The Saints had nothing for which to be apologetic. Did they not maintain the most ardent support of the Constitution? "We mean to sustain the Constitution of the United States and all righteous law," President Young announced in a public address and as recorded in "The Life Story of Brigham Young," by Susa Young Gates and Leah D. Widstoe. "I say if there is one portion of the people belonging to the Government of United States who love, revere, and hold sacred the Constitution more than any other, it is the Latter-day Saints. They understand its true worth."
Time after time such statements were made by Mormon leaders. And they were followed up by action. Had not the people sent off 500 of their young men to the Mormon Battalion — men desperately needed to carry wives and children across the plains? As Susa Young states in "The Life Story of Brigham Young," "Mob-driven, despoiled, and already in the Indian’s uncharted western domain he appealed loyally to his Government to help subdue the wilderness through peaceful means. Brigham Young had asked for bread. The Government, as usual, handed him a stone."
When the Mormon Battalion headed out on July 20, 1846, on what would be a 2,000-mile march, Brigham Young counseled them and as recorded in the "Journal of Brigham Young": "I instructed the captains to be fathers to their companies, and manage their affairs by the power and influence of their priesthood. I told them I would not be afraid to pledge my right hand that every man will return alive, if they perform their duties faithfully."
President Young's directions now to Gen. Daniel H. Wells, commander of the Nauvoo Legion, were to engage in delaying tactics: burn forage, even set fire to their trains, stampede their animals, destroy the river fords and blockade the roads — but, absolutely, take no lives.
The whole story of the Utah War is for another place than this. Here we are reminding ourselves of the nobility and faith of the people of the Lord — their patient honoring of the land of freedom that the Lord had given them — even if wicked men and blind men once more threatened their most precious rights.
"It is not in the power of the United States to destroy this people," Brigham Young told his friend, Col. Thomas L. Kane as noted in "Comprehensive Church History," "For they (the United States) are in the hands of God, and so are we; and he will do with us as he pleases, and if we do right God will preserve us."
Surely Brother Brigham earned his designation as Lion of the Lord.
Surely, too, he magnified his role as a wise leader and shepherd of the flock.
Gently he prompted his people, over and over again: "As to trials, why bless your hearts, the man or woman who enjoys the spirit of our religion has no trials cast off the yoke of the enemy, and put on the yoke of Christ, and you will say that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. This I know by experience" (see "Journal of Discourse" 16:123).
He was loved of his people. He was loved and trusted by many beyond his own. He had first loved the people, the Lord and the work, and his love never faltered.
"His presence," wrote Brigham Young’s daughter, Susa, in "The Life Story of Brigham Young," "was like light and sunshine and ‘benediction after prayer.’ ”
The Saints had the assurance in their hearts that all was safe and on course as long as Brother Brigham stood at the helm.
Susan Evans McCloud is author of more than 40 books and has published screenplays, a book of poetry and lyrics, including two songs in the LDS hymnbook. She blogs at susanevansmccloud.blogspot.com.
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