Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Susanna Goudin Cardon

I’ve been thinking a lot about the many ways that faith influences romance and marriage, particularly back during the polygamy days, so you will probably see that theme popping up from time to time in my next few posts. Mormon women have dealt with these complexities in a variety of ways, and I’ve been impressed with women that have prayerfully made a variety of choices. :) So in other words, if you see me praising a woman who took one stance, don’t worry – just wait a few days, and I’ll be praising a woman who did something completely different. I admire all of these women’s ability to make hard choices about such an emotionally charged and completely life-altering area of their lives.

When Lorenzo Snow and other missionaries came on a mission to Italy in 1850, interestingly enough, their only converts were members of a group called the Vaudois. The Vaudois were an isolated group living in the Alpines that claimed an unbroken succession of pastors back to the original Apostles of Christ, and were therefore hated and persecuted by the Catholic Church and associated monarchs. Susanna Goudin and her immediate family were among the converts. Her family became disillusioned and lost their faith, but Susanna stayed faithful and made the decision to immigrate to Utah without them, making the difficult journey with a relative in 1854.

During her stay in Florence, Nebraska, where she stayed while her handcart company was organized, Susanna met and fell deeply in love with a non-Mormon that lived in the area. Susanna had to make the agonizing choice of staying with the man she loved or travelling to Utah with the saints. She decided to follow her faith, but she mourned her loss for a long time. In fact, she “wept bitterly” when she went to the Endowment House a year later to marry Paul Cardon, another Vaudois convert that had made the journey (and, incidentally, her first cousin). Brigham Young reassured her that she had made the right decision, and Susanna trusted his council. She married Paul, and her family remembers their relationship as being full of love, devotion, respect and harmony, even when he took a second wife in 1870.

Susanna was a woman that used her talents to better the condition of those around her. One of the most prominent ways that she did this was her involvement with the Deseret Silk Association. During her youth in Italy, funds were tight due to her father’s early death, so she supported herself through reeling silk. Susanna was quite gifted in the silk arts, so when Brigham Young and Eliza R. Snow, as part of the church’s push towards economic self-reliance, set up silk-raising projects in all of the roughly 150 local Relief Societies in Utah, Susanna became a prominent teacher in this movement. She was so talented that Brigham Young called her on a three month “silk mission” to Salt Lake City, where she trained women from across the territory, who in turn would return their Relief Societies and teach other women. When her mission ended, she continued to teach the sisters of the Logan Relief Society. When I look at Susanna’s life, I am impressed with the way she followed God’s plan for her, often at great personal cost. She had many struggles in her life, but through her faith, the Lord protected her and put her in positions to make valuable contributions.

Sources: Sister Saints, Vicky Burgess-Olson, 1978.

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