Back Previous chapter Table of Contents Table of Contents Next chapter Next chapter

PLANO DAYS

For many years, the work of the church centered in the little village of Plano on the Fox River, in Kendall County, Illinois. Here the Herald, after it was moved from Cincinnati, was published under the active supervision and editorship of Joseph Smith, the President of the church. From the church press in Plano were issued other books and tracts dear to the hearts of the Saints, who were eager for literature in relation to Young Joseph and the rapid spread of the church.

About the year 1865, a young war widow came to reside in Plano with Elijah Banta and his wife of Sandwich, Illinois. She was born in Ohio, and had followed the fortunes of the church with her parents and large family of brothers and sisters through the Missouri days and those at Nauvoo. She was just old enough when she left Nauvoo to know that Mormonism had marked her family with a great tragedy, which nothing, it seemed, might ever efface. She had resolved never again to have anything to do with it.

Educated women were uncommon in the days of Marietta Hodges (later, and better known as Marietta Walker). She had been from childhood engaged in school work, first as a student in the boarding school for girls kept by a Mrs. Avis in Saint Louis, then in 1859 a student and graduate of Oxford College for Women at Oxford, Ohio. Later having been called to Texas to take charge of a sister's motherless children (one of whom was Lucy Lyons, later Resseguie), she presided over Westmoreland College in San Antonio, Texas.

She was married on the eve of the War to a young southern soldier, Robert Faulconer, and in the second year of the War his death left her with a fatherless baby daughter, Lucy. As soon as she could get through the lines after the War, she found a haven in the home of her sister, Mrs. Banta, who had joined the Reorganization. She resolved anew to have nothing to do with the church, but at length, having met Joseph Smith, whom she had known when they were both children in Nauvoo, her prejudices were eventually overcome, and she threw herself unreservedly into the work of the church, becoming as time went on probably the most outstanding woman of the Reorganization. To her Joseph Smith wrote on her seventy-seventh birthday:

The secret of much of the attraction which drew me to the home of Elder Banta was this: As the Savior at the house of Lazarus found Mary and Martha and there spent hours of relaxation, it is no disparagement to the example set by him, that I, striving to follow in the precepts that he had given, confess here and now that at Brother Banta's I found a Lazarus, a Mary, and a Martha, and I owe much of my usefulness, not only that year, but afterwards, to the feasts of intellectual conversations and bright interchange of thought upon intellectual matters that I found with the Mary of the household. The result of these conversations in general are with me still. I acknowledge my indebtedness here to you, that while I enjoyed the splendid hospitality of Brother Banta and his companion, I valued the comfort of the chats upon gospel work and intellectual affairs with yourself and your mother.1

The small band of willing missionaries were pushing their way into every community where they knew old Saints to have lived. Canada was now a fertile field for missionary efforts, and as soon as the war cloud lifted, the first missionaries went into the Southern States. Perhaps the first missionaries to the Southeast were W. A. Litz and Calvin A. Beebe, who wrote jointly from Cokerville, Monroe County, Alabama, on March 7, 1866, to say:

On our arrival here January 6 we were well received, and doors were opened to us to preach almost in every house. Our meetings were well attended and the best of order preserved. In fact, we can never speak in too high terms of praise of the people we have found here. In the two months we have been here, we have, by the blessing of God, baptized twenty-five, who are rejoicing in the truth of God, and many more are believing who will, we suppose, obey soon. We expect on tomorrow to organize a branch here and to baptize some more.

The following day four more were baptized, and a branch called the Lone Star Branch was formed. In the meantime Levi Graybill and Benjamin Ballowe had opened the work in Tennessee.

The first two missionaries soon extended their work to Georgia and Florida.

Late in the same year, after a visit home, W. A. Litz and W.

L. Booker left Nebraska City in November and were joined on the way by Thomas Waddell of Saint Louis. Brother Waddell, who was well liked by the southern Saints, succeeded in baptizing a number of converts in Alabama and Florida, and wrote home at times, reporting wonderful progress. Between May and August of the year 1866, he baptized seventy and organized two branches. He wrote: "I am happy to know that the Lord has blessed my labors wheresoever I have been." That was his last letter to the Herald. On the 30th of September he took ill with typhoid fever, from which he never recovered. At the home of W. W. Squires he died, the first missionary of the Reorganized Church to die, at his post in the mission field. Those who had loved him laid him to rest under the tall southern pines, a few miles above Milton, Florida, on a bluff overlooking the east side of Black Water Bay. Years later another missionary replaced the decayed headboard with a cedar slab, upon which he carved an inscription, noting name and date of death.

While the new missionaries carried on so joyously, an old veteran of the faith was laid to his rest in Ogden Cemetery. That old-time missionary was none other than Thomas B. Marsh, president of the first Quorum of Twelve who died in January, 1866. Elder Thomas Job, then a missionary in Utah, wrote that T. B. Marsh was at the Reorganized Church conference in Salt Lake City and bore a strong testimony to the truth and necessity of the Reorganization. And when a revelation from Youth Joseph was read to him, he said it was the voice of God and again testified that he knew it. He desired the missionaries to write to Young Joseph, asking that he send and bring him back from there. He vowed that he had faith that he could bear the journey and join the young Prophet.2 But before his wish could be granted he was called to his long home.

Through all the years since the revision of the Scriptures had been finished by Joseph Smith the first Prophet it had been carefully guarded by his wife, Emma Smith. The church had long looked forward to its publication, and April 10, 1866, a motion was passed in the General Conference at Plano, that "the church publish the New Translation immediately."

On the second day of May, following this conference, William Marks, W. W. Blair, and Israel Rogers went to Nauvoo to procure the manuscript for what was then, rather erroneously, called the "New Translation." Emma Smith firmly refused any payment for her careful watch care over the manuscript through the years, saying if she received a copy of the book, she would consider herself amply repaid. If, she told them, she had wished to sell the book, she could have done so years ago and for a substantial price. During the twelve months following, every effort was made to make a perfect copy for publication from the manuscript and the old Bible3 from which the revision was made.

The church was poor and had not the funds for this work, which was really a large task for so small a group, but a plan was formulated whereby all of the presidents of branches and districts were authorized to solicit subscriptions for publishing the New Translation (in reality a revision), and each person who made a donation was to receive one of the books at cost. While the money was being collected, the copy was being prepared. By a year from the following autumn the book was ready to be stereotyped, and W. W. Blair and Ebenezer Robinson (the same Robinson identified with the early printing concerns of the church) were looking after the work in Philadelphia. At the same time, they were preaching to those who had once been identified with Sidney Rigdon and succeeded in baptizing ten while they stayed there. The last Herald of 1867 brought to the waiting Saints the glad news that the first five hundred of the first edition of five thousand copies of the "Inspired Translation of the Holy Scriptures" had been received and were ready for mailing.

One student of the Scriptures once jocularly remarked, "I don't know what right Joseph Smith had to change the Bible, but he certainly improved it." Another more earnest critic says:

This much, at least, may be said of many of the changed readings found in the Bible of the Reorganized Latter Day Saints: Its author had the courage deliberately to alter the text and make it say clearly what many Bible students succeed in getting by theological legerdemain. This Bible contains the usual thirty-nine books of the Old Testament, and the usual twenty-seven of the New. No apocryphal books are admitted, but the Book of Mormon is accepted as inspired equally with other books of the Bible.4

During these formative years, the question of tithing had to be approached very gently. Some believed in it, but many having seen its abuse in other factions were opposed so strongly to its teaching that they would almost have left the church rather than have seen it enforced. They had seen such abuses as one tenth of the meager city relief given to poor widows in England taken from them, and to those people the safest way out of the difficulty was just to say nothing at all about tithing. But as time went by and confidence was restored, the financial affairs of the church were put on a sounder basis.

Then in 1870, Israel L. Rogers, the church's first Bishop, offered to give the church all that it owed him, $4,097.26, placing it on the books as his tithing, and offering as a pledge of his faith in the financial law to pay tithing annually from then on. The interpretation of the Reorganized Church in 1867, viz., that the law first requires one tenth of one's net worth and then one tenth of the annual increase, has been the interpretation of the church from that time on, though many have preferred to tithe their entire income. Tithing has been voluntarily contributed from the first, but as prejudices have died down and confidence increased, the custom in the church has come more and more into favor, until few today think of questioning the scriptural method of financing the Lord's work.

The priesthood was fast assuming more orderly formation, and in 1870 a resolution was passed "that the presidents of the seventies be requested to inquire into the conditions of the seventies," and steps were taken to organize into quorums. Joseph Smith, in editorials in the Herald, defined in detail the duties of the Twelve and the Seventy, and with inspiring words rallied them to a sense of the importance of their mission.

Purse and scrip are laid aside. It is the Lord's work. He has promised to provide for them. Self-denial is to become a pleasure, danger is forgotten, fear overcome and cast out; revilings accepted with humility, and scoffings without reproach; the goods of this world measured only by their usefulness to the advance of truth; wisdom taken as a companions--lovely handmaiden of the Lord; and with the blue dome as their rooftree, the Lord their refuge in sunshine and in storm; his hand their guard, his Spirit their comfort and their guide; Christ their pattern, his followers their brethren, and all the world their neighbors, they pass out, away from the scenes dear to them into the great harvest field, there to wield the sword of truth as ambassadors for Christ, and him crucified.5

Nor was, that picture of the old-time missionary overdrawn. Constantly encouraged to make their work of that pattern, they honored their calling and held it sacred. Joseph Smith early outlined in minute detail the manner of serving communion, administering to the sick, and other rites and ceremonies of the church, and with one accord his directions were followed, making much for unity. Throughout his long service as President of the church, no dissension rose over these parts of the service, although its membership came from so many different "factions." Thus his time and that of the officers of the church could be given to other more weighty things. And so it happened as time passed that he who had taken the lead of a suspicious, divided priesthood came to the place where Brother Joseph's opinion on most matters almost had the weight of law, and the customs established during those years still reign in the hearts of those who lived and walked with him. Truly, "he being dead yet speaketh."

Plano continued to be the headquarters of the church for many years. A little stone church had been built there in the summer of 1868, dedicated November 15 of that same year, and a branch gathered there, but the authorities of the church still looked forward to some sort of colonization. Not in Independence--not yet--but a preparatory gathering somewhere in "regions round about."

In 1860 the church numbered, all told, less than five hundred. In eight years' time the number had grown to more than ten thousand.

Without any organized capital, the church had printed and sold or given away some ten thousand volumes of three- to five-hundred pages each, besides stereotyping and printing five thousand copies of the Inspired Translation, and many tracts and papers.

On May 1, 1869, appeared the first issue of the Herald printed on the church's own fine new Taylor Cylinder Power Press, operated by steam. The church was justly proud of that new acquisition. In July, a child's paper appeared, sponsored largely by Marietta Faulconer, later Mrs. S. F. Walker. The name, appropriately, was Zion's Hope. Although changed in form, it is still issued by the Herald press.

In January, 1888, the first issue of a new monthly magazine, Autumn Leaves, for young people appeared for the first time. Marietta Walker was editor. This magazine continued under the same name until the name was changed to "'Vision" with the issue of January, 1929. The magazine was discontinued with the issue of August, 1932, another victim of the depression.

The years bringing achievement brought their inevitable sorrows. One by one the faithful old soldiers who had carried on through the years fell from the ranks in death: William Marks, Josiah Butterfield, Samuel Powers, James Blakeslee. And the faithful old missionary, Zenas H. Gurley, who had been so prominent in bringing about the Reorganization of the church, died at his post in the mission field, dying as he had lived, in the work he loved best.

1 Zion's Hope, Volume 43, page 105.
2 The True Latter Day Saints' Herald, Volume 9, page 139.
3 This Bible was in the possession of Vida Smith Yates, Independence, Missouri, and was a gift to her from her father, Alexander H. Smith, who received it from his mother, but since this book was written it has been given by Mrs. Yates to her cousin, Israel Alexander Smith, her father's namesake. I. A. Smith, a son of "Young" Joseph and a grandson of the Prophet, was President of the Church from 1946 to 1958.
4 P. M. Simms in The Bible From the Beginning, pages 145-147. Mr. Simms failed to observe that the "Song of Solomon" is omitted from the Old Testament In the Inspired Version.
5 The True Latter Day Saints' Herald, Volume 9, page 130.

Back Previous chapter Table of Contents Table of Contents Next chapter Next chapter