Almost Angels – Chapter 7
I stood back from the group of men as they looked down on
the Mississippi River. The 13 men had stood in a circle, joined in prayer, for sometime now.
I had arrived sometime mid-morning, June 27, 1844, to the small city of Nauvoo, Illinois. Last evening a mob of 200 men with blackened faces had stormed the jail at nearby Carthage, Illinois. They were there to kill the leaders of the controversial ‘Mormon’ Church. They succeeded. The prophet of the church, one Joseph Smith, and his brother, Hyrum, fell in the early evening, having been struck by bullets from the assailant’s guns.
It was a sad morning there at the thriving little city perched on the banks of the mother of rivers in America. The populace was in morning, and in shock. Confusion reigned. Their leader was dead.
My assignment was to watch the next few days and see how a new leader would be chosen.
It didn’t take long. Almost within hours, the remaining members of what was known to the Mormons as ‘The First Presidency’ claimed title to lead the church, and its integrated community. His name was Sidney Rigdon. In a meeting of the ‘Saints’, another rose to contest his right. His name was Brigham Young. Brigham stood at the head of Quorum of the 12 Apostles. Quoting a recent Revelation of Smith’s that stated that the 12 had an equal power or responsibility to the First Presidency, he stated that he had inherited that right of leadership. Some of the members said of that meeting that Brigham took on the appearance of Smith as he spoke. I did not witness that.
But what I did witness was a powerful, charismatic, and intelligent man that was about to take on a task that would leave a legacy that would last through the centuries. I wanted to see that, and record the history of it. Only small pockets of religion still remain in 2518. I entra-ported to old Salt Lake City the day before starting my assignment for a day of studying their archives. The Mormons are a record keeping people, although I am sure they would admit that they keep their own slant on their history.
But Brother Brigham, as he was often called, still stood tall in the birth of the west and the colonialization of the old American West.
I decided that I would introduce myself. I had been successful with Ben Franklin; no tears in time. I would try again.
I waited until I figured out Brigham’s schedule, watching him over several weeks of his life; a couple of hours of mine. Finally, I figured out what times of the day and when he went to the Temple to pray. I followed him to the Temple on a late fall day in 1845. Today would be the day. The situation in Nauvoo was deteriorating rapidly. The non-Mormon population of the surrounding area had become jealous of, and a bit more fearful of, the ‘Saints’. They hated that the Mormon’s said that their Church was the one and only Church recognized by God. You can kind of understand that, but the Mormon’s shouted it to the hilltops, and their opponents seethed.
I found Brigham in a private room in the upper stories of the Temple. I didn’t want him praying when I appeared. He was just taking off his coat when I appeared.
He looked at me and fell to his knees. He said “I am so blessed! Will you identify yourself?”
“Well, first of all, Mr. Young, I am not deity. So it is not necessary for you to kneel.”
“Then if thou be not deity, thou must be a follower of Lucifer, that Fallen Angel.”
“No, not that either, Sir. I am from the future, from the early 26th century.”
Brigham looked around him, looking at doors and windows. “What manner of nonsense is this, Sir? Be this a jest? If it is, thou hast no business in this holy building!”
“It is no joke, Sir. I wanted to be in a place when I exposed myself to you that we would not be discovered.”
“For what purpose do you appear to me?”
“For guidenance, if you so wish. And, if you wish, I can show you something of the future.”
“You resemble, quite accurately, Brother Joseph’s description of the Father and the Son and also the Prophet Moroni.”
“I assure you, I am not one of them.”
“Very well, then, what have you to show me?”
“Well, first of all, I well tell you that I can show you things, but cannot tell you how or where, or who will make them happen. Those things will change history, and cannot be done under any circumstances.”
“If you are from our future, Sir, then you must know our history.”
“What history there is, Sir. Your organization is only a few years old.”
“True. We are going to be forced from our beautiful city. Will we survive?”
“That I can show you. But I will show you your people a hundred and fifty years into their future.”
I flashed a hologram of the Great Salt City in Utah, circa about 2000 A.D. Brigham leaned forward, reaching his hand into the visual, staring intently. As it faded he said “What manner of deviltry is this? That land where that city lies, it looks like no place I have ever seen before. Yet you say that will be our people’s future. How?”
“I cannot tell you that. But if you lead your people and use good judgment, this is their future. I would encourage you to not tell of this or of me. This is only to give you hope. I will visit you again, with your permission, every few years. But I cannot stay long at a time. Will this help you Sir?”
“Yes. Ah, do you have a name? It gives me a bolster to my faith.”
“My friends call me Jamie, and you will need your faith and all your strength. You have bad times ahead of you but also many rewards, Brigham. I suggest that you study as you have never done before, and pick people to help you lead. Now, I must go. I will see you again.”
Something Brigham said stuck with me. He remarked that I had the appearance of the men that Joseph Smith saw in his vision in 1820 who he related were God and his son Jesus. It would be easy enough to check out. So I tried several times to dial in the exact time of the event. Its place is fixed, so that was easy. Finally, I was able to spot young Joseph on his way to the Sacred Grove. I followed at a distance. It went somewhat as the story has been told. But when the shining personages appeared I knew right away it was pure bunko. The two were travelers, from a bit earlier than myself. I recorded what I saw. Now, what to do? I felt I had to report it. I went back to my base and checked in. I went to my supervisor and told him what had happened.
“Wow, Jamie, this is world class tampering with time.”
“I know that. What do we do?”
“Well, I will take it up the ladder. But I believe it has gone too far to fix, it will probably have to stand. If it was anything other than religion then, well…..I don’t know.”
April 4, 1847. I stood to the side of a large crowd of a Mormon gathering at a place they had named Winter Quarters. Years later it would be called Omaha, Nebraska. Brigham, with others of the leadership, were speaking to their followers. As he spoke, Brigham whitened and stammered for only a moment when he caught sight of me. I listened quietly to his words. He spoke of the prayer he had offered, and the study he had put into their move. He said that a vision had been opened to him of their Zion to the West. And that tomorrow he and the lead party would set out on the journey.
I looked around. Whatever one must think of the Mormons, one must admire their creativity, their resolve, their knack for development. In just over a year, they had abandoned their city on the Mississippi, traveled across the state of Iowa, built homes of sorts, built a city full of various trades, amassed a huge herd of cattle, and stood ready at the doorway to the American West. I was a bit astonished as to what they had done with such a small primitive amount of technology.
Brigham finished speaking. I walked to a corral of cattle and oxen nearby and leaned over the top rail. It was just a minute later that Mormon leader joined me.
“Master Jamie, I presume.”
“Yes Sir. How are you, Mr. Young?”
“I am well, in both body and spirit. And stand on the brink of a great endeavor, I believe.”
“Yes you are. And, if you might be wondering, you are on course.”
“Bless you, young man. That means a lot to me. After our last short meeting, I studied in my mind the picture you showed me. I read of stories brought back from the great wilderness by the fur trappers and decided that it was most logical. From the picture you showed me, I knew it could not be anywhere to the East. The mountains were unlike any I had seen on this continent. I believe that this is the course to take, and if you are who you pretend to be, and agree, then I am at Peace. Thank you.”
I bid him goodbye and safe travels and set my coordinates for June 27th, 1847 for southwest Wyoming, or is now Wyoming. Then it belonged to Spain, then later to Utah. But that is another story. I camped just a bit away from Old Fort Bridger for two mornings for several hours each morning. I knew, or rather thought, that Brigham and his party should arrive on the 28th. And they did. I made myself into a trapper of sorts, and watched from a dark corner as Young and Jim Bridger met for the first time. It was evident that Bridger was contemptuous of Young, and when the Mormon leader mentioned settling the basin of the Great Salt Lake with a few thousand people, Bridger remarked it was insanity, and that he would pay a thousand dollars for the first bushel of corn that was harvested there.
Young retorted, “Give us a little time and you will see.”
Young and his troop were not in very good shape by this time. Bad food and the exertions of the journey had left its toll. In the days left, it would be one of the 12 who would see the Salt Lake first. His name was Parley Pratt.
Near the end of July, a quite ill Brigham finally entered the valley. I met with him a few days afterward. He was quite sober with me; he looked at me with a new curiosity. We had rode out into the country and stood on a rise looking at the Great Salt Lake. He stood for a moment, then turned and looked back at the towering Wasatch Range to the east, rising up like might sentinels, watchful of his persecutors from the east.
“Jamie, I am a humbled man. When first meeting you, I felt that I was in the same situation that Jesus found himself in while in the desert, being tempted by Lucifer. But you asked not of me, you never told me not what course to take, but only one of my choosing, giving me total agency unto myself. Even after meeting in Winter Quarters and our talk, then seeing you again at Bridger’s, I was still plagued by doubt, and cast about a wary eye for the serpents tongue. But when we drove down that mountain yonder, into this most sublime valley, and I gazed upon yon lofty peaks, I knew most assuredly that your words were true. I then set about making plans for a mighty kingdom to be based in this valley of the mountains. I have started work on a Temple to our God. We have laid out the plans for our city, and other outlying towns and villages. We are turning the sod and planting crops. I have sent parties out in exploration. Next year more of our flock will arrive, then each year we will grow. I embarked upon this venture mostly on faith, but now that it is proven. There is no stopping us.”
“Brigham, it is true, you will flourish. But never forget, there will be adversity, and a lot of it. Keep yourself prepared, and surround yourself with good leaders and strong people.”
I waved a farewell and vanished from his sight. He turned away, and fixed his vision on the setting sun, at my last sight.
I visited Brigham several times over the next few days, following him into the sundown of his life. I watched his huge families, his wives numbering near half a hundred, his countless children. Some of those wives were just to stabilize their families after husbands died or were killed serving the church. Many never saw his countenance in their private quarters.
He did deeds to keep his church alive that were not always done in the sunlight, some of them quite dark. He never faltered.
I listened in 1874 when he preached at a funeral of a friend about the mysteries of death, and his faith in his religion that would be his companion during that dark journey. I admired that, his strength of resolve I mean. And in a few years, unbeknown to him, he would make that journey. At the end of August 1877 he fell into great pain in his right side, and the poison of a ruptured appendix took his life. I was able to speak with him for a few moments before he passed. He asked me if I knew if Joseph’s vision was true, or did I appear to Joseph, with a friend. I told him I did not, and that his great faith had taken him through a great journey, let it be there to take him through that valley of death and to not worry himself.
It was only a short time later he was heard to cry out for his friend.
“Joseph, Joseph, Joseph…..” and the Lion was dead, to this world.
What ever contention arises in this world about Brigham and the Church that he guided one simply must look past the religion, and look at the people and admire their diversity, their hard work, their diligence. You must look at their creativity. Their love of beauty, their admiration of skill and talent. Some will say it is their religion that has given birth to that. I leave that to others to decide. They showed great prejudice for the black man, calling him a child of Cain, but they acknowledged him a man at least. Many southern slaveholders didn’t acknowledge that. He was, and they were, people of their time, no more no less. Those of us who would judge, if put to the same tasks, might fall quite short. Each thing happens in its own time, and most can never cross those boundaries. But those of us that do travel though time learn tolerance. We become aware of those differences, we respect those abilities, and develop great admiration for our citizens of the past.
I took a week off with Misha, and I spent most of my time trying to tell her what I was doing with my interactions, without compromising her security, I am not sure it ever became clear to her. Maybe that is for the best. I now see how a simple act of the past can affect millions of lives into the future. I will be so very watchful. Can you imagine what could have happened to the descendents of those people, called Mormons, if Joseph Smith had never had those visits? What might they be doing today?