This is a talk given by my friend, Donna Harbuck. She recently shared, in a Sacrament Meeting talk, some stories about the courageous women in her family background. I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I did.
I start with my great-great grandmother Sarah Augusta Squires. Her family joined the church in England when she was just a child. When she was eight, her family joined the Martin Handcart Company to come to Utah. Sarah was the oldest of 5 children. Her mother was pregnant and had difficulties, so she couldn’t help much. Sarah’s father tied two handcarts together, and Sarah helped him pull the handcarts across the plains. None of them would have survived if Brigham Young hadn’t sent rescuers to help bring them into the valley. As the rescued Saints were traversing a portion of the trail through Echo Canyon, several wagons pulled off to assist in the arrival of a baby girl. One of the rescuers noticed the mother did not have enough clothing to keep her newborn infant warm. In spite of the freezing temperatures, he took off his own homespun shirt and gave it to the mother to wrap the baby. The child was given the name Echo. Echo Squires.
When I first learned of Sarah about 15 years ago, I was so impressed with her courage. At only eight years old, she was required to do so much, and she courageously did it. But, about three years ago, I learned more about Sarah that impressed me even more. After her family was in Utah for about ten years, something happened, I don’t know what, but her parents and younger siblings left the church and returned to England. Sarah was 18 and did not go with them. She knew the church was true, and she stayed. That took great courage to stand up, even to her family, for what she knew was right. Many years later, Echo came back to Utah to visit her sister and she joined the church. Sarah stayed faithful and eventually had eleven children. I would estimate that her posterity in the church numbers in the thousands.
Next, I would like to tell of the courage of my mother, Myra Dickson, and her family. My mother was born and grew up in the town of Pittsburg (not the one you are thinking about), Kansas. When she was about thirteen, missionaries started visiting their home. The missionaries visited periodically for over two years. The women in the home—my grandma, my mother, and her sister—felt the Spirit, studied the gospel and developed testimonies that the church was true. Pittsburg was a small town and they had many relatives there. Soon, my grandfather took a new job in Miami, Oklahoma. They were only there a couple of weeks when missionaries started visiting again. My grandmother was the first to be baptized. My mother was ready, but wanted to wait for her sister. So, the two of them were baptized in March of 1941. Grandpa took a little longer.
All of them had such tremendous courage. Just a little background, in 1941 there were 200,000 members of the church, and 14 missions. What the average person in Kansas and Oklahoma knew about the church at that time was mostly incorrect, even a little frightening. A neighbor told them that the missionaries were there to take the girls back to Salt Lake and keep them in a walled community. Friends and relatives learned that they were listening to the missionaries, and came by often to warn them about the church. Cousins would come and repeat the anti-Mormon material they received from their preachers. A friend’s father who was active in another church even brought one of his church’s apostles to visit their home to warn them. People would ask them, “If this is the true church, why don’t they even have a church building here?”
The church in Miami was small. There were only about 16-20 members and only 1 priesthood holder. They met for meetings in a member’s home. There wasn’t even a baptismal font, so they had to go to a city about 40 miles away to be baptized.
A few years later the family moved to Joplin, Missouri. There were about 50 members there, and often up to 75 when the LDS soldiers at Camp Crowder would come to church. I’m sure they all have great memories of being invited to dinner after church to a home with two eligible, attractive young women. One of my professor’s at the University of Utah was one of those Camp Crowder boys and often talked fondly of my mother.
My mother’s sister Dorothy married and moved to Muskogee, Oklahoma. She searched for the church there and found one other member. She contacted the mission office and asked for missionaries to be sent to Muskogee. They held meetings in a home. When the branch grew a little bigger, they started meeting in a funeral home. Eleven years later, her husband joined the church and eventually became bishop. Soon they had a regular sized building. Dorothy and Bud, for years, were the backbone of the church in Muskogee.
I would like to tell you about another courageous woman, who happens to be sitting in this congregation. I have come to know Jeanne Hughes in the last several years because her grandson David married my daughter Rebecca 2 ½ years ago. (I might add that a month ago they were blessed with a beautiful baby girl.) Jeanne was widowed about thirty years ago. I imagine that must have been so difficult. But, she was courageous in handling her new situation. She has been on the General Relief Society Board, the General Primary Board, and worked with the Cub Scout program. In fact, she was instrumental in coining the phrase CTR, and in developing the CTR ring. She was recently given a special award for lifetime service in scouting. She is a great example to her eighty-eight descendants.
I am sure there are many great stories about others here in the congregation.
Once, my mother said she had been thinking quite a bit lately about a cousin of hers (who has long since passed on). This cousin had once listened to the missionaries and seemed interested. My mother has always been involved with doing family history research, and submitting names of her relatives, for temple work. I inherited this interest from her. I told her that maybe her thinking about this cousin meant something, so when I got home I did a little investigating. My mom had already done the temple work for this cousin, but I noticed that no work had been done for her husband. While looking on Ancestry.com I found that someone, not a member of the church, had recently posted the husband’s genealogy back for several generations. I am in the process of verifying the information and I believe we should be able to do the temple work for 50-100 people when it is complete. All of this from the inspiration my mother is still receiving on family history.
I know that this is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. That he lives, and loves us, and that we have a prophet on the earth today.
Thank you Donna!