Friday, March 21, 2008

The Mother of Frank Croft

I've been missing in action for the past few days. Our stake had a fabulous celebration of women in the church this week, and I've been busy participating. I was thrilled to discover a good friend of mine is a descendant of Drusilla Dorris Hendricks, who I highlighted earlier in the month, and was able to learn even more about her life. Eventually, I'll have to post about it, but a different moment from the celebration really stuck with me, and I'm going to post along that theme tonight.

At the conclusion of the program, all the attendees sang a hymn about motherhood that a woman in our stake had written. I was the only woman at my table that did not have children. At the end of the program, one of these women leaned over to me and said, "I remember that before I had children, I thought moments like these were overly sentimental. But now that I am a mother, it surprises me how much I need them. I don't hear appreciation for what I do anywhere else, and I dedicate so much of myself to doing it." As I was thinking about my blog, I realized just how big a part motherhood plays in the lives of LDS women, yet how infrequently I discuss motherhood here. In part, I think it is because I am not in that phase of my life yet, and I relate more to other elements of these women's stories. But I am firm believer in the importance of the work mothers do, and I want to make sure it is discussed.

I don't know the name of the woman I'm highlighting today; I only know she was the mother of a man named Frank Croft. A small fragment of her story is shared by Arthur M. Richardson (I've put her words in bold so her part of the story stands out more):

Elder Frank Croft was a missionary in the state of Alabama. Because he persisted in his legal rights guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States in preaching righteousness unto the people, he was forcefully taken to a secluded spot of the backwoods for the purpose of receiving lashings across his bare back at the hands of armed and vicious men. Having arrived at the place where they had concluded to administer the torture, Elder Croft was commanded to remove his coat and shirt and bare his back. He was then tied to a tree to prevent his moving while he received his lashing until the blood would flow.

Having no alternative, he complied with the demands of the mob, but in so doing, a letter he had recently received from his mother fell from his coat. A short time before, he had written his parents a letter, condemning mob violence and mistreatment of the elders. In his mother’s letter she counseled: "My beloved son, you must remember the words of the Savior when He said, 'Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my name’s sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for you will have your reward in Heaven for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.' Also remember the Savior upon the cross suffering for the sins of the world when He uttered these immortal words, 'Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.' Surely my boy, they who are mistreating you Elders know not what they do or they would not do it. Sometime, somewhere they will understand and then they will regret their action and they will honor you for the glorious work you are doing. So be patient, my son; love those who mistreat you and say all manner of evil against you and the Lord will bless you and magnify you in their eyes and your mission will be gloriously successful. Remember also, my son, that day and night, your mother is praying for you always."

Elder Croft, tied to the tree, was so situated that he could see the leader of the mob, who had picked up the fallen letter and had decided to read it before giving word to his men to start the lashing. The elder observed the hardness of his features, the cruelty in his eyes.

He then realized that no sympathy could be expected from him. He closed his eyes while waiting the moment when the beating would begin. He thought of home and loved ones and in particular, of his beloved mother. Then he uttered a silent prayer in her behalf. Opening his eyes, a moment or two later, feeling that the leader had had time to finish reading the letter, he was amazed to see that the man had retired to a nearby tree stump and having seated himself, was apparently re-reading the letter; but what was more amazing to the elder was the change in the man’s countenance. He would read a line or two or a paragraph and then sit and ponder. Deep down in the elder's conscience was the hope that the man's heart had been touched by the loveliness and beauty of his mother’s letter.

To Elder Croft, it seemed an interminable time had elapsed when the mob leader arose and approaching the helpless elder said: “Feller, you must have a wonderful mother. You see, I once had one too.” Then, addressing the mob he said, "Men, after reading this Mormon's mother's letter, I just can’t go ahead with the job. Maybe we had better let him go." Elder Croft was released and went his way. The loving influence of his mother seemed very near in his heart and mind.

I think that sometimes the task of parenthood seems overwhelming. What I love about this story is that Mrs. Croft didn't have to be the stereotypical supermom to profoundly influence her child. Maybe she kept a meticulous house, cooked elaborate meals, and organized wildly successful welfare projects; maybe she always burned the stew, couldn't keep up with her mending pile, and felt overwhelmed by her responsibilities. We don't know. It isn't relevant to the story. What provided her son the protection he needed was her testimony, her fervent prayers, and her ability to follow the Lord's promptings. It blows my mind to think of how many mothers out there doing these things, and how large of an influence it has had. I find it remarkable to see how frequently the Lord is able to magnify and transform our efforts when we trust in him, and serve him to the best of our abilities.

Arthur M. Richardson, The Life and Ministry of John Morgan [Nicholas G. Morgan Sr., 1965], pp. 268–68. As found in Aaronic Priesthood Manual 3:30, An Aaronic Priesthood Holder Cherishes Womanhood.


Ardis Parshall said...

Erin, another great post -- thanks for your tributes to all these great women.

Frank's mother was Amelia Mitchell Croft, an Englishwoman who converted with her fiance, and in 1860 they emigrated to Utah as newlyweds. She bore 11 children; a daughter died in infancy and a son as a teenager, but she raised the others to adulthood. Amelia is buried in Enterprise, Utah.

Frank was a missionary in Alabama in 1892-93. It was missionaries like Frank, whose mothers taught them to be faithful and courageous, who found and converted my great-grandparents in Alabama five years later.

I'm really enjoying your blog and the new sisters you are bringing to my attention. Keep up your work, please!

Justin said...

Thanks, Erin, for the interesting post.

I found this news story reporting Croft's return published in the Deseret News in November 1893.

Erin said...

:) I think the best part of doing this blog is that I get to find out the rest of these women's stories. Keep the extra info coming!

Elissa said...

I have always loved this story. It reminds me of the mothers of the Stripling Warriors.

cristie said...

Thanks for writing this blog! As a mother whose proverbial "mending pile" is constantly overflowing, I found this story particularly inspiring. I needed the remember that my influence and testimony are infinitely more important to my children than whether they're wearing clean socks. : )

Jenny Croft M said...

Frank Croft's mother, Amelia "Emily" Mitchell Croft was my Great Great Great Grandmother! She was, indeed, a wonderful woman.

mc said...

She is my great-great-great grandmother, as well. It is especially neat to hear from you Sister Ardis Parshall. I'm leaving in eight days to go on a mission myself. I owe so much to my courageous ancestors and I hope to live up to the name
- Sister Marianne Croft