Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Family

My 4th great grandfather, Joseph Fielding, was one of the first Mormon missionaries to Great Britain and the second president of the Great Britain mission. When he left to Great Britain he was a financially stable farmer and when he came back to the U. S. he was was completely impoverished. He was able to farm some on Hyrum Smith's land in Nauvoo, probably because his sister, Mary Fielding was Hyrum's wife. But not long after, Hyrum went to Carthage jail with his brother Joseph Smith, where both were killed by a mob. Most of the Mormons then left Nauvoo and headed to Utah.

Joseph Smith's family stayed behind and were the heirs of the physical posessions of the Church, which had been held in Joseph's name. His descendants have held and cared for many sites that are historically important to Mormons. They also hid and guarded the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum until it became safe to provide them properly marked graves.

Hyrum's family left Nauvoo and they became Joseph's spiritual heirs. His descendants have included many leaders of the Church including Joseph F. Smith, George Albert Smith and Joseph Fielding Smith. My grandfather, Joseph Fielding cared for Mary and her son, Joseph F. Smith while they travelled to Utah and then afterwards.

Mary died while her son was still young and though my grandfather cared for him, it couldn't have been a very pleasant situation. My grandfather's journals indicate that he was poor until he died, that his two wives bickered a lot over the few possessions they had, and that it was a generally unhappy domestic situation. Joseph F. Smith was called to be a missionary in Hawaii when he was 15 years old. He had a dream that was very important to him while he was there.

This is how it went: "I was very much oppressed [when I was] on a mission. I was almost naked and entirely friendless, except [for] the friendship of a poor, benighted . . . people. I felt as if I was so debased in my condition of poverty, lack of intelligence and knowledge, just a boy, that I hardly dared look a . . . man in the face.

"While in that condition I dreamed [one night] that I was on a journey, and I was impressed that I ought to hurry—hurry with all my might, for fear I might be too late. I rushed on my way as fast as I possibly could, and I was only conscious of having just a little bundle, a handkerchief with a small bundle wrapped in it. I did not realize . . . what it was, when I was hurrying as fast as I could; but finally I came to a wonderful mansion. . . . I thought I knew that was my destination.

As I passed towards it, as fast as I could, I saw a notice [which read B-A-T-H], 'Bath.' I turned aside quickly and went into the bath and washed myself clean. I opened up this little bundle that I had, and there was [some] white, clean [clothing], a thing I had not seen for a long time, because the people I was with did not think very much of making things exceedingly clean. But my [clothing was] clean, and I put [it] on. Then I rushed to what appeared to be a great opening, or door. I knocked and the door opened, and the man who stood there was the Prophet Joseph Smith. He looked at me a little reprovingly, and the first words he said: 'Joseph, you are late.' Yet I took confidence and [replied]:

" 'Yes, but I am clean—I am clean!'

"He clasped my hand and drew me in, then closed the great door. I felt his hand just as tangible as I ever felt the hand of man. I knew him, and when I entered I saw my father, and Brigham [Young] and Heber [C. Kimball], and Willard [Richards], and other good men that I had known, standing in a row. I looked as if it were across this valley, and it seemed to be filled with a vast multitude of people, but on the stage were all the people that I had known. My mother was there, and she sat with a child in her lap; and I could name over as many as I remember of their names, who sat there, who seemed to be among the chosen, among the exalted. . . .

"[When I had this dream,] I was alone on a mat, away up in the mountains of Hawaii—no one was with me. But in this vision I pressed my hand up against the Prophet, and I saw a smile cross his countenance. . . .

"When I awoke that morning I was a man, although only [still] a boy. There was not anything in the world that I feared [after that]."

To me, this story is mostly about growing up and returning to family and loved ones. Laura told me about this dream shortly after her divorce when she was coming back to our family. It is one of her favorite stories and one of mine as well.

I made my own little trek to Utah so that I could have dinner with my family today. There were 50 chairs set up, and most were filled. My grandfather, who is in his 90's was there, beaming that I had made it. He doesn't see me as often as he'd like. My aunts and uncles all took time to visit with me. All of my cousins fell into the comfortable teasing and banter that we have shared since we were very young. We told our troubles and triumphs to each other and it became clear (as it always does) that while the details of our lives are important, it is only because we want to show our love and support to each other in the best ways we are able.


Carroll said...

Oh! Thank you Miriam there are teas in my eyes!

laura said...

i am also teary eyed. thanks for making the journey out here, miriam.
i love you so much.