Monday, May 12, 2008

Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, part 1 of 2

I work with the young women in my ward, so I'm especially drawn to accounts of brave, spiritual, and intelligent teenagers girls that have a profound influence for good.

A few weeks back, I had a discussion with my husband about influential Mormons, and he brought up Mary Rollins and her sister, Caroline (isn't he great?). Mary was one of those women that I learned a little about in primary and promptly forgot about, so it was good to be reacquainted with her, and learn more about the rest of her story. I could probably spend a month on Mary, but I'm just going to focus on the teenage Mary in these two posts.

When Mary was ten, she moved to Kirtland, Ohio with her widowed mother and two siblings. After living there for two years, they heard Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, and Ziba Peterson teach about the restoration, and twelve-year-old Mary and her mother were baptized in 1830. A little later, John Whitmer brought a copy of the Book of Mormon to Kirtland. Mary found out that Brother Morley had it, and sought him out. She managed to talk him into giving her the book for the night, even though he hadn't yet opened it himself.

When she took it home, she was chastised by her family for her precociousness, but everyone took turns reading it. Mary loved it. When she returned the copy to Brother Morley the next morning, he commented that she couldn't have read or remembered much of it; she responded by repeating a verse she had memorized and outlined the history of Nephi. She states that he was shocked, and told her "child, take this book home and finish it, I can wait." Around the time she finished the book, Joseph Smith arrived in Kirtland. Joseph visited Mary's home, and when he found out that Mary was the reason the copy of the Book of Mormon on their bookshelf, he immediately gave her a blessing, as well as giving her Brother Morley's copy permanently.

Mary heard Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, and Thomas Marsh speaking in tongues at Sunday meetings, and "made it a subject of prayer" to understand tongues. One day when the three men came to her family's home with unfolded sheets from the Book of Commandments, they began speaking in tongues and called on Mary to interpret it, and she did. She states that as she did so, she felt the spirit of the revelations "in a moment." Her testimony of the value of these revelations was very powerful, and she would take great risks in the future to preserve them.

Autobiography of Mary E. Lightner, Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, UG&HM 17 (1926).


Anonymous said...

I am a direct decendant of Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner. I am her ggggrandson. I have photos of her copy of the Book of Commandments and her 1841 version of the Book of Mormon that has a lock of Joseph Smith's hair on the inside page signed by him. My email address is

Greg said...

Hi Erin - what a beautiful story. I recently posted some excerpts from Mary's autobiography and her testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith on my blog. See Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner Testimony.

Tressie Lynn said...

I am a direct descendant of Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, and I always enjoyed hearing about her in Primary, but no one every taught me a lot about her. I was curious so I Googled her, and found your blog! I'm so thankful that you wrote this post! Thank you so very much!

Taira Rollins said...

i am also a decendant of Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner and her story is something my family has always taken pride in :) lately i have been having doubts and troubles wit the church so i decided to look up more of her story in hopes that maybe the stories of her strength might teach me strength as well :)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

That is such an amazing story! Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner is my 5th Great Grandma and I am very proud of that!