Pioneer Journals

By C. Evans

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Be patient in afflictions, … for, lo, I am with thee (D&C 24:8).

September 12, 1845

My heart is breaking. Today my best friend slapped my face. I had finished helping Mrs. Thompson prepare the sewing circle, so I ran outside to be with the other girls. Rowena, Hattie, and my dearest friend, Sally, were hemming sheets under the maple. I had snatched glimpses of them while I worked, sharing some delicious secret, and I could scarcely wait to hear it.

The girls stood when they saw me coming. Then Sally stepped forward and slapped me across the cheek. “Hazel Alice Williams,” she said in an awful voice, “henceforth and forever you are banned from the Gainesville Junior Sewing Circle!”

“What have I done?” I asked.

“Are you a Mormon?” Sally demanded.

The question surprised me. What did that have to do with this?

“Were you and your father baptized by those Mormon missionaries?” Sally demanded again.

When I nodded, she hissed, “Then you are an infidel and a devil!”

She shoved me, and I turned and ran. Is this what being a Mormon means?

September 23, 1995

I know I was excited about moving, but I really miss my friends. Today before science class began, a girl two rows over called out, “Trisha, are you a Mormon?”

Suddenly the chatter stopped. All eyes turned to me. I said yes.

One of the boys asked, “What’s a Norman?”

The girl said, “Not Norman, Gregg. Mormon. It’s a church.”

“They don’t believe in Jesus Christ,” someone piped up.

“Yes, we do,” I protested, but the bell rang and drowned out my words.

I heard someone across the room say, “My dad says Mormons are really weird.”

I’m the only Mormon in this whole school. Will I ever have any friends?

November 19, 1845

Today I asked Father to teach me to chop and split wood. He replied that Mother would not have wanted me to do a man’s work. That is true. Mother always wanted me to be a lady. But Father has too much to do. He can get no man to help with the farm and no woman to help in the house because we are Mormons. I explained that I keep running out of wood for the range, and if we want hot meals, I must learn to handle an ax.

So he taught me. It is harder than it appears, and tonight my hands are blistered badly. I intend to wear my second-best Sunday gloves tomorrow when I chop.

November 2, 1995

Tonight I asked Mom to teach me how to cook from scratch, like she used to before Dad died and she had to go to work. I’m tired of watching her worry about bills, and I know that cooking from scratch would save money and be healthier.

“It would take a lot of your time,” she said. I said I figured it was time for me to pull my share of the load. Mom hugged me tight. “OK,” she laughed. “Lesson one …”

March 9, 1846

Father and I are ready to leave in the morning to join the Saints. Uncle Samuel came today all the way from Avery to persuade Father to give up Mormonism. My dearest cousin, Lydia, came with him. I haven’t seen Lydia since Mother’s funeral. Lydia told me that I needn’t go with Father. I could live with her family. She said Father had been deluded and led astray by the Mormons.

I told Lydia that I also believed the Mormon church is the only true church on earth.

She said, “But that Joseph Smith is dead now. Father said he was possessed by devils!”

My heart hurt when I heard those words. “No,” I told her, “Joseph Smith was a prophet just like the prophets in the Bible. I know this is true!”

Lydia stared at me. “I feel sorry for you. I guess we’ll never see each other again.”

Am I going to be without friends for the rest of my life?

February 1, 1996

They changed our basketball game from Tuesday to Monday. Because it’s a really important game, Coach said we would have a practice on Sunday afternoon.

“I can’t practice on Sunday,” I told him.

“I know that you’re a Mormon,” he replied, “but this is really important. I’ll talk to your mother.”

“It won’t make any difference,” I told him. “I still won’t be able to come.”

All the girls were staring. “Are you going to be in church?” one asked.

“No,” I answered. “My church is in the morning.”

“Well, where are you going in the afternoon?”

“Nowhere, I guess,” I said. “Just home.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“It’s the Sabbath,” I mumbled. After a lot of exchanged looks and rolled eyes, they went into the locker room, leaving me sitting alone on the bench.

I wish I had a close friend.

October 23, 1846

Friends. Why can’t we all be friends? Today I was walking about Winter Quarters with Mariah Jewett and Leticia Harwood. Oh, how I have wanted to be Mariah’s friend! She is pretty and clever, and she plans dances for which her father plays the fiddle. I love to dance. She promised to invite me to the next one.

While walking, we saw a family arrive in an overflowing open wagon. I love to see more Saints joining us. Tucked in among the household goods was a girl who looked to be about our age. “How exciting! Let’s go welcome her,” I said.

“Wait,” Mariah said. “Don’t go near her. She’s probably got vermin. Look at her dress. Did you ever see anything so ugly?”

I was anxious about the vermin, so I stared impolitely. Her dress wasn’t ugly, only very plain. Just then the girl saw us watching, and she smiled shyly. Was she feeling as I had felt when we finally joined the other Saints? Was she heartsick at losing friends, and hoping to find new ones?

“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “Let’s go be friendly.”

“Hazel!” Mariah’s voice stopped me. “If you mingle with that riffraff, I shall be forced to exclude you from my list of associates.”

I am ashamed that I hesitated, thinking of having fun with Mariah at the dance. Then I remembered the great and spacious building in the Book of Mormon, and I knew where I wanted to be.

“So be it, Mariah,” I said, and I left her. Even in the midst of the Saints, life has trials.

March 31, 1996

It must be my destiny to be a loner. I was walking to an assembly with Melinda and Denise, who are on the basketball team too. We passed a girl just standing there, looking lost. She also looked like a total nerd. Besides her clothes being all wrong, her hair was like my grandma’s. She was obviously new, and my heart ached for her. I knew just how she felt.

I said, “Are you going to the assembly?” When she nodded, I said, “It’s this way.” Melinda and Denise looked at me like, “You know her?”

She began following us, and Melinda muttered, “Get rid of her.”

But I couldn’t. She needed a friend. She followed us up the bleachers and sat down next to me. Melinda and Denise gave me a disgusted look and moved over to the next section.

Good-bye, Melinda and Denise.

July 29, 1847

All week long I have looked forward to the dance tonight. Life on the trail is so dreary, just plodding along day after day. I don’t think I ever fixed supper faster or cleaned up more quickly than I did tonight. I called over to Sister Fuller in the next wagon to see if she needed help getting ready. She has two small children and a grandfather who has been ill. She replied that she wasn’t going to the dance. Her grandfather was feeling very ill, and someone had to stay with him.

Poor Sister Fuller. She loves to dance and sing and was probably looking forward to it even more than I. “I will watch your grandfather,” I told her. “I can come get you if he turns worse.”

“But you don’t want to miss the dance,” she protested.

“There are plenty of dances ahead of me. Go with your husband and enjoy yourself.”

Her smile lit up her entire face, and she hugged me. “God bless you, Hazel,” she whispered, and she hurried to freshen up.

So I spent the evening taking care of the grandfather and watching the sleeping babies. I heard the music and the happy voices all evening, and missed it dreadfully. But I was not sorry I stayed so that Sister Fuller could go. If I don’t feel happiness in my soul tonight, at least I feel peace.

May 5, 1996

Talk about anticipation! Thinking about the ward social Friday night was what kept me going all week. Other girls in the ward were sure to be there, and Church is the only place I can relax and not feel different.

Mom and I left early to pick up Sister Grogan. We found her balancing her crying three-year-old on one knee while feeding the baby in his high chair. Her house was a mess, and she was too.

“I guess I’m not going,” she told Mom. “The babies are fussy, and I can’t handle that tonight.”

Mom picked up the crying toddler. “You need this night out,” she told Sister Grogan. “I’ll stay with your children, and you drive on to the social with Trisha.”

Sister Grogan brightened up. “I can’t let you do that,” she protested weakly.

Mom said “Nonsense,” and started to push her toward the bedroom.

I looked at Mom, and she looked as tired as Sister Grogan did. They both needed this night out.

I took the toddler from Mom. “You’re going to the ward social, too,” I said. “I’m staying with the children.”

“I can’t let you do that.” But she looked as hopeful as Sister Grogan had.

“No problem,” I said. “Go have fun.”

I may not have had fun tonight, but I sure feel good inside!

Photos by Steve Bunderson