I like this picture because you can see a grand piano and a cello in those last two covered wagons. I have an antique pump organ in my house that belonged to my pioneer ancestors. It was not brought across the plains, but put on a boat and brought around the tip of South America on a ship to California where they picked it up after crossing the plains. I love Pioneer Day and have many great childhood memories of celebrating this day and remembering those who have gone before us.
Today I told my kids some stories about Amos’s great, great, great grandpa, John Lowe Butler I. He was a friend and bodyguard to the prophet, Joseph Smith. He married Caroline who was brought up in privilege and had slaves at her bidding all the time. She had never even brushed her own hair until after she was married. As a gift for their marriage, her parents gave them two negro slaves who had been her personal servants since she was a child. John did not believe in slavery and his new bride took his side in the matter. She gave her slaves their freedom on the day of her wedding. John and Caroline later converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and little did she know how very different her life would be as a Mormon pioneer. Here is an excerpt from John’s biography.
“At this same time that the saints were being driven from Missouri, a number of families decided on their own initiative not to go with the main body. Instead, they decided to cross the Mississippi and look for a safer place farther west in Indian territory. That part of the country was unsettled and wild, and word of the party’s whereabouts and welfare rarely came back to the prophet. Roads were not kept up, and travel and all kinds of communications were often upset. The group traveled slowly; for many days they followed a stream of water. Occasionally, the prophet heard about them from others traveling out into that part of the country, but when word ceased to come about them or from them, he became greatly concerned. Joseph Smith talked the situation over with John L. Butler and asked him if he would go find the group and see if he could persuade them to return to the main body of the saints. The prophet was filled with the spirit of gathering, and he wanted to keep them all together. John L. Butler, always willing to heed a call from the prophet, took his wife and traveled out into the wilds of the west. The prophet had them load their wagon with provisions and tie their cow behind it. During their days of travel, John looked after the ox team and drove them along, and Caroline milked the cow and prepared the meals. After they had wandered for many days, they camped in some willows beside a stream of water. The cow was tethered in a small opening, and Caroline took her pail and a cup out to milk the cow. It was a quiet, sunny morning with only the sound of the running, trickling water of the stream and the breeze fluttering the leaves of the willows as it passed through them. Caroline milked into a large tin cup, and when it was full she carefully emptied it into the pail. As Caroline began to milk, the stream resounded in the cup, but as the cup filled it became quieter. When the cup was almost full and the milk was foamy, there was no sound at all, and in the quiet she heard a man’s voice. Then the sound of the stream and the breeze in the willows drowned out the voice, and she went on with her milking. Again when the cup was full and it was quiet she heard the voice. She raised up with the filled cup in her hand and walked toward the sound of the voice. She walked slowly so that her long skirts would make no noise on the grass and the willows. Suddenly she came upon a man with a long white beard and hair. He was kneeling, looking up into heaven, with tears rolling down his face. She heard him pleading with God to take him, that he was ready to die so his children could go on living. He had refused food for weeks so his children could survive and go on to have a useful life. He was thin and his voice trembled. When he finished his prayer he broke into sobs. Caroline moved close to him and placed the cup of warm milk up to his lips. She said, “My dear brother, your prayers have been answered. Drink.” There is nothing better than warm milk for the first meal of a starving man, and of course the man was grateful. He led John and Caroline to his party, and it was the one they were looking for. It was not far away. Thus, they located the starving saints and saved them, all in obedience to the prophet of the Lord.”
Today was wonderful and the Spirit was strong. The choir sang “Come, Come Ye Saints” and our neighbors came to church. They have a baptismal date set and will be pioneers in their family as the first members of the church. They are from Nigeria and I gave them a Book of Mormon in the language of Yoruba. They speak English very well, but having scripture in your native language can help with deeper understanding.