Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mixed messages from the leadership: Come to Zion, but not right now.

Saturday, August 23, 1856
"Brethren!” Levi Savage had to shout, "none of these emigrants has any idea of what lies ahead. Only we the returning missionaries know what’s in store and most are going out of here tomorrow and will be in the Valley by the end of September.

What about these converts? With their aged and children, they've got a thousand miles to go and even at twenty miles a day, it would be the middle of October when they arrive. In the mountains they won't get barely ten miles and at that rate they'd not see the Valley until November. That is, those still alive would see the Valley. "

"Oh ye of little faith, Elder Savage!” one of the emigrants shouted, "did ye not preach to us about having faith and the Lord God would provide?"

Shaking his head, Savage angrily responded,

"Yes, I preached that very thing. I also preached with an understanding that God is not to be tempted.
When we know better we should not knowingly throw ourselves off the cliff to force Him to prove His love by an extorted act of rescue. We are then like what Satan wanted when he tempted the Lord.

'If you are the Son of God,' Satan said, 'then throw yourself off this high place and let the angels save you.'
'Get thee behind me Satan," the Lord answered, 'Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.'

Brothers and Sisters, when we foolishly abandon common sense and logic and throw ourselves recklessly on the mercy of God, we force His hand. In our own way we say, 'God, if you love us, PROVE IT!! Save us when no other can!'

Do you want to do that to God?

You do so by getting to your feet and starting up that trail this late in the year, when God's own natural colder season is less than a month and a half away. Must God alter his own forces and seasons of nature just because you demand it of Him?

In no time you will be in an impossible situation and the only one with a choice after that will be God. You will not have any choices left. We should stay here until Spring, my beloved friends."

The reaction to Savage was mixed, confused of feeling.

A newspaper was shoved into Abigail's hand as she, Rose and Jacob stood in the crowd listening to the Elders. She saw the paper was THE COUNCIL BLUFFS BUGLE, published in the town just across the Missouri River from Florence. The story was an admiring report of the passing of a recent handcart company. Someone had circled that last paragraphs with a pencil.
"Now it may seem to some that these people endure great hardships in traveling hundreds of miles on foot, drawing carts behind them 
This is a mistake, for many informed me that after the first three days travel, it requires little effort for two or three men or women to draw the light handcart with its moderate load of cooking utensils and baggage. 
It is also a fact that they can travel farther in a day and with less fatigue than the ox teams. These trains are composed of Swedes, Danes, Germans, Welsh, Scotch and English and the best evidence of their sincerity is the fact that they are willing to endure the fatigues and privations of a journey so long. 
This is enthusiasm. This is Heroism indeed. Though we cannot coincide with them in their belief, it is impossible possible to restrain our admiration of their self-sacrificing devotion to the principles of their faith."

Abigail handed it to Rose, who read it aloud to Jacob, who noticed several copies being handed around the crowd.

"The Elders are right, despite what it says here, Mama."

But Abigail looked as if she'd just seen a burning bush.

" What we do here is an act of faith, no matter how many rules of common sense Elder Savage recites."

One of the emigrants had mounted the platform to speak, waiting to be recognized by the Elders and the crowd. Abigail did not know the man, but had heard of him as President of the Dublin Conference. His speech was definitely Irish.

"Brothers and Sisters, some of you have seen the newspaper from Council Bluffs concernin our fellow Saints who've passed by on their way to Zion. Let me refresh yer thoughts with a readin from the Millenial Star:
‘The Lord can rain manna on the plains of America just as easily as He did on the deserts of Arabia, or as He sent quails into the camp of the Saints on the Mississippi River in 1846. Ancient Israel traveled to the Promised Land on foot, with their wives and little ones. The Lord calls upon modern Israel to do the same.'

Now I ask ya, Brothers Sisters, have we not been called home to Zion? Have we not been promised blessings of the Lord from the Prophet himself? Sure we're ignorant of the country and weather, and we're the poor and simple escapin from the wickedness of the Old Country, but we are honest and eager to go to Zion as soon as we can.

If we are goin to act like our faith has suddenly just died on the vine, I don't think we're worthy of the Lord's blessings. We got to trust in the Lord, Brothers and Sisters and let Him guide our path. Let Him lighten our loads. Let Him preserve our lives and our animals. Let Him take us to Zion.....NOW!"

Applause and shouting were thunderous and despite the announced plan to elicit a vote on the matter, the Elders knew which way the vote would go...
... and did go.

After the vote Levi Savage retook the speaker's place.

"Brothers and Sisters, what I have said I know to be true; but seeing you are to go forward, I will go with you."

He was interrupted by a burst of cheers.

"I will help you all I can. I will -"

Another burst of applause.

“- work with you, rest with you, suffer with you and, if necessary, I'll die with you. May God in His mercy bless and preserve us!"

No more bursts of cheering, only a scattering of murmurs at the sound of one simple word capping his promise to abide by their decision.

"Amen, Elder Savage. Amen!"