Mormon Literature Sampler:
Now I will inform the reader that I have promiscuously picked up several chips and recorded them in this book and will continue to do so all through this book as they occur to my mind (having no data to base my thoughts upon), and I shall call them chips although of different kinds. Some historical chips, some medical chips and some religious chips.
Now the first winter that we were in the valley we had most glorious night meetings. The spirit of the Lord was much enjoyed. Preaching, praying, singing and speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues and prophesying was abundantly enjoyed among us. After enjoying one of these good meetings I laid myself down and fell into something of a trance or vision and lost all knowledge of time and sense.
I thought the people were all busily engaged with their daily vocations in the valley, and there was a city in the sky right over the valley with a porch to it facing the west, and a ladder leaning against the porch and the foot of the ladder on the ground in the center of the valley. It was intuitively made known to me that the time had come for me and my wife to ascend the ladder up to the city.
I spoke to my wife saying, "Come Sally, it is our time now to go up the ladder." She willingly responded and we started up the ladder. I got on the first round and took her by the hand or arm and helped her up even with me and she stood there until I got on the second round and then I helped her up by my side on the second round, and that was the order until we got up to the top of the ladder. And when on the last round the edge of the porch was even with my breast.
I looked in by the fireplace and saw several men sitting by the fireplace all dressed alike in plain mixed jeans. Their countenances looked very pleasant and familiar. One of them got up and came out to me smiling and said: "I know you can't come in; it is my place to come and take you over the edge of the place." And then I turned around and helped my wife up, for that was the order in getting into the city.
I thought we now could look down and see the thoughts and intents of the hearts of those down on the ground. I saw two hogs in shape, although they were "Mormons." One was a large sandy colored hog with large lopped ears which I thought represented or was Amasa Lyman, although I never would receive it in that light until I was obliged to. I had so much confidence in him. The other one was a small round-bodied, well made hog, more lively and quick motioned than the others, and not so sandy colored, yet I knew they were "Mormons." But who the little one represented I had no knowledge.
I knew their thoughts and the intents of their hearts, and that was to get into the place of the First Presidency, whom I thought I saw lying on a blanket apparently asleep on the ground; I saw only two. Those two hogs went and tried to root them off their blankets so they could get in their places. They would start them with their snouts to roll out but before they could get them out their snouts would slip up and they would roll back again. The blankets being a little basining in the center the hogs would then make much of them and rub them first one side and then the other, like a cat by the way of reconciliation for fear they would be disturbed at their conduct.
I could see their thoughts and the intents of their hearts which was nothing but deception. They tried it several times but failed every time till they gave it up and started off. They appeared to be disappointed and disheartened. In a little while they came to a small tree. I saw their minds change; I thought they had claws like a cat and they reared up against the tree and tried the strength of their nails, thinking they could get them off their blankets with their claws if they could not with their snouts so they turned back and tried it. Oh how they would rub their sides against them, first one side and then another, with the most powerful pretensions of friendship that was possible to use, but could not succeed.
They finally gave it up and started off never to return. At that instant they began to get poor. The large one was the poorest hog I ever saw. His back was round like a rainbow and his ears lopped down almost to the ground. He was the ugliest hog I ever saw. In that condition they went off. And the first thing I knew I was at home. But the person that was represented by the little hog, I never did see anyone that suited the figure as well as William Godbe, but I don't know as he is the one.
Evil Spirits--I will now give some items of my experience in Nauvoo. It was so desperately sickly. I run myself down and took sick myself. I took medicine that broke up my disease but I was so weak and feeble that the spirits of affliction or evil spirits or disembodied spirits or the devil if you please, got possession of me and come near killing me. They would torment me nights so that I could not rest, let alone sleep; of a morning I was so tired I was almost dead. They would make me work in a horse mill. They would make me go around and around so heavily I could hardly step one foot before the other. Sometimes they would put a pack on my back so heavy I could scarcely stand up under it, and they would make me carry it.
I do not know how long I was troubled this way but I was nearly dead and out of heart. They troubled me only of nights. I dreaded the nights believing if they troubled me tonight as they did last night I could not live until morning, being so weak and feeble I had to lie down. Being quite late in the evening I do not know but it was best for me to go to bed for the night. So I had a trundle bed pulled out about the middle of the floor where I could be cool, it being hot weather. I lay down with a heavy heart, something seemed to say (though I heard nothing), "Put the Doctrine and Covenants or the Book of Mormon under your head, and do not consent to them and they can have no power over you. "
Oh joy unspeakable. I did so and covered up my head and shut my eyes musing in my mind, thinking what will be next, and I saw the three devils coming that always come together to pester me. I thought they had knowledge that there was something up, past common, as they proceeded very slow, like as they were doubtful of a disappointment, all three side by side hold of each other's hands. The middle one was a large man, dark complexion, black eyes and hair and snaggle teeth, big nose and high cheek bones and an old black wool hat lopped down all around, nearly, and an old cloth coat nearly worn out, black but very much faded and hung slovenly over his shoulders like it might fall off. He was extremely ugly; he looked very vicious, he looked like a devil. The other two were smaller and better dressed and appeared bright and affable like men of education; one of them appeared to be a spokesman, one of them looked considerable like Orson Hyde, the other looked like James Simpson. They approached me with a great deal of caution for fear they would not get my consent. I laid still to hear what they would say, full of determination. They appeared to be about three feet of me when they stopped.
The spokesman began to make bows to me and wave his hand in the most friendly and enticing manner that was possible and said, "Here is Colonel (such a one) giving him a name (but I cannot remember it), wishing to have an interview with you, if you please," with fascinating and enticing words and gestures to make it look like an impossibility to refuse; but I did wait until he was done speaking. I drew back my fist and aimed to strike him right in the belly and said, "Clear yourselves, you devils, I do not want anything to do with you." And I have never been troubled with them in that way since, but I have had considerable to do with them in working against their power over other people, but they have never captured me and made a slave of me; but many times come in my presence and trouble me like a drunken man would, which does not seem pleasant to my mind; but the best way to keep them off is to get the word of God in your head and heart instead of under it, and keep the commandments, which is far better than to depend on putting it under your head.
It was likely it was the same three devils or evil spirits that troubled William Meeks while he lived in Nauvoo. They would trouble him in the day time. They came to trouble him one morning about ten o'clock. He saw them coming and said to his wife, "Send for Uncle, for those devils are coming." She said, "Uncle is far from home (doctoring) this time a day." "Send for John Henderson (who lives close by)." One of the devils said, "What good can he do, he chews tobacco (they told me themselves)." I do not remember whether they sent for me at that time, but they did frequently send for me and they would leave the house before I got there. So you can see that those who do not keep the Word of Wisdom do not have the same power over evil spirits as those who keep it. We therefore see the necessity of keeping the Word of Wisdom.
Witchcraft1--After I settled in Parowan some time, I went to the city. I inquired for some boy who needed a home, as I needed one, but did not make a raise of one. Sometime after I got home President Daniel H. Wells sent a boy to me by the name of Wm. Titt, some twelve or fourteen years of age. He was born a natural seer, but no knowledge of the fact was had until after he came to live with me, that I ever knew of. Seer stones, or peepstones, as they are more commonly called, was very plenty about Parowan, I rather being a gifted person in knowing a peepstone when seeing one altho I had never found one yet that I could see in.
A seer's stone appears to me to be the connecting link between the visible and invisible worlds. I am not prepared to say to what extent discoveries may be made in the invisible world through these means, but I am prepared to say that truthful discoveries, (I am fully convinced), have been made by those means on certain conditions. It is not safe to depend on peepstone in any case where evil spirits have the power to put false appearances before them while looking in a peepstone. If evil influences will not interfere, the verdict will be as true as preaching. That is my experience in the matter; also the Patriarch, Hiram Smith, the brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, held the same idea, but stated that our faith was not strong enough to overcome the evil influences that might interfere, but seemed to think that time would come. I have seen peepstones as well polished as a fiddle with a nice hole through one end that belonged to the ancients. I asked Brother Smith the use for that hole; he said the same as a watch chain to keep from losing it. He said in time of war the Nephites had the advantage of their enemies by looking in the seerstone which would reveal whatever they wished to know. (I believe a peepstone is of the same piece with the Urim and Thummim, if we understood it.)
Now this Wm. Titt was the best seer in peep-stones I ever was acquainted with. He was a good boy but was full of youthful peculiarities like other youngsters. No particular bad habits for a boy having a stepmother that he could not live with, and I believe that Satan and his gang saw the danger his kingdom would be in through Win. Titt and the peepstone that they did their best to destroy him; and they told him if it had not been for that old Meeks they would have destroyed him, but told Wm. Titt that they could do nothing with old Meeks. (Wm. Titt told me what they said about me.)
Now for those foul spirits and witches; what is the difference between them? Foul spirits are disembodied witches living in the flesh. Do they have power over human beings? They certainly do, every pain, ache or misery we endure is attended by a spirit of affliction and that spirit is intelligence; hence the propriety of laying on hands and rebuking it in the name of Jesus, which would be supreme foolishness if it were not intelligent. But those kind of spirits frequently retorts on them that tried to cast them out, by saying audibly through the one that is possessed; "And what good can you do; you chew tobacco;" and this very expression opens a field for influences which we should profit by, if we don't stand in our own light. If chewing tobacco weakened his power over that spirit why not every infringement on the Word of Wisdom, or every other evil committed against the principles of the gospel have the same effect?
It is certainly fair reasoning. Those kind of spirits work mostly on the mental functions instead of the physical functions but affect the physical system unto death sometimes by tormenting the spirit of the person. I have myself been victimized by those spirits tormenting my spirit; and today I believe I was in a few hours of being killed by them, had I not received instructions by a Heavenly messenger just in time to save my life. I had just lay down for the last time as I thought (and think so yet) had it not been for the instructions I just received of that messenger. He told me to put the Doctrine and Covenants or the Book of Mormon under my head, and not consent to them and they could have no power over you. They have never had power to afflict me in that way since. Altho they came almost immediately on my receiving the instructions, but they went away faster than they came.
Now a witch is a female and a wizard a male, a live human. But all of a piece with the disembodied foul spirits only in different conditions. I don't like to say much about witches as there is perhaps no subject that will agitate the public mind to the same degree of enthusiasm as that will, no doubt. But much innocent suffering has been inflicted upon persons who knew nothing of the art. But such do and will exist on the earth as long as Satan is not bound. As far back as 1814 in the state of Indiana I lived close neighbor to a woman who was said to be a witch; and lived neighbor to her for several years. In my acquaintance with her she was charged several times with witchery and it appeared that the people thought that I was gifted in working against witchery, whether the knowledge I had was innate or acquired I am hardly prepared to say. But the business seemed to come handy. I was engaged away from home. When I returned they said that Anna Meeks was bewitched by that woman. Anna was my brother's wife and we all lived in the same building. Anna was strangely worked upon without a doubt. She said that she could see the witch in the house and tried to show her to us, but we could see nothing of her. Anna said that the witch was trying to choke her to death with putting pins in her mouth. We could see no pins but the blood was seen oozing out of the holes where the pins would stick in the roof of her mouth.
She was desperately tormented in different ways. She would sometimes swoon away like asleep on her back with her hands extended each way. We would put a piece of silver easy in her hand and she would flounce like it was fire, but when we put lead in her hand the same way she would not notice it at all. Several other things pertaining to this circumstance might be related, but I don't like to talk about it. But we got, the enchantment broke at the expense of several weeks confinement in the bed of the witch, but she did not die and Anna got well also.
Several years later I had a brother who loved to hunt racoons who had a dog that would track them up while the frost was melting in the day time where the coons had gone in the night. One morning he called up Drummer to go hunting. Drummer loved the business as well as his master, but before starting, the dog took a fit; he fell down, drew himself up and tumbled all over and rolled up his eyes and could not go. As soon as it was too late the dog was well as ever. My brother Charles told me the circumstances. I said to him the dog is bewitched and the next time he does you cut off his ear and throw it in the fire; and don't you let a thing go out of your house that day to anybody.
So he did the next time the dog had a fit, and when the dog's ear was burning, here comes the witch on a gallop on a stud horse to the gate and says to Charles, "My husband is very sick and I want to get a little honey to make some medicine for him." Charles without thought gave her the honey and never thought once what he was doing until the woman was a good ways off going on the gallop. But it cured the dog and the woman was said to be at a quilting next day with a blister on her seat as large as the palm of the hand, and she had to sit on a pillow. But she said that it was caused by her ride after the honey.
Now it appears the witches work their craft through or in the blood of the one possessed, and by putting their blood in the fire it punishes the witch; and by putting their water into a vial or bottle and putting it where it will evaporate by the heat of the fire it is said that as long as the process is going on the witch can't make water; and I think it is a very good practice for mothers to hold out their children to make water in the fire when convenient; and a word to the wise is sufficient; and I don't feel like trusting public sentiment with much more of my experience in combating the evil influence of evil spirits with the human family because of the enthusiasm they are likely to run into on such subjects, but hope they act wisely on what I have said.
Now in 1848 the [Salt Lake] valley from a human standpoint presented nothing better than extreme suffering if not starvation. The Saints were scattered hither and thither. Some went back to the States and some to California while the mass of the people were eating whatever they could get. Some eating hides off of cattle some eating blood, some eating wolf, hawk and crow. Some eating flesh of cattle that had been dead sometime. And while all this was going on it looked like there was a splendid chance for going naked.
A New Wife.--Several years after I moved to Parowan I went back to the city; I took my daughter, Peggy Jane, a young woman, with me, and when I started from home my wife said, "Don't you come back without another wife." That put me to studying for she never talked that way before; so the more I studied about it the more I was determined to try and get another wife. So when I arrived at Brother John Dalton's who had charge of the Church Farm four miles south of the city, I left my team there so as to have no encumbrance at the city. We went to Brother Free's in the city, an old acquaintance of ours. I told them there that I intended to get a hand-cart girl to go home with me. They appeared very anxious that I should get one. Sister Free told me she knew of one who had no relations there and it would suit her the best kind. There was a woman then present said she knew her in England and said she was twenty-four years old and as good a woman as ever was. Now I was very much elated at the prospect. I would not have sold my chance for a considerable amount. I never felt more sure of anything in my life that I did not have hold of.
I found out where she stayed and away I went as full of imagination as the milkmaid we read of in the spelling book. I found the place and stopped outside the gate and spoke to a young woman on the porch and asked her, "Are you Hannah Virgil?" "No, sir," she said; said I, "Does she stop here?" "Yes, sir, but she is not at home." I said, "Are you a hand-cart girl?" "Yes, sir," she said. "Well, I am looking for a hand-cart girl to go home with me; maybe it will suit you to go with me." She said, "I am engaged, or I would." That moment she said, "Yonder comes Hannah Virgil--now." And when she walked up and spoke to me and I saw her countenance, there was a monitory impulse struck me with such force it seemed as powerful on my feelings as the command of a superior officer when he would with a stern voice say "No."
Here now the fat was all in the fire; my feelings I cannot well describe, if I were to try. I left quickly, badly whipped without saying a word to the girl on the subject. I went straightway to President John Young where I was in high repute for letting him have the ox on the plains, he having taken Sarah McCleave to wife, oldest sister of Mary Jane, two years previous to Mary Jane's arrival in the hand carts. She says to me, "Brother Meeks go out to the Church Farm and get your team and harness it to Mr. Young's carriage, he himself not being at home, and Aunt Mary and I will go with you to see Mary Jane; it may be that she will go with you."
I had told them that I was going to start home in the morning for I did not think it worth while to try any longer. I was ashamed to tell them anything about Hannah Virgil, I felt so mean. However I went to the Church Farm and got my team and harnessed it to the carriage. "How far is it to where Mary Jane lives?" I asked. I knew that the Warm Springs was only a mile and a half from Brother Young's. I thought we could soon get back. When we reached the Warm Springs, I says, "Where does Mary Jane live now?" "Oh, it is down by the Hot Springs, six miles farther."
If I had known that in time, I never should have started. It was now late in the evening and I intended starting home in the morning; but as I had started I must stick with them, but felt disappointed. When we arrived at Hot Springs the sun was just going down. "Now, where is the house?" said I. She pointed away down under the fading sun two miles farther to a little log cabin where she said her sister lived. I felt vexed but could not turn back now. We drove up close to the house and found Mary Jane on her "all-fours" scouring the floor. When the dog barked she looked up and saw and knew Brother Young's carriage, Sister Young, her sister, Sarah, with a strange man dressed precisely, as she saw all this in a vision shown to her about three nights before when she knelt down in the dark when all were in bed and asked the Lord what she ought to do, because she was teased so much about marrying. In the vision she was told that was the man she must go home with. So when she saw me in the carriage she knew that was the man for her. We went into the house of Brother Levi Gifford, where she lived. I was well acquainted with the whole family and good family of people, too.
Sarah did not sit down but took Mary Jane out of doors and told her I had come for her, and sent a runner to tell me to come out there. I started and met Aunt Mary Young coming post haste after me. She spoke very animatedly saying: "Mary Jane says she will go with you," and we had not spoken to each other yet, neither had we seen each other's faces. The trial I had when I met Hannah Virgil was nothing to what this was. They told her I had come for her and she said she would go.
Now, if that monitory impulse strikes me with the same power saying "No," what will I do. Can I stand it, or will I have to wilt and wither under this, the hardest trial I had ever met with in my life? (O Lord help.) That instant it was manifest to me to just see her countenance and I would know what I ought to do. But that did not assure me that I would be inspired to take her, and to refuse, it would bring an everlasting stigma that would last through life and I thought very justly, too.
I went out to where they were, the sun being down. The red clouds in the West were all that gave light. I thought if I could see her countenance by the light of the red clouds I would know what to do; and when I was introduced and shook hands with her I was right in the light. I stepped one side to let the light shine in her face. Peace sprung up in my troubled soul with a hearty relish for the words, "Yes, take her." It put me in mind of the poet when he said "No tongue can express the sweet comfort and peace of a soul in its earliest love."
I then told Mary Jane it was just right and we all went back in the house. And when Brother Gifford learned that she was going home with me he was out of humor and talked very strongly against me by way of insinuations and said, "Mary Jane if you knew Brother Meeks as well as I do you would not be so willing to go with him; I know Meeks," he said. "Well," said Sister Gifford, "Old man, you don't know any harm of him, do you?" "No, I don't," he said. The fact was he wanted Mary Jane himself and both his boys wanted her. The three were so disappointed that they were as cross to her as a wet hen. One of them said "If you are going with that man I want that ring of mine you have." She pulled it off and gave it to him, saying, "I don't want your ring." So we put out into the carriage, dark as it was, and went up to President Young's and in the morning she was sealed to me, it being the 12th day of November, 1856; and the next day we started home....And if there was ever a match consummated by the providences of God this was one; and she has borne me ten children, and if anything they were above the average of smartness, all well formed and intelligent. I have often said if I had picked the Territory I could not have suited myself as well as in Mary Jane. So I give God the glory while I receive the blessings and an exaltation through the lineage of her posterity; so you can see how the Lord had his eye on Mary Jane from the beginning of this narrative; at any rate clear down until now. She has four grandchildren and a likelihood of having many more, and a nicer and smarter woman no man need to want.
*Priddy Meeks (1795-1886), pioneer and "healer" for the Church, was living in Illinois when he and his family "received the Gospel." He moved his wife and children to Nauvoo, and then, as part of the great exodus, to Salt Lake Valley in 1847. In 1851 he volunteered to move to Iron County to strengthen the failing community of Parowan. Ten years later he joined the saints at Orderville, where he lived for over twenty-five years until his death. His journal provides rich insight into the spirit of pioneer life. This selection, from The Utah Historical Quarterly, volume ten, was originally published with the permission of Dr. Meeks' daughter, Mrs. Mary Ellen Hoyt.
1. This journal is one of the very few documents available to American history which faithfully reflects the American folklore of the early 19th century. Ideas on witchcraft and devil-possession, engagingly chronicled by Dr. Meeks, were widespread among the American folk of his time, and are by no means dead today.
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