The high council speaker in our sacrament meeting yesterday was accompanied by a twenty two year old neighbor from the Ogden Valley who suffered a terrible freak accident four years ago that left him paralyzed from the neck down. The young man's talk was inspiring. He related how his experience in dealing with sudden paralysis had helped him draw closer to the Savior. His terrible adversity had given him a new and healthy perspective of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord. His testimony was born of real and relevant circumstances of adversity. I felt inspired by this young man's turning to the Lord because of his adversity.
The high councilman then spoke and recounted the experience of the Stillman Pond family. President James E. Faust told about the Pond family in a conference talk given in April 1979. During the exodus west from Nauvoo, Stillman Pond buried nine children and his wife over the winter of 1846 and 1847. What happened to brother Pond was horrible beyond our capacity to comprehend. What happened to the Pond family also happened in varying degrees to many other early LDS families and people as Nauvoo was abandoned and the Saints moved to the west.
My own family suffered hardship and adversity in the migration west. My great great grandfather, Martin Horton Peck ran over and crushed the leg of his son Edwin under a tremendously heavy wagon wheel. The leg was crushed and useless. The story in our family records tells that Edwin was administered to by my grandfather and was miraculously healed. My own people suffered much on the treck west. And the suffering did not diminish a great deal for several years after the arrival in the Salt Lake Valley.
It is estimated that some 6,000 people perished in the Mormon westward migration. This number likely does not Account for those that died in the Salt lake Valley and outlying locations from starvation and disease over the first couple of years after arrival.
Over the next couple of weeks as the 24th of July commemoration of the arrival of the Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley approaches, we will hear many recountings of the terrible things that happened to the Mormon pioneers after they left Nauvoo. Stillman Pond and others like him have risen to the status of heroes. Any man who buries nine children and his wife and responds in a way to draw closer to God and uses the adversity of his life to become humble and more responsive to God is a good example as far as I am concerned.
Some will say it is a sacrilege to suggest what happened to my own family, what happened to the Pond family, and all others of the early latter day saints who suffered so tremendously in the western migration, should never have happened. A growing number of people, myself included, have begun to realize the hardships and afflictions of the early saints directly resulted from choices and actions (or inactions) of the people themselves contrary to the directions of God. What happened to the people of Nauvoo, my own family included, came after very clear forewarning from the Lord.
The traditional history and stories of the westward migration ignore and never discuss the invitations, promises, and warnings Given by the Lord to the early Saints that may have prevented so much suffering and upheaval to lives as the Saints were "moved out of their place." Those invitations, promises and warnings are found in section 124 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Among the stipulated promises from the Lord, was the promise that the people would not be "moved out of their place" if they would "hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people." (D&C 124: 45)
I have concluded for myself by careful study and much prayer, that the early church and the saints, including my own family were in fact "moved out of their place" of Nauvoo and suffered the terrible consequences promised by the Lord for their failure to adhere to His word. The Lord said to them:
46 But if they will not hearken to my voice, nor unto the voice of these men whom I have appointed, they shall not be blest, because they pollute mine holy grounds, and mine holy ordinances, and charters, and my holy words which I give unto them.
47 And it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfil the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord.
48 For instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practise before me, saith the Lord. (D&C 124: 46-48)
As the high councilman spoke and recounted the terrible afflictions that befell the Stillman Pond family, I was inspired by Stillman Pond's stalwart reaction to the horrible adversity inflicted on him and his family. He showed extraordinary courage and determination to continue on despite the loss of his children and wife. However, my thoughts were filled with the warnings of the Lord from section 124 that seemed to be fulfilled in the experiences of the Pond family, my own family, and the families of all the others who were in fact "moved out of their place." Not only were they moved out of their place, but also what they experienced in the exodus from Nauvoo, in my judgment, fulfilled the promise of the Lord that "instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practise before me." (D&C 124: 48)
Others have done a magnificent work in recounting and reconstructing the failure of the saints to complete the Nauvoo temple in the allotted time allowed by the Lord as set forth in section 124. I simply add my testimony that the failure of the saints to construct and complete the Nauvoo temple in the allowed period of time, (D&C 124: 31-32) resulted in Joseph Smith forfeiting his life, the fullness of the priesthood never being restored again by the Lord after it was lost, (D&C 124: 28) and the saints being "moved out of their place." (D&C 124: 45)
Despite claims by Orson Hyde that the temple was completed and dedicated "by the skin of our teeth," the promise of the Lord to "consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy" (D&C 124: 44) was never realized. Instead, although it was hastily dedicated, the temple was never fully completed. It was burned by an arsonist and the remains were further destroyed by a tornado. Not one stone was left atop another the destruction was so complete. There is no record that God or angels ever came into the incomplete Nauvoo temple.
Stillman Pond was a good man I don't doubt it. He reacted in an inspiring way to the adversity he and his family experienced. What happened to the Pond family, what happened to my own family, and all of the Nauvoo residents who were promised by the Lord that they would not be moved out of their place if they would hearken to His voice, was completely avoidable. The people were invited, they were given conditional promises, they were warned, they made the choices they made and they were moved out of their place.
We are told and taught that it was mob violence and persecution that led to the saints abandoning Nauvoo. I personally believe the Lord was fully capable of keeping his promise to the saints that they would not be moved out of their place if they would hearken to His voice. I conclude instead it was no failure of the Lord's that led to the people being moved out of their place. I conclude that all the suffering, the cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments experienced by the Nauvoo pioneers were just what the Lord promised would follow failure to obey Him. (D&C 124: 48)