The Faith and Miracles of Mormon Pioneer Mary Fielding Smith
Mary Fielding Smith experienced several miracles and showed the men how it's done while walking across the plains to Utah.
Mary Fielding Smith was the widow of Hyrum Smith, Joseph Smith's brother who died with him at Carthage Jail. After the Mormons were expelled from Nauvoo, Illinois, Mary started the pioneer trek to Utah with her five children, her Aunt Mercy Rachel Thompson, her brother, Joseph Fielding, and a few others. The spent 1847-1848 in Winter Quarters, Nebraska, preparing to leave for the salt lake valley.
Her Son, Joseph F. Smith, wrote of the experiences they had as they traveled, including lost cattle, prayers answered, and her prediction that she would make it to Salt Lake unassisted. The following excerpts is his account as recorded in "The Life of Joseph F. Smith":
In the spring of 1847 a portion of our family crossed the plains, following the pioneers to the valley of the Great Salt Lake, the remainder of the family intending to proceed on their journey to the west in the following spring. In the fall of 1847 my mother and her brother. Joseph Fielding, made a trip down the Missouri river to St. Joseph, Mo., about fifty miles, for the purpose of obtaining provisions and clothing for the family for the coming winter, and for the journey across the plains the following spring. They took two wagons with two yokes of oxen on each. I was almost nine years of age at this time, and accompanied my mother and uncle on this journey as a teamster.
The weather was unpropitious, the roads were bad, and it rained a great deal during the journey, so that the trip was a very hard, trying and unpleasant one. At St. Joseph we purchased our groceries and dry goods, and at Savannah we laid in our store of flour, meal, corn, bacon and other provisions. Returning to Winter Quarters, we camped one evening in an open prairie on the Missouri river bottoms, by the side of a small spring creek, which emptied into the river about three-quarters of a mile from us. We were in plain sight of the river, and could apparently see over every foot of the little open prairie where we were camped, to the river on the southwest, to the bluffs on the northeast, and to the timber which skirted the prairie on the right and left. Camping near by, on the other side of the creek, were some men with a herd of beef cattle, which they were driving to Savannah and St. Joseph for market.
We usually unyoked our oxen and turned them loose to feed during our encampments at night, but this time, on account of the proximity of this herd of cattle, fearing that they might get mixed up and driven off with them, we turned our oxen out to feed in their yokes. Next morning when we came to look them up, to our great disappointment our best yoke of oxen was not to be found. Uncle Fielding and I spent all the morning, well nigh until noon, hunting for them but without avail. The grass was tall, and in the morning was wet with heavy dew. Tramping through this grass and through the woods and over the bluffs, we were soaked to the skin, fatigued, disheartened and almost exhausted.
In this pitiable plight I was the first to return to our wagons, and as I approached I saw my mother kneeling down in prayer. I halted for a moment and then drew gently near enough to hear her pleading with the Lord not to suffer us to be left in this helpless condition, but to lead us to recover our lost team, that we might continue our travels in safety. When she arose from her knees I was standing near by. The first expression I caught upon her precious face was a lovely smile, which, discouraged as I was, gave me renewed hope and an assurance I had not felt before.
A few moments later Uncle Fielding came to the camp, wet with the dews, faint, fatigued and thoroughly disheartened. His first words were: "Well, Mary, the cattle are gone!"
Mother replied in a voice which fairly rang with cheerfulness, "Never mind, your breakfast has been waiting for hours, and now, while you and Joseph are eating, I will just take a walk out and see if I can find the cattle."
My uncle held up his hands in blank astonishment, and if the Missouri river had suddenly turned to run up stream, neither of us could have been much more surprised. "Why, Mary," he exclaimed, "what do you mean? We have been all over this country, all through the timber and through the herd of cattle, and our oxen are gone—they are not to be found. I believe they have been driven off, and it is useless for you to attempt to do such a thing as to hunt for them."
"Never mind me," said mother, "get your breakfast and I will see," and she started toward the river, following down [...unintelligible text...] out of speaking distance.
The man in charge of the herd of beef cattle rode up from the opposite side of the creek and called out: "Madam, I saw your oxen over in that direction this morning about daybreak," pointing in the opposite direction from that in which mother was going. We heard plainly what he said, but mother went right on, paid no attention to his remark and did not even turn her head to look at him. A moment later the man rode off rapidly toward his herd, which had been gathered in the opening near the edge of the woods, and they were soon under full drive for the road leading toward Savannah, and soon disappeared from view. My mother continued straight down the little stream of water, until she stood almost on the bank of the river, and then she beckoned to us. (I was watching her every moment and was determined that she should not get out of my sight.)
Instantly we rose from the 'mess-chest,' on which our breakfast had been spread, and started toward her, and, like John, who outran the other disciple to the sepulchre, I outran my uncle and came first to the spot where my mother stood. There I saw our oxen fastened to a clump of willows growing in the bottom of a deep gulch which had been washed out of the sandy banks of the river by the little spring creek, perfectly concealed from view. We were not long in releasing them from bondage and getting back to our camp, where the other cattle had been fastened to the wagon wheels all the morning, and we were soon on our way homeward bound, rejoicing. This circumstance was one of the first practical and positive demonstrations of the efficacy of prayer I had ever witnessed. It made an indelible impression upon my mind, and has been a source of comfort, assurance and guidance to me throughout all my life.
On day in the Spring of 1848, President Heber C. Kimball brought to "Widow Smith's" camp—for by that name she was called—the supervisor of public cattle in the Camp of Israel. From him she tried to obtain sufficient oxen or cows to continue the journey. President Joseph F. Smith, speaking of the incident, says:
After diagnosing our case, considering the number of wagons we had, and the helplessness of the whole company, the wagonmaster very sternly informed the widow that there was no use for her to attempt to cross the plains that year, and advised her to go back to the Missouri River, and remain at Winter Quarters another year, when perhaps she could be helped," then the supervisor added: "If you start out in this manner, you will be a burden on the company the whole way, and I will have to carry you along or leave you on the way."
I am happy to say, the widow had a little mettle in her, and she straightened up and calmly replied: "I will beat you to the valley and will ask no help from you either."
At this remark the wagonmaster seemed to be very nettled and replied: "You can't get there without help, and the burden will be on me." With this remark he abruptly turned and walked away."
She had trusted with the most implicit faith in God for deliverance from the jaws of death, for Winter Quarters was a most sickly place at that time, and was being deserted by most of the Saints. After the rebuff she suffered at the hands of one who should have gladly offered her some assistance, she unloaded one wagon, took the best two yoke of oxen they had and she and her brother Joseph started back to the Missouri River. Here she succeeded in borrowing and hiring enough cattle to suffice for the journey. Some of the cattle were hired from those who did not expect to make the trip, others were purchased on time. With these she and her brother returned to the camp on the Elk Horn. It was not many days afterwards when the company was organized. It pained the young son when he learned that his mother had been assigned by President Heber C. Kimball to travel in the company of fifty, over which this same wagonmaster was appointed to take charge. Perhaps it was well, as it proved to be in the end. No doubt this brother was pleased to have Widow Smith and her dependents assigned to his company, for now he would have control and he would prove to her that she should have remained behind and that she would be a burden to the company and dependent upon help from him. In this he, no doubt, gloried, for he was going to see that it was fulfilled.
We moved smoothly until we reached a point about mid-way between the Platte and Sweetwater, when one of our best oxen laid down in the yoke as if poisoned and all supposed he would die. The ox stiffened out spasmodically evidently in the throes of death. The death of this faithful animal would have been fatal to the progress of Widow Smith on the journey to the valley. She knew this, so also did the wagonmaster. Naturally when the ox dropped to the ground all the wagons that were following came to a sudden stop. At this the wagonmaster came up and seeing the cause of the disturbance he blustered about as if the world were about at an end. "There," said he, "I told you you would have to be helped and that you would be a burden on the company."
But in this he was mistaken. Producing a bottle of consecrated oil, Mary Smith asked her brother and James Lawson if they would please administer to the ox just as they would do to a sick person, for it was vital to her interest that the ox be restored that she might pursue her journey. Her earnest plea was complied with. These brethren poured oil on the head of the ox and then laid their hands upon it and rebuked the power of the destroyer just as they would have done if the animal had been a human being. Immediately the ox got up and within a very few moments again pulled in the yoke as if nothing had ever happened. This was a great astonishment to the company. Before the company had proceeded very far another of her oxen fell down as the first, but with the same treatment he also got up, and this was repeated the third time; by administration the oxen were fully healed. This brought great chagrin to the countenance of the captain of the company. On reaching the last crossing of the Sweetwater, three of the Captain's oxen and his best mule laid down near the camp-ground and died. This was a sore trial to him and a very great loss, as he was obliged to get help for himself before he could proceed.
Enduring all these hardships incident to such a journey and moreover the unpleasant condition in which she had unfortunately been placed, she, with the company, finally reached the east side of East Mountain, on the Pioneer Trail. Her worn-out cattle wearily dragged the heavy wagons up the eastern side of this mountain until they reached the top. What joy and peace filled the hearts of this little band of exiles as they gazed for the first time upon the promised land, for here they had their first view of the Salt Lake Valley. It was a most delightful sight to us. This sight filled Mary Smith and her little flock with renewed zeal and determination, their long-sought-for goal was now in sight. Thus far she had come without asking help of anyone, except of the Lord, who came to her rescue in the dark hour when it seemed all earthly help would fail. It was now the 22nd day of September. One more day and they would, if all signs did not fail, pitch their little camp in the coveted valley of refuge that lay before them.
But when morning came there was consternation in Mary Smith's camp. The wagonmaster, remembering the prediction she had uttered that she would beat him to the valley, had in the night taken steps to forestall the fulfillment of any such prediction. He was smarting under constant defeat along the way. His predictions had thus far failed; but he was determined that they should not fail in the final test at the end.
Early next morning, the captain gave notice to the company to arise, hitch up and roll over the mountain into the valley.
To our consternation, when we gathered up our cattle, the essential part of our means of transportation, for some reason had strayed away, and were not to be found with the herd. A brother of mine (John) who was also a boy scout at that time, then obtained a horse and rode back over the road in search of the lost cattle. The captain ordered the march to begin, and, regardless of our predicament, the company started out, up the mountain. The morning sun was then shining brightly, without a cloud appearing anywhere in the sky! I had happened to hear the promise of my dear mother that we would beat the captain into the valley, and would not ask any help from him either. I sat in the front of the wagon with the teams we had in hand hitched to the wheels, while my brother was absent hunting the others. I saw the company wending its slow way up the hill, the animals struggling to pull their heavy loads. The forward teams now had almost reached the summit of the hill, and I said to myself, "True enough, we have come thus far, and we have been blessed, and not the slightest help from anyone has been asked by us." But the last promise seemed to be now impossible; the last hope of getting into the valley before the rest of our company was vanishing in my opinion.
You have doubtless heard descriptions of the terrific thunder storms that sometimes visit the mountains. The pure, crystal streams a few moments before flow gently down their channels; but after one of these rains, in a few minutes they become raging torrents, muddy and sometimes bringing down fallen trees and roots and rocks. All of a sudden, and in less time than I am taking to tell you, a big, dark, heavy cloud rose from the northwest, going directly southeast. In a few minutes it burst in such terrific fury that the cattle could not face the storm, and the captain seemed forced to direct the company to unhitch the teams, turn them loose, and block the wheels to keep the wagons from running back down the hill. The cattle fled before the storm down into the entrance into Parley's canyon, from the Park, into and through the brush. Luckily, the storm lasted only a short time. As it ceased to rain, and the wind ceased to blow, my brother, John, drove up with our lost cattle. We then hitched them to the wagon, and the question was asked by my uncle of mother: "Mary, what shall we do? Go on, or wait for the company to gather up their teams?"
She said: "Joseph (that was her brother's name), they have not waited for us, and I see no necessity for us to wait for them."
So we hitched up and rolled up the mountain, leaving the company behind, and this was on the 23rd day of September, 1848. We reached the Old Fort about 10 o'clock that Saturday night. The next morning, in the Old Bowery, we had the privilege of listening to President Brigham Young and President Kimball, Erastus Snow, and some others, give some very excellent instructions. Then, on the afternoon of that Sunday, we went out and met our friends coming in, very dusty, and very foot-sore and very tired!
The prediction of the widow was actually fulfilled; we beat them into the valley, and we asked no help from them either!
Joseph Fielding Smith, "Life of Joseph F. Smith"