In Our Lovely Deseret: 'If the devil will let us alone for 10 years'

Published: Monday, July 15 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

My daughter, Morag, has always maintained (with a twinkle in her eye) that Heavenly Father has a sense of humor. The following circumstance supports that, I believe.

On July 22, 1857, a great number of the Saints began a pilgrimage up Cottonwood Canyon to Silver Lake. Their purpose was to celebrate Pioneer Day together — to mark 10 years since the first pioneers had entered the valley.

An enterprise involving 2,487 people, 468 carriages and wagons, and more than a thousand horses and mules had to be well-organized. Three boweries had been prepared, with plank floors for dancing and five different bands tuning up to do the honors. And there were numerous choirs that were prepared to celebrate the occasion with song.

The people were happy and united in a feeling of gratitude to their God. The Stars and Stripes rose and fell on the cool canyon breeze. There were strains of music here and there and the sound of children’s laughter as parents visited and watched the programs that had been prepared.

One special attraction was Capt. John W. Young’s company of light infantry, which was composed of 50 boys between the ages of 10 and 12. In new uniforms, their heads held high, they were referred to as "The Hope of Israel," and they knew what that meant. They were proud to be known as Mormon boys.

The festivities were going strong at high noon when four dusty, weary travelers arrived in the camp and went immediately into conference with Brigham Young. There was instant tension among the people. Something was amiss. But what could be wrong?

They could not imagine the news they were given when the brethren came out of their tent. The Saints’ mail contract was canceled, a new governor had been appointed by the president of the United States to rule over them, and he was on his way even now — with a force of 2,500 soldiers to back him up.

There was the stillness of horrified disbelief on the faces of the hundreds of men and women who had suffered and sacrificed time after time, then followed their leaders into the unknown, through wastes and wilderness, to find this new home. Many of them had left cherished loved ones behind in shallow graves. And now? Could the nightmare really have followed them all this way?

President Young remembered. He had been granted precisely what he had asked for, and not a day more. The irony of the occasion did not escape him. He wrote, "The day I entered Salt Lake Valley 24 July 1847 I remarked — if the devil will let us alone for 10 years — we will bid them defiance. July 24 1857 — 10 years to a day — I first heard of the intended expedition to Utah under Genl. Harney. I feel the same now. I defy all the powers of darkness" (see “Secretary’s Journal,” Aug. 20, 1857).

President Young entertained no doubts; his entire life had prepared him for this emergency. He knew the truths and eternal ways of the kingdom, they were engraved like letters of fire upon his soul.

"I do not wish men to understand that I had anything to do with our being moved here," he told the people. "That was the providence of the Almighty. It was the power of God that wrought out salvation for this people. I never could have devised such a plan" (see "Discourses of Brigham Young," by John A. Widstoe, p. 481-82).

On another occasion he said, "The Lord wished us to gather to this place. He wished us to cultivate the earth, and make these valleys like the Garden of Eden … and build a temple as soon as circumstances would permit" (see “Journal History of Brigham Young," Feb. 14, 1853).

So of course, there was no hesitation, and President Young let the government authorities understand that he expected the constitutional rights of his people to be maintained. Mobs would not again despoil them of their homes and lands. With a scorched-earth policy, the Mormons would level their precious cities if they had to with their own hands.

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