Descendants of Israel Barlow are fond of recounting the quality of service rendered by this great pioneer in the early days of the Church, particularly the day he delivered a message on behalf of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The date is not known, but sometime shortly before his martyrdom, Joseph requested Israel deliver a message to a certain man who lived a considerable distance away in a neighborhood of enemies of the Church. The Prophet directed Israel to deliver the message, then accept the hospitality which would be extended to him.
“But,” said Joseph, “let them put your horse up for you and eat supper with them, but when it becomes sundown, saddle your horse and leave. They will be insistent and try to persuade you to remain overnight.
“But if you value your life, do not stay, but leave, and listen to the direction of the Spirit.”
Israel left the morning he was instructed. He found the man hospitable, just as Joseph indicated. At sundown, the man was persistent to have Israel stay, but recalling the Prophet’s admonition, he mounted his horse and set for home as instructed.
He “rode along the country road until it became dark,” reads the Israel Barlow biography. “Just before he came to the river bridge, a voice said to [him], ‘Ride faster.’ He sped up his horse and the voice repeated again and with more emphasis, ‘Ride faster.’
“Again he increased the speed of the animal when the voice said to him, ‘Ride for your life.’ He then sped for all the animal’s strength. As the horse’s feet clattered across the bridge he could hear the mob, which had gathered in the brush to intercept him, cursing at the top of their voices. He had crossed the bridge but a short distance when the voice said to him ‘Turn to the right.’ He turned his horse off the road into the brush toward the river. There he stood in silence as the mob who had mounted their horses, came racing over the bridge at breakneck speed, and down the road they went, supposedly after him.
“After they had gone by, he wound his way from the river’s edge to the bed of the stream and on through the willows. In the darkness he made his way along the river in the opposite direction from which the mob had expected him to go. Finally, when he thought it was safe, several miles away, he emerged from the river and made his way over the country back into Nauvoo, just as the day was breaking.
“There he saw the Prophet Joseph walking up and down the street in front of his home. As [Israel] approached and alighted from his horse, he began to tell the Prophet of his experience. The Prophet stopped him and told him he need not tell him, for he already knew. The Prophet told him that he had been up all night waiting for his return, and stated, ‘I saw it all; you have no need to tell me.’
“Thereupon, the Prophet laid his hand upon [Israel’s] shoulder and gave him a blessing and said: ‘Thee and thine shall never want.’ ” (The Israel Barlow Story and Mormon Mores, 1968, p. 194195 published by Ora H. Barlow, Israel Barlow Family Association).
‘Ride faster’ Published: Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009
I am grateful for living prophets who see what we cannot see and know what we cannot know.