The Greatest of all the Commandments

Greatest Commandment

I recently met with a young missionary who told me an incredible story.  I can’t stop thinking about the experience he shared with me.  As we visited during our interviews, he told me he had looked forward his entire life to being a missionary.  His call came to serve in our Washington Yakima Mission.  He was assigned to learn to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Spanish language.

He was so excited when at last the day arrived and he flew to the Mexico Missionary Training Center, where he was introduced to his companion, who would be with him 24/7 for the next 6 weeks.  He told me, “as we met, we pretty quickly realized that we had nothing in common, in fact, as the first couple of days passed, we discovered that we didn’t really like each other at all.”  When this missionary was asked to take the lead, and then to be the District Leader, his companion got angry and upset because he was not the one asked to be in charge.

“The first few days were pretty hard, ” this Elder told me.  “We struggled to find common ground.  By the second week, it was horrible.  We didn’t study together, we didn’t pray together, we didn’t even speak to each other.”

This young Elder told me that all his life-long dreams of being a happy missionary were being dashed.  He was having trouble sleeping, he was irritated and he hated his companion.  “And,”  he told me, “he hated me.”

“I started praying for help,” he said.  “I prayed that someone would notice that a mistake had been made.  We were not supposed to be companions.  They got it wrong.  Someone needed to make a change and fix things.  This was not working.”

Nothing changed.  It only got worse.  “My friends suggested that I pray to know how to serve my companion–maybe that would help me love him.”

“I tried to serve him, but he was so annoying, that didn’t really help either.  I just didn’t like him and he didn’t like me. Nothing was working.”

“Then,” he said, “something miraculous happened.”  He told me that every week a visiting authority came to give an evening devotional.  The speaker on that Tuesday evening used Matthew 22 as his text, talking about the first and great commandment.Greatest Commandment 1

This good missionary said, “I was all ears.  I needed to know what to do.  I was so unhappy and miserable.  I was listening and taking notes and trying to learn.  Then the speaker started talking about loving our neighbor (or our companion) as ourselves.  He had my full attention.”

“What happened next changed my life,” he told me.  “The speaker said one sentence that turned my whole world and perspective upside down.”  He told me, “when these words came from his mouth, I felt like someone picked up a dagger and plunged it into my chest.  My whole chest felt like it was on fire, going to explode.”

I picked up my pen, ready to write down the words that changed everything for him.  I tried to imagine what they would be.  I wrote the sentence as he told it to me:

If it’s not a choice, it wouldn’t be a commandment.”

“In an instant,” he told me, “my whole world turned upside down and the Spirit taught me.  I saw things clearly from a completely new perspective.  I saw that the problem was not my companion, as I had thought.  He wasn’t even part of the equation.”  “The problem,” he said, “was with me.  I was choosing not to love.  I was breaking the commandment.  It had nothing at all to do with my companion. I was the problem.”

This good missionary went on to tell me that from that evening on, everything changed.  It was a miracle.  He said, “I realized that love is a choice and I could choose to love or choose not to love.  I chose to love.”

“After that evening, we started talking to each other,” he told me.  “We got to know each other.  We learned from each other.  We started studying together and praying together.  We started to teach together and feel the Spirit as we taught.”

Then he smiled real big and told me that by the end of their 6 weeks together, they were a united companionship.  He said, “I wouldn’t trade that MTC experience for anything in the world.  If they had sent me home after that first 6 weeks, my mission would have been a success!  I learned the greatest lesson of my life!”

I have reflected on this experience again and again.  “If it’s not a choice, it wouldn’t be a commandment.”  Love is the greatest of all great commandments.  Therefore, love is a choice.  The best choice we will ever make.

Thank you, good Elder, for helping me see things a little more clearly.

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Let’s pull ourselves together

We are living in troubled times.  In many ways, it’s nice to be sheltered from much of what’s going on out there.  We don’t have time or energy left at the end of the day to watch or read the news, but I catch and hear glimpses.  Our nation is divided.  Our families are divided.  My friends are divided.  In my memory, there has never been an election year like last year with 2 candidates unsuited for office.  We are now in the first 100 days of Trump’s Presidency.  There is hatred and despair in the world.  I hope we can pull ourselves together and lend support and prayers for our government leaders, and carry on with our living.  We have work to do.

Below is part of an essay written by C. S. Lewis in 1948, during another troubled time.


In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors – anaesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things – praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts – not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

On Living in An Atomic Age is one of nineteen essays by C.S. Lewis included in Present Concerns.

cs-lewis-present-concernsatomic-bomb-hiroshima-1Hiroshima, after the atomic bomb dropped on 9 August 1945.


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What It Really Means When Women Are “Unclean” in the Scriptures

I found this article by Heather Farrell  on her Women and the Scriptures website and want to post it so I remember what I learned here:

There is one word in the Bible that bothered me for a long time. It was the word unclean, especially when it was used in connection with menstruation, childbirth, sexual intimacy and women’s bodies. For example in Leviticus 15 it says this, “And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean.” (Lev. 15:9-20)

These scriptures go on for thirteen more verses explaining all the ways women can be unclean during menstruation. In Leviticus 12 it explains how a woman is unclean after childbirth, and how she is doubly unclean after giving birth to a girl. It seems like the Bible is filled with examples of how a woman’s body, especially the blood she sheds, is unclean. So unclean in fact, that just being around a woman who is bleeding can make you unclean.

This all really bothered me. I know that are there are some women who were taught to be ashamed of their ability to menstruate, or who are embarrassed or inconvenienced by it,
but my mother did a wonderful job instilling in me the beauty, joy, and responsibility of having a female body. I’d been taught at home, and in church, that things like menstruation, childbirth and sexual intimacy were good things, ways designed to bring new life into the world, and that they were important parts of fulfilling God’s plan for His children. It confused me why God would call them “unclean” and even require extensive rituals to become “clean” from them.

When I was writing Walking with the Women of the New Testament I did some research about the Woman with an Issue of Blood. I was interested in knowing what she would have experienced and why she was considered to be unclean. The first thing I learned was that the Hebrew word that is translated as “unclean” in the KJV is the word tuma and it does not mean “dirty” or “contaminated.”

In fact, the word tuma is a complex word that can’t be directly translated into English. The simplest explanation is that it is the “energy of death” that fills the world. It comes from the word tamai which means “spiritually impure”, as in being separated from the presence of God. In fact, according to Jewish teachings tuma is what Adam and Eve brought into the world when they took of the fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil. Tuma is the loss of spiritual power that comes from being distanced from God and being able to die, both physically and spiritually.

A dead body is the highest form of tuma (“uncleanliness”) because as a living person, organized in the image of God, it has the greatest spiritual potential of all God’s creations. When a human dies their spiritual potential departs and creates a “spiritual vacuum”, and their body becomes tuma. In a similar way, a woman who has given birth is also tuma because when she was pregnant she was filled with potential life and the spiritual power of creation. When her child is born that spiritual power departs and she becomes tuma. In addition by bringing a new child into the world she has also brought more death, because each child who lives must also one day die.

In a sense each one of us “fell” on the day we were born, leaving the presence of God where we were pure and sinless. When we were born we become subject to the “natural” man and gained the ability to sin, thus distancing us further from God. Perhaps this is also the reason that a woman who gave birth to a girl was considered twice as “unclean” (see Leviticus 12) because each girl born meant more life and thus more death and sin…more tuma.

A man was also considered to be tuma after sexual intercourse because of the loss of potential life contained in each one of the sperm he spilled. In a similar way a woman was considered unclean after menstruation because each egg that she shed had the potential to become a new human life. Each egg inside a woman is filled with divine power, the power to activate and create human life. While the egg remains inside of her its spiritual potential is high. Yet once the egg passes through her body that spiritual potential leaves putting her in a state of tuma.

In order to become “clean” (ritually pure) from tuma you had to bathe in a ceremonial bath called a mikvah. The mikvah served no hygienic purpose because before someone bathed in it they had to wash themselves completely from head to toe. In many ways it was much like baptism; immersing yourself completely under the water to become spiritually clean and reconciled with God. I loved how this Jewish woman explained her understanding of tuma and the mikvah. She wrote:

“… in the words of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, ” . . . water represents the womb of Creation. When a person immerses in the mikvah, he is placing himself in the state of the world yet unborn, subjecting himself totally to G-d’s creative power.”In this context, it is easy to understand why immersion in a mikvah removes tuma. After the contact with death, we submerge ourselves in the substance from which life emerged….

Under the law of Moses each person– male, female, young, old– had to atone for their own sins, in order to bring them back into a state of purity or holiness. Yet we know that because of the atonement of Jesus Christ the law of Moses is no longer required. Christ fulfilled the law of Moses and enabled us to become clean from our sins, and from our tuma, by communing and accepting His divine sacrifice. Children are born pure, without the ability to sin (see Moroni 8). Each week we take the sacrament we are becoming clean– re-born– in much the same way that the mikvah made ancient Jews clean from their fallen state, their state of tuma.

A Medieval Mikvah in Germanymikvah
It is beautiful symbolism and was designed to turn the Children of Israel’s hearts towards their need for a Savior, the One who saves us from our continual state of tuma. These laws also had other lessons to teach. The same Jewish woman I quote above also wrote this, “The menstrual Laws, like all the Laws of Judaism, imbue us with a constant consciousness of the miracles which comprise our daily existence. We certainly do not view the menstruation cycle as disgusting, or even as routine and ordinary. Rather, these Laws enable us to recognize the awesome potential of life as it regenerates itself within our very own bodies.”

I love how she says that the menstrual laws are/were designed to help women recognize the incredible power that is housed within their bodies. I think too often in our culture we see menstruation as something routine, inconvenient, embarrassing, and even shameful. We don’t celebrate when a young woman begins her period or do anything to acknowledge the blood sacrifice that women give each month; a sacrifice that makes all human life on earth possible.

I think that if we as women really understood what incredible power we house within our bodies it would change the way we feel about ourselves. Just think about how incredible it is that every woman was born into the world with hundreds of thousands of eggs laying wait in her body. Then at puberty her power to transform those eggs into another human being becomes activated. From that point on every month, for the next thirty or forty years, she will shed her blood as a constant tribute to the continuation of life. Even if none of those eggs ever become a living human person, her body is a powerhouse of life, creating and sacrificing each month with continual hope. And that isn’t “dirty” or “unclean” in any way… just plain miraculous.

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There are Three Deaths

graphics by Edward Gorey

“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”

–David Eagleman, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives

I am determined to keep people alive who might otherwise die the third death.  The thought of it thrills me.


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I have been led


This year our Book Club (we call ourselves the Erudites) is celebrating 30 years of good reading and friendship.  As part of that, we are each submitting quotes from a favorite book.  Below are 3 selections from Wendell Berry’s book, Jaber Crow.  I love that book and have read it 3 times and will most likely read it again when I am able.  I love how Wendell Berry writes and I love what he shares.  Reading his books are like coming home.

Here are some favorite thoughts:

“Nearly everything that has happened to me has happened by surprise. All the important things have happened by surprise. And whatever has been happening usually has already happened before I have had time to expect it. The world doesn’t stop because you are in love or in mourning or in need of time to think. And so when I thought I was in my story or in charge of it, I really have been only on the edge of it, carried along. Is this because we are in an eternal story that is happening partly in time?”

“I can remember those early years when it seemed to me I was cut completely adrift, and times when, looking back at earlier times, it seems I had been wondering in the dark woods of error. But now it looks to me as though I was following the path that was laid out for me, unbroken, and maybe even as straight as possible, from one end to the other, and I have this feeling, which never leaves me anymore, that I have been led.”

“I have come to the age now where I can see how short a time we have to be here. And when I think about it, it can seem strange beyond telling that this particular bunch of us should be here on this little patch of ground in this little patch of time, and I can think of other times and places I might have lived, other kinds of man I might have been. But there is something else. There are moments when the heart is generous, and then it knows that for better or worse our lives are woven together here, with one another and with the place and all the living things.”

In case you ever read this fine book, you’ll enjoy the words found on these pages:


Ann’s Favorite Selections from Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

Telling a story, p. 29
Read all good books, p. 47
Pious atmosphere–could not breathe a full breath of air in it, p. 48
“Thy will be done,” –your will and God’s will not be the same, p. 51
Prayer, pp. 51-52
Return to origins, p. 73
Flood of 1937, Bridge, Waters, Origins (a new life), pp. 74-79
Rememberers, p. 126-127, 131-132
Those killed at war remembered at home, p. 141
Grave digging, ch. 15, p. 156, open hearted, p. 158
Bad sermons, Windows, Hymns, p. 162
Church vision, p. 164-165
Choices (Mattie) p. 177
Troy–want more than need, have more than use, p. 179
not much room between what is said and thought
competitive, self-centered cut him off from the shared life, p. 194
ch. 30, point of reference, fulcrum
Tractor, dependence on credit, p. 183, 271, 278
Marriage, p. 193-194
Cecilia, ch. 19, her stinger was always out, p. 208-209
Anger, contempt leap from one heart to another like fire in dry grass
Athey, a story-teller, p. 216
The Devil, p. 224, 231
Jayber’s vow (Mattie), ch. 23
A Religious turn, pp. 250-259
Leftovers, p. 268
Economy, pp. 274, 276
My Dad (Art Laemmlen), pp. 277-278
School closed, p. 279
Digging, filling a grave, p. 280
Interstate, p. 281
Jayber to Troy, p. 287
Jimmy Vietnam, p. 293
God/war, Good/evil, p. 295
The Move, New start at age 54, p. 298
“Tight,” pp. 312-313
Neighbors, p. 317, 319
Ownership, pp.319, 321
In our own stories, Boat in a fog, pp. 322-323
I have books to read, p. 323
The River, p. 325
Reflections (Spirit World??), p. 327
A Thread of Faith, machines, trucks, rumors of wars, p. 330
Emergency to relax, pp. 331-332
Death, Time, p. 333
Debt, pp. 335-336. 339, 360
Mattie, p. 341-343
Heaven, p. 351
Memories, p. 353
Hell, pp. 354-355
A Man of Faith, pp. 356-357
Forgiveness, pp. 360-361
The Spider’s web, p. 362

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Christmas in the Mission Home 2016

2017-1-1-family-arrives-4Here’s a peek at the Mission Home during the days after Christmas as we waited for all of our family to arrive before celebrating this year.  We had a beautiful snowfall and a couple of quiet days between interviews to get a few things ready.  Claire & Graham arrived on the 30th and Adam’s family on New Year’s Day.2017-1-1-132017-1-1-142017-1-1-15All is calm, all is bright.2016-12-26-cms-mission-home-12016-12-26-cms-mission-home-22016-12-26-cms-mission-home-32016-12-26-cms-mission-home-42016-12-26-cms-mission-home-52016-12-26-cms-mission-home-62016-12-26-cms-mission-home-72016-12-26-cms-mission-home-82016-12-26-cms-mission-home-92016-12-26-cms-mission-home-102016-12-26-cms-mission-home-112016-12-26-cms-mission-home-12It was great having a whole extra week before we had our family Christmas gift giving. That gave me time to get the stockings ready, this year 9 of them.  I didn’t have time to wrap a single thing until after the 25th this year.  What an interesting thing to be on a mission doing other things while the rest of the world runs around like crazy!2016-12-26-cms-projects-42As you can see, the stockings are the best part of our Christmas morning fun.2016-12-26-cms-projects-462016-12-26-cms-projects-472016-12-26-cms-projects-482016-12-26-cms-projects-512016-12-26-cms-projects-522016-12-26-cms-projects-53Christmas Morning:img_5647img_56492017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-6

I saw this posted on Facebook and it felt like my own words:

My children each year ask me the same question. After thinking about it, I decided I’d give them my real answer:
What do I want for Christmas? I want you. I want you to keep coming around, I want you to bring your kids around, I want you to ask me questions, ask my advice, tell me your problems, ask for my opinion, ask for my help. I want you to come over and rant about your problems, rant about life, whatever. Tell me about your job, your worries, your relationships, your kids, your fur babies. I want you to continue sharing your life with me. Come over and laugh with me, or laugh at me, I don’t care. Hearing you laugh is music to me.
I spent the better part of my life raising you the best way I knew how, and I’m not bragging, but I did a pretty darn good job. Now, give me time to sit back and admire my work, I’m pretty proud of it. Raid my refrigerator, help yourself, I really don’t mind. In fact, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I want you to spend your money making a better life for you and your family, I have the things I need. I want to see you happy and healthy. When you ask me what I want for Christmas, I say “nothing” I want you.

And that’s exactly what I got for Christmas this year!

2017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-92017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-112017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-122017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-132017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-162017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-172017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-202017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-242017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-282017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-302017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-332017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-35And here is the star of our show, baby Clark!2017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-382017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-41Dinner out tonight at Mod Pizza:2017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-472017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-492017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-502017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-512017-1-2-christmas-celebrated-53It’s been a great Christmas so far.  We have a few more days to celebrate with our family. This is the best part of all.  I am grateful for Heavenly Father’s Magnificent Plan for our happiness.  I feel so grateful when I’m with these beautiful kids (and Aaron’s dear friend, Kassi).

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Journal of Sarah Stoddard (1805-1846)

Old Nauvoo 1.jpg

I’ve spent 100s of hours searching for my family members in the journals and diaries of others who lived in the same places at the same times.  I’ve discovered some real treasures and met some amazing men and women who wrote things down.  Among the Nauvoo era journals I’ve read, I found this gem.  I love Sarah Stoddard and the few words she recorded. They are a testimony to me of faith in Jesus Christ and His servants.

My Theodore Turley family lived next door to the Prophet Joseph and his family.  I’m sure they knew Sarah too.

Sarah (Woodward) Stoddard diary in family possession
A diary written by Sarah Stoddard about some of the experiences of her son Charles Stoddard while he served as a houseboy for Joseph and Emma Smith when they lived in Nauvoo, Illinois

Dear Diary,
Charles stopped in for a few minutes today. Said Sister Emma was worried about the prophet being arrested so frequently. This is the umpteenth time in the past few months. Of course they never can hold him for any length of time since he isn’t guilty of any of the charges brought against him. We hear rumors of more violent mob action and the rumors seem more persistent. Perhaps that is why Sister Emma is worried.

October 1843
Charles is surely privileged to have the opportunity of being so closely associated with the prophet and sister Emma. He admires and loves them both. The prophet is such a kindly man though Charles says he has seen his anger rise. All he has to contend with, is it any wonder? Wrathful outsiders as well as weak and selfish people right among our own ranks. Being a prophet of the Lord, I guess, makes him able to deal with all those whom he comes in contact in a just and noble way. There are many among us who would gladly give our lives that the prophet might be spared the humiliations he has to undergo at the hands of the so-called “law.” Seems like people either love the prophet or hate him. Suppose that is because he is such a great man – yes, for he is our prophet.

December 1843
Charles had a dreadful experience last night. Porter Rockwell escaped from jail. He was taken there on mistaken identity of the prophet. When the sheriff finally discovered the mistake, he kept Porter in jail to teach him a lesson, so he said. Many months he was unjustly held. They gave him very meager fare, mostly just bread and water. He was terribly thin and weakened; his hair was long and matted with filth and his body swarming with lice. Not once did they give him anything with which to clean himself, but left him to stench in his own dirt. Charles said the prophet cried when he saw Brother Rockwell and he hugged him in spite of his condition like he was a beloved child. Charles and Brother Richards helped to clean Brother Rockwell after they had burned the rags he had one time called clothes. They had a terrible time with his hair; it was so snarled and filthy. They had decided the best thing to do was to shave his head but the prophet intervened and then he promised Brother Rockwell that as long as he did not cut his hair our enemies would have no power over him. Porter Rockwell is an uncouth man, even vile of tongue but the prophet discerns men for what they are inside and though Charles says he reprimands Brother Rockwell at times for his bad language he still loves and respects him and trusts him as much as he does anyone, even the apostles.

January 1844
Charles is young to be given so much responsibility (just turned 14), but his experiences have made him old for his years. I hate to see Charles put in such a precarious position but if this is where the prophet thinks he can be of greatest service then it must be so. I have never doubted but what the prophet knows what is best for us all. May my faith ever be as strong as it is now though we have very little of worldly goods having moved from New Jersey to Ohio to Nauvoo in so short a time. Still our physical needs are provided. We feel rich in the spirit and our faith in God and in His church grows with each passing day. But back to Charles. Mr. William Law is known to be wanting a houseboy, so the prophet has told our son to take the position and to keep his eyes and ears open. The prophet feels Mr. Law bodes only evil to him and to the Church, him being so resentful to the prophet and having been excommunicated.

February 1844
Charles doesn’t like his work at the Laws. He says the riffraff of Nauvoo drink and carouse all night and lay plans for what unpleasant things they can do to the Mormons in general and the prophet in particular. The boy looks tired, up most of the night so he can keep the prophet posted on Mr. Law’s plans and then working by day. He’s growing so fast right now, too, and should be getting his rest.

April 1844
Charles had another faith promoting experience. Early this morning, even while the darkness still hemmed out the light of day, Mr. Law, after he had been drinking and planning with his associates through the night, got Charles out of bed to clean and oil his gun for he said he was going to shoot the prophet, only William Law called him “old Joe Smith.” Poor Charles was frightened beyond description but Mr. Law stood over him and prodded him with his foot when Charles hesitated through fright and anxiety. Finally when Mr. Law was satisfied with the way the gun was working, he put one bullet in. He boasted that he could kill the prophet with one shot and sent Charles to bring the prophet.
He ran as fast as he could and delivered the message but begged the prophet not to go to Mr. Law’s as Mr. Law was drunk and Charles was afraid he would carry though on his threat to shoot the prophet in cold blood. In spite of Charles’ protestations the prophet rose from bed and dressed.

It was breaking dawn by this time. As they walked the few blocks from the mansion house to the Law residence the prophet reassured Charles that no harm would come to him that day. Charles was frightened and he said it kept racing through his mind “I am the one that cleaned the gun that is going to be used to kill the prophet” until he was sick with fear. The prophet in a final attempt to calm my dear son uttered the fateful words, “Mr. Law may some day kill me, Charles, but it won’t be today’

As they approached their destination Mr. Law came staggering out of the house and his only greeting was angry boasts of what he intended to do. The prophet said kindly and unafraid, “You sent for me, Mr. Law?” to which Mr. Law replied with oaths that he had and that he was now going to do Nauvoo, Illinois, and indeed the whole world a great favor by disposing of the prophet with one shot.

Calmly the prophet unbuttoned his shirt and bared his chest, then said, “I’m ready now, Mr. Law.” Charles said at this point he nearly fainted. Fear strangled him until he was speechless and paralyzed, unable to move a muscle.

Mr. Law paced a few steps, turned, aimed, and pressed the trigger. There was complete silence, then the air rang with profanity and Mr. Law turned on Charles, accusing him of fixing the gun so it would not go off and threatening to kill even Charles, my innocent, frightened, but faithful son. The prophet, to divert Mr. Law’s blame of Charles suggested that a can be placed on the fence post for Mr. Law to take a practice shot. Relieved, Charles ran for a can and laid it on its side on the post. Mr Law paced back, took aim and fired. His ‘one shot’ streaked through the exact center of the bottom of that can. Mr. Law is well-known for his marksmanship even when drunk. Even Mr. Law was quiet as if stunned.
The prophet buttoned up his shirt, gave Charles a meaningful look and then said, “If you are finished with me now, Mr. Law, I have other things needing to be done. Good morning.”

That was her last entry in the diary. The prophet was martyred in June, 1844. The next entry is headed Montrose, Iowa, 1847, and was written by Charles’ sister who was younger.
More than three years have passed since Mother made her last entry in this diary. I’m sure she never realized what a bulwark of strength it would be to her children when she jotted down her thoughts. Oft times during the past few years I’ve had doubts, sometimes serious doubts. Then I’d read from Mother’s diary and I could feel strength and faith and hope creep back into my being. Mother didn’t make any entries in her diary for months before the evacuation of Nauvoo. I suppose there was no time nor peace of mind enough to sit down quietly with your thoughts and record them. She was so worried about Charles all that time. Then she gave birth to Michael, making a total of six of us children. Mother told us many times that all during those last hectic months when the prophet was taken prisoner and after his escape here to Montrose, his return and voluntary recapture, the martyrdom and the consequent unrest and confusion, that the one time of complete peace and the upsurging of faith and hope was when the prophet’s mantle fell over Brigham Young and it appeared to the thousands assembled that Joseph the prophet stood once more before them. In spite of all the hardships and sacrifices she, father and the other thousands had to undergo during the evacuation of Nauvoo and the perilous crossing of the Mississippi, never did her faith waiver. She knew what she thought was right and where the road of faith would lead her and well as the peril and hardships that lay in wait along that road.

After the baby died and while she and Father laid at death’s door of pneumonia brought on by hunger and exposure, they extracted a promise from Charles and I that we would take the three younger children west where Zion was to be built under the guidance of God and the leadership of our president, Brigham Young. I was resentful of that promise after the sting of losing both my parents had eased away. How was I, a girl of 15 and Charles only a few years older with nothing but a few personal things we could carry across the river that terrible and ghastly night be expected to carry out such a promise.

But Charles, as young as he was, had faith enough for both of us for those few months. Finally with the Lord’s help we got these two rooms, such as they are, to live in and Charles secured a job on a river boat that plied up and down the great Mississippi. I tended the children being father and mother to them and I’ve managed to help a few others, too, as they paused here to get ready for the western trek. As payment I have picked up some bolts of cloth and various other supplies and now after two years we have enough accumulated to get equipped with the bare necessities and we are ready at last to start west. We’ve seen so many thousands depart for that long-sought land of freedom and now we are ready, we five Stoddard children, to keep the promise to our parents. So now I close my mother’s diary here at Montrose, Iowa, where she was laid to rest beside my Father and baby Michael, adding my testimony to hers. I know this is God’s church and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the Lord, as is Brigham Young, with whom we now set ourselves out to join in the West.

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