Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Marie Madeleine Cardon Guild

I've been impressed that many of the isolated sisters I've been studying have been blessed with spiritual gifts that have guided them. Marie Cardon Giuld's conversion demonstrates this.

Marie was born in the rural Alps in 1834. When she was roughly five years old, she had a dream. She saw herself as a young woman, sitting in a meadow and reading a Sunday school book. Three men came to her, and they told her not to be afraid: they were servants of God, come from far away, to preach about the restoration of the gospel. They told her about Joseph Smith, and that the gospel he restored would never be taken from the earth. They told her she'd bring her parents into the gathering of Saints, and they would cross the ocean to go to Zion. 

She told her father about the dream, and 10 years later, her father heard about three missionaries in the area preaching the same ideas her daughter had told him about. He left immediately to find them, and when the elders came to her house, she was sitting in a meadow, reading her Sunday School book. They spoke the same words to her as she had heard in her dream. Marie and her parents were baptized. She assisted the missionaries in translating their sermons (her people, Waldensians, spoke their own dialect).

On one Sunday, she was interpreting a sermon during a Sunday service, when a mob came and demanded that she and the missionaries be sent out. She marched out, bible in hand. The minister that had confirmed her into his church when she younger accused her of disloyalty to her oaths; she replied that she was still loyal to truth, but she had more of it now. When everyone started shouting for the elders again, she held up her bible in her right hand and commanded them to depart – the Elders were under her protection. The ministers asked the mob to leave, and they did.

Just as her dream outlined, she immigrated to Utah in 1854. None of the Italian saints she traveled with spoke English. When they arrived in Liverpool, Marie studied so their party could be understood. Their party joined others from a variety of European locations. When they stopped in New Orleans, cholera was spread throughout the party, and Marie helped nurse the ill, including her father. She had an eventful crossing of the plains, including more outbreaks of cholera, running for her life from some men that tried to kidnap her, and several encounters with Native Americans. She married Charles Guild, and they had eleven children, eventually settling in Wyoming.

Maki, Elizabeth. 'Suddenly the Thought Came to Me': Child's Vision Prepares her Family for the Gospel. 3 June 2013.
An Autobiography of Marie Madeline Cardon Guild, excerpts compiled by Susan Thomas Tippets 1995.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Rosa Clara Friedlander Logie

Rosa Clara moved from the English Channel Islands to Sydney, Australia in 1849, when she was eleven years old. Two years later, LDS missionaries arrived, and her family were among their earliest converts. When her mom and stepfather decided to move to Melbourne to assist in the missionary efforts in that part of the country, 15 year old Rosa Clara stayed in Sydney, living first under the care of the mission president, and then with a married friend. She walked to church every Sunday, despite having to walk 12 miles to do so. She sang in the choir and distributed missionary tracts.

She married sailor Charles Logie, who joined the church a month before they married, when she was 16, and the following year they had their first child. With their baby in tow, Rosa Clara (then 17) and Charles set off by boat for the US to join the saints. Four weeks into their journey, on a dark night, their boat struck a coral reef. The captain ordered a sailor to swim to the coral reef and fasten a rope. He rigged a sling to slide over the rope, and decided to ferry the passengers to the reef until they had a better feel for their options, women first. Others were terrified, but Rosa Clara bravely volunteered to go first. She tied her baby to her husband and went to the captain. At that moment, her husband and baby were swept overboard, but fortunately, a sailor rescued them. She then climbed onto the captain's lap, and he pulled her over to the reef. She waited there for more passengers to arrive, in the pitch black, standing on sharp coral, chest-deep in the sea. All but five of the passengers survived the night.

In the morning, the sailors took the survivors to a small island. They waited for rescue for eight weeks, surviving on some salvaged ship provisions, turtle meat and eggs, and coconuts. Rosa Clara spent most of her time on the island very ill. When they finally made it to San Francisco, Elder George Q. Cannon presented her with a teapot to honor her bravery. After stints in different Nevada and Utah settlements, the Logies settled in Amercian Fork, Utah and raised twelve children. She stayed committed to the gospel throughout her life.

I love Rosa Clara's bravery in facing down the storm, but I also love that she stayed committed to the gospel through the every-day trials that her life presented in the coming decades. She didn't let her rough eight weeks jar her faith in God, and she didn't require more miraculous rescues to stay committed to her faith. She was faithful during trial and calm.


Rosa Clara: Bravery on the Pacific, by Marjorie B. Newton. Ensign, August 1990.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Desideria Quintanar de Yanez

As I'd mentioned in last year's posts, spiritual gifts in the contemporary Mormon church tend to look differently than they did in the early church, whether in how we practice them (i.e. speaking in tongues) or who administers them (i.e. anointings and healings). But dreams are a different animal. As early as Genesis 20, we have accounts of God communicating with men and women through dreams, and the form hasn't really changed since then.

I was drawn to Desideria Quintanar de Yanez's account not only because her story takes place in Mexico during a time when most of the stories involve gathering with the main bodies of saints, but because of the role a dream plays in her conversion.

In 1880, Desideria had a powerful dream about men in Mexico City publishing a pamphlet called La Voz de Amonestacion (in English, A Voice of Warning). She knew God had sent her this message, and that it was important that she find this pamphlet, but she was a 66 year old widow and too frail to make the 75 mile journey to Mexico City. When she confided in her son, Jose, he agreed to make the trip for her.

He asked around and met the first LDS convert in Mexico, Plotino Rhodakanaty, on the street. Rhodakanaty had been involved in translating Parley P. Pratt's pamphlet, A Voice of Warning, into Spanish, and was able to direct him to the missionaries. One of these missionaries was in the middle of reviewing the printer's proofs when he connected with Jose, and although it was a month until this pamphlet would be ready for publication, Jose was able to return to his mother with news of its existence, as well as other missionary tracts.

Desideria soon received the pamphlet, and the missionaries' invitation to baptism, and in 1880, she became the first Mexican woman baptized.

She would never live with a large body of saints. She would live in the little branch for her remaining 13 years. She had multiple meaningful contacts with missionaries and apostles in her first six years of membership. During this time, she received the first Spanish language copy of the Book of Mormon (she was so eager to receive it that the mission president traveled to her town to give her an unbound copy prior to its wider publication), as well as a blessing of healing and comfort from Elder Erastus Snow after robbers beat her and stole the equivalent of thousands of dollars from her home.

Unfortunately, by 1890 her branch had lost contact with the Mormon missionaries. That said, Desideria stayed true. When the missionaries found Jose in 1903, a decade after Desideria's death, he had given up hope on the church resuming contact and renounced his priesthood. But he reported that his mother had died “in full faith of Mormonism.”

I admire Desideria's enthusiasm and commitment to the gospel. It would have been easy to feel abandoned and isolated, but she stayed true to the revelation God had given her and true to the covenants she made.


Solitary Saint in Mexico: Desideria Quintanar de Yanez (1814-1893),” by Clinton D. Christensen, in Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Volume 1, 1775-1820, eds. Richard E. Turley jr. and Brittany A. Chapman.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

2014 Theme: Global

Most practicing Mormons can give you a basic synopsis of life for the early US converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – gathering to Nauvoo, handcart companies, etc. But this year, I was interested the pioneers of other countries. I've been hunting down stories of the early female converts around the globe. I've loved learning about their unique and challenging journeys, and how they found meaning in a faith community that they essentially had to build themselves. Some eventually gathered to Utah; some lived their lives in their native country. Some watched their faith community thrive; others only met a handful of Mormons outside their families. But all of them found comfort, purpose, and connection to God through their decision to join this faraway and unfamiliar faith.

I'll definitely be posting on Tuesdays, with the possibility of more posts depending on how well I make the transition to being a mom of three (which explains why I forgot to post this on the first of the month, despite having written it a month ago).

Monday, March 25, 2013

"Sister More"

I've been fascinated recently with accounts of early Mormon women prophesying. These women received mixed responses from those around them – sometimes their messages were doubted, but often those that heard felt the truth in what these women taught and believed. The woman I'm profiling today falls in the latter category.

Daniel Tyler had a badly fractured leg, and there was a legitimate concern that his leg would ever heal properly. The prospect of facing life crippled devastated him, and on this particular Sunday, he was in despair.

When the meeting began, a “Sister More” stood and began to speak in tongues. She addressed her remarks to him. Tyler reports that he could understand every word she said, and even though it was so different from his “own belief and the fears of many others,” he gave the interpretation: “Your leg will be healed, and you will go on a foreign mission and preach the gospel in foreign lands. No harm shall befall you, and you shall return in safety, having great joy in your labors.”

Sister More's prophesy was fulfilled. Shortly afterwords, Tyler had a dream that told him how to strengthen his limb, and after a week, he was walking with a cane instead of crutches. He would go on to serve a mission in Switzerland.

I admire Sister More's courage and spirituality. Her prophesy brought hope and direction to someone in need, and his life was greatly blessed as a result.

Carol Lynn Pearson, Daughters of Light, referencing Scraps of Biography, published by the Salt Lake City Juvenile Instructor (1883).

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lucy Stringham Grant

Lucy Stringham was the first wife of Heber J. Grant, who would go on to become the 7th president of the church. She would die after a long fight with illness at age 34 in 1893, and she wouldn't live to see that part of his life. But Lucy made her mark on the man Grant became in two important ways.

The first is her intelligence. Heber praised her “business foresight and judgment,” and gives her credit for many of his business successes that occurred during her lifetime.

The other is the gifts of the spirit that were available to her, and the way she used them to bless others. In his younger years, Heber J. Grant had been carrying a great load of financial debt, and it was weighing on him. He worked long hours, well into the night, and still couldn't make headway. In previous years, he had already suffered from “nervous convulsions,” because of work and church stress. On one particular night, he came home at 1am, and Lucy was waiting for him. She brought him to task for the damage his long hours were doing to his body and mind, telling him that he was breaking the word of wisdom more severely through this self-abuse than if he had been using tobacco or liquor.

At that point in time, the gift of tongues descended on her, and she delivered a blessing to him. Grant recalled that he could feel the spirit of it, even if he didn't know the words. They knelt in prayer together for an interpretation, and they got an answer: that he should live to cancel all his debts, possess a comfortable home, and proclaim the gospel to many lands.

These prophesies all came to be, and even gave Grant comfort when he thought he wouldn't survive an episode of advanced appendicitis. He remembered the prophesy that he wife had given, and he knew that because he hadn't served a foreign mission yet, it wasn't his time to die. He recovered and lived for nearly fifty more years, fulfilling all elements of the prophesy.

It is clear from the records we have that Grant valued and believed in Lucy's wisdom and spirituality. There was no macho superiority in these accounts; he respected her capability. Her counsel led him to health, security, and faith in God's healing power.

Daughters of Light by Carol Lynn Pearson (citing Jeremiah Stokes' Modern Miracles)
Richard R. Lyman, “President Grant and his family,” The Young Woman's Journal, volume 30, page 73.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bonus: This year's RS Birthday Celebration Talk

Every year since my current ward discovered my obsession with the history of mormon women, I've been asked to speak at the RS birthday celebration activity. I love it. These women's lives speak to me in powerful ways, and I love demonstrating the diverse ways Mormon women have served God throughout our history. Last year, I shared my talk on this blog, and I've decided to do the same this year. Enjoy!


171 years ago, a woman named Sarah Granger Kimball wanted to do all she could to help build the Nauvoo Temple. She started by persuading her affluent and not-yet-Mormon husband to make a much-needed financial donation towards building the Nauvoo temple. As they gazed starry-eyed at their newborn son, she asked her husband if the baby was worth a thousand dollars. He agreed. She replied that it was great news, because the boy was half hers, and she wanted to pay tithing on him. Resourceful girl, right? He went for it, and after bantering with Joseph Smith about if that meant the boy would be church property, he made a hefty donation.
Sarah could have put up her feet and said she'd done her part to build the temple, but she didn't stop there. Sarah and a friend decided that they should sew shirts for the temple workers. She realized other women would want to help, so she had a meeting about organizing a Ladies' Society in Nauvoo. She asked the eloquent Eliza R Snow to write a constitution, and they presented it to Joseph Smith. Joseph told them that they were the best he had ever seen, their offering was accepted of the Lord, but “he has something better for them than a written Constitution.” He invited them to a meeting the next week. At that meeting, he organized the Relief Society, an organization about which he proclaimed “the Church was never perfectly organized until the women were thus organized.”
I want to draw attention to a few elements of this story.
First, Sarah Granger Kimball was proactive. She didn't sit around waiting for people higher in the hierarchy to give her something to do. She felt inspired to do good, and she brought her ideas to the priesthood so they could work together. Think about that: a crucial step to the church being “perfectly organized” and progressing came because she acted on personal revelation that came from a desire to do good, and then worked in connection with the priesthood.

Second, she invited others to join her, recognized their talents, and allowed them to serve in meaningful ways. She could have tried to hoard the glory for her service brainchild, but she didn't. She recognized Eliza R Snow's literary gifts and considerable clout in Nauvoo culture, and brought her on board. When Joseph called Emma Smith as president, and she was not called as a counselor, Sarah didn't huff off. She remained thoroughly involved in the Relief Society throughout her life, serving as a Relief Society President in Salt Lake City for over forty years, where she would continue to create innovative ways to serve that would spread throughout the church. She kept giving.
Third, she started by recognizing needs in her community. She didn't set out to feed starving populations in Asia (although the Relief Society has certainly done that in notable ways throughout its history). She saw a need, saw something tangible she could do to fill that need, and she did it.
More than a sewing society came from her efforts. Little by little, woman by woman, new forms of service came about: providing food for the temple workers; boarding temple workers; caring for the sick. As time progressed, something monumental and far-reaching came out of this pattern of seeing a need and filling a need.

Throughout the history of the Relief Society, countless forms of service have been given. The Relief Society has cared for the hungry and sick. It instituted a grain storage program so successful that it not only met local needs, but fed thousands of victims of earthquakes, famines, and wars. It built hospitals, and educated women to be doctors, nurses, and midwives. It partnered with prominent organizations like the Red Cross, the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and the International Council of Women in bringing about positive change in the world. It has educated women in everything from self-reliance to Shakespeare. It has done remarkable good
And it all started with a woman who felt a desire to do good, took the initiative to propose a solution, and surrounded herself with the best people possible.