Monday, July 11, 2011

The Armies of Heaven--Literally!

John Young home, Mendon, NY.
I’ve got a lot to catch you up on! Saturday we worked the morning shift and then met a friend who is the director of Seminaries and Institutes in New York and some adjoining states. He took us over to Mendon, NY, to see where Heber C. Kimball and Brigham Young once lived. The Church owns the John Young property and missionaries now live in his home. The sister missionaries happened to be home and they let us go through the house. John was Brigham’s father. Brigham’s home is no longer standing. The interesting thing about John’s home is that it was divided and part of it moved across the street. Both parts have been added on to.

Tomlinson Inn, Mendon, NY
Even though there aren’t many artifacts in Mendon, it was well worth the trip. Shortly after the Book of Mormon was published, Joseph’s brother Samuel went on the first official mission. He labored far and wide trying to get someone, anyone, to purchase a Book of Mormon but no one would. Returning home very discouraged because he had not sold one single book he stopped in Mendon for the night at the Tomlinson Inn where he found Phineas Young, Brigham’s older brother, who bought a book. Determined to find the flaws in the book and expose it as a fraud, Phineas dropped most of his chores for two weeks and read the book, but instead of finding flaws he believed what he read and shared the book with his family. Brigham was discouraged with institutional religion but when he read the book he also was touched by it and wanted to know more. It would be quite a while, however, before the brothers found out more about the Church.

You all know what happened after that, but something very extraordinary occurred before any of this. Years before, on the 22 day of September 1827, Brigham Young was living 45 miles east of Mendon in Port Byron and Heber C. Kimball was living near his father in Mendon. The two men didn’t even know each other at the time but something happened to both of them that night that would change their lives forever.

Heber explains that he suddenly saw white smoke rising toward heaven accompanied by the sound of a mighty wind. The smoke moved across the sky, arched like a rainbow that stretched toward the western horizon. It grew wide, changed to a bluish color, and then grew transparent. As Heber, his wife Vilate, and family members and several neighbors watched, a large, commanding army suddenly began to march in platoons across the sky from east to west. “We could distinctly see the muskets, bayonets and knapsacks of the men,” Heber recorded, “and also saw their officers with their swords and equipage, and [heard] the clashing and jingling of their implements of war, and could discover the forms and features of the men. The most profound order existed throughout the entire army; when the foremost man stepped, every man stepped at the same time; I could hear the steps. When the front rank reached the western horizon a battle ensued, as we could distinctly hear the report of arms and the rush.

“No man could judge of my feelings when I beheld that army of men, as plainly as ever I saw armies of men in the flesh; it seemed as though every hair of my head was alive. This scenery we gazed upon for hours, until it began to disappear.”

Brigham and his wife Miriam (who died and is buried in Mendon) saw the same thing in Port Byron and he recorded that the vision was perfectly clear, and that it remained for several hours.

Young farm looking from John's home toward land
where Brigham's home was.

What the Youngs and Kimballs did not know at the time is that on that same evening, the 22 day of September 1827, a man neither of them knew at the time, Joseph Smith, went to the Hill Cumorah and received the gold plates from the angel Moroni that he then translated and which we now know as the Book of Mormon. A lot of adversity paved the way for us to have this gospel, but there were also a lot of miracles.

Saturday as we stood on the Young farm which is now acres of rolling farm land bordered by green forest, the trees framed a wide expanse of beautiful blue sky filled with white puffy clouds, and it was easy to imagine the giant panorama in the sky that the Youngs, Kimballs, and many others in the area saw.


Wendi said...

Thanks for sharing these moments in church history with us. :)

Jennie Hurlbut said...

What an amazing vision, to have it last for hours! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I heard bout the army all my life. My mother said her family talked about it. They said that about 200 people in their area watched it go across the sky. They lived in northern N.Y. near the St. Lawrence river. They lived in Oswagathchee, N.Y. They knew nothing about Mormons. Later, my immediate family all became members, and I was surprised when I read the article in the Ensign.

Thank you,
Patricia Giles