Saints without Halos
Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton
Jonathan Hale: Preaching the Restored Gospel
[p.12]In 1834 Jonathan Harriman Hale, a thirty-four-year-old butcher in Dover, New Hampshire, heard the missionaries, and with his wife, Olive Boynton Hale, was baptized, as he wrote, “into the New and Everlasting Covenant.”
Two months later Jonathan was ordained an elder and set apart to preside over the Dover branch. In the spring, he left Olive and their two children and drove to Bradford, Massachusetts, their former home. There he met two close relatives who had also joined the Church, Henry Harriman and Jonathan Holmes. They drove to Kirtland, Ohio, where they obtained patriarchal blessings from Joseph Smith, Sr., the Church’s first Patriarch.
The members of the first Quorum of the Twelve had been called just two months earlier. One of them was John F. Boynton, brother of Jonathan’s wife. Perhaps because of that relationship, Jonathan was asked to accompany the Twelve back to New England where they held several conferences.
On May 30 Jonathan and apostles Thomas B. Marsh and David W. Patten visited Martin Harris in Palmyra and climbed the Hill Cumorah, where they “offered up thanks to the most [p.13]high God for the record of the Nephites and for other blessings.” Then they traveled through Palmyra, going “from house to house,” and “inquired into the character of Joseph Smith, Jr., previous to his receiving the Book of Mormon.” Far from having been the despicable person his detractors had alleged him to be, Joseph was declared by those who knew him to have been “as good as young men in general.”
In June, after two months’ absence and 1,550 miles of travel, Jonathan returned to his family in Dover. He resumed his work as a butcher for six weeks until he returned to Bradford for a conference of the Twelve. Following the conference, he took three of the Twelve—Thomas B. Marsh, Parley P. Pratt, and Heber C. Kimball—to Salem, Massachusetts, where they had been assigned to labor, and returned to Dover with two other apostles, Luke Johnson and William Smith.
During the following weeks several of the Twelve visited the New Hampshire-Vermont area, and Jonathan took them to their appointments in his buggy. Then he sold his property, settled his business, and moved his family to Bradford for a few months where they lived with Olive’s father, Eliphalet Boynton. Jonathan helped him sell his property, and in the spring of 1836 they all moved to Kirtland “to be with the Saints.”
Soon after their arrival Jonathan and Olive arranged for patriarchal blessings for Olive and her relatives. Wilford Woodruff, a friend who would soon become an apostle, baptized their oldest child, Aroet. Many years later Aroet recalled, “My father took the ax along and cut a large hole in the ice. Elder Woodruff got down into the water and baptized me and several other children. My name being Hale, and being baptized in ice water, froze me into the Church and I am still with it, thank God!”
Jonathan worked on the Kirtland Temple and was ordained a seventy. During the winter of 1836-1837 the seventies met every night to study, receive instructions, and conduct ordinances such as washings and anointings.
In May 1837 Jonathan and Wilford were called on a [p.14]mission. Olive’s brother John Boynton laughed out loud when he heard the news and scoffed that it was useless to call such men as Jonathan Hale on a mission, for “he would never baptize a man or make a Mormon.” But Jonathan would not be discouraged. During the next five months, while their families lived together, Jonathan and Wilford preached the gospel throughout New York, New England, and eastern Canada.
They walked from farm to farm and village to village, stopping occasionally to bathe in a stream, help a farmer put up hay or butcher a sheep, dig clams, or catch fish. As was the custom, they traveled “without purse or scrip.” They preached in barns, homes, schools, town halls, and even in local churches when permitted by the minister. They relied on kind persons to give them lodging for the night or slept in haystacks or under trees.
In each village they preached for two or three days, baptized those who were willing, established a branch, and then moved on to the next village.
At Canton, Connecticut, Jonathan and Wilford preached in the village hall. “As soon as the meeting commenced,” Jonathan wrote, “the drums began to beat at the door and continued considerable of the time during the meeting. After the meeting closed, they all gathered round us and appeared like knashing upon us with their teeth.” A local minister “said we had no right to cram the people with such doctrine. We told him we didn’t cram anybody, but [that] every man had a right to enjoy his opinion. He said they had not if it was wrong. We told him we should take that liberty because the laws of the country gave us that right.” After the meeting the two missionaries went to a nearby grove and “offered up our thanks to God for our deliverance.”
After another day of fruitless proselyting, “we went by ourselves by a pure stream of water and clensed our hands and feet and bore testamony before God against … all that rejected our testamony.” Before their mission was over, Jonathan and Wilford washed their feet several more times as a witness that they had attempted to preach the Lord’s word and were therefore “washed clean of the sins of these priests of Baal.”
[p.15]The most receptive area was the Fox Islands (now Vinalhaven), off the southern coast of Maine. About a thousand people lived in fishing villages on these islands. Several families came forward to be baptized, including a sea captain, Justus Eames, and his wife Betsy. Wilford turned to Jonathan, who had not yet baptized a single person, and said, “Now Brother Hale, we will make John F. Boynton a false prophet. You go down into the sea and baptize this man and woman.”
“This was a rejoicing time to us,” Jonathan wrote, “and also to them, as I suppose they are the first that has been Baptised into the new and everlasting covenant on the Islands of the sea, (thank the Lord O my soul) and forgit not all his blessings.” Two days later the two missionaries retired to a secluded area for a three-hour private service of thanksgiving. Jonathan read Jeremiah 16, “which speaks of fishers and hunters that God will send to gether Israel. We then sung a Song of Zion and offered up our morning prayers to the most high God. We had a glorious time of rejoicing while contemplating our situation—the seanery about us, the work of God. In our prayers we called to mind the ancient apostles Nephi, Mormon, Moroni, Joseph [Smith], Sidney [Rigdon], Oliver [Cowdery], Heber [Kimball], Orson [Hyde], [John] Goodson, and all those in England and… Upper Canada, and all in like conditions with our selves, and especially our wives, that God would bless them.” Then they wrote letters to their families and “went our way rejoicing.”
In the meantime, Olive Hale and Phebe Woodruff missed their husbands and prayed for them morning and night. They were lonely but had little time to brood. They had to provide for their families, plant crops, and take care of business matters. Occasionally they attended lectures and “sings,” coped with frequent illnesses, and most importantly, raised the children in the ways of the newly restored gospel. Aroet, who was nine years old while Jonathan was on his mission, recalled, “Sister Phebe Woodruff and mother used to talk to us children and tell us about an angel appearing to the Prophet Joseph when he was a young man, that we must be good children, that angels would not appear to bad children.”
[p.16]Finally, near the end of October 1837 Jonathan and Wilford returned. “Although I have Baptised but nine persons,” Jonathan reflected, “I trust my labours are not in vain.”
After only two months in Kirtland, Jonathan was called on his second mission, this time to southwestern Ohio and Indiana with Amos B. Fuller. But a few weeks later he received a letter from Olive reporting widespread apostasy. “Brother Joseph Smith, jr., and Sidney Rigdon had fled from Kirtland, for their lives, [and] our enemies had burnt the printing office and takeing many prisoners. Therefore, I felt very anxious to go home.”
Jonathan and Amos immediately returned to Kirtland where they found Hyrum Smith and the high council developing a plan to transport the loyal Saints to Missouri by steamboat. When the plan failed to materialize, Jonathan and the other seventies met in the temple to consider their options. According to the minutes of the meeting, “The Spirit of the Lord came down in mighty power and some of the Elders began to prophesy that if the quorum would go up in a body together… they should not want for any thing on the journey that would be necessary for them.” Then President James Foster arose and “declared that he saw a vision in which was shown unto him a company (he should think of about five hundred) starting from Kirtland and going up to Zion; … and that he knew thereby that it was the will of God that the quorum should go up in that manner.” Over the next few days a plan was developed for the seventies to combine their resources and move as many as could go to Zion.
Hyrum Smith candidly acknowledged “that what he had said and done in reference to chartering a Steam Boat for the purpose of removing the Church as a body he had done according to his own judgement without any reference to the testimony of the Spirit of God,” and advised all the Saints who could to join with the Kirtland Camp.
Jonathan Hale was appointed treasurer and on 5 July 1838 the camp began its 870-mile journey to Far West. The mile-long caravan began with 525 men, women, and children in 59 wagons with 33 large tents. Another hundred people joined the [p.17]camp along the way. Each morning the bugler sounded the call to arise at 4 A.M., and within twenty minutes all assembled for prayer. Each evening the tents were pitched in the shape of a hollow square. Occasionally the company stopped for a few days while the men worked in local villages chopping wood, making fences, clearing land, and performing other services. Their earnings were given to Jonathan, who bought provisions for the entire camp.
Nevertheless, after a few weeks on the trail, according to the camp recorder, “provisions were scarce and could not be obtained. Consequently we were obliged to do with what we had and here was another manifestation of the power of Jehovah, for seven and a half bushels of corn sufficed for the whole camp consisting of 620 souls for the space of three days and [there was] no lack for food though some complained and mourned because they did not have that to eat that their souls lusted after.”
At Mansfield, Ohio, the procession was met by a sheriff and deputies, who took Jonathan and two others into custody for the failure of the Church to pay alleged debts in Kirtland. But the charge could not be substantiated, and they were released the next day.
In late September Jonathan and the other camp members heard reports that Governor Lilburn Boggs had called for volunteers in Missouri to “fight the Mormons.” On October 2 Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and others escorted the Kirtland Camp to the public square at Far West, where they camped for the night.
Two days later, according to the Prophet’s history, the camp was temporarily relocated twenty-five miles north of Far West. As the Saints began to pitch their tents, “one of the brethren living in the place proclaimed with a loud voice: ‘Brethren, your long and tedious journey is now ended; you are now on the public square of Adam-ondi-Ahman. This is the place where Adam blessed his posterity, when they rose up and called him Michael, the Prince, the Archangel, and he being full of the Holy Ghost predicted what should befall his posterity to the latest generation.'”
[p.18]Unfortunately, the situation at Adam-ondi-Ahman was not much happier than it had been in Kirtland. On October 27 Governor Boggs issued orders for the state militia to drive the Mormons from the state, and three days later Far West was surrounded. Joseph Smith and other leaders were taken prisoner and mobs began to burn Mormon houses and drive off the livestock. Waiting for assignment to a permanent settlement, the Kirtland Camp, still sheltered only by their tents, suffered from the weather and mob depredations. As winter set in, several died from exposure. “I laid night after night on the Ground with my Brethren, with little or no shelter,” Jonathan wrote. “Loaded teams crossed Grand River on the ice … The mobmilitia came in and demanded our arms. We gave them up. We were in number 144, the mob about 800.”
Ordered to leave the county within ten days, Jonathan helped apportion the teams, wagons, and other provisions of the well-equipped Saints to assist widows, the aged, the sickly, and the poor. By the end of February two to three thousand Saints had gathered at Quincy, Illinois, where they were generously welcomed by local residents. Jonathan settled his family temporarily in Quincy, looked after the families of other seventies, and in December left on another mission, this time to Illinois and Indiana. He returned two months later, in early 1840 and moved his family to Nauvoo.
Jonathan’s leadership abilities had been well established. In Nauvoo he served as bishop, colonel in the Nauvoo Legion, director of schools, collector of donations and tithing for the Nauvoo Temple, and recorder of baptisms for the dead. When the Saints were driven from Nauvoo, he helped direct the exodus.
In Winter Quarters he was sustained as a member of the high council. But strenuous labors drained his energies. With his resistance to disease lowered, Jonathan Hale fell ill and died, probably of typhoid fever, in September 1846. As so often happened during such epidemics, his wife Olive and their two youngest children, Olive and Clarissa, died a few days later.
Four orphaned children remained: Aroet, eighteen; Rachel, seventeen; Alma, ten; and Solomon, seven. Determined to stay [p.19]together, they remained in Winter Quarters until 1848 when they made the trek across the Great Plains with the Heber C. Kimball division. They remained in the Salt Lake Valley four years, after which Aroet and Alma went to farm in Grantsville, Utah. Rachel married and moved to San Bernardino, California, where she died in 1854. Solomon moved to Farmington, Utah, and in the years that followed, Aroet, Alma, and Sol became Indian fighters, colonizers, missionaries, minute men, stockmen, and operators of sawmills and molasses mills. Two became bishops, one a counselor in the stake presidency, and eventually all three were ordained patriarchs. In the generations since, thousands of Jonathan and Olive’s descendants have served as missionaries, ward and stake officers, and productive citizens.