side at Council Bluffs on the
land of the Pottawattamie Indians. Across the river on the land of the
Omahas the greater part of the force had settled at what was known as
Winter Quarters. Here in huts of logs, turf, and other primitive
materials, their town had been laid out with streets and byways, a large
council-house, a mill, a stockade, and blockhouses. The Indians had
received them with great friendliness, feeling with them a common cause
of grievance, since the heavy hand of the Gentile had pushed them also
to this bleak frontier.
To this settlement early in November came the last train from Nauvoo,
its members wearied and wasted by the long march, but staunch in their
faith and with hope undimmed. It was told in after years how there had
leaped from the van of this train a very earnest young man, who had at
once sought an audience with Brigham Young and certain other members of
the Twelve who had chanced to be present at the train's arrival; and
how, being closeted with these, he had eagerly inquired if it might not
be the will of the Lord that they should go no farther into the
wilderness, but stand their ground and give battle to the Gentiles
forthwith. He made the proposal as one who had a flawless faith that the
God of Battles would be with them, and he appeared to believe that
something might be done that very day to force the matter to an issue.
When he had made his proposal, he waited in a modest attitude to hear
their views of it. To his chagrin, all but two of those who had listened
laughed. One of these two, Bishop Snow,--a man of holy aspect whom the
Church Poet had felicitously entitled the Entablature of Truth,--had
looked at him searchingly, then put his hand upon his own head and
shaken it hopelessly to the others.
The other who had not laughed was Brigham himself. For to this great man
had been given the gift to look upon men and to know in one slow sweep
of his wonderful eyes all their strength and all their weakness. He had
listened with close attention to the remarkable plan suggested by this
fiery young zealot, and he studied him now with a gaze that was kind. A
noticeable result of this attitude of Brigham's was that those who had
laughed became more or less awkwardly silent, while the Entablature of
Truth, in the midst of his pantomime, froze into amazement.
"We'd better consider that a little," said Brigham, finally. "You can
talk it over with me tonight. But first you go get your stuff unloaded
and get kind of settled. There's a cabin just beyond my two up the
street here that you can move into." He put his large hand kindly on the
other's shoulder. "Now run and get fixed and come to my house for supper
along about dark."
Somewhat cooled by the laughter of the others, but flattered by this
consideration from the Prophet, the young man had gone thoughtfully out
to his wagons and driven on to the cabin indicated.
"I _did_ think he was plumb crazy," said Bishop Snow, doubtfully, as if
the reasons for changing his mind were even yet less than compelling.
"He _ain't_ crazy," said Brigham. "All that's the matter with him, he's
got more faith than the whole pack of us put together. You just remember
he ain't like us. We was all converted after we got our second teeth,
while he's had it from the cradle up. He's the first one we've caught
young. He's what the priesthood can turn out when they get a full swing
with the rising generation. We got to remember that. We old birds had to
learn to crow in middle life. These young ones will crow stronger;
they'll out-crow us. But all the better for that. They'll be mighty
brash at first, but all they need is to be held in a little, and then
they'll be a power in the Kingdom."
"Well, of course you're right, Brother Brigham, but that boy certainly
needs a check-rein and a curb-bit right now," said Snow.
"He'll have his needings," answered Brigham, shortly, and the informal
Brigham talked to him late that night, advancing many cogent reasons why
it should be unwise to make war at once upon the nation of Gentiles to
the east. Of these reasons the one that had greatest weight with his
listener was the assurance that such a course would not at present be
pleasing in the sight of God. To others, touching upon the matter of
superior forces they might have to contend with, he was loftily
Having made this much clear, Brigham went on in his fatherly way to
impress him anew with the sinfulness of all temporal governments outside
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Again he learned from
the lips of authority that any people presuming to govern themselves by
laws of their own making and officers of their own appointing, are in
wicked rebellion against the Kingdom of God; that for seventeen hundred
years the nations of the Western Hemisphere have been destitute of this
Kingdom and destitute of all legal government; and that the Lord was now
about to rend all earthly governments, to cast down thrones, overthrow
nations, and make a way for the establishment of the everlasting
Kingdom, to which all others would have to yield, or be prostrated never
more to rise. Thus was the rebuff of the afternoon gracefully atoned
From matters of civil government the talk ranged to affairs domestic.
"Tell me," said the young man, "the truth of this new order of celestial
marriage." And Brigham had become animated at once.
"Yes," he said, "when the family organisation was revealed from Heaven,
and Joseph began on the right and the left to add to his family, oh,
dear, what a quaking there was in Israel! But there it was, plain
enough. When you have received your endowments, keys, blessings, all the
tokens, signs, and every preparatory ordinance that can be given to a
man for his entrance through the celestial gate, then you can see it."
He gazed a moment into the fire of hickory logs before which they sat,
and then went on, more confidentially:
"Now you take that promise to Abraham--'Lift up your eyes and behold the
stars. So shall thy seed be as numberless as the stars. Go to the
seashore and look at the sand, and behold the smallness of the particles
thereof'--I am giving you the gist of the Lord's words, you
understand--'and then realise that your seed shall be as numberless as
those sands.' Now think for a minute how many particles there are, say
in a cubit foot of sand--about one thousand million particles. Think of
that! In eight thousand years, if the inhabitants of earth increased one
trillion a century, three cubic yards of sand would still contain more
particles than there would be people on the whole globe. Yet there you
got the promise of the Lord in black and white. Now how was Abraham to
manage to get a foundation laid for this mighty kingdom? Was he to get
it all through one wife? Don't you see how ridiculous that is? Sarah saw
it, and Sarah knew that unless seed was raised to Abraham he would come
short of his glory. So what did Sarah do? She gave Abraham a certain
woman whose name was Hagar, and by her a seed was to be raised up unto
him. And was that all? No. We read of his wife Keturah, and also of a
plurality of wives which he had in the sight and favour of God, and from
whom he raised up many sons. There, then, was a foundation laid for the
fulfilment of that grand promise concerning his seed."
He peered again into the fire, and added, by way of clenching his
argument: "I guess it would have been rather slow-going, if the Lord had
confined Abraham to one wife, like some of these narrow, contracted
nations of modern Christianity. You see, they don't know that a man's
posterity in this world is to constitute his glory and kingdom and
dominion in the world to come, and they don't know, either, that there
are thousands of choice spirits in the spirit world waiting to
tabernacle in the flesh. Of course, there are lots of these things that
you ain't ready to hear yet, but now you know that polygamy is necessary
for our exaltation to the fulness of the Lord's glory in the eternal
world, and after you study it you'll like the doctrine. I do; I can
swallow it without greasing _my_ mouth!"
He prayed that night to be made "holy as Thy servant Brigham is holy;
to hear Thy voice as he hears it; to be made as wise as he, as true as
he, even as another Lion of the Lord, so that I may be a rod and staff
and comforter to these buffeted children of Thine."
His prayer also touched on one of the matters of their talk. "But, O
Lord, teach me to be content without thrones and dominion in Thy Kingdom
if to gain these I must have many wives. Teach me to abase myself, to be
a servant, a lowly sweeper in the temple of the Most High, for I would
rather be lowly with her I love than exalted to any place whatsoever
with many. Keep in my sinful heart the face of her who has left me to
dwell among the Gentiles, whose hair is melted gold, whose eyes are
azure deep as the sky, and whose arms once opened warm for me. Guard her
especially, O Lord, while she must company with Gentiles, for she is not
wonted to their wiles; and in Thine own good time bring her head
unharmed to its home on Thy servant's breast."
He fasted often, that winter, waiting and watching for his great
Witness--something that should testify to his mortal eyes the direct
favour of Heaven. He fasted and kept vigils and studied the mysteries;
for now he was among the favoured to whom light had been given in
abundance--men at whose feet he was eager to sit. He learned of baptism
for the dead; of the Godship of Adam, and his plurality of wives; of the
laws of adoption and the process by which the Saints were to people,
and be Gods to, earths yet formless.
There was much work out of doors to be done, and of this he performed
his share, working side by side with the tireless Brigham. But there
were late afternoons and long evenings in which he sat with the Prophet
to his great advantage. For, strangely enough, the two men, so unlike,
were drawn closely together--Brigham Young, the broad-headed,
square-chinned buttress of physical vitality, the full-blooded,
clarion-voiced Lion of the Lord, self-contained, watchful, radiating the
power that men feel and obey without knowing why, and Joel Rae, of the
long, narrow, delicately featured face, sensitive, nervous, glowing with
a spiritual zeal, the Lute of the Holy Ghost, whose veins ran fire
instead of blood. One born to command, to domineer; the other to
believe, to worship, and to obey. For the younger man it was a winter of
limitless aspiration and chastening discipline. In spite of the great
sorrows that weighed upon him, the sudden sweeping away of those he had
held most dear and the blasting of his love hopes, he remembered it
through all the eventful years that followed as a time of strange
happiness. Memories of it came gratefully to him even on the awful day
when at last his Witness came; when, as he lay fainting in the desert,
driven thence by his sin, the heavens unfolded and a vision was
vouchsafed him;--when the foundations of his world were shattered, the
tables of the law destroyed, and but one little feather saved to his
famished soul from the wings of the dove of truth. After all these
years, the memory of this winter was a spot of joy that never failed to
glow when he recalled it.
At night he went to his bunk in the little straw-roofed hut and fell
asleep to the howling of the wolves, his mind cradled in the thought of
his mission. He had a part in the great work of bringing into harmony
the labours of the prophets and apostles of all ages. In due time, by
the especial favour of Heaven, he would be wrapped in a sea of vision,
shown an eternity of knowledge, and be intrusted with singular powers.
And he was content to wait out the days in which he must school,
chasten, and prove himself.
"You have built me up," he confided to Brigham, one day. "I feel to
rejoice in my strength." And Brigham was highly pleased.
"That's good, Brother Joel. The host of Israel will soon be on the move,
and I shouldn't wonder if the Lord had a great work for you. I can see
places where you'll be just the tool he needs. I mistrust we sha'n't
have everything peaceful even now. The priest in the pulpit is thorning
the politician against us, gouging him from underneath--he'd never dare
do it openly, for our Elders could crimson his face with shame--and the
minions of the mob may be after us again. If they do, I can see where
you will be a tower of strength in your own way."
"It's all of my life, Brother Brigham."
"I believe it. I guess the time has come to make you an Elder."
And so on a late winter afternoon in the quiet of the Council-House,
Joel Rae was ordained an Elder after the order of Melchisedek; with
power to preach and administer in all the ordinances of the Church, to
lay on hands, to confirm all baptised persons, to anoint the afflicted
with oil, and to seal upon them the blessings of health.
In his hard, narrow bed that night, where the cold came through the
unchinked logs and the wind brought him the wailing of the wolves, he
prayed that he might not be too much elated by this extraordinary
_A Revelation from the Lord and a Toast from Brigham_
From his little one-roomed cabin, dark, smoky, littered with hay, old
blankets, and skins, he heard excited voices outside, one early morning
in January. He opened the door and found a group of men discussing a
miracle that had been wrought overnight. The Lord had spoken to Brigham
and word had come to Zion to move toward the west.
He hurried over to Brigham's house and by that good man was shown the
word of the Lord as it had been written down from his lips. With
emotions of reverential awe he read the inspired document.
"The Word and Will of the Lord Concerning the Camp of Israel in its
Journeyings to the West." Such was its title.
"Let all the people," it began, "of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, be organised into companies with a covenant and a
promise to keep all the statutes of the Lord our God.
"Let the companies be organised with captains of hundreds and captains
of fifties and captains of tens, with a President and Counsellor at
their head under the direction of the Twelve Apostles.
"Let each company provide itself with all the teams, wagons, provisions,
and all other necessaries for the journey.
"Let every man use all of his influence and property to remove this
people to the place where the Lord shall locate a stake of Zion, and let
them share equally in taking the poor, the widows, and the fatherless,
so that their cries come not up into the ears of the Lord against His
"And if ye do this with a pure heart, with all faithfulness, ye shall be
blessed in your flocks and in your herds and in your fields and in your
families. For I am the Lord your God, even the God of your fathers, the
God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Jacob. I am He who led the children of
Israel out of the land of Egypt, and my arm is stretched out in these
last days to save my people of Israel.
"Fear not thine enemies, for they are in my hands, and I will do my
pleasure with them.
"My people must be tried in all things, that they may be worthy to
receive the glory that I have in store for them, even the glory of Zion;
and he that will not receive chastisement is not worthy of my Kingdom.
So no more at present. Amen and Amen!"
This was what he had longed for each winter night when he had seen the
sun go down,--the word of the Lord to follow that sun on over the rim
into the pathless wilderness, infested by savage tribes and ravenous
beasts, abounding in terrors unknown. There was an adventure worth while
in the sight of God. It had never ceased to thrill him since he first
heard it broached,--the mad plan of a handful of persecuted believers,
setting out from civilisation to found Zion in the wilderness,--to go
forth a thousand miles from Christendom with nothing but stout arms and
a very living faith in the God of Israel, and in Joseph Smith as his
prophet, meeting death in famine, plagues, and fevers, freezing in the
snows of the mountains, thirsting to death on the burning deserts, being
devoured by ravening beasts or tortured to death by the sinful
Lamanites; but persisting through it all with dauntless courage to a
final triumph so glorious that the very Gods would be compelled to
applaud the spectacle of their devoted heroism.
And now he was face to face with the awful, the glorious, the divinely
ordained fact. It was like standing before the Throne of Grace itself.
Out over that western skyline was a spot, now hidden and defended by all
the powers of Satan, where the Ten Tribes would be restored, where Zion
would be rebuilt, where Christ would reign personally on earth a
thousand years, and from whence the earth would be renewed and receive
again its paradisiac glory. The thought overwhelmed.
"If we could only start at once!" he said to Bishop Wright, who had
read the revelation with him. But the canny Bishop's religious zeal was
henceforth to be tempered by the wisdom of the children of darkness.
"No more travelling in this kind of a time for the Saints," the Bishop
replied. "We got our full of that when we first left Nauvoo. We had to
scrape snow from the ground and set up tents when it was fifteen or
twenty below zero, and nine children born one night in that weather. Of
course it was better than staying at Nauvoo to be shot; but no one is
going to shoot us here, so here we'll tarry till grass grows and water
"But there was a chance to show devotion, Brother Seth. Think how
precious it must have been in the sight of the Lord."
"Well, the Lord knows we're devoted now, so we'll wait till it fairs up.
We'll have Zion built in good time and a good gospel fence built around
it, elk-high and bull-tight, like we used to say in Missouri. But it's a
long ways over yender, and while I ain't ever had any revelations
myself, I'm pretty sure the Lord means to have me toler'bly well fed,
and my back kept bone-dry on the way. And we got to have fat horses and
fat cattle, not these bony critters with no juice in 'em. Did you hear
what Brother Heber got off the other day? He butchered a beef and was
sawing it up when Brother Brigham passed by. 'Looks hard, Brother
Heber,' says Brother Brigham. 'Hard, Brother Brigham? Why, I've had to
grease the saw to make it work!' Yes, sir, had to grease his saw to
make it work through that bony old heifer. Now we already passed through
enough pinches not to go out lookin' for 'em any more. Why, I tell you,
young man, if I knew any place where the pinches was at, you'd see me
comin' the other way like a bat out of hell!"
And so the ardent young Elder was compelled to curb his spirit until the
time when grass should grow and water run. Yet he was not alone in
feeling this impatience for the start. Through all the settlement had
thrilled a response to the Lord's word as revealed to his servant
Brigham. The God of Israel was to be with them on the march, and old and
young were alike impatient.
Early in April the life began to stir more briskly in the great camp
that sprawled along either side of the swollen, muddy river. From dawn
to dark each day the hills echoed with the noise of many works, the
streets were alive with men and women going and coming on endless
errands, and with excited children playing at games inspired by the
occasion. Wagons were mended and loaded with provisions and tools, oxen
shod, ox-bows renewed, guns put in order, bullets moulded, and the
thousand details perfected of a migration so hazardous. They were busy,
noisy, excited, happy days.
At last, in the middle of April, the signs were seen to be right. Grass
grew and water ran, and their part, allotted by the Lord, was to brave
the dangers of that forbidding land that lay under the western sun.
Then came a day of farewells and merry-making. In the afternoon, the day
being mild and sunny, there was a dance in the bowery,--a great arbour
made of poles and brush and wattling. Here, where the ground had been
trodden firm, the age and maturity as well as the youth and beauty of
Israel gathered in such poor festal array as they had been able to save
from their ravaged stores.
The Twelve Apostles led off in a double cotillion, to the moving strains
of a violin and horn, the lively jingle of a string of sleigh-bells, and
the genial snoring of a tambourine. Then came dextrous displays in the
dances of our forbears, who followed the fiddle to the Fox-chase Inn or
Garden of Gray's Ferry. There were French Fours, Copenhagen jigs,
Virginia reels,--spirited figures blithely stepped. And the grave-faced,
square-jawed Elders seemed as eager as the unthinking youths and maidens
to throw off for the moment the burden of their cares.
From midday until the April sun dipped below the sharp skyline of the
Omaha hills, the modest revel endured. Then silence was called by a
grim-faced, hard-voiced Elder, who announced:
"The Lute of the Holy Ghost will now say a word of farewell from our
pioneers to those who must stay behind."
He stood before them erect, brave, confident; and the fire of his faith
warmed his voice into their hearts.
"Children of Israel, we are going into the wilderness to lay the
foundations of a temple to the most high God, so that when his Son, our
elder Brother, shall come on earth again, He may have a place where He
can lay His head and spend, not only a night or a day, but rest until He
can say, 'I am satisfied!'--a place, too, where you can obtain the
ordinances of salvation for yourselves, your living, and your dead. Let
your prayers go with us. We have been thrust out of Babylon, but to our
eternal salvation. We care no more for persecution than for the whistle
of the north wind, the croaking of the crane that flies over our heads,
or the crackling of thorns under a pot. True, some of our dearest, our
best-loved, have dropped by the way; they have fallen asleep, but what
of that?--and who cares? It is as well to live as to die, or to die as
to live--as well to sleep as to be awake. It is all one. They have only
gone a little before us; and we shall soon strike hands with them across
those poor, mean, empty graves back there on the forlorn prairies of
Iowa. For you must let me clench this God's truth into your minds; that
you stand now in your last lot, in the end of your days when the Son of
Man cometh again. Afflictions shall be sent to humble and to prove you,
but oh! stand fast to your teachings so that not one of you may be lost.
May sinners in Zion become afraid henceforth, and fearfulness surprise
the hypocrite from this hour! And now may the favour and blessing of
God be manifest upon you while we are absent from one another!"
When the fervent amens had died away they sang the farewell hymn:--
"Thrones shall totter, Babel fall,
Satan reign no more at all;
"Saints shall gain the victory,
Truth prevail o'er land and sea;
"Gentile tyrants sink to hell;
Now's the day of Israel."
The words of the young Elder were felt to be highly consoling; but a
toast given by Brigham that night was longer talked of. It was at a
farewell party at the house of Bishop Wright. On the hay-covered floor
of the banquet-room, amid the lights of many candles hung from the
ceiling and about the walls in their candelabra of hollowed turnips, the
great man had been pleased to prophesy blessings profusely upon the
"I am awful proud," he began, "of the way the Lord has favoured us. I am
proud all the time of his Elders, his servants, and his handmaids. And
when they do well I am prouder still. I don't know but I'll get so proud
that I'll be four or five times prouder than I am now. As I once said to
Sidney Rigdon, our boat is an old snag boat and has never been out of
Snag-harbour. But it will root up the snags, run them down, split them,
and scatter them to the four quarters. Our ship is the old ship of
Zion; and nothing that runs foul of her can withstand her shock and
Then had followed the toast, which was long remembered for its dauntless
"Here's wishing that all the mobocrats of the nineteenth century were in
the middle of the sea, in a stone canoe, with an iron paddle; that a
shark would swallow the canoe, and the shark be thrust into the
nethermost part of hell, with the door locked, the key lost, and a blind
man looking for it!"
_Into the Wilderness_
Onto the West at last to build the house of God in the mountains. On to
what Daniel Webster had lately styled "a region of savages and wild
beasts, of deserts, of shifting sands and whirlwinds of dust, of cactus
The little band of pioneers chosen to break a way for the main body of
the Saints consisted of a hundred and forty-three men, three women, and
two children. They were to travel in seventy-three wagons, drawn by
horses and oxen. They knew not where they were to stop, but they were
men of eager initiative, fearless and determined; and their consolation
was that, while their exodus into the desert meant hardship and grievous
suffering, it also promised them freedom from Gentile interference. It
was not a fat land into which they were venturing; but at least it was a
land without a past, lying clean as it came from the hand of its maker,
where they could be free to worship God without fearing the narrow
judgment of the frivolous. Instructed in the sacred mysteries revealed
to Joseph Smith through the magic light of the Urim and Thummim, and
sustained by the divine message engraved on the golden plates he had dug
up from the hill of Cumorah, they were now ready to feel their way
across the continent and blaze a trail to the new Jerusalem.
They went in military style with due precautions against surprise by the
Lamanites--the wretched red remnant of Abraham's seed--that swarmed on
Brigham Young was lieutenant-general; Stephen Markham was colonel; the
redoubtable John Pack was first major, and Shadrach Roundy, second.
There were two captains of hundreds and fourteen captains of tens. The
orders of the lieutenant-general required each man to walk constantly
beside his wagon, leaving it only by his officer's commands. To make the
force compact, the wagons were to move two abreast where they could.
Every man was to keep his weapons loaded. If the gun was a caplock, the
cap was to be taken off and a piece of leather put on to exclude
moisture and dirt; if a flintlock, the filling was to be taken out and
the pan filled with tow or cotton.
Their march was not only cautious but orderly. At five A.M. the bugle
sounded for rising, two hours being allowed for prayers and breakfast.
At night each man had to retire to his wagon for prayer at eight-thirty,
and to rest at nine. If they camped by a river they drew the wagons into
a semicircle with the river at its base. Other times the wagons made a
circle, a fore-wheel of one touching a rear wheel of the next, thus
providing a corral for the stock. In such manner was the wisdom of the
Lord concerning this hegira supplemented in detail by the worldly
forethought of his servant Brigham.
They started along the north bank of the Platte River under the
auspicious shine of an April sun. A better route was along the south
bank where grass was more plentiful and the Indians less troublesome.
But along the south bank parties of migrating Gentiles might also be
met, and these sons of perdition were to be avoided at any cost--"at
least for the present," said Brigham, in tones of sage significance.
And so for two hundred miles they broke a new way over the plains, to be
known years after as "the old Mormon trail," to be broadened later by
the gold-seekers of forty-nine, and still later to be shod with steel,
when the miracle of a railway was worked in the desert.
To Joel Rae, Elder after the order of Melchisedek, unsullied product of
the temple priesthood, it was a time of wondrous soul-growth. In that
mysterious realm of pathless deserts, of illimitable prairies and
boundless plains, of nameless rivers and colossal hills, a land of
dreams, of romance, of marvellous adventure, he felt strange powers
growing within him. It seemed that in such a place the one who opened
his soul to heaven must become endowed with all those singular gifts he
had longed for. He looked confidently forward to the time when they
should regard him as a man who could work miracles.
At the head of Grand Island they came to vast herds of buffalo--restless
brown seas of humped, shaggy backs and fiercely lowered heads. In their
first efforts to slay these they shot them full in the forehead, and
were dismayed to find that their bullets rebounded harmlessly. They
solved the mystery later, discovering the hide on the skull of a dead
bull to be an inch thick and covered with a mat of gnarled hair in
itself almost a shield against bullets. Joel Rae, with the divine right
of youth, drew for them from this circumstance an instructive parallel.
So was the head of their own church protected against Gentile shafts by
the hide of righteousness and the matted hair of faith.
The Indians killed buffalo by riding close and striking them with an
arrow at the base of the spine; whereupon the beast would fall
paralysed, to be hamstrung at leisure. Only by some such infernal
strategy, the young Elder assured them, could the Gentiles ever
henceforth cast them down.
For many days their way lay through these herds of buffalo--herds so
far-reaching that none could count their numbers or even see their
farther line, lost in the distance over the swell of the plains. Often
their way was barred until a herd would pass, making the earth tremble,
and with a noise like muffled thunder. They waited gladly, feeling that
these were obstacles on the way to Zion.
Thus far it had been a land of moderate plenty, one in which they were,
at least, not compelled to look to Heaven for manna. Besides the buffalo
which the hunters learned to kill, they found deer, antelope, great
flocks of geese and splendid bronzed wild turkeys. Even the truculent
grizzly came to be numbered among their trophies.
Day after day marched the bearded host,--farmers with ploughs, mechanics
with tools, builders, craftsmen, woodsmen, all the needed factors of a
colony, led by the greatest coloniser of modern times, their one great
aim being to make ready some spot in the wilderness for the second
advent of the Messiah. All about them was the prairie, its long grass
gently billowed by the spring breeze. On the far right, blue in the
haze, was a continuous range of lofty bluffs. On the left the waters of
the Platte, muddied by the spring freshets, flowed over beds of
quicksand between groves of cottonwood that pleasantly fringed its
banks. The hard labour and the constant care demanded by the dangers
that surrounded them prevented any from feeling the monotony of the
Besides the regular trials of the march there were wagons to be "snaked"
across the streams, tires to be reset and yokes to be mended at each
"lay-by," strayed stock to be hunted, and a thousand contingencies
sufficient to drive from their minds all but the one thought that they
had been thrown forth from a Christian land for the offence of
worshipping God according to the dictates of their own consciences.
Joel Rae, walking beside his wagon, meditated chiefly upon the manner in
which his Witness would first manifest itself. The wonder came, in a
way, while he thus meditated. Late one afternoon the scouts thrown in
advance came hurrying back to report a large band of Indians strung out
in battle array a few miles ahead. The wagons were at once formed five
abreast, their one cannon was wheeled to the front, and the company
advanced in close formation. Perceiving these aggressive manoeuvres, the
Indians seemed to change their plan and, instead of coming on to attack,
were seen to be setting fire to the prairie.
The result might well have been disastrous, as the wind was blowing
toward the train. Joel Rae saw it; saw that the time had come for a
miracle if the little company of Saints was to be saved a serious
rebuff. He quickly entered his wagon and began to pray. He prayed that
the Lord might avert this calamity and permit the handful of faithful
ones to proceed in peace to fashion His temple on earth.
When he began to pray there had been outside a woful confusion of
sounds,--scared and plunging horses, bellowing oxen, excited men
shouting to the stock and to one another, the barking of dogs and the
rattling of the wagons. Through this din he prayed, scarcely hearing his
own voice, yet feeling within himself the faith that he knew must
prevail. And then as he prayed he became conscious that these noises
had subsided to a wonderful silence. A moment this lasted, and then he
heard it broken by a mighty shout of gladness, followed by excited calls
from one man to another.
He looked out in calm certainty to observe in what manner the Lord had
consented to answer his petition. He saw that the wind had veered and,
even as he looked, large drops of rain came pounding musically upon his
wagon-cover. Far in front of them a long, low line of flame was crawling
to the west, while above it lurid clouds of smoke rolled away from them.
In another moment the full force of the shower was upon them from a sky
that half an hour before had been cloudless. Far off to the right
scurried the Indians, their feathery figures lying low upon the backs of
their small ponies. His heart swelled within him, and he fell again to
his knees with many earnest words of thanksgiving for the intercession.
They at once made camp for the night, and by Brigham's fire later in the
evening Joel Rae confided the truth of his miracle to that good man,
taking care not to utter the words with any delight or pride in himself.
He considered that Brigham was unduly surprised by the occurrence;
almost displeased in fact; showing a tendency to attribute the day's
good fortune to phenomena wholly natural. Although the miracle had
seemed to him a small, simple thing, he now felt a little ashamed of his
performance. He was pleased to note, however, that Brigham became more
gracious to him after a short period of reflection. He praised him
indeed for the merit which he seemed to have gained in the Lord's sight;
taking occasion to remind him, however, that he, Brigham, had meant to
produce the same effects by a prayer of his own in due time to save the
train from destruction; that he had chosen to wait, however, in order to
try the faith of the Saints.
"As a matter of fact, Brother Joel," he concluded, "I don't know as
there is any limit to the power with which the Lord has blessed me. I
tell you I feel equal to any miracle--even to raising the dead, I
sometimes think--I feel that fired up with the Holy Ghost!"
"I am sure you will do even that, Brother Brigham." And the young man's
eyes swam with mingled gratitude and admiration. He resolved in his
wagon that night, that when the time came for another miracle, he would
not selfishly usurp the honour of performing it. He would not again
forestall the able Brigham.
By the first of June they had wormed their way over five hundred miles
of plain to the trading post of Fort Laramie. Here they were at last
forced to cross the Platte and to take up their march along the Oregon
trail. They were now in the land of alkaline deserts, of sage-brush and
greasewood, of sad, bleak, deadly stretches; a land where the favour of
Heaven might have to be called upon if they were to survive. Yet it was
a land not without inspiration,--a land of immense distances, of long,
dim perspectives, and of dreamy visions in the far, vague haze. In such
a land, thought Joel Rae, the spirit of the Lord must draw closer to the
children of earth. In such a land no miracle should be too difficult.
And so it came that he was presently enabled to put in Brigham's way the
opportunity of performing a work of mercy which he himself would have
been glad to do, but for the fear of affronting the Prophet.
A band of mounted Sioux had met them one day with friendly advances and
stopped to trade. Among the gaudy warriors Joel Rae's attention was
called to a boy who had lost an arm. He made inquiries, and found him to
be the son of the chief. The chief himself made it plain to Joel that
the young man had lost his arm ten moons before in a combat with a
grizzly bear. Whereupon the young Elder cordially bade the chief bring
his crippled son to their own great chief, who would, by the gracious
power of God, miraculously restore the missing member.
A few moments later the three were before Brigham, who was standing by
his wagon; Joel Rae, glowing with a glad and confident serenity; the
tawny chief with his sable braids falling each side of his painted face,
gay in his head-dress of dyed eagle plumes, his buckskin shirt jewelled
with blue beads and elk's teeth, warlike with his bow and steel-pointed
arrows; and the young man, but little less ornate than his splendid
father, stoical, yet scarce able to subdue the flash of hope in his
eyes as he looked up to the great white chief.
Brigham looked at them questioningly. Joel announced their errand.
"It's a rare opportunity, Brother Brigham, to bring light to these
wretched Lamanites. This boy had his arm torn off a year ago in a fight
with a grizzly. You know you told me that day I brought the rain-storm
that you could well-nigh raise the dead, so this will be easy for you."
Brigham still looked puzzled, so the young man added with a flash of
enthusiasm: "Restore this poor creature's arm and the noise of the
miracle will go all through these tribes;" he paused expectantly.
It is the mark of true greatness that it may never be found unprepared.
Now and again it may be made to temporise for a moment, cunningly
adopting one expedient or another to hide its unreadiness--but never
more than briefly.
Brigham had looked slowly from the speaker to the Indians and slowly
back again. Then he surveyed several bystanders who had been attracted
to the group, and his eyelids were seen to work rapidly, as if in
sympathetic pace with his thoughts. Then all at once he faced Joel.
"Brother Rae, have you reflected about this?"
"Why--Brother Brigham--no--not reflected--perhaps if we both prayed with
hearts full of faith, the Lord might--"
There was sternness in the voice now, and the young man trembled before
the Lion of the Lord.
"You mistake me. I guess I'm a good enough servant of the Lord, so my
own prayer would restore this arm without any of your help; yes, I guess
the Lord and me could do it without _you_--if we thought it was best.
Now pay attention. Do you believe in the resurrection of the body?"
"I do, Brother Brigham, and of course I didn't mean to"--he was blushing
"Do you believe the day of judgment is at hand?"
"You and our priests and Elders say it will come in 1870."
"Correct! How many years is that from now?"
"Twenty-three, Brother Brigham."
"Yes, twenty-three. Now then, how many years are there to be after
"How many--surely an eternity!"
"More than twenty-three years, then--much more?"
"Eternity means endless time."
"Oh, it does, does it?"
There had been gradually sounding in his voice a ring of triumph which
now became distinct.
"Well, then, answer me this--and remember it shall be as you say to the
best of my influence with the Lord--you shall be responsible for this
poor remnant of the seed of Cain. Now, don't be rash! Is it better for
this poor creature to continue with his one arm here for the
twenty-three years the world is to endure, and then pass on to eternity
where he will have his two arms forever; or, do you want me to renew his
arm now and let him go through eternity a freak, a monstrosity? Do you
want him to suffer a little inconvenience these few days he has here, or
do you want him to go through an endless hereafter with _three arms_?"
The young man gazed at him blankly with a dropped jaw.
"Come, what do you say? I'm full of faith. Shall I--"
"No--no, Brother Brigham; don't--for God's sake, don't! Of course he
would be resurrected with three arms. You think of everything, Brother
The Indians had meanwhile been growing puzzled and impatient. He now
motioned them to follow him.
By dint of many crude efforts in the sign language and an earnest use of
the few words known to both, he succeeded, after a long time, in putting
the facts before the chief and his son; They, after an animated
conversation, succeeded with much use of the sign language in conveying
to Joel Rae the information that the young man was not at all dismayed
by the prospect of having three arms during the next life. He gathered,
indeed, that both father and son would be rather elated than otherwise
by this circumstance, seeming to suspect that the extra member must
confer superior prowess and high distinction upon its possessor.
But he shook his head with much determination, and refused to take them
again before the great white chief. The thought troubled him exceedingly
and would not be gone--yet he knew not how to account for it--that
Brigham would not receive this novel view of the matter with any
When they were camped that night, Brigham made a suggestion to him.
"Brother Rae, it ain't just the best plan in the world to come on a man
sudden that way for so downright a miracle. A man can't be always fired
up with the Holy Ghost, with all the cares of this train on his mind.
You come and have a private talk with me beforehand after this, when you
got a miracle you want done."
He prayed more fervently than ever that night to be made "wise and good
like thy servant Brigham"--also for the gift of tongues to come upon him
so that he might instruct the Indians in the threefold character of the
Godhead and in other matters pertaining to their salvation.
_The Promised Land_
So far on their march the Lord had protected them from all but ordinary
hardships. True, some members of the company had suffered from a fever
which they attributed to the clouds of dust that enveloped the column of
wagons when in motion, and to the great change of temperature from day
to night. Again, the most of them were for many weeks without bread,
saving for the sick the little flour they had and subsisting upon the
meat provided by the hunters. Before reaching Fort Laramie, too, their
stock had become weakened for want of food; an extended drought, the
vast herds of buffalo, and the Indian fires having combined to destroy
This weakness of the animals made the march for many days not more than
five or six miles a day. At the last they had fed to the stock not only
all their grain but the most of their crackers and other breadstuffs.
But these were slight matters to a persecuted people gathering out of
Late in June they reached the South Pass. For many hundred miles they
had been climbing the backbone of the continent. Now they had reached
the summit, the dividing ridge between streams that flowed to the
Atlantic and streams that flowed to the Pacific. From the level prairies
they had toiled up into the fearsome Rockies where bleak, grim crags
lowered upon them from afar, and distant summits glistening with snow
warned them of the perils ahead.
Through all this time of marching the place where they should pitch the
tent of Israel was not fixed upon. When Brigham was questioned around
the camp-fire at night, his only reply was that he would know the site
of their new home when he saw it. And it came to be told among the men
that he had beheld in vision a tent settling down from heaven and
resting over a certain spot; and that a voice had said to him, "Here is
the place where my people Israel shall pitch their tents and spread wide
the curtains of Zion!" It was enough. He would recognise the spot when
they reached it.
From the trappers, scouts, and guides encountered along the road they
had received much advice as to eligible locations; and while this was
various as to sites recommended, the opinion had been unanimous that the
Salt Lake Valley was impossible. It was, they were told, sandy, barren,
rainless, destitute of timber and vegetation, infested with hordes of
hungry crickets, and roamed over by bands of the most savage Indians. In
short, no colony could endure there.
One by one the trappers they met voiced this opinion. There was
Bordeaux, the grizzled old Frenchman, clad in ragged buckskin; Moses
Harris; "Pegleg" Smith, whose habit of profanity was shocking; Miles
Goodyear, fresh from captivity among the Blackfeet; and James Bridger.
The latter had discovered Great Salt Lake twenty-five years before, and
was especially vehement in his condemnation of the valley. They had
halted a day at his "fort," two adjoining log houses with dirt roofs,
surrounded by a high stockade of logs, and built on one of several small
islands formed by the branches of Black's Fork. Here they had found the
old trapper amid a score of nondescript human beings, white men, Indian
women, and half-breed children.
Bridger had told them very concisely that he would pay them a thousand
dollars for the first ear of corn raised in Salt Lake Valley. It is true
that Bridger seemed to have become pessimistic in many matters. For one,
the West was becoming overcrowded and the price of furs was falling at a
rate to alarm the most conservative trapper. He referred feelingly to
the good old days when one got ten dollars a pound for prime beaver
skins in St. Louis; but "now it's a skin for a plug of tobacco, and
three for a cup of powder, and other fancies in the same proportion."
And so, had his testimony been unsupported, they might have suspected he
was underestimating the advantages of the Salt Lake Valley. But,
corroborated as he had been by his brother trappers, they began to
descend the western slope of the Rockies strong in the opinion that this
same Salt Lake Valley was the land that had been chosen for them by the
They dared not, indeed, go to a fertile land, for there the Gentiles
would be tempted to follow them--with the old bloody end. Only in a
desert such as these men had described the Salt Lake Valley to be could
they hope for peace. From Fort Bridger, then, their route bent to the
southwest along the rocky spurs of the Uintah Mountains, whose snow-clad
tops gleamed a bluish white in the July sun.
By the middle of July the vanguard of the company began the descent of
Echo Canon,--a narrow slit cut straight down a thousand feet into the
red sandstone,--the pass which a handful of them was to hold a few years
later against a whole army of the hated Gentiles.
The hardest part of their journey was still before them. Their road had
now to be made as they went, lying wholly among the mountains. Lofty
hills, deep ravines with jagged sides, forbidding canons, all but
impassable streams, rock-bound and brush-choked,--up and down, through
or over all these obstacles they had now to force a passage, cutting
here, digging there; now double-locking the wheels of their wagons to
prevent their crashing down some steep incline; now putting five teams
to one load to haul it up the rock-strewn side of some water-way.
From Echo Canon they went down the Weber, then toward East Canon, a
dozen of the bearded host going forward with spades and axes as sappers.
Sometimes they made a mile in five hours; sometimes they were less
lucky. But at length they were fighting their way up the choked East
Canon, starting fierce gray wolves from their lairs in the rocks and
hearing at every rod of their hard-fought way the swift and unnerving
song of the coiled rattlesnake.
Eight fearful miles they toiled through this gash in the mountain; then
over another summit,--Big Mountain; down this dangerous slide, all
wheels double-locked, on to the summit of another lofty hill,--Little
Mountain; and abruptly down again into the rocky gorge afterwards to
become historic as Immigration Canon.
Following down this gorge, never doubting they should come at last to
their haven, they found its mouth to be impassable. Rocks, brush, and
timber choked the way. Crossing to the south side, they went sheerly up
the steep hill--so steep that it was all but impossible for the
straining animals to drag up the heavy wagons, and so narrow that a
false step might have dashed wagon and team half a thousand feet on to
the rocks below.
But at last they stood on the summit,--and broke into shouts of rapture
as they looked. For the wilderness home of Israel had been found. Far
and wide below them stretched their promised land,--a broad, open
valley hemmed in by high mountains that lay cold and far and still in
the blue haze. Some of these had slept since the world began under their
canopies of snow, and these flashed a sunlit glory into the eager eyes
of the pilgrims. Others reared bare, scathed peaks above slopes that
were shaggy with timber. And out in front lay the wondrous lake,--a
shield of deepest glittering turquois held to the dull, gray breast of
Again and again they cried out, "Hosanna to God and the Lamb!" and many
of the bearded host shed tears, for the hardships of the way had
Then Brigham came, lying pale and wasted in his wagon, and when they saw
him gaze long, and heard him finally say, "Enough--drive on!" they knew
that on this morning of July 24, 1847, they had found the spot where in
vision he had seen the tent of the Lord come down to earth.
Joel Rae had waited with a beating heart for Brigham's word of
confirmation, and when he heard it his soul was filled to overflowing.
He knew that here the open vision would enfold him; here the angel of
the Lord would come to him fetching his great Witness. Here he would
rise to immeasurable zeniths of spirituality. And here his people would
become a mighty people of the Lord. He foresaw the hundred unwalled
cities that Brigham was to found, and the green gardens that were to
make the now desert valley a fit setting for the temple of God. Here
was a stricken Rachel, a barren Sarah to be transformed by the touch of
the Saints to a mother of many children. Here would the lambs of the
Lord be safe at last from the Gentile wolves--safe for a time at least,
until so long as it might take the Lions of the Lord to come to their
growth. And that was to be no indefinite period; for had not Brigham
just said, with a snap of his great jaws and a cold flash of his blue
eyes, "Let us alone ten years here, and we'll ask no odds of Uncle Sam
or the Devil!"
There on the summit they knelt to entreat the mercy of God upon the
land. The next day, by their leader's direction, they consecrated the
valley to the Lord, and planted six acres of potatoes.
_Another Miracle and a Temptation in the Wilderness_
The floor of the valley was an arid waste, flat and treeless, a far
sweep of gray and gold, of sage-brush spangled with sunflowers, patched
here and there with glistening beds of salt and soda, or pools of the
deadly alkali. Here crawled the lizard and the rattlesnake; and there
was no music to the desolation save the petulant chirp of the cricket.
At the sides an occasional stream tumbled out of the mountains to be all
but drunk away at once by the thirsty sands. Along the banks of these
was the only green to be found, sparse fringes of willow and wild rose.
On the borders of the valley, where the steeps arose, were little
patches of purple and dusty brown, oak-bush, squaw-berry, a few dwarfed
cedars, and other scant growths. At long intervals could be found a
marsh of wire-grass, or a few acres of withered bunch-grass. But these
served only to emphasise the prevailing desert tones.
The sun-baked earth was so hard that it broke their ploughs when they
tried to turn it. Not until they had spread water upon it from the river
they had named Jordan could the ploughs be used. Such was the new
Canaan, the land held in reserve by the Lord for His chosen people since
the foundations of the world were laid.
Dreary though it was, they were elated. Had not a Moses led them out of
bondage up into this chamber of the mountains against the day of wrath
that was to consume the Gentile world? And would he not smite the rocks
for water? Would he not also be a Joshua to sit in judgment and divide
to Israel his inheritance?
They waited not nor demurred, but fell to work. Within a week they had
explored the valley and its canons, made a road to the timber eight
miles away, built a saw-pit, sawed lumber for a skiff, ploughed,
planted, and irrigated half a hundred acres of the parched soil, and
begun the erection of many dwellings, some of logs, some of adobes.
Ground had also been chosen and consecrated by Brigham, whereon, in due
time, they would build up their temple to the God of Jacob.
Meantime, they would continue to gather out of Babylon. During the late
summer and fall many wagons arrived from the Missouri, so that by the
beginning of winter their number was nearly two thousand. They lived
rudely, a lucky few in the huts they had built; more in tents and
wagon-boxes. Nor did they fail to thank Providence for the mild winter
vouchsafed to them during this unprotected period, permitting them not
only to survive, but to continue their labours--of logging,
home-building, the making of rough furniture, and the repairing of
wagons and tools.
When the early spring came they were again quickly at the land with
their seeds. Over five thousand acres were sown to needful produce. When
this began to sprout with every promise of a full harvest, their joy was
boundless; for their stock of breadstuffs and provisions had fallen low
during the winter, and could not last later than harvest-time, even with
But early in June, in the full flush of this springtide of promise, it
appeared that the Lord was minded to chasten them. For into their broad,
green fields came the ravenous crickets in wide, black streams down the
mountain sides. Over the growing grain they spread as a pall, and the
tender sprouts were consumed to the ground. In their track they left no
stalk nor growing blade.
Starvation now faced the Saints. In their panic they sought to fight the
all-devouring pest. While some went wildly through the fields killing
the crickets, others ran trenches and tried to drown them. Still others
beat them back with sticks and brooms, or burned them by fires set in
the fields. But against the oncoming horde these efforts were
unavailing. Where hundreds were destroyed hundreds of thousands
Despair seized the Saints, the bitter despair of a cheated, famished
people--deluded even by their God. In their shorn fields they wept and
cursed, knowing at last they could not stay the pest.
Then into the fields came Joel Rae, rebuking the frenzied men and women.
The light of a high faith was upon him as he called out to them:
"Have I not preached to you all winter the way to salvation in times
like this? Does faith mean one thing in my mouth and another thing here?
Why waste yourselves with those foolish tricks of fire and water? They
only make you forget Jehovah--you fools--you poor, blind fools--to
He raised his voice, and the wondering group about him grew large.
"Down, down on your knees and pray--pray--pray! I tell you the Lord
shall _not_ suffer you to perish!"
Then, as but one or two obeyed him--
"So your hearts have been hardened? Then my own prayer shall save you!"
Down he knelt in the midst of the group, while they instinctively drew
back from him on all sides. But as his voice rose, a voice that had
never failed to move them, they, too, began to kneel, at first those
near him, then others back of them, until a hundred knelt about him.
He had not observed them, but with eyes closed he prayed on, pouring out
his heart in penitent supplication.
"These people are but little children, after all, seeing not, groping
blindly, attempting weakly, blundering always, yet never faltering in
love for Thee. Now I, Thy servant, humble and lowly, from whom Thou hast
already taken in hardest ways all that his heart held dear, who will
to-day give his body to be crucified, if need be, for this people--I
implore Thee to save these blundering children now, in this very moment.
I ask nothing for myself but that--"
As his words rang out, there had been quick, low, startled murmurs from
the kneeling group about him; and now loud shouts interrupted his
prayer. He opened his eyes. From off toward the lake great flocks of
gulls had appeared, whitening the sky, and now dulling all other sounds
with the beating of their wings and their high, plaintive cries. Quickly
they settled upon the fields in swirling drifts, so that the land all
about lay white as with snow.
A groan went up,--"They will finish what the crickets have left."
He had risen to his feet, looking intently. Then he gave an exultant
"No! No!--they are eating only the _crickets_!--the white birds are
devouring the black pests; the hosts of heaven and hell have met, and
the powers of light have triumphed once more over darkness! _Pray_--pray
now with all your hearts in thanksgiving for this mercy!"
And again they knelt, many with streaming eyes, while he led them in a
prayer of gratitude for this wondrous miracle.
All day long the white birds fed upon the crickets, and when they left
at night the harvest had been saved. Thus had Heaven vouchsafed a second
miracle to the Lute of the Holy Ghost. It is small wonder then if his
views of the esteem in which he was held by that power were now greatly
In August, thanks to the Heaven-sent gulls, they were able to celebrate
with a feast their first "Harvest Home." In the centre of the big
stockade a bowery was built, and under its shade tables were spread and
richly laden with the first fruits their labours had won from the
desert,--white bread and golden butter, green corn, watermelons, and
many varieties of vegetables. Hoisted on poles for exhibition were
immense sheaves of wheat, rye, barley, and oats, coaxed from the arid
level with the water they had cunningly spread upon it.
There were prayers and public thanksgiving, songs and speeches and
dancing. It was the flush of their first triumph over the desert. Until
nightfall the festival lasted, and at its close Elder Rae stood up to
address them on the subject of their past trials and present blessings.
The silence was instant, and the faces were all turned eagerly upon him,
for it was beginning to be suspected that he had more than even priestly
"To-day," he said, "the favour and blessing of God have been manifest
upon us. But let us not forget our debts and duties in this feasting of
the flesh. Afflictions are necessary to humble and prove us, and we
shall have them as often as they are needed. Oh, never doubt it! I have,
indeed, but one fear concerning this people in the valleys of the
mountains--but one trembling fear in the nerves of my spirit--and that
is lest we do not live the religion we profess. If we will only cleave
to that faith in our practise, I tell you we are at the defiance of all
hell. But if we transgress the law God has given us, and trample His
mercies, blessings, and ordinances under our feet, treating them with
the indifference I have thought some occasionally do, not realising
their sins, I tell you that in consequence we shall be overcome, and the
Lord will let us be again smitten and scattered. Take it to heart. May
the God of heaven fill you with the Holy Ghost and give you light and
joy in His Kingdom."
When he was done many pressed forward to take his hand, the young and
the old, for they had both learned to reverence him.
Near the outer edge of the throng was a red-lipped Juno, superbly
rounded, who had gleaned in the fields until she was all a Gipsy brown,
and her movements of a Gipsy grace in their freeness. She did not greet
the young Elder as did the others, seeming, indeed, to be unconscious of
his presence. Yet she lingered near as they scattered off into the dusk,
in little groups or one by one; and still she stood there when all were
gone, now venturing just a glance at him from deep gray eyes set under
black brows, turning her splendid head a little to bring him into view.
He saw the figure and came forward, peeringly.
"Mara Cavan--yes, yes, so it is!" He took her hand, somewhat timidly, an
observer would have said. "Your father is not able to be out? I shall
walk down with you to see him--if you're ready now."
She had been standing much like a statue, in guarded restraint, but at
his words and the touch of his hand she seemed to melt and flow into
eager acquiescence, murmuring some hurried little words of thanks for
her father, and stepping by his side with eyes down.
They went out into the soft summer night, past the open doors where
rejoicing groups still lingered, the young standing, the old sitting in
chairs by the doors of their huts. Then they were out of the stockade
and off toward the southern end of the settlement. A big, golden moon
had come up over the jagged edge of the eastern hills,--a moon that left
the valley in a mystic sheen of gold and blue, and threw their shadows
madly into one as they walked. They heard the drowsy chirp of the
cricket, now harmless, and the low cry of an owl. They felt the
languorous warmth of the night, spiced with a hint of chilliness, and
they felt each other near. They had felt this nearness before. One of
them had learned to fear it, to tremble for himself at the thought of
it. The other had learned to dream of it, and to long for it, and to
wonder why it should be denied.
Now, as they stepped side by side, their hands brushed together, and he
caught hers in his grasp, turning to look full upon her. Her ecstasy was
poignant; she trembled in her walk. But she looked straight
ahead,--waiting. To both of them it seemed that the earth rocked under
their feet. He looked long at her profile, softened in the magic light.
She felt his eyes upon her, and still she waited, in a trembling
ecstasy, stepping closely by his side. She felt him draw a long breath,
and then another, quickly,--and then he spoke.
In words that were well-chosen but somewhat hurried, he proceeded to
instruct her in the threefold character of the Godhead. The voice at
first was not like his own, but as he went on it grew steadier. After
she drew her hand gently out of his, which she presently did, it seemed
to regain its normal pitch and calmness.
He saw her to the door of the cabin on the outskirts of the settlement,
and there he spoke a few words of cheer to her ailing father.
Then he was off into the desert, pacing swiftly into the grim, sandy
solitude beyond the farthest cabin light and the bark of the outmost
watch-dog. Feverishly he walked, and far, until at last, as if naught in
himself could avail, he threw himself to the ground and prayed.
"Keep me _good_! Keep me to my vows! Help me till my own strength grows,
for I am weak and wanting. Let me endure the pain until this wicked
fire within me hath burned itself out. Keep me for _her_!"
Back where the houses were, in the shadow of one of them, was the
flushed, full-breathing woman, hurt but dumb, wondering, in her bruised
tenderness, why it must be so.
Still farther back, inside the stockade, where the gossiping groups yet
lingered, they were saying it was strange that Elder Rae waited so long
to take him a wife or two.
_A Fight for Life_
The stream of Saints to the Great Basin had become well-nigh
continuous--Saints of all degrees of prosperity, from Parley Pratt, the
Archer of Paradise, with his wealth of wives, wagons, and cattle, to
Barney Bigler, unblessed with wives or herds, who put his earthly goods
on a wheelbarrow, and, to the everlasting glory of God, trundled it from
the Missouri River to the valley of the Great Salt Lake. Train after
train set out for the new Zion with faith that God would drop manna
Each train was a little migrating State in itself. And never was the
natural readiness of the American pioneer more luminously displayed. At
every halt of the wagons a shoemaker would be seen searching for a
lapstone; a gunsmith would be mending a rifle, and weavers would be at
their wheels or looms. The women early discovered that the jolting
wagons would churn their cream to butter; and for bread, very soon after
the halt was made, the oven hollowed out of the hillside was heated, and
the dough, already raised, was in to bake. One mother in Israel brought
proudly to the Lake a piece of cloth, the wool for which she had
sheared, dyed, spun, and woven during her march.
Nor did the marches ever cease to be fraught with peril and, hardship.
There were tempests, droughts, famines, stampedes of the stock, prairie
fires, and Indian forays. Hundreds of miles across the plain and through
the mountains the Indians would trail after them, like sharks in the
wake of a ship, tirelessly watching, waiting for the right moment to
stampede the stock, to fire the prairie, or to descend upon stragglers.
One by one the trains worked down into the valley, the tired Saints
making fresh their covenants by rebaptism as they came. In the waters of
the River Jordan, Joel Rae made hundreds to be renewed in the Kingdom,
swearing them to obey Brigham, the Lord's anointed, in all his orders,
spiritual or temporal, and the priesthood or either of them, and all
church authorities in like manner; to regard this obligation as superior
to all laws of the United States and all earthly laws whatsoever; to
cherish enmity against the government of the United States, that the
blood of Joseph Smith and the Apostles slain in that generation might be
avenged; and to keep the matter of this oath a profound secret then and
forever. And from these waters of baptism the purified Saints went to
their inheritances in Zion--took their humble places, and began to sweat
and bleed in the upbuilding of the new Jerusalem.
[Illustration: "_I'M_ THE ONE WILL HAVE TO BE CAUGHT"]
From a high, tented wagon in one such train, creaking its rough way
down Emigration Canon, with straining oxen and tired but eager people,
there had leaped one late afternoon the girl whose eyes were to call to
him so potently,--incomparable eyes, large and deep, of a velvety
grayness, under black brows splendidly bent. Nor had the eyes alone
voiced that call to his starved senses. He had caught the free, fearless
confidence of her leap over the wheel, and her graceful abandon as she
stood there, finely erect and full-curved, her head with its Greek lines
thrown well back, and her strong hands raised to readjust the dusky hair
that tumbled about her head like a storm-cloud.
Men from the train were all about, and others from the settlement, and
these spoke to her, some in serious greeting, some with jesting words.
She returned it all in good part without embarrassment,--even the sally
of the winking wag who called out, "Now then, Mara Cavan! Here we are,
and a girl like yourself ought to catch an Elder, at the very lowest."
She laughed with easy good-nature, still fumbling in the dusk of blown
hair at the back of her head, showing a full-lipped mouth, beautifully
large, with strong-looking, white teeth. "I'll catch never a one myself,
if you please, Nathan Tanner! I'll do no catching at _all_, now! _I'm_
the one will have to be caught!"
Her voice was a contralto, with the little hint of roughness that made
it warm and richly golden; that made it fall, indeed, upon the ears of
the listening Elder like a cathedral chime calling him to forget all and
worship--forget all but that he was five and twenty with the hot blood
surging and crowding and crying out in his veins.
Now, having a little subdued the tossing storm-cloud of hair, she stood
with one hand upon her hip and the other shading her eyes, looking
intently into the streets of the new settlement. And again there was
bantering jest from the men about, and the ready, careless response from
her, with gestures of an impishly reckless unconcern, of a full
readiness to give and take in easy good-fellowship. But then, in the
very midst of a light response to one of the bantering men, her gray
eyes met for the first time the very living look of the young Elder
standing near. She was at once confused, breaking off her speech with an
awkward laugh, and looking down. But, his eyes keeping steadily upon
her, she, as if defiantly, returned his look for a fluttering second,
trying to make her eyes survey him slowly from head to foot with her
late cool carelessness; but she had to let them fall again, and he saw
the colour come under the clear skin.
He knew by these tokens that he possessed a power over this splendid
woman that none of the other men could wield,--she had lowered her eyes
to no other but him--and all the man in him sang exultantly under the
knowledge. He greeted her father, the little Seumas Cavan of indomitable
spirit, fresh, for all his march of a thousand miles, and he welcomed
them both to Zion. Again and again while he talked to them he caught
quick glances from the wonderful eyes;--glances of interest, of
inquiry,--now of half-hearted defiance, now of wondering submission.
The succeeding months had been a time of struggle with him--a struggle
to maintain his character of Elder after the Order of Melchisedek in the
full gaze of those velvety gray eyes, and in the light of her reckless,
full-lipped smile; to present to the temptress a shield of austere piety
which her softest glances should not avail to melt. For something in her
manner told him that she divined all his weakness; that, if she
acknowledged his power over her, she recognised her own power over him,
a power equal to and justly balancing the other. Even when he discoursed
from the pulpit, his glance would fasten upon hers, as if there were but
the one face before him instead of a thousand, and he knew that she
mocked him in her heart; knew she divined there was that within him
which strongly would have had her and himself far away--alone.
Nor was the girl's own mind all of a piece. For, if she flaunted herself
before him, as if with an impish resolve to be his undoing, there were
still times when he awed her by his words of fire, and by his high,
determined stand in some circle to which she knew she could never mount.
That night when he walked with her in the moonlight, she knew he had
trembled on the edge of the gulf fixed so mysteriously between them. She
had even felt herself leaning over to draw him down with her own warm
arms; and then all at once he had strangely moved away, widening this
mysterious gulf that always separated them, leaving her solitary, hurt,
and wondering. She could not understand it. Life called through them so
strongly. How could he breast the mighty rush? And why, why must it be
During the winter that now came upon them, it became even a greater
wonder to her; for it was a time when all of them were drawn closer in a
common suffering--a time of dark days which she felt they might have
lightened for each other, and a time when she knew that more than ever
she drew him.
For hardly had the feast of the Harvest Home gone by when food once more
became scarce. The heaven-sent gulls had, after all, saved but half a
crop. Drought and early frost had diminished this; and those who came in
from the East came all too trustingly with empty meal-sacks.
By the beginning of winter there were five thousand people in the valley
to be fed with miraculous loaves and fishes. Half of these were without
decent shelter, dwelling under wagon-covers or in flimsy tents, and
forced much of the time to be without fuel; for wood had to be hauled
through the snow from the distant canons, and so was precious stuff. For
three months the cutting winds came down from the north, and the
pitiless winter snows raged about them. An inventory was early taken of
the food-stuffs, and thereafter rations were issued alike to all,
whether rich or poor. Otherwise many of the latter must have perished.
It was a time of hard expedients, such as men are content to face only
for the love of God. They ranged the hills and benches to dig sego and
thistle roots, and in the last days of winter many took the rawhides
from their roofs, boiling and eating them. When spring came, they
watched hungrily for the first green vegetation, which they gathered and
cooked. Truly it seemed they had stopped in a desert as cruel in its way
as the human foes from whom they had fled.
It was now that the genius of their leader showed. He was no longer
Brigham Young, the preacher, but a father in Israel to his starving
children. When prayers availed not for a miracle, his indomitable spirit
saved them. Starvation was upon them and nakedness to the blast; yet
when they desponded or complained, the Lion of the Lord was there to
check them. He scolded, pleaded, threatened, roared prophecies, and
overcame them, silencing every murmur. He made them work, and worked
himself, a daily example before them of tireless energy. He told them
what to do, and how, both for their material salvation and their
spiritual; when to haul wood, and how to distinguish between false and
true spirits; how to thatch roofs and in what manner the resurrection
would occur; how to cook thistle roots to best advantage, and how God
was man made perfect; he reminded them of the day of wrath, and told
them mirthful anecdotes to make them laugh. He pictured God's anger upon
the sinful, and encouraged them to dance and to make merry; instructed
them in the mysteries of the Kingdom and instigated theatrical
performances to distract their minds. He was bland and bullying by
turns; affable and gruff; jocose and solemn--always what he thought
their fainting spirits needed. He was feared and loved--feared first.
They learned to dread the iron of his hand and the steel of his
heart--the dauntless spirit of him that left them no longer their own
masters, yet kept them loving their bondage. Through the dreadful cold
and famine, the five thousand of them ceased not to pray nor lost their
faith--their great faith that they had been especially favoured of God
and were at the last to be saved alone from the wreck of the world.
The efforts of Brigham to put heart into the people were ably seconded
by Joel Rae. He was loved like Brigham, but not feared. He preached like
Brigham submission to the divine will as interpreted by the priesthood,
but he was more extravagant than Brigham in his promises of blessings in
store for them. He never resorted to vagueness in his pictures of what
the Lord was about to do for them. He was literal and circumstantial to
a degree that made Brigham and the older men in authority sometimes
writhe in public and chide him in private. They were appalled at the
sweeping victories he promised the Saints over the hated Gentiles at an
early day. They suggested, too, that the Lord might withhold an
abundance from them for a few years until He had more thoroughly tried
them. But their counsel seemed only to inflame him to fresh absurdities.
In the very days of their greatest scarcity that winter, when almost
every man was dressed in skins, and the daily fare was thistle roots, he
declared to them at a Sunday service:
"A time of plenty is at hand--of great plenty. I cannot tell you how I
know these things. I do not know how they come to me. I pray--and they
come to life in my spirit; that is how I have found this fact: in less
than a year States-goods of all needed kinds will be sold here cheaper
than they can be bought in Eastern cities. You shall have an abundance
at prices that will amaze you."
And the people thrilled to hear him, partaking of his faith, remembering
the gulls that ate the crickets, and the rain and wind that came to save
the pioneer train from fire. To the leaders such prophesying was merely
reckless, inviting further chastisements from heaven, and calculated to
cause a loss of faith in the priesthood.
And yet, wild as it was, they saw this latter prophecy fulfilled; for
now, so soon after the birth of this new empire, while it suffered and
grew weak and bade fair to perish in its cradle of faith, there was made
for it a golden spoon of plenty.
Over across the mountains the year before, on the decayed granite
bed-rock of the tail-race at the mill of one Sutter, a man had picked up
a few particles of gold, the largest as big as grains of wheat. The
news of the wonder had spread to the East, and now came frenzied hordes
of gold-seekers. The valley of the mountains where the Saints had hoped
to hide was directly in their path, and there they stopped their richly
laden trains to rest and to renew their supplies.
The harvest of '49 was bountiful in all the valley; and thus was the
wild prophecy of Joel Rae made sober truth. Many of the gold-seekers had
loaded their wagons with merchandise for the mining' camps; but in their
haste to be at the golden hills, they now sold it at a sacrifice in
order to lighten their loads. The movement across the Sierras became a
wild race; clothing, provisions, tools, and arms--things most needful to
the half-clad, half-starved community on the shores of the lake--were
bartered to them at less than half-price for fresh horses and light
wagons. Where a twenty-five dollar pack-mule was sold for two hundred
dollars, a set of joiner's tools that had cost a hundred dollars back in
St. Louis would be bought for twenty-five.
The next year the gain to the Saints was even greater, as the tide of
gold-seekers rose. Early that summer they sold flour to the oncoming
legions for a dollar a pound, taking their pay in the supplies they most
needed on almost their own terms.
Thus was the valley of the mountains a little fattened, and thus was
Joel Rae exalted in the sight of men as one to whom the secrets of
heaven might at any time be unfolded. But the potent hand of Brigham
was still needed to hold the Saints in their place and in their faith.
Many would have joined the rush for sudden riches. A few did so. Brigham
issued a mild warning, in which such persons were described as
"gainsayers in behalf of Mammon." They were warned, also, that the
valley of the Sacramento was unhealthful, and that, in any event, "the
true use of gold is for paving streets, covering houses, and making
culinary dishes; and when the Saints shall have preached the gospel,
raised grain, and built cities enough, the Lord will open up the way for
a supply of gold to the satisfaction of his people."
A few greed-stung Saints persisted in leaving in the face of this
friendly admonition. Then the Lion of the Lord roared: "Let such men
remember that they are not wanted in our midst. Let them leave their
carcasses where they do their work. We want not our burying-grounds
polluted with such hypocrites. Let the souls of them go down to hell,
poverty-stricken and naked, and lie there until they are burned out like
an old pipe!" The defections ceased from that moment, and Zion was
preserved intact. Brigham was satisfied. If he could hold them together
under the alluring tales of gold-finds that were brought over the
mountains, he had no longer any fear that they might fall away under
mere physical hardship. And he held them,--the supreme test of his power
over the bodies and minds of his people.
This passing of the gold-seekers was not, however, a blessing without
drawbacks. For the Saints had hoped to wax strong unobserved,
unmolested, forgotten, in this mountain retreat. But now obscurity could
no longer be their lot. The hated Gentiles had again to be reckoned
First, the United States had expanded on the west to include their
territory--the fruit of the Mexican War--the poor bleak desert they were
making to blossom. Next, the government at Washington had sent to
construe and administer their laws men who were aliens from the
Commonwealth of Israel. True, Millard Fillmore had appointed Brigham
governor of the new Territory--but there were chief justices and
associate justices, secretaries, attorneys, marshals, and Indian agents
from the wicked and benighted East; men who frankly disbelieved that the
voice of Brigham was as the voice of God, and who did not hesitate to
let their heresy be known. A stream of these came and went--
trouble-mongers who despised and insulted the Saints, and returned to
Washington with calumnies on their lips. It was true that Brigham had
continued, as was right, to be the only power in the Territory; but the
narrow-minded appointees of the Federal government persisted in
misconstruing this circumstance; refusing to look upon it as the just
mark of Heaven's favour, and declaring it to be the arrogance of a mere
Under such provocation Joel Rae longed more than ever to be a Lion of
the Lord, for those above him in the Church endured too easily, he
considered, the indignities that were put upon them by these
evil-minded Gentile politicians. He would have rejected them forthwith,
as he believed the Lord would have had them do,--nay, as he believed the
Lord would sooner or later punish them for not doing. He would have
thrust them into the desert, and called upon the Lord for strength to
meet the storm that would doubtless be raised by such a course. He was
impatient when the older men cautioned moderation and the petty wiles of
diplomacy. Yet he was not altogether discouraged; for even they lost
patience at times, and were almost as outspoken as he could have wished.
Even Brigham, on one notable occasion, had thrilled him, when in the
tabernacle he had bearded Brocchus and left him white and cowering
before all the people, trembling for his life,--Brocchus, the unworthy
Associate Justice, who had derided their faith, insulted their prophet,
and slandered their women. How he rejoiced in that moment when Brigham
for once lost his temper and let his eyes flash their hate upon the
"But you," Brigham had roared, "standing there white and shaking at the
hornets' nest you have stirred up--you are a coward--and that is why you
praise men that are not cowards--why you praise Zachary Taylor!"
Brigham had a little time before declared that Zachary Taylor was dead
and in hell, and that he, Brigham, was glad of it.
"President Taylor you can't praise," he had gone on to the gradually
whitening Brocchus. "What was he? A mere soldier with regular army
buttons on--no better to go at the head of troops than a dozen men I
could pick up between Leavenworth and Laramie. As to what you have
intimated about our morals--you miserable cringing coward, you--I won't
notice it except to make my personal request of every brother and
husband present not to give your back what your impudence deserves. You
talk of things you have on hearsay since you came among us. I'll talk of
hearsay, then--the hearsay that you are mad and will go home because we
can't make it worth your while to stay. What it would satisfy you to get
out of us it wouldn't be hard to tell; but I know it's more than you'll
get. We don't want you. You are such a baby-calf that we would have to
sugar your soap to coax you to wash yourself on Saturday night. Go home
to your mammy, straightaway, and the sooner the better."
This was the manner, thought Joel Rae, that Federal officials should be
treated when they were out of sympathy with Zion--though he thought he
might perhaps have chosen words that would be more dignified had the
task been entrusted to him. He told Brigham his satisfaction with the
address when the excited congregation had dispersed, and the alarmed
Brocchus had gone.
"That is the course we must take, Brother Brigham--do more of it. Unless
we take our stand now against aggression, the Lord will surely smite us
again with famine and pestilence." And Brigham had answered, in the
tones of a man who knows, "Wait just a little!"
But there came famine upon them again; in punishment, declared Joel Rae,
for their ungodly temporising with the minions of the United States
government. In '54 the grasshoppers ate their growing crops. In '55 they
came again with insatiate maws--and on what they left the drought and
frost worked their malignant spells. The following winter great numbers
of their cattle and sheep perished on the range in the heavy snows.
The spring of '56 found them again digging roots and resorting to all
the old pitiful makeshifts of famine.
"This," declared Joel Rae, to the starving people, "is a judgment of
Heaven upon us for permitting Gentile aggression. It is meant to clench
into our minds the God's truth that we must stand by our faith with the
arms of war if need be."
"Brother Rae is just a little mite soul-proud," Brigham thereupon
confided to his counsellors, "and I wouldn't wonder if the Lord would be
glad to see some of it taken out of him. Anyway, I've got a job for him
that will just about do it."
_Joel Rae Is Treated for Pride of Soul_
Brigham sent for him the next day and did him the honour to entrust to
him an important mission. He was to go back to the Missouri River and
bring on one of the hand-cart parties that were to leave there that
summer. The three years of famine had left the Saints in the valley
poor, so that the immigration fund was depleted. The oncoming Saints,
therefore, who were not able to pay their own way, were this summer,
instead of riding in ox-carts, to walk across the plains and mountains,
and push their belongings before them in hand-carts. It had become
Brigham's pet scheme, and the Lord had revealed to him that it would
work out auspiciously. Joel prepared to obey, though it was not without
aversion that he went again to the edge of the Gentile country.
He was full of bitterness while he was obliged to tarry on the banks of
the Missouri. The hatred of those who had persecuted him and his people,
bred into him from boyhood, flashed up in his heart with more fire than
ever. Even when a late comer from Nauvoo told him that Prudence Corson
had married Captain Girnway of the Carthage Grays, two years after the
exodus from Nauvoo, his first feeling was one of blazing anger against
the mobocrats rather than regret for his lost love.
"They moved down to Jackson County, Missouri, too," concluded his
informant, thus adding to the flame. They had gone to set up their home
in the very Zion that the Gentiles with so much bloodshed had wrested
from the Saints.
Even when the first anger cooled and he could face the thing calmly in
all its deeper aspects, he was still very bitter. While he had stanchly
kept himself for her, cherishing with a single heart all the old
memories of her dearness, she had been a wife these seven years,--the
wife, moreover, of a mob-leader whose minions had put them out of their
home, and then wantonly tossed his father like a dead branch into the
waters. She had loved this uniformed murderer--his little Prue--perhaps
borne him children, while he, Joel Rae, had been all too scrupulously
true to her memory, fighting against even the pleased look at a woman;
fighting--only the One above could know with what desperate
valour--against the warm-hearted girl with the gray eyes and the red
lips, who laughed in her knowledge that she drew him--fighting her away
for a sentimental figment, until she had married another.
Now when he might have let himself turn to her, his heart freed of the
image of that yellow-haired girl so long cherished, this other was the
wife of Elder Pixley--the fifth wife--and an unloving wife as he knew.
She had sought him before the marriage, and there had been some wholly
frank and simple talk between them. It had ended by his advising her to
marry Elder Pixley so that she might be saved into the Kingdom, and by
her replying, with the old reckless laugh, a little dry and strained,
and with the wonderful gray eyes full upon him,--"Oh, I'll marry him!
Small difference to me what man of them I marry at all,--now!"
And while he, by a mighty effort, had held down his arms and let her
turn away, the woman for whose memory he did it was the wife of an
enemy, caring nothing for his fidelity, sure to feel not more than
amused pity for him should she ever know of it. Surely, it had been a
brave struggle--for nothing.
But again the saving thought came that he was being tried for a purpose,
for some great work. And now it seemed that the time of it must be near.
As to what it was there could be little question: it must be to free his
people forever from Gentile aggression or interference. Everything
pointed to that. He was to be entrusted with great powers, and be made a
Lion of the Lord to lead them to their rightful glory.
He was eager to be back to the mountains where he could fitly receive
this new power, and becomingly make it known that he had been chosen of
Heaven to free them forever from the harassing Gentile. He felt
instinctively that a climax was close at hand--some dread moment of
turning that would try the faith of the Saints once for all--try his own
faith as well, and at last bring his great Witness before him, if his
soul should survive the perilous ordeal. For he had never ceased to wait
for this heavenly Witness--something he needed--he knew not what--some
great want of his soul unsatisfied despite all the teachings of the
temple priesthood. The hunger gnawed in his heart,--a hunger that only
his Witness could feed.
When the hand-cart party came in across the prairies of Iowa he made all
haste to be off with it to the valley of the Lake. Several such parties
had left the Missouri earlier in the season. His own was to be the last.
There were six hundred of them, young and old, men, women, and children.
Their carts moved on two light wheels with two projecting shafts of
hickory joined by a cross-piece. He was indignant to learn that the
Gentiles along the route of their march across Iowa had tried to beguile
these people from their faith. And even while they were in camp on the
Missouri there were still ungodly ones to warn them that they were
incurring grave dangers by starting across the plains so late in the
With rare fervour he rallied the company from these attacks, pointed out
the divine source of the hand-cart plan, prophesied blessings and
abundance upon them for their faith in starting, and dwelt warningly
upon the sin they would be guilty of should they disobey their leader
and refuse to start.
They responded bravely, and by the middle of August all was ready for
the march. He divided them into hundreds, allotting to each hundred five
tents, twenty hand-carts, and one wagon, drawn by three yokes of oxen,
to carry the tents and provisions. Families with more young men than
were needed to push their own carts helped families not so well
provided; but many carts had to be pushed by young girls and women.
He put the company on rations at the time of starting; ten ounces of
flour to each adult, four ounces to children, with bacon, sugar, coffee,
and rice served occasionally; for he had been unable to obtain a full
supply of provisions. Even in the first days of the march some of the
men would eat their day's allowance for breakfast, depending on the
generosity of settlers by the way, so long as there were any, for what
food they had until another morning. They were sternly rebuked by their
leader for thus, without shame, eating the bread of ungodliness.
Their first trouble after leaving the Missouri was with the carts; their
construction in all its details had been dictated from on high, but the
dust of the parched prairie sifted into the wooden hubs, and ground the
axles so that they broke. This caused delay for repairs, and as there
was no axle grease, many of them, hungry as they were, used their scanty
allowance of bacon to grease the wheels.
Yet in spite of these hardships they were cheerful, and in the early
days of the march they sang with spirit, to the tune of "A Little More
Cider," the hymn of the hand-cart written by one of their number:
"Hurrah for the Camp of Israel!
Hurrah for the hand-cart scheme!
Hurrah, hurrah! 'tis better far
Than the wagon and ox-team.
"Oh, our faith goes with the hand-carts,
And they have our hearts' best love;
'Tis a novel mode of travelling
Designed by the Gods above.
"And Brigham's their executive,
He told us their design;
And the Saints are proudly marching on
Along the hand-cart line.
"Who cares to go with the wagons?
Not we who are free and strong.
Our faith and arms with a right good will
Shall push our carts along."
At Wood River the plains seethed with buffalo, a frightened herd of
which one night caused a stampede of their cattle. After that the frail
carts had to relieve the wagons of a part of their loads, in order that
the remaining animals could draw them, each cart taking on a hundred
Thus, overworked and insufficiently fed, they pushed valiantly on under
burning suns, climbing the hills and wading the streams with their
burdens, the vigorous in the van. For a mile behind the train straggled
the lame and the sick. Here would be an aged sire in Israel walking
painfully, supported by a son or daughter; there a mother carrying a
child at her breast, with others holding by her skirts; a few went on
As they toiled painfully forward in this wise, they were heartened by a
visit from a number of Elders who overtook them in returning to the
valley. These good men counselled them to be faithful, prayerful, and
obedient to their leader in all things, prophesying that they should
reach Zion in safety,--that though it might storm on their right and on
their left, the Lord would open their way before them. They cried
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