While sitting at my desk Friday afternoon, thinking about what I might say at the Othello Stake Conference this last weekend, I got side tracked. For some reason the name of the man who converted my 3rd great-grandparents was playing in my mind. Elisha H. Davis. He wouldn’t leave me alone, so I went to find him. He’s mentioned in a history we have on our Bushman family.
For the next 2-3 hours I neglected preparing for a talk and I went back into history, the history of my ancestors. I found Elisha and his wife, Mary Ann, who became a very dear friend to my 3rd great-grandmother, Elizabeth.
I’ve been thinking about this pioneer missionary and the huge effect he had on our family. I have been gathering Bushman descendants for many years. They number in the thousands. Someday I hope to meet Elisha and his companion, Henry Dean, and I will embrace them and thank them with all my heart. Their names have not been forgotten.
When it was my turn to speak at Stake Conference, I put my talk aside and, instead, told about Elisha, my missionary. Here is some of what I learned about him this week:
This is from the history we had:
Bushman Family History by Newbern Butts, pub. 1956
In the spring of 1840 two Elders, Elisha H. Davis and H. Dean, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, came to preach the Gospel in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Both Martin Bushman and his wife Elizabeth were of a strongly religious nature and investigated the new doctrine whole heartedly, were convinced of its truth, and were baptized. In spite of criticism and ostracism by relatives and friends in Lancaster County, they grew in faith and were filled with the spirit of gathering in Nauvoo, Illinois with the rest of the members of this faith.
I found an 1898 obituary written by his son that told me that in 1839 Elisha left on a mission the day after he was baptized, dressed in a pair of thin calf skin boots and suit of homemade clothing, without underclothes or overcoat. He traveled on foot 300 miles across the Allegheny Mountains into Pennsylvania. He said, “The Spirit of God kept me warm.” Elisha and his companion, Henry Dean found and converted Martin and Elizabeth Bushman, my 3rd Great-grandparents in Lancaster County. They were baptized 10 May 1840.
I am grateful to him and his companion for opening the way for our family to receive great blessings. Many generations have passed since that spring day in 1840. I wonder what might have happened if he had stayed home, or said, “it’s too hard,” or if he had not been willing to share. Where might I be today?? I shudder to think about that.
Instead, his name will be remembered. And the names of our missionaries, here in the WYM will be remembered in the same way by each person they teach. All future generations of faithful descendants and family members will speak the names of our missionaries with reverence and with honor. They probably have no idea of the magnitude of the goodness they’ve started by converting just one. It’s a thrilling thought!
Biography from the Lehi Centennial History
Elisha Hildebrand Davis, the son of Isaac and Edith Richards Davis, was born in West township, Columbia County, Ohio, October 22, 1815. His greatgreat grandfather, John Davis, came from Wales and settled in Salem County, New Jersey, where the greatgrandfather, Thomas Davis, and the grandfather, Isaac Davis, as well as the father, were born.
While the family were living at West Township, Ohio, they were converted to the gospel as taught by the Mormon elders, and in 1838 most of the members of Isaac Davis’ family, including Elisha, joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Soon after, the family moved to Illinois, and after residing in several places, settled near Nauvoo.
Elisha was baptized August 19, 1838, by Edwin D. Woolley, and on the 8th of the following January he was ordained an elder under the hands of Lorenzo D. Barnes, H. Sagers, and Edwin D. Woolley. The next day, in company with three elders who had ordained him,. he started on a mission to the Eastern States. He labored for about two years in the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, assisting in raising up several branches of the church. On this mission he was instrumental in bringing the gospel to Bishop Edward Hunter, Bishop Elijah Sheets, Bishop Jacob Weiler, the Rhodebach family of Cedar Fort,the Bushman family of Lehi, and many others who afterward joined and became prominent and faithful members of the church.
He often worked in the harvest fields with the people and in this way earned sufficient means to supply himself with clothing and food, and at the same time won the love and confidence of those with whom he associated. In the fall of 1840 he started for Nauvoo, traveling with a family he had baptized. He arrived some time in the following March, and was present at the laying of the cornerstone of the Nauvoo Temple, April 6, 1841.
The following is from his journal: “To My Posterity:
During a life of nearly 82 years, 59 years of which time having been spent in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, I can. testify to the happiness of a life of moral honesty and religious devotion. Experience has taught me the high value of moral purity and religious sentiment, as reaching far above earthly pleasures, and the gratification of appetite and passion which cannot produce lasting joy.
My success in life has come through my not borrowing money and mortgaging my home, but always living within my means, and sustaining myself and family by the sweat of my face. “When I owned little, I lived on little and was satisfied. My married life of 46 years has been a happy one; my wife was always true, gentle, faithful, kind, and wise, a helpmate in very deed to me. During our entire married life of 46 years, we never had a hard feeling, nor cross word, but lived in love together, always adopting the rule of speaking .gently and kindly to and of each other; and now, at the advanced age gf 82 years, standing as it were on the verge of eternity, my great desire and advice to all of you is to be faithful and true to our holy religion, to never depart from the faith and turn against God.
Every day that I live, I rejoice more and more in the great work of the Lord, and in the hope of eternal life. “Your loving father and grandfather,
Elisha Hildebrand Davis
You can read more about these wonderful pioneer missionaries here:
Elder Ballard, in the October 2008 General Conference, said this:
This is not to suggest that our challenges today are more severe than the challenges faced by those who have gone before us. They are just different. The Lord isn’t asking us to load up a handcart; He’s asking us to fortify our faith. He isn’t asking us to walk across a continent; He’s asking us to walk across the street to visit our neighbor. He isn’t asking us to give all of our worldly possessions to build a temple; He’s asking us to give of our means and our time despite the pressures of modern living to continue to build temples and then to attend regularly the temples already built. He isn’t asking us to die a martyr’s death; He’s asking us to live a disciple’s life.
This is a great time to live, brothers and sisters, and it is up to us to carry on the rich tradition of devoted commitment that has been the hallmark of previous generations of Latter-day Saints. This is not a time for the spiritually faint of heart. We cannot afford to be superficially righteous. Our testimonies must run deep, with spiritual roots firmly embedded in the rock of revelation. And we must continue to move the work forward as a covenanted, consecrated people, with faith in every footstep, “till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”