Monday, June 11, 2007

Faith of our Fathers

I'm taking the time to write a post, honestly, because the Ninth, and final, volume of the Work and the Glory series currently lies next to my sleep daughter in our room, and so I must do something else if I wish her to sleep any longer. Otherwise I would be finishing the restoration by helping the Steeds arrive in Utah. I want to arrive in Utah, even if it does never rain. Moving on...

Reading the Work and the Glory series in the last two weeks (yes, I've read the whole thing in two weeks, after taking a break of five days in the middle; so I'm a little obsessive when it comes to reading. Avram hates it.) has made me think about my own heritage a lot.

My whole life, it turns out, I've been a descendant of John Taylor, third president of the church. My maternal grandmother, Lydia Taylor Marchent Sorensen Merrill is his great grand-daughter (this is whom Lydia Aurelia is named after) through her mother, Agnes Taylor, then Agnes' father, William Whitaker Taylor, who was a son of John Taylor. Of course, John Taylor had many sons (I was going to be very impressive, and find out how many, but I couldn't. But I did find out that William Whitaker Taylor has an article in Wikipedia: ), because John Taylor had many wives, and my line is descended from one of the last, Harriet Whitaker, who was sisters with a previous wife of his, and somewhat of an old maid when he married her.

Despite the fact that this sounds like a pedigree chart to prove my superior worth and bloodline, the truth is I've never really felt related to John Taylor, nor descended from the early pioneers, per se. Avram likes to tell people my ancestry, but honestly it's always kind of embarrassed me, although I will admit I'm proud of it, but proud like it's a story, and has no substance or reality. Partly this is because I'm from such a "minor" wife, but also I think it's because nothing had ever in my life happened to "tie" me to my ancestry.

Then we visited Nauvoo. I toured the John Taylor home, like I had done before the last time I visited Nauvoo in 2001 after I graduated from High School. It was neat, but still did nothing for me feeling like he was truly my ancestor. What changed everything is Avram and I visited the Nauvoo Land office, where we looked up all of the relatives that I knew about from the Nauvoo time period, and found out where they lived, their conversions, their lives. And as we looked at these people, I suddenly felt a connection to them, in a way that I never had. Names and facts, a Relief Society manual, and even reading (most of) John Taylor's official history by B.H. Roberts never accomplished what half-an-hour doing Genealogy did; it gave me a sense of history, of where I had come from, and hence, more of a sense of where I'm going. I found out from a Sister Missionary there that descendants of the original occupants of the restored houses could sign a special guest book in each house, and so I immediately went back to John Taylor's house and signed it, including which wife I was descended from, so that way people would know my line.

Since arriving in Virginia, this renewed sense of connectedness hasn't left me. As I read the Work and the Glory and John Taylor walked through its pages, again and again it hit me that this was a real person, with a real testimony, and real sacrifices as he followed the church from Canada to Kirtland, Far West, Nauvoo, on a mission to England, and finally out to Utah. The end of the sixth book covers the Martyrdom of Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith. As I read of that day, I marveled that I shared the blood (at least a pinkies worth) of a man who was present when the first prophet of this dispensation was killed for his testimony. That the pocket watch that stopped on 5:16 pm on June 27th not only saved President Taylor's life, but also the future lives of his descendants, such as myself.

Some wonder why descendants of the early pioneers, or anyone before our day who was famous, care so much for their ancestry. For me, I now care because I feel as if I continue the mission that they began, that I shall go forth in the Gospel just as they did in their lives to continue to bring forth the kingdom of God on this earth. Knowing that John Taylor, and Harriet Whitaker, Duncan Spears Casper and Matilda Allison continued forth in the faith for the remainder of their lives, how can I help but to continue forward, carrying their legacy of faith into this century?


  1. You know, I never thought about John Taylor's watch saving my life. I enjoyed your comments. Genealogy does a lot about making the living feel connected. It also connects the living with the living.

  2. You know, I never thought about John Taylor's watch saving YOUR life, or those of my wife and children and grandchildren. Wow! That's an IMPORTANT watch.

    Seriously, I have found that doing genealogy is a wonderful way to experience real miracles in your life. Seems like every serious genealogist has at least one miracle story. Maybe that's why the Lord wants US to do the work. I often think so.

  3. Another thoughtful post, Thora. I think it can be very difficult to relate to our ancestors, and even more so if they are "famous" for one reason or another. I'm glad you found a way to; I love visiting places my ancestors lived for that reason.

    It's so funny to me how quickly one's heritage can be lost - my grandfather didn't know until he was an old man that his grandfather had walked across the plains as an orphan, and a similar thing happened to Matt's grandfather. I hope you are able to pass your sense of family heritage and spirit on to your family, connecting dead to living and also living to living (as commented on earlier by your mother (yes?)).

  4. As a companion on one of your visits to John Taylor's home, it was interesting to learn some of your thoughts about that visit, and on your disinguished "pedigree." At the time of our visit, I was tempted to tell our guide about your ancestry, but left it up to you. I'm glad to hear there was some way to show your connection to the home while you were there.

  5. Think about this one -- Joseph Smith drew the mob's fire when he ran to the window. He basically saved the lives of Willard Richards and John Taylor by doing so. (I'm your second cousin by the way and we've probably never met...Don't be freaked out, I just stumbled on your blog doing a Google search on Duncan Spears Casper)

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