Caroline Jacobs focused on the words of the closing song. If she concentrated hard enough, she could block out the jeers and cries coming from outside—almost. Her father offered a prayer, and the meeting was dismissed.
Because there was no church building, the Mormon families in the area met in the Jacobses’ home. No one was in a hurry to leave tonight, Caroline noted. They were afraid, just as she was.
The mob hadn’t actually attacked anyone yet. But daily they grew louder and bolder in their protests against the Mormon families in the small Missouri settlement.
Surely they won’t harm people who only want to live in peace, Caroline kept telling herself. But the struggle to believe it intensified every day. Reports came, relating the persecutions the Saints in other towns were suffering, but so far the mob had stopped short of real violence here.
Caroline’s family had moved from New York a year ago, just after her baptism. At first she had liked the frontier town. She’d seen trappers and traders, cowboys and soldiers, all of whom she’d only read about before her family’s move to Missouri.
But as more Latter-day Saint families settled in the area, anti-Mormon sentiment had grown. Caroline kept close to home now and no longer played outside by herself.
When the other families had left the house with her father, who was seeing the widows safely home, Caroline turned to her mother. “Mama, why do the men outside hate us?”
Her mother sighed. “I don’t think they really hate us. I think they’re afraid.”
Caroline listened to the shouts that could still be heard, even though the meeting had ended. “They don’t sound afraid. They sound angry. Besides, why would they be afraid of us?” She knew her father didn’t even own a gun. He’d told her often enough that he believed in talking out differences, not shooting them out.
Her mother looked sad. “People often are afraid of what they don’t understand.”
Caroline thought about that. Maybe her mother was right. “Are you ever afraid, Mama?”
Her mother busied herself with sweeping the wood floor. “Sometimes I am,” she said at last. “Then I remember that if I am at peace here”—she placed a hand over her heart—“I don’t have to be afraid.”
Caroline put a hand over her own heart. “But how can I feel peace when people are trying to force us to leave our homes?”
“Peace isn’t something that comes from the outside. It’s a feeling inside,” her mother said with a slow, soft smile.
“A feeling inside,” Caroline repeated, liking the sound of the words.
The next day Caroline walked with her mother to the small store that sold supplies to the farmers. She kept her eyes straight ahead when several boys from town yelled, “Dirty Mormons!”
“They can’t hurt us with their words,” Mama said quietly, but she tightened her hold on Caroline’s hand and walked faster toward the store.
Caroline thought about Mama’s counsel from last night and placed her hand on her heart. This is where it matters, she thought. If I can feel peace here, it doesn’t matter what’s happening around me.
She fixed her thoughts on the sweet feelings she’d received the previous night, when she’d knelt by her bed and prayed for Heavenly Father’s help. Never before had she known such peace.
On the way home she ignored the taunts aimed at her and concentrated on what she felt inside. Her mother was right. The peaceful feeling didn’t go away. Instead, it grew steadily stronger until she no longer even noticed the boys’ insults.
At home she climbed the ladder to the loft that was her bedroom. Once more, she knelt by her bed and prayed. This time it was a prayer of thanks.