Torleif S. Knaphus was born in Norway on December 14, 1881. At a very young age his parents noticed his extreme talent for art. They encouraged it, and he developed his skills. At age 15, Torleif became an art apprentice painting houses and decorative furniture. In 1901, he traveled to Oslo to pursue more formal art studies. While there, his roommate invited him to attend a Latter-day Saint concert. He enjoyed the concert and began attending meetings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which church is often misnamed the “Mormon Church”). He said, “It was easy for me to see and understand that this was the only true Church of God.”
Torleif was baptized at the age of 21 in a river that was frozen and had to be cut with a saw. His love of the gospel and strong testimony caused him to turn down an art scholarship to Rome in order to immigrate to Utah in 1905. That was the beginning of Torleif’s lifelong association with church art projects. He worked on many, many temples and was even called to serve a mission in Paris just to study art. This time was a wonderful boon to him, especially since he had given up the chance to study in Rome.
Upon returning home, Torleif continued his work on temples and in the 1920s completed the original Handcart Pioneers statue. In 1947, he completed the larger replica of the same statue that is now displayed on Temple Square.
Torleif’s artistic works for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are found in many places around the United States. Perhaps none are so large and recognizable, however, as his monument of the angel Moroni which stands on the Hill Cumorah.
The Church acquired the land for the Hill Cumorah in 1928, and immediately Torleif recommended to the Brethren [church leaders] that a monument should stand there commemorating the important event of Moroni visiting Joseph Smith and giving him the brass plates.
While the Brethren had not commissioned Torleif to create this monument, Torleif felt so strongly about it that he created seven sketches on his own and went to the Lord in prayer for guidance about which sketch was the most accurate and if he should formally present his plan to the Brethren. One night in 1929 he climbed Ensign Peak in Salt Lake City and knelt in prayer, with his sketches spread out on the ground. In answer to his plea, an angel appeared to him and pointed to one of the sketches saying, “This is the one.” The angel also told Torleif to visit the Brethren in the church offices the next morning and that they would be waiting for him.
The next day, Torleif did as he had been instructed. The Brethren welcomed him and unanimously chose the picture the angel had singled out. Official permission to begin the project soon followed. Torleif was understandably very private about his encounter with the angel. He only shared his experience a couple of times, and when a friend asked him if the angel had been Moroni, Torleif said, “That’s my secret.” His second wife, Rebecca, though, said Torleif had told her it had been the angel Moroni.
The final statue of Moroni stands 9 feet tall and is gold plated. It rests on a granite pillar, which Torleif also created. He spent five years on the design and creation of the monument, which was more than double the time he spent on any other single work of art in his life.
Immediately after Torleif had been granted permission to work on the project, he looked for a model. He found the physique he wanted in Elwin Clark, a bricklayer, but he felt Elwin’s face was too young to accurately represent the mature Moroni. He fasted and prayed for a suitable model for the face. One day an older gentleman caught his eye in the city. After following him for some time, Torleif approached the man and asked if he would consider being a model for him. He persuaded the man, who had just moved to Utah from Wyoming, to come with him to his studio right then.
Elwin was already at the studio waiting for Torleif. To everyone’s surprise, Elwin recognized the older man as his father, Hyrum Don Carlos Clark. This “coincidence” confirmed to Torleif that these men were the appropriate models for him to use.
The monument was placed on the Hill Cumorah in 1935, which had been replenished during the previous year with 10,000 trees on its barren landscape. Each of the four sides of the base has a bronze plaque depicting a significant event which took place in the area: the west side shows Moroni delivering the plates to Joseph Smith; the south side shows Moroni revealing the plates to the three witnesses; the east side depicts Joseph Smith showing the plates to the eight witnesses; and on the north side is the text from Moroni 10:4–5, which reads, “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
The statue of Moroni shows him holding the plates in his left arm while raising his right arm to call attention to the gospel message. Other religious symbols are explained to visitors on nearby plaques.
As for Torleif’s personal life, he married Emilia “Millie” Helena Christensen in 1909 in the Salt Lake Temple. However, she passed away in 1931, leaving six children, the youngest just 15 months old. He refused to split up the family, despite offers from friends to adopt the younger children, and did his best to be both father and mother to his children until he remarried eight years later, a woman named Rebecca Marie Knaphus.
A reporter asked Torleif in the late years of his life what he considered his greatest work. He said, gesturing to some family photos and a pedigree chart on his wall, “My family and this genealogical research have been my greatest work in life.” Historians have estimated that Torleif personally submitted 10,000 of his Norwegian ancestors’ names for temple work. Elder LeGrand Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said he knew of no other person who had done more genealogy work than Torleif. Torleif passed away June 14, 1965, at the age of 83.
It is easy to look back on Torleif’s life and see many turning points which led him to the gospel, but which could have gone another way. For example, what if his roommate had not invited him to attend that concert in the first place? God’s hand is truly guiding each of our lives. If we let Him, He will use us for His purposes and will make a masterpiece out of us. Torleif had such an impact for good in the lives of those around Him because He turned His life to God.
This article was written by Doris White, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
When you read the Doctrine and Covenants along with at least part of the historical background of each revelation contained therein, the words take on a much more personal meaning. I’ve read the words of the Doctrine and Covenants before, but I have never truly studied the whole book, and as I do so, I am strengthening my personal witness of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his relationship to the Lord.
Section 5 of the Doctrine and Covenants was revealed to Joseph about eight months after Section 3 was received. Martin Harris, a man 22 years Joseph Smith’s senior, had done a great deal to help Joseph in his work of translating the work which was eventually published as the Book of Mormon. However, he pushed Joseph to let him borrow the 116-page manuscript of the work they had translated so far and lost it. Section 3 covers the Lord’s feelings about the matter. Section 5 is addressed to Martin Harris, but it is important for the reader to have the background of the lost manuscript.
Joseph Smith had been given by the Lord an ancient record contained upon plates of brass. He was in the process of translating this record, but he had been given very strict instructions to never let anyone see the plates, unless he was first instructed to by the Lord. Thus, Martin Harris had never seen the actual plates. He had a great desire to see them, however, and asked Joseph to seek permission to show him the plates. After the experience of the lost manuscript pages and the severe chastisement Joseph received from the Lord, Joseph was not at all inclined to disobey again.
It is interesting, however, to ponder upon how lonely Joseph must have felt in his responsibility (at this point) to be the only witness to the plates. The vast majority of the world mocked him and called him a liar. In verse 7 of Section 5, the Lord shares one reason why the plates were not to be shown to the world:
Behold, if they [those who wanted to see the plates] will not believe my words, they would not believe you, my servant Joseph, if it were possible that you should show them all these things which I have committed unto you.
Here the Lord discusses the principle of faith. He says in the scriptures that faith must precede the miracle. No sign is enough to convince the disbelieving that the gospel is true. No scholarly or historical evidence is enough to convince critics that the Book of Mormon is true. This is very intentional on the Lord’s part. It must be faith on the part of the individual exercised to gain a personal witness from the Holy Ghost that these things are true. That is a witness that cannot be proven, nor can it be denied by those who receive it.
The Lord goes on to promise Joseph that he will not be alone in bearing his burden forever. Verses 11–13 say:
And in addition to your testimony, the testimony of three of my servants, whom I shall call and ordain, unto whom I will show these things, and they shall go forth with my words that are given through you. Yea, they shall know of a surety that these things are true, for from heaven will I declare it unto them. I will give them power that they may behold and view these things [the plates] as they are.
In addition, all those who believe the words of these witnesses, as well as all of the words of the Lord, shall be visited with the manifestation of the Spirit (D&C 5:16). Joseph is chastised again by the Lord, in verse 21, to repent and to stop listening to the “persuasions of men.” However, despite Martin’s failure to fully learn his lesson after losing the 116 pages, the Lord tells Joseph that if Martin humbles himself in mighty prayer and remains faithful, then he may be granted his desire.
What is very personal to me is that, also contained in Section 5 are very specific instructions to Joseph Smith on how much longer he should translate. After giving Joseph instructions about what to tell Martin Harris and, in effect, telling Joseph that now the ball would be in Martin’s court and that he shouldn’t worry about it anymore, the Lord tells Joseph to translate only a few more pages and then to take a break.
Translation was very exhausting work, and I’m sure Joseph welcomed a break, but the Lord does not give that as His reason. He knew there were many people trying to destroy Joseph and trying to get their hands on the plates. The Lord knew their plans. He forbade Joseph to continue the work in order to protect him. Section 5 ends with the Lord saying:
Yea, for this cause I have said: Stop, and stand still until I command thee, and I will provide means whereby thou mayest accomplish the thing which I have commanded thee. And if thou art faithful in keeping my commandments, thou shalt be lifted up at the last day.
These types of instruction witness to me of Joseph’s humility and integrity. What imposter would have fabricated so many revelations from God berating and chastising himself? In addition, who would have fabricated details which seem so mundane?
We are so blessed to have the Doctrine and Covenants. This book of scripture contains modern revelations which answer so many questions about the gospel. These truths were lost; they are now restored. Read these words and obtain your own spiritual witness that they are true.
This article was written by Doris White, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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On a June day in 2012, my husband and I pulled in to Palmyra, New York. I had wanted to go to the Sacred Grove for years, and I was excited about the opportunity that had finally come to visit it and many other historical sites of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which church is often misnamed the “Mormon Church”). It was pretty early in the morning that day, so we were lucky enough to have the place to ourselves for a little bit.
We walked by the Smith Family Home and back into the trees to take advantage of the fact that we were alone. As we quietly walked through the grove of beautiful trees, I thought to myself, “Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared here!” Just that thought filled me with a sense of awe and reverence. I have been in holy places before, but this was a wonderful and unique experience.
I was born to parents who are both faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and, I was raised in the teachings of the Church. I have heard the story of the First Vision all my life, but being in the place where it actually occurred strengthened my personal witness of its veracity.
Joseph Smith, as a young man of 14, struggled with the turmoil that surrounded him in upstate New York in 1820. He was a religious boy who took spiritual matters very seriously, and he was confused by the bickering among different Christian denominations, each claiming to be the only church that had the truth. He wanted to make sure he joined the right church. After studying James 1:5 of the King James Version of the Bible, he was prompted to ask God, in prayer, to help him to know which church was right. Joseph had faith that if he asked God in faith, then he would be given an answer.
On a spring day in 1820, Joseph got up very early and took a walk to be by himself. He walked into the grove of trees behind his family’s home and eventually knelt to pray. The experience he had there was far beyond his imaginings and started a chain of events that is still in motion and cannot be stopped. In answer to a young boy’s prayer, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared in that grove of trees and spoke to Joseph Smith face to face. They told Joseph that none of the churches on the earth at that time contained the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, so he should not join any of them.
Some marvelous truths were restored to the earth just by that visit: God the Father and Jesus Christ were separate beings with tangible bodies; they knew Joseph personally and cared about him, just as they do each one of us; and the fulness of the gospel had been lost from the earth. It was three more years before Joseph received another heavenly visitor who brought instructions from God and Jesus Christ. For several more years, Joseph was taught and prepared to fulfill his calling of restoring the truths that had been lost from the earth.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on the earth today. This does not mean that no other church has worth or truth. There are many good people and churches who are devoted to bringing people closer to Jesus Christ. However, Jesus Christ Himself has restored the fulness of His gospel and has declared to the world that it is contained in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I know that I am literally a child of a loving Heavenly Father who knows and loves me. I know that Jesus Christ is His only begotten Son in the flesh and that the power of His Atonement gives me and all men and women the ability to repent and be cleansed from sin so that I may someday return to God and remain in His presence forever.
These truths were restored in a beautiful grove of trees in New York nearly 200 years ago. I have felt the influence of these truths in my life, and I felt a peaceful witness in that grove of trees that Joseph saw there what he said he saw. He knew it, he knew that God knew it, and I know that is true.
This article was written by Doris White, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Mark L. McConkie, a professor in the school of public affairs at the University of Colorado, has recently published Remembering Joseph: Personal Recollections of Those Who Knew the Prophet Joseph Smith. This is an excerpt from that book and is the recollection of Jesse W. Crosby.
Brother Jesse W. Crosby, a prominent man in early Dixie and an early preacher of the Gospel lived a close neighbor to the Prophet [Joseph Smith] in Nauvoo. Being a very observing man he learned much of that great man’s home life, and he used to tell us many interesting things about it.
He said the Prophet had great ability as a financier, and that had his enemies left him he would have become one of the wealthiest men in America. Everything his hand touched seemed to prosper. His fields were always in good condition and yielded well.
When people came to see him, and he had many visitors, their teams were fed the best of hay and his barn was full. No other orchard had as fine fruit as his did. If an inferior cow was by any means shoved on to him it would be but a short time before she became a first-class milker. Many men sought his advice when in financial difficulty, and none failed to profit by it if they followed the counsel he gave.
A period of great prosperity for him, Brother Crosby said, would seem to induce a raid upon him. One trial after another would be launched until he was left penniless and perhaps in debt. On one of these occasions when the Prophet had been absent from home for some time, Brother Crosby went to his home to see if he might render some assistance.
When he made the purpose of his visit known, the [Prophet’s] wife burst into tears and said that if the persecution would cease they could live as well as any other family in the land. They could even have the luxuries of life. Bro. Crosby related the following items of interest concerning the Prophet.
He was strong and active, and could build more rods of good fence in one day than most men could do in two, and he always left his fence clear of everything that might gather fire, such as underbrush, loose limbs, and tall strong weeds.
He was orderly. His wood yard was an example of order. Logs were neatly piled and all trash cleared away. If he did not finish the log on which he was chopping the remnant was laid back on the pile and not left on the ground for a stumbling block. The chips he made he picked up himself into a basket and put them in a wooden box which stood in the wood yard to carry them into the house to be burned.
Bro. Crosby confessed this: During a period of financial depression for the prophet, the ax was stolen from his wood yard and Brother Crosby contributed to loan him the ax belonging to himself because of the unfailing habit of the Prophet to always sharpen the ax he had been using before it left his hand. People in that section burned hard wood and to keep the ax in good shape required much time and energy. Some of the home habits of this best friend, however, such as building kitchen fires, carrying out ashes, carrying in wood and water, assisting in the care of the children, etc. were not in accord with Brother Crosby’s idea of a great man’s duty.
(“LaFayette C. Lee, Notebook,” LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.)
What a wonderful personal character sketch of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is truly the day-to-day activities and actions of a man that show his true character. The commentary regarding how everything Joseph touched seemed to prosper reminds me of Jacob in the Old Testament, when he was working for Laban and was able to build up quite a stock of goods for himself because the Lord blessed him (Genesis 30).
Joseph Smith was a hard and honest worker. He wanted to help those around him, but his enemies refused to leave him alone. Yet, each time Joseph’s enemies thought they had ruined him, he rose like a phoenix from the ashes and prospered again. Even when Joseph willingly went to Carthage and knew it was to his death, he was comforted by the knowledge that he had fulfilled God’s work for him on the earth. How many of us, when we feel our mortality, can say with an honest heart that we know we have done our best to keep God’s commandments and to fulfil His wishes for us here?
Joseph Smith was truly a prophet of God, and he lived his life the best way he knew how to please God.
Pieter Vlam was born on July 8, 1894, to Arien and Aaltje Klant Vlam in the Netherlands. When he was 16 years old, he and his mother and brothers joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which church is often misnamed the Mormon Church). A year after his baptism, Pieter joined the Royal Dutch Navy, where he spent his career. He married Hanna Melaine Gysler on August 24, 1929, in Zurich, Switzerland. Hanna was also a member of the “Mormon Church.”
In 1933, Hanna joined her husband for his tour of duty in Indonesia with their three-year-old daughter, Grace, and their new son, Heber. They stayed in Indonesia until his tour ended in 1938. While the children had been very happy in Indonesia, Pieter was severely persecuted in his career for his religious beliefs, and his superior officer made it impossible for Pieter to extend his stay in Indonesia, so they returned to the Netherlands.
Pieter and Hanna’s plan was always to move to the United States, as soon as it became possible, but this option did not arise for several years. On their way back to the Netherlands, however, the Vlam family was able to stop in Salt Lake City, Utah, and they were sealed together as an eternal family in the Salt Lake Mormon Temple. At this time, the Vlams had another child, Vera. On June 9, 1938, they were sealed together before returning to the Netherlands. In 1939, they had their last child, Alvin.
As World War II approached and the Nazi threat intensified, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recalled their missionaries from Europe. Vlam was still an officer in the Royal Dutch navy, and he was also called by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith to serve in the Dutch Mission presidency. These men became responsible for the church in their area during the war. In 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, and Vlam had to move to Voorburg, near The Hague, to find a new job to support his family. Most of Pieter’s neighbors in the area were also former military personnel, but they were standoffish towards their Mormon neighbor. However, after Vera was killed in a tragic train accident at the age of 4, the neighbors’ hearts were softened and they were more open with the Vlam family. The family was struck by the loss of Vera, but they were comforted by the blessings they had received in the temple to be an eternal family.
In May 1942, the former Dutch military were all taken prisoners, including Pieter. Grace was eleven at the time and heard the news at school. She rushed home to find her father gone. She was devastated, but remembers the Spirit telling her audibly that she would see her father again. Pieter was taken to the Nuremberg-Langwasser prison camp. He wrote home asking for a copy of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. In his letter, his faith was apparent as he said to his wife: “God will bring us together again. . . . We trust in him. Live the gospel with the children. . . . Be courageous and continue a normal life.”
Three months after arriving at Nuremberg-Langwasser, Pieter was transferred to Stanislau, Poland (now Ivano Frankivsk, Ukraine), to Stalag 371, a prison camp in an 18th-century monastery now surrounded by barbed-wire fences. Faced with such a bleak outlook, many of the inmates (some of whom were Pieter’s fellow officers) began asking serious questions about life. Some turned to Pieter for answers.
Because meetings were forbidden in Stalag 371, Pieter would take a couple people with him and walk in circles for miles around the camp, discussing the gospel with them. He taught nearly 1,000 men about the Restoration and the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pieter shared joy instead of misery, and many people joined the church.
The men who believed Pieter wanted to meet together, but at first had to do so in secret. They would gather, one by one, in an isolated room in the old monastery. The first to arrive swept the floor, the second covered the window. They would not sing, because it would draw too much attention, but they read and talked. They pondered the Sacrament prayers, but did not perform the ordinance of the Sacrament. They had not yet been baptized, and the Sacrament is a renewal of baptismal covenants.
A Dutch Reformed Church chaplain volunteered in Stalag 371 and became aware of Pieter’s efforts. He met with each person attending Vlam’s meeting and distributed anti-Mormon literature, telling them Vlam was misguided and deceived. While this had the desired effect on some, for others it enforced their belief in Vlam’s teachings because they compared the anti-Mormon literature with what they had been taught and recognized the obvious discrepancies.
After a while, the group was able to meet in the open. They fasted once a month and gave their food to weak or ill prisoners. Though things were difficult, Pieter warned the men who met with him that the true test of their faith would come outside the prison walls when old family, friends, and new enemies would challenge them and disown them for their beliefs. He certainly knew that from personal experience.
Pieter continued to be blessed. His former employer continued to pay his salary to Pieter’s family, even though he was not working. Still, his family had to travel to the country to make the money stretch far enough to survive on.
In January 1944, Stalag 371 was evacuated and the prisoners were moved to a camp in Neubrandenburg, north of Berlin. Finally the war ended, and on June 5, 1945, 14-year-old Grace was able to welcome her father home.
In 1949, Pieter was able to move his whole family to the United States, as he had longed to do for years. They lived in Salt Lake City. Pieter passed away on October 31, 1957, and Hanna passed away on June 17, 1982. Many men who believed Pieter’s words were baptized after the war ended and remained faithful members.
Pieter was truly an example of staying true to one’s faith and sharing the peace it brought him with others.
The Doctrine and Covenants is a book of modern scripture which reveals to us, in our day, the things we need to know in order to obtain salvation. It is a book of promised blessings for the faithful and of warnings for the wicked. It is a book of instructions to teach God’s people how to organize themselves today and is also a reminder to them of where they need to look for guidance.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (frequently misnamed the “Mormon Church”) recognizes the truth contained in all scripture, but realizes there are many records of God’s words to His people—far more than just the Bible.
The Doctrine and Covenants is unique because it is not a translation of an ancient document, but is of modern origin and was given of God through his chosen prophets for the restoration of his holy work and the establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth in these days (Explanatory Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants).
The Doctrine and Covenants’ teachings are “an invitation to all people everywhere to hear the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking to them for their temporal well-being and their everlasting salvation” (Explanatory Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants).
While the revelations contained in the Doctrine and Covenants were “the foundation of the Church in these last days” (Church History in the Fulness of Times, 119), which provide deep doctrinal answers to questions of salvation, many are also direct answers to questions offered in prayer, “in times of need, and came out of real-life situations involving real people. The Prophet [Joseph Smith] and his associates sought for divine guidance, and these revelations certify that they received it” (Explanatory Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants). These revelations, though sometimes given to individuals, may be applied to daily life and modern struggles in a very effective way and are also testimonies that God hears and answers our individual prayers.
Mormon doctrine teaches, like Isaiah, that the Lord reveals His will “line upon line, precept upon precept” (D&C 98:12). The Doctrine and Covenants is a testament that God knows we can only learn by degrees. You cannot expect someone with no knowledge of elements to understand organic chemistry—they must gain a foundational knowledge upon which they can build. So it is in spiritual matters: we must learn to understand the basic doctrines before the mysteries of God can be unfolded to us. The revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants build upon each other to teach the mysteries of God’s kingdom.
In 1931, prophet Joseph Fielding Smith declared:
In my judgment there is no book on earth yet come to man as important as the book known as the Doctrine and Covenants, with all due respect to the Book of Mormon, and the Bible, and the Pearl of Great Price, which we say are our standards in doctrine. The book of Doctrine and Covenants to us stands in a peculiar position above them all. . . . This Doctrine and Covenants contains the word of God to those who dwell here now. . . . More precious than gold, the Prophet [Joseph Smith] says we should treasure it more than the riches of the whole earth. . . . If we will put [its teachings] into practice, if we will keep the commandments of the Lord, we will know the truth and there shall be no weapon formed against us that shall prosper. There shall be no false doctrines, no teaching of men that will deceive us. . . . If we will search these revelations then we will be fortified against errors and we will be made strong (In Conference Report, October 1931, p17).
We invite you to read the Doctrine and Covenants, to discover key doctrine about the “nature of the Godhead, the origin of man, the reality of Satan, the purpose of mortality, the necessity for obedience, the need for repentance, the workings of the Holy Spirit, the ordinances and performances that pertain to salvation, the destiny of the earth, the future conditions of man after the resurrection and the judgment, the eternity of the marriage relationship, and the eternal nature of the family” (Explanatory Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants).
“The testimony that is given of Jesus Christ—his divinity, his majesty, his perfection, his love, and his redeeming power—makes this book of great value to the human family and of more worth than the riches of the whole earth” (Explanatory Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants). Discover for yourself these beautiful teachings and the peace they can bring into your life.
Mormon history is rich with faith-filled stories of overcoming persecution, migrating in the vilest of circumstances, and trusting God with everything they had. But there is more to the history of Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes mistakenly called the “Mormon Church”) than the spiritual side of things—there is of course, logistics. After all, you can’t expect to be fed manna every day just because you’re a believer—you have to plan, build, and grow.
When Mormons arrived at the Salt Lake valley, in Utah, there was nothing there. In fact, it wasn’t even part of the United States yet. Mormons had been driven from so many places because of their unique belief in God—and this valley was pronounced as “the place” where they would finally be able to settle.
After Brigham Young (the second prophet in Mormon history, after Joseph Smith) showed where the temple would be, the people were heavily involved in the planning, or the platting, of the city. Not only were the surprisingly wide streets ingeniously made on an easily understandable grid system (with the center being the temple) but there was much more, like the well-built irrigation systems that are still in use today. Brigham Young had seen all of this in vision. The plan carried Salt Lake City into modern times with very few adjustments needed.
Why was this platting so important, more than just for ease of governance? We learn about the unique history from an article titled, “Travel guide: Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area:”
It was called the plat of Zion (Zion meaning the pure in heart). These were all viewed as little miniature experiments in Zion, in building Zion in each little town… They were called the United Order, a way of living where everybody just deeded over all of their belongings to the church and then they were given back as they needed, according to what their assigned tasks were in a community. If they were a cattle herder, then they needed a horse.
In order for these Latter-day Saints to live this United Order, which was the way God wanted them to live, they needed to be organized.
As a Mormon myself, I have been taught, since my youth, that having an organized life is the way of God. We live by the scripture found in Doctrine and Covenants (a book of modern day revelations) 88:119, “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.” That is why if you ever go into LDS Church building, especially the Temples, that everything is organized—it is the way of God. This is yet another reason the history of Mormonism proves why they established such a successful community—because they followed their way of “platting” after the pattern of God.
I invite you to learn more about Mormons by meeting with Mormon missionaries. I know that God lives and that His Son, Jesus Christ, is the Savior of the world. I love Him, and I will be forever grateful for what He has done for me, my family, and for all mankind.
This article was written by Ashley Bell, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A blessing given to Ruth Hardy Funk as a teenager changed the direction of her life. The seventh General President of the Young Women (ages 12-18) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons, LDS) explained during an interview in 2010:
During my teen age years I had a few lessons with Leopold Godowsky, a famous pianist, who had a friendship with my teacher and visited Salt Lake City on a few occasions. He encouraged me to pursue a concert career and to study at a conservatory in the east. We thought long and hard about this possibility. My father said he would give me a blessing so I would know what I should do. With my parents we fasted before the blessing. Mother came in the room, and my father blessed me: ‘Your Father in Heaven wants you to continue with your work on the piano, but as for a concert career, He has other things in mind for you.” The way my life has unfolded, everything was based on that blessing.
Ruth Hardy was born in Chicago, IL on February 11, 1917 to Thomas Frederick and Polly Reynolds Hardy and raised in Salt Lake City where she began piano lessons when she was five years old. By the time she was in high school she was well known for her musical ability and often accompanied performers at East High School (‘34). In addition to performing for Godowsky, she also played for Helen Keller.
She was a student body officer in high school and college as well as president of her sorority, Pi Kappa Phi at the University of Utah (‘38). She graduated with a degree in music and married Marcus C. Funk in the Salt Lake Temple. They moved to Chicago where he attended dental school at Northwestern University. The couple had four children, 19 grandchildren and 39 great-grandchildren.
Sister Funk was called to the MIA general board (the original youth program) when she was only 29 years old. In 1962 she was called by Elder Harold B. Lee to be a member of his newly-formed Correlation Committee. For ten years she evaluated and wrote church curriculum, including materials for the Young Women’s program.
She began teaching at East High School in Salt Lake City in 1969 and continued until 1972, when President Lee, who had been called as the new Mormon prophet, appointed her to succeed Florence Jacobson as the General President of the Young Women. She served with her counselors Hortense Hogan Child Smith and Ardeth Greene Kapp until 1978 and was also on the executive committee of the National Council of Women during that time. While she was president, Personal Progress and the Young Women Recognition Award were implemented throughout the LDS Church.
Sister Funk was asked to speak in the Mormon general Women’s Conference just after she had been released as president. She testified:
Jesus Christ is our Savior, our brother, our friend. He is as near as we allow him to be. Our only ultimate joy and happiness is predicated upon our relationship with him. Our only peace, through disappointments, sorrow, and challenges, will come as we draw nearer unto him. With such love for our Redeemer, every difficult experience may be met with courage, acceptance, and even gratitude. His love for us is a gift beyond price. What does he ask in return? “Love one another; as I have loved you.” (John 13:34.)
Sister Funk was a member of the Utah State Board of Education from 1985 to 1992, where she served as chairman for a year. She also served as the chairman of the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women in Utah and as a board member for Bonneville International Corporation. In addition, she was on the boards of Bonneville International and Promised Valley Playhouse.
In 2009, President Thomas S. Monson honored Sister Funk at a special Church luncheon. Mary N. Cook, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency, said this about Funk: “Always an optimist and with an incredible zest for living, she has shared that zeal with countless children and youth. She is known for her love of music and youth and those two loves were often combined during her service.”
Sister Funk died February 5, 2011, just a week before her 94th birthday. In a final tribute, her obituary read:
She leaves us all with remarkable memories of those moments when as a mother, wife or grandma she shared many “one-on-one” adventures accompanying her on her travels to cities all around the world – from New York to Auckland. No obituary could ever embody the remarkable spirit and contributions of this uniquely loving, passionate and generous woman. But the lives of all those who were blessed to be a part of Ruth’s life were undoubtedly made “more marvelous” because of it.
Article written by Jan
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Gerhard and Harald Fricke, brothers and Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) in Germany during World War II, each had trying experiences but remained faithful. On July 27, 1943, Operation Gomorrah annihilated Hamburg, Germany, where the Frickes lived with their family. It is likely that more than 40,000 people died that night. More than 700 aircraft from the Allies dropped bombs creating a firestorm with winds up to 150 miles per hour and reaching temperatures of 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. The intense heat lit the asphalt on fire, killing many. Even though in air raid shelters were not immune; many cooked to death.
Gerhard Fricke was 20 years old at the time, but had not yet been drafted into service, because of his speech impediment. Harald was 17 at the time. Gerhard saved his mother, aunt, and sisters’ lives that night by forcing them into a deep underground bunker. Harald and their grandfather had been assigned to watch over the church’s meetinghouse, but luckily escaped to the bunker in time, and all their lives were spared.
Not long after the raid, both brothers were drafted into the German army. It was near the end of the war, but Gerhard was sent to the Western Front and Harald to the Eastern Front. Gerhard was made a prisoner of war soon thereafter by the Allies, but had enough to eat, though his circumstances were miserable. Harald was detained in Russia even after the war was over and survived dreadful circumstances which many others did not: lice infestation, starvation, disease, and cold.
After 18 months in Russia, Harald was so thin and sickly that the Russians told him to return to Germany. It took four weeks of riding in a cattle car before he made it. Many fellow travelers did not. His family had mostly given him up for dead since they had not heard from him in so long.
Both Harald and Gerhard returned to full activity in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints upon returning home. They had joined with their mother in 1910. Harald served as a bishop for 15 years and on the high council for 22 years. Today, he continues to keep up the Church meetinghouse in Wartenau.
Gerhard married Ruth Braun, another member of the “Mormon Church” who had fled East Prussia when the Soviet Army advanced. After the war, the Altona Branch was the only one that still had a building to meet in; all the others had been destroyed. Gerhard and Ruth were called to leave their comfortable apartment provided by the housing authority to move into and restore an old villa to serve as the new meetinghouse. It was in bad shape and needed a lot of work. Gerhard and Ruth took the building apart piece by piece and then put it back together, reinforcing beams, adding new plumbing and wiring, and developing a love for the building. They gave up personal comfort to serve when they were asked. The building is now protected under German law as a state monument.
The Frickes moved out of the building when Gerhard “retired” at age 65, but he continues to love and care for the building 20 years later. Gerhard declared, “I have a firm testimony that Father in Heaven has watched over me [in my] lifetime and the restored church is led by the Lord; this I’ve often felt.
Faithful Saints such as Gerhard and Harald provided hope for others as they recovered from the effects of the war. Many suffered a great deal, but they all testify of the hand of the Lord blessing them when they needed it most.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often misnamed the “Mormon Church”) purchased some land in May 2012 from the Community of Christ, a splinter group from the LDS Church formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The 6,000 acres purchased from the Community of Christ is of historical significance to both churches.
The land purchased is located in Missouri and Ohio and includes both operating farmland and several other non-farmland properties, which include Haun’s Mill and the Far West Burying Ground (both in Missouri) and the Joseph Smith Sr. home in Kirtland, Ohio.
At the time of the purchase, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had no plans to develop the land. They planned to continue farm operations on the farm land and maintain historic sites.
Haun’s Mill is of historic significance as the place where 18 Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) were massacred on October 30, 1838, when the sheriff of Caldwell County, William Jennings, led an armed militia of more than 200 men to the settlement and opened fire without warning on its citizens. Far West is also located in Caldwell County and is the settlement the Saints founded in 1836 which served as church headquarters during 1838. An estimated 200 early Latter-day Saints are buried at the Far West Burial Grounds. The Joseph Smith Sr. home in Ohio is where Joseph Smith’s parents lived from 1831–1838. This is where Joseph Smith Sr. lived when he was called to be the LDS Church’s first Presiding Patriarch.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a desire to preserve sites significant to its history and organization in order to help living members of the “Mormon Church” remember the sacrifices and miracles which occurred at that time. The history of the “Mormon Church” holds a noteworthy place in United States history as well, and it is important that many people learn what happened in order to make sure the same mistakes are not made again.
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