Thursday, October 30, 2014

Franklin S. Harris and the Fine Arts



Franklin S. Harris and the Fine Arts

I think I speak for all my cousins in saying that we are honored to be here to 
help celebrate the fine arts at BYU and the contribution of Franklin S. Harris 
to the fine arts.  The BYU legacy is alive in the Harris family.  All of his 
children and many grandchildren and great grandchildren have graduated from BYU.  
There are currently at least five great grandchildren who are students at BYU 
and numerous great great grandchildren. Three great grandsons are currently 
working or teaching on campus.

Prior to becoming president of BYU in 1921 Harris was an agronomist and 
scientist at Utah State Agricultural College in Logan.  More than one person has 
asked why the Harris Fine Arts Center was named for this scientist.  I think 
there are two main reasons.

Harris was a personal patron of the arts.  Shortly after Harris's death B.F. 
Larsen sent some notes to Herald R. Clark in which he quoted Harris as saying, 
"I use my knowledge of science to make a living, but through my interest in art 
I live."  In an abridged version, this saying has been used a number of times. 
Whether he actually said it or not, it certainly characterizes his philosophy. 
As BYU president he attended more arts events than athletic events, which 
probably could not be said of any president since. While traveling, which was 
frequently, he always visited museums and art galleries and attended the theater 
and concert halls.  The amazing thing was that many years later he would 
remember a specific work of art that he had seen. Harris liked to listen to the 
Texaco Metropolitan Opera on the radio on Saturday mornings.  He would be 
disappointed to know that KBYU-FM no longer carries the Metropolitan Opera in 
its programming.  At one point he
 even wrote a letter to the Texaco Company in which he said that whenever he 
listed to the opera it made him want to rush out and buy Texaco gasoline.  His 
children, however, did not remember that he ever bought Texaco gasoline.

In addition to his personal support of the arts, Harris was a great supporter of 
the arts at BYU.  In the 1920s it was very unusual for a university to have a 
curriculum in the fine arts.  Within a few years after his arrival at BYU he 
established the College of Fine Arts with Gerrit deJong as dean.  It was the 
first such college in the western U.S.  With the help of Herald R. Clark he 
brought numerous performers to this small backwater college.  A niece who was 
raised by the Harrises said, "I can remember the many artists of every kind that 
Uncle Frank lured to the Y.  He was very persuasive." In addition to supporting 
the performing arts he acquired about seven hundred art works and had them hung 
in the offices, halls, and classrooms.  In that day the entire campus was Lower 
Campus (where the Provo City Library now is) and a couple of buildings on the 
point of the hill. Finances were tight, but he had a clever way of acquiring 
art.  He gave tuition
 credit to family and friends of artists in exchange for paintings.  Several of 
Minerva Teichert's paintings were acquired in this way.

I sent a copy of this year's fine arts brochure to a cousin on the east coast 
who has had little contact with BYU.  She was thoroughly impressed with the 
quality of the brochure itself and with the quality of the performance offerings 
at BYU.  I think Harris himself would be pleased and impressed with what has 
been built on the foundation he laid for the fine arts at BYU. The entire 
community has been blessed by this growth. At the close of his administration 
Harris is reported to have said, "After all, I think my greatest accomplishment 
is what we have done with the fine arts."  

Janet Jenson
Founder's Luncheon , BYU, 14 Oct. 2014

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

George Spilsbury


George Spilsbury
1828-1919   
          
George, the fourth son of Joseph and Hannah Haden Spilsbury, was born at Leigh, Worcestershire, England, April 21, 1828. His parents were strict Church of England followers, he was baptized (sprinkled) when he was a month old. He went to the district schools until he was 12 years old, then he went to work with his father.  His father was a brick layer and plasterer, and the son following his own inclinations worked with him at his trade, while his mother kept a small grocery store.  He spent very little time at school, yet was good at reading, writing and arithmetic.    
        
At the age of 17 he attended a cottage meeting at the home of George Brooks in the Leigh Parish.  He was so greatly impressed with the principles of the Gospel, the vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the restoration of the Gospel, he was baptized that night, October 11, 1840. The following February he was ordained a Priest and in July he started on a mission to Herefordshire and Wales.      
        
On the fifth of September he married Fannie Smith, one of his converts from Herefordshire, against the wishes of her parents.  He worked at bricklaying and plastering to earn means with which to migrate to Nauvoo.  The newly wedded couple sailed from Liverpool on the ship Yorkshire.  When near the Gulf of Mexico, a squall one night struck the ship with such force that the masts, sails, and rigging were carried overboard, but no lives were lost.  At the end of a long and rough voyage the vessel anchored at New Orleans.            

The Spilsbury’s had not a dollar with which to buy provisions (except the five dollars Mrs. Spilsbury earned serving on board ship.  This meager amount they used to pay their way up the Mississippi.)  Thomas Bullock lent them money to buy provisions and by giving clothing as security they finally succeeded in raising means to take them to Nauvoo.  They landed their on the 31st day of May.             

The first meeting they attended in Nauvoo, was on the first floor of the unfinished Temple, and their hearts were filled with joy, for they were soon to see the beloved Prophet.  They knew the instant he entered the door, for they could feel his spirit, and no one needed to point him out to them.  So greatly were they impressed with the glory of this great man, that when he shook their hands, they were thrilled.             

He was ordained an Elder on 19 November 1843.  He and Fanny received their Patriarchal Blessings from Hyrum Smith.  The scribe was the mother of President Joseph Smith, Lucy Mack Smith.                                  While a resident of that city he was occupied in building and quarrying stone for the Temple, and the Nauvoo Mansion House.  He spent much time guarding and protecting the Prophet from Mob violence.  He was at Nauvoo the day the martyred Prophet and Patriarch were brought from Carthage amid the sorrow and lamentation of grief stricken people.             

After the Prophet and his brother were slain by the mob, George and Fanny, with others viewed their riddled bodies, at the Mansion House, as George was a member of the Nauvoo Legion, a member of Captain Pitts’ Brass Band, and also acting as a body guard to the Prophet.             

George attended the famous meeting called by Sidney Rigdon after the martyrdom of the Prophet and Patriarch and voted for Brigham Young and the twelve at the conference held 8 August 1844.                          In 1845, George and Fanny received their endowments at the Nauvoo Temple where Brigham Young officiated.  The remained here from 1844 to August 1849, where four daughters were born, and where each of them died.             

They arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah, 3 October 1850.  George being a builder, many homes, church buildings, some of stone, some of adobe, were built by him.  He was faithful, valiant and constant in church and civic affairs, while building his own home.             

Settling in Salt Lake City, they lived in the 14th Ward for 9 years, here his 2nd son, George Moroni was born, also 3 daughters, two dying in infancy.  In 1856 of January they were sealed by Brigham Young at the Endowment House.  In 1859 he was called on a mission to Draper, Utah.  Here he was the postmaster and two sons David and John were born, John passing away.  In 1862 President Brigham Young called George to go to Grafton in southern Utah, arriving there 24 December 1862, this being his third mission.  In 1868 they were forced to move to Rockville for protection from the Indians, but soon moved to Toquerville.  In his first home George built there, he lived in for 50 years until 1918.  In 1868 George was appointed Superintendent of Toquerville Sunday Schools, in 1871 he was Kane County Superintendent, and also a home missionary.  By horse and buggy he visited ten Sunday Schools, ten times a year, making a total of 1000 miles a year over unpaved roads for 47 years.  He was owner and manager of the general store, and here he kept his records, played his flute, and made a gathering place for townspeople to visit.  He was honorably released from the Sunday School after 47 years of service in his 90th year 21 April 1913.    At ninety years of age he did a vast amount of work for the dead in the St. George Temple.  He always had and gave a living testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his church.  He had attended the dedication of the St. George and Salt Lake Temple.  When his son, David, went to England on a mission he obtained over 2000 family names, for nearly half George and his daughter Katy did the work in the St. George Temple.    Mr. Spilsbury was Captain in the Iron County Military District.  He was the father of 13, only five of which reached maturity.  He was selectman of Kane County 1868, 1873, 1882; County Treasurer from 1877 to 1881.  Justice of the Peace, Superintendent of the Sunday School Saint George Stake; President of the Y.M.M.I.A.; and First counselor to Bishop Bringhurst.   On September 16, 1904 President Joseph F. Smith ordained him a Patriarch of Toquerville.  He gave an average of 21 blessings a year in addition to his Sunday School work.    George loved his family and kept in touch with them all, even those in Mexico.  His beloved wife died June 5, 1903 after 12 years of poor health many of them in a wheelchair.  In a letter to a grandson working in Peru he wrote:           

George C. Spilsbury  My Dear Grandson.  O, how I would like to see you.  I wish you was at home.  There seems something lacking without you.  You have filled a good faithful mission and done a great deal of good after you returned home.  I want you to come home don’t delay coming, time is too precious to let it  slip by without filling the aim and object of your mission on the Earth.  Chauncey I know what I am talking about.  I want you to fill the measure of creation and object of your creation on earth.  Chauncey I pray for you all the time.  I  want you to come home and get married and settle down and labor amongst this people.  Let me know right away.  God bless you for ever from your dear Grandpa.                                               
George Spilsbury             

At age 90 he made a trip to visit all his children by himself, going to San Bernardino, El Paso, Mesa, and Old Mexico.  He bore his testimony to his farflung family and gave them patriarchal blessings.  He spoke at many church meetings.  He arrived home by stage from Lund on a Saturday night and that next day visited Sunday Schools at Leeds and Harrisburg.             

In older life his appearance was described as:  blue-eyed and had a full head of white wavy hair, also he had a long, white beard and walked with a slight limp.  He had a spiritual look which demanded respect and reverence by all who met him.  He was soft spoken, having musical talent.  He dressed neatly in a long Black frock coat.             

January 25, 1919 early one foggy morning he took a misstep and fell down the rocky bank of Ash Creek next to his home and died instantly at the age of 95.

Benjamin Franklin & Polly Richardson Stewart


Benjamin Franklin and Polly Richardson Stewart
By Eunice Polly Stewart Harris

            Benjamin Franklin Stewart was born in Jackson Township, Monroe County, Ohio, October 22, 1817, the ninth child in a family of twelve, of Philander Barrett and Sarah Scott Stewart. Polly Richardson Stewart, daughter of Shadrack and Elizabeth Garrett Richardson was also born in a family of twelve children on April 27, 1818, just six months after Franklin. It is always an interesting and happy life to be reared in a large family, especially on the frontiers where every one in the family is supposed to individually choose the responsibility and do his part in the great drama of overcoming the wilderness and bringing its wildness into subjection. Franklin and Polly were both inured in this sort of life. As Franklin was only six years old when death called his father away from his large family, he had but a faint recollection of him. Shortly after his father’s death his widowed mother lost most of her property. His journal says, “he was sent to school quite young and although he was not the foremost in his class he always kept near the head.”

            In 1828, when he was eleven years old his mother sold his farm and other property in Ohio and turned her face toward Illinois to seek a new home for her family. She and her two brothers, united in building a flat boat, which, owing to the cheapness of construction was a common mode of conveyance for river traffic at that time. The three families numbering twenty persons, most children near Franklin’s own age, floated 1000 miles down the Ohio River stopping off at Cincinnati and all the principal cities for sight seeing. What a thrilling and pleasant journey for a boy of Franklin’s age, with no work or responsibility and nothing to do but be idle and enjoy himself. At Shawnee, Illinois they left the boat and traveled overland a distance of two hundred miles to Beard’s Town, Illinois, on the Illinois River. As there were twenty persons in the company and they had but one wagon and one yoke of oxen, it necessitated most of them walking. This would not be much of a hardship for a boy, as traveling would necessarily be slow, but it would be rather a sort of sport. They reached their destination June 10, 1828, after having been one month enroute.

            Franklin was eight years younger than Abraham Lincoln, and he arrived in Illinois three years earlier. Their coming must have been under much the same circumstances. They settled on the Sangamion River in neighboring counties and must have passed through similar experiences in trying in their poverty to subdue the wilderness. Franklin, like Lincoln, had a thirst for education, even while young. Again quoting from Franklin’s journal, “About two years after their arrival in Illinois when he was thirteen years old. A school was established in the neighborhood. He had forgotten about all he learned in Ohio but he started to educate himself by going to school a day or two at a time and sometimes in the winter he could continue for a month.”

            School at that time in Illinois was very primitive. There were Franklin, the boy, and Lincoln, the man, both with their ambitions and high ideals and both desirous for self improvement, living in neighboring counties, both struggling with that difficult problem – the combination of poverty and ambition. Battling with circumstances of this kind often develops traits of character and brings out the best there is in a person and helps to develop powers and possibilities that can be brought out in no other way.

            While Franklin’s ambition was calling him to improve every opportunity for self improvement, he was laboring to subdue the wilderness in this new country, and helping to support his widowed mother and the younger children, he was growing and changing from boyhood to young manhood. Responsibility, work, and hardships seem to hasten maturity.

            In 1833, five years after the Stewarts located in Beardstown, when Franklin was sixteen, Shadrach and Elizabeth Garrett Richardson arrived there from Cumberland County, Kentucky,  with their family of twelve children—seven sons and five daughters. The children were named Soloman, Delila, Comfort, Montillion, Shadrach, Thomas, Polly, Lorenzo Dow, George, John, Zannastacia, and Elizabeth. The ages of the Stewart and Richardson children ranged about the same. They were companions and grew and developed together. Polly Richardson was considered the handsomest girl in the neighborhood.

            Four years later, in 1837, these two families were united by the marriage of Franklin and Polly. A month after the marriage the bridal pair, accompanied by Sarah Scott Stewart and her unmarried children migrated to Iowa and settled on Fox River, Van Buren County, Iowa, about fifty miles from the place where Nauvoo, the headquarters of the Morman Church was founded two years later. Here the gospel found them and Polly and Sarah yielded obedience of its teachings in 1842. Polly believed the gospel. She was very ill with lung fever. There were two Morman elders visiting in the home. She asked to be administered to and was instantly healed and got up and cooked their dinner. As the elders were leaving the neighborhood she insisted on them cutting the ice and baptizing her which they did. Some who knew of the circumstances said if it did not kill her, they would become Mormons but they did not. Miracles do not convert.

            Franklin was interested in politics and held some political office and deferred his baptism until February 26, 1844. They did not gather with the saints in Nauvoo but joined them in their exodus at Winterquarters when they were driven from Nauvoo. During the ten years they lived in Iowa they had six children born to them. Almeda, Polina, Alvina, Benjamin F., Jr., and Orson. Polina and Alvina died in infancy and one was not named. Soon after they arrived in Winter Quarters Franklin was ordained a seventy and he was chosen one of the 144 men to go with Brigham Young to find a place of refuge for the exiled saints. He was one of the seven men left out of the Pioneer company at the Platte River in the midst of dangers, in an Indian country, to ferry over the families of saints who followed that year. Here he was met by Polly, his heroic wife, who came with the first company who followed the pioneers. She had driven her ox team and cared for her three children, the baby Orson being delicate and having to be carried on a pillow. They traveled from there, arriving in Salt Lake, Sept. 27, 1847, and settled in Mill Creek, where Sarah was born three years later. Orson died soon after they arrived in Utah. Franklin built a saw mill in Mill Creek. In November, 1849, he went with other men to explore the southern part of Utah. On this trip they necessarily encountered many dangers, as well as hardships, and privations.

            In March, 1851, they moved to Payson. Sept. 6 of the same year, he married Elizabeth Davis as a plural wife. Ten children came from this marriage as follows; Brigham, George Albert, who both died in infancy, Franklin Henry, Philander Joseph, Rachel Madia, Andrew Jackson, James W., Sadia, Samuel, who died in infancy, and John Oscar, seven of whom grew to maturity. He also married Rachel Davis, and one child, a daughter named Lucinda, came from this marriage.

            In April 21, 1851, Lovina, a daughter was born to Franklin and Polly.

            Franklin built a saw mill in Payson Canyon. While operating this mill all of his family lived there in a cabin near the mill.

            July 17, 1853, a rainy day, some Indians called at the cabin and wanted to trade for some guns they saw hanging on the wall. Franklin told them he did not want to trade them off. They then wanted to see them. Franklin told them it was raining and he was afraid it would spoil them. He did not want them to know the guns were almost worthless. The Indians went away apparently satisfied. The possession of the guns probably saved their lives.

            The next morning at day break they heard shots, and upon investigation, found  it to be the Indians firing from the mountain side. They knew their danger and that their only safety lay in keeping quiet and keeping out of sight until help came. They all met at the mill where a consultation was held. One of the men volunteered to make the hazardous journey to Payson for help. Those who remained crept cautiously and silently through the brush up the creek, where they could better conceal themselves. Help came and they were rescued. That night Alexander Keel was killed by an Indian while standing guard at Payson. This was the beginning of the Walker Indian War. A monument has since been erected to the memory of Alexander Keel in one of the parks in Payson.

            He was engaged in different enterprises in developing and building up the county while his family was increasing and maturing. July 25, 1854, Luther was born, in 1856, L.N. Dorado, and in 1860 Eunice Polly.

            Wherever they lived Franklin was recognized as a leader religiously, politically, and in all civic work. He helped make roads, build canals, and reservoirs, a nail factory, and other enterprises for the building up of the county. In all of these enterprises he was sustained and encouraged by his wife. While he was engaged in helping to subdue the wilderness of the country and build up the community where he lived, Polly was doing her part quietly and uncomplainingly in the home, by taking care of the family and the home, carding, spinning, dying for dresses, and jeans for the men’s and boy’s suits during the day, and fashioning them into clothing by the light of a tallow candle at night. Industry, frugality, and economy seemed to be the slogan in every pioneer home. In 1862, Franklin was set apart as counselor to Bishop J.B. Fairbanks in the bishopric and that same year he was elected mayor of Payson, and he served two terms of two years each. Wherever he lived, like all other pioneers, he tried to beautify his surroundings by planting trees, shrubs, etc.

            He, with his brother, A.J. Stewart, in 1862, laid the foundation of a town three miles north of Payson which was named Benjamin in his honor; thus fulfilling a prophecy concerning him in a patriarchal blessing. In this town he later located with his family and in 1871 a branch of the Payson Ward was organized, and he was appointed to preside over it, which position he occupied at the time of his death.

            During the Walker and Black Hawk Indian wars (1865-1868) the pioneers all over Utah were in constant peril and they had many narrow escapes and many were massacred. A.J. Stewart, Mr. Hickman, and Franklin united in building a fort on A.J. Stewart’s farm about three miles from Payson during the Black  Hawk Indian War and moved their families there. Not more women than necessary were allowed to stay there, but owing to Polly being quite an expert horsewoman she stayed and helped in every way possible. During the Indian trouble, she was as brave and intrepid in meeting real danger as she was uncomplaining and herious in facing the hardships, trials, and privations of a pioneer country. You could not help feeling the strength of her courage and bravery. In my childhood I felt absolutely safe and that no harm could come to me when she was near. Franklin was ever watchful, vigilant, and untiring in guarding the conduct of his large family and never neglected an opportunity of instilling the principles of right and justice in them and of leading their minds to high ideals. When he thought any of them was in danger of doing indiscreet things he would walk long distances, when necessary, to warn them of their danger. He was gentle and kind and indulgent husband and father, and in his large family, he was just and generous to a fault. He tried to instill faith and a love for spiritual things, as well as an ambition to seek after intellectual advancement in the higher ideals in life. His cheerfulness and optimism were contagious. His great hope, courage, and cheerfulness were as a ray of sunshine to all who came under his influence. There was never a cloud so dark but what it had a silver lining to him. In his disposition he was wonderfully tender and sympathetic.

            He was always ambitious for an education, but never had much of an opportunity to study under a teacher, but through his great desire for knowledge by reading and self effort, he was a well informed man.

            He had quite a talent for writing and he used to contribute articles to different periodicals.

            During their whole life the successes and pleasures of Franklin and Polly were intermingled with sorrows, trials, disappointments and hardships, but they accepted them all uncomplainingly.

            His active and useful life was brought to an untimely end by his being struck by lightening at Willow Spring Ranch near Benjamin, June 22, 1885. The funeral services were conducted under a fine grove of trees that he had set out himself. He proceeded Polly to the great beyond eight years. During the later years of Polly’s life she made her home with her daughter, Sarah Koontz. She passed away in April, 1893, and was buried beside her husband in the Benjamin Cemetary.  




Copied August 12, 1954 by JJ
From copy made by Helen Harris Jenson

Dennison Lott Harris


Dennison Lott Harris
1825-1885

Dennison Lott Harris, son of Emer and Deborah Lott Harris, was born January 17, 1825 in Windham, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, on the bank of the Susquehanna River.   Little is known of his childhood or boyhood.   Dennison’s father Emer Harris was the brother of Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon.   In his early youth he joined the Mormon Church and gathered with his father’s family to Kirtland and suffered in all of the mobbings, persecutions and drivings of the church in that day.   While in Nauvoo, as a boy, he hauled water for endowments in the temple.   Even though he was young he was an intimate friend of the prophet and took an active part as scout and express rider during the mobbings at Nauvoo.  

When he was nineteen years old, Dennison along with another young man, Robert Scott, were invited to a secret meeting held in the home of Robert Law, the Prophet Joseph’s first counselor, where people were invited to conspire against the prophet Joseph Smith.   When the two boys talked to each other, and wondered if they should attend, they decided to ask Dennison’s father, Emer Harris.   Emer went to Joseph, who told him not to attend the meetings, but that he would like the two boys to go and report back to him as to what happened.   He cautioned them to be careful, and to say as little as possible.

At the first meeting quite a number were present; strong speeches were made against the Prophet and many lies were told to prejudice the listeners against Joseph.   It seemed the principal cause of their wicked scheme arose from the fact that the Prophet had recently presented the revelation on plural marriage to the High Council for their approval; and certain members were most bitterly opposed to it, and denounced Joseph as a fallen prophet and were determined to destroy him.   The meeting adjourned to re-convene the following Sabbath and the two young men were invited to attend again.

They waited for a favorable opportunity and reported to Joseph what had taken place giving the names of those who took part in the proceedings.

They were advised to attend again.   This time the conspirators were vehement and more abusive, their accusations were not only against Joseph but against his brother, Hyrum, and other prominent men in Nauvoo.   They accused them of the most heinous crimes, but as the boys kept quite their silence brought an invitation to attend the next meeting.   As on previous occasions they watched for a fitting occasion to report to Joseph without arousing suspicion of any who had attended the meeting.

Joseph listened silently after which he said, “Boys, come to me again next Sunday.   I wish you to attend the next meeting also.”   They kept it a profound secret except to him and when they called on him the next time he said to them with a very serious countenance, “This will be your last meeting before they will admit you into their councils.   They will come to some determination, but be sure that you make no covenants or enter into any obligations whatsoever with them.   Do not take any part in their deliberations.”

In this meeting, many false testimonies were given against Joseph Smith and other leaders of the Church, but the boys remained quiet.   William Law sat by Robert and tried to persuade him to agree with the things that were being said, and Brother Austin A. Cowles, a member of the high council, would sit by Dennison and try to convince him.   But the boys just said they were too young to understand what was being talked about.   Finally, an oath was prepared, and each man would step forward, take a bible in his hand and raise his right arm.   Francis Higbee, who administered the oath said, “You solemnly swear, before God and all holy angels, and these your brethren by whom you are surrounded, that you will give your life, your influence, your all, for the destruction of Joseph Smith and his party, so help you God!”   The man said, “I do,” and signed his name to the written oath.   When everyone but the two boys had taken the oath, and they finally refused to do so, the mob became very angry and threatened to kill them.   During threats and heated discussions, the boys heard one man say, “The boys’ parents very likely know where they are, and if they do not return home, strong suspicions will be aroused, and they may institute a search that would be very dangerous to us.   It is already late, and time that the boys were home.”   But others felt it would be just as dangerous to release the boys and take a chance on them revealing their plans.

Finally, they were instructed over and over not to say a word about what they knew or they would be killed on the spot.   Then a guard took them out and down toward the Mississippi River.   Near the river, they were warned once more not to say a word, on pain of death, and were left alone.   One of the boys saw a hand beckon to them from behind the bank, and they pretended that they wanted to go down to the river to swim.   The guards thought it was a good idea, as it would be an excuse for them getting home so late.

The Prophet had become uneasy and had gone down to the river to see if perhaps the boys had been murdered and thrown into the water.   He was relieved to see that they had escaped with their lives.   They told him all that had happened and of the oath that had been taken by about two hundred people.   John Scott, a brother of Robert, was with the prophet and became very fearful for Joseph’s life.   They all went together for awhile until Joseph became quiet and then said, “Brethren, I am going to leave you.   I shall not be with you long; it will not be many months until I shall have to go.”   The boys felt that they would be happy to give their lives if they could spare his.   But Joseph made them promise that they would not say a word about what had happened for at least twenty years, and they kept that promise.   The year before President Young died, Brother Harris invited him to stop at his home as he journeyed to St. George and told him about his early experiences with the Prophet.   President Young said it cleared up many strange spots in his memory.

A short time before the battle of Nauvoo an army of 500 men was marching on to take Nauvoo by force of arms.   Dennnison was in the city suffering with chills and fever and was so weak that a young woman saddled his horse and helped him mount so that he and twenty four others   could ride out to meet the 500 with their artillery, and put them to flight.   The mob said there were thousands of Mormons.   Dennison said the roads were dry and the 25 riders rode abreast and the dust rolled high and so they were magnified in the eyes of the mob in such a way that the mob drove back to Carthage.

Three days before the final battle at Nauvoo, Dennison left and journeyed several hundred miles westward, preparing for the final exodus of the saints: then returned to Nauvoo to assist his father to move with the saints.   Dennison was designated to remain in Potawatomie County and raise crops to feed the large number of European saints who were flocking to Zion.   Consequently, he remained in the East until 1852 when he came to Utah and settled in Springville where he built the first sawmill.   Some of the tools used in the construction of the Nauvoo temple were brought to Utah by him and used throughout his lifetime.   In 1847 he married Sarah Wilson.   Six children, four sons and two daughters came from this marriage.   About 1854 President Young called sixteen men to go on a mission to the Navajos.   There were also two interpreters and one Indian guide.   This company was composed of William Huntington, Dennison L. Harris, Dimick Huntington, Jack Stewart and others.   President Young accompanied them as far as Manti where he blessed them promising them if they kept the commandments of the Lord not a hair on their head should be harmed and they would return to their families in safety.   In Salina Canyon they were held up by a band of Indians who refused to let them pass the stream of water on penalty of death.   Three days after, the Indians relented.  

On this journey they found coal.   A city named Huntington, in honor of one of the missionaries has since been built there.   Near Green River the Indians again tried to stop them.   The missionaries turned into a cottonwood cove where they were completely hidden.   They cached their wagons and continued their journey by horse.   The whole of this mission was one of great peril in which the power of the Lord was constantly made manifest.   Near a place called Bluff they were taken prisoner by the Navajos.   Two of the party were to be shot.   Sixteen Indians were paralyzed.   The missionaries were then allowed to preach the gospel to the tribe but they were still looked upon with suspicion by all except the chief who never left them for a moment.   The Indian council finally decided the strangers were to die on a certain day, chief or no chief.  

The day was drawing near, when a terrible war whoop was heard and clouds of dust filled the air.   The Navajos were completely surrounded by the Elk Mountain Utes.   Their chief pointed a gun at the Navajo chief.   Both tribes were so excited they could not talk but just chattered and mumbled.   Finally the interpreters quieted them and the warring chief explained that the great spirit had appeared to him and told him the Navajos had white men in captivity.   He was commanded to release them and their property, accompany them a given number of days on a certain route and then fit them up with good horses and available provisions.   If he failed, destruction would come upon him and his tribe.   He fulfilled the commission to the letter.   The return was along a different route.   They missed their cached wagons and provisions grew low.   One man lost his horse.   Brother Harris remained with him.   This placed them one day behind the main company who feared starvation.   Each day two bisquets were placed on sticks for them.   When they did not overtake the main party, they were given up for dead.   On the last day out of Springville no bread was left.   The company returned through Hobble Creek Canyon.   When the people of Springville learned the missionaries were returning they fitted up wagons with springs and dainty food.   All were found and brought home.   The men were so weak they had to be like invalids –  only a few spoonfuls at short intervals.   Every man returned to his family and regained his health and strength.  

The first ten years after they arrived in Utah, in 1852, they lived in five different places, Springville, Alpine, Pleasant Grove, Smithfield, and Willard. During that time three of their sons were born, Dennison Emer in Springville, Martin in Alpine, and Hyrum in Smithfield.   During the time they lived in Smithfield a battle was fought with the Indians and there was considerable shooting done by both parties.  

  In 1857 and 1858 Dennison was called to serve in the Echo Canyon campaign and a short time after that made the journey back across the plains three times with provisions for the Hand Cart Company.   In 1862 they were called by President Young to go from Willard to Dixie to help build up and develop that country.   During the time they were there they lived in Washington, Bellevue and finally built a home in Virgin City.   Here their son Joseph was born.   Brother Harris and other pioneer men spent their summer at Kolob on a ranch and raised cattle.   As the baby was delicate and the best doctors lived there, Sarah and the children spent the winter of 1865 in St. George.   In 1868 after having lived in Dixie five years Brother Harris was released from this mission owing to ill health caused by chills and fever.   He was so ill that those who were waiting on him thought he was dead.   He thought his spirit left his body and a messenger stood beside him and gave him the privilege of living and raising his family and entering into a celestial marriage or of passing on to the other side.   They moved to Paragoonah, where their eldest daughter Deborah was married to Richard Robinson.   In 1862 they moved to Monroe, Sevier County.   He loved to see things grow and he planted the first nursery in the section and gave hundreds of trees and shrubs away.   On July 17, 1877 he was set apart as bishop of Monroe by Erastus Snow, which position he honorably and faithfully filled until his death.   His wife died a number of years before on 23 February 1874. After his wife, Sarah, died he lived a widower for years, filling the place of both father and mother to his children to a remarkable degree, bestowing the tenderness of a mother upon them.   On November 1, 1883 in the St. George temple he married Anna Maria Messerli, a young German convert, and on the same day Margaret Allen, a widow, was sealed to him for eternity only.   A week after his death a daughter Harriet Lott was born to his young wife, Maria.

Dennison Lott Harris was by nature a pioneer, he having lived in various settlements from Northern Utah to Dixie.   In disposition he was very kind and sympathetic and a true friend to those in sorrow or distress and as tender in his feelings as a woman.   He was a very wise counselor and was a father to the people over whom he presided as bishop in very deed.   He was cheerful and sunny in his temperament, was fluent in his speech and a wonderful storyteller.   He was charitable, merciful and forgiving.   His hospitality was unbounded and his latchstring was always on the outside to all.  

He died at this home in Monroe, Sevier County, Utah on 6 June 1885 of pneumonia.   Passing peacefully away in the presence of his family except for his son, Hyrum, who was on a mission in Illinois.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Banyan Page

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Witness: Martin Harris


The Witness: Martin Harris
By Dallin H. Oaks
One of Martin Harris’s greatest contributions to the Church, for which he should be honored for all time, was his financing the publication of the Book of Mormon.

The Law of Witnesses

Witnesses and witnessing are vital in God’s plan for the salvation of His children. In the Godhead, the function of the Holy Ghost is to bear witness of the Father and the Son (see 2 Ne. 31:18). The Father has borne witness of the Son (see Matt. 3:17; Matt. 17:5; John 5:31–39), and the Son has borne witness of the Father (see John 17). The Lord has commanded His servants to testify of Him (see Isa. 43:10; Mosiah 18:9; D&C 84:62), and all of the prophets have borne witness of Jesus Christ (see Acts 10:43; Rev. 19:10).
The scriptures state that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Cor. 13:1; D&C 6:28; see also Deut. 19:15). The most important ordinances of salvation—baptism, marriage, and other ordinances of the temple—are required to have witnesses (see D&C 127:6; D&C 128:3).
The Bible witnesses of Jesus Christ by prophecies of His coming, by accounts of His ministry, and by the testimonies of those who carried His message to the world. The Book of Mormon has the same content: witnesses preceding, during, and following the ministry of the Messiah. Appropriately, it is now titled “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”

Book of Mormon Witnesses

There are witnesses of the Book of Mormon itself. I have chosen to speak about the significance of their testimonies and about the life of one of them.
While Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon, the Lord revealed that, in addition to the Prophet’s testimony, the world would have “the testimony of three of my servants, whom I shall call and ordain, unto whom I will show these things” (D&C 5:11; see also Ether 5:2–4; 2 Ne. 27:12–13). “They shall know of a surety that these things are true,” the Lord declared, “for from heaven will I declare it unto them” (D&C 5:12).
There were also eight witnesses, but their testimony is a subject for another time.
The three men chosen as witnesses of the Book of Mormon were Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris. Their written “Testimony of Three Witnesses” has been included in all of the almost 100 million copies of the Book of Mormon the Church has published since 1830. These witnesses solemnly testify that they “have seen the plates which contain this record” and “the engravings which are upon the plates.” They witness that these writings “have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us.” They testify, “We declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true.”
Further, “the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things” (“The Testimony of Three Witnesses,” Book of Mormon).
People who deny the possibility of supernatural beings may reject this remarkable testimony, but people who are open to believe in miraculous experiences should find it compelling. The solemn written testimony of three witnesses to what they saw and heard—two of them simultaneously and the third almost immediately thereafter—is entitled to great weight. Indeed, we know that upon the testimony of one witness great miracles have been claimed and accepted by many religious people, and in the secular world the testimony of one witness has been deemed sufficient for weighty penalties and judgments.
Persons experienced in evaluating testimony commonly consider a witness’s opportunity to observe an event and the possibility of his bias on the subject. Where different witnesses give identical testimony about the same event, skeptics look for evidence of collusion among them or for other witnesses who could contradict them.
Measured against all of these possible objections, the testimony of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon stands forth in great strength. Each of the three had ample reason and opportunity to renounce his testimony if it had been false, or to equivocate on details if any had been inaccurate. As is well known, because of disagreements or jealousies involving other leaders of the Church, each one of these three witnesses was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by about eight years after the publication of their testimony. All three went their separate ways, with no common interest to support a collusive effort. Yet to the end of their lives—periods ranging from 12 to 50 years after their excommunications—not one of these witnesses deviated from his published testimony or said anything that cast any shadow on its truthfulness.
Furthermore, their testimony stands uncontradicted by any other witnesses. Reject it one may, but how does one explain three men of good character uniting and persisting in this published testimony to the end of their lives in the face of great ridicule and other personal disadvantage? Like the Book of Mormon itself, there is no better explanation than is given in the testimony itself, the solemn statement of good and honest men who told what they saw.

Martin Harris

Having a special interest in Martin Harris, I have been saddened at how he is remembered by most Church members. He deserves better than to be remembered solely as the man who unrighteously obtained and then lost the initial manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon.
When the Book of Mormon was published, Martin Harris was nearly 47 years of age, more than 20 years older than Joseph Smith and the other two witnesses. He was a prosperous and respected citizen of Palmyra, New York. He owned a farm of over 240 acres, large for the time and place. He was an honored veteran of two battles in the War of 1812. His fellow citizens entrusted him with many elective offices and responsibilities in the community. He was universally respected for his industry and integrity. Assessments by contemporaries described him as “an industrious, hard-working farmer, shrewd in his business calculations, frugal in his habits,” and “strictly upright in his business dealings” (quoted in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses [1981], 96–97, 98).
This prosperous and upright older man befriended the young and penniless Joseph Smith, giving him the $50 that permitted him to pay his debts in Palmyra and locate in northeastern Pennsylvania about 150 miles away. There, in April 1828, Joseph Smith began his first persistent translation of the Book of Mormon. He dictated, and Martin Harris wrote until there were 116 pages of manuscript.
Martin’s persistent requests to show this manuscript to his family wearied Joseph into letting him take it to Palmyra, where its pages were stolen from him, lost, and probably burned. For this the Lord rebuked Martin and Joseph. Joseph had his gift of translation suspended for a season, and Martin was rebuked as “a wicked man” who had “set at naught the counsels of God, and … broken the most sacred promises which were made before God” (D&C 3:12–13; see also D&C 10). Fortunately, both Joseph and Martin were later forgiven by the Lord, and the work of translation resumed with other scribes. We obviously honor Joseph for his magnificent ministry, but Martin’s subsequent faithfulness continues under a shadow from which this important man should be rescued.
I will review some of the high points of Martin Harris’s life following the devastating episode of the stolen and lost manuscript.
About nine months after Martin’s rebuke, the Prophet Joseph received a revelation declaring that there would be three witnesses to the plates and if Martin would humble himself he would be privileged to see them (see D&C 5:11, 15, 24). A few months later, Martin Harris was selected as one of the Three Witnesses and had the experience and bore the testimony described earlier.
One of Martin Harris’s greatest contributions to the Church, for which he should be honored for all time, was his financing the publication of the Book of Mormon. In August 1829 he mortgaged his home and farm to Egbert B. Grandin to secure payment on the printer’s contract. Seven months later, the 5,000 copies of the first printing of the Book of Mormon were completed. Later, when the mortgage note fell due, the home and a portion of the farm were sold for $3,000. In this way, Martin Harris was obedient to the Lord’s revelation:
“Thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon. …
“Pay the debt thou hast contracted with the printer. Release thyself from bondage” (D&C 19:26, 35).
Other records and revelations show Martin Harris’s significant involvement in the activities of the restored Church and his standing with God. He was present at the organization of the Church on April 6, 1830, and was baptized that same day. A year later he was called to journey to Missouri with Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Edward Partridge (see D&C 52:24). In Missouri that year—1831—he was commanded to “be an example unto the church, in laying his moneys before the bishop of the church” (D&C 58:35), thus becoming the first man the Lord called by name to consecrate his property in Zion. Two months later he was named with Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and others to be “stewards over the revelations and commandments” (D&C 70:3; see also D&C 70:1), a direction to publish and circulate what later became the Doctrine and Covenants.
In 1832 Martin Harris’s older brother, Emer, who is my great-great-grandfather, was called on a mission from Ohio (see D&C 75:30). Emer spent a year preaching the gospel near his former home in northeastern Pennsylvania. During most of this time Emer’s companion was his brother Martin, whose zeal in preaching even caused him to be jailed for a few days. The Harris brothers baptized about 100 persons. Among those baptized was a family named Oaks, which included my great-great-grandfather. Thus, my middle name and my last name come from the grandfathers who met in that missionary encounter in Susquehanna County in 1832–33.
Back in Kirtland, Ohio, after his mission, in February 1834 Martin Harris was chosen by revelation to serve on the first high council in the Church (see D&C 102:3). Less than three months later, he left Kirtland with the men of Zion’s Camp, marching 900 miles to Missouri to relieve the oppressed Saints there.
One of the most important events of the Restoration was the calling of a Quorum of Twelve Apostles in February 1835. The Three Witnesses, including Martin Harris, were appointed to “search out the Twelve” (D&C 18:37), to select them and, under authority granted by the Prophet and his counselors, to ordain them [these ordinations were then confirmed under the hands of the First Presidency] (see B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History, 1:372–75).
From a position of great influence and authority, all three witnesses fell, each in his own way. During 1837 there were intense financial and spiritual conflicts in Kirtland, Ohio. Martin Harris later said that he “lost confidence in Joseph Smith” and “his mind became darkened” (quoted in Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, 110). He was released from the high council in September 1837 and three months later was excommunicated.
Martin’s wife, Lucy, who had been involved in the loss of the manuscript pages, died in Palmyra in 1836. Within a year thereafter, Martin and his family located in Kirtland, and Martin married Caroline Young, a niece of Brigham Young.
When most of the Saints moved on—to Missouri, to Nauvoo, and to the West—Martin Harris remained in Kirtland. There he was rebaptized by a visiting missionary in 1842. In 1856 Caroline and their four children took the long journey to Utah, but Martin, then 73 years of age, remained on his property in Kirtland. In 1860 he told a census taker that he was a “Mormon preacher,” evidence of his continuing loyalty to the restored gospel. Later he would tell a visitor, “I never did leave the Church; the Church left me” (quoted in William H. Homer Jr., “ ‘Publish It Upon the Mountains’: The Story of Martin Harris,” Improvement Era, July 1955, 505), meaning of course that Brigham Young led the Church west and the aging Martin remained in Kirtland.
During part of his remaining years in Kirtland, Martin Harris acted as a self-appointed guide-caretaker of the deserted Kirtland Temple, which he loved. Visitors reported his alienation from the leaders of the Church in Utah but also his fervent reaffirmation of his published testimony of the Book of Mormon.
Finally, in 1870, Martin’s desire to be reunited with his family in Utah resulted in a warm invitation from Brigham Young, a ticket for his passage, and an official escort from one of the Presidents of Seventy. A Utah interviewer of the 87-year-old man described him as “remarkably vigorous for one of his years, … his memory being very good” (Deseret News, 31 Aug. 1870). He was rebaptized, a common practice at that time, and spoke twice to audiences in this Tabernacle. We have no official report of what he said, but we can be sure of his central message since over 35 persons left similar personal accounts of what he told them during this period. One reported Martin saying, “It is not a mere belief, but is a matter of knowledge. I saw the plates and the inscriptions thereon. I saw the angel, and he showed them unto me” (quoted in Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, 116).
When he reiterated his testimony of the Book of Mormon in the closing days of his life, Martin Harris declared, “I tell you of these things that you may tell others that what I have said is true, and I dare not deny it; I heard the voice of God commanding me to testify to the same” (quoted in Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, 118).
Martin Harris died in Clarkston, Utah, in 1875, at age 92. His life is commemorated in the memorable pageant, Martin Harris: The Man Who Knew, produced each summer in Clarkston, Utah.
What do we learn from this example? (1) Witnesses are important, and the testimony of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon is impressive and reliable. (2) Happiness and spiritual progress lie in following the leaders of the Church. (3) There is hope for each of us, even if we have sinned and strayed from a favored position.
The Lord’s invitation is warm and loving: “Come back and feast at the table of the Lord, and taste again the sweet and satisfying fruits of fellowship with the saints” (The First Presidency, “An Invitation to Come Back,” Church News, 22 Dec. 1985, 3). I testify that this is the word of the Lord and the work of the Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen
Dallin H. Oaks, “The Witness: Martin Harris,” Ensign, May 1999, 35