Janetta pulled the quilt close around her shoulders and shuddered. Even with its comfort and the warmth from the fire, she felt cold.
“Janna!” her little brother wailed from the lean-to. “I had a bad dream!”
“Come here,” she called softly, holding out her arms. He climbed onto her lap and snuggled down to sleep again. Soon the warmth from his small body flowed into hers and they were both warm.
James whimpered in his sleep, and she rocked him gently. His nightmares had begun this last year. It had been a year especially full of things that could disturb a three year old.
She looked away from their fire across the mighty Mississippi to Nauvoo, where she could see the distant flicker of fires that surrounded the temple where men were still working.
That was “her” temple. She felt a pride in it because she had helped build it. With her mother, she had cooked food and made clothes for the families of those who worked on the temple.
That was how she’d met her best friend, Sarah. One day when Janetta was delivering supper to some workers, she ran right into a girl her own age and knocked her down. When the girl got up, she put her hands on her hips and said, “Well, this is a fine way to meet a new friend.” She grinned at Janetta, then stuck out her hand. “I’m Sarah, and I’m new to the city.”
Janetta shook her hand. “I’m Janetta, and I’ve been here since the beginning.”
It was a great friendship. They giggled together as they spun wool, carded it, and knit through the long winter days. They were proud that men working on the Lord’s temple wore their socks.
Janetta looked again at the flickering lights and felt sadness creep in. Her father had left before the temple walls were up. Their family had never had the opportunity to go inside to be sealed together as a family.
The worst of the trouble had started the summer before, when the Prophet Joseph was killed. Everyone was numb from the tragedy. It was as if a cloud of darkness covered their beautiful city—only there weren’t any clouds.
With tears streaming down their cheeks, Sarah and Janetta had stood hand in hand as the bodies of the Prophet and his brother Hyrum passed by in a wagon coming from Carthage. Later, after the bodies had been prepared at the Mansion House, her parents stood in line to view them.
As the sorrow lessened, some of the Saints became confused. Rumors circulated in the city that the Church was doomed. Some predicted that the temple would never be finished. Several men claimed to be the next leader of the Church.
Janetta was troubled by the confusion. “Father,” she asked one day, “what will happen now? Who will lead the Church?”
Her father took her in his strong arms and hugged her. “This Church was true while Joseph lived, and it’s true now that he’s dead. It’s the Savior’s Church, and He’ll provide a leader for us. We’ll listen to the Brethren and follow what they say. There’s a meeting in the grove tomorrow, and Brother Brigham will tell us what’s right.”
The next day the Saints eagerly gathered at the grove. The first speaker was Sidney Rigdon. Janetta listened very carefully, for he claimed to be the proper leader of the Church. He talked on and on. The more he talked, the more she fidgeted and the worse she felt. She looked over at Sarah and caught her eye. When Sarah winked at Janetta, they both tried hard not to giggle,
Finally Sidney Rigdon sat down and Brigham Young closed the meeting. He announced another meeting under the direction of the Apostles at two o’clock.
Janetta and her parents hurried home and put James down for a nap. Leaving a neighbor to watch him, the three hurried back to the second meeting. Even though they were early, the only seats left were way in the back. Janetta was too short to see over people, but she could still hear the speakers.
Brigham Young stood up and began to speak. Hearing him, she felt a peace fill her. Then suddenly she jumped up and craned to see over the heads of the people in front of her. She thought she had heard the Prophet Joseph!
A blind man sitting beside her jumped up too. “That’s Joseph speaking to us. Surely he’s not dead!”
The extraordinary effect lasted only for seconds, but the people knew that Brigham Young had been chosen to lead the Church. They all listened very carefully to every word that he said.
When the meeting was over, Janetta hurried to find Sarah. “Did you hear him?” she asked excitedly. “He sounded just like the Prophet.”
“I not only heard him,” Sarah answered softly, “I saw him. It was like Brother Joseph was standing right there before us.”
The girls were silent for a moment as they reverently thought of what they’d just witnessed.
“I’ll never forget this,” Janetta whispered. “Brother Young is our prophet now. We can safely do everything he tells us to do.”
Soon after that memorable meeting, her father’s name was read as one of the missionaries called to go on a mission. Afterward the family wept together. They were proud that he was worthy to be called, but sad that he was leaving.
Then one crisp autumn morning Janetta kissed her father good-bye. They parted not knowing when or where they’d meet again. But they all knew that the Lord would protect them and reunite them, if not in this life then in the next.
“Janetta,” her mother said now, interrupting her thoughts, “I’m home. Let me take James and put him back to bed. You must be exhausted. Go to sleep.”
Janetta smiled at her mother. Here they were, camped on the bank of the river, with no roof over their heads, and yet her mother called it home. “Did Sister Brown have her baby?”
“Yes, a fine boy,” Mother answered happily. She warmed her hands by the fire. “I think he’ll be all right, even if he was born in the middle of the wide open spaces.” She turned to her daughter. “Go get some rest. We’ll be leaving early in the morning.”
“I can’t sleep,” Janetta answered sadly. “I keep thinking about our old home. I wonder who’s sleeping all warm and cozy in my bed.”
“I loved that house, too,” her mother answered softly. “Your father built it carefully to shelter us and make us happy. But we’ll be better off far away from the mobs, where we can be safe.”
Janetta continued to stare into the dying flames of the fire. Sleep and comfort seemed far-off.
Her mother rummaged around in their bags for their treasured copy of the Book of Mormon. She began softly to read aloud. At first Janetta only listened to her voice, not to the words. Then the words began to sink in. They told of Lehi and his family, who had left all their worldly goods in Jerusalem and fled into the wilderness.
Mother stopped reading. “It seems we’re in good company,” she said and smiled at her daughter. “We’re not the only ones of the Lord’s people who have had to leave their homes.”
Janetta smiled back, feeling the comfort she needed. Together they left the fire and went to their beds. She said her prayers and snuggled into the bed. She knew that the Saints were doing the will of God. She’d had that witness that they were being led by a prophet. It brought her peace.