October, 28, 2011

Fellowshipping the Saints

In 1855, many Church members were gathering to Zion. Although some emigrating Saints ended up in the Salt Lake Valley, many settled elsewhere. Throughout the nineteenth century, Mormons built homes and communities as far south as San Bernardino, California, and into Mexico, and as far north as Canada. Unfortunately, some members in these outlying struggled spiritually.

Although reasons probably are as varied as the people involved, I wonder whether geographical proximity played any role? Theoretically, Saints outside the Salt Lake Valley had less interaction with Church leaders, and perhaps that allowed more doubt or bad habits to take root. Maybe Saints in these communities did not adequately teach their children the gospel, and as a result the youth had difficulty developing testimonies. Finally, it’s possible that members were so busy with settling a new area that religion may have been perceived a leisure activity, since their energy was necessarily devoted to farming, ranching, and other endeavors that helped sustain life.

In late 1855, President Brigham Young began sending missionaries to help members recommit to the gospel. Historians have called this period the “Great Reformation” or the “Mormon Reformation.” Jedediah M. Grant, a councilor in the First Presidency, began preaching in many Mormon communities. He first called people to repentance, then he instructed them on what was expected of worthy Saints. As a sign of recommitment, many Church members were rebaptized. In fact, Grant spent so much time in the water re-baptizing that some think the exposure may have been a factor that led to his death.

I believe Brigham Young’s concern for struggling members to strengthen testimonies is still valid today. While rebaptism is no longer practiced, we can lift, encourage, inspire, and bless others. One way we might help others who may be struggling is through home or visit teaching. And while geographical proximity issues have been overcome by communications and technology, there is still the issue of whether our hearts and spirits are drawing close to the Savior.

Jacob Bromley, Exercise Science Major, Education in Zion Gallery Educator