This last week we have been traveling all other northern Missouri. The autumn leaves are starting to turn bright red, orange and yellow. The weather has been beautiful but it is getting colder every day.
We have had two experiences this week that I would like to share. One late afternoon we were looking for a Young Single Adult in the town of Richmond. Just as a side note, there are a couple of special monuments in Richmond. One is the statue of General Doniphan who plays a big part in Mormon Missouri history and the Monument to the 3 witnesses. Back to the story, the apartment was located in a very old dumpy two story school. The kind of school that most have burned down or been torn down. As we walked in the door there was a big sign telling all tenants the rules; no drugs, no selling drugs (even in the parking lot) no going into other apartments and stealing stuff, etc. I was very surprised to read the rules but I was also determined to knock on the apartment door. I wasn’t going to come this far and have fear stop me from finding that YSA. We knocked on the door and no one answered. But out of another apartment came a young man who actually looked very nice. He asked us who we were looking for and he told us that the man we were looking for had moved to another town. This young man saw our name tags and asked us about our Church. He asked if we were preachers. We told him that we were missionaries. He told us that he use to go to a Baptist church but his mother had died 6 months before and he felt lost and wanted to be part of a religion. We talked to him for a little while and he said that he would like the missionaries to come and teach him about our church. We wrote down all of his information and promised him that the young Elders would be by soon. As we left the building I couldn’t really believe that we had just had that experience. We almost didn’t go in because of fear and we would have missed meeting and helping this special young man. We have called the Elders with the information and they are right on it.
The second experience was that same night. We went to a home of a young man that we were looking for. He was at work but his mother spoke to us for quite a while. She told us that she was not happy that her son had joined our Church. She is Catholic and she was very hurt. She told us that she doesn’t think Mormons are Christians and that we are a cult. We were very sympathetic to her feelings and we both bore our testimonies that we are Christians and that we have a firm testimony that Jesus Christ is our Savior and our Redeemer. I think she felt a little better after our discussion. We told her we would talk to her anytime she wanted to explain our beliefs and help her understand that her son is not part of a cult. She had been to a meeting with her friend of a Pentecostal church and a special speaker had come and told them all about the Mormon Church. It made me very sad that there are still people out there preaching that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is not a Christian faith. I hope we were able to soften her heart just a little.
Wow, we are having all kinds of experiences. I have to say that this assignment is a little different from auditing! We will truly have served two different missions.
Our camera did not do this justice. It has been a full moon this week. We have been marking our mission by full moons. The moon comes up on the horizon without mountains and it looks so huge. It nearly takes our breath away.
Yesterday we took a day and went biking on the KATY rail-to-trail bike trail. We over did it but it was so beautiful. We have previously ridden this trail from St. Louis to here. After a long ride we were very hungry so we decided to stop to eat at the local Golden Corral. We were worried that we would not be properly dressed, but our fears were put to rest when we got in the restaurant. I think this is the local chapter of the Duck Dynasty. About half the men had long beards and many of the women were wearing duck hunting jackets. We enjoyed listening to their conversations. This was country at its best. I said those duck men were starting a fashion trend and Debi thinks these people have always dressed and looked like that and the duck men are just a reflection of reality.
Well, so much for that. We have had quite the week. Last weekend we participated in the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Liberty Jail Visitor center. It was wonderful. They had a “reader’s theater” that was put on by direct descendants of Joseph Smith, some who are members of our Church. One of them has been a bishop. It was very moving.
Sister Susan Easton Black Durrant came and gave a presentation. Many of our children have taken classes from her. Her husband died and now she is married to George Durrant (father of Devin) and they are serving a temple mission in Nauvoo. It was fun to meet her after all we have heard about her. She also knows our son JB and said nice things about him.
As part of the Liberty Jail 50th anniversary the Kansas City Chapter of the BYU Alumni Association held a BBQ, a fundraising auction and hosted an additional speaker. They auctioned several things. One of them was a replica of one of the keys to the original Liberty Jail. The RLDS claim to have the real one, but we also have one, and ours is much bigger, and it is on display in the visitor’s center. Anyway, they are not making any more of these replicas so they auctioned it off. It started at $20. I was willing to pay that. We would have probably given it to JB. As some of you know, I was once involved in the Christmas Tree Festival in Ogden. I know a little about charity auctions and how to bid things up. Well I helped out this BYU chapter by bidding on this. It sold for $300! I got out just in time, and I don’t think the guy who won knew what happened. It was fun, but I scared Debi a little. Oh, the RLDS does have the door, and they loaned it to us for a while to display. But now it is in the basement museum at their temple. So it might make sense that they also had the key. Ours was given to us by a lady from Liberty in her will who said it was the actual key and she wanted the Mormons to have it when she died.
As I said, Elder M. Russell Ballard came and gave a fireside Sunday night. Everyone that came needed a ticket to get in. It started at 7:00pm and they opened the doors at 6:00pm. All of the seats were gone by 6:30. It was a great event. He came because Hyrum Smith is his great-great-grandfather (Elder Ballard—His mother, who was a Smith—Her father, Hyrum Mack Smith, who was also an apostle—His father, Joseph F. Smith, who was the 7th president of the Church—son of Hyrum Smith, brother to the Prophet, Joseph). Of course, Hyrum was in Liberty Jail with Joseph. He was always by Joseph’s side.
Elder Ballard also has his family on his father’s side which includes his grandfather, Melvin J. Ballard, who was an apostle. But his great-grandfather also has a Missouri story. I discovered this while reading about a river boat on Good Friday on April 7, 1852. This is not a story about Missouri persecutions, but rather of kindness and Christian service by the citizens of Lexington, Missouri.
Henry Ballard was 22 years old and a single man who came from England to New Orleans on the sailing ship Kennebee. He was a sheep herder traveling with the family of his fiancée, Elizabeth, who is listed as being 26 years old. Her father, George May, was also a shepherd. Henry Ballard had with him two sheep dogs.
They traveled up river to St. Louis on a Mississippi riverboat. At St. Louis, they boarded the Missouri riverboat, Saluda. It took several days to get up river. They had booked passage to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where they planned to join a wagon train company and “cross the plains”.
At Lexington the Missouri River makes a bend. The current was very great in the spring. The captain made several attempts over several days to get around the bend. Then on the morning of April 9th he apparently said, “I will round the point this morning or blow this boat to hell!”
Well, we don’t know where the boat went, or the captain, but about 100 people were killed, including 28 Latter-day Saints. At least that many Latter-day Saints were also wounded; some losing limbs. There may have been 175 people on the boat, not all were Mormons.
Henry Ballard and the May family survived, but his two sheep dogs were never found. The sad thing is that when they began their overland segment, Elizabeth died of cholera. So instead of marrying her, he helped bury her.
The townspeople of Lexington came to the aid of the injured. Almost everyone lost all their belongings. There were some orphans that were even taken into the homes and adopted. They helped bury the dead, and raised money to help the victims.
There is a monument at Lexington in a nice little park. The bell from the boat went shooting in the air along with a 600 pound safe. They both landed high up on the river bank. The safe still had a spotted dog tied to it and the bell was recovered and placed on a church, where it is now on display.
Henry Ballard made it to Logan, married and had children. He was a bishop in Logan for many years. His great-grand-son is a wonderful man, and is truly an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.