Strengthened by the Storm: The Early Mormons of Harkers Island, NC, by Joel G. Hancock.
Prayer of Rededication for the Harkers Island Ward
This prayer was offered on the morning of January 20, 1998 at 8:00 in the morning by President Joel G. Hancock, 2nd Counselor in the Kiniston NC Stake Presidency, at Shell Point on Harkers Island. It was given in observance of the 100th anniversary of the first Latter-day Saint Elders coming to Harkers Island. The prayer was offered at the direction of President Robert L. Deaver of the Kinston NC Stake.
Our Heavenly Father,
In the name of Jesus Christ, and by the authority of the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood, and in my capacity as an elder in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I stand before Thee this morning representing these assembled members to rededicate this island and the surrounding communities as a haven for the Latter-day Saints, for the missionary elders and sisters who will serve here, for the teaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the gentiles, and for the raising of righteous families unto Thee.
We give Thee thanks for the first elders who served here, especially Elders John Telford and William Hansen, for the spirit that they brought to this work that has remained ever since. We thank Thee for the knowledge we have come to know of them and of some of their families who have returned. We ask that Thy choicest blessings be upon them and their posterity forever. We thank Thee for those that followed them, including Elder John Wall, who did the first baptism, Elder Godfrey, who baptized so many of the early members, Elders Louis Johnson and Earl Greenwood, who built the first church here on the island, Elder William Petty, who established a school, and who was later driven off by a mob, but who had the courage and strength to return even again, and especially for Elder Robert White, who returned in 1909, to re-establish the priesthood and the teachings of the gospel on an
island, and to establish a tradition that has never been broken since.
We thank Thee for the Elders who came after them, Elder Dilbert Riley Bennett, whose son is now numbered among us, Elder Hugh Erwin, who is now one of us, and all the other elders and sisters who have given of their time and their substance to teach the gospel here among us. We thank Thee especially for those who have gone out from us, who have magnified the efforts of the gospel that was preached here to the very corners of the world. We ask Thee that in the years to come, that their numbers will be increased, that we may show forth our blessings and our appreciation even as we send out elders and sisters. We thank Thee for the first members here, and for the strength and courage they had to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ and to acknowledge the blood of Israel that was in their veins, in spite of the persecution and the shame and the other things that were heaped upon them by their family and friends.
We especially thank Thee for Armecia, whose home literally was our home for more than a generation and for her sister Elizabeth, and her children, for the nurturing of the families, that those two sisters did for the Elders and for the leaders of the Church. We thank Thee for the Willis twins, for the way they risked their lives and gave their all, to protect and defend and help the elders here on the island, and many others who were willing to put up with great trials and tribulations in order to see that the work of the Lord would go on here on the island.
We thank Thee for every person who has stood in leadership on this island in the last 100 years, especially for those great men who have been our branch presidents and bishops from Jasper Wade to Bishop Best. We thank Thee for their time and their efforts and we ask Thee if Thou wilt, to bless them accordingly, that they may know of the joy, both in this life and the life to come, from having served and magnified their callings in the kingdom. For the sisters who have stood at the head of the women’s organizations, from the Relief Society, to the Young Women, to the Primary, and every other thing, including scouting and working with the young boys of the scouting age, that they may know in this life and the life to come, the reward of having served valiantly in the kingdom. We thank Thee for the blessings of a hundred years- for our successes and for our failures in which we have grown. We thank Thee for our victories over our enemies, and for the fact that we are now established here on this island, in spite of all and any ill-will which might have been against us. We acknowledge, our Heavenly Father, that this island has become at various and sundry times, and for various and sundry people, a Mormon paradise, in keeping with the promise of Elder Melvin J. Ballard, one of Thy anointed servants.
And so we do here rededicate this island and all the surrounding communities as a haven forever for the saints and for Thy servants and for the elders and sisters who serve here, and that all who teach the gospel here will find open ears in their families and their friends and among the gentiles. And especially that we may be able to raise righteous families unto Thee, that our children may carry on the traditions of the first sisters and brothers and the first elders. Bless our families. Bless the mothers in Zion, that they may nurture their children on a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Bless the fathers in Israel, that they may be examples to their sons and daughters and raise them up in righteousness. Please bless the children of the rising generation, that long after they have forgotten the faces of the first members and those who have established the work here on the island, that they will remember the spirit and carry it forth to the following generations.
Bless us that we may be able to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to our friends, that they may be able to sit and listen with open minds and hearts and learn to come to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ as it has been restored in the latter days. Bless us that we may be able to redeem our dead, that the roads will be filled with the saints from this area as we head to the “mountain of the Lord” to become saviors on Mount Zion. Help us that we may perfect the saints in our area, that Zion will here put on its beautiful garments, that we individually may put off the natural man and submit to the will of the Father, even as a child does submit to his father.
We pray that this ward will flourish for another hundred years or until the second coming of Thy son, that we will be prepared and ready for him. Bless our efforts, and our prayers, and our sacrifices, and our offerings, that they will all be magnified in doing Thy work. We pray that the hearts of our adversaries will be softened, and that they will become open to the teachings of the gospel and they will become our friends. Help us individually, that we may be able to take Thy image in our countenance, and sing the song of redeeming love, that we may know of that mighty change of heart that comes to each of us, but only as individuals.
Please protect our meetinghouse, that it will be a beacon to all who see it and a haven for the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Bless our homes- the homes of our members- that the gospel will permeate the walls of every home, that in it our children will learn the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that we may feel free and safe from the torments of the world. Bless the graves of our families. We ask that those graves may be like the stones that Joshua placed on the Jordan River and a reminder to us and our children of what the Lord has done. Bless the cradles and cribs of our children- that in them, they will be nurtured in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Please succor us in our mortal afflictions. Make our weaknesses, our strengths. Help us to be charitable to all and a light on the hill never again to be hidden. And Father in Heaven, finally we ask that Thou would bless our wayward sons and daughters, that their hearts will be touched, that they will rekindle the urge to return to the bosom of the church family, to confess and repent of their sins, to become once again a pure and delightsome generation, willing and able to carry the torch to their children and our posterity. Father in Heaven, we again thank Thee for all that we have, and for all of our wonderful blessings. We pray that for the remainder of time and until the days of eternity, on this spot where we stand, that the oaks and cedars, the willows and pines, and even the yaupons and myrtle bushes, will sing forth the song of redeeming love, that all who come here will know that this that
this spot- is a part of Zion- and we leave this as a humble prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.