April 11, 2021
We are watching spring happen almost hour by hour here at AOA. The abundance of rain this week has intensified the colors, freshness, and beauty. Yesterday alone we received an inch of rain. Our meetings today were like an extension of General Conference. Elder and Sister Clayton spoke about faith and the Savior’s Atonement. Their extensive gospel experience and Church service has afforded them a depth of understanding that left me hungering for more.
Our turn to give an introduction of ourselves was this week. At first, we were very uneasy because we were the only couple who did not make a power point presentation. Our “Getting to know Darrel and Karen Kenison” story book was well received by the kind and generous audience. Best of all, we stayed strictly in the time frame allotted! A sweet, tender mercy came through our presentation. Darrel found that Elder Ted Steffensen is a cousin! Both come through Robert Taylor Burton and his third wife, Sarah Anna Garr! It is interesting that they have frequently worked together from the beginning and Darrel felt a kinship he didn’t understand until that night.
Darrel’s endeavors this week included helping put in the sewer trench at the new duplex. Sadly, he and Elder Nielson discovered the power and water lines to the missionary trailer there with the backhoe in that effort and had to do some quick repair work. Darrel spent a couple of days doing some fencing by the Jameson’s school near the highway. Jameson is the small community borders AOA on the north. Friday Darrel and Elder Clayton worked at grinding off the stumps of trees recently cut down in the “missionary grove” near our home.
I had my first experience volunteering at the Seventh Day Adventist’s community center in Gallatin. That was a delightful experience because of the devoted Christian people who run it. The director started this effort over 40 years ago from her garage and it has steadily grown in size and scope since then. I was impressed by the careful thought and organization that has gone into every facet to make it an incredibly efficient operation, and the Spirit of the people who faithfully make it all happen. Two of the ladies are over 90 years old and both are sharper than tacks. I loved having lunch with them and hearing them chat about the “good ole days” when life was simpler. I met three men, one with disabilities, one recovering from additions, and one retired. The hearts there are big enough to embrace all and I am certain they are making a difference in many lives both temporally, and spiritually.
- The farmers who lease the land here do not work on Sunday as part of their contract.
- One of the couples serving here is from Gallatin, a small town about 4.5 miles away. They are the first couple to serve at AOA to be called from this area.
- Two of the Elders serving here are over 6’ 4” tall!
Our adventure this week took us to Haun’s Mill. I am not certain why, but I have been drawn to the tragic events that took place there as well as those of the Mountain Meadow Massacre in Southern Utah. Now I have been to both locations. The atrocities committed at each are almost unspeakable, yet there is a hallowed spirit at both places that carries the silent cry of innocent blood shed. Haun’s Mill carries the Spirit of valiant Latter-day saints who survived and moved forward in faith. As I found the area I felt was near the location of the blacksmith shop that became a death trap for thirteen men and boys, I was deeply touched to find a small patch of forget-me-nots was growing.
A BIT OF HISTORY: The Haun’s Mill settlement was located on a 90-degree bend in Shoal Creek, a few miles south the current town of Breckenridge, in Clay county. It centered at Jacob Haun’s water gristmill. The waterwheel turned the millstones which ground corn into cornmeal and wheat into flour. A dam constructed of primarily of logs and rocks was built to create a mill pond. The top of this dam was a slab walkway used as a bridge that men, women and children fled across from the mobbers during the violent attack.
The attack occurred on Oct. 30, 1838, just three days after the extermination order was signed. About 30 families had gathered there to defend themselves against the angry Missourians. At least 11 covered wagons of immigrants from the Kirtland Camp had arrived two days earlier. They were on their way to Far West to gather with the saints as the Prophet Joseph had advised. About 240 men on horseback approached the settlement from the north at about 4:00 p.m. They had blackened faces and red bandannas. They outnumbered the men at the settlement 6 to one. At least three among them were landowners from the settlement who were members of The Church and had dissented.
The majority of Latter-day Saint men sought refuge in the 18 square foot log blacksmith’s shop. The mob then surrounded the blacksmith shop and fired between the logs, the cracks being wide enough for them to aim directly at the brethren. Ellis Eamut, one of those crowded in the shop, said, “Almost every ball that entered the shop took effect…”
The attack lasted 30-60 minutes. Then the mob looted the houses, rifled the dead, stole horses and wagons, leaving the widows and their children destitute.
Seventeen saints lost their lives that day. Thirteen were killed in the blacksmith’s shop and 4 trying to escape from it. Fourteen others, including one woman were wounded. (Mary Studwell was shot in the hand. William Yokum miraculously recovered from a head wound, but his leg had to be amputated.)
Seventeen other men escaped injury, some miraculously. (David Lewis ran from the shop and he was exposed to enemy fire for 200 yards. Five shots went through his clothes, but he was uninjured.) The bodies of the dead were placed in a partially dug well near the mill. It became a mass grave for the victims of this tragic incident.
NOTE: Although three of the mob were wounded, none died and not one was brought to trial for their participation in the depravity of this horrific event. It is important to note that the Prophet Joseph Smith had advised all the saints in outlying areas to gather to Far West and Adam-ondi-Ahman for protection from the growing persecution. Four days prior to the attack Joseph told Jacob Haun, who questioned if the counsel applies to his settlement, “Move in…if you wish to save your lives…You had much better lose your property than your lives…but there is no need of your losing either if you will only do as you are commanded.”
If the story ended there it would be hard to find peace, but the faith and success of those who survived is a tribute to the resilience of the human heart and soul, and the healing Power of the Atonement. No one who experienced what they did and witnessed the aftermath could have gone on without turning to God. Instinctively they did and somehow many eventually set down the bitter regret, hatred and sorrow, allowing their faith in the Savior to heal their hearts and their lives. The sorrow they carried to the grave became sweetened by their conviction and hope in forever families and the Savior’s promise to make right all wrongs.
The story of Amanda Barnes Smith continues to inspire saints today. She was among those traveling to Far West from the Kirtland camp. She lost her husband and her 10-year-old son. A number of bullets entered her clothes as she fled with her two little girls, but she was not wounded. Her 7-year-old son, Alma had his entire hip shot away, but through her faith and the guidance of the Spirit he eventually recovered entirely. A part of her story is shared in the link below.
Each week I think that there is no way next week could compete with our experience of the current week. So far, that miracle has occurred with each passing week.
The urgency and momentum Lord’s is increasing. We have a living prophet to help us identify any needed course corrections. God lives and loves us. May we all feel that this coming week.