All these years later, Mormons are still proud of their rescue stories. Theatrical reenactments, complete with music and costume, pay homage. Youth participating in coming-of-age treks are encouraged to draw upon the strength of the Mormon pioneer.
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Chapter 24 – Buried Bones
Daniel Wood mattered to those who planned his memorial, built a monument, and continued the cemetery’s upkeep. As someone who appreciates history, I was giddy with excitement over the details of Daniel’s funeral, including the details such as the lilac-colored lettering on the banner draping his casket. It made it easy to imagine myself there among my people.
Chapter 23 – Women
Because women’s pioneer stories have not been documented as much as men, their full ocean of thoughts and feelings was lost, stuffed down in the corners of worn apron pockets.
Chapter 22 – Mission Trips
Daniel was faithful to the church. At least twice, his loyalty prompted him to leave his wives, children, and homestead to go on a church mission searching for more converts.
Chapter 21 – Emma
Emma Maria Ellis Wood crossed a continent, turned her back on one God, and embraced another to become my great, great, great-grandmother.
She is wearing a dark-colored dress with a lace collar in the only photo I could find of her. Her hair is pulled back and hidden neatly under a bonnet. To me, she has gentle eyes.
Chapter 20- Five Black Men, A Retelling Of The Raid At Harper’s Ferry
Five men in Brown’s small army were black, a fact I never learned in school. Who were these black men, the white-centered telling of history left out, and why did they cross the bridge at Harpers Ferry that fateful night?
If teachers taught us of their bravery and sacrifice, we would know courage is not skin color. And that whiteness is not what makes us American.
Chapter 19 – 1800: John and Daniel
It would be easy to absolve my grandfather of his choice to participate in a religion touting white supremacy by saying he was merely a man of his time. But that is a lie.
In addition to black people tirelessly championing their right to fair treatment, white men and women have fought beside them.
One such white man, John Brown, was born in 1800, like my grandfather Daniel.
Chapter 18 – Meeting House
In this space, Mormons benefited from the power of the collective. Together they strengthened bonds, experienced joy, and shared knowledge. For those too young to remember the violence and ostracism earlier pioneers faced, I wonder if they took this space for granted.
Chapter 17 – Woods Cross
I was thrilled my bloodline included a man willing to swear and stand against religion and a corporation because his moral compass told him it was the just and right thing to do.
Why didn’t he use this same fury to fight against slavery, especially when Utah voted to make owning human beings legal within its territory? He did not call his neighbors for meetings to discuss the horrific treatment of native tribes and the stealing of their land. Nor did he create petitions asking to eradicate the ban on blackness which the church wickedly perpetuated.
Chapter 16 – Orphans
Lucy, Mary, and Thomas’ stories are not unique. Brigham Young encouraged Mormon families to purchase or barter for native children believing they would be better off in Mormon households. Native Americans, called Lamanites, could lighten their skin, becoming white and delightsome through conversion to the Mormon church. The saints saw bringing native children into their homes as an opportunity to save them while increasing the church roster.