“Remember the Church and Never Forsake It”

By Nancy Harlacher

Nancy Harlacher
Nancy Harlacher

How wonderful it must have been for Mary and Reuben Martin and their family to have embraced this wonderful gospel and moved from Indiana to join the Saints at Nauvoo, Illinois. The Martins and their children settled near Montrose, Iowa, which is directly across the Mississippi River from Nauvoo. Their son, Zachariah, became a missionary and was sent to the South, where he converted many people and returned to Nauvoo, bringing his bride and three hundred Saints with him. As their wagons approached Nauvoo, Joseph Smith rode his horse, Charlie, to the outskirts of the city to meet them. Zachariah and his brother, George, assisted in building the Temple. How proud Reuben and Mary must have been of their Sons!

After Joseph and Hyrum were murdered, mobs began attacking Saints in outlying areas and forcing them, including the Martins, to flee into Nauvoo. Because of persecution, a great exodus of the Saints took place in February 1846 under the direction of Brigham Young, president of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. The Martins gathered with other Saints on the banks of the Mississippi, knowing that it was time to leave their home and the city they had grown to love so much. The Martins crossed the river to Montrose with the Saints, but refused to follow the leadership of Brigham Young any further. After living in the Montrose area for a time, they re-crossed the Mississippi to live again in Nauvoo, where Emma Smith and her children resided. The Martins stayed in Nauvoo until after the Battle of Nauvoo, which occurred in September 1847, when nonmembers attacked and conquered the city, and drove the Saints across the river. Zachariah, who fought alongside those who were defending Nauvoo, was badly wounded; but his life was spared and he was later able to walk and preach the gospel for many years, under the leadership of Joseph Smith III.

This past summer [1996] my husband, Larry, and I spent a week in Nauvoo. Each evening, just before sunset, we drove west on Parley Street down to “the point,” at the river’s edge—the spot where the majority of the Saints crossed when they fled Nauvoo. As we gazed at the beautiful, majestic Mississippi, our thoughts were taken back to the Martin family—their joys, their trials, and the decisions they faced. Mary and Reuben’s firstborn child was Evalina, who was the wife of Francis Boggs and the mother of seven children. She chose to go with her husband to Utah and she was never again seen by her parents or brothers and sisters.

Evalina’s infant son, who was named after his father, died and was buried at Winter Quarters. Francis Boggs left Evalina and the children behind when he was chosen to make the pioneer trip across the plains to the Great Salt Lake Valley with Brigham Young. She and the children went later. Evalina’s mother must have known that her daughter would have to face many trials without the comfort and support of her family.

Would I have been strong enough to stay behind and wait for Joseph III to take his father’s place as prophet in the Reorganization? Where would I be today if the Martins had not been firm in what they believed, and refused to follow Brigham Young—but instead chose to wait for Joseph III? You see, Mary and Reuben Martin are my great-great-great-grandparents. Heritage, whether it be by our own bloodline or our Church family, should mean a great deal to us.

Over one hundred years ago men, women, and children suffered hunger, cold, persecution, and even death because of the value they placed on their belief in the Restored Gospel. It is true that some of their suffering was brought on by themselves, but most of it was because of unjust religious persecution. Today, instead of finding fault with them, we should respect those pioneers who went before us—because the inheritance we now enjoy is due largely to their faithfulness. They refused to desert or leave behind the Church and the doctrines they knew to be true. After the death of Joseph, the Church was disorganized, but the early Saints who were waiting for Young Joseph, kept the name of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that was given in April 1838 by revelation at Far West. They endured—and so should we! My great-great-grandfather, Stephen Butler, was an early missionary in the Reorganization. He labored with his brother-in-law, Zachariah Martin, walking and preaching wherever they could find those who would listen. As I was researching in some of the early True Latter Day Saints’ Heralds, I found a short article by Great-great-grandfather Stephen, in which he asked the Saints for prayers that he might be healed of his deafness. Even though he had been traveling on foot and preaching the gospel, he had not heard a word spoken in twelve years.

Another great-grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Smith, left his former faith and joined with the Reorganization under Joseph III, and became a missionary for the Church. His parents and brothers and sisters persecuted him, but he labored in the mission field for many years. I am fortunate to have his patriarchal blessing, in which he is promised that his seed will be blessed because of the sacrifices he made for the Church. It is promised that when his descendants, who are faithful, pass to the other side, that he will be there to greet them personally when they arrive.

Do we have the same promise that our descendants will be blessed because of our faithfulness? Can I endure the Church’s present crisis and wait for the Lord to move and cleanse His Church? The son of Thomas Jefferson Smith was my grandfather, S. S. Smith, whom I knew very well. He had been a missionary during the lifetimes of Joseph Smith III and Frederick M. Smith, and he spent his adult lifetime preaching the gospel. Many times he walked long distances to his preaching and visiting assignments, and used tape on his shoes to hold them together so that he would have shoes on his feet and be presentable when he arrived. Grandfather Smith was a very strong and powerful man. I can still remember that day at Enoch Hill when he took me by the arm and led me into the waters of baptism. He raised his right hand to heaven and with a mighty voice declared, “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” I knew then, even though I was only eight, that I had made a contract for life; and come what may, I should stand by it.

Later when I received my patriarchal blessing I was instructed, “The Church has been created and established in the last days to give its members an opportunity of growing more and more like Christ. The Church is the means of our salvation, therefore, Nancy, always remember the Church and never forsake it or leave it.” At age nineteen I could not understand why that was given. Now I understand, for the latter-day Scripture declares:

And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my Rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against him. (Doctrine and Covenants 3:17)

God, not man, built this Church. Only God can change or dissolve it. This He will never do because He is unchangeable. Men with evil designs can try to change or destroy it, but let us never forget Christ’s statement in the scripture which says, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:19).

I believe the Church restored in 1830 was divinely given. The plan set forth by revelation was faithfully followed in the reorganization of the Church in 1860, and it is known among men today as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. However, the liberal portion of the Church has sought to change the Master Builder’s plan. We, the fundamental portion, must wait on the Lord and hold to the Rod of Iron with both hands as tightly as we can.

Peter, James, John, John the Baptist, Moroni—and even a poor, unlearned farm boy, Joseph Smith—were all chosen to help restore Christ’s Church in these last days. As I see the very foundation of the Church being attacked, I cannot believe that He will turn His back on it. The Scriptures tell of a terrible day of God’s “vengeance” coming upon the entire earth, including those members of the Church who have blasphemed the Lord in His own house. Of that which is coming it is written:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Darkness covereth the earth, and gross darkness the minds of the people, and all flesh has become corrupt before my face. Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth—a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation—and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord. And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord.

First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord. (Doctrine and Covenants 105:9a-l0b; italics added)

I believe we can neither limit the Lord in what He can do, nor can we ignore this scripture. The Lord is allpowerful! If he can calm a storm, divide the Red Sea, and cause a great flood to cover the land, then he can surely create a whirlwind such as we have never seen before. The Scriptures say:

The Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. (Nahum 1:3)

I want to wait on the Lord as the day of “vengeance” approaches the Church and the world as a whirlwind. I want to be in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints when the Lord comes to claim His bride. This is the Church He built and the Church I will stay with. As I contemplate these things I am reminded of the hymn which says:

The Church’s one foundation Is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
She is his new creation By water and the word;
From heav’n he came and sought her To be his holy bride;
With his own blood he bought her, And for her life he died.

(Vision 24: 24–25)

Nancy Harlacher has created many beautiful paintings portraying our rich heritage in the Restoration. The Lord blessed her with a great talent and she strove earnestly to use it for His purposes. She has graciously allowed us to use many of her paintings on our site.  Prints of her paintings may be purchased at the Restoration Bookstore and online.