In our Seminary class, the students and I have read the Lord’s counsel verse after verse to “fear not.” I’ve challenged them to face and overcome their fears. I have ancestors who joined the Restored Church during the New York and Kirtland eras (that we’re reading about in Seminary) and I’ve thought a lot about how they reacted to these “fear not” verses and why the verses were necessary in the first place.
How did they increase their faith in the Lord to overcome all fear? Did they?
I see these people as giants of faith, whose faith flourished despite being beaten and mobbed and even killed. They somehow figured out how to break their attachment to mortality and trust the Lord’s covenants and promises.
When I feel afraid, I reread three particular stories from the journal of Lucius Scovil (or Scoville) my 4th great grandfather who joined the Church in Kirtland, Ohio. They hit three fears I’ve felt: fear of persecution, fear in facing sanctifying trials, and fear in standing up when I could hide in safety.
How do you react when you’re afraid? I hope everyone can find courage in Grandpa Lucius’ brave reliance on the Lord’s promises.
Fear of Persecution—Lucius Bravely Reacted Persecution
After being commanded to gather in Missouri, Lucius and his wife’s uncle, Oliver Snow, found a lot at Diahman and worked steadily to prepare before the approaching winter.
Mob violence flared during this time, driving Saints from their homes, so that many went to Far West. But the mobs followed the Saints to Far West and continued to persecute the Saints there, too, by burning their homes and destroying other property.
Finally, round the clock guards were placed around the area and every man required to serve on guard duty. One day, Lucius and Noah Rogers did picket guard duty several miles from town. A daughter of Lucius, Elmina, recorded the harrowing incident.
They had been riding through the timber most of the time but had left it some time before. They were about a mile and a half from it when they suddenly found themselves confronted by a large mob which had seen them leave the timber and had ridden into a gully to hide until the two men approached. Mr. Scovil and Mr. Rogers were almost upon them when they rode into view and told them to halt.
Instead of doing as they ordered, they turned their mounts and rode hard for the timberline. Two members of the mob had much faster horses than the others and had drawn steadily away and were rapidly overtaking the two men, who were riding for their lives, because it was known by them that if they allowed themselves to be caught, the mob might shoot them down in cold blood.
All of them were heavily armed and it was the practice of the mobs to fire upon the Saints whenever the opportunity arose.
And now, as they were about to ride into the timber, which meant safety, they were confronted by a deep ravine with perpendicular walls. This ravine was fully sixteen feet wide and the horses were running with such speed that stopping was almost out of the question.
But it was not left for them to decide. The horses kept straight on, and, making a tremendous leap, spanned the ravine, landing safely on the other side.
Members of the mob who were close behind them at once started to fire upon them. None of the shots took effect but were so close they could be heard whistling by their heads. One shot, just before they rode out of range, grazed Lucius’ ear, which caused a slight deafness he was to suffer all his life.
They were soon in the timber, out of range and for the present, safe. After winding their way through the heavily wooded country, in order to lose anyone that might be following, they, at last, arrived back in town, thankful to have escaped the assassins who would have taken their lives for no other reason than that they believed in a different faith.
Fear of Trials—Lucius Courageously Faced His Greatest Trial
On January 14, 1846, my great grandmother Lury Snow Scovil gave birth to twin daughters, Mary and Martha. Several days after their birth, the twins died. On January 27th, Lury died also.
Lucius had previously married Alice Hurst in October 1844. Her husband William died on their journey from England to Nauvoo. She had two children with William, a son by Lucius, and became a mother to Lury’s four motherless daughters, the oldest being 14.
The Saints began their exodus from Nauvoo on February 4, 1846, but because of the family’s recent losses, Lucius delayed to prepare the graves of his wife and daughters.
Later in the spring, the Scovil family prepared to leave Nauvoo. On May 6th, Lucius received a mission call to England. On May 8th, he began sending his family’s cattle across the Mississippi River. On May 14th, he crossed the Mississippi as well after a devastating accident with an ox. Finally, after realizing the ox would not be able to pull a cart and making a substitution, Lucius and family set off on their journey.
Lucius penned his feelings as he looked back at Nauvoo.
And when I cast my eyes
To the great Far Fam’d City
I wonder and am surpiz’d
And say Alas! What a pity
That the Saints of the last days
Should have to leave Nauvoo
And dwell in tents and caves
While their journey they pursue.
I arose early this morning, and proceeded as common, to put things in order and truly this was a day long to be remembered by me. Just as we started breakefast, three brethren arrived from the Western Camp with a wagon, going to Nauvoo. This afforded me an opportunity to ride back to Nauvoo.
I resolved to start on my mission to England which seemed ike a painful duty to me to perform, to leave my family to go into the wilderness, and I to turn and go the other way, but inasmuch as I had been appointed to go, I was determined to fill my mission if it cost me all that I had on earth, relying on the word of Jesus, for he said that, “He that is not willing to forsake all for My sake, is not worthy of Me. Yea, houses, lands, fathers, mothers, wife, and children.”
Well, this saying rang in my ears and I thought it best to round up my shoulders, like a bold soldier of the crop, and put my shoulder to the wheel, to assist in rolling forth the kingdom of God, for now that God had set up His kingdom in the last days, it would roll forth with mighty power until it filled the whole earth.
And this duty which God required of me, that I should go forth to the nations of hte earth as it had been predicted on my head by Father Smith at Kirtland the 27 of June 1837. Therefore, I had to take leave of my family, and without purse or scrip, go to perform a mission in a land 6,000 miles away.
When I looked around me and saw my wife and children in a flood of tears, this brought sorrow to my heart and I felt to commend them to God, and to bless them by the authority of the Holy Priesthood, charging them to adhere strictly to counsel and to be patient under all circumstances; and to call upon the Lord day by day, and to be united in the bonds of mutual love and friendship.
I charged my dear wife to take good care of the children, and the children to strictly adhere to their mother in all things, and God would bless them, and me too.
Under these peculiar circumstances, I took my leave of them. But never since I have been in this church, have I seen anything in comparison to this trial, to think of leaving wife and children to go into the wilderness without my being with them to look after them, and they weeping to think of my having to leave them, to go to a far distant country.
But I left them, bidding them god-speed.
By this time, I was completely overcome by my feelings and could not help from bursting into a flood of tears and thus I left them and started on my mission for England.
Fear of Standing Up—Lucius Fearlessly Faces A Steam Boat Mob
Finally, a story that just shows his fearless demeanor occurred onboard a steamboat sailing from St. Louis. He happened to be onboard with five or six men claiming to part of the mob who had terrorized the Saints, including killing 20 Mormons. He recorded that one mobster boasted about setting the barn and home on fire of one family and as the family escaped from the house and began to run for their lives, the mobster took aim and shot the old man in the back.
This old man shot in the back is also an ancestor of mine, Edmond Durfee, one of my mother’s grandfathers. To read this story in my father’s grandfather’s journal overwhelmed my emotions.
The men continued boasting of their exploits for an hour. Lucius recorded,
And one of these Missourians, by the name of Hyra Meyers, said in a boasting manner that he had concluded from that time forward that he would kill every Mormon that he ahd a chance to, and especially on the Steam Boats; he swore that he would throw them overboard, saying that he thought it perfetly right to do so.
I said to myself, “Good God, how can I endure this” for I had heard them boast of many things which I knew were true, and my blood boiled in me, (it was not known who I was) and I decreed in my heart that I would not endure this, for I thought that I would rather die on the spot than think of enduring these anathemas for four or five days, it taking that long to reach Pittsburgh, and I arose in the strength of Israel’s God and told them that I was a Mormon and one of the old school.
“Now,” says I, “if you wish to carry out those measures you have threated to do, you have a candidate, for I am the boy that is ready for you, for you are all a band of murderers, and I care no more for you than I do for hte crackling of the thorns under the pot. Therefore,” I said to them, “repent and be converted that your sins be blotted out.”
Then at this instant, Hyra Meyers made a spring at me, in the fury of a demon, swearing that he would have my heart’s blookd and endeavoring to obtain a pistol to shoot me with, but the passengers became alarmed and seized him, holding him by main strengh. I ranked them all together, telling them that it was just as bad to be an accessory after the act as before.
The Captain, on learning the particulars, placed a guard to protect me from those who had threatened to take my life and seemed determined to do so. But God overruled, and they said no more about the Mormons.
The passengers from the deck above sought my company and I got along quite well.
Seeing how Great Grandfather Lucius boldly acted in hard, fearless situations gives me courage that I can do the same. I know that Lucius put the Lord’s will first in his life and because he did, he could rely on the promises of the Lord.
Behold the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet; be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.