Peace McBride placed a “closed” sign in the window and carefully shut the curtains. Then she packed the blue silk ball gown into the brown box to be delivered to Mrs. Farren for a ball that very night. As she folded the dress, she admired the shimmering silk. Her employer, Mrs. Root, was very particular, and Peace had learned to be a good seamstress. Some of my own stitches are in this beautiful dress, Peace thought happily.
Mrs. Root had already gone for the evening, leaving Peace to deliver the dress. She was pleased that Mrs. Root trusted her now. As she hurried out into the cold December evening of 1839, she pulled her pelisse close and bowed her head against the chill wind. Glancing ahead, she saw a long line of people winding toward the church on the corner. Her curiosity made her stop. “Excuse me,” she said to a young woman with a pink feather curled around her hat, “could you tell me what’s happening tonight?”
“A golden Bible!” Peace exclaimed. “I’ve never heard of anything like that.”
“Stand thee in line with us,” a matronly Quaker woman said. “It costs nothing, and thee mayest learn something.”
Peace looked down at the box. “I would like to, but I promised my mistress that I would deliver this.”
The older woman nodded. “Then thee must do as thee hast promised.”
As Peace made her way through the crowd to the corner, a carriage pulled up beside her. A man leaped lightly from the carriage, followed by his companions. Peace studied his face. It was a fine face with good, clean lines. The eyes were clear and straightforward. She felt that he was a special person. As she watched, people shook his hand and greeted him. She decided that he must be Joseph Smith.
The crowd surged into the church as the doors opened to admit the men. Peace found herself pulled along with them. She couldn’t fight her way out, so she took a seat near the middle of the church and sat down. The man who she had assumed was Joseph Smith was now at the pulpit, shaking hands with those around him. Settling herself, she saw Mrs. Root seated two rows ahead of her!
Peace slumped down behind a tall man dressed in quiet Quaker garb. He was tall enough to hide her if Mrs. Root turned around. She knew that her employer would not be pleased to see her at a meeting when she should be working.
People continued to pour into the building. Peace knew that over two thousand people could be seated comfortably in the building, and although it was one of Philadelphia’s largest, people were crammed onto the benches. There must be over three thousand people squeezed in here, she thought.
A hush stilled the audience as Joseph Smith stood to speak. He spoke in a voice that all could hear. He spoke with great power about visions that he had seen and of an angel who had told him where to find scriptures written on gold plates. He told of translating those plates by the power of God.
Peace felt something flow through her as he spoke. It was like some of old Ben Franklin’s electricity had passed right through her. She sensed that the people around her were having the same reaction to the speaker’s words. When he bore his testimony to them, Peace felt a burning inside her. She believed that it was the burning of the Holy Ghost, which she had heard about in church.
She didn’t know how long the sermon lasted. She only remembered feeling that at last she had found truth. When Joseph Smith challenged all within his hearing to be baptized and join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she knew that she needed to do so.
Clutching the forgotten brown box in her arms, she followed the crowd out of the church and into the chill evening air. She edged her way to the front of the group, where several men surrounding Joseph Smith were talking to the people and telling them where the baptism would be held. “Please, good sir,” Peace said to a nice-looking man. “I desire to be baptized. Do you baptize children?”
“How old are you, my child?” he asked.
“Do you truly believe what Joseph Smith the Prophet has said this evening?”
“I know that it’s true,” she answered simply. “I must do as he said and join his church.”
“It’s not Joseph’s church,” the man reminded her gently. “It’s the Church of Jesus Christ.”
“I know it. Please let me join!”
With the knowledge that the baptism would be the next day, Peace slowly retraced her steps back to the shop. At the doorway, she looked in horror at the brown box in her hands! “Mrs. Farren!” she gasped.
With the box bumping against her legs, she ran as fast as she could past the crowd at the church and across the street to the Farren mansion. Lights blazed from all the rooms, and her heart sank as she realized the lateness of the hour. Hurrying to the back door, she knocked timidly. The door was thrown open, and a maid stood impatiently at the door. “Is that the mistress’s dress?”
“Yes, if it pleases you, Miss,” Peace replied, curtsying.
“You’re late. She almost had to make do without it. She’ll have something to say about this to Mrs. Root!” She slammed the door in Peace’s face.
It seemed a long way back to the shop. Peace suddenly felt very tired, and she still had to face her employer and tell her what had happened. Mrs. Root was in the front parlor when Peace climbed the stairs to the living quarters above the shop. She put her bonnet and pelisse away, then stood in front of her mistress. “Mistress Root,” she began with her head down, “Mrs. Farren is angry tonight. I didn’t get the dress to her when I should have.” She expected an angry retort or maybe even a slap as Mistress Root was wont to inflict at times. When nothing happened, Peace looked up.
A beautiful smile covered Mrs. Root’s face. “What caused you to be so late?” she asked. “I’ve never known you to offend like this.”
“I started out in plenty of time,” Peace began, “but there was a large crowd in front of the church, and I followed them inside and listened to the speaker.” Again she remembered the burning feeling and tried to explain it. “There was a prophet of God there,” she declared, even though she knew that her mistress had heard him too. “He told of a new church that had the restored gospel of Jesus Christ—”
“I know,” Mrs. Root interrupted gently. “I, too, was there. It was a special evening, wasn’t it?” She smiled, then picked up a book from her lap. In the light of the lamp, Peace could see the name on the cover—The Book of Mormon.
It was the book that Joseph Smith had translated through the power of God. He had said that it had been delivered by an angel. Reverently Peace took it in her hands. “Would you let me try to read some of it?” she asked. She had never had an opportunity to go to school, but she had learned to read a little in her spare time.
“Sit down, my dear,” Mrs. Root replied. “You still have that collar to sew for Patience Black. The night’s still early, and idle hands are not good for young girls.”
Peace sighed. It had been a long day, and she wanted to go to the solitude of her room to think over what had happened that evening. But she obediently picked up the collar and began to place small, even stitches around the lace edging.
“There,” Mrs. Root said in satisfaction. “While you’re sewing, I’ll just read a little of the book to you.”
Peace looked up in surprise. Mrs. Root was smiling kindly at her, and Peace felt a keen joy. It will be good to hear what is in this important book, she decided. It will be good to hear more of the word of God.
(To be continued)