Monday, October 22, 2012

A Dream and the Fork in the Road

 Image result for fork in the road

Who did non-member John Morgan see in his dream?

A)     The angel Moroni

B)     Brigham Young

C)     His wife

D)     The Three Nephites

Yesterday’s answers

1.      (B)   That she lives to receive her endowments

Caroline Crosby wrote of her experience ministering to a sick woman who eventually died in the first months of 1846: “I went to visit her, washed and anointed her from head to foot, with sister P’s help.” She continues, “She seemed very anxious to live to receive her endowments in the temple and we also felt very sorry that she could not. I anointing her, inadvertently told her, that it was for her burial. Notwithstanding my anxiety to have her live. But the words some way pressed themselves out of my mouth.”

Edward Leo Lyman, Susan Ward Payne, and S. George Ellsworth, eds., No Place to Call Home: The 1807-1857 Life Writings of Caroline Barnes Crosby, Chronicler of Outlying Mormon Communities (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2005), 64-65.

2.      (C)   Gave her the sacrament

Later that same year, Samuel W. Richards lingered in New York City before sailing to Britain as a missionary. A “Sister Lincoln who was very sick with a cancer” requested that he and several other elders visit. Finding her in good faith, but not expected to live, the men sang and prayed with her. They “administered the sacrament of bread and wine to her. Then she was anointed with oil unto the day of her burial which was sealed by the laying on of hands and prayer.”

Samuel W. Richards, Diary, September 11, 1846, microfilm of holograph, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.

3.      (A)   Bless her that she dies fast

In Utah, deathbed rituals became increasingly documented. For example, after an 1865 meeting of the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles, Wilford Woodruff wrote that several Church leaders “called upon Sister Gray who had a canser in the breast which was Eating her Vitals and rotting her flesh. Presidet Young Cannon, & myself laid hands upon her. She wished us to pray that she might speedily die as she Could not live. Presidet Young dedicated her to God for her death & burial. In about 12 hours she died.”

Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833-1898, Typescript, ed. Scott G. Kenney, 9 vols. (Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1983-84), 3:441.

Additional interesting information:

Susan Julia, second wife of James Henry Martineau, after a protracted and painful sickness, confessed that “she was satisfied with life, and desired to go.” Over a period of days, she gave counsel to friends and family and finally she “wished me [James Martineau] to bring the elders, and give her up, provided she could not be healed. J.E. Hyde came in, and he and I dedicated her to the Lord and gave her up—to His will. It was a hard thing for a husband to do—oh, so hard. When we had finished, she said—‘oh I am so glad; so glad.’”

Donald G. Godfrey and Rebecca S. Martineau-McCarty, eds., Uncommon Common Pioneer, The Journals of James Henry Martineau, 1828-1918 (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2008), 174.

4.      (C)   George A. Smith

Not long before the Tout burial, Church members began the practice of offering formal dedicatory prayers at the graves of their dead. Though graveside prayers were likely common for decades, the first formal grave dedication that I have been able to document was that of George A. Smith in 1875. The Deseret News reported on the funeral and subsequent graveside service: “After the large crowds of people had dispersed save a few, Elder John L. Smith, brother of the departed, and others remaining, knelt around the grave while he offered up a heart-felt, soul moving, prayer, dedicating the ground and the remains, that they might rest undisturbed till the morning of the resurrection.” One can safely conclude that the dedication of George A. Smith’s grave was not the first in the history of Mormonism. However, Wilford Woodruff, who frequently mentioned details of burial services in his diaries, did not start mentioning graveside prayers and dedications until 1877. It is therefore likely that the grave dedication ritual arose in the 1870s.

“President Brigham Young,” Deseret News, September 8, 1875, 505.

Additional Interesting Information:

 As part of their reforms, the First Presidency issued instructions against deathbed rituals. In the 1922 Improvement Era, Heber J. Grant, Charles W. Penrose, and Anthony W. Ivins of the First Presidency wrote:

The custom which is growing in the Church to dedicate those who appear to be beyond recovery, to the Lord, has no place among the ordinances of the Church. The Lord has instructed us, where people are sick, to call in the elders, two or more, who should pray for and lay their hands upon them in the name of the Lord; and “If they die,” says the Lord, “they shall die unto me; and if they live, they shall live unto me.” No possible advantage can result from dedicating faithful members of the Church to the Lord prior to their death. Their membership in the Church, their devotion to the faith which they have espoused, are sufficient guarantee, so far as their future welfare is concerned.

   The administration of the ordinances of the Gospel to the sick, is for the purpose of healing them, that they may continue lives of usefulness until the Lord shall call them hence. This is as far as we should go. If we adhere strictly to that which the Lord has revealed in regard to this matter, no mistake will be made.

First Presidency, “On Dedication the Sick and the Suffering to the Lord,” Improvement Era 25 (October 1922): 1122.

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