Thursday, March 27, 2008

Jane Snyder Richards, part 1

I'm realizing that doing full entries for these women are resulting in long, long posts. I find so much inspiring about these women, and I just can't bring myself to cut their stories down much more. So today's post will recount Jane Snyder Richard's conversion, and the next post will discuss her life after her baptism.

Many of the women I've researched have had immediate and powerful conversions. Jane was not one of these women. When her family encountered the missionaries, many of them were baptized within a short time, but Jane held out, despite the miraculous healing her brother experienced when he was baptized. When her family would bring up the subject of baptism, Jane, in her 17-year-old way would state "What sins have I committed?," and insist that she didn't need it. However, her outlook changed when she became seriously ill in 1839. Doctors didn't know how to help her. Jane's brother Robert had a profound influence on the shape her life would take. In her words:

When he returned and found me so ill, he felt very anxious and fasted and prayed for me … without water or food for three or four days. … He came into my room and laying his face beside mine on the pillow, said, ‘Oh, sis, I wish you were baptized.’

The next morning … I was paralyzed and apparently dying. I could not speak nor move, though I was able to understand everything and to nod my head. My brother wept beside me and again said he wished I was baptized. Then he asked if he could administer oil and pray for me. … While he was praying light came into my mind, and I saw as plainly as if a book was opened before me with it written in it my need of baptism. If Christ who was sinless needed to be baptized, should I hold myself as better than He?

At that moment, all pain left me. The paralysis was gone. I was only weak. As my brother rose from his knees, I … begged for baptism. He remonstrated for it was now midwinter and ice would have to be broken and the exposure might be fatal. But death I was not afraid of—only I must be baptized.

In consequence of my persistence I was carried to the lake the next day where ice a foot thick had been broken. The people had congregated in large numbers. Some had told us that my brother would be arrested if he should immerse me in the critical situation I was in. However it was done, and I was well from that time. … I told [the people] that all this was of my own free will, that I was not constrained to do it, … and that they must not do harm to my brother because he was doing God’s work and God would punish them if they interfered.


Jane's experience ends happily. Her health returned, and her brother was not persecuted for baptizing her.

What I love most about Jane is how once she had her own experience with priesthood power, her resolve was firm, and she did whatever it took to commit herself fully to her Heavenly Father. I really related to this. I've had my struggles with the way gender divisions work in the church, and I still can't come up with a satisfactory explanation for why things are divided the way they are. But I know that when the priesthood is exercised by righteous men in the manner the Lord has prescribed, the blessings that have poured into my life are more than I can receive. The majority of the moments where I have been the most sure of the love the Lord has for me, and the work he wants me to do, have come through priesthood power. And that is enough for me. That is all the answer I need to commit myself to the Lord and his work for me. Like Jane, the priesthood helped me put aside my pride and get on the right path.

Sources:
Autobiographical sketch of Jane Snyder Richards, in LDS Historical Department, pp. 1–7, as found in YW Manual 3, Lesson 12: The Blessings of the Priesthood.
History of Utah, volume 4, Orson F. Whitney, 1904.

2 comments:

J. Stapley said...

I was unaware that this story was in the manual. I recently included it in a manuscript Kris and I sent to JMH last December. Here is the excerpt that I transcribed from the Archives:

"As my brother rose from his knew, I showed him my restored arm and hand and begged for baptism. He remon [pg. 7] strated for it was now midwinter and Ice would have to be broken and the exposure might be fatal. But death I was not afraid of. Only I must be baptized. In consequence of my persistence I was carried to the Lake the next day where Ice a foot thick had been broken. The people had congregated in great numbers. Some had told us that my brother would be arrested if he should immerse me in the critical situation I was in However it was done. And I was well form that time. My disease was cured."

Jane Snyder Richards, Autobiography, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives, 6-7.

Erin said...

I've been pleasantly surprised by the many stories I've found in the youth manuals. Thank you for fleshing out the excerpt!